Thursday, October 23, 2014

Waldorf Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is quite popular right now. Understandably so, since it has a pleasant nutty taste, is high in protein, iron, magnesium, and fiber. It is easy to cook and makes a great pantry stable. Here is one example of what you can do with it...

Quinoa Waldorf Salad
(from Quinoa Revolution)

serves 8

2 cups (500 ml) water
1 cup (250 ml) quinoa
3/4 cup (175 ml) halved red grapes
2/3 cup (150 ml) thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup (125 ml) thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup (125 ml ) halved fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1/2 cup (125 ml) toasted walnuts
1/2 cup ( 125 ml) orange juice
2 T (30 ml) flaxseed oil
1/4 t salt
pinch of cinnamon
3/4 cup (175 ml) cored and diced apple

Bring the water and quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the cooled quinoa with the grapes, celery, green onions, cranberries and walnut pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, oil, salt and cinnamon. Toss diced apple in dressing then toss dressing and apples together with the quinoa mixture. This salad is best served after resting for about 2 hours in the fridge but can be served right away.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

French Apple Tart

Can you believe that ten apples can fit easily into a 9 inch tart pan? I wouldn't believed anybody who would have told me so if I hadn't done it myself. But believe me, it works. The trick is to cook half of the apples down to a delicious elegant apple sauce and then layer the slices of the rest of the apples upright on top. The result is an amazing apple packed apple tart that is perfect for a cold day in fall, or any other day that calls for cake.

French Apple Tart

You may have extra apple slices after arranging the apples in step 6. If you don’t have a potato masher, you can puree the apples in a food processor. For the best flavor and texture, be sure to bake the crust thoroughly until it is deep golden brown. To ensure that the outer ring of the pan releases easily from the tart, avoid getting apple puree and apricot glaze on the crust. The tart is best served the day it is assembled.

serves 8

1 1/3 cups (6 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons (2 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

10 Golden Delicious apples (8 ounces each), peeled and cored
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon salt


Adjust 1 oven rack to lowest position and second rack 5 to 6 inches from broiler element. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in bowl. Add melted butter and stir with wooden spoon until dough forms. Using your hands, press two-thirds of dough into bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press remaining dough into fluted sides of pan. Press and smooth dough with your hands to even thickness. Place pan on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and bake on lowest rack, until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Set aside until ready to fill.


Cut 5 apples lengthwise into quarters and cut each quarter lengthwise into 4 slices. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and water and toss to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to turn translucent and are slightly pliable, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer apples to large plate, spread into single layer, and set aside to cool. Do not clean skillet.

3. While apples cook, microwave apricot preserves until fluid, about 30 seconds. Strain preserves through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl, reserving solids. Set aside 3 tablespoons strained preserves for brushing tart.

4. Cut remaining 5 apples into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add remaining apricot preserves, reserved apricot solids, apple wedges, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are very soft, about 10 minutes.

5. Mash apples to puree with potato masher. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until puree is reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes.

6. Transfer apple puree to baked tart shell and smooth surface. Select 5 thinnest slices of sautéed apple and set aside. Starting at outer edge of tart, arrange remaining slices, tightly overlapping, in concentric circles. Bend reserved slices to fit in center. Bake tart, still on wire rack in sheet, on lowest rack, for 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and heat broiler.

7. While broiler heats, warm reserved preserves in microwave until fluid, about 20 seconds. Brush evenly over surface of apples, avoiding tart crust. Broil tart, checking every 30 seconds and turning as necessary, until apples are attractively caramelized, 1 to 3 minutes. Let tart cool for at least 1 1/2 hours. Remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom, and carefully slide tart onto serving platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

TO MAKE AHEAD: The baked crust, apple slices, and apple puree can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Apple slices and apple puree should be refrigerated separately in airtight containers. Assemble tart with refrigerated apple slices and puree and bake as directed, adding 5 minutes to baking time.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

French Mussel Bisque

This soup was our Friday night dinner. The vegetables are cooked separately first. Then the cooking liquid of the mussels and some white wine (acutally a lot of white wine) will be added to the vegetables. The soup is finished with some cream and you will be rewarded with a silky delicious soup that tastes best with a little bit of French Baguette and a crispy white wine. Bon appetit!

French Mussel Bisque
(Ina Garten)

3 lbs. fresh mussels, cleaned
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1 large leek, white and light green parts, cleaned and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
½ teaspoon saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 whole canned plum tomatoes, chopped
1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or dill

Bring 1 1/2 cups water and 1 cup of the wine to a boil in a large, shallow pot. Add the mussels, cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the mussels open. When the mussels are cool enough to handle, separate the mussels from the shells and set aside, discarding the shells and any mussels that didn't open. Strain the cooking liquid through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a bowl and reserve.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in another large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions, leek, carrots, garlic, saffron, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute.

Add 2 cups of the reserved cooking liquid (discard the rest) and the rest of the wine, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the reserved mussels, the half-and-half, and the cream. Heat until just heated through but not boiling. Stir in the parsley or dill, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Serve hot.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Spanish Omelette

Whenever I am not really sure what to cook I go for eggs. This omelette comes together quickly and is a very pretty dish that you can make ahead of time. The vegetables, the cheese and the potatoes complement each other. You can serve this omelette hot, warm, or cold the next day.

