Saturday, June 8, 2019

Delicious Eggplant Sandwich with French Cheese (and a Secret Spicy Ingredient)

I've said it once, will say it again and again: eggplants are such a challenging veggie to work and cook with. From the preparation until the matching, everything that has to do with it looks for me as a very challenging task. However, as in many challenges I have to deal with in my life, the answer is not to give up and to keep trying, experimenting and learning how to be a better cook, one recipe at a time.
I was not sure what exactly I want from this eggplant, therefore, I began in the classical way, by frying it on the open stove. It goes relatively fast, you only need to pay attention to turn the eggplant every couple of minutes, to burn equally on all sides.


Ingredients

1 medium-sized eggplant
4 cloves garlic, finelly chopped
3 tablespoon olive oil for the frying pan, plus 1 teaspoon for the finishing
50 gr. butter melted
1 tablespoon za'atar (I got from a Middle Eastern friend a big quantity of za'atar from Syria, which is like no other za'atar I ever had before and I am glad I can keep testing its qualities in different recipes)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
50 gr. Parmesan, as garnish



Directions

When the eggplant is cooked on all sides, peel it and mash it slowly.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan at 250C, add the olive oil, the garlic, melt the butter, add the za'atar. Mix it well for a couple of minutes. Add the eggplant and the lemon juice and keep mixing it for another couple of minutes.
Pour the content in a bowl, add some extra olive oil and mix slowly. Add
Prepare the toast and spread one layer of French cheese - actually any kind of soft cheese works, including Gorgonzola which is a bit spicy and hard but might interact perfectly with the eggplant - and a generous spread of eggplant.
The final result is a rich, fulfilling and also healthy meal which can be savoured as a part of the dinner. Recommended to be served warm, as it melts deliciously with the cheese.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 3

Monday, June 3, 2019

Papardelle with Dairy Chilli Sauce

With the holiday of Shavuos a couple of days ago, I decided to set up a couple of simple yet tasty ideas for the family table. After all, I graciously missed all the previous holidays in terms of sharing recipes at least one single time - before the High Holidays in autumn - to be on point. 
I am starting with an easy and fast - within 30 minutes - recipe, which combines healthy, simple and dairy ingredients. Plus, it has my beloved pasta in it, therefore I couldn't wait to test, taste it and live to write another tasty foodie story.


The type of pasta used are papardelle, a large, very broad flat, cut into a ribbon shaped pasta (in Italian, pappare means to gobble up). They require around 6-7 minutes of boiling. I prepared a one liter water with one teaspoon of salt. When the water starts to boil, I added the pasta and let it boil. For a portion of two persons, I used the equivalent of 100 gr. of papardelle.


The ingredient that gives the full spicy taste to the meal is chilli. I used 1/2 teaspoon of homemade, brought to me by my Turkish friend from her hometown in Trabzon. They are so strong, that even the smallest amount put your mouth on fire.


The sauce is the most important part of the meal, as its success - or failure - is crucial for setting the gourmet standards for your meal. It is very important that each ingredient is added one by one, mixing well and allowing the different tastes and flavours to melt.

For the sauce, I used the following ingredients
100 gr. butter
6 medium-sized garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tablespoon chilli
125 gr. sour cream - buttermilk can also be used alternativelly

Directions

Melt the butter in a pan at 250C. In a separate bowl, add the olive oil, the garlic, the chilli, the sour cream, the melted butter. Mix them until you have a homogenous creamy paste. 


Now, it is about time to put all the ingredient together and prepare your pasta plate.
Once the papardelle are ready and drained, add the sauce on a pan at 250C, and mix well, until all the sides of the pasta are covered. Put on the top 50gr. Peccorino hard cheese and mix for another couple of minutes.
Your delicious bowl of pasta is ready. Serve it warm, in the company of a lemonade or a glass of cold white wine.

Preparation time: 10 min.
Cooking time: 10 min.

Serves: 2

Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

3 Lavash Wraps Ideas for the Summer

Having friends from all over the world is a blessing. Especially when it comes to eating, there are so many interesting foods to try recommended by experts which make foodie life more and more interesting and exciting. 
A couple of weeks, a friend originally from the Caucasus region introduced me shortly lavash. A soft unleavened flat bread with a very smooth texture it is made only of three ingredients: flour, water and salt. A basic food in Armenia - where is included in the UNESCO World Heritage - as well as in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran - it suits perfectly a picnic basket or a morning/evening/afternoon lazy snack. 

Given the minimal ingredients it is made of, it does not add anything to the ingredients it is filled with, but makes it into a great neutral background. It is strong enough to be hold more than 3 ingredients.
You can eat it fresh, at the room temperature or warmed in the toaster or the microwave. Usually, it is pretty resistance, with a life-span of around 60 days. 
In the three following combinations I've tried, I wanted to use a lot of fresh vegetables, but also some spreads. There are two cheese recipes and one non-dairy (parve). 
The preparation time is very short, and you can easily enjoy the diverse and fulfilling taste - plus the healthy ingredients, within minutes - between 10 and 20. I've purchased my Lavash bread from the LEDO Russian store in Berlin.


