Showing posts with label parmesan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parmesan. Show all posts

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Ratatouille calzones

Calzones de ratatouille / Ratatouille calzones

Last week I told Joao that for the weekend I wanted to make something different for lunch: I was not in the mood for pasta or for the good old rice and beans combo, and I definitely wanted to try my hands at a new recipe.

Going through the vegetables in my fridge I found one eggplant, one zucchini, a couple of carrots and that was it: not much to choose from. So I kept the carrots for some other time and used the eggplant and the zucchini to make a sort of ratatouille, adding tomato paste and olive to make the mixture more interesting. Mixed with cheese it became the filling for these calzones and I bring you this recipe with a very proud smile: the calzones turned out so good!

Apparently going through the crisper drawer might be a good creative exercise. :D

The recipe yields 8 large calzones, which is too much for the both of us for one meal, so I froze the remaining calzones and we ate them for dinner yesterday. If you want to do the same, just wait for the calzones to cool completely, wrap in foil and place them in a plastic bag, sealing well. Once the calzones are thawed, 10 minutes in a hot oven are enough to make them delicious again.

Calzones de ratatouille / Ratatouille calzones

Ratatouille calzones
own recipe

2 teaspoons dried yeast
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups (300ml) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups (420g) all purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons table salt

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
½ small onion, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 medium zucchini (240g), in 1cm-cubes
1 medium eggplant (300g), in 1cm-cubes
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon dry white wine
10 large black olives, pitted and finely chopped
1 ½ cups (150g) coarsely grated yellow mozzarella*
3 tablespoons coarsely grated parmesan
2 teaspoons dried oregano

After assembling the calzones:
olive oil, for brushing
finely grated parmesan, for sprinkling over the calzones

Start with the dough: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the yeast, sugar and water with a fork. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil, flour and salt and mix for 6-8 minutes or until a soft and elastic dough forms. Shape dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size – mine proved for 90 minutes.

In the meantime, make the filling: heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook stirring occasionally until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant – do not let it burn or it will get bitter. Stir in zucchini, eggplant and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until vegetables are softer. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes – it is important to cook it thoroughly to avoid the raw tomato aftertaste. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the olives. Remove from the heat, cool completely, discard the bay leaf and then stir in the cheeses and the oregano.

Preheat the oven to 420°F/220°C. Have ready two large baking sheets.
Divide the dough into 8 equal parts – each will be around 100g (3 ½ oz.). Roll out each portion of dough on a lightly floured surface until you get a rough 25cm (10in) circle. Place about ½ cup of the filling on one side of the dough and fold the other half over, pinching the seams well to keep the filling inside – since vegetables can vary in size, if you have a scale weigh the filling and divide it equally in 8 portions. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling. Place the calzones onto the sheets and brush them with the olive oil and sprinkle with the parmesan. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately.

* the yellow mozzarella I used is not like fresh mozzarella balls, therefore it does not release too much liquid. Replace by cheddar or something similar texture wise.

Makes 8

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gorgonzola and fresh oregano grissini

Gorgonzola and fresh oregano grissini / Grissini de orégano fresco e gorgonzola

At home we like nibbling very much, especially on weekends, and that came to my mind as I set up a plate of bread, cheese and fruit last Saturday for dinner: a glass of wine and the meal was perfect.
Sometimes we have guacamole with homemade tortillas, and of course there are days I don’t even want to enter the kitchen: those are the days for pizza. :)

If you are feeling a bit more enthusiastic than me lately please have a go at these grissini: they are absolutely delicious and great for the cheese/fruit platter (and with wine, too). :)

Gorgonzola and fresh oregano grissini
own recipe

1 teaspoon dried yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
200ml lukewarm water
2 cups (280g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (46g) whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons olive oil + a bit extra for brushing
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, packed
50g gorgonzola, coarsely grated or crumbled if too soft
3 tablespoons finely grated parmesan

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the yeast, sugar and water with a fork. Set aside for about 5 minutes or until foamy. Add the flours, olive oil and salt. Mix on medium for about 8 minutes or until mixture turns into an elastic and smooth dough – if mixing by hand, 10-12 minutes should do it. Mix in the oregano and the gorgonzola, shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a large bowl lightly brushed with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to prove for 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line two large baking sheets with foil and brush it with olive oil.
Punch the dough to remove the excess air. Divide dough in 24 equal portions e roll each of them into a 30cm (12in) sausage shape – if dough is too stick, lightly flour your counter, but avoid too much flour or the dough will be tough and dry. Place the grissini onto the foil leaving 2cm (little less then 1in) between them. Brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Transfer the sheets to a wire rack and cool completely.

Makes 24

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stuffed zucchini, not like my grandma's

Stuffed zucchini / Barquinhas de abobrinha

One of the dishes that remind me of my grandmother the most is stuffed zucchini: she would make these quite often when she lived with us because my father liked it a lot.

I did not like meat growing up and back then I did not understand why my grandma would make this dish so often, but now that I am all grown up it makes a lot of sense to me: it is delicious – when prepared properly – and it makes things quite easier for the cook, since you only need a green salad on the side to call it a complete meal.

