Monday, December 28, 2009

Plum butter snow crescents

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"What's in a name..." right? Plum butter snow crescents. Or shape them differently (like my Mom does) and name them Frog's lips. Flaky vanilla scented dough + thick, creamy plum butter + powdered sugar = perfection.
For the less faint hearted I recommend making them with lard. The original recipe which comes from my grandmother uses lard instead of the butter and sour cream. Now, to some of you this might sound strange, to say the least. But don't diss it till you try it! Lard makes any pastry incredibly flaky. You cannot fake this level of flakiness. No butter, no shortening, nothing will rise up to the challenge. That said I always make them with butter and sour cream. It's healthier and my palate is more used to that buttery taste.
So my friends, call'em what you will just make sure you give them a try. You'll thank me later.

Ingredients:

100 g butter, at room temperature
120 g thick sour cream
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250 g flour
2 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar
generous pinch of salt

150 g plum butter
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a bowl mix flour, powdered sugar and salt.
In another bowl mix butter and sour cream. Add egg and vanilla. Blend well. Add flour mixture and work dough until very smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, roll out chilled dough( keeping dough and surface floured) to about 16" square.
Cut into 20 squares. Place a small tsp plum butter into one corner of square, roll it up and form into a crescent.
Continue with remaining dough and plum butter. Place crescents on baking tray. Bake cookies for about 20 to 25 minutes, until golden around the edges. Roll crescents into powdered sugar while still warm.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

South America

We've recently taken a trip to a place not so far far away. South America has been on my radar for quite some time. This trip had actually been in the making, so to speak, for several years. We started in Peru, than on to Argentina, Chile and finally Brazil. Although this has been a trip of a lot of firsts and some mishaps, all in all it was wonderful. We observed nature at its best, made a lot of new friends and had some great food. What stood out the most was the amazing ceviche in Lima (ceviche is the next sushi, according to some local gourmands, and who am I to argue?), steak and ice-cream in Argentina, beach food in Brazil and some outstanding wines in Chile.(Try Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, from Concha y Toro; soooo ready for Christmas dinner!). Flavours on the continent are generally very mild, not a lot of spices.
Most days were quite action packed with a lot of hiking, surfing (I chickened out of this one), sand boarding, swimming. And finally to end the day on a perfect note, we had something special going on almost every night. Whether it was great dinners in Buenos Aires, grill parties in Patagonia or playing guitar (and having way too many caipirinhas) till the wee hours of the morning on a Brazilian island, these memories will keep us going right through the end of winter. Or so we hope!
I'll be using a lot more quinoa, dulce de leche and raw fish in my cooking in the near future. I'm also looking for the name and recipe for the best lime and coconut pie we had in Rio de Janeiro, courtesy of some very friendly Bahian ladies. If anyone knows the name of this Bahian pie, please let me know.
And now it's back to business. I have some cookies to bake,truffles to make, a book to finish and a very stylish shrug to knit.
Have a wonderful Christmas!

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Photos by: L.N. et moi.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The One

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Have you ever had a perfect food moment, when everything is just flawless: the food, the moment, the place and the people you're sharing everything with? Mine involves a snowy winter day, a sleigh ride, two people who are unfortunately no longer in my life and sitting in the windowsill in my favourite little country house, savouring every little bite of these beautiful plum dumplings. That day must have been one of the most perfect days of my life. It was many many moons ago, but every time I make these little treasures, it all comes back to me.
We all have an absolute, hands down, all time favourite food, right? You know, the food you would ask for for your last meal on this planet. Mine are plum dumplings. They're like sweet gnocchi filled with fresh plums, loadsa cinnamon sugar and rolled in toasted breadcrumbs. Some people like to serve them with sweetened double cream, but I prefer a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

I don't like a very potatoey flavour, so I use a little bit more flour than most recipes ask for. This will make them perfect when freshly made and served warm. The amount of flour you need also depends on the potatoes you're using. The dough must be soft, not too sticky so it can be rolled out easily.

