Asparagus Vichyssoise

Standard

So I wanted an alternative to gazpacho (and I don’t mean swapping cucumber for watermelon, etc., been there/done that. Delicious, but.) that screamed springtime, and here it is. I’ve made this vichyssoise a couple of times now, it’s a winner. I think it’s best just a bit chillier than room temperature, however I brought some to work to share with my pal/colleague Becky and we agreed it’s also lovely warm.  Adapted from this easy peasy recipe at  foodandwine.com.

Ingredients:

  • 2 leeks, white & light green parts, rinsed well (watch that sand!) and sliced
  • 2 tsp olive oil + 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch green asparagus (400-500 g.) woody ends cut off and chopped into 1″ chunks
  • 2 medium yellow-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • 1 thyme sprig (fresh or dried)
  • a pinch of fennel seeds (use seeds, not fresh fennel or it overpowers the asparagus)
  • 500 ml broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • sea salt to taste
  • 200-250 ml milk
  • freshly ground pepper (5 peppercorn blend is nice)
  • freshly snipped chives and olive oil, to serve

Instructions:

Melt the butter/olive oil in a large saucepan.Add the leeks and cook over medium heat, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus stalks, potatoes, broth, water, fennel, thyme and a good grating of pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat source and let it cool down a bit. Discard the thyme sprig. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add the milk and blend again, adding a bit more milk depending on the consistency you prefer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let the soup cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight. Take soup out of fridge and allow to come to just below room temperature before serving.

Ladle into bowls and drizzle with just a bit of a nice cold-pressed olive oil and freshly snipped chives.

Servings: Four generous bowls. 125 calories

Minestrone

Standard

I’m going through some of the things I’ve made recently but haven’t posted, so there will probably be another flurry of activity for a few days and then silence again for months, sorry!

Minestrone is a hearty and healthy soup that’s easy to whip up mid-week. The wee bit of pancetta adds a nice smoky touch, but if you’re a veggie leave it out and you’ll be none the wiser.

Ingredients:

  • 50 grams of pancetta, diced (or tiras de beicon)
  • 1 tb olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 leek, washed and sliced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 100 grams fresh or frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 400 g cans of tomato puree (triturado)
  • 1 jar white beans (mongetes or cannelli, whatever you can get your hands on), drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 liter of chicken stock
  • 1 tsp each of dried oregano, basil and thyme
  • bay leaf
  • black pepper and sea salt, to taste

Instructions: 

Heat a soup pot over medium heat, add a lug of olive oil and the pancetta/bacon, fry the bacon until it starts to brown, then add in the leeks and onion. Scrape up the bits of browned bacon that have become stuck to the bottom of the pot and continue to sauté until the onion starts becoming translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, until you can smell the garlic frying. Add the carrots, celery, zucchini and cook slowly for 10 minutes until the veggies start to soften. Add in the spinach, tomato puree, herbs and stock and bring to a boil. Gently stir in the beans and lower heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.  Adjust seasoning with pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with grated parmesan and fresh chopped herbs (if you’ve got any) and some nice crusty bread.

Servings: Six, 190 calories (without cheese).

Chicken Couscous & Shirazi Salad

Standard

Okay, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I have kept cooking, promise! We all get into our ruts though, and recently wanted to shake things up. I’ve recently-ish discovered harissa paste, and it’s now my new favorite ingredient. The couscous is an easy one-pan meal and you can chop up the salad ingredients while it’s cooking. I also make a spicy-cool (oxymoron?) yogurt sauce that’s makes a wonderful accompaniment. It makes quite a large quantity of food, but this is definitely one of those better-the-next-day dishes. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Couscous:

- 400 g. chicken breast, cubed
– 2 medium red onions, chopped
– 1 TB olive oil
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1/2 tsp ground cumin
– pinch ground nutmeg
– pinch ground cinnamon
– ground black pepper or five-peppercorn blend, to taste
– a chunk of fresh ginger (about the size of your thumb), peeled and grated
– 2 tsp harissa paste
– small can (200 g approx) garbanzos, drained and rinsed
– 450 ml chicken stock
– a handful (1/3 cup) of sultanas or golden raisins
– small handful (1/4 cup) salted sunflower seeds
– zest of one lemon

Salad:

- 1 tsp sea salt
– 3-4 ripe tomatoes
– 2 cucumbers
– red pepper
– large handful fresh mint leaves, chopped

Yogurt sauce:

- 125 ml (1/2 cup) greek yogurt
– 1/2 tsp harissa paste
– juice of half a lime
– 1/2 tsp sea salt

 

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep frying pan. Sauté the onions until they start to soften then add in the chicken and garlic. Cook the chicken and onions for about 5 minutes. At this point add in the harissa paste, grated ginger and spices. Stir to coat the chicken and onion mix with the spices. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the chickpeas (gently – don’t smush them) and let cook for another minute. Pour the couscous, raisins and sunflower seeds over the chicken mix. Pour the stock over and stir once, then cover the pan with a lid or tin foil and leave to sit for 10 minutes, until the couscous has soaked up all the stock. Remove the lid and sprinkle the lemon zest over the couscous and then fluff the mix up with a fork. Cover the pan back up and let rest until ready to serve.

