Tomato Soup with Smoked Sausage and Poached Eggs



Tomato soup with smoked sausage and poached eggs, a rustic soup with a great flavor profile. Nothing reminds me of my childhood more than this soups. It’s the soup of those sore – throat mornings and it’s the soup of those long days of July. It’s definitely a soup of contrasts, the refreshing tomato juice, the fragrance of the basil, the earthiness of the shallot and the smoked sausage. The perfect geometry of the homemade square noodles and the imperfect beauty of the poached egg.

Why I love tomato soup with smoked sausage and poached eggs:

  • it’s simply delicious, it’s hearty and fragrant
  • it’s ready in less than 30 minutes
  • it prepares almost by itself
  • it takes about 5 budget-friendly ingredients
  • it’s great all year round

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 500ml tomato juice (preferably homemade)
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable broth
  • 500ml water
  • 2 shallots or 2 small red onions
  • 1 sprig of fresh basil
  • 4 pieces of smoked sausage (80g)
  • 4 fresh eggs (fresh eggs keep their shape together while poaching)
  • 40g homemade lascute (or other small pasta)
  • ½ – 1 tsp of sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Take a large saucepan and add the broth and the tomato juice. Fill the bottle with water and add the water (together with the tomato residue) to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.
  2. Cut the sausage in 4 smaller pieces. Halve the onions and peel them.
  3. Add the sausage, basil, shallot halves and sugar, lower the heat to minimum and simmer for 25 minutes.
  4. After 25 minutes take a small bowl and crack an egg in it. Take a spoon, make a circular movement in the soup (to give it a swirl) and drop the egg. Proceed the same with the remaining eggs.
  5. Add the noodles and boil them uncovered for 3 minutes. As soon as they start rising at the surface, begin testing them for doneness. They are ready when they are still “al dente”, as the residual heat of the pot will continue cooking them.
  6. Divide the soup between four bowls and add in each bowl a sausage, half of a shallot and a poached egg.



Whole – Wheat French Toast



French toast (or Pain perdu) is an absolutely divine breakfast. It’s nothing else but day-old bread soaked in a milk and egg mixture flavored with cinnamon and than fried in butter and served with honey and berries. I make this wonderful treat everytime I find myself in the position of throwing away stale bread. I find it fascinating how an unappealing slice of bread metamorphoses into something sublime.

For French toast I’ve used all sorts of bread, from plain white bread, to whole – wheat, focaccia, or ciabatta, from Romanian sweet bredt, babka or challah. I often use whole-wheat bread soaked in a flavorful egg, milk and brown sugar mixture. The fact that the bread is old gives the final product its fluffiness and keeps the slice together when soaked. If you have only fresh bread, you can always toast it in the oven for 10 minutes.

Why I love French Toast:

  • it’s delicious
  • it’s ready in less than 20 minutes
  • it’s a wonderful way to recycle old bread
  • it’s hearty
  • its made from available, budget-friendly ingredients

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 4 slices of day old bread
  • 2 large eggs (120g)
  • ½ cup milk (120ml)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar (26g)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp of butter (30g)



Method:

  1. Cut the slices of bread in half. If the bread is fresh, toast it in the oven at high temperature for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl combine the eggs with milk, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.
  4. Soak each slice of bread in the egg mixture, place them in the skillet and fry them about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
  5. Serve immediately with honey and fresh fruits (I used blueberries and plums).

Lascute (homemade square pasta)

Lascute (quadratini / quadrucci in Italian) are the adorable small pasta that my grandmother used to make when I was a child. They are nothing else but some tiny squares with 5 mm side length. They are so delicious in chicken soups, tomato or bean-based soups. They are really easy to make, they require just a few things: some flour, salt and eggs. You also need a rolling pin, a sharp knife and some spare time. I like to make a large batch and I dry them overnight. Once nice and dry, they last for weeks.