This is my version of stuffed zucchini: out with the mushy rice mixed with pale beef, in with with wine, tomatoes, fresh marjoram and gorgonzola – absolutely delicious (sorry, grandma). :)

Stuffed zucchini / Barquinhas de abobrinha

Stuffed zucchini
own recipe

4 zucchini, about 250g/8oz each
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
400g (14oz) beef mince
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (60ml) dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
handful of fresh marjoram leaves
150g (5oz) gorgonzola, coarsely grated or crumbled
finely ground parmesan, for serving

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it with some of the olive oil.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise – you should then get 8 halves that look like little boats. With a small spoon, scrape some of the flesh – do not carve the zucchini halves too much or they will be too flimsy. Chop the flesh and set aside. Place the zucchini on the prepared sheet and brush the inside of each half with some of the olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes – in the meantime, make the filling: heat the remaining olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant – do not let the garlic burn or it will turn bitter. Stir in the mince and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden. Season with salt and pepper – go easy on the salt since the cheeses can be salty. Stir in the wine and cook again for 2-3 minutes or until wine is reduced – using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits in the bottom of the saucepan for extra flavor. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, ¾ cup of the reserved zucchini flesh (you can freeze the remaining flesh and use it to make vegetable stock) and the marjoram. Cook for about 5 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Remove from the heat, stir in the gorgonzola and divide the meat filling among the zucchini halves. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the parmesan and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Monday, March 28, 2016

Spaghetti with meat and aubergine balls

Spaghetti with meat and aubergine balls / Espaguete com almôndegas de carne e berinjela

I once told you that meatballs are a huge success at home, and I was not lying: I make them quite often, and always pop some of them (still uncooked) in the freezer – they can go to the oven directly from frozen, making my life a lot easier during weeknights (+ my husband can do that himself, which is always a plus). :)

I have posted meatballs made of beef, and meatballs made of eggplant, and today I present you a merge between those two kinds: eggplants get roasted, then their pulp is mixed with beef to create delicious, moist meatballs – they were very flavorsome and turned the spaghetti into something even more special.

Since this is a recipe by Antonio Carluccio there was no way it could go wrong.

Spaghetti with meat and aubergine balls
from the always delicious and beautiful Pasta

400g spaghetti
freshly grated parmesan or pecorino, to serve

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
100ml dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
680g tomato passata
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
handful fresh basil leaves

2 whole aubergines
olive oil, for drizzling the aubergines and for shallow-frying
300g minced beef
1 garlic clove, peeled and squashed to a paste
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
50g parmesan, finely grated
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
100g fresh breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon table salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it with olive oil. Cut the aubergines in half lengthwise and place them cut side up onto the foil. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Scoop the pulp out of the skins, transfer to a large bowl and mash the pulp. Cool. Discard the skins.

While the aubergines are roasting, make the sauce: heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, and fry the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and tomato passata. Season with salt and pepper, add the sugar, stir well and cook gently for 30–40 minutes. Stir in the basil and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, continue with the meatballs by mixing together the beef mince, the aubergine pulp, garlic, nutmeg, parmesan, egg and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper, mix well and shape into balls. Shallow-fry in olive oil to brown on all sides. Add the balls to the tomato sauce and keep warm.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Mix the past and the sauce carefully and serve immediately sprinkled with parmesan or pecorino.

Serves 4

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pasta with broccolini pesto and roasted peppers

Pasta with broccolini pesto and roasted peppers / Macarrão com pesto de brócolis e tirinhas de pimentão assado

Certain foods have a very special meaning for me: it might be something my mom cooked when I was a kid that takes me back in time, something I cooked for someone I love or something I ate at a special place. I first ate pasta with pesto sauce in Rome, and it was also the first time I ever traveled abroad, many years ago, so it holds a very dear place in my heart.

I make pesto quite regularly at home, for my husband have learned to enjoy it as well, and sometimes I switch the basil for other options, such as arugula, for example. This time basil was replaced by a mixture of broccolini and fresh oregano leaves, with a fiery touch of dried pepper flakes and a bit of sweetness from roasted peppers – a wonderful combination of flavors is the work of the man behind the best gnocchi I have ever made. To make things ever better, this is really easy to put together, and you can even roast the peppers in advance and keep them refrigerated in a bowl or glass jar with some olive oil to avoid them from drying out.

Pasta with broccolini pesto and roasted peppers
slightly adapted from the always delicious Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food

2 small red peppers
olive oil to drizzle over the peppers
200g broccolini florets
½ cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
1 fat garlic clove, minced
½ cup grated parmesan
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g long dried pasta – I used fusilli lunghi

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°C. Line a baking sheet with foil, brush it with olive oil and place the peppers onto the foil cut side down. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until skins are blistering. Remove peppers from baking sheet and place in a large bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes. Remove the skins from the peppers and cut them into thin slices. Set aside.

Pesto: bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil – you’ll cook the broccolini and the pasta using the same water. Blanch the broccolini the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove them using a slotted spoon and place in ice water to stop them from cooking (keep the water boiling too cook the pasta). Use your hands to squeeze out as much excess water from the broccolini as possible and transfer to a blender. Add the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, red pepper flakes, oregano and blitz to a paste. Season with salt and pepper and blitz again. Add 2-3 tablespoons of water if pesto is too thick.

Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Toss pasta with pesto, adding some of the water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Stir in the roasted pepper and serve at once.

Serves 4

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Stripy courgette, tomato and polenta tart

Stripy courgette, tomato and polenta tart / Torta de polenta, tomate e abobrinha

New cookbooks can be a lovely surprise, a big disappointment or something in between – even with the “Search Inside” feature at Amazon I’ve had my share of regret buying some of them.

My latest purchase, however, was an epic win: I got Annie Rigg’s beautiful cookbook on fruit and Georgina Fuggle’s Take One Veg, and they’re both insanely beautiful – I feel like making each and every recipe on both of them, for there is nothing tricky despite the deliciousness of everything.

I made one of Rigg’s recipes and it was wonderful, but more on that later on this week – Georgina’s idea of using polenta as a tart base was such a hit at home that I had to share it with you: even my husband ate it gladly, and that is certainly something not to be taken lightly. The tart was a cinch to make and served with a green salad it was a delicious meal, one that I plan on repeating with different vegetables.

Stripy courgette, tomato and polenta tart
slightly adapted from the absolutely delicious Take One Veg: Over 100 Tempting Veggie Recipes for Simple Suppers, Packed Lunches and Weekend Cooking

500ml hot vegetable stock
140g polenta - since the recipe doesn't state what kind of polenta it is, I used this one (I was out of instant polenta)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons crème fraîche – I used homemade sour cream
1 small courgette, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced into thin slices
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Start by making the polenta crust: bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan and pour the polenta into the water. Keep your pan over a low heat and, using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture constantly, thrashing out any lumps that try to form. Continue for around 6 minutes until the polenta is very thick.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan and stir until they have disappeared. Cool for 5 minutes, then stir through the beaten egg and season with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly – in the meatime, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.

Lightly grease a square 21cm tart pan with olive oil (I used butter). Put the polenta in the centre and, using a spatula or oiled fingers, gently tease it up the sides of the pan to create the sides of the crust.
Smother a thin layer of crème fraîche over the base of your tart and top with half the Parmesan. On top of the cheese, alternate slices of courgette and tomato. Finish with the thyme leaves and the remaining Parmesan.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 45 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F and bake for a further 15 minutes. Remove and allow the tart to cool for 5-10 minutes to allow it to ‘come to’. Serve in slices.

Serves 4 – I made the recipe above using a 30x10cm (12x4in) tart pan – there was a bit of polenta left that I formed into pancake, grilled on both sides with a tiny bit of olive oil until golden and topped with cheese and dried oregano for a snack (there is a photo here).

The recipes says it serves 4, but the tart I made was polished off by 2 served with a green salad! :)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tomato and rosemary strata, a TV show and a song

Tomato and rosemary strata / Strata de tomate e alecrim

What makes you take interest in something in particular?

The thought came to my mind last night, as I started watching The Americans – I’d been meaning to watch the show forever, I loved the pilot and cannot wait to watch more episodes, but I have to say that seeing – I mean, hearing – the amazing sounds of Tusk right there, in the beginning of the first episode, made me even more interested in it.

Strata was something I’d always thought of making, especially after seeing the lovely Nigella Lawson make one years ago, but since my husband isn’t very fond of the idea of a savory bread pudding – or any bread pudding, for that matter – I kept postponing it. When I saw this recipe the other day, full of cheese and tomatoes, I could not wait any longer: I cannot live without cheese and tomatoes are something I deeply love, to the point of eating a couple while prepping them for any recipe at all.

The strata turned out delicious: it sort of reminded me of pizza, but with a different texture. I had it with a salad and ate a lot more than I should have. :)

Different things can be triggers to something good: a song, certain foods… It’s a matter of keeping our eyes open – I’ll certainly be on the lookout for more strata recipes and interesting TV shows. ;)

Tomato and rosemary strata
slightly adapted from here

250g stale bread, sliced about 6mm (½in) thick
1 garlic clove, cut in half
60g (2oz) Gruyère cheese, grated
30g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
5 firm, firm tomatoes, sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
4 large eggs
2 cups (480ml) whole milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Oil or butter a 2-quart baking dish or gratin. If the bread is soft, toast it lightly and rub all the slices, front and back, with the cut clove of garlic. If it’s stale, just rub with garlic. Combine the two cheeses in a small bowl.

Layer half of the bread slices in the baking dish. Top with half the tomato slices. Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt, pepper, and half the rosemary. Top with half the cheese. Repeat the layers.
Beat together the eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper, then pour over the bread and tomato layers. Place in the oven and bake 40-50 minutes, until puffed and browned. Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm.

Serves 4

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Pesto & courgette pasta bake for a courgette-eating husband

Pesto & courgette pasta bake / Rigatoni de forno com pesto e abobrinha

Those of you who cook for picky eaters know the feeling, I’m sure: when the person who always hated something starts eating that very thing it feels like a small victory.

When my husband decided to try mushrooms for the first time in his life and liked them, I started adding mushrooms to our meals and it was such a good thing (the vegetarian Bolognese is, indeed, delicious and I love cooking that recipe). Now that he’s come to the conclusion that he doesn’t really hate courgettes I have been adding them to our meals quite regularly, and this pasta bake was a really tasty way of having the vegetable.

I tweaked the recipe a bit – the original version called for crème fraîche, for instance, which I replaced for homemade ricotta – and got a lighter dish as a reward, not to mention the recipe is easy and tasted great: the crunchy bread and cheese topping makes the pasta extra special.

Pesto & courgette pasta bake
adapted from the always delicious Good Food magazine

150g rigatoni
1/3 cup basil pesto
200g ricotta – I used homemade
200g courgettes, coarsely grated
½ cup finely grated parmesan, divided use
salt and freshly ground black pepper
30g fresh breadcrumbs
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Cook the pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the pack instructions say, so that it has a little more bite. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water.

Meanwhile, mix the pesto, ricotta, courgettes and half the parmesan together. Add the pasta and stir well, adding a little of the reserved water to create a good sauce consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Tip the pasta and sauce into a shallow baking dish and scatter over the breadcrumbs, then the remaining parmesan. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for about 15 minutes or until the topping is crisp.

Serves 2

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fusilli with pine nuts and eggplant and the pasta dishes of my childhood

Fusilli with pine nuts and eggplant / Macarrão com pinoli e berinjela

Having Italian blood in my veins, pasta was something I ate my whole life: my mother, despite being from a German family, cooked pasta quite frequently, and when she died and my paternal grandmother came to live with us she cooked pasta a lot, too – my grandfather was Italian, so pasta was something quite natural for her.

There wasn’t, or at least I don’t remember, much variety when it came to pasta sauces: there were tomato sauce, Bolognese, béchamel and aglio e olio, and that was it. When I started buying cookbooks and reading recipes online, years ago, I realized that there was so much more that could be done with pasta, there were so many interesting sauces, that blew me away.

One way I love cooking pasta is using vegetables as sauce: you get tons of flavor while eating something delicious and good for you. This recipe comes from the great Antonio Carluccio and when I finished cooking the sauce and tried some it tasted to amazing I thought it could be also spread over crusty bread and served as bruschetta instead of tossed with pasta – that is how I intend to eat it next time. :D

Fusilli with pine nuts and eggplant
slightly adapted from the great Antonio Carluccio: The Collection

400g eggplants, trimmed and cut into small cubes
90ml extra virgin olive oil
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 heaping tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
pinch of dried chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper
15 large black olives, pitted and thorn into pieces
handful of fresh basil leaves, thorn
400g fusilli or other short pasta
finely grated parmesan, to serve

Leave the eggplant cubes in lightly salted water for 1 hour, then drain, squeeze out the water and pat dry on kitchen paper. Fry them in the oil for 3 minutes, stir in the garlic and fry, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is golden brown. Add the tomato paste, pine nuts, capers, chilli flakes, black pepper and olives and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally – add a little water if the mixture is too dry. Stir in the basil, cover and remove from the heat.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain and mix well with the sauce. Serve with the parmesan.

Serves 4

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Aperitif financiers - great with a glass of sparkling wine

Aperitif financiers / Financiers salgados

If you’ve been here a while you probably know that I love financiers: I’ve made them in many different flavors for they are delicious and also a great way of using leftover egg whites (something I happen to have in my freezer quite often).

Savory financiers, however, was something I hadn’t tried before, and the ones on Rachel Khoo’s gorgeous cookbook looked so adorable I had to try them – they were part of my Christmas Eve dinner, something to be nibbled with drinks before the actual dinner was served.

The financiers turned out tasty and oh, so cute, making the table look even prettier – they were perfect paired with a glass of Prosecco and I’ll be making them again for my New Year’s dinner next week.

Aperitif financiers
slightly adapted from the oh, so beautiful The Little Paris Kitchen: 120 Simple But Classic French Recipes

65g unsalted butter, chopped
½ cup (50g) almond meal
¼ cup (35g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
generous pinch of salt
12 small pieces of parmesan
6-8 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
about 5 olives, sliced in rings

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter and flour twelve 2-tablespoon capacity financier or mini muffin molds.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it turns golden brown, then remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm.
In a small bowl, mix the almond meal, flour, baking powder and sugar. Set aside. In another small bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. In a third small bowl, place the yolks and slowly whisk in the warm butter. Fold this into the dry ingredients, then fold in the egg whites.
Spoon the batter into the prepared molds and top each with a piece of cheese, tomato halves and the olives, pushing slightly into the batter. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden. Unmold immediately onto a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 12

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Pea pancakes

Pea pancakes / Panquequinhas de ervilha

I’ve realized that I’ve been craving vegetables more and more each day, instead of meat: the more I eat vegetables, the more I want to eat them, in all sorts of ways – every time I see a great vegetarian recipe around I want to try it immediately.

(That said, I’ll cook Jamie Oliver’s roast beef tomorrow for lunch. :D My husband saw a bit of the show days ago while I was watching it and has been craving that dish ever since, with all the trimmings, including the Yorkshire puddings – I have made Jamie’s yorkies and they’re oh, so good).

