Monday, June 25, 2012

Caponata


Recently I watched an episode of Around the World in 80 plates, where they were cooking in Modena, Italy. One of the restaurant owners said:"The beauty of Italy is the fact that it is this individuality that is so Italian. You go down this street and you get into five restaurants and all 5 of them will make a different tortellini filling. And every one of them is a real authentic one. Everyone has an authority on Italian food but there is no definitive benchmark so it is very interpretive." I am in no way a professional on food and my opinion comes from experience of a consumer/home cook: when it comes to Italian food, it is not so much about technicalities and recipes, but about great quality freshest ingredients and the feel of the dish. Sometimes you come to the restaurant that specializes in Italian food and you are served something that is based on authentic Italian recipe but taste wise and feel wise is very far from what real Italian food is. And sometimes you create a dish in the house, using the freshest veggies, following nothing but your gut and come up with such a treat, that when you serve it, you hear:"Honey, this is something I would order in an Italian restaurant!":)
Serve it as a salad or an appetizer or have it as a side dish to a steak or fish.


Ingredients:
4 Italian eggplants, cut in 1/2" slices
regular salt
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tbsp sugar
a little less than 1/2 cup white vinegar
basil
1.5 tbsp olive oil + 4 tbsp (+) for cooking eggplants

Place the eggplant slices in a dish and cover them with a couple of tablespoons of salt. Put something heavy on top and leave for 1 hour. This procedure is going to take out excess moisture and they are going to absorb less oil when you fry them. Afterwards wash them with cold water and dry on a paper towel.
Heat 1.5 tbsp of olive oil in a pan over medium low and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes. Change the heat setting to low and add tomatoes, bell pepper and pine nuts. Cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
In another pan heat 4 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Cook eggplant slices in batches until golden brown on both sides. Add more oil if needed. Move eggplants to the pan with onion-tomato mixture and cook for 10 minutes on medium low stirring occasionally. Season with salt and add sugar. Cook for 10 more minutes. Pour in vinegar and cook until it evaporates - 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with basil before serving. 
Can be served cold as well.



Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chocolate Salami




Embrace any change - that is all that comes to my mind right now. I like one of  Martin Luther King Jr. quotes: "the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy". Though routine and order are great I believe it is the change and the challenge what make us grow and make us stronger.
I started this blog to challenge myself and break out of the rut. Since then I have had some incredible things happen to me. The changes are not related to this blog, but I feel that "Life in Chocolate" has had an incredible positive influence on my life and I am very grateful for that. Here is one more chocolate recipe to celebrate my happiness:) My family and friends looove this chocolate salami:) One time I was making it late at night so our friend could take it on a cross-country trip with him! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
a little over 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
5 tbsp milk 
250 gr shortbread cookies
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cups butter at room temperature

In a small pan mix together sugar, cocoa and milk. Put it on a stove on a low heat setting and stir until all the ingredients are well mixed (2-4 minutes). Leave it on a stove till it starts boiling (approx 10 minutes). Stir occasionally. Once the liquid starts boiling, take it off the stove and let it cool down for a couple of minutes. Stir in the butter and mix until it fully dissolves. Pour the liquid into a large bowl.
Put half of cookies and half of walnuts in a food processor and run it till they are coarsely crumbled. Break the other half of cookies and nuts with your hands into rough pieces.
Start adding the cookie-walnut mixture to the bowl and mix. The mixture should be viscous, with the texture resembling raw ground beef. Divide the mixture into 3 portions. Prepare 3 sheets of parchment paper. Place each portion on one end of the prepared sheet and with your hands shape the mass in the form of a sausage. Roll it up in the parchment paper. Make sure the mixture doesn't lose the form and stretch from the sides while you are rolling it up. Roll the parchment paper in aluminum foil to further secure the form. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. 



Place the "salamis" in the freezer.  Slice right before serving with a sharp knife. Keep in the fridge or the freezer.  Serve cold.