For this pasta recipe I use all-purpose white flour, chicken or duck eggs and Himalayan salt. Chicken eggs make some delicious homemade pasta, but duck eggs simply elevate the dish. Duck eggs are higher in fat, compared to chicken eggs, which improves both the texture and the taste of the pasta. Also, duck eggs have a higher yolk to white ratio than chicken eggs, which provides a more vibrant color to the final product.

Why I love lascute pasta:

  • they taste amazing in almost every soup
  • they are made from natural ingredients
  • when dried and store properly, they last for weeks
  • they are tastier than store-bought pasta
  • let’s be honest, they are incredibly cute

Ingredients:

  • 200g all-purpose white flour (+ 50g for dusting the dough)
  • 2 large chicken eggs (2 x 60g) / 2 medium duck eggs
  • ½ tsp salt

Method:

  1. Place the flour on the clean working surface and make a well in the center. Add the beaten eggs and the salt and mix with a fork, until almost all the flour is incorporated in the egg mixture.
  2. Leave the fork aside and use your fingers to form a dough ball. Knead the dough vigorously for 10 minutes, or until the surface becomes smooth.
  3. Wrap it in plastic foil at let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  4. After 15 minutes take the dough out from the fridge, cut it in half and form 2 smaller balls (this way it’ll be easier to work the dough). Use the same cling film to warp one ball and leave it aside.
  5. Place the second ball on the floured working surface. Roll the dough using a rolling pin from the center towards the border, until you get a thin sheet of dough. This might take a good 10 minutes (picture). Sprinkle the sheet of dough with flour and let it dry for about 30 minutes.
  6. Take the second ball and roll it exactly in the same way.
  7. Cut the lascute. Roll the first sheet of dough (the dried one) on the rolling pin, cut it lengthwise and leave the rolling pin aside. At this point you should look at about 5 rectangles situated one on top of the other. Fold one side of the rectangles over the other side and cut the dough into 5 mm thick ribbons. Take about 6 – 7 ribbons at a time, rotate them and star cutting the little squares (pictures).
  8. Dust your hands with flour and start separating the lascute.
  9. Place them on a wooden board (or a large plate) and let them dry overnight. When they are completely dry, place them in paper bags and store them in the pantry.







Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce)



Shakshuka is an absolutely delicious North African dish. Under this adorable name hide some eggs poached to perfection in a decadent tomato sauce. Shakshuka is usually served for breakfast, but nothing keeps you from serving it for lunch or even supper. One pan. Some olive oil, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, cumin, paprika and tomatoes.  Five eggs poached for five minutes. The beauty of this dish is the fact that all the story takes place in one single pan.

Why I love Shakshuka:

  • it’s so easy to make, it’s mouth-watering, healthy and packed with protein
  • it’s perfect for brunch
  • it’s ready in about 20 minutes
  • it takes just one single pan
  • it has a charming rusticity

Ingredients (for 2 – 3 servings):

  • 5 – 6 fresh eggs
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion (100g)
  • 1 red bell pepper (100g)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder (or 1/2 tsp harissa)
  • 1 tomato can (400ml)
  • ¾ cups water (200ml)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Finely chop the onion and red bell pepper. Mince the garlic.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sautee it until translucent (for about 5 minutes). Add the red bell pepper and sautee it until soften (for about 3 minutes).
  3. Add the minced garlic, the chili powder, cumin powder and paprika and stir for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, wash the interior of the tin with 200ml of water and add the water as well; simmer the sauce over high heat until the sauce is thick (for about 10 minutes).
  5. Season the sauce with sugar, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to minimum. Make 5 or 6 wells in the sauce with a spoon. Carefully crack an egg in each well.
  6. Cover the skillet with a lid and poach the eggs until they reach your desired doneness (I like the egg whites firm and the yolk runny, so I poach mine for 5 – 6 minutes).
  7. Sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley on top and serve hot with homemade pita bread (here you have the recipe).

Source: www.cooking.nytimes.com



Quail Egg Salad



I’ve been testing quail egg recipes for quite a while and I include them almost daily in my diet. I serve them for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as appetizers, main dishes or even desserts. They are so versatile, nutritious and they are also, given their size, ready in no time.