Back to the vegetables, I saw these pea pancakes on Valli Little’s stunning cookbook and right away thought that they would be great for a snack – I had everything in my fridge and pantry to make them, and on top of it all it would take me moments to put them together, even making the ricotta from scratch, which is super easy and I highly recommend you try – I doubt you’ll ever buy ricotta again.

The pancakes turned out delicious, light and fluffy, and I ate them with sweet chili sauce, as per the author’s suggestion – she also suggests the pancakes to be served with bacon, but even though I’m crazy about it I don’t think it was necessary here.

Pea pancakes
slightly adapted from the über beautiful Delicious. Love to Cook

120g frozen peas
2 eggs
200g fresh ricotta – I highly recommend using homemade
¼ cup finely grated parmesan
1 teaspoon olive oil + more for frying the pancakes
¼ cup (45g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions, white part only, finely chopped

Cook the peas in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, drain and refresh under cold water. Drain well and set aside.
Place eggs, parmesan, ricotta, 1 teaspoon olive oil, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Stir in the peas and spring onions, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Scoop two tablespoons of mixture per pancakes and place onto the pan, pressing each to 1cm (½ in) thickness. Cook for 3 minutes each side or until golden.
Serve immediately.

Makes 6

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wholemeal pasta with vegetable sauce - food with my husband's suggestion

Wholemeal pasta with vegetable sauce / Espaguete integral com molho de legumes

I’ve always believed that one’s love for food is a growing thing: the more you eat, the more you love food (if it is good, obviously).

My sister, for instance, grew up eating different kinds of food, from salads to cake, and nowadays she is not afraid to try something new – she might not like it, but at least she’ll give it a try before saying no. I like to think that she got that from me, that I played an important part in the past so she hasn’t become a picky adult.

My husband, on the other hand, was picky for many, many years and I’m glad he’s been leaving that behind. I’m glad it’s been a natural thing for him and that I have never forced anything – I think that’s the kind of discovery worth doing on one’s own.

I will say, however, that cooking is nowadays much more pleasant.

He’s come from “I don’t like fish” and “is there cilantro in this???” to making suggestions to recipes: as I flipped through Carluccio's cookbook the other day, I showed him a beautiful photo of spaghetti with a vegetable sauce (I’m not the only visual person in the family), then waited for his reaction – he said “that looks good – why don’t you add some cherry tomatoes to it?”

That coming from the guy who used to avoid tomatoes of all kinds like the plague. :)

So I made the pasta and followed Joao’s suggestion, but roasted the cherry tomatoes till they were soft and tender – that way they would mingle with the spaghetti better. His idea was pretty delicious, I have to say. :)

Wholemeal pasta with vegetable sauce
slightly adapted from the wonderful Pasta: The Essential New Collection from the Master of Italian Cookery

200g cherry tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g dried wholemeal spaghetti
handful fresh basil leaves, torn
60g parmesan, freshly grated

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and very finely chopped
2 celery stalks, very finely chopped
4 medium ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, finely chopped

Preheat the grill in the oven. Cut the cherry tomatoes lengthwise and place them cut side up onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill for about 10 minutes or until soft. Set aside.

In the meantime, make the sauce: heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry all the vegetables until soft, 10-15 minutes – season with salt and pepper halfway through the cooking time.

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water for about 8–10 minutes (follow the instructions on the packet), or until al dente. Drain, save some of the cooking water, and mix the spaghetti with the sauce, basil and parmesan (the cheese will make the sauce creamier) – add a bit of the cooking water if necessary. Transfer to warmed plates, top with the cherry tomatoes and serve at once.

Serves 4

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cheese straws for hungry friends

Cheese straws / Palitinhos de queijo

As someone who loves food, I always make sure that my friends have something to eat the minute they enter my house – I believe that nothing like a drink and something to snack on to make one feel welcome. :)

I like to serve something small enough to be eaten without cutlery and without much mess either, and tiny portions so everyone is still hungry when dinner is served. I made these cheese straws the other day, when I had a couple of friends over for pizza, and they turned out delicious and flaky.

I baked the straws in the afternoon and kept them in an airtight container. When my friends arrived, I just arranged the straws in glasses and served them with drinks – no more hungry guests. :)

Cheese straws
slightly adapted from the lovely and delicious National Trust Simply Baking

155g all purpose flour
70g whole wheat flour
115g unsalted butter, cold and diced
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
85g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 egg, beaten

½ egg, beaten with a fork
dried oregano, to taste

Place the flours, cheese, salt and pepper into the food processor and blitz to combine. Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in the egg 1 ½ tablespoons of the ice water and, with the motor running, pour this into the mixture and stop processing as soon as the crumbs begin to hold together – add more water if necessary, but do it gradually.
Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and gather the dough together with your hands. Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Roll half the dough about 5mm (¼in) thick (keep the other half in the fridge) - the pastry needs to be thick enough to twist without breaking. Trim the edges and cut into strips, each about 15cm (6in) long and 1cm (½in) wide. Gently twist each strip and lay onto the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining pastry. Re-roll the trimmings and repeat until you’ve used all the dough and made around 40 straws.
Carefully brush all the straws with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the dried oregano. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the sheets over a wire rack.
They will keep for a few days in an airtight can.