Spanish Omelette (Tortilla Espanola)
(Nigella Express)


12 baby new potatoes, halved and boiled until cooked through
5 eggs
3/4 of a jar of flame-roasted peppers, roughly chopped
3 green onions, finely sliced
3/4 cup old cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4


Heat an oven-safe, heavy-based frying pan on medium heat.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs then add the peppers, green onions and cheese and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked, drained potatoes.
Heat the butter in the frying pan and, when hot, pour in the omelette mix and cook gently for five minutes.
By this time, the bottom of the omelette should be set; rather than turn it, simply sit the pan under the grill for a few minutes to set the top. It should be a little wobbly in the middle still but it will continue to cook as it cools.
Once cool, slice into wedges and serve at room temperature.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Baked Farro Tomato Risotto

This dish is not the most prettiest dish in the world but it is easy to prepare and very tasty. The dish is prepared on the stove first and finished in the oven later. You can easily make it ahead and pop it in the oven 45 minutes before you want to serve it. You can buy the tomato sauce which makes it even easier or use your own if you have more time on hands.

Baked Farro Tomato Risotto

You can bake this in an oven-proof casserole. As far as grains go, I used semi-pearled farro, but I can imagine making this with semi-pearled barley as well. Beyond that, arborio rice would be an logical and easy-to-find alternative. Different grains will likely affect the consistency of the risotto in the end, some might end up drier or more fluid, but you can adjust the baking time accordingly, and I don't think you'll be too far off using this amount of broth/water.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking pan & drizzling
zest of one lemon
1 medium onion
fine grain sea salt
1 ½ cups / 10.5 oz / 300 g uncooked semi-pearled farro
1 cup / 8 oz / 225 g tomato sauce*
2 ½ cups / 600 ml good-tasting vegetable broth or water
1 ¼ cups / 2 oz / 60g freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped

Preheat oven to 400F / 205C, with a rack in the top third. Rub olive oil across an 8x8-inch baking dish, or equivalent, and sprinkle with lemon zest.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat combine the olive oil, onion, and a couple pinches of salt. Cook until the onions soften up and begin to become translucent, a few minutes. Add the farro, stir until well-coated, and cook for another minute or two. Stir in the tomato sauce and the broth. Bring just to a simmer, remove from heat, and stir in about 3/4 of the cheese.

Carefully taste a bit of the brothy liquid, and adjust the seasoning if needed. Transfer to the prepared baking dish, cover with foil, poke a few slits in the foil, and bake for about 45 minutes or until the grains are cooked through.

You can uncover in the last few minutes to get a bit of color on the top of the farro. Alternatively, you can brown the top carefully under a broiler for a few minutes, which is what I did. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese, the fresh oregano, and a drizzle of good olive oil.

*You can use your favorite tomato sauce here, but the following sauce is easy to make from scratch. It is bright and vibrant tasting - perfect to play off the grains. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, stir in a clove of garlic smashed into a paste with a couple pinches of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Cook just until the garlic starts to take on color, not more than 10-20 seconds, and stir in 1 cup / 8 oz / 225g of crushed tomatoes OR crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, from a can. Simmer for a few minutes more and remove from heat. Taste and add a bit more salt if needed.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tomato Ricotta Tart

Recently I discovered this Irish guy named Donald Skehan on YouTube. I had never heard of him before but he seems to be quite popular. He was so funny and when he made his food on the video he got so excited that I simply had to try some of his recipes. 
The first thing that caught my eye on his webpage was this Tomato Ricotta Tart. 
It turned out beautifully and absolutely pretty. 

The other thing that I made was an Irish Soda bread, that I had never tried before. He claimed that it would be the easiest bread ever and I think he was right about that. Unfortunately soda bread needs a lot of butter in order to taste really good. So I think it was as moist as it could get for a soda bread but I must admit that I do prefer a yeasted dough with a proper rising time and a little bit of kneading. 

Tomato Ricotta Tart

This surprising little dish makes the most of the last of this year’s tomatoes. Serve it as a light lunch or dinner with a side salad.

serves 4-6
300g of cherry tomatoes
250g of ricotta cheese
A few sprigs of thyme
A small handful of oregano, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Chili Pepper Flakes, Herbs (optional)

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
170g very cold, butter (cut into small cubes)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
30ml ice cold water

Place the flour and butter in a bowl and using a butter knife, cut the butter into the flour until you have a rough pebble mixture.

Whisk together the egg with the balsamic vinegar and sea salt. Add this to the butter and flour and using two forks gently toss through until the dough begins to come together.

Add a little cold water to bring the dough to a rough ball. Turn the pastry out on to parchment paper or cling film, parcel up and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is resting preheat the oven the 190˚C.

Slice the tomatoes in half and place in a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil, thyme, oregano and season with sea salt and ground black pepper.

Mix the Ricotta with a little bit of salt, pepper and chili flakes according to your taste. You could also add some herbs.

When the pastry has rested, roll out on a clean well floured work surface using a rolling pin, until you have a large round which will fit a 23cm tart tin with a removable base and is about 5mm in thickness.

Transfer the pastry to the tart tin and cut off any loose edges. Prick the base surface with a fork and then spread with ricotta cheese.

Place the tomatoes on top and bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes until the tomatoes have reduced in size by half, slightly charred and the pastry has turned a nutty brown.

Remove and allow to cool slightly before serving with a side salad.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce

One of the dishes that my kids request all the time is this Tomato Sauce from Nigella Lawson. It doesn't contain more than six ingredients (spices included) and it is a very light and fresh dish for hot summer days. Your tomatoes should be fully ripe and sweet in order to get the right taste. It doesn't take more than 15 minutes to make the sauce but the sauce should sit for a while in order to melt the flavours.

Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce
(Nigella Lawson)
serves 4

2 ½ lbs. ripe tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
Maldon or other sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. uncooked spaghetti

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add tomatoes, simmer for 10 seconds and drain. Peel, core and halve tomatoes, discarding seeds and liquid. Chop tomato pulp finely and place in a medium bowl. Add sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add garlic and olive oil, and whisk until blended. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours. Discard garlic.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, and add spaghetti. Cook until al dente, and drain well. Add tomato mixture to hot pasta, and mix until pasta is evenly coated with sauce. Serve immediately.