Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I had no time to update my blog but I have been cooking a lot and eating so well over the past long weekend that writing about food seemed almost too much.
The idea of today's post came to me a couple of days ago. While watching the Italian movie "La Grande Bellezza" and looking at Rome's most beautiful landmarks, I started to dream about some of my favorite Italian dishes--vegetarian pastas and risottos.
So today I decided to make a lasagna. In my home lasagna almost always means white béchamel sauce and vegetarian filling that would make all of us happy. Béchamel helps my vegetarian son, who does not like most vegetables, accept any vegetables if I put them between the sheets of lasagna.
After the trip to TJ I came home with a large bag of Tuscan kale (to make the dish as healthy and Italian as it could be). In recent years, kale became THE vegetable and is often called world's healthiest vegetable. It features in almost all healthy diets and especially those detoxifying, based on juices. It is super rich in many vitamins, particularly K, A and C, helps lower cholesterol and when included in a daily diet, it is reputed to lower cancer risk by mitigating the genetic predisposition to it.
Kale has a nice earthy and nutty taste and a slightly firm texture thanks to which this lasagna, besides being healthy, can also be very tasty and satisfying.
9 lasagna sheets,
10 oz kale leaves (one large bag), chopped,
1 medium onion, chopped,
2 garlic cloves, sliced,
2 tbsp olive oil,
4 tbsp butter,
4 tbsp all purpose flour,
2 and 1/2 cup milk,
4-6 oz shredded Pecorino cheese,
salt and pepper to taste.
1. In a large frying pan heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and fry on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until transparent. Add washed and chopped kale leaves and fry on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until kale twiddles.
2. Make béchamel. Melt butter in a medium pot over the medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Pour in milk and using a whisker make a smooth sauce. Bring to boil, while whipping continuously, and set aside. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Preheat oven to 375F.
4. Use about 1/3 of the béchamel sauce to cover the bottom of an oven proof dish. Spread three sheets of lasagna on top of it. Cover the lasagna with half of kale and put half of shredded Pecorino on top.
5. Place the second layer of lasagna on top. Use a half of the remaining béchamel to cover it and spread the second half of kale on top of it.
6. Cover the kale with the third layer of lasagna. Pour over the rest of béchamel and spread the remaining pecorino. Cover with the aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and let the lasagna bake for another 10 minutes until it turns dark gold.
Take out of the oven, let it cool down a little bit, cut and serve.
Monday, November 18, 2013
The recipe I will be sharing today is for a cake that was one of the first I ever made. For a long time, it was my favorite cake because it was different from what my grandmother had baked. All her cakes were absolutely delicious, of which I am even more convinced today than ever, but at that time this cake looked more intriguing and flamboyant than anything that she made. With time my view changed and I even adapted her crust--the best I have ever tried--instead of the original one, which was too hard for my taste.
I made that cake then for our guests and it always earned all the wows not only because of its taste but also the presentation. The crust was buttery and sour and juicy apples melted in mouth and the delicate and fluffy meringue stuck to lips.
I was reluctant to share this recipe for a long time mainly because I still did not find in the U.S. the apples that would be suitable for this type of cake. The cake is filled and baked with apple halves therefore they need to bake rather fast before the crust turns too brown. So far, none of the apples I tried here really stood up to the task. Although the cake tastes great anyway and everyone likes it, apples remain still too firm, not mushy. Having a comparison I miss that special softness and winey taste that the Polish apple varieties that were especially good for cooking have.
But because fall is a season for apples I share this recipe anyway. I used golden ginger apples type but if you have available sour apples that cook well this cake will turn absolutely amazing.
Apple Meringue Tart
6-7 medium cooking apples
2 sticks unsalted butter plus extra 1 tbsp at room temperature,
1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour,
1 tbsp sour cream,
1/2 tsp baking powder,
1/4 cup plus extra 4 tbsp sugar,
2 tbsp dried raisins or cranberries,
2 tbsp sliced almonds.
1. Place 2 cups of flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter and working with hands quickly incorporate butter into the flour until crumbles form.
2. Separate the eggs. Place whites in a large bowl. Put yolks, sugar and sour cream in a small bowl and mix until well combine.
3. Pour the yolks mixture into the flour and quickly form a dough. Use remaining half a cup of flour to clean hands and incorporate the scraps into the dough.
4. Roll out the dough on a working space slightly dusted with flour. Using a rolling pin transfer the dough into the greased tart form. Make nice edges and chill the dough in a refrigerator for at least an hour (you can keep it refrigerated for up to a week).
5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
6. Soak the raisins in a warm water. Meanwhile peel off the apples, cut in halves and remove the core. Place the halves of apples at the bottom of the raw tart. Using a fork run a strips on top of the apples ( it will help to bake the faster and evaporate the extra moisture)
7. Place the tart in a oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the crust is gold and apples become softer.
8. Beat the whites until soft peak. Add a tbsp of sugar and beat until whites become shiny. Follow gradually with three remaining spoons of sugar.
9. Drain the raisins from the excess of water and sprinkle on top of the apples. Cover the apples with meringue, spread it using a spatula and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the meringues become gold.
10. Let it cool down a little bit and serve.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Those who, like me, still have a Halloween pumpkin sitting on the front porch or keep its leftovers in a refrigerator, will find today another idea on how to use it: another soup.
There are many pumpkin soup versions and everyone has one's favorite. I like this one for two reasons-- it is easy and not sweet. I am not a big fan of pumpkin in a sweet version. The more spicy the pumpkin is the more I like it.
This particular soup however is rather delicate and only garlic and a little bit of nutmeg add the necessary yet not an overwhelming spiciness to its taste. Easy to make, this soup is a nice and warming fall dish.
Cream of Pumpkin Soup
4 cups peeled and seeded pumpkin, cut into small cubes,
2 medium potatoes, peeled off and cut into small pieces,
one medium onion, chopped,
4 cups vegetable broth (or water),
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg,
1/2 tbsp cream,
2 tbsp olive oil,
salt and pepper to taste,
2 tbsp chopped parsley leaves,
1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add onion and fry until transparent. Add potatoes and pumpkin. Cook them in oil for about 2 minutes stirring until the vegetables are coated with oil.
2. Add vegetable stock or water and cook for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
3. Puree the soup with an electric hand blender. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Pour in cream and bring the soup to boil. Let it simmer for about a minute. Turn off the heat. Let it stand for another 5 minutes and serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley.