Monday, 22 December 2014

Grilled broccoli with chile and garlic

Grilled broccoli with chile and garlic

Even if we are in the middle of the festive season, I am not going to give a recipe for Christmas or New Year's Eve parties. With just few days left to Christmas, it's likely that most people have already planned where and how they will enjoy their festive meals; and those who are going to host a lunch or dinner at home, at this time, have probably decided all the recipes they are going to serve and maybe already started the preparation of some dishes. So I want to share another kind of recipe - which probably would make a good impression even on the Christmas table. In particular it is a recipe for broccoli, one of my all-time favorite seasonal product that I like to prepare and serve in many ways: simply boiled with a dressing of extra-virgin olive oil, broccoli is a very versatile side-dish going well with fish, meat, chicken and eggs, but it can be transformed into several different kinds of tasty sauces for pasta or other vegetarian main courses or into delicious side-dishes, alone or mixed with other winter vegetables. Today's recipe is featured in a cookbook that I am consulting a lot lately and is a great source of inspiration, "Ottolenghi The Cookbook" (other recipes from the book here). This recipe is actually a different version of one I use very often for broccoli; in fact while ingredients are the same (basically just broccoli, garlic, chile and olive oil, to which I sometimes add anchovy fillets), the cooking method makes the difference: I use to boil broccoli, then stir-fry with garlic and chile, while  Ottolenghi, after boiling broccoli, grill it and then toss with olive oil, garlic and chile previously cooked together. It's very interesting to experiment how, simply using two different cooking techniques with the same ingredients, it is possible to obtain two different dishes (in this case both very tasty and flavorful).

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Chocolate and Hazelnut spread

Chocolate & Hazelnut spread

Christmas is approaching very fast, as usual...and these last days are typically spent by many visiting shops, malls, markets, etc. to find the last Christmas gifts for relatives and friends; and for those who - like me actually - don't think to Christmas presents in advance, this is the busiest shopping period of the year. To be honest, I don't like spectacular, impressive Christmas presents...I prefer smaller things, not original maybe, but chosen with care and affection. And among my favorite kinds of gifts are edible things, and in particular homemade edible gifts (the other favorite category is that of small, high-value, not edible stuff). The time and passion spent for preparing, packing and wrapping any edible thing always deserve great appreciation. But, beside this emotional component which makes homemade presents always much valuable, what I like most of edible gifts is that they are usually of better quality and taste than the same shop-bought foods (of course if good quality ingredients are used). And this is the case, for example, of this chocolate and hazelnut spread, which is the homemade version (actually... one of the many possible versions) of a worldwide renowned, iconic spread that everybody knows and most of the people like. Frankly, I am not a fan of this product - the commercial one I mean - because I have many doubts regarding what it is made of; the list of ingredients printed on the label is not comforting: I would expect to find just chocolate or/and cocoa, hazelnut and not much more; on the contrary the list of ingredients is quite long and some of them ...ehm ...of questionable nature and origin. I know that probably somebody will hate me from now for this radical statement, but this is my real, actual opinion (in fact when I was a child - and of course guided more by the good taste and popularity of the product than by health issues - I ate jars of this cream, in several possible ways: spread on bread or toast, as an ingredient for other desserts, eating spoon of it directly from the jar or even - I shouldn't say this but I'm sure that many others do the same - taking it with fingers).

Monday, 15 December 2014

Banana- Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Banana- Chocolate Chunk Cookies

A banana cake with chocolate chips that I prepared not long ago (recipe here) made me completely reconsider the use of bananas for making cakes and other sweet baked goods. Since then I am not worried anymore when bananas I buy start becoming overripe...I can always use them to prepare something good for breakfast!
Bananas makes baked goods particularly moist and flavorful (bananas have their own peculiar flavor that is not easy to hide) and absolutely pleasant...These cookies are a combination of two bakery most beloved classics: chocolate chip cookies (who doesn't love them?) and banana bread. The result is really enjoyable: a light crust encloses a soft pastry enriched, both in flavor and texture, by pieces of chocolate and rolled oats (the original recipe calls also for walnuts, that I cannot eat and don't like and therefore omitted). The recipe comes from "Cookies" by Martha Stewart, a book I love as it gives me great inspirations: this time I just eliminated walnuts and reduced butter and sugar (as I do most of the times I follow an American recipe). Absolutely worth trying!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Sun-dried tomatoes and olives muffins