Quail egg salad is simply mouth-watering. It’s ready in less than 20 minutes, it’s smooth and velvety and it’s a true texture and flavor symphony. Homemade mayonnaise gives this salad its creaminess; homemade mayonnaise is so inexpensive and definitely more delicious and nutritious than the store-bought version. For this salad I boiled the quail eggs for 3 minutes, I chopped them and I combined them with scallions, celery and homemade pickled cucumbers. I flavored the salad with Dijon mustard, parsley, lemon zest and chili powdered. Three tablespoons of mayo, salt and freshly ground pepper and the salad was ready. Extremely easy and over-the-top delicious!

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 30 quail eggs
  • 2 scallions (20g)
  • 1 celery stalk (30g)
  • 3 pickled cornichon cucumbers (40g)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 – ¼ tsp chili powder
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Carefully wash the eggs, place them in a pot and cover with cold water. Place the pot on the stove and wait until the water starts to boil. Reduce heat to minimum and let eggs boil for 3 minutes. Drain eggs, let them cool in cold water and peel them.
  2. Finely chop the scallions, celery stalk, cucumbers and parsley.
  3. Pat dry the eggs, roughly chop them and place them in a bowl. Add the scallions, celery stalk, cucumbers, parsley, mustard, lemon juice and 3 Tbsp of mayonnaise.
  4. Season with lemon zest, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving.


Source: www.seriouseats.com

Coconut Cake (Torta al Cocco)



This cake is simply divine! It has 3 components, all of them delicious and all of them coconutty. A lovely sponge that melts in your mouth, and defies the laws of physics (and possibly the laws of chemistry, too), a luscious coconut glaze and a crispy topping. It’s flavorful, satisfying and not overwhelmingly sweet, so it’s perfect for breakfast or brunch. It’s also amazing served with coffee or tea as a late-afternoon snack and it’s also delicious served as a dessert, because it’s a cake after all.

Why I love Coconut Cake:

  • it has a lovely coconut flavor
  • it has such an interesting texture, it’s very soft and tender
  • it’s flourless, it has only to 2 Tbsp of corn starch, so it’s gluten-free
  • it’s ready in 40 minutes
  • and before I forget: it has a lovely coconut flavor

Ingredients:

for the sponge

  • 3 large eggs
  • 140g granulated sugar (I used 70g white granulated sugar and 70g brown Demerara sugar)
  • 250g unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 250ml whipping cream
  • 20g corn starch
  • 5g baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt

for the glaze:

  • 30g coconut cream
  • 50g powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

for the topping:

  • 3 – 4 Tbsp raw coconut chips (dried)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 400°F / 200°C (gas mark 6).
  2. Take a 26cm round cake pan (preferably with a removable bottom) and line it with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl mix the eggs with she sugar and salt until the sugar has melted and the composition has doubled in size.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and the whipping cream and stir with a silicon spatula until combined.
  5. In another bowl combine the coconut flakes with the corn starch and the baking powder.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the large bowl and stir until just combined.
  7. Pour the batter in the tray and level with a spatula. Bake the sponge in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F / 180°C (gas mark 4) and bake for further 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the sponge comes out clean.
  8. Remove the sponge from the oven and let it cool down for 5 minutes. Remove the cake from the tray and let it cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
  9. Meanwhile prepare the glaze. In a bowl combine the coconut cream with the powdered sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract.
  10. Prepare the crunchy coconut chips. Toast the coconut chips in a pan over medium – high heat for 3 – 4 minutes.
  11. Pour the glaze over the sponge garnish with coconut chips, slice and serve.




Red Wine – Poached Pears Served with Mascarpone Orange Blossom Cream



Poached pears are simply amazing! If simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication, this dessert might be the quintessence of this idea. Ripe pears, brown sugar, wine. Maybe a vanilla bean, a cinnamon stick and a star anise. This simple ingredients, combined together, create a mouth-watering, exquisite and stunning dessert.

