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!

Fight-Frost-with-Fire Zen Soup or Ginger Wild Rice Chicken Soup

Fight-Frost-with-Fire Zen Soup or Ginger Wild Rice Chicken Soup

Winter has certainly dragged her huge feet on our Georgia front porch this year… For better or worse, this has inspired me to become a huge fan of soups. So I am experimenting and adding and subtracting and have basically been able to create about 20 different soups just by adding something or taking something out.
They have all turned delicious so far, so I am trying to keep a record of all of them so I can duplicate them, and of course, share them with friends.
So here is my Ginger Wild Rice Chicken soup in honor of the crazy catastrophic ice-storm that has paralyzed the South.

Ingredients for a large Dutch Oven pot
1 large onion
2 Organic free range chicken breasts
½ head of celery root
2 large parsnips
4 medium or 2 large Idaho potatoes (the ones you would use for mashed)
4-6 medium carrots
3-4 inch ginger root (depends on how much you like ginger)
1 stalk leek
2 small jalapeno peppers
4 boxes chicken broth (or 2 boxes chicken and 1 box veggie broth)
Spices:
Pink Himalayan salt to taste
Black Pepper
Turmeric
Curry
Cayenne (for later or while cooking IF everyone enjoys a little zing)
Coconut oil
Cook Separately:
½ cup of black wild rice in 3 – 4 cups of water
Optional:
1 cup mushrooms
¼ cup heavy cream
1-3 garlic cloves
Curry, salt and pepper to taste
Garnishes to serve:
1 bunch Parsley
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Or Lemon juice

How I do it:
I’m all about the Martha Stewart cut-up-your-ingredients-and-place-in-separate-bowls before I start. I just like the neatness of it, and the peace of mind, that I am not forgetting anything
So I start with the onions – chop the whole head finely (do not use a food processor! That thing mushes the onion into a paste… Put in a bowl and cover with a plate or clear wrap. Its vapors will flavor your kitchen, as opposed to your soup. Cover it to preserve taste, and aroma.
Chop in rugged tiny chunks the carrots and put in another big bowl. I like to take the carrot from its wider side, and cut a small diagonal piece off the end, then turn the carrot and cut again, and turn and cut… until it’s all done. That way they are not the boring perfect round circles and just give more chunkiness to the soup
If you haven’t used celery root before, you should. It’s much more flavorful than the stalks and doesn’t have the stringy texture. Peel and chop it like the carrots. Chop the potatoes and the parsnips. Peel and slice your ginger as well
Add all the ingredients from the carrots to the parsnips in the same bowl. You will dump them in the soup together, so no need to use more little bowls.
Put the ginger separately. You want to keep its flavor strong until you use it.
Use a paper towel to dry your chicken breasts and chop them into small bitesized chunks.

This is a good time to put your rice to cook. Just don’t forget to stir it every once in a while. Burned to the bottom of the pan rice tastes yuk! You don’t want to have this happen to you.

IF you have opted to add the mushrooms, clean and chop them in quarters and throw them in a pan with some melted coconut oil. Let them wilt, add the cream, spices. Keep a couple more minutes while stirring to let everything incorporate. Turn off heat and set aside.

The Main Event:
In your Dutch Oven, melt the coconut oil (or butter if you must) and drop the chicken chunks to brown on all sides. This is not to cook them thoroughly, but to give them a bit of a sautee before you cook them with the rest of the ingredients. After you have flipped them around a few times, take them out of the Dutch oven, one by one, and place into a bowl for later.
In the same oil that is now already hot, drop the chopped onions. Let them become translucent. Stir to incorporate the chicken fat into this.
As soon as they are soft and translucent, drop the bowl with all the root veggies (my experience shows, this is where you may find yourself needing a little more butter (try saying it with a English accent and it will make you feel less guilty – A li-uhle moh bu-her!)
After a few stirs, add your spices (good time for the salt as it will release the water in the veggies and the sautéing will be easier)
Now comes the time of the chicken stock and/or the veggie stock or broth. I like Pacific brand, but there are others that are equally organic and delicious. I don’t fill the Dutch oven all the way yet. I just pour enough stock to cover the veggies.
Cover the pan, and let it reach boiling. Once it does, reduce temp to say half or even less.
Take your handheld mixer and mash up some of the veggies at the bottom (this can be done as much or as little as you like – the point is to create a little thickness to the soup so you don’t have to use thickener, i.e. glutenous substances)
After you’ve reached the desired consistency, add the chicken, the rice (which by now should’ve cooked) and optionally – the mushrooms.
Stir well and cover. Leave everything to incorporate for at least another 10 minutes on low.
Prepare your plates (bowls) and garnishes (parsley and lemon juice)
SERVE HOT! Bon Appetit!

