Saturday, 31 August 2013

Cold Cucumber Almond & Mint Soup

Cucumbers.  I suppose in regular western restaurants they're usually seen in a Greek salad or in a sandwich.  The former I can tolerate, but I've never been a big fan of cucumber sandwiches.  I remember I had a friend in middle school who ate cucumber and tuna sandwiches, which I tried once and almost threw up in my mouth.  My palate can't detect anything pleasant with that combination.  Maybe it wasn't so much the combination, as was the tuna, since it was canned tuna in brine.  For me, tuna in brine leaves this unpleasant trailing afternote that you need to desperately wash away with gulps of water.  Only tuna in olive oil, please (note: it's my Italian side, not my posh side).  Anyway, to this day, cucumber and tuna remain a rather unappealing prospect to me.  And cucumber with mayo in a sandwich?...again, alright, but not something incredibly palatable. 

My Chinese mother used to stir fry cucumbers with scrambled eggs.  If you haven't tried cooked cucumbers, try it, it tastes almost like zucchini. 

Oh and lastly, tzaziki.  That, I like, which is the inspiration for this soup.  

Friday, 30 August 2013

Cannellini Bean Salad with Salsa Verde

Oh i'm so sorry for the lack of posts.  All will return to normal in September when I go back to uni.  Well, for the first two weeks no because I won't have a kitchen as I'll be sleeping at my friends' because my rent doesn't start until the 15th.  But I'll make an effort to update more regularly!
Don't you just hate it when you buy a pack of herbs for a recipe, you use 3 leaves and you're left with the rest rotting in your fridge? A week later, you decide to garnish a soup with some parsley and you see that what was once beautifully vibrant and green, is now a flaccid yellow.

I've bought pots of herbs several times, but their lifetime seems to be shorter than the packs I put in the fridge.  I never know when to water them and if it's too much.  Plus I live in Scotland where would they get enough sunlight?

But I've learned.  I hate throwing food away, and I've learned that every time I buy a pack of herbs, I end up making a salsa verde of some sort.
 See, it's essentially just a bunch of herbs and some olive oil and other spices.  Put a clove of garlic, some anchovies, capers, or even bread crumbs.  I put in some sun-dried tomatoes.   This is a great sauce for a number of things, you can dress any normal vegetables or beans or salads with this.  You could even spread it on bread or put it in a sandwich.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Honey-Sweetened Peach Jam

I don't think I was ever big on jam.  Thinking back to my childhood, I don't think I ever really had jam on toast for breakfast, it was more nutella on toast for me.  Similarly, in Italy we have our version of croissants, and you can find them stuffed with nutella, custard, jam or plain, and I always opted for either the nutella one or the custard one (or they have the ones with both nutella and custard sometimes).   I remember my grandmother making her own jam though.  Going through her fridge I'd find numerous jars of brightly colored flesh with a date roughly scribbled on it.  I don't remember if I've ever tried her jams.
Last night I was alone and I had the urge to make jam.  I found this recipe on Food52 and it's really good --  I'm spreading this stuff on my toast as I'm typing right now.  Nutella on toast is just getting a bit heavy for breakfast at this age.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Watermelon, Tomato, Almond & Ricotta Gazpacho

Are you lucky enough to be in a hot summer paradise right now?  It's August and I'm roasting like a chicken under the scorching Italian sun.  Oh I love it, I spend most of my time in Scotland shivering, this is beautiful.  So what if I'm sweating out of places I didn't even think were possible to have sweat glands?  There's the beach, there's AC and there's food for the summer.  What do you go for in times like this?   For me it's always been watermelon -- thick slices with bright red juicy flesh, if there's anything to cool you down, this is it.  Juice it with some orange juice and vodka if you wish, or just eat it as it is, scoop it out with a fork, or hey, how about in a soup?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sea Bass with Saffron and Fennel

And the holidays are approaching to an end.  I'm looking at my beautiful tan and I'm tearing up -- this will fade within a month when I go back to Scotland.  This sundress that I'm wearing -- can only be worn with a coat, tights and boots.  Sandals?  Won't even bother packing them.

But it's ok.  Look, dishes like this can be made back in Scotland too.  No sea bass? Try it with another white fish.

My lovely cousin went to Valencia for a week and brought me back some saffron.  Saffron and seafood are like butter and jam, cookies and milk, tomatoes and cheese -- they're one of those envide couples. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Fried Squash Blossoms

Instead of bouquets of roses, my uncle gives my aunt bouquets of squash blossoms.  My cousins were telling me the amazing fried squash blossoms they had the other day, and so I decided to make them too.

So I'm currently in a small town in Southern Italy.  If you're curious, you can check this place out here.   Look, the place is so small and insignificant that it only occupies 3 lines on the wikipedia page.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Anchovy Gratin

You know when you go to a good fish market and you just see the beautiful array of fresh fish with sparkling eyes and bright gills accompanied by the fresh smell of the ocean?  Well, I didn’t get these anchovies at one of those markets. I was in the supermarket and had a yearning for fish, but the area for fish was depressing. The fish were all so dull and dry and old and everything stank. But I saw these cleaned anchovies and thought oh why not. I got 150g for €1.50 -- why not, right?
I've always had anchovies either in the form of a gratin or in a tin.  Many people dislike the latter, but it's quite nice to use instead of salt.

So this gratin.  It's easy, it's versatile.  Omit the chili, add some capers, some olives, some sun-dried tomatoes.  If the fish is fresh, it's excellent.  If it's not, you may need to bake it for longer but it will still taste good.  This makes a good appetizer. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Ricotta Gnocchi with Lemon and Basil

Have you ever had ricotta gnocchi?  They're more delicate than their potato cousins.  Apparently they're from Florence, but I'm not so sure.  I spent the day in Florence yesterday and ate like a queen.  Let me digress from this and tell you about the florentine steak actually.  The Florentine steak is the best steak in the world, way better than those cows that get special spa treatments, trust me.  It's the breed of cow, and strangely enough, if you rear them anywhere out of Tuscany, they don't taste the same.  It's the grass, the water, the climate....It's a t-bone that's cut to about 3cm thick, and it's put on the grill for just a couple of minutes on each side as it has to be eaten rare.  A little bit of olive oil, a little bit of salt, a little bit of salad and roasted potatoes, and it's fantastic.  It's a thing to try if you haven't.

So let's go back to these gnocchi.  I got the recipe from Bon Appetit and I was a bit worried at first because the dough was so soft, but it ended up tasting really nice! This was made with a simple sauce with just some fresh herbs, cheese and lemon zest, perfect for the summer. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Cannellini Soup with Steamed Cod (and other kitchen adventures)

After two months in Germany I'm finally back home in Italy.   I loved Berlin, I really did, I enjoyed every minute of it.  The people, the restaurants, the events, the efficiency - oh the efficiency.  I've always envied German efficiency. I arrived in Italy and I had spent over an hour and a half -- and this is not a hyperbole -- at the airport waiting for my suitcase.  So it took a bit to readjust to the Italian system, but now that I'm back, it's all good, because I've got my kitchen.

But my kitchen adventures have not been all too successful.

I missed German pretzels so I attempted them on the first day I got back.
They were alright as bread but they did not taste like pretzels.  Trouble shooting:  I needed sodium caustate in the water as the poaching liquid for the bread dough before baking, but I used sodium bicarbonate instead.  Also, I had let them rise overnight on the counter rather than just an hour which may have caused overfermentation and a slightly...sour taste.

© Design by Neat Design Corner