Plum dumplings

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Ingredients:

400 g cooked, peeled potatoes
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp semolina
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
16 to 18 small prune plums
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
powdered sugar and toasted breadcrumbs for serving

Deseed your plums. Mix caster sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Take each plum and fill them with the sugar mixture. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Push potatoes through a potato ricer in a large bowl. Add salt, egg, oil, semolina. Stir mixture with a wooden spoon. Now add your flour, in three parts and mix together with your hands. Work dough into a smooth ball. Add more flour if necessary.
Using a well floured working surface, roll out dough to make it 5mm thick. Cut dough using a sharp knife into about 18 little squares. Place a cinnamon sugar filled plum onto center of each square. Now shape them into small dumplings, using more flour if necessary. Cook them for about 15 to 20 minutes. Gently take them out into a sieve, letting excess water drip of. Place dumplings into the warm toasted breadcrumbs. Dust with cinnamon sugar and serve.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back to the basics

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I worry a lot. Usually about things that are beyond my control, which makes the whole thing pointless. So why worry?
Just try to stay on the positive side, right? Sure, easier said that done. I'm always in a roadrunner mood. Go, get it, now, fast typeathing. I get overly excited about the most trivial things. And when I have a cloud over my head, the last thing on my mind would be food. I cannot touch food, for the life of me. That may very well be the reason I haven't spent much time in the kitchen lately. That, and also the abundance of fresh local apples, that I have been devouring by the buckets (left no room for anything else). They're so incredibly crisp when freshly picked! I'd always go for a freshly picked apple over any apple dessert.
On my last trip to the farmers' market however I bought so many different types, that I just didn't know where to keep them.
So I made the simplest, most delicious apple squares I could think of. I've been enjoying these since I was a toddler. Never thought of them as dessert. They're a meal in their own right. Make them in the evening. Take the whole pan with you, go to your dark oak library, (I don't have one, but you go ahead and do it), close the door behind you, choose a leather-bound mystery, plant yourself comfortably in your reading chair and devour them while still warm. Don't expect a lot of leftovers.

Apple cinnamon squares

Dough:

300 g all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 large egg
125 g sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100 ml sour cream
1/2 tbsp vanilla

Filling:

3,5 to 4 lb of your favourite apples
1 tbsp cinnamon
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 375F.
Butter and flour a medium sized baking pan, knocking out excess flour.
For dough: mix all ingredients to form a smooth dough. Divide in two. Cover with a tea towel, chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
For filling: peel and grate all the apples. Squeeze them by the hand fulls to get rid of the excess juice. You should get about two cups of apple juice, depending on the apple. Put juice aside for later use.
Mix in cinnamon and lemon juice.
Roll out half of your dough, to fit your pan. Dough will be thin. Pour apple mixture evenly over dough in pan, cover with second rolled out dough. Prick dough all over with a fork and bake for about 35 minutes or until golden.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Strawberries. For the last time.

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Since I'm not a fan of those imported rubbery monsters we can all "enjoy" during the winter. Go out and grab the very last, late Ontario strawberries. Now. Run. Serve them macerated, with some whipped cream, or alongside your favourite brownie.
I still have a handful of them. They deserve a regal treatment, even if they're not exactly freshly picked. I'll bake them. Gently, for a few minutes to soften and release those juices. Then knock them over with homemade custard. Real vanilla, please!!!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Olive oil doughnuts

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Blackberry season is upon us. I went to the farmers market, spent a small fortune on a huge box of them. Had big plans for making this thick, dark, gorgeous blackberry cordial laced with mint and lime juice. But It seems like fall has really made its presence known as far as my health is concerned. I was down with a cold the past few days. So blackberry cordial NO, fresh, sweet smelling local blackberries eaten straight out of the box YES.
Let's hope this is just my immune system (wanting to get stronger) playing tricks on me and getting ready to dodge all the viruses that might come my way this winter.
When I'm sick I'm always hungry. Weird, I know. I have strange cravings. I'm not talking about a healthy helping of hot soup needed for that oh so essential boost of vitamins and overall comfort of the soul. Oh, no. I'm talking fried dough. Lots of it. Drenched in some sort of luscious syrup or dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. And in this case served with a big bowl of blackberries.
But let's keep this short, sweet and addictively delicious. These are the easiest doughnuts ever. They are shortened by olive oil and sweetened by freshly squeezed orange juice. The blackberries are just a bonus.