Ridiculously Easy Mediterranean GlutenFree Frittata

Ridiculously Easy Mediterranean GlutenFree Frittata

There are some weekends that I Just wanna linger in bed and if I had the choice I’d rather stay longer in bed, than make time for a healthy breakfast.
But with this super easy frittata I can have it all!

Here are all the products I use:
(all these ingredients are easy to prep the night before – chop some of your scallions and jalapeños and keep in containers ready to use)
2 eggs, or 1/4 cup egg whites (if you don’t want the yolks)
A handful of fresh baby spinach
A handful of cherry tomatoes halved
1 jalapeño pepper seeds removed, chopped
3-4 scallions – chopped
1-2 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp ghee (or coconut oil or olive oil)

Take a nonstick pan and melt the ghee (clarified butter) or whatever other fat you decide to use.
Crack the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk with a fork until homogenous
Add all your veggies and the feta in, stir to coat as much as you can
Remember, we are not aiming for the perfectly shaped frittata, so don’t worry if stuff is sticking out of the mixture, it’s sort of like an omelette with a salad built in…
Pour everything in the melted ghee, and turn a couple of times in places where you see it needs to cook a more.
When the eggs stop being runny and the spinach has this bright green wilted look, your frittata is ready.
Throw into a plate of your choice, and sprinkle with spices of your choice. I personally go for the caliente cayenne and the tasty turmeric, but you can go wild with whatever rocks your palette!
Enjoy and share with someone special! just double the quantities 🙂

Pork Kebap Bulgarian Style

Pork Kebap Bulgarian Style

This is Pork like you’ve never had it before! I cooked it with my mom and insisted on writing the recipe down, so I remember every detail of the way she and my grandmother before her used to make it.

Every time I start this dish, the aromas transcend my kitchen walls and I time travel to me being 4, sitting in grandma’s kitchen. It’s still dark on a cold January morning. I couldn’t sleep, I heard some noises in the kitchen, so I went to check it out. Grandma was already up for hours. She gave me a cup of warm milk, tucked me in a huge throw in the couch and told me to nap some more. .. I did, and dreamed a delicious dream……

So you can see why I love everything about this dish.
The beauty of it is, that it’s simple to make, and makes the house smell so cozy, you’d be able to close your eyes and imagine a mountain cottage and pure white snow falling peacefully outside, while the fire is quietly crackling…

This is a great recipe to utilize that type of pork that you may deem too fatty to grill or cook in any other way. But especially because it’s fatty, it makes perfect kebap material!
So here is my Grandma and Mom’s recipe:

Products:
1 lb of shoulder pork meat
5 onions (medium) chopped
1/2 lb canned tomatoes
1 cup red table wine
3 jalapeño peppers chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp black pepper crushed
5 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
3 tsp turmeric
1 tsp nutmeg
4 tsp savory
1 bunch of chopped fresh parsley

Chop the onions
Cut the meat in cubes
Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven and drop the meat to brown on all sides
Add the onion slices, then the jalapeno peppers
While the onions and the meat are simmering, use a hand held mixer and roughly crush the tomatoes. You don’t need to juice them all the way. .
Add all the spices to the meat, onions and jalapenos, and mix well.
Add the tomatoes to the pan and mix all together.
Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375F
Put the Dutch Oven in the oven and bake for 1hr.

