Five cheese baked mushroom and leek farroto

1lb mushrooms
1 leek
1 fennel bulb
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
2tbs butter
Cumin
Turmeric
Curry
Salt
Pepper

Grind some of the following cheeses to make a cup of shredded cheese
Emmenthaler
Grueyer
Talegio
Provolone
Parmesan

1 cup farro
2 cups water and 1 cup chicken stock

Process:

Rinse the farro and then put it on the stove with one cup water. Start adding more liquid as it starts boiling.

In a pan melt the butter and add some olive oil. Drop in the mushrooms sliced. As they wilt and soften, add the leek and the fennel, both thinly sliced. Cover them and let them simmer. Add spices salt and pepper.
Add the wine. Cover and simmer some more.
After about 3 min, add the cream.
Stir in the boiled farro which by now should have absorbed most of the liquid. Incorporate all together. Let it simmer for another 5 min.

Turn the oven on broil 400F to warm up.

Throw the cheese on top and move the pan from the stove to the oven.

Let the broiler melt the cheese. 15 min tops

Serve with a simple spinach salad with lemon dressing.

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Christmas Wreath Bread

The smell of this bread is what reminds me of growing up. My grandma made it occasionally and it was the best smell to come home to.. That and the pumpkin rice pudding, and my winter afternoon was made.

I made this bread a couple of years ago on Christmas, and I remember it being just perfect! But I didn’t write down the recipe! I have now made a pledge to never again cook something and not write it here. If not for you guys, then at least for my sake, cause I forget as soon as I finish cooking it.

Christmas Wreath Bread2

So, here is how I recreated my grandma’s Christmas Layered Wreath Bread:

Products:

1 cup milk

2 cups flour

2 eggs (one separated, keep the egg yolk for later)

1 tbs sugar

1 tbs salt

2 packs of dry yeast

1 stick of butter melted (prepare a butter brush)

1 cup of crumbled Bulgarian feta cheese (optional)

Sesame seeds for sprinkling at the end (optional)

Method:

Dissolve the dry yeast in a couple of table spoons of the lukewarm milk, add the sugar and 2 tbs of flower, make it into a liquid batter.

Sift the flour in a big bowl and make a sort of a valley in the middle of it. pour the yeast batter and the the beaten egg plus the egg white in there

Start adding flour into the batter with your hands.. Keep adding and kneading as you go. Once the dough is the consistency of soft putty, pour some flour on a clean cold surface and and start kneading there. Adding a bit of flour as you go..

DO NOT make the dough too hard! It has to be no harder than the soft part of one’s ear.

Shape it in a nice ball, place it back in the bowl and cover with a damp clean towel.

Keep in a warm location for about 30 minutes to let it rise a bit.

Put some nice music on and dance … you’ll burn the calories, you will need to be able to consume your masterpiece, once you’ve finished it…

Back to the bread now:

Take it out of the bowl. Cut in 6 equal pieces.

Take your rolling pin (a marble one would be great as it’s cold and heavy and you won’t have to press hard) and roll out the first piece in a rectangular sheet.

Place it on the same surface you kneaded the dough on.

Using your brush, spread some of the melted butter on the sheet of dough. Then sprinkle some of the crumbled feta.

Do the same with each of the remaining 5 pieces of dough. And place them on top of the first one, forming a layered dough rectangle.

Now, roll up the rectangle from the long side into a tight roll and as you roll it, try to elongate it slightly.

Take a sharp long wet knife and cut the roll into 6 triangular pieces.

Then cut each piece into two, forming little 90 degree triangles.

Take a round baking pan and grease it with the remaining butter liberally.

Arrange the end pieces of the dough in the middle of the pan, on their bottoms, so the tops look like a flower.

Arrange all the other triangles on their short sides facing with their long sides towards the center. Arrange them around the center flower. They don’t have to touch. They will rise one more time in the oven and fill up the remaining gaps.

That left over egg yolk, take it and stir it with a bit of warm water (to make it easier to brush on the bread)

Brush the top of the bread as thoroughly as you can.

Put in a 350 degree oven. Don’t wait for the oven to heat up. The warming up process will help with the secondary rising of the dough making it flakier.

Now start your second dance session for another 45 minutes and you’ll burn enough calories to have a couple more pieces of the bread. 🙂

Et Voila!

Christmas Wreath Bread

Enjoy!

