Butter Bean, Tuna and Cherry Tomato Salad

This butter bean and tuna salad is simply divine! It’s very tasty, nutritious and hearty. It is a rustic, unpretentious salad, but at the same time the flavor and texture combination give it a particular charm. It’s so easy to make and to gain some time, I start the recipe by roasting the cherry tomatoes just until they caramelize nicely and burst with flavor. While my tomatoes brown patiently in the oven, I make the creamy mustard dressing and I chop the rest of the ingredients and the dinner is ready. Or the lunch. Or the brunch, if you’re as greedy as I am. I serve this lovely salad on a garlicky whole-wheat toast and I enjoy every last bite of it.

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 1 can of butter beans
  • 1 can of tuna chunks in olive oil (180g)
  • 1 celery stalk (50g)
  • 3 – 4 pickled cornichon cucumbers (50g)
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • ½ small red onion
  • 10g chopped chives
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

for serving:

  • 2 slices of whole-wheat bread
  • 1 clove of garlic

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 400°F / 200°C (gas mark 6).
  2. Halve the cherry tomatoes and place them on a parchment paper-lined tray. Roast them in the oven for 20 minutes, turning them after 10 minutes.
  3. In a salad bowl add the mustard and the lemon juice and combine with a whisk. Drizzle the olive oil, whisking continuously until the dressing becomes smooth and creamy.
  4. Drain the tuna, rinse and drain the butter beans. Chop the cucumbers and the celery and finely chop the onion and the chives.
  5. Add the ingredients above to the bowl and stir to combine. Add the cherry tomatoes and stir again.
  6. Toast 2 slices of bread and rub them with garlic. Slice them in half.
  7. For serving, place on each plate 1 half of a slice of bread and top them with bean and tuna salad. Garnish with radish sprouts.

Source: www.foodandwine.com





Wild Garlic Hummus



Hummus is an oriental chickpea and tahini paste. It is hearty, smooth and creamy and it has a rich and nutty sesame seed flavor. It is a high-protein vegan spread and it’s also so easy to make. I’ve tried a myriad of recipes over the years, I played both with the ingredients and with the different techniques involved in preparing this simple yet delicious spread. I learnt two tricks which I use each time to get an incredibly creamy texture. I remove the skins of the chickpeas by squeezing them with my fingers – this extra step makes a smoother final product. The second trick is to start the hummus by mixing the tahini with lemon juice and olive oil, which creates a mayonnaise-like consistency emulsion. This two tricks make the difference between a regular and an over-the-top delicious hummus.

The version of hummus I bring you today is a velvety, flavorful and colorful hummus, a wild garlic hummus, to be more accurate. Wild garlic is a wonderful plant, it has a fresh garlicky taste and it is packed with nutrients, from carotenoids to vit A, vit C and vit B complex. I’m not a fan of the raw wild garlic, I find it too overpowering, so I blanch it for 40 seconds before using it, to temper its wild taste.

Ingredients for (4 servings):

  • 1 can of chickpeas (400g)
  • 50g wild garlic
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (I used homemade tahini – here is the recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp water
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp chili flakes
  • salt to taste

 

Method:    

  1. Blanch the wild garlic. Bring 1l of water to a boil. Wash the wild garlic and trim its fibrous ends. When the water starts to boil add the wild garlic, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 seconds. Meanwhile prepare the ice bath by adding 1 cup of ice to a bowl filled with cold water. Carefully drain the wild garlic and immediately place it in the ice bath. Let it cool completely and then drain it. Remove the excess water by squeezing it in your hands (picture).
  2. Prepare the chickpeas. Drain the chickpeas using a colander and rinse it under cold water. Take about 8 – 10 chickpeas and gently squeeze them in your fingers to remove their skins. Proceed the same with the rest of the chickpeas – this step is optional.
  3. In the bowl of the food processor add the tahini and the lime juice and pulse until combined (picture).
  4. Drizzle the olive oil 1 Tbsp at a time. Pulse until the mixture resembles to a mayonnaise (picture).
  5. Add the chickpeas and pulse until you form a paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  6. Add the chopped blanched wild garlic and the spices (cumin, chili flakes and salt). Add 1 Tbsp of water and process. Add more water until you reach the desired consistency. Spoon it into a bowl and drizzle some olive oil on top.
  7. I served my wild garlic hummus with homemade dinner rolls (I made them following this recipe), raw radishes, spring onions and chili peppers.