To make the salad: Chop the red pepper and tomatoes. Peel, de-seed and chop the cucumbers. Toss with the sea salt and lemon juice and place in a medium bowl. After about 10 minutes, drain the excess liquid off the salad. Stir in the mint leaves and serve.

Yogurt sauce: stir the ingredients together in a small bowl and put in the fridge to let the flavors blend.

Serve the couscous with a side of salad and a nice dollop of the yogurt sauce.

Four generous servings. 450 calories.

Apple Crumble

Standard

I like apple crumble better than apple pie. It’s easier and faster to make, and I think crunchy crumble topping is better than pie crust. Green apples (or any other tart apple) work best for cooked desserts because they are a nice balance to the sweet crumble.

I’ve juggled the quantities of the ingredients so that they are even proportions, más fácil no puede ser.

Ingredients:

  • 4 green apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 50 g brown sugar + 1 tsp separated
  • 50 g flour
  • 50 g oatmeal (not instant)
  • 50 g cold butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch sea salt
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF. Butter a square baking dish and set aside.

Peel and core the apples, quarter and cut into slices. Put the apples into a pan with a teaspoon of sugar and cover with water. Cook over  low heat for 5 minutes and place in the baking dish. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice (about 1 TB) over the apples.

Place the flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and mix well. Cut the butter into small cubes and add this to the oats and flour mix.  Rub the mixture into the butter with your fingertips until it resembles an even crumb texture.

Cover the fruit with the crumble mixture. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until the crumble is golden and the apple hot. Serve with ice cream or custard.

Servings: Six. 230 calories.

Pasta Puttanesca

Standard

Pasta PuttanescaI’m pretty sure everyone knows what puttanesca means so I won’t go into it. Puttanesca sauce is a spicy, piquant, garlicky, anchovy-imbued delight. Mmm, anchovies. Good thing I’m married and it doesn’t matter if my garlic/anchovy breath offends Joel. He likes it.

I’ve made this a few times, and based on experience I recommend using a long pasta, like spaghetti, spaghettoni or linguine. Use a thicker pasta, not capellini (angel hair), to keep the hot sauce from continuing to cook the pasta – you don’t want to lose that nice al dente bite.

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion, finely choppedPuttanesca ingredients
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
  • 2 TB capers
  • 1 tin (50 g) anchovies packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 handfuls (about 200 g) black olives (preferrably oil-packed)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp hot chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley or 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large tin (800 g) whole peeled tomatoes, drained (reserve half the liquid) and coarsely chopped
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 400 g pasta, cooked al dente

Instructions:

Saute Heat a large saucepan/pot over medium heat and add oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, and capers. Saute mixture until anchovies melt into the oil and onions and garlic are tender. Add herbs, hot pepper flakes, olives, tomatoes, tomato paste and the reserved liquid. Bring sauce to a bubble, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve sprinkled with fresh basil and grated Parmesan.

Servings: Four (sauce + 1/4 of the cooked pasta). 529 calories

Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver for Food Network.

Guinness Irish Stew

Standard

I’m going to put this out there: I’m not generally a huge celebrator of Saint Patrick’s Day. On account of my tenuous Irish heritage, my family ate corned beef and cabbage on the 17th of March and my name is Erin, after all. However, years of serving and tending bar soured me on the typical Americanized “everyone is Irish” style celebration and for a long time I have preferred to stay home and enjoy a pint in peace.

Cut to 2013: Our friend Mick was scandalized to hear that we don’t celebrate The Day at all, and sent us a Saint Patrick’s Day Survival Kit in the post to help us remedy the situation. We were treated to sweets, crisps, badges, DVDs and other sundry Irish delights. Quite an indulgence.

Guinness

Not just for drinking!

It would be a shame not to celebrate wholeheartedly, so I decided to make a full Irish dinner to go along with our snacks and desserts – Irish stew and soda bread accompanied by creamy pints of Guinness, of course. Is this authentic? I do not know. But it was wonderful!