Yoghourt Apricot Clafoutis

I am not the one to cook fruit into anything. Fruit should be consumed raw and preferably right off the tree or bush or plant. But in this day and age, only few have this luxury. Most of us ‘pick’ their fruit in the grocery store. And when some fruit look so appetizing that you are tempted to buy in bulk. And then you don’t get to eat them in time and before you know it, they are beginning to look a little tired… So, what do you do to save them and save the money you spent on this precious fruit? I decided to try a clafoutis. Although traditionally made with cherries, and milk, I decided to give it a little Bulgarian twist and add yoghourt to the batter, in an effort to add some more tanginess to complement the apricots. As I made the dessert and took it out of the oven, I went to get my camera to take a picture for this blog post, but by the time I got back, it was too late! All my little and big men have smelled the deliciousness and this is what I found.
apricot clafoutis

Here is my quick recipe
You will need:
A Mixer – I love my Kitchen Aid stand mixer! Mostly because I can put things in it and walk away for a minute or two, doing something else, while it is doing its job.
Measuring cups – My favorite are a set of stainless steel cups from 1 cup to 1/2 of teaspoon beautiful set I got at Bed Bath and Beyond.

3 eggs
1 cup plain Bulgarian yoghurt
6 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
vanilla essence (1 teaspoon if liquid or 1 package if powdered)
1 lb apricots
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
2 tablespoons of brown sugar

In the Kitchen Aid mixer, add the egg whites with 1/2 of the cup of brown sugar and the vanilla. Place the mixer first on 2 for a minute and then gradually increase until the egg whites look like snow. Scoop them out in a bowl and set them aside

In the same bowl, no need to rinse, add the egg yolks and the sugar and start the mixer on 2-3. Sift the flour mixed with the baking powder in a bowl and add the mixture gradually to the mixer while the the yolks are being beaten. Add the yoghourt too.

When it looks like everything is well incorporated and the batter thickens, stop the mixer, lift it, so it opens the bowl and mix in the egg white snow with a rubber spatula.

Grease a rectangular ovenproof glass pan with the coconut oil and pour the batter in. Arrange the pitted halved apricots into the batter and cover with the last table spoons of brown sugar.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350F for about 30 minutes.
To make sure it’s baked well, take a tooth pick and poke the batter. If the tooth pick comes out clean, the clafoutis is ready.

Serve with whipped cream, or in my case just leave the dessert unattended for a few minutes…
Enjoy!

The Hulk: a lean mean cleansing energizing juice

I had a craving most people wouldn’t identify with. On the way home today I was suddenly dreaming of fresh vegetable and fruit juice. So I made me a Hulk:
2 Golden Delicious apples
3 stalks of celery
2 kiwis
1 lemon (peeled)
1 2″piece of ginger
3 handfuls of chopped up kale.
Dill

Just threw everything in my Breville and voila!

Enjoy!

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Cooking My Heart Out: On pumpkins, fall, fashion, school and Grandma

It’s Fall, my favorite season! Just look at its brilliance, abundance and color! There is nothing like fall! It’s like the Goldilocks of all seasons.  I love it!

pumkins

Pumpkins are about as close to the top of my list of favorite things about fall, as a round heavy shapeless and hard to cut vegetable can get. Besides the fact that they are so good for you, they are also a fashion inspiration. I can pretty much find all pumpkin colors in my closet.

PumpkinColors

But my favorite thing about the pumpkins, is the desert that my grandma used to make for me.

Many years ago, I’d come home from school, and the intoxicating aroma of pumpkin and cinnamon would fill the house. My grandma’s pumpkin rice walnut pudding was my favorite treat in the fall. She made it frequently; mainly to indulge me. And also to make good use of the enormous pumpkins we had in the yard.
Today, when I was freaking out my dogs, chopping pumpkin and making the dessert I grew up with, I wasn’t aware that it was my grandma’s birthday….I always thought her birthday is on Oct 15, until my dad asked me if I made it in her honor. I guess I did…

I posted a photo of my dish with the memory snapshot above on Facebook and several of my friends asked me for the recipe.

So here it goes:

The best pumpkin to eat is either the Green Hubbard (pictured below) or the butternut squash. Both work well. I sometimes even use sweet potatoes. They have pretty much the same consistency.

GreenHubbard1

This slicing job isn’t for everyone. You MUST find either someone qualified who has done this before, or have it sliced at the store… Better yet, just find pre-sliced pumpkin, or just do it with sweet potatoes.