Olive oil doughnuts

1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup table cream
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
60 g sugar
90 g icing sugar
475 g self raising flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Combine egg and 60 g of sugar in a large bowl. Add cream, orange juice, olive oil and vanilla. Add flour to make a soft dough. Knead until it all comes together neatly. Divide dough into 10 equal pieces, then form 15 cm cylinders. Pinch ends together to make doughnut shaped rings. Combine icing sugar with cinnamon. Heat oil to 350 F and fry doughnuts until golden (turning once) about 5 to 6 minutes. Cool completely. Coat with cinnamon sugar. Let go of your willpower. They're worth it.
Recipe adapted from GT magazine.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Red currant vanilla squares and a farewell to summer

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Summer is officially over. Loved it, as usual but it was about time. This summer was very different for me for several reasons, which I won't get into right now. The seasonal fruits and veggies, long, quite walks and warm summer rain will definitely be missed but now it's time for something new: my favourite time of the year, FALL. Fall with its gorgeous colours, candle lit evenings with friends and great comfort food, lots of crisp apples and juicy blackberries. For me it has always felt like a new beginning. I still have that back to school thrill running through me. Love the smell of new books, new leather shoes and the prospect of new wonders and adventures.
But since I'm not one for leaving any loose ends, here's my farewell to summer: deliciously juicy, sweet and tart red currant vanilla squares, that scream summery goodness. Made these last week with the last red currants of the season.

Red currant vanilla squares

Ingredients:

350 g all purpose flour
200 g sugar
150 g butter, at room temperature
500 g red currants, cleaned
4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
150 ml sour cream

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix 250 g flour with 50 g sugar.Add butter and mix with your hands to obtain a soft dough.
Knead for about a minute. Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Grate dough into a medium sized square cake pan, lined with baking paper. Push on grated dough with the back of a spoon to even it out. Scatter over red currants.
Beat the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in salt, lemon zest and vanilla. Add sour cream and the rest of the flour and mix until combined. Beat egg whites until stiff, add to batter in two additions, gently folding it in. Pour mixture over red currants. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Cut into large squares and dust with icing sugar.
Enjoy!

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And now here's my wish list for my new "school" year:

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Cradle of flavour by James Oseland. The author spent two decades exploring the foods of the spice islands. Need I say more?

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Cook in Boots by Ravinder Bhogal. Coffee table/ kitchen shelf perfection from a girl who loves food and shoes even more than I do.

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Turquoise by Greg Malouf. The most beautiful book ever from the executive chef of MoMo (Melbourne), author of Saha and one of Australia's best chefs.

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A year in my kitchen and My favourite ingredients by Skye Gyngell, expat Australian, now running the kitchen at Petersham Nurseries.
Do you have a cook book wish list?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Black currant sorbet

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I'm a sorbet girl. While I would never shun a bowl of salted caramel ice-cream on my summer party dessert table, if I have a choice I almost always go for the sorbet. After having more than my fair share of gelato in Italy,in France I made a conscious effort to forgo anything in the ice cream family in favour of all time favourite baked goods like almond croissant, brioche au sucre the occasional ham and cheese quiche. Than one night in Paris, after scouring an entire neighbourhood for an Isabel Marant store, I came across a small shop that claimed to be selling only the very best Berthillon ice-cream. Well, that I had to try. I've read so much about it on the uber popular blog of David Lebovitz, skipping it would have made my trip incomplete. So I bought two scoops of cassis sorbet. Happy to say, it was amazing. So much so, that I've been wanting to replicate it ever since I've returned home. As black currants aren't so easy to find around here, I only got around it this past week.
This black currant sorbet is rich, sweet, tart and silky all at the same time. Enjoy, along with a few of our photos from all around France, one of my favourite countries in the entire world.


Black currant sorbet

Ingredients:

3 cups granulated sugar
2 3/4 cups fresh black currants
1 tbsp cassis liqueur

Bring sugar and 3 cups of water to a boil. Let sugar dissolve, remove from heat.
Place currants and 2 cups sugar syrup in a saucepan. Simmer for 12 minutes. Puree in a blender. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Cool completely. Add 1/2 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar syrup and cassis to black currant mixture. Refrigerate until very cold. Freeze in an ice cream maker.