Tips:

- You can use cookies and nuts in different proportions, depending on your taste
- Secure the salami tight in aluminum foil as it can become loose and can break when being sliced
- If it breaks when you slice it, place it in the fridge or leave in the kitchen for some time, so it can warm up and get some moisture
- You can omit the parchment paper and roll it straight in the foil

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mushroom Spinach Soup



A couple of days ago I came across an episode of Popeye the Sailor Man (thank you, YouTube, for your recommendations;)) where he was fighting termites in his house. I find this cartoon pretty funny and informative too: I mean after 5 minutes the kids who are watching the cartoon know who termites are, what they eat and why and how Popeye defeated them - he was strong because he ate spinach! I remember reading somewhere that the spinach sales skyrocketed in the 40's because of the cartoon. There was a lot of discussion about the creators' concept of "consuming spinach leads to physical strength". Some were saying it was based on the misleading information regarding spinach's iron content (10 times more than it really is), some said that Vitamin A was the reason this leafy vegetable was chosen for the cartoon. I think in the end it doesn't really matter. What's incredible is the whole idea that the spinach sales went up because of some cartoon! That proves that we can change our kids' perception on what is a good snack and what is not by just creating more cartoons that praise veggies and fruit and decreasing the number of commercials with cartoonish characters showing how good hamburgers and chips are.
I am not going to sit here and say that I really enjoy eating spinach. I guess my sense of responsibility for my family's well being makes me add a little bit of spinach here, a little bit there;) I'll add some fresh spinach to a salad, make spinach and ricotta filling for crepes or mix some spinach in a mushroom soup.  


I cannot not mention the use of wine in this recipe, as it plays a big role in making this soup aromatic and rather intriguing without any spices. But I feel it's wrong to express how I support using wine in cooking after talking so much about spinach (from cartoons to wine...yeah) Maybe next time:)

Ingredients:

1 lb white mushrooms, sliced
a handful of dry crimini mushrooms
1 bunch of fresh spinach, roughly cut, stems removed
1 1/2 qt (6 cups) vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
parsley, finely chopped
olive oil
salt
black pepper

In a small bowl cover crimini mushrooms with hot water for approx. 5 minutes. Drain them.
Add enough oil to a large frying pan to cover the bottom and heat it up on a high heat setting. Add white and crimini mushrooms and cook stirring for 3 minutes. Mix in spinach and cook for 4 more minutes. Pour in wine and let it evaporate, stirring occasionally. Once the liquid is gone (8-10 minutes), turn off the heat and add parsley to the pan.
Bring your stock to boil, add the mixture from the pan and cook for 8 minutes on a medium heat setting. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve hot.

 Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Strawberry Oat Bars





You know how sometimes your loved ones convince you to make that certain dish they are craving and you promise to cook it for them.  Then when the moment actually comes you just can't bring yourself to make it. So what do I do in a situation like that? I make it up to my family by sneaking in something else:) These soft, yet a little crunchy strawberry oat bars made it to this world when my Man wanted something completely different. They were gone within 24 hours and he didn't even remember that he was asking me for a different dessert. Mission accomplished!:) 
These oat bars are actually a healthier version of the cake that was my very first post of this blog (what a difference in pictures!:) I used old - fashioned rolled oats (not processed, quick cooking ones) to get all the benefits of the whole grain. It is good to know that you can add some dietary fiber, some Vitamin B1 and other advantages of whole grain to your meal without sacrificing the taste of the dish. These oat bars make a great dessert and can also be a satisfying snack or a breakfast option for somebody with a sweet tooth like me:)

Ingredients:

225 gr/ 8 oz butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
4 cups strawberries or any other fruit, stoned and cut in pieces
4 tsp corn starch
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 375°F/ 190°C.

Combine 1 cup of sugar, flour, rolled oats, baking soda, salt and grated lemon rind in a bowl. Add butter and egg, then work the mixture with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients. Make sure to break big lumps of butter. In another bowl add ½ cup of sugar, corn starch, lemon juice and prepared fruits and gently toss to coat evenly.

Put half the batter from the first bowl into a slightly greased baking dish. For reference my dish dimensions are 13"x10". Pour the fruit mixture over it. Spread the rest of the batter evenly on top of the fruits.