Makes about 40

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Polenta and ricotta chips and cooking from scratch

Polenta and ricotta chips / Palitos de polenta e ricota

As I told you yesterday, I love making things from scratch if and when I have time for that, and the recipe I bring you today is a good example of that: in these delicious polenta and ricotta chips, I used homemade vegetable stock, homemade ricotta and homemade tomato sauce.

The vegetable stock is a precious hint I got from a good friend of mine: she makes her stock with the skins peeled off the vegetables (carrots and potatoes, for example), mushroom stems, parsley and basil stalks, the green end of leeks, that is, all the tidbits that would end up in the garbage. I’ve been making stock her way for a long time and always have some stashed in the freezer, and that is the one I used to cook this polenta.

The tomato sauce is the one I make over and over again, with canned tomatoes and lots of fresh basil, oregano and thyme, and it’s the one my husband eats by the spoonful if left to his own devices – if there’s bread in the house I have to make sure he doesn’t eat the whole batch of sauce with it before I even have the chance to proceed with whatever I was making in the first place. :D

And the ricotta is a recipe from the wonderful Donna Hay magazine I got years ago, 2009 to be more precise, and from that moment on I’ve never used store-bought ricotta again – I’ve been using this homemade ricotta for all sorts of things, always with amazing results. It has great texture and flavor and it is quick to make. Back then I used to line the colander with fine muslin, but a while ago I bought a fine mesh strainer and it does the job perfectly without the cloth.

This post might sound like a nightmare for those of you who don’t like making things from scratch, and I’m not here to preach, but believe me when I say that besides tasting a lot better than the store-bought versions they’re all easy to make – not to mention they’re very budget friendly, especially the vegetable stock.

I know it may seem like a bore to turn each polenta chip after their first 20 minutes in the oven, but that was the way I found to make them crisp and golden without frying (which was called for in the original recipe) – please don’t hate me. :)

Polenta and ricotta chips
slightly adapted from the always wonderful Donna Hay magazine

2 cups (500ml) vegetable stock
1 cup (170g) instant polenta
1 cup (80g) finely grated parmesan
25g butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g ricotta*
canola oil, for brushing
tomato sauce, for serving

Place the stock in a large saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Gradually add the polenta, whisking continuously for 2–3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir through the parmesan, butter, salt and pepper. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add the ricotta and fold through to combine. Spoon and press the polenta into a lightly buttered 20cm (8in) square cake pan and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it lightly with oil.
Remove the polenta from the pan and slice into thick chips. Arrange them on the prepared sheet 1cm apart. Bake for 20 minutes, then carefully turn each chip and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Serve immediately with the tomato sauce.

* I used homemade ricotta: 3 cups (720ml) whole milk = 200g ricotta

Serves 4

Monday, June 30, 2014

Orecchiette with squash sauce and spinach balls - quick, nutritious and delicious

Orecchiette with squash sauce and spinach balls / Orecchiette com molho de abóbora e bolinhas de espinafre

Despite my desire to try new things in the kitchen, I feel very lucky for not having serious food allergies and also for not having to give up gluten or dairy – I was a vegetarian for many years and that wasn’t hard, but I don’t think I would last one week without bread or cheese.

Pasta is another staple I’m not willing to eliminate from my diet, not only because it is delicious but also because it is a very versatile ingredient: it can be made in so many different ways, the sky is the limit. When I’m in a hurry to make dinner or the refrigerator is empty pasta always saves the night. That is why I was so eager to buy Antonio Carluccio’s book on the subject and he didn’t disappoint: it is oh, so beautiful, and the recipes look mouthwatering – I want to cook everything from that book.

Still strong with the plan of adding more vegetables to our meals and reducing the amount of meat I thought that a pasta dish with a vegetable sauce would make a light, nutritious lunch, and since my husband had said something about how great the dish on the cover of the book looked it was easy to choose a recipe. Carluccio’s recipe calls for zucchini, but I decided to use the beautiful squash I had in my fridge: not only the food was delish and super fresh, it was really quick to put together – that way I did not miss any of the action on the Holland vs Mexico match (I screamed so hard when Sneijder scored that my throat was sore for the rest of the day). :)

Orecchiette with squash sauce and spinach balls
slightly adapted from the beautiful and delicious Pasta: The Essential New Collection from the Master of Italian Cookery

Spinach balls:
150g spinach leaves
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
20g fresh breadcrumbs
15g parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola oil, for shallow frying

Pasta and sauce:
150g orecchiette or penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
½ fresh red chilli, not too hot, finely chopped
300g coarsely grated squash*
salt and freshly ground blackpepper, to taste
finely ground parmesan, to serve

Preheat the oven to 120°C/250°F.
Prepare the spinach balls first by cooking the spinach leaves in salted water for a few minutes. Scoop out and leave to cool. When cool, squeeze out most of the moisture and chop the leaves with a knife, but not too small. Then mix in a bowl with the garlic, nutmeg, breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Add the egg gradually, mixing until the mixture comes together (you might not need the whole egg). Season with salt and pepper. Roll mixture into balls (you’ll get about 10) and shallow-fry in a tiny bit of canola oil until they brown on all sides. Keep them warm in the oven while you make the rest of the recipe.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: heat the oil in a large saucepan, and add the garlic, chilli and squash to the pan. Cook quickly in the oil, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce over high heat, to cover and warm everything up, then divide between warmed plates. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with parmesan and place four or five spinach balls on top. Serve at once.

* I used a type of squash called “abóbora paulista”, which by photo I found similar to cushaw squash (but a lot smaller in size); feel free to replace it with other types of squash or use zucchini instead (as called for in the original recipe)

Serves 2

Monday, June 9, 2014

Broccolini, bacon and quinoa fritters and Katey Sagal

Broccolini, bacon and quinoa fritters / Bolinhos de quinua, brócolis e bacon

One thing I don’t understand is why Sons of Anarchy hasn’t been showered with awards – it is an amazing show, with great writing and acting, the whole cast being so constantly perfect. There are shows with tons of awards that to me make no sense at all, like the ultra-boring Frasier (one that you already know I absolutely hate).

I was really curious about SoA’s third season because of Katey Sagal’s Golden Globe win, and by the end of it I had to agree that she kicked some serious ass, but to me she’s been doing that ever since the pilot – I don’t get the sole nomination, she should have gathered many more; an actress that gravitates from comedy to drama with such class and talent has all my respect.

Adding more grains to the meals I cook is one goal I’ll try to achieve, and Bill Granger’s quinoa fritters are a good way to do that: a bit of broccolini for iron and crispy bacon for flavor and something that was already good became even greater – just like Katey Sagal’s portrayal of Gemma Teller.

Broccolini, bacon and quinoa fritters
adapted from Bill Granger and Donna Hay magazine

100g quinoa
3 rashers of bacon
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
30g freshly grated parmesan
1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1 large egg
80 broccolini florets, steamed and finely chopped
canola oil, for frying

Place the quinoa and 200ml water in a small saucepan, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 12 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Cool.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the bacon and cook for 3–4 minutes or until golden. Drain in paper towels, then chop.
In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, spring onion, parsley and parmesan. Add flour, salt and pepper, lemon zest and egg. Stir well to combine, then stir in the bacon and broccolini.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and 2 tablespoons of mixture per fritter (cook them in batches). Cook for 2-3 minutes each side, or until browned. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Makes about 10

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ham and arugula quiche and something good that won't last long

Ham and arugula quiche / Quiche de presunto e rúcula

As I move towards the last episodes of The Killing, I keep thinking of how unfair it is for such a fantastic TV show to be cancelled at such an early stage (the show’s been cancelled twice, actually, which is even more shocking). I’ve read that Netflix has ordered a fourth season consisting of six episodes to conclude the series – thank you, Netflix – but it is still hard for me to understand how something so good can last so little – the über boring Frasier had eleven seasons, for crying out loud.

Quiches are something I never eat unless I make them (or my grandmother – she makes mean quiches) – the soggy pastry usually tastes like nothing and the filling is tough and equally flavorless. :S When I eat quiche I want the pastry to be buttery and flaky and the filling to be silky, with a little wobble. The recipe I bring today is slightly different: the base is made with puff pastry – which was perfect for me since I was short on time that day – and the parmesan sprinkled on top of the filling creates a golden and crisp topping. Yum – thank you, Donna.

I guess that good food made properly is like good TV series: we don’t get them often, so when we do we should enjoy them to the fullest.

Ham and arugula quiche
from the always delicious Donna Hay magazine

1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
8 eggs
1 cup (240ml) single cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sheets store-bought puff pastry, thawed
250g sliced ham, torn
2 cups baby arugula leaves
½ cup finely ground parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F and place a large baking sheet inside to heat up. Heat a frying pan over high heat, add the butter and onion and cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a large bowl and cool. Add the eggs, cream, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Line two 18cm loose-bottomed lightly buttered fluted tart pans with the pastry and trim the edges. Prick the cakes with a fork. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Divide the ham and arugula between the tart shells and carefully pour over the egg mixture. Sprinkle with the parmesan and transfer to the oven (onto the baking sheet). Bake for about 30 minutes or until tops are puffed and golden.
Cool slightly and serve.

serves 8 - I made three 10cm (4in) tartlets eyeballing the amounts of rocket and ham and using 1 300g-sheet of puff pastry, 3 eggs, 1/3 cup cream, pinch of freshly ground nutmeg, ½ onion, 1 tablespoon butter and 3 tablespoons parmesan

Friday, March 14, 2014

Eggplant “meatballs” and Stephen Holder

Eggplant "meatballs" / Almôndegas de berinjela

Some supporting characters have the power of stealing main characters’ thunder in movies and TV shows – for instance, Amy Poehler is super funny but to me Tom Haverford is the highlight of Parks and Recreation.