Source: www.inspiredtaste.net

Homemade Tahini



Tahini is a delicious Middle Eastern sesame spread. It has a velvety smooth texture and a lovely nutty flavor. Tahini can be found in the ethnic department of almost every large grocery store but it can also be made at home, from scratch. It’s so easy to make and it’s significantly less expensive than the store-bought version. Tahini is made from only 3 ingredients: sesame seeds, vegetable oil and salt. The process is very simple: the sesame seeds are lightly toasted just until they turn golden and fragrant, and after that they are ground using a food processor (or you can use a mortar, if you’re into extreme sports). The addition of the oil turns the fragrant sesame crumbs into a golden silky spread.

I must confess that I enjoy tahini almost daily. I use it to prepare hummus and baba ganoush, I use it to make salad dressings, I pour it over steamed veggies, rice or pasta or I simply enjoy it with homemade bread, with lime, chili flakes and chives sprinkled on top. Tahini brings flavor to many dishes but it also brings a high amount of nutrients – tahini is high in protein, unsaturated fats, calcium and vit B complex). Tahini is simply divine, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to discover it yet, I strongly advise you to whip up a batch!

Ingredients (for about 150g tahini):

  • 1 cup of huelled sesame seeds (140g)
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp of any mild vegetable oil (such as grapeseed, sunflower or a light olive oil)
  • ¼ tsp sea salt

Method:

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a ungreased skillet over medium heat just until they are light golden and fragrant (it takes usually about 3 – 4 minutes). Be careful not to overtoast them because the tahini will turn bitter.
  2. Add the toasted sesame seeds to a bowl of a food processor and let them cool for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes process them until they turn into crumbs. It might take a good 5 minutes – it depends on how powerful your food processor is.
  3. Start adding the oil, one tablespoon at a time, scraping town the sesame seeds from time to time. Process until smooth and pourable.
  4. Spoon tahini into a jar and refrigerate. It will last in the refrigerator up to 4 weeks.
  5. I enjoyed my tahini on a slice of homemade artisanal bread, sprinkled with lime, chives and chili flakes.

Spinach Salad with Baked Tofu, Fennel and Mandarin Oranges



There’s not much to say about this tofu and mandarin salad, only the fact that I tend to prepare it excessively lately. It’s so colorful and packed with bold flavors and great textures and the best part is that it’s plant – based. The crunchy, fragrant fennel goes wonderfully with the sweet and juicy mandarin slices and the green onion and the baby spinach give this salad a nice, springy twist. For this salad I like to cut my tofu in triangles, marinate it in mandarin juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, ginger and garlic and bake it in the oven until golden brown. Simlpe and delcious!

Why I love spinach salad with tofu, mandarin and fennel:

  • it’s vegan
  • it’s so colorful and tasty
  • it’s nutritious
  • it’s high in protein, so it’s very satisfying
  • it’s lovely all year round, I just pick whatever veggies are in season

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 200g firm tofu
  • 1 small fennel bulb (100g)
  • 3 mandarin oranges
  • 3 spring onions
  • 50g baby spinach

for the marinade:

  • 2 Tbsp mandarin juice
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp grated ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder and 1/8 tsp pepper

Method:

  1. Drain the tofu, place it between two paper towels, place a heavy can on top of it (I use my mortar) and let it drain for about 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare the marinade. Place the ingredients listed above in a blender and pulse until well blended. Adjust the taste by adding vinegar or sugar only if necessary.
  3. Cut the tofu block into 6 rectangles. Cut each rectangle into 2 triangles (picture).
  4. Place the tofu slices in a zip-lock bag, pour about 2/3 of the marinade in the bag and toss to coat. The remaining marinade will be used as dressing for the salad. Refrigerate tofu slices for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven at 190°C / 375°F (gas mark 5).
  6. Take the tofu slices from the fridge and place them on a parchment paper – lined tray. Bake them for 15 minutes, turn them over and bake them for further 10 – 15 minutes. When they are golden brown, remove them from the oven and carefully place them on a plate.
  7. Peel the mandarin oranges and segment them. Finely chop the onion. Cut the fennel into thin slices (picture).
  8. Place the baby spinach on a platter. Top it with fennel, spring onion, mandarin oranges and tofu triangles. Drizzle the dressing (the remaining marinade) over the salad just before serving.

Source: www.foodnetwork.com

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.