Place in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Let it cool down completely and cut it into squares.



Enjoy! 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Strawberry and Cheese Skewers





I had this Dubliner cheese sitting around in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It was a part of a "doggy bag" from a family get together. I have never tried it before and I didn't know what to do with it. It is not the kind of cheese you put on a toast. The best description I can think of is that if Parmesan cheese and Swiss cheese had a baby, it would be Dubliner cheese.
When I don't know how to incorporate something into my cooking, I start thinking what I can pair it with on a skewer. I guess you can call it my comfort zone. I think my blog could have been called Life in Chocolate or Food on Skewers:) So as strawberries are in season right now and I have plenty of them, that pretty much made them an obvious choice to experiment with on these skewers. I added walnuts to compliment the nutty side of the cheese and honey to emphasize the tiny bit of sweetness the Dubliner has. I find that these skewers make great appetizers, and you can quickly transform them into a dessert by simply adding more strawberries.

Ingredients:
strawberries, cut in half
Dubliner cheese (mine is Kerrygold brand), cut in small cubes or triangles
raw walnut halves
honey

Pour some honey into a small bowl and keep a brush in it. Thread a walnut on a toothpick, follow by a strawberry and finish with a cheese piece. The walnut part is the trickiest and takes some practice because walnuts tend to break. Find the thinnest part of it and thread it using a screwing motion. Brush all the ingredients lightly with honey.
To use this dish as a dessert, add a second strawberry half after the cheese piece.


 Enjoy!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Watermelon Salad




Who doesn't enjoy indulging in a watermelon, cold, straight from the fridge on a hot summer day? I always have. As a child I could not wait till watermelons were in season. Where I lived, it was from mid August till the end of October. I also come from a city with an efficient public transportation system and where not every family owns a car. My family didn't own one and a watermelon was a really big and heavy thing to carry home on foot. When I got older, my mom confessed that she was doing her best to avoid buying watermelons:) From the mid August I would start saying: "Mom, watermelons are here, let's buy one." Mom:” No it’s too early, let's wait a little bit till the ripe ones get here”. Beginning of September:"Mom, what about watermelons?" Mom:” No, it's too early” This would go on till the beginning of November when it would be already too late. I still got a taste of wonderful regional watermelons at my grandparents or friends, but the story with my mom was the same every year:) 
A watermelon is an outstanding thing on its own, but if you were looking for a great combination for a salad, feta cheese would be your choice. It is a classic combination - the saltiness of feta cheese brings out the sweetness of the watermelon and vice versa. This particular salad is light and refreshing and is great for lunch or a snack. Usually I like my salad without a dressing, but if you want to add some acidity to yours, I recommend this simple dressing below.

Ingredients:

2 cups arugula
1/4 cup red onion, sliced
2 cups watermelon, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing:
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp olive oil
salt
pepper

In a large bowl combine arugula and onion. In a small bowl mix together dressing ingredients and add to the large bowl. Top the salad with watermelon and feta cheese and serve immediately. 
Serves 2 

Enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Manicotti Stuffed With Ricotta Cheese And Meats





Stuffed manicotti has to be one of my favorites from the Italian cuisine. A fantastic meaty pasta dish, its richness making it an instant comfort food. The filling for manicotti is an incredible combination of flavors - hearty soft pork and beef mixture, subtle creamy ricotta, salty and little bit nutty flavor of Parmesan and a unique taste of prosciutto. To me this all sounds like an epitome of Italian cuisine! The filling is also extremely multipurpose as you can stuff manicotti, cannelloni, ravioli, pasta shells with it and even use it in lasagne.  
The sauce used in this dish, Bechamel (Besciamella), is actually a creation of French cuisine, but is quite popular in Italian cooking.  Although it might appear simple at first glance, it plays an important role in bringing the dish together. When added to the sauce, white pepper and nutmeg enhance the taste and give the dish that authentic Italian flavor.  
Try it next time you are cooking a small intimate dinner or hosting friends, this dish would be a conversation starter! 