Ingredients:

  • 400 grams beef stew meat, cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • 400 grams lamb* stew meat, cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • flour for dredging
  • pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bottle of Guinness
  • 2 tsp mustard (Colman’s or dijon)
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 medium carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 400 grams potatoes, washed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 3 parsnips, washed, peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • Sprig of rosemary and thyme or 1 tsp dried of each
  • sea salt

*Lamb is traditional, but if you don’t care for it feel free to use just 800 g of beef.

Instructions:

stew meat

Fresh from the butcher’s: beef (l) and lamb (r) stew meat

Heat up the oil in a pressure cooker pot over medium heat. Dredge the stew meat in flour with a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne. Shake off extra flour and brown the stew meat in the oil. You’ll probably have to brown it in two batches. Remove the meat to a bowl.

Lower the heat and sauté the leeks, shallots and garlic until translucent, scraping up any bits of meat/flour in the bottom of the pot. Add the bottle of Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and vinegar, letting it simmer for about 5 minutes. Return meat to the pot and add enough water to cover. Add the cocoa powder, bay leaf  and peppercorns and stir thoroughly.

Put the pressure cooker lid on and turn the heat to high, allowing it to come to full pressure. Turn heat down enough just so that it remains at full pressure and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes take it off the heat and quick release the pressure (see your pressure cooker manual for details).

stew vegetables

Fresh is best!

Use the time while the meat is braising in the pressure cooker to wash, peel and prepare the vegetables. After quick releasing the lid, add the vegetables, rosemary, thyme and salt, to taste. Put the lid back on and return to full pressure, then cook for 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and allow it to depressurize using the slow release method.

Guinness Irish Stew

Hearty, delicious stew

Serve with warm bread and butter. There will be plenty for the next day as well, stew is even better the second day!

Note: If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no worries! Just braise the meat in a large pot over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour before adding the vegetables, then cook for an additional 30-45 minutes over low heat, or until the veggies are tender.

Servings: Eight. 400 calories.

Adapted from Juls’ Kitchen and Irish American Mom.

Scoda Bread

Standard

Not quite traditional soda bread, not quite a scone. You can make one big loaf  to share or cut out individual biscuits. Scone + soda = scoda! Pretty clever, huh? Okay, maybe not, but tasty nonetheless!

This is a bit of a kitchen-sink recipe, meaning as long as you follow the basic ingredients, you can add whatever sweet or savoury ingredients that you like.

Finished scoda bread

Gruyère and chives, you say?

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-3 tsp sugar**
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (56 grams) cold butter, cut in small pieces
  • 125 ml (one pot) natural greek yoghurt
  • 125 ml milk
  • up to 1 cup of add-ins***

* You can substitute up to one cup of whole wheat flour or oatmeal (that’s been ground up in a food processor) for regular white flour.
** Less sugar for savoury bread, more sugar for sweet bread, you get the picture.
*** The sky’s the limit! Cheddar and chives, raisins and walnuts, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, apricots, fresh rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, it’s up to you.

Pre-heat oven to 215ºC/420ºF. Grease  a round baking pan (or a cast-iron skillet if you have one, you lucky so-and-so) with butter or olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda and any other dry ingredients you may be using, such as cinnamon or herbs.

Add the cold butter and, using your fingers, quickly break the butter down into the dry ingredients.  Some bits of butter will be the size of small peas, others the size of oat flakes. Stir in your chunky add-ins at this point, such as chives, cubes of cheese, raisins, dried fruit, etc.

In a small bowl, beat together yoghurt and milk.

Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, working to moisten every bit of flour with the milk mixture.  Dump mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead 4 to 8 times until the dough comes together into a loose ball.  If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.  The dough should be moist but still shaggy. The dough won’t be smooth, which is fine, that’s better than over-kneading the dough.

Scoda bread dough

All ready for the oven!

Transfer dough to prepared pan.  Use a serrated knife to mark an inch deep X into the dough.  Place in the oven and allow to bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden color and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If you tap the bread it will make a hollow thudding sound when it’s finished.

If you prefer scones instead of one loaf of bread, pat the kneaded ball of dough into a round about 3/4″ thick and cut it into wedges or circles using a pastry cutter. Bake the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper – they will be finished baking after about 20 minutes.

Quick breads like this are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven, so serve warm with a bit of butter or a nice bowl of soup!

Adapted from Simply Recipes.

Servings: Eight.  240 calories (without calorific add-ins like cheese.)

Baked oatmeal

Standard

baked oatmeal finished product

Brunch brunch brunch, I love brunch. You can totally have brunch at any time of year, but to me March is the “start” of brunch season. It’s nearly spring and you can convince people to leave their house on a Sunday morning (ok, early afternoon) and join in on the celebration of longer days and fresh springtime food.

My mother made a baked oatmeal similar to this at Christmastime, and it was fabulous. Strawberries are back in season so I decided to try the recipe with a spring-y twist, and I was not disappointed. I think this baked oatmeal is so good because it’s like pancakes, porridge and cake had a delicious love child.