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Photos: L.N.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Apricot-red currant summer tart

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I just had to make this tart. But then again this time of year there's always something I "just" have to make. Every day there's something new. Don't you just love August? We already have peaches and apricots, still have red currants and strawberries and I even found some of the last sour cherries( my absolute favourite) of the season. So many recipes, so little time...
Because the season of these wonderful summer fruits is so short, I tend to over bake and over eat all month long. And I'm loving every moment of it!
This apricot red currant tart is best served warm. Think sunny weekday afternoon, tall glasses of homemade lemonade, iced coffee and a few girlfriends popping by unexpectedly. Let the good times begin...


Apricot-red currant summer tart


Ingredients:

300 g all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
200 g diced, unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
150 g sugar
about 8 medium sized halved, pitted apricots
250 g red currants, picked over
1 cup sour cream
powdered sugar to serve

Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add butter, 1 egg, 100 g sugar and mix to form a dough. Knead several times until smooth. Form into a ball and refrigerate covered with plastic wrap for at least 1 hour. Line a medium sized baking tray with baking paper. Mix sour cream with the egg and remaining sugar until sugar dissolves.
Roll out dough on a floured surface to fit baking tray. Place apricots, cut side up on top of dough. Scatter red currants on and around apricots. Pour sour cream mixture around fruit and bake until golden around edges, about 35 to 40 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut while still warm in large rectangles.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chocolate and hazelnut baklava cigars

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Summer hasn't been very nice to us this year. So far we've had rain, thunderstorms, cooler than usual days and everything in between. Longing for a hot summer afternoon spent on a porch, somewhere very quiet, with a slice of peach pie, some home made lemonade in hand and Billie Holiday tunes in the background seems foolish at this point.
August is usually my month of cold soups, iced drinks, grilled fish and salsas. This year it's a bit different. I had hot chocolate for breakfast this morning. That should explain a lot...
Last week however, I spent a lovely afternoon at home with my new favourite summer read and one of the best cook books I've ever owned: Postcards from Portugal by Tessa Kiros. This book will immediately make you want to jump on a plane bound for Portugal. Given the fact that Portugal is just a tad farther than my local green grocer's I decided to take a quick trip to the latter. I couldn't really find all the ingredients to make anyhting from the book, so I made the best of what I had at home. We had an Andalusian gazpacho, some corn on the cob with mint and feta butter and these yummy, albeit not so summery chocolate-hazelnut cigars to finish. By the end of the meal, we all felt like we just had a great day. A great day, indeed.

Chocolate and hazelnut baklava cigars


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Ingredients:

130 g dark chocolate, chopped
250 g toasted hazelnuts
140 ml runny honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
6 sheets filo pastry
70 ml melted butter

Preheat oven to 390 F. Combine chocolate, hazelnuts and spices. Add to a food processor and coarsely chop. Add honey and pulse until mixture comes together. Lay one sheet of filo on a clean working surface. Brush with butter. Fold in half, then brush again with butter. Spread two big tablespoons of chocolate- hazelnut filling along the edge closest to you. Fold in the two sides, then roll up tightly. Place on a baking tray. Brush again with butter. Repeat with remaining pastry and filling. Bake until golden, about 8 minutes.
Serve with a vanilla ice cream affogato and you'll be in heaven.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tutti Frutti Jam

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Finally, I can make all the jams and preserves I've been craving so much. Well, not all of them as I I don't have much space to store them for the bleak winter days ahead. When I grow up ( at this rate that will never happen!), I'll have a special pantry just for jams and preserves. A special little nook for concoctions like green tomato and fig jam, chili-vanilla red currant jam and the like.
You know, for the cave woman in me, just to evoke those primeval feelings of self sufficiency and survival.
Until then, I'll keep it simple. I made this tutti frutti jam from leftover fruit. Jam making is easy if you stick to some basic rules. It's just fruit+sugar (a concentration of over 60 % of sugar will create a hostile environment for those nasty micro-organisms),+ some lemon juice for some added pectin. I made this jam using equal amounts of cherries, strawberries, raspberries, red currants and apricots. Mixing low pectin fruits(cherries, strawberries) with high pectin ones( raspberries, red currants) will make for a not overly sweet or overcooked jam, as the jam will set faster, giving you a real fruity taste.
Make sure you use sterilized jars. You wouldn't want those previously mentioned micro-organisms taking up residence in your jam, now would you?