Ingredients:

8 manicotti shells
2 tsp cooking oil
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup ground pork
1/2 cup ground beef
1/4 cup (approx. 1 slice) prosciutto, cubed
1 lb ricotta cheese
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
white pepper
ground nutmeg
salt

White sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup plain flour
3 cups milk
salt
white pepper
nutmeg
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

Making the filling:

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally. Add more oil if needed and stir in ground pork and ground beef. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a colander to drain.
Combine the cooled mixture with prosciutto, ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg and mix well.

Preparing pasta: 

Prepare according to package instructions, as some types of pasta need to be boiled beforehand, while other get stuffed uncooked.

Making the sauce:

Place the butter in a cooking pot and melt it over low heat. Add flour and whisk until well blended. Heat the milk in a microwave or on a stove until almost boiling. Gradually add the milk to butter and flour whisking constantly. Keep the pot on a lowest heat setting and whisk constantly for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 400°F/ 200°C.
Spread 1 cup of white sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Fill each manicotti with the prepared mixture and place them in the dish. Handle the pasta tubes carefully not to break them. Spread the rest of the sauce over manicotti and sprinkle them with the desired amount of Parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Then take the cover off and bake for additional 10 minutes to brown the top.

Makes 8 manicotti or twice as many cannelloni or pasta shells.





Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beef and Rice Soup




There is a joke: one sushi restaurant in Europe extended an invitation to a well-known sushi chef from Japan to visit their place and give his opinion on the menu. They served him a plate of their best sushi. He sampled everything they brought and the manager asked:"Well, how is our sushi?"  And he said:"I haven't tried it yet but I really enjoyed what you served me so far" :)
I think this kind of situation happens all the time when you serve what you think is an authentic dish to a person, whose country this dish originates from. They are always going to say it is not a real thing. I learned this lesson long ago... Actually, no. My mom was teaching me for a long time, that I should often change the name of the recipe so people don't compare it to anything. But of course I didn't listen - I learned it the hard way:)
This dish is the result of my attempts to recreate the soup my grandfather used to cook for me when I was little. It is from Caucasian (Georgian) cuisine and is called Kharcho ("beef soup"). It is quite a piquant soup with lots of spices and greens. I can not call Kharcho the soup that I made following the recipe below, because it doesn't taste like Kharcho at all, but is pretty yummy and aromatic. I mean, the ingredients are the same, but it doesn't taste how my grandfather's soup did. How can this be? But it doesn't matter, I'll work on my authentic Kharcho's recipe, and let's call this particular soup Beef and Rice Soup, shall we? :) Enjoy!

Ingredients:
10 cups water
1 lb beef stew
5 whole black peppers
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup rice
1 onion
1/4 tbsp whole wheat flour
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup walnuts, blended until resembles breadcrumbs
1 tsp hmeli-suneli (spices combination, can be found in European stores)
8 oz tomato sauce
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp of lemon juice
10 tbsp pomegranate juice
1/4 tsp paprika
parsley
basil
cilantro
salt
ground black pepper

Wash the meat and place it in a cooking pot with whole peppers and bay leaves. Add water and put it on the stove. When it starts boiling, lower the heat and with a large spoon or a skimmer skim off any foam that forms on the surface. In approximately 20 minutes, put rice in a pot. 
Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and add onion. Cook it for 5-6 minutes and stir in the flour. Mix well and transfer to a plate. Cook garlic in the same pan for a couple of minutes. Add onion, garlic, walnuts, hmeli-suneli, tomato paste  and sauce to the soup. Stir in lemon juice, pomegranate juice, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for 10 more minutes. Turn off the heat and cover. Add the parsley, basil and cilantro and let it stand for 5-10 minutes for the flavors to develop.

Enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ciabatta Breakfast Sandwiches



I usually resort to some type of a sandwich to get some protein and get me going in the morning. At one point I was ordering Ham & Cheese Artisan breakfast sandwich from Starbucks almost every day. I enjoyed it a lot, but the 3 dollar price tag was bothering me. I decided to try making a similar breakfast sandwich at home. It turned out really good! I think it is even better than the inspiration, because I can change up the meat and cheese options so it doesn't get boring. The cost of making six of them - less than 7 dollars and 20 minutes of my time. I think it's totally worth it:)! I am sorry, Starbucks, I won't be buying those sandwiches from you anymore, but I am your faithful customer when it comes to my Mocca Frappuccino, Latte, and oat bars, and those delicious blueberry scones... Damn you, Starbucks:)

Ingredients:

3 eggs or egg whites
deli meat of your choice, sliced
cheese of your choice (I use Swiss or mozzarella low moisture), sliced
ciabatta rolls, cut in half
butter

This is what I usually use to make my sandwiches

Bake the rolls according to package instructions (miss this step, if you are using already prepared ones). Meanwhile heat a little bit of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat setting. Break the eggs into a bowl. Beat them with a fork or whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper and pour the mixture into the pan. Cook it as you would an omelette. When it sets, transfer to a cutting board and divide into 6 pieces.

Assembling sandwiches:

Put a piece of an omelette on the bottom half of each roll, follow with the cheese, deli meat and cover with the top half.  Place each sandwich in a separate sandwich zipper bag and put it in the freezer.
In the morning put a sandwich in a microwave for 1 minute on a high power setting. Do not over microwave as it can become rubbery and hard to chew.

Makes 6 sandwiches





Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Easy Herb Pork Roast




Every cook has their own kitchen horror stories. Mine happened on the first Thanksgiving dinner I was hosting. I decided to make chicken instead of turkey because I couldn't find a turkey small enough for my toaster oven. So the guests are at the table waiting for the main course. I take it out of the oven and it looks great and I proudly carry it to the table. My Man starts carving it. It looks all perfect until he hits the bones. And here it comes - the bones look a liiittle bloody... My guests being great friends and supporters didn't make a big deal out of it (maybe they didn't even see the blood, I will never know:). But that was my horror story and for the longest time since then, I refrained from cooking any type of roasts. Then at some point I realized I was missing out because any roast looks impressive on the dinner table and is ideal for big events. I will never master cooking them if I don't try. Now I can tell it all comes with experience and a small, but very helpful device called a meat thermometer. That and a great piece of meat is all you need for a perfect roast.
There are numerous ways to make a roast. Many recipes call for some kind of stuffing, or veggies on the side, or you have to babysit the meat, brushing it with juices every so often. When I don't have time to give this amount of attention to the roast, I go for this recipe. I call it no mess-no fuss dish:)
I usually buy pork tenderloin or sirloin tip in stores like Smart and Final or Costco. I find that they always have a good deal on these types of cut. If I am not planning to make it right away, I just throw it in the freezer. I move it to the fridge the day before I intend to cook it so it can thaw. The next day I do everything by the recipe an hour and a half before the guests arrive and it's ready to be served as soon as they step inside.

Ingredients:

3 lb pork tenderloin
½ tsp sage
½ tsp dried oregano
1 ¼ tbsp paprika
½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
¾ tsp ground black pepper
½ - 1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix all the spices and olive oil and let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350°F/ 175°C. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Put the loin in the dish and rub the spice mixture all over it. Place it in the oven and cook for 1 hour.
Take the dish out and allow it to sit about 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the side dish of your choice. Top with the meat juices from the pan if desired.





Enjoy!


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Caprese Salad On Skewers





I am really fond of appetizers on skewers. They are colorful and fun and most importantly packed with flavor, offering a new taste sensation with every chew. They are always irresistible!:) Besides, these appetizers get an A+ from the presentation standpoint for not being messy. I prefer using toothpicks instead of skewers when making mine, as they are shorter and the food is "cramped" thus creating more flavor impact. 
This particular hors d'oeuvre is a classic Italian combination - subtle and refreshing. It is a great addition to any table.

