I’ve developed some sort of obsession for this lovely asparagus and egg salad. I could easily enjoy it on a daily basis without getting bored. It’s quite amazing how some simple ingredients, combined together, can create something so majestic. This hearty salad doesn’t take more than 15 minutes and it tastes divine. The steps are very easy, you blanch the asparagus to preserve its vibrant color, you toast the almonds just to enhance their flavor and you boil the egg to your likeness. You dress these ingredients with a velvety mustard and scallion sauce and you devour the dish without regrets.
Ingredients (for 2-3 servings):
- 500g asparagus
- 50g ricotta (I used a drier variety)
- 20g almond flakes
- 2 large eggs
for the dressing:
- 1 scallion, finely chopped (1 Tbsp)
- 1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 Tbsp walnut oil (or any other mild-flavored oil)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- salt to taste
- Trim the asparagus. Cut about 7 cm from the end of each asparagus and peel the asparagus using a vegetable peeler.
- Blanche the asparagus. Bring to a boil 2l of water and add 1 Tbsp sea salt. Cook the asparagus for 2 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the ice bath by adding 1 cup of ice to a bowl filled with cold water. Carefully remove the asparagus from the boiling water using a spatula and immediately place it in the ice bath. Let it cool completely and place it on a paper towel.
- Eggs. Place the eggs in the same pot and let eggs boil for 10 minutes. Drain eggs, let them cool in cold water (use the same bowl you used for the asparagus) and peel them.
- Almonds. Brown the almonds in a skillet, on medium heat. Set aside.
- Scallions. Wash the scallion and chop it finely using a sharp knife.
- Dressing and assembly. Prepare the dressing by mixing in a medium bowl chopped scallion with the mustard and honey. Drizzle the oil, making sure to whisk continuously. Add the lemon juice and stir. Add the asparagus (cut into 2 – 3 pieces), almond flakes and ricotta cheese. Stir gently, season with salt and garnish with the eggs (cut into quarters).
- Leftovers. Place the leftovers (if any) in a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Cesnica is a wonderful dessert made in the Serbian households on Christmas Eve. Two years ago I prepared it using store bough phyllo pastry, showing you an easy, no fuss way to make it. This year I decided to step up my game and make it old school, from scratch, just like my beloved grandmother used to. The person who prepares this delicious dessert always hides a coin inside it. The coin brings luck to whomever finds it.
I couldn’t have been more than seven when I saw my grandmother make the dough from scratch for the last time (it is quite labor intensive). But those images are still alive in my memory like an old black and while movie that goes on and on in my mind. This charming old movie marked my childhood more than anything else. I still remember vividly all the steps, sifting the flour, melting the lard, kneading the dough, leaving it to rest, grinding the walnuts, placing the tablecloth, pulling the dough, making the walnut filling, placing that shiny coin, cutting the pie, baking it to perfection…
Since it’s been quite a while since I last saw my grandmother making it from scratch, there was a solid chance that my memory could play some tricks on me, so I interviewed several women from the Serbian community, so this recipe is a fusion between my personal knowledge and their wonderful tricks learnt from a lifetime experience.
Ingredients (for a 30x22cm tray, which means 20 servings):
for the pastry:
- 500g strong bread flour
- 255ml lukewarm water (beetween 36 – 38°C)
- 75ml any neutral vegetable oil / melted pork lard
- 10ml vinegar
- 1/8 tsp salt
for greasing the pastry sheets:
- 45ml any neutral vegetable oil / melted pork lard – 3 Tbsp
- 45ml milk 3 – Tbsp
- 3 Tbsp honey (optional)
for the filling
- 300g walnuts
- 225 white granulated sugar
- 1 lemon, zested
- 3 coins (washed with water and soap and sterilized by boiling)
- In a large bowl sift the flour and salt and make a well in the center.
- Add the oil, water vinegar and mix with a fork until you form a ball. Knead the bowl of dough in the bowl for 3 minutes, or until the surface is smooth.
- Place the dough on a working surface and knead it vigorously with your hands. Slap the dough down to the working surface for 50 times.Wrap the dough in a plastic bag, cover it with a clean towel and and let it rest for 1 – 2 hours (resting the dough is vital for relaxing the gluten).
- Sterilize the coins by boiling them in hot water for 30 minutes.
- Grind the walnuts and zest the lemon. Take two bowls. Mix walnuts, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. In another bowl mix the oil with the milk.
- Take a large tray and line it with parchment paper.