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

baked oatmeal ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 ml) rolled or steel-cut oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup nuts (walnuts, almonds, whatever) chopped up
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • scant 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp maple extract (if you don’t have maple just use 2 tsp vanilla)
  • 2-3 bananas cut into slices about 1 cm thick
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries (or other mixed berries)
  • butter for greasing the pan

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF  with rack in top half of oven. Generously butter a square glass or ceramic baking pan.

In a bowl mix together oats, half the nuts, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and vanilla/maple.

Arrange bananas in a single layer in bottom of prepared dish. Arrange half of berries over top. Cover fruit with oat mixture. Slowly drizzle milk mixture over oats. Gently give baking dish a few thwacks on the counter to make sure milk moves through oats. Scatter remaining berries and walnuts on top just before putting into oven.*

Bake 30-45 minutes until top is golden and oats have set. Remove from oven and let it cool for a few minutes.  Drizzle with melted butter if you like, and serve with brown sugar or syrup.

*This recipe is perfect for making a day ahead. After pouring milk mixture over oats cover the baking dish with plastic film and refrigerate. You’ll see that the oats soak up all the milk, it’s glorious. Sprinkle the remaining nuts and berries on top just before baking.

Servings: Six generous servings. 265 calories.

Recipe adapted from Heidi Swanson via Epicurious.

In Praise of Dirt

Standard

“You’ll eat a bushel full of dirt by the time you die.” My grandpa told me that once when I was little. I supposed it’s a reminder that a little bit of soil won’t harm you, and in fact might be healthy.

I just cleaned loads of dirt out of my sink. Peeled carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, onions, leeks leave behind a LOT of dirt and sand. Then it occurred to me that this could be considered an anomaly in today’s modern world.

The majority of people buy their food at mega supermarkets, where fruits and vegetables are often picked prematurely, shipped from far away and sold in sterile packages. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they ‘don’t like’ fruit and vegetables because they don’t taste like anything. No wonder!

Of course there are a lot of people who have vegetable gardens, shop at farmers markets or belong to a co-op, but we live in a pretty dense city and growing much more than herbs on the balcony isn’t really realistic.

What really made me appreciate the dirt in the sink was that I did buy my vegetables at the supermarket. There’s a small supermarket near our house that’s a local chain, there are about 4 locations in Barcelona. I feel really fortunate that we live in a place where you can conveniently buy fresh, seasonal produce that’s still got a connection to the Earth, that you know this plant came from the ground and not from a plastic crate.

So, love the dirt and appreciate what it means, but don’t forget to wash it out. No one likes gritty soup.

 

Falafel

Standard

falafel + garnishesI have been attempting to post this falafel recipe for weeks now, and I kept getting stuck. Reason being? I couldn’t think of a clever intro or witty anecdote about why I decided to make homemade falafel. Truth of the matter is I wanted falafel and that was that.

Ps. Once you make homemade falafel you’ll never go back.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar (400 g) chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
  • 1/2 cup green spring onions (white and light green parts)
  • handful fresh cilantro (coriander)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 TB all-purpose flour
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • chopped tomato, cucumber and mint salad for garnish
  • pita bread
  • tahini sauce

Instructions:

chickpea mixIn a food processor, pulse garlic, cilantro, onion, hot pepper flakes, salt and cumin until it’s finely chopped (not quite a paste). Scrape down sides and add baking powder, lemon juice and chickpeas. Pulse until well-blended but not pureed, scraping down sides every 10 pulses or so to make sure that everything is well mixed.

Turn the chickpea mixture out into a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle mix with 2 TB of flour and blend in using a spatula. Add another 2 TB of flour and blend in. You may need to add 1-2 TB more depending on how wet the mix still is. If you try to make a small ball in your hands and a lot of the chickpea mix sticks to your skin, you will need to add a bit more flour.

Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. I use this time to make the garnishes – a fresh chopped tomato, cucumber, lemon juice and mint salad is easy to do, and you can make yoghurt sauce with 150 ml greek yoghurt, 1/2 cup peeled and finely diced cucumber, 1 finely diced clove of garlic and salt to taste.

In a deep frying pan heat 1/2″ of oil over medium heat (it’s ready when it seems shimmery). Test one small ball of falafel, if it starts to fall apart when frying you need to add more flour to the chickpea mix. Form evenly sized balls of the mixture and flatten slightly with a spatula. I like to make falafel “burgers” so the mixture makes about eight 3-inch patties, but you can make them smaller if you like.

tomato cucumber saladFry over medium heat, about 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown.

Serve with pita bread, fresh garnishes and tahini sauce.

Servings: Four. 250 calories.