Poached pears are so versatile. They can be paired with a cheese platter and nuts, creating the perfect way to end any sophisticated menu. They can be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and they make a refreshing dessert ideal on a hot summer evening. I chose this time to serve them in a wine and brown sugar reduction and I paired them with a flavorful orange blossom mascarpone cream. Regarding poached pears, the possibilities are endless!

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 4 large pears, or 5 medium pears ( I used William pears)
  • 1 cup caster brown Demerara sugar – 200g
  • 2 cups semi dry red wine – 480ml
  • 2 cups water – 480 ml
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla pod

Mascarpone cream:

  • 115g mascarpone cheese (8 Tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ tsp orange blossom water

Method:

  1. Whenever I’m making poached pears, I’m using the following scheme: for every pear I use ¼ cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of wine and 1/2 cup of water.
  2. In a large saucepan combine the wine with water and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds using a knife or a spoon. Add the vanilla seeds and the seeded vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and star anise.
  3. Meanwhile prepare the pears. Cut about 2 cm off from the bottom of the pears (to give them stability while plated). Peel them carefully using a vegetable peeler and leave the stem intact. You can also scoop out the seeds using a noisette (exactly like I did in this recipe), but I personally skip this part.
  4. When the poaching liquid begins to simmer, reduce the heat to minimum, place the pears in the saucepan and cover them with a parchment paper lid (cut out a parchment paper circle slightly larger than the saucepan’s circumference and cut out a small orifice in its center).
  5. Poach the pears for 20 – 30 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a knife (the time depends on their ripeness). Make sure you turn them every 5 minutes.
  6. Let them cool down in the poaching liquid for at least 1 hour (you can keep them refrigerated in the poaching liquid for 1 – 2 days).
  7. Place the pears on a platter, simmer the poaching liquid over medium-high heat for 30 – 40 minutes, or until reduced by half to sticky glaze.
  8. Meanwhile prepare the mascarpone cream by combining the mascarpone cheese with honey and orange blossom water.
  9. Place the pears on plates and top them with 2-3 Tbsp of wine reduction (use the remaining reduction for ice cream, choux a la crème or brownies). Spoon 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese, sprinkle some cocoa powder and garnish with fresh blueberries.





Cabbage and Cured Duck Breast Salad



Cabbage and smoked duck salad is such an interesting salad. Everything about it is interesting, the bold flavors, the sweet and the earthy scents, the warm colors and wild textures. Crunchy cabbage ribbons dressed with olive oil and apple cider vinegar, juicy blood-oranges, toasted hazelnuts, flavorful candied apricot strips and salty and gamey duck breast; this simple yet sophisticated salad has about five or six ingredients, but they work so well together, creating a veritable taste and texture symphony.

Why I love cabbage and smoked duck breast salad:

  • it’s exquisite, it has a verisimilar complexity, it’s sweet, salty, sour and bitter, somehow each one in the right amount
  • it’s lovely during the cold months
  • its hearty and satisfying
  • it’s ready in less than 15 minutes and it takes even less to devour it
  • it looks so appealing and sophisticated, even though it is so effortless

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 350g white cabbage (12 oz)
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 100g candied apricots (3.5 oz)
  • 70g hazelnuts (2.5 oz)
  • 4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (60 ml)
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (15ml)
  • 40g cured duck breast (I sometimes use pan-seared duck breast – I use this recipe)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the cabbage. Slice the apricots into thin stripes.
  2. Combine together the olive oil and the vinegar in a large salad bowl. Add the shredded cabbage and toss to coat evenly.
  3. In a small skillet brown the hazelnuts over high heat, to intensify the flavor and to get rid of their skins. Leave them aside to cool and remove their skins using your fingers.
  4. Prepare the orange slices. Take an orange and cut off the top and the bottom. Place the orange on the cutting board and cut off the peel and the pith. Cut the segments out of the oranges (picture).
  5. Add to the bowl the orange slices, hazelnuts and apricots. Refrigerate until serving.
  6. Before serving season with salt and pepper, divide the salad into four plates, garnish with cured duck slices and serve immediately.