Ingredients:
Fresh whole mozzarella, cubed
Cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
Sweet basil, leaves cut if they are too big

Optional ingredients:
Dried oregano
Olive oil
Salt

Thread one tomato half on a toothpick or a skewer, follow by a basil leaf, then mozzarella cube, another basil leaf and finish with a tomato half.
Serve it right away or cover and chill for up to 8 hours.




If you prefer a more aromatic version of this appetizer, sprinkle it with dried oregano, salt and oil. But do it right before serving, because the oil and salt make the tomatoes soggy.




 Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies




It took me quite a while to come up with the name for my blog. And I believe that I found The One. Life in Chocolate has both figurative and literal meaning for me. Figuratively it is being in a happy place: being grateful for what I have, being satisfied with who I am, being surrounded and feeling blessed to have an amazing and caring family. It doesn't mean that everything is perfect and I have nothing to work on or to wish for, but I believe that I have the foundation, the most important things, all the other stuff is achievable!
The literal meaning of my blog's name comes from the fact that my favorite food of all times is chocolate:) You can find chocolate in its different forms in my house at any given time. As a teenager I used to come home from school, call my mom's cellphone and say: "Mom, we don't have anything to eat". She would say: " No, we have soup, and there is pasta dish in the fridge." And I would answer: "But we don't have chocolate":) 
As I always have it ready to eat, I make chocolate desserts very rarely. But these cookies made their way into my cooking repertoire. One day we were going to my father-in-law and I felt like making something special for him. He is into chocolate like I am and I decided to go with these cookies. From that day he asks for them all the time. I have to routinely fight with my Man and other family members so they don't I eat all the cookies and I have at least something left for my father-in-law.
Through experimenting I found my perfect cooking time for these cookies - 11 minutes 30 seconds. But it can be different for your oven. I take them out and the top is still soft to touch and maybe a tiny bit undercooked, but they get there during 5 minutes of cool down. They turn out soft, chewy, and with a right amount of sweetness. No amount I make ever seems enough;)


 

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
6 tbsp white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. In another bowl combine butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg and vanilla using a mixer. Add the ingredients from the first bowl and mix thoroughly.
Add in the chocolate chips and mix with a wooden spoon until all the chips are evenly distributed and covered with the batter.
Preheat the oven to 350°F/ 180°C. Line the baking dish with parchment paper. Drop tablespoons of the dough 2 inches from each other and from the rims, because the cookies are going to expand. 




Baking time is 10-12 minutes depending on the oven. The cookies are ready once the edges are light brown and the top is light and soft to touch. Take the cookies out and let them sit for 5 minutes.

Makes 18 cookies




Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lentil Soup






With summer approaching I switch to lighter, water-based soups. Lentil zucchini soup is satisfying, colorful and healthy. As a bonus for us, ladies, who are getting ready for the swimsuit season, it is low in calories. It is a perfect lunch or have it for a light dinner in the evening.


Ingredients:

½ cup red lentils
1 tsp cooking oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 zucchini, diced
2-2 ½ cups water
¼ tsp ground turmeric
salt
pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan on a low setting. Place the onion in the pan and cover it. Cook the onion for 6-7 minutes until soft, stirring once. Put the heat setting on medium and add zucchini to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Wash lentils and place them in a pot. Add turmeric, water and the ingredients from the pan. Bring the liquid to the boil. Reduce the heat setting to low and cover the pot. Let the soup simmer for 15-20 minutes (until the lentils are soft and ready). Pass the soup through a sieve. Reserve approximately a cup of the body of the soup and place the rest in a blender. Blend until smooth. Return the liquid, the mix from the blender and the reserved cup to the pot, season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. 
Serve hot with crackers or toasts. 


Makes 3-4 servings 




Tips:
  • For a richer flavor, use stock as a base for this soup
  • Adding meat is another great way to enrich the dish

Enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mediterranean Style Meatballs




Many of the dishes I make are in one way or another inspired by different places my Man and I go to. I got the inspiration for these meatballs from a hookah lounge we frequent at. They serve amazing Mediterranean dishes - different kinds of meat with veggies and warm soft pita bread and lots of mouth-watering sauces. At that place, for many people, smoking hookah comes first to eating, for me the food is the priority:)
To create these flavorful meatballs I added cauliflower to a mix of pork and beef. The flavors of carrot, parsley and garlic give them the Mediterranean twist that I crave.
These kinds of dishes are also a great way to incorporate vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli into the diets of people who otherwise don't like them. I think we all have at least one of those picky eaters in every family:) This way they still get all nutrients from the vegetable without even knowing it.