1. 

For this first filling of my Lavash bread, I've used a special spread, also an ethnic food: Ajvar. A favorite side-dish and spread in the Balkan area, it has as main ingredients red roasted pepper and oil, plus in some cases aubergines and garlic. I've purchased the Ajvar from the same LEDO Russian store, but most probably it can be found also in other bigger supermarket chains, such as EDEKA or REWE. I've spread generously Ajvar on the bread. I added two small slices of Edamer yellow cheese, another generous layer of cottage cheese. On the top, I've added a couple of slices of fresh tomatoes.
This wrap was very easy to make!


2. 


This second wrap has a higher percentage of calories, but also a good healthy balance.
The first layer was a generous spread of goat cheese. I added also:
- 2 slices of Edamer yellow cheese
- 1/2 of avocado, sliced
- 1 hard boiled egg, sliced
- couple of slices of fresh tomatoes

Roll it and get it ready!

3. 


After such a big load of cheese and the egg, I wanted this third and second wrap simpler and with fresher ingredients.
Therefore, I only added a generous spread of Ajvar, to which I smashed half avocado and added a couple of slices of tomatoes. 


It was such a great dinner idea! Easy to make, tasty and even healthy! The perfect treat for the summer, when the livin' is so so easy!

Bon Appétit!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Spicy Spinach Sidedish

Spinach is one of my least favorite veggie. However, driven by the hope that one day will live a healthy life, I did my best to combine it in different recipes and sometimes I succeeded to create tasty recipes that suit my anti-spinach palate.
Like today, for instance, when I was courageous enough to combine it with a spice I am not using that often - if ever: carom (or ajwain, that I got courtesy of SpiceKitchen UK). A combination of caraway, cumin and fennel, it contains thyme and has a bitter taste (a mixture between anise and oregano). Therefore, I tried to combine it with other ingredients that may alleviate its sparkling: pistachios (salty, Turkish ones) and my beloved garlic, plus the olive oil used for frying. 
Overall, it went out pretty tasty. It's super fast to prepare and it makes it into a tasty sidedish for a main meat meal. For a vegetarian combination, you can add some freshly sliced tomatoes with cheese, or some freshly boiled potatoes.


Ingredients
- 2 generous tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons carom seeds
- 4 big garlic cloves cut in rounds
- around 20 pistachios, halved
- 100 gr. baby spinach leaves, carefully cleaned

Directions:
In a medium pan, heat the oil at 250C. Add the carom seeds and fry it for a couple of minutes until it starts sizzling. Add the garlic and keep mixing with the spices for another 2-3 minutes. Continue with the pistachio for another 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach in small batches while mixing. As the spinach is slowly frying, mix all the ingredients a couple of time.
Serve it fresh and lukewarm.


Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Bon Appétit!

About the Mental Health Awareness Month...

This is actually a post I had in my head for at least one year or even more. Especially during the summer months, there were so many news about people - some of them famous therefore in the news - that committed suicide, following years of deep depression. Reading about such famous cases was not unique knowledge to me. From a very early age, I had in my close family, people that suffered - and rarely did anything but suffering - from various mental health issues. My direct contact with mental health continued later in life when it happened to count friends and boyfriend coping with various issues, especially depression.
In most cases I knew, therapy and getting professional support was always considered the last resort (unless happy pills were provided). If ever. Some of the people I knew ended up committing suicide, or living an almost vegetative life with irregular outbursts of life at the beginning of the medication.
My post for Mental Health Awareness Month will have a different spin. Instead of focusing on the people suffering directly of the mental health problems, I will talk a bit more about those living the same life with the patients. 
How can you explain the frustration of a child whose mother cannot be able to react to his or her emotional needs because too depressed or heavy medicated and unable to do anything but sleep deep for days and hardly utter a word? How can you explain to your little child why his or her father is switching from deep sadness to unlimited enthusiasm for every single thing? What might the best reaction be when you need the help of your best friend and she is way too deep into her own anxieties to even notice that you are alive any more?
In most cases, as the persons suffering of depression do not disclose openly about their issues, the loving ones are unable to understand what is going on, if they are wrong and why, and especially what they can do to help. Because, help, continous help, love help, is what people going through heavy depressions, anxieties and mental health issues need. But because no one really tell you what it is all about, you end up either running away from your friends, partners and even parents, because you feel yourself isolated and unjustly targeted by the silence. 
Mental health problems are often covered in deep silence. Silence about what is going on, what can be done and why. Silence that often means shame because often, there is a cultural stigma associated with such a deep suffering. You - and most often people around you, including first grade relatives - are unhappy and frustrated and develop intolerance towards anything that has to do with being 'not normal'. You want to be surrounded by happy, emotionally healthy people, open, talkative and again, happy. This is how the society projects often the perfect, normal, socially-acceptable way of life.
Such an attitude might be normal too and no one shall be feel guilty for making choices. But if you really want to stay with someone that is going through mental hardship and help, you need to start by asking first and foremost the advice of a specialist. Why you, in the first place, should go to a therapist, instead of the person who really suffers yet refuses to start a treatment? Only a specialist can help you to deal with such cases, eventually by convincing your beloved one to start a therapy him or herself. You need to understand yourself first how you can be gentle and open your heart to the problems of the other person, understanding the pain and going over the suffering and, sometimes, the bad reactions and poisonous words, too.
This might not always work and for many of us, the weight of dealing with such issues is too heavy. It is human and the one who leaves should not be accused. Those who want to stay, need to know what to do to try improving the situation. Therefore, they need help, compassion and understanding. Love might not always save, but knowledge can save. Can save lives too.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Delicious Side-Dish with Okra, Rice-Shaped Noodles, Garlic, Tomatoes and Aleppo Pepper

