Tapenade – olive spread (vegan)

Creamy and flavorful, this olive spread is the answer when you’re in the mood for something delicious but not overly complicated. This olive paste is also quite versatile, it’s absolutely divine spread over fresh bread, it can be rolled into wraps or served as a dip for a plethora of raw vegetables. The technique is as simple as it can be. You press the olives against a wooden board to smash them, you remove the pits and you blend them in the food processor. In the end you season the spread with garlic, capers and salt and you enjoy this delicacy spread over a nice crusty, preferably homemade slice of bread.


Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 300g olives (I used 200g black olives and 100g Kalamata olives)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt to taste

Method:

  1. Remove the pits. For this step I never use pitted olives as they tend to be less flavorful. Smash the olives against the wooden board using a knife. Remove each stone with your fingers.
  2. Pat the olives dry. Place the olives on a paper towel – lined cutting board and cover them with another paper towel. Gently press the olives to remove the excess moisture.
  3. Blend the olives. Place the olive chunks and blend them until you form a chunky spread, adding about 1 tablespoon at a time.
  4. Season. Peel the garlic, place it in a mortar, season it with some salt and smash it with a pestle. Add the capers and smash them as well until you form a paste.
  5. Serveing and leftovers. Add the condiment over the olive paste and give it a few pulses to make sure the spread is homogenous. Place the leftovers (if any) in a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Fried Zucchini Blossoms (Vegan)

With a crispy crust and a creamy center, these fried zucchini flowers are a stunning Italian appetizer. A budget-friendly, delicious and simple yet elegant treat. I first tried this recipe about 5 years ago and I remember it was love at first sight. Since that particular moment, I’ve been preparing this recipe at lest once a month. When I’m in my veggie garden, admiring my zucchini bush, it fills my heart with joy the fact that I’m able to create something extraordinary from an ingredient that I’d otherwise throw away. Regarding the batter, I’ve trying a lot of recipes that required whether baking powder, sparkling water or cold beer. Hands down, my favorite version was this simple three-ingredient one. It requires only flour, water and yeast, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. These ingredients create a incredibly crunchy crust which hides a delicate and creamy filling.

Ingredients (for 6 servings):

15 zuchhini blossoms

150g all-purpose flour

220ml lukewarm water (38-40C)

15g fresh yeast

1 sugar

1 salt

 

Method:

  1. Activate the yeast. In a small bowl combine 1/3 of the water, sugar and yeast and whisk until well combined. Let aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Form the batter. In a large bowl sift the flour. Add the salt and a pinch of nutmeg and make a well in the center. Add the remaining water (2/3 of the quantity) and whisk until smooth. Add the yeast mixture and whisk until well combined. Cover with cling film and let it proof in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
  3. Clean the flowers. Meanwhile take each flower and remove it’s center, as well as those tiny outer leaves. Clean under cold water and place them in a colander to drain.
  4. Cook the blossoms. After 30 minutes heat the oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. One by one, dredge the blossoms in batter, shaking off the excess. Gently lay them in the oil, without crowding the pan. Cook, flipping once with a slotted spoon, until golden brown, 2-3 minutes total.
  5. Serve. Transfer to paper towels to drain and serve warm.

  1. Source: www.giallozafferano.it

Chicken Lollipops with Tomato-Chili Sauce



Chicken lollipops are always a great idea, whether you have to prepare a party buffet or a simple lunch. Underneath their crispy crust lays a tender, juicy and flavorful meat. It is a wonderful dish, yet quite simple and budget-friendly.

I make lollipops very often and every time I use only the drumettes (the thick part of the wing, the part that has only one bone). I generally marinate the drumettes with a lemon, olive oil, garlic and sage mixture and I refrigerate them overnight. Yesterday I did the same thing and this morning I prepared some flavorful, tender and adorable lollipops. They were simply amazing but I decided to serve them with a spicy tomato and chili sauce which made them even better.

Ingredients (for 6 servings):

  • 12 drumettes
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

for the marinade:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • juice and zest from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 7 sage leaves
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Method:

  1. Prepare the marinade by mixing in a large bowl all the ingredients above.
  2. Prepare the drumettes. Grab the thin part and cut the skin and the ligaments surrounding the bone. Scrape the bone with a knife and pull the meat up, towards the thick end. Carefully pull the meat over the fat to create a sphere (picture).
  3. Place the drumettes in the marinade bowl and toss to cover. Place them in a zip-lock bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  4. Remove them from the refrigerator and take 3 bowls; place the flour in the first bowl, the bread crumbs in the second bowl and the egg, milk, salt and pepper in the third.
  5. Roll the drumettes in the flour, dip them in the egg mixture and then in the bread crumbs.
  6. Deep-fry them at 340°F/170°C for 7-8 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Carefully remove them from the oil and place them on a paper towel.


