I have an almost irritating gastronomical curiosity, a curiosity that often leads to surprising (if not weird) culinary combinations. I love complex, technical and challenging things, but often I find myself yearning for simplicity. I’m not implying that those simple thing are the best, as well as I’m not implying that those complex are. I’m just saying that the simple things tend to fascinate, they tend to mesmerize. You simply get them and they simply get you.
One of those mesmerizing simple things are undoubtedly tomatoes à la Provençale, ripe tomatoes stuffed with flavorful bread crumbs. There are 2 tricky aspects about this recipe: the bread crumbs must be fresh, made from day old bread and the herbs should be fresh as well, not dried; dried bread crumbs and dried herbs aren’t quite a match made in heaven, at least not for this recipe. These being said, it’s impossible for me to describe how moth-watering these stuffed tomatoes are. The contrast between the sweet and juicy tomato and the crispy bread crumbs is so delightful and you cannot limit yourself at just one serving!
Ingredients (for 6 servings):
- 6 ripe tomatoes
- 4-5 slices of whole wheat bread (crustless)
- 3 Tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 Tbsp chopped basil
- ½ Tbsp chopped thyme
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven at 200°C / 400°F (gas mark 6). Drizzle one rectangular ceramic tray with 1 Tbsp olive oil.
- Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and remove the juices and seeds, place them in the tray and season with salt and pepper.
- Tear the crustless bread, place it in a food processor and pulse until crumbled. Add the fresh herbs, shallot and garlic and pulse until all the ingredients are combined. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Place 2 Tbsp of stuffing in each cavity and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and the stuffing is crispy.Source: lovely Julia Child
As soon as the first leaf turns brown, I immediately start preparing soups, creams, stews and other semi-liquid and preferably hot dishes. I simply love the idea of having a melting pot on a stove, a pot that simmers quietly and makes the entire kitchen smell like fall. On this chilly Saturday morning, I decided it’s suitable, if not perfect, to make a delicious Tuscan bean soup, a flavorful Italian cannellini bean and prosciutto soup. It is so easy to make, you just have to saute some prosciutto, onion, carrots and celery, you deglaze the pan with wine, you cover the ingredients with cubed tomatoes and broth and you let the soup simmer. Before serving you add the beans and some baby spinach and the soup is ready. Simple as one, two, thee! The most intriguing part of this dish, and the source of its complex flavor profile, if I may, it’s the addition of a parmesan rind. This element gives the soup an unbelievable flavor! Next time you’ll be tempted to throw away a parmesan rind, think again and let the rind elevate a Tuscan bean soup. You won’t regret it!
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 70g thinly sliced prosciutto ham
- 1 medium white onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 3 garlic cloves
- 6 Tbsp white wine
- 750ml broth
- 6 ripe tomatoes
- 1 tin Cannellini beans (420g)
- 1 handful baby spinach (50g)
- 1 parmesan rind
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 slices Ciabatta bread
- 4 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- Slice the prosciutto. Clean and cube the veggies. Boil tomatoes for 15 seconds, remove the skin, discard the seeds and juices and chop them finely.
- Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and the onion and saute until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes).
- Add the carrots and the celery stalks and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Deglaze with white wine.
- Add the parmesan rind, cubed tomatoes and broth, cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature to minimum and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
- Add the beans and the spinach and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the parmesan rind and season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile toast the Ciabatta bread.
- Place a slice of bread in each plate, cover with soup, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!
I remember watching Ratatouille (the movie, not the dish) when I was a senior in high school and I instantly knew that this veggie stew would become my favorite dish. I was wrong, but only by a few years. The very next day I did the groceries and I made my first Ratatouille, a blend, boring, half-decent stew. So I forgot about Ratatouille and its humble existence. But last year I decided it was about time to rewatch that delightful movie and the dish simply enchanted me. Again. So I did some research, I made the dish and I simply felt in love. Ratatouille is a rustic, almost an austere dish, that kind of dish that makes you fall in love with it over and over again.
There are so many recipes for Ratatouille, you can saute it, you can bake it, you can serve the veggies firm, almost raw or you can simmer them slowly, until tender and incredibly flavorful. My favorite version is so simple but it’s quite time-consuming. After you chop the veggies, you saute them in olive oil, one veggie at a time, until you caramelize them nicely and this creates an amazing depth of flavor. Of course you can saute them all together in a large pot, but the result would be a nice stew, and not a decadent Ratatouille!
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
- 3 small eggplants
- 3 small zucchini
- 2 large white onions
- 6 ripe tomatoes
- 2 bell peppers
- 5 Tbsp olive oil
- 5 Tbsp white wine
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 + ¼ Tbsp sea salt, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Clean the veggies and peel the onion and the eggplant. Cube the onion, the bell peppers and the eggplant. Slice the zucchinis. Remove the skins from the tomatoes by boiling them in hot water for 15 seconds. Remove the juices and the seeds as well. Roughly chop them. Place the eggplants in a strainer over a bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp of sea salt.
- Take a large skillet (or a Dutch oven) and saute the onions in 2 Tbsp of olive oil, on medium heat until just beginning to caramelize. Add the peppers, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and saute the peppers for about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the onions and the peppers to a large bowl.
- Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the same skillet and saute the zucchini on medium temperature until they begin to caramelize (about 5 minutes). Season with a pinch of salt and transfer them to the bowl.
- Add another Tbsp of olive oil to the skillet and brown the eggplants. Season with salt and transfer to the bowl.
- Add another Tbsp of olive oil to the skillet and saute the minced garlic until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add the chopped thyme and deglaze the skillet with white wine. Add the chopped tomatoes and bring the sauce to a boil. Add the veggies from the bowl, cover with a lid and reduce the temperature to minimum. Allow it to simmer for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- After 1 hour the veggies should be very tender. Let the Ratatouille boil uncovered on high heat for about 20 minutes, until the liquid evaporates and the veggies are covered in a thick sauce. Season with fresh basil and black pepper and serve in a bowl with a generous slice of baguette.
Confit is a French cooking technique used for preserving poultry (duck, goose, rooster) which also involves roasting the meat in its own fat. The meat is seasoned to perfection and roasted slowly on low temperature in duck fat. The meat becomes incredibly tender, so tender that it simply melts in your mouth. This technique is also used for fruits and vegetables. The main difference is the fact that the cooking liquid is not an animal fat, but a vegetable fat for veggies or a sugar-based syrup for fruits.
Tomato confit is a wonderful way to cook these lovely veggies. The tomatoes are seasoned generously with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs. After that, they are slowly roasted on low temperature until they are tender, juicy and slightly caramelized on the edges. This technique brings out their own sweetness and concentrates their own flavor. This simple and humble ingredient can elevate almost every dish, from pasta, polenta or risotto, to sandwiches or crostini or can even be served as a side dish. Even though the tomato confit can be time-consuming, the effort definitely pays off! Continue reading Tomato Confit
This salad is actually a different approach to the classic “Prosciutto e Melone”, a very popular Italian antipasto. The smoked ham and the juicy melon are a wonderful combination, as the sweetness of the melon balances the saltiness of the ham. This combination is so simple but so complex in its own simplicity. So I took these two elements and I’ve integrated them in a summery salad. I added some juicy cherry tomatoes, some crunchy cucumber ribbons and some fresh mozzarella cheese. The result was a juicy, delicious and very satisfying salad. Extremely tasty and incredibly easy to make! Continue reading Melon and Prosciutto Crudo Salad
Whenever I engage myself in over-ambitious bakery projects, I end up by throwing away the egg whites. Of course I plan on using them the following days, but I almost never do. And I strongly dislike wasting and throwing things away. Lately, to avoid any waste (and all the bad energy that comes with it), I take 2 egg whites at a time, I wrap them in cling film square, I season them with sea salt, olive oil and fresh herbs and I poach them in hot water. This way, you get some flavorful egg white balls, perfect for a weekend brunch.
When you prepare a classic egg white omelette, the dish tends to be a bit blend, but using this technique, the egg whites are full of flavor. Another great advantage is the fact that you can prepare 3 or 4 packages at a time so in 15 minutes, you can prepare a very satisfying breakfast for the whole family. I usually serve my poached egg whites on a slice of homemade bread covered with a generous amount of avocado spread. Simple and so delicious! Continue reading Poached Egg Whites
Semifreddo is a delicious frozen Italian dessert. It’s basicaly an icecream, a really smooth and creamy one, the cremiest icecream that doean’t require an icecream maker. Semifreddo is so easy to make, it requires just a few basic ingredients, a bread tray and a freezer. That’s all! It’s useless to use as an argument the fact that this lovely treat melts in your mouth; of couse it does, it’s an icecream after all. But its incredibly rich taste and fragrance, the interesting creamy-crunchy justaposition make from this treat a winner. As I mentioned above, semifreddo is so easy to make, the most difficult part of the recipe being the 6 hours waiting interval! Oh… but when it finally freezes… Continue reading Citrus Semifreddo
My latest obsession in the bread-making field is this cheesy beer bread. It is so easy to make, it’s quick, it’s no fuss, it doesn’t involve kneading / finding a warm place in the kitchen / figuring out what in the name of God lukewarm is supposed to mean. Even though the ingredients are pretty common, the result exceeds all expectations – a lovely crunchy cheesy crust and a dense, elastic and flavorful center. Even though the only fat-source is the cheese (and a low-fat version, to be more accurate), the taste is so unexpectedly rich and the flavor amplifies with every bite. These being said, good luck on limiting yourself to just one serving! Continue reading Cheese-Beer Bread
Today we’ll talk about tomato soup, a simple soup yet fascinating in its simplicity. I think tomatoes are the most versatile vegetables (or fruits, if we approach the problem in a scientific manner), they taste so good in so many combinations, this is why there are hundreds, even thousands of extremely tasty tomato soup recipes out there. I have two recipes, one suitable for cold weather, and one for hot weather. The first one is a tomato soup with homemade quadretti pasta, smoked sausage and poached egg. The second one is a tomato cream, flavored with roasted garlic and fresh basil and served with laced parmesan chips.
The cream of tomato soup is so welcomed during hot summer days, when the tomatoes are in season. It is a veritable flavor, color and texture symphony and it is so easy to make. I half or quarter the tomatoes, depending on their size, I drizzle them with olive oil and I roast them until they caramelize; this extra step augments the soup’s flavor. I serve this soup with adorable parmesan chips, which give the dish not only flavor, but also an elegant touch. Continue reading Creamy Tomato Soup with Parmesan Chips
I grew up in a meat-lover environment and the thought of a meatless lunch was simply unbearable. I try really hard to break the chain and I try to include in my family’s diet as many fruit and veggies as possible. It’s been a while since I’ve discovered this delicious zucchini and feta patties and I tend to make them once or twice a month. They are so simple to make, you just mix some basic ingredients, you form 12 balls, you flatten them and you bake them in the oven at high temperature. This way, the patties have a crunchy crust and a soft, almost creamy center. This being said, this delicious recipe has quickly become my summer “must-make”, and I hope it will become yours, as well! Continue reading Baked Zucchini and Feta Cheese Patties