Or if you are like me and think that you absolutely must do it yourself, you may proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK! I do NOT recommend it for several reasons.

1. I have had friends rushed to the emergency room because they almost sliced their fingers off, trying to slice a pumpkin!!!

and

2. The process is extremely noisy and may scare the living daylights out of your pets. As it’s evident in Exhibit A. (“We might be next!)

Scaredy Dogs

This is what the Hubbard pumpkin looks like inside. (I like to gather these seeds, dry them on a paper towel and throw them in the garden in spring. And then wait for pumpkins come Halloween time. )

GreenHubbard2

Once you’ve chunked your pumpkin, you can prepare the rest of your ingredients and begin:

Pumpkin/ Rice/ Walnut pudding

My Grandma’s recipe.

WHAT YOU NEED

2lb Green Hubbard Pumpkin ( or butternut squash or sweet potatoes) This is the weight you need after it’s been cut and cleaned. So look for a pumpkin that’s heavier. If you have leftovers, you can make a delicious pumpkin soup.  Recipe for that will follow soon.

1 cup of Arborio rice (the one you buy for risotto, you can also use a japanese rice called Kokuho )

1 tsp of vanila

4 cups of milk

cinnamon

1 cup ground walnuts

5-6 TBS brown sugar

2 TBS butter

HOW IT’S DONE

Once you’ve established who will be cutting the pumpkin and have it chunked, (the flesh of the pumpkin is easy to cut.) you can proceed with slicing the flesh in 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. They can be in any of shape the bigger chunks came out to be. There is no rule about that.. 

Get your baking dish and put a few pieces of butter at the bottom of it.

With your hand, sprinkle the dry rice to cover the bottom of the dish. Liberally, but not more than a layer of grains

Now arrange a layer of  the pumpkin slices

Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts

Now again

Rice

Pumpkin

Sugar, cinnamon, ground walnuts

Continue like this until you finish all your ingredients.

You need to top off with sugar cinnamon and walnuts and leave some of these toppings aside..

Take the milk and carefully pour on top of everything, just below the rim of the dish

Sprinkle again with Sugar, walnuts and cinnamon.

Place the baking dish on top of a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil (you want to minimize the damage to your oven. who wants to clean burnt on milk!)

Bake in preheated oven on 350 for 45 min or so… If your oven is temperamental, cover the dish with foil for 30 min at 400, then take the foil off, switch to broil on 450F to brown the top.

I am really bad with measurements. I hardly ever measure anything.. unless I bake a cake or bread. This is a very relaxed recipe. If you like rice, then put some more. I personally prefer more pumpkin.

Bottom line about the rice and the milk is that it’s 1 part rice to 4 parts liquid – this gives the rice a nice plump feel with a little crunch in the center. and it is not too dry.

so if you take 1/2 cup rice, then you need 2 cups milk

if you go for 1 cup rice – 4 cups milk

2 cups rice – 8 cups milk

etc. you get the drift.

Since I wasn’t sure where I was going with the baking, I did it a little differently.

My Impromptu Recipe (Pumpkin Rice Walnut Pudding 2)

Armed with my knife and meat tenderizer, I chopped the  green Hubbard pumpkin in chunks.

Arranged it on a cookie sheet sprinkled with brown sugar and baked it for 30 min.

Meanwhile, I boiled 1 cup rice with 4 cups milk, 3 tbs sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract (but not all the way… i.e. I didn’t let it absorb all the liquid)

Then I put little chunks of a tbs of butter on the bottom of a baking dish

Poured the whole milk-rice mixture in the dish

covered it with the “pumpkin puzzle” (once it was baked it was even easier to slice it in little squares and trapezoids)

Put all the ground walnuts on top, sprinkled with the rest of the brown sugar, added cinnamon, some more milk to fill the dish, and baked it for about 20 min (until the liquid got absorbed and the top was browned)

Now that I’ve done it both ways, I still prefer the original recipe. The one I made today is very good , but I’ve done it the original way, and I will go back to doing it like Grandma. It is a more incorporated taste and I guess I am just partial to the sentimental value of a layered look and taste.

I miss you Grandma. Happy Birthday! You would have been 98 today.