Source: Barilla Academy – Salads

Hot Chocolate

I love chocolate. I love it in every state of aggregation, in every color or flavor combination. And I love it even more when outside is freezing and the chocolate waits for me patiently in a huge cup, garnished with tangy cocoa powder and silky marshmallows.

I love hot chocolate because:

  • it’s sweet and slightly bitter, with subtle notes of vanilla and coffee
  • it’s quite dense and creamy, silky and decadent
  • it warms both my body and my soul
  • it’s ready in less than 10 minutes
  • reminds me of my childhood

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 1 + ½ Tbsp cocoa powder (12g)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp granulated brown sugar (15 – 30g)
  • 1 + ½ cups whole milk (360ml)
  • 3.5 oz semisweet chocolate ( I used Milka Extra Cocoa – 45% cocoa) – 100g
  • ¼ tsp instant coffee powder
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt

for serving:

  • marshmallows
  • ½ tsp cocoa powder


Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Add the cocoa and the instant coffee powder and whisk for about 2 minutes, until the cocoa powder has dissolved.
  2. Add the sugar and milk and let it simmer  for about 2 minutes, whisking frequently.  Reduce the heat to low, add the chocolate squares and simmer the mixture for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
  3. Remove from heat and season with salt and vanilla extract.
  4. Serve hot garnished with marshmallows and cocoa powder.

Source: www.bonappetit.com



Scotch Quail Eggs




Scotch eggs are nothing else but boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, coated in bread crumbs. Whenever I’m making scotch eggs, I like to use quail eggs because the final product is small and appetizing, but you can also use chicken or duck eggs. They can be served either hot or cold. Served hot, they make a delicious and hearty main dish and served cold, they make some eye-catching and mouth-watering appetizers.

I love my scotch eggs soft boiled with a crispy crust and an oozing, velvety and buttery yolk, but this is of course a matter of preference. If you like your eggs soft boiled, it is extremely easy to get that oozing yolk in this recipe too. The secret is that the boiling time should not be longer than two minutes and a half. A two-minute boiling interval makes the quail egg very difficult to peel and a three-minute boil starts to solidify the yolk, so a two and a half minute interval seems to be golden.

Why I like Scotch Eggs:

  • they are so easy to make and they are ready in less than 30 minutes
  • they are delicious and so flavorful
  • the contrast between the crunchy crust and the velvety yolk is simply divine
  • they are adorable
  • they are satisfying

Ingredients (for 6 servings):

  • 12 quail eggs
  • 300g sausage meat (I used homemade paprika sausage)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (30-35g)
  • 2 chicken eggs
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (60g)
  • ¼ tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper

Method:

  1. Wash carefully the eggs. Fill a medium saucepan with water, place it on the stove and wait until the water starts to boil. Place the eggs in the water and boil them (on medium-high heat)  for 2 minutes and a half. Drain eggs and let them cool in cold water for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile divide the sausage meat into 12 equal balls. Finely chop the parsley (picture).
  3. After 5 minutes, carefully peel the quail eggs.
  4. With your hands wet, flatten a sausage ball out in your hands. Sprinkle with parsley and place an egg in the center (picture). Shape the patty around the egg, seal the meat and use your fingers to give it a round shape (picture).
  5. Take 3 bowls. Place parmesan in a bowl, place the eggs, salt and pepper in another bowl and place breadcrumbs in the third bowl. Roll the Scotch egg in the parmesan and use your fingers to shake off the excess. Dip it in beaten egg mixture and then in bread crumbs. Dip it one more time in beaten eggs and then in bread crumbs (flour, egg, crumbs, egg, crumbs). Proceed the same with the remaining eggs.
  6. Deep-fry the Scotch eggs in two batches at 175°C for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer them to paper towel to drain.
  7. Serve warm or cold with raw vegetables (I used Kalamata olives, cucumber and cherry tomatoes).