Tutti Frutti Jam

1400 g of cherries, red currants, strawberries, raspberries, and apricots (equal amounts)
850 g sugar
juice of one lemon

Wash and clean all fruits, halve and stone your cherries and apricots.
Add all fruits to a medium sized pan and cook over medium heat until they release some of their juices. Add sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium high and cook until setting point is reached. A simple method to check the setting point is to put a saucer in the freezer when you start making the jam.Then, when your jam has somewhat thickened drop a little jam on the cold saucer and let it cool for a minute or two. Push with your finger. If the jam crinkles, setting point has been reached. If it looks too runny, boil for a few more minutes then test again. Remember this will be a soft set jam, unlike the store bought hard or jelly like varieties.
When setting point has been reached, remove jam from heat and pour into hot sterilized jars.
Have a regal Sunday breakfast by serving this fruity goodness on some toasted apricot bread, slathered with ricotta cheese.



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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spiced cauliflower with Egyptian dukkah

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A few weeks ago I bought a beautiful head of organic cauliflower from the farmer's market. It was a hot summer day and I was going to make some creamy cauliflower spread with shallots, mayo and lots of lemon; And then have it slathered on fresh white bread with juicy ripe tomatoes, just the way my grandmother used to serve it when I was a child. I used to spend most of my summer vacation at my grandmother's. Back in the day when life wasn't crazy, when we could afford the luxury of loosing track of time without any repercussions and the 3 month long summer vacation seemed like an eternity. In a good way. Back then it was all about friends, games and the meals in between . Most mornings I woke up to the smell of savoury french toast and mint tea. After breakfast we went fishing at a nearby creek, then played hide-and-seek in the orchard. To get away from the scorching sun we took a nap. Every day, after lunch. No exceptions. Not just the children, but every living creature enjoyed some good old siesta time. It was dead quiet, except for one pesky fly that always found its way into my cool, shady room.
Very annoying at first, I must say. But after a while It became indispensable for my afternoon nap. Sort of like an odd lullaby.
By the time I woke up my afternoon snack was ready. It was usually this creamy cauliflower spread, with just picked juicy tomatoes, or vanilla custard with poached meringue, caramel pudding or ice cold lemony apple compote.
Those days are long gone but as vivid in my memory as ever. I try to make the above mentioned goodies as often as a can. Every summer. It was one of these hot, kinda quiet days a few weeks ago when I decided to buy some cauliflower. I wasn't able to prepare it the same day, and as luck would have it, the weather cooled down so drastically the next day, that it felt more like October than June. So I decided to forgo my previous plans and go for a more weather appropriate, hearty cauliflower dish instead.


Spiced Cauliflower with Egyptian Dukkah


Dukkah is a delicious mix of nuts, seeds and spices. My version has almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts with coriander, sesame and cumin seeds, but feel free to use any type of nuts you may have on hand.

For the Dukkah:

Preheat oven to 375F. Roast 1/4 cup each of blanched almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts until fragranat, about 8 minutes. Cool. In a skillet toast 1/4 cup each of coriander and cumin seeds. Cool. Add nuts and spices to a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add mixture to a bowl. In same skillet toast 1/4 cup of sesame seeds until fragrant. Add sesame seeds along with some salt and pepper to mixture in bowl. Store in an airtight container.
Dukkah is also lovely sprinkled on top of salads, carrot soup, spicy tomato soup or used as coating on fish or chicken.