PUMPKINPUDDING

The Hot Bulgarian

The Hot Bulgarian

So I like to post these photos on Facebook and Instagram of things I just sort of put together, last minute, no recipe kind of dishes. This one got a request for the recipe. SInce I don’t follow a recipe, I decided to jot it down as soon as I can, so I don’t forget what I chopped in there.
Cause one thing is for sure – there’ s a lot of chopping in this tabbouleh. I know all about the machines that promise to make your life faster and easier by chopping stuff for you.. well, I have them all, I wouldn’t do my tabbouleh in there.. Maybe I’m a tabbouleh snob, but I like my chopped cucumbers in nice square shapes, edges in tact. I think it contributes to the taste of the dish. The machines tend to make stuff mushy and it starts releasing its juice too early. You don’t want that. You want the juices concealed as much as possible, so when you start tossing it with lemon juice and olive oil and some Himalayan salt, that veggies are still discernable.
The traditional Bulgarian “shopska” salad is tomatoes and cucumbers with onions parsley and feta cheese. This is obviously a departure from the traditional recipe, but honestly every house in Bulgaria has its own twist to the Shopska, so here are just a few of mine. Without further adue, here goes (as far as I remember…):

1 pretty big bunch of Italian parsley (the organic Italian parsley in Whole Foods would usually suffice)
1 or 2 small heads of Frisee salad (I also use baby arugula, baby spinach or any other baby greens variety.. if you have a bigger container of it, just grab a handful and toss in there.)
1/4 cup of bulgur wheat (that you have soaked for at least 2-3 hours before hand)
1 large chopped tomato (I cut mine in half and then slice lengthwise once more. Then cut three times across and then chop it. it makes nice almost square pieces)
1 organic cucumber peeled (even though they are organic peel is where most toxins will get trapped. So just to be on the safe side always peel your cucumbers and apples, but make sure you wash them BEFORE that! Very important!)
1 bunch of fresh green onions – chopped
1/2 bunch of fresh dill ( I just love dill, there is no reason for it to be in here, but i love love love dill.. so it’s up to you )
1 habanero pepper – cut lengthwise in two, clean out seeds and inside veins, then wash with cold water to diminish the heat (if it’s not bothering you, then let it be like that) then cut in more lengthwise slices and then chop.
1 lemon – squeeze the bujeezus out of it, and pour the juice on top of the salad
3-5 table spoons of your best olive oil.
Himalayan salt to taste.
3-4 (or more if you are not planning to kiss anyone that night) cloves of garlic – I also like to chop these, and not squeeze or mash them.. But I’m just weird like that, It’s ok if you want to use shortcuts and other kitchen equipment.

Once all your ingredients are in, wash your hands really well, and rinse them very well (of any soap residue) and use them to incorporate every little morsel into the juices of the other and the lemon juice and olive oil. OR, you can buy these “helping hands” and use them instead. I prefer using them, for two reasons – better hygiene and also, when i use my hands, half of the tabbouleh gets stuck on them, and I find myself licking them like a cat.. not exactly what guests would like to see, if they are in your house when you make it.

It’s really great if you could chill it for a few minutes before serving, but it is so good, that I doubt anyone would have the patience..
Just dig in!

Let me know how it tastes.

Optional additions
1. toasted Sesame seeds
2. Chia seeds
3. Sprouts of any kind!
4. Sunflower sprouts – mix in like th frisee salad.
5. More peppers of any variety – roasted or fresh..
6. Eggplant – roasted and peeled and chopped.
7. Sweet onions – chopped

I usually add one of the above and change the greens to make it a different salad..

So just from this recipe you can make at least 10 other different salads.

If you are not on dairy-free regimen, then you can also add Feta Cheese crumbles and eat it with chunks of crusty bread for scoop, instead of a fork…

Makes a great addition to any grilled meat or fish, or as a side dish to a grain like quinoa or brown rice.

Cabo San Lucas and the Fruit-Man Inspired Tropical Ceviche

View of Land's End arch on the southern tip of...

So my love for ceviche is apparent in any restaurant I go and see it on the menu. I literally stop reading the rest of the menu and order my ceviche. If further hunger pangs insist on tormenting my brain, then I look at the menu again.

Lately though, I’ve been disappointed by the ceviche I was served in two prominent Atlanta fish restaurants. So I ventured out to make my own, determined to get all flavors gelled before serving it, and also was looking to give it a twist. (not particularly fond of cilantro… love all herbs, cilantro…hmmm not on that list.)