Okra is such a versatile and not always easy to match vegetable, especially for people like me, who didn't grow up with. As many other food-related products, I've discovered okra relatively late, but through trials and errors, I've discovered my own dish combinations. 
But I haven't try anything new for a long time, maybe for too long. It is not always easy to find the fresh product - and I am not a supporter of frozen veggies anyway - and most of the shops selling it are located quite far away from me. Sometimes, I was simply not in the good mood for paying the full attention requested by preparing a recipe with an ingredient so unfamiliar to my usual eating habits. 
The wonder happened yesterday and I was not only happy to taste okra again, but also to scribble fast the main directions of a new recipe. 
You can use this as a side dish - a good company to a meaty meal - or if you want more consistency, to add some shredded yellow cheese to make it into an autonomous meal. It suits very well white fish.

It is easy to prepare - you only need 45 minutes - and delicious for the palate, as well as healthy.

Ingredients
200 gr. fresh okra, finelly cut in rondels
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finelly cut
5 middle-sized tomatoes, finelly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo Pepper

100 gr. rice-shaped noodles. it goes very well with rice
2 tablespoon cooking oil

Directions for preparing the okra mix

Warm the oil in a pan at medium heat. When it start sizzling, add the okra and keep mixing in order to have them fried on both sides. After 5 minutes add the garlic and keep mixing. Sprinkle the salt and add the tomatoes. Mix well for another 5 minutes. When ready, add the Aleppo Pepper, mix well and put it on the side.

For the rice-shaped noodles

In a pot, add the oil and warm it for a couple of minutes. Add the rice noodle and mix it well with the oil. Pour water, at a ration of 2 cups of water for a cup of rice noodles. Mix it well and leave it boil for around 15 minutes.

When the noodles are ready, add the okra mixture and mix it well while heated at medium size temperature for another couple of minutes.

Now, it is ready to be served, either as an independent dish or as a side dish to meat or fish.

Serves: 3

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Bon Appétit!




Sunday, April 7, 2019

A Spicy Delicious Lamb Recipe

I am not posting so often meaty recipes, but lately, I've fall in love with lamb and its rich texture and tastes, therefore, it was a great experiment to test a couple of delicious spicy matches. As usual, the mixture between sweet and savory is one of my favorite combinations, therefore, expect a lot of unusual matches in this recipe. Unfortunatelly, for various - very serious reasons - I did not keep any picture of the ready meal...As for now, you should believe my genuine words.

Ingredients
450 gr. lamb
100 ml. lime juice
50 gr. grated ginger
150 ml. honey
2 tablespoon Ras el Hanout spices from Spice Kitchen UK, part of the Brand Ambassador Programme
50 ml. walnut oil
9 medium-sized walnut cloves
150 ml. red wine

Directions
Rub the lime and the ginger on both side of the meat. It will help to diminish the unpleasant lamb smell which is obvious especially when the meat was deeply frosten before being used. Rub the honey on both sides and the Ras el Hanout spices. 
In a pan, add the red wine, the walnut oil and the cloves.
Heat the oven at 250C.
Turn the meat on both sides every 45 minutes. If you want it throughout, it will last at least 2h30 until perfectly ready.
As lamb is a bit difficult kind of meat, you better eat it warm, shortly after preparing it. After heating and reheating for a couple of times, the meat will most likely have the texture of a plastic sponge (unfortunatelly).
As a side dish, roasted potatoes with rosmarin, plus a fresh tomatoes and cucumber salad will be a very good choice. A glass of red wine with an aromated fruity texture is the best match, with add-on to the wine-soaked meat.

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hrs.

Bon Appétit!