I finished the first season of the excellent The Killing and was amazed by Mireille Enos’ strong performance, but Joel Kinnaman was the real surprise here: his Stephen Holder is a delight to watch, adding a much needed – and intelligently made – comic relief to a very dark show. He has the best lines and deliver them perfectly, making me laugh like crazy in several scenes – one of my favorites is the one in which Linden tells him that he can’t eat pork rinds if he’s a vegetarian and he tells her that “pork rinds are junk food, don’t count” (here at 1:10 if you want to enjoy it). :D

These “meatballs”, made out of eggplant with no meat whatsoever, are delicious – I served them with pasta and it was a hit. They’re very soft and it took me a while to shape the mixture into balls so I thought of adding an egg to it, but since my husband kept snacking on the mixture while I tried to rolled it I skipped the egg and added more breadcrumbs instead – it worked like a charm and I just had to be careful while frying them to keep them from falling apart.

I believe these eggplant “meatballs” will be a hit at your house as they were in mine - either if you’re a true vegetarian or a Holder-kind-of-vegetarian. :D

Eggplant “meatballs”
slightly adapted from A Girl Called Jack: 100 Delicious Budget Recipes

1 eggplant
1 onion, finely diced
1 far garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3 large black olives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
finely grated zest and juice of 1 small
about ¼ cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
small handful parsley leaves, chopped
small handful basil leaves, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
tomato sauce, to serve

Cut the stems off the ends of the eggplants and halve lengthways. Dice the flesh into chunks and pop into a medium nonstick saucepan or frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, chilli and oliver, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes to brown and soften.

Add the lemon zest and juice, mix to combine, then remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Cool slightly. Add the breadcrumbs, parmesan and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Shape the mixture into tablespoon-sized balls with your hands. Wipe the nonstick frying pan clean with a kitchen towel and pour in remaining 1 tablespoon. Heat over medium heat, then carefully fry the eggplant balls in batches until browned all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with the tomato sauce.

Makes about 12

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds and "Her"

Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds / Espaguete siciliano com tomates, alho e amêndoas

As I continue my marathon to watch this year’s Oscar nominated movies, I was extremely surprised by how moved I was by Her – though genius sometimes, Spike Jonze’s style to me is on the verge of crazy (right there with Michel Gondry), therefore I really did not expect to love the movie as much as I did.

Joaquin Phoenix is an amazing actor – the Academy should have cut the trophy in half back in 2001 for him and Benicio to share it – and his performance in Her is so sublime it’s difficult to find words to describe it. I could have easily squeezed him in for Best Actor this year, and I could also vote for the film for Best Movie (despite my love for Gravity) and most definitely for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. After I read the film synopsis I kept thinking of how it would be possible for Jonze to find a decent way to end it, but he did and to me it was perfect.

Also surprising, to me, was this recipe: when I saw Nigella cooking it on TV I had no idea that something that simple could be so good – all you have to do is cook some pasta and whiz all the sauce ingredients in food processor. The sauce is not cooked and that makes this dish perfect for the insanely hot days we’ve been having here (less time in front of the stove).

Sicilian pasta with tomatoes, garlic and almonds
slightly adapted from the wonderful Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes

200g spaghetti (or other pasta of your choice)
100g cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
10g golden sultanas
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon capers (drained)
25g blanched almonds
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
handful fresh basil

Put abundant water on to boil for the pasta, waiting for it to come to the boil before salting it. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by putting all the remaining ingredients, bar the basil, into a processor and blitzing until you have a nubbly-textured sauce.
Just before draining the pasta, remove ½ cup of pasta-cooking water and add ½ tablespoon of it down the funnel of the processor, pulsing as you go.
Return the drained pasta to the hot saucepan, pour over the sauce and toss to coat (add a little more pasta-cooking water if you need it). Sprinkle with the basil and serve.

Serves 2

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Quinoa fritters with harissa mayo - starting 2014 in a healthy way

Quinoa fritters with harissa mayo / Bolinhos de quinua com maionese de harissa

Happy New Year everyone! :)

I hope you all had an amazing holiday period, full of great food and great people. The husband and I indulged a little – or should I be honest and say a lot? :) – during the holidays, and now it’s time to start eating properly again: less alcohol, more healthy grains and greens. These quinoa fritters are super easy to make and they’re good for you, while the harissa mayo gives them a bit of a kick – I’ve become addicted to this spiced mayo since it tastes delicious with other things, too (it turns a regular burger into a mean one, for example).

Thank you for your comments and emails, I’ll be answering them soon. xx

Quinoa fritters with harissa mayo
slightly adapted from Bill Granger (fritters) and Nigella (mayo)

100g quinoa (I used red quinoa)
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
30g freshly grated parmesan
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1 large egg
canola oil, for frying

Harissa mayo:
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon harissa paste (or to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

arugula leaves and extra-virgin olive oil, to serve

Fritters: place the quinoa and 200ml water in a small saucepan, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 12 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Cool. In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, spring onion, parsley, oregano and parmesan. Add flour, salt and pepper, lemon zest and egg. Stir well to combine.
Heat a drizzle of oil in a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and 2 tablespoons of mixture per fritter (cook them in batches). Cook for 2-3 minutes each side, or until browned. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
Mayo: place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine.

To serve, top each fritter with a dollop of mayo, arugula leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Makes about 10

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