We are lucky to have Buford International Farmers Market right here in Atlanta, where I can be lost for hours and hours, studying the mystery fruits, veggies, roots, fish, frogs, and all sorts of creatures… I love observing the people who come from every corner of the planet. Most of them in some traditional dress, or at least an accessory; speaking so many different languages, you’d think you are in the UN cafeteria. I’m also guilty of staring at their shopping carts to see what they bought, and if it’s something completely unknown to me, (and if they speak any of the languages I speak) I ask them what it is, and how they plan on eating it..

Photo by Zenocracy© 2012

Photo by Zenocracy© 2012

Long story short, I jumped in the car, and took the 30 minute drive to the market to find products for my inspiration: it came from the beaches of Cabo San Lucas.

View into Cabo Harbor

View into Cabo Harbor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

San Lucas Marina

San Lucas Marina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the hot lazy summer days, while lying on the beach, the foreign tourists are being spoiled rotten! Besides having your extended bar with service all the way out on the beach, you also get constant visits from traveling salesmen and women – pottery, scarfs, dresses, jewelry, sunglasses, traditional dancers who perform on the beach, and last but not least – the fruit man!

Photo by Zenocracy© 2011

Oh I loved the fruit man! He would come, dressed in his white clothes, carrying his table on his shoulder. And the table would be the display case for dozens of fruit which found their stabbing death on spear-looking devices along the table. There were ripe mangoes, bright orange papaya, red juicy watermelon, fragrant cantaloupe and of course limes. He cuts them up in front of you, places them in a bowl, squeezes an entire lime all over the bowl, and then (if you are brave) he sprinkles the whole thing with lots and lots of chilli powder! OMG! What freshness! And the chilli zing is just enough to make you feel the spice, but surprisingly, make you feel cooler. Just what you need in the tropical heat of Cabo!

Dreaming of my Cabo bowl, I headed for the Buford Market, to get inspired for my ceviche.

So I bought:

1 Guava fruit

1 Papaya

2-5 Mexican organic mangoes (depending on the size you buy more or less of these)

1 pink grapefruit

1 pineapple

2-3 blood oranges

2-5 avocados (preferably softer as you will need to use them right away)

1/2 lb large organic lemons

1/2lb large organic limes

1 – 2 large red onions

1-2 red and yellow peppers

3-5 jalapeno peppers

1lb large wild caught shrimp (fresh never frozen)

1/2 lb tuna fresh (if possible)

at home i had

Curry powder

Chilli Powder

Sea Salt

I honestly didn’t use any measurements besides kind of assessing the space i have in the bowl that I will be using the ceviche.

First, I start by juicing at least 3 lemons and 3 limes. Followed by cutting up one or two oranges and the grapefruit in slices w/out the fiber (you need to watch Andrew Zimmern‘s technique here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTuOjXXqQJ4)  now that you have a fragrant bowl of juices and fruit, drop your tuna pieces in there to marinate while you are cutting up the rest of the fruit.

I added a pinch of cinnamon, some curry, sea salt, honey, and chilli powder

Using your hands, incorporate all the tuna into the fruit and juices.

Take the pineapple and slice half of it in chunks (small enough to spoon or to attach to a fork together with some other tasty pieces from the ceviche)

The shrimp – I personally don’t like them raw, so i drop them for a minute in boiling veggie stock to just turn pink and then scoop them out and drop in the ceviche bowl.

Now come the rest of the fruit – the papaya, the guava and the avocado – slice, remove stones and then chunk or chop in bite sized pieces. Add as much or as little of these as you please.

Don’t forget your veggies (which I admit I initially forgot and am adding now) the peppers, the jalapenos, and the onion – they all bring that savory/sweet taste balance that makes the whole thing so delicious!

Make sure that you have filled your bowl but not all the way to the top, as it will make it difficult to mix and incorporate.

Keep washing your hands and using them to mix and coat everything in the delish tropical juice that has by now filled up your kitchen with amazing tropical fragrance.

I love parsley and mint, so instead of the ceviche staple the cilantro, which i don’t particularly care about, I take some parsley and mint and chop to add to the ceviche at the end.

photo by Zenocracy© 2012

WHAT TO DO WITH THE REST OF THE FRUIT:

ONE VERY TASTY SANGRIA!!! take all the fruit that is left over and instead of wrapping and refrigerating, (which is another name of letting it rot in cooler temperatures) just throw in a punch bowl and then pour your favorite (not super expensive) red wine.

If you refrigerate both bowls for about an hour, you’d have one fruity party!

Play some flamenco music, light up some candles, and you are in business!

Enjoy!