  • Tomato and chili sauce

    Ingredients (for 6 servings):

    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • ½ small carrot, grated
    • ½ celery stalk chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves
    • 1 chili, chopped
    • 30ml dry red wine
    • 1 chopped tomato tin (400g)
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
    • ½ tsp sugar
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp pepper


    Method:

    1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add chopped onion, carrot, celery and chili to the pot. Cook on high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes).
    2. Add minced garlic, bay leaf and thyme and cook for 1 minute.
    3. Add wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
    4. Add tomatoes and cook uncovered, on low heat for 30-40 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated.
    5. Discard bay leaf, add sugar, salt and pepper and puree the sauce using a blender. Serve warm with chicken lollipops.






Baked Figs with Goat Cheese and Prosciutto


What are you going to do if one day you receive the most beautiful figs you’ve ever seen? You admire them for about half an hour, you take some photos, you dress them up (meaning you stuff them with goat cheese and you wrap them in prosciutto) and you indulge.

I’ve always loved sweet and salty dishes, and this recipe is the quintessence of this combination. The sweetness of the figs goes wonderfully with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the tartness of the goat cheeses quiets down the richness of the fruit. The result is a mouthwatering sweet and salty appetizer, simple yet elegant, rich yet fresh.

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • 4 large figs
  • 40g goat cheese
  • 2 slices of prosciutto
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar reduction


Method:

  1. Preheat the oven at 180°C / 350°F (gas mark 4).
  2. Wash the figs and pat them dry. Cut off their stem and cut an X in the top of each fig, 1/3 way through.
  3. Crumble the goat cheese and stuff each cavity with about 1 tsp of cheese.
  4. Halve the prosciutto lengthwise and wrap each fig with half a slice of prosciutto.
  5. Secure the prosciutto with a toothpick.
  6. Place the stuffed figs in a parchment paper-lined tray and bake them in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  7. Leave them to cool down for 10 minutes before serving. Remove the skewer. Drizzle them with about 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar reduction just before serving.

Goat Cream Cheese, Pea and Quail Egg Triangles



These goat cheese, pea and quail egg triangles are simply extraordinary. They are delicious, flavorful and the fresh green peas add a lovely spring quality to the dish. What I like the most about the appetizers is they are a crowd-pleaser. These adorable guys are also a wonderful alternative to conventional appetizers, letting aside the fact that they’re ready in less than 30 minutes. To ease up my work, I use store-bought puff pastry and I bake it between two trays. This method keeps the dough from rising excessively in the oven, which leads to a relatively thin, golden and flaky crust. Those crispy rectangles are then iced with a tangy and flavorful goat cheese cream, topped with peas and quail eggs arranged chaotically. Continue reading Goat Cream Cheese, Pea and Quail Egg Triangles

Spring Canapés (Focaccia with Goat Cheese, Strawberries, Prosciutto and Balsamic Reduction)

This lovely canapés are more than suitable for spring. The base is a delicious homemade nigella seed focaccia which is topped with tangy goat cheese, juicy strawberry slices, smoky Prosciutto roses, fresh mint ribbons and a balsamic vinegar reduction. I simply love balsamic vinegar reduction, it’s such a versatile condiment; its acid and slightly sweet taste and its unmistakable aroma go wonderfully with different types of cheese, vegetables and fruits and it tastes divine paired with vanilla-flavored desserts, too. Since it’s springtime and my garden abounds with flowers, I decided I should garnish my canapés with edible flowers, just for aesthetic reasons.

For my canapés I used homemade focaccia (I used this recipe). The only changes I’ve made are the following: I prepared the dough, I placed it in a bowl, I covered it with cling film and I refrigerated it overnight. The next morning I kneaded the dough and I rolled the bread, I garnished it with nigella seeds and I drizzled it with olive oil. After 1 hour of rising, I baked it for about 20 minutes.

I usually make my own balsamic vinegar reduction. I add 1 cup of balsamic vinegar to a saucepan and I boil it until the liquid becomes syrupy and reduces by 1/3 cup. I pour the reduction in a jar and I leave it to reach room temperature before refrigerating it. Since it thickens considerably as it cools down, I reheat it in warm water before using. Continue reading Spring Canapés (Focaccia with Goat Cheese, Strawberries, Prosciutto and Balsamic Reduction)

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. Continue reading Wild Garlic Hummus

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. Continue reading Scotch Quail Eggs

Tomato Confit

Tomato confit

French baguette

Servings

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

Baked Zucchini and Feta Cheese Patties

Zucchini cake - plating

Cakes

Zucchini cake & herb Greek yogurt

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