Dutch oven is the easy and effective way. I personally like to use a clay pot with a lid that I have from Bulgaria. I transfer the mixture from the Dutch Oven into the clay pot and put in a COLD oven, rather than preheated. (However tempered your clay pot is, I would rather not chance it and have it crack in a hot oven with all that food in it. .. It may make a mess much bigger than you can imagine.)

The only difference between baking it in a Dutch oven and a beautiful clay pot, is that the presentation is more authentic, but the taste is pretty much the same.

Serving options:
Best way to serve this is while it’s still warm, on top of either warm polenta, or rice or quinoa, with sprinkled fresh parsley on top.

All of the above make good gluten free additions.

Optional Polenta recipe:

1 cup corn meal
1 cup cold water
4 cups cold fat-free milk
Mix well and put on the stove
Keep mixing pretty much the whole time while it’s cooking
Mix until it becomes a thick mixture and the boiling resembles molten lava
Then turn it off.
Take an oven proof dish
Melt one stick of butter in the microwave
Pour half of it in the oven proof dish (it’s good to have a narrow dish so that the liquid butter can form a deep layer.
Pour the cooked polenta in it on top of the butter.
Then pour the rest of the melted butter on top and bake in the 375F preheated oven for about 20-25 min. It only needs to get slightly brown on top. As soon as you take it out of the oven, cover it with an aluminum foil and a towel on top, so it stays soft and juicy.

Goes great with a robust red wine – a Chilean Cabernet or an Argentinian Malbec of your choice will complement it very well!

DOBUR APETIT!
ENJOY!

From the Love Boat to a Courchevel Chalet

A new hot spot has emerged in Atlanta Georgia: St. Cecilia. Taking the place of the old tungsten lights, chrome and neon lights, fur coats and big hair glory days of BluePoint, St. Cecilia has gone through a dramatic makeover, that shows her age, but in a new fresh, kind of way. All the way down to her wood trimmed bar with beautiful sky high wall of wine and liquor, lean table styles with a variety of seating arrangments, heights and chair mismatches, to the soft color pallet, it indulges your Ohm senses without overpowering them, so your focus can be on the art of conversation.
St. Cecilia’s extensive wine list includes a good mix of old and new world choices, enough to satisfy the pretentious tastes, but not to overwhelm or intimidate vino novices (and first daters) with books the size of War and Peace.
The dinner menu features a good variety of dishes in primi and secondi piatti. I only tried the mushroom risotto and some of the salami selection and both were quite good, but I did hear friends complain about the overpriced and undersized hamachi. Two coin sized slices for $13? Yeah, I’d say…
As it was before when it was Bluepoint, St. Cecilia seems to attract an affluent crowd of 34 plus (give or take a few botox years) and maybe it should be a consideration of the owners that some of these paying customers, albeit looking like they are in their late 20s, are still human and are in need of reading aid when it comes to the menu. So, perhaps a little larger and less fancy fonts will do the trick and keep the guy who forgot his readers, but not his fat wallet… happy. Just a suggestion.

The ambiance is what will keep this place full especially in the winter months, as it has this cozy Courchevel chalet kind of feel. You can almost imagine the slopes on the other side of Peachtree road and the models turned snow bunnies flocking in straight from the runways of London and Paris (these are actually in abundance here)

The interior structure is very similar to the Bluepoint layout, so plan your bathroom breaks early. A couple of drinks later, climbing up dimly lit staircase all the way to the top in four inch heels, and getting into a corridor with no lights, can result in either a sprained ankle (God forbid!) or getting into the men’s room by mistake. They are so close together and at some point in the night going left or right may sound exactly the opposite to the ambidextrous, and mishaps can easily happen. Also, it’s a long way to the top of the mountain (staircase) and through the dark woods (corridors) to add an additional dextrality test – do we really need to wonder how to close these double doors with a little hook, only to find out that there is a gap between the them?

All in all the establishment at this point is at 4 stars: all perfect sans some kinks that we should attribute to being so young and still finding its perfect style. 20140118-120055.jpg20140118-120108.jpg20140118-120119.jpg

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