- After the dough has rested I divide it into 3 relatively equal pieces. Leave one piece of dough on the working surface and place the other two in the same plastic bag.
- Place the first piece of dough on the floured working surface and roll it with the rolling pin until it gets about 1/2 cm thick.
- Cover the table with a clean table cloth (a clean sheet does the trick as well). Place the back of your hand under the sheet of dough and I begin stretching it from the center to the outer edges, working your way around the sheet of dough. If you don’t feel the sheet moving, let it relax for a few moments. It is ready when it’s so thin that you can read the newspaper under it. Take a knife or a pizza cutter and cut it into 4 equal pieces.
- Take one sheet, place it in a tray, remove the thicker outer edges with a knife and grease it with the milk mixture. Place the second sheet on top and grease it as well.
- Over the second sheet sprinkle about two handfulls of walnut mixture.
- Cover the walnut mixture with the third sheet, grease it as well and sprinkle a handful of walnuts.
- Continue with the layers until you place the sixth sheet. Grease it, sprinkle a handfull of walnuts and place the coins.
- Proceed the same until you reached the 10th sheet, grease it and sprinkle it with the remaining walnut mixture.
- Cover it with the eleventh sheet, grease it cover with the last one. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the surface of the pie into 20 squares. Grease it with the milk mixture and bake in the preheated oven at 375°F/190°C (gas mark 5) for 30 minutes or until golden.
- Remove it from the oven and pour on top of it a mixture made form 3 Tbsp honey and 1 Tbsp water. Cover it with a towel and let it cool. This step is totally optional, some households prefer it moist, while other households love it dry.
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! Continue reading Red Wine – Poached Pears Served with Mascarpone Orange Blossom Cream
I absolutely love strawberries. I find them delicious both in desserts and in savory dishes. They go so well with a lot of other salad ingredients, from arugula, baby spinach and asparagus to green beans and cauliflower. Strawberries not only add an elegant touch to any dish, but they also add nutrients and flavor. During May and June, when strawberries are fresh and mouth-watering, I include them almost daily in a salad.
For this particular salad I sliced a few strawberries and I placed them on top of some blanched asparagus. I added pea sprouts, avocado and feta cheese and I dressed them with a fresh and flavorful poppy seed-lemon dressing. Very simple and so delicious! Continue reading Asparagus and Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed-Lemon Dressing
Today I present you strawberry-banana muffins with honey-vanilla frosting, the best muffins I’ve ever tasted. They are simply addictive. If they sound complicated, I tell you that they are possibly the simplest dessert you’ll ever make. If they sound exquisite, you’re perfectly right. They are so tender and fragrant and they are perfect for breakfast or brunch. In case you want to dress them up a little bit, I strongly suggest you to frost them with this decadent yet healthy honey and vanilla cream.
Since I caught your attention I’ll proceed further and I’ll confess that this is a dairy-free dessert. Both the muffin and the frosting are dairy-free. The muffins contain flour, Demerara sugar, eggs, bananas, strawberries and olive oil, while the frosting is made from coconut oil, honey and vanilla extract. As simple as that. Continue reading Strawberry-Banana Muffins with Honey-Vanilla Frosting (Dairy-Free)
Tagliata is a grilled or pan-fried sliced stake, generally made from pork or veal. I usually make my tagliata from pork shoulder because I find this cut easy to work with, unpretentious, yet absolutely stunning when prepared well. In this case, I brined the meat for 1 hour (I used this recipe) just to keep it moist long after slicing. I seasoned my steaks with demerara sugar and I fried it in olive oil. It may sound weird using sugar in this equation, but while cooking, the sugar caramelizes into a crispy and delicious crust. I served my steaks with a tangy parsley and basil chimichurri and some flavorful oven roasted cherry tomatoes. Continue reading Pork Tagliata with Chimichurri Sauce and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Česnica is a Serbian brioche made from flour and water and is served on Christmas Eve. Its name comes from the noun cest = share (beautiful, isn’t it?). The person who prepares this delicious dessert always hides a coin inside it. The coin brings luck to whomever finds it.
My grandmother used to prepare this treat each year. But our Česnica was different. It was filled with a rich walnut mixture and coated with a decadent honey glaze. My grandmother used to turn flour and water into an extremely elastic dough. Then she used to stretch the dough into several thin sheets just by using her hands. It was such a delight to watch her!
Continue reading Česnica – Traditional Serbian Christmas Pie