Sundried tomatoes and olives muffins

I've been baking many muffins lately, and trying different varieties...
I would say that muffins are my newest field for baking experiments. I made several tests and experiments with other baked goods - tarts, cakes, cookies, breads, focaccia, and more - but muffins were not in my repertoire yet. Until I discovered how good, tasty and pretty they can be....and absolutely easy to make, and super fast too.
I've always liked muffins - not all of them actually, as I had also the unlucky chance to see, and eat, muffins with the same specific weight as bricks and others so flattish to resemble more a sweet pizza - but I had somehow undervalued their potential. And in fact muffins, when properly made and baked, are a really delicious treat, very good-looking too; and the funny thing is that the less you work the batter, the better muffins come out: the only trick for moist, soft and domed muffins is to mix the ingredients (to be precise add the liquid mixture to the dry mix), as less as possible, just to roughly combine everything. Not a secret though: everyone seems to know it, it's written on every cookbook, magazine, website, blog; it's important just to put in practice this simple advice.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

My DinnerTime experience

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to try the service offered by DinnerTime ME, the local branch of an international company founded in Sweden few years ago and recently arrived in the Middle East, whose purpose is to provide families with fresh ingredients and instructions to prepare four creative meals during the week. How does it work? Every week DinnerTime's team creates a four meals set menu, buys all the fresh ingredients required (and some cupboard staples more unlikely to be always available in your pantry) and delivers right to your door in a time slot chosen by you, together with all the instructions to prepare the recipes. All you have to do is to check DinnerTime's website to view in advance the menu planned for the following week and, if you like it, place your order - online, by phone or email - by Thursday; on the following Sunday, at the chosen time, you'll receive your box.
To be honest, I wouldn't have ordered from DinnerTime on purpose, as I like to plan meals for my family by myself, selecting new recipes to try or, even more often, deciding what to cook on the basis of the fresh food - mainly vegetables and fish - I bought (and I buy only what inspires me, usually because is fresh, local, organic if possible, and somehow tempting me). But I received a DinnerTime voucher as a gift from the beautiful online magazine 
Food e Mag dxb, a food and travel e-magazine authored by local bloggers, (you can register on the website to have a chance to receive a gourmet gift) and was happy to try. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Seafood, fennel and lime salad

Seafood, fennel and lime salad

I have previously said (see my post here) that "Ottolenghi The Cookbook" is my favorite cookbook at the moment. I have already tried several recipes and many others are in the pipeline.
Among the recipes I have already made- all very appreciated actually - this Seafood, fennel and lime salad is so far one of my favorite; I'll prepare it again and again, both for family meals and dinners with friends (future guests, be prepared to taste it sooner or later!).
When I first read this recipe in the book, I loved it immediately as it reminds me one of my favorite Italian seafood appetizers, insalata di mare (seafood salad), a simple dish of usually steamed or poached seafood (any type of fish can be used, but a seafood salad usually has prawns or shrimps and squids, and sometimes shellfish, scallops and/or other firm fish) that can come in several variants; the basic version is made dressing the seafood only with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice, but it is possible to add many other ingredients in order to have different combinations of flavors and textures: capers, olives, citrus zests, raw or cooked vegetables (celery is commonly used in Italy, but also zucchini, carrots, cherry tomatoes, steamed potatoes, sun-dried tomatoes work well), herbs (parsley is the most popular) and spices ... the range of possible combinations is almost infinite.  Also it can be served warm or at room temperature.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Cocoa and vanilla braided cookies

Cocoa and vanilla braided cookies

December has arrived...the last month of the year, the month of Christmas. And when Christmas approaches, for many people it's normal to start baking: cakes, traditional Christmas sweets, rich breads and, of course, cookies. Cookies are probably the most simple and versatile of all: can be made also with help of children, can be served to relatives and guest coming to visit us, but also given as a sweet, homemade present (that I always appreciate much actually). And there exist so many varieties of cookies that it can be fun to bake different types, so as to serve or give a nice assortment during Christmas season.
So it's time to share a new recipe for cookies, not a traditional Christmas cookie, but a pretty, nice, simple cookie that can be a good addition to your baking repertoire.
I find them perfect for afternoon tea, but they go very well also with a cup of coffee.