For the spiced cauliflower:

1 large head of cauliflower, cleaned, cut into small florets
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 red chili, seeded, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup of bread crumbs
Thick yogurt and lemon juice to serve

Cook cauliflower in salted boiling water just until crisp-tender.( It will have an unpleasant smell and texture if overcooked).
Drain well. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, add chili, lemon zest and bread crumbs. Cook until toasted and fragrant. Add cauliflower and stir to coat. Sprinkle a generous amount of Dukkah on top and serve warm with thick yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Oh, and special message for ZS. Long live all hockey players!!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lemons, lemons, lemons

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I dreamt of Italy last night. Again. What is it about this country that gets you hooked? Sure they have all that glorious nature, wonderful, exuberant people, pizza, gelato, opera, unforgettable sunsets over the Colosseum, etc... but I have traveled to lots of exotic, remote corners of the world (getting almost crippled by the weight of my backpack, a.k.a. my best friend), saw incredibly beautiful things, met all kinds of people, and ate my way across several continents and none of these places trigger as many nostalgic emotions as Italy does. And things ought to get better, as far as my daydreams are concerned anyway. Memories get better with age. They get wrapped in this strange fog like filter. You know, like the ones they use to make new photos look old. You look at them, immediately see a story there, and in your mind it all plays out in slow motion. But I digest, as Joey Tribiani so eloquently put it.( If you don't know who Joey Tribiani is, you should probably stop reading this blog). What I wanted to talk about here are lemons. Amalfi lemons, to be precise. These ubiquitous little gems that litterally fall on your shoulders when you take a stroll on the notoriously narrow roads of the Amalfi. You can't escape the scent of lemons here, they're everywhere. In the air, in your pasta, in your salad, in baba al limone or that hornlike little thang Italians call sfogliatelle. What surprised me the most was that it's mostly the zest of lemon that is used, rather than the juice.
So in keeping with tradition, I made this lemony panna cotta today. Not a traditional one, as this version is made with buttermilk and lots of lemon zest, making it lighter and tangier than the usual panna cotta made with cream. And because strawberries are in season, why not serve your panna cotta with some honey-lemon strawberry salad?
Finally, if you're ever in the Amalfi region please, oh please have some lemon granita for me. And maybe a shot of Limoncello. Or two.Thank you.



Buttermilk panna cotta with honey-lemon strawberry salad



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Ingredients:

750 ml buttermilk
100 g sugar
zest of one organic lemon
3 1/2 gelatin leaves, softened in cold water

salad:
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 tsp mild honey
juice of half a lemon

In a medium saucepan combine buttermilk with sugar and lemon zest. Bring to a slow simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil. Squeeze out excess water from gelatin and add to buttermilk mixture. Stir to dissolve completely. Strain into 4 cups and refrigerate at least 6 hours.
For the salad combine all ingredients and spoon atop panna cottas.
Serves 4 of you or 1 of me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bella Italia and a recipe

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I've already done this countless times in my head. Create this post, I mean. Create, recreate and so on...Considered the many things I should write about. The good, the great, the unexpected, the magic of it all. Just trying to share all the incredible experiences I've had, complete with the sounds, smells and yes even the soundtrack of the whole trip, as all good stories need a soundtrack. Try Gianna Nannini , Madonna's Miles Away or Open Road by Grace. I've had these tunes in my head for months now, playing over and over again...And every single time they take me back to the long, scenic drives in the south of Italy and the poppy fields of France. The lemon scent in the air in Amalfi; savouring every bite of the world's BEST pistachio gelato in Polignano-al-Mare, while the rough waves hit the rocks so hard your feet start trembling; gazing for hours at wild horses in the south of France, need I say more??
It all started in March, when we shuttered our humble abode and set off on a pilgrimage to the culinary motherlands of France and Italy. Being quite aware of the fact that not much can be done to temper the self-indulgence of this story's premise I will rely on just a few of the pictures to give you a taste of what it was like. For me.



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Strawberry Mozzarella salad with Prosciutto di Parma



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After having mozzarella and prosciutto for lunch almost every day while in Italy, I felt (at the time) that I needed a break from both. Clearly this so called break did not last long. I found some gorgeous local strawberries at the market and just couldn't resist. On my way home I dropped by my local Salumeria for some fresh mozzarella and a few slices of prosciutto and hey presto lunch!

For the dressing mix some extravirgin olive oil with grainy mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Toss some sliced strawberries and mixed Italian greens with the dressing. Serve with torn mozzarella pieces and a few slices of prosciutto.Enjoy!
More on Italy and France coming soon...