Ingredients:

½ lb ground beef
½ lb ground pork
a little less than a cup crumbled cauliflower (thoroughly blended until resembles breadcrumbs)
1 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
parsley, finely chopped
cooking oil
salt
pepper

 
In a bowl combine beef, pork, cauliflower, carrot, garlic and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water so the mixture is more pliable. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge for 30 minutes (or overnight if necessary). 

Form into 6-7 ovals.




Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium setting and place the meatballs in the pan. Cook them turning frequently until light brown from all sides.
Preheat the oven to 375°F/ 190°C. Place the meatballs in a baking dish and cook them in the oven for 20-30 minutes. When the meatballs are ready, serve them with a side dish of your choice.


Mediterranean Style Meatballs served with couscous salad

Tips:
  • Serve meatballs with yogurt-cucumber sauce (tzatziki) or tomato sauce

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stuffed White Fish Rolls


Since my Man rekindled his love for fishing, we started eating a lot more white fish - before we ate it once a month at best. After I tasted the fish that he catches, I realized that the best fish is a fresh wild-caught fish. Second best fish is the one that you caught and froze by yourself the same day. And then goes anything else, meaning whatever you can find in your local store. Of course, my rambling shouldn't stop you from buying fish in the store - not everybody has the opportunity to go fishing or gets excited about spending all day on a boat or a pier, juggling fishing poles and dealing with the stinky, slimy bait. Besides this hobby also requires a lot of patience which I don't have. But I still feel a part of the fishing team, because I am the one who cooks the catch. Usually I stick to a simple egg wash with some flour or breadcrumbs for coating the fillets, but sometimes I feel more adventurous. One day I plan to make this particular dish with the catch that my Man brings. The fish turns out moist with a piquant combination of veggies and shrimp inside and authentic Indian flavors outside.
I experimented with different kinds of white fish for this dish (e.g. sole, pacific basa), and I can tell you that any type goes as long as it is a fillet with no bones. If you choose bigger fish (like pacific basa), go for a smaller fillet, because it's going to be tough to roll up, and the roll is going to be too thick. 
This dish is perfect for a family dinner or as one of the main courses at a big event.




Ingredients:

Rolls
6 fillets white fish
½ cup shrimp, cooked
½ medium bell pepper, cubed
½ cup zucchini, cubed
¼ cup white parts of spring onions, chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt
pepper

Brushing paste 
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 cup tandoori paste
½ tbsp thyme
1 rosemary sprig

Preheat the oven to 400°F/ 200°C. 

Wash the fillets and pat dry with a paper towel. Season the fish with salt on both sides. Mix together shrimp, bell pepper, zucchini, spring onions and Worcestershire sauce. Add salt and pepper. Spoon the filling on the end of each fillet and roll it up. Secure the fillets with toothpicks or thread, if necessary. Put the rolls in a baking dish seam side down.
For your brushing paste, mix together lemon juice, tandoori paste and thyme. Brush the top and sides of each roll with the mixture. Put a sprig of rosemary on top of the rolls and cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes. Your rolls are ready to be served.  To give the fillets a nice golden hue and a thin crust, remove the foil and place them back to cook for another 10-15 minutes.


Serve hot with mashed potatoes, rice or salad.


Enjoy!

P.S.
I was writing this post sitting on a beautiful Goleta beach in Santa Barbara, while my Man was fishing from the pier. I just wanted to share some relaxing and exciting moments of the trip with you:)





The guy fishing next to us caught a shark! This was the first time I've ever seen a shark so close!

You are probably thinking:"Ok, a picture of the ocean, nothing special". But if you look closely, you'll see something in the middle....  and this something is a Whale!:)