Thursday, December 20, 2012

Linzer Cookies - one of the Christmas Classics

Linz is the third-largest city in Austria. Its population is about 191 000 people. Its cookies are known and prepared worldwide and million of people enjoy them all year long, but especially during Christmas time. They are tasty, with dough including lots of ground nuts - hazelnuts or almonds. But they are also beautiful - they are assembled from two pieces, one of which has a cutout center and you  can see the raspberry jam through the hole. This recipe is from here  and it makes about 20-25 double cookies.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Membrillo - The Spanish Quince Paste

Membrillo is one of the perfect matches to Manchego cheese. This golden-yellow jelly, prepared from quince and sugar is so dense, that it should be cut with a knife. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The best chocolate cookies - rich and chewy

This recipe is for devoted chocolate lovers - you feel the taste of chocolate in your mouth minutes after you have swallowed the last bite. It is not for people who prefer sweet desserts and the mild taste of milk chocolate - cookies get slightly bitter. The main reason I do them again and again is because the chocolate inside them is soft and remains melted even the day after they are prepared. Recipe is from here and it is for 8 cookies. The original has chocolate chips as an ingredient, but I prefer to make these cookies with chopped chocolate because chocolate chips tend to keep their shape while baking and I want to obtain a more homogenous velvety texture. These cookies are perfect for making ice cream sandwiches.
If you prefer crunchy cookies with emphasis on the butter as a taste, I can recommend you the Crunchy buttery cookies

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crispy fried zucchini (κολοκυθάκια τηγανητά)

Crispy fried zucchini
I love the taste of fried zucchini. And what makes them so lovable? Their crispiness. Fried zucchini should be hot and crispy. If you have an opportunity to travel to Greece, you definitely should try the fried zucchini served in most of the restaurants and they will never disappoint you. κολοκυθάκια τηγανητά have crispy crusts tender insides.
Zucchini in ice waterZucchini in iceIf you want to prepare this delicious appetizer at home it will be good to follow three  important steps:

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Spinach with Feta cheese and croutons

This is a light vegetarian dish, which is good for the times there is fresh spinach at the farmer's market. Of course, lightness depends on the amount of butter and croutons into the dish. So you can play with these amounts  according to your diet limits. According to me, it tastes better if you allow all the ingredients to do their jobs. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chorizo with potatoes

This is a quick and easy Spanish dish which has the taste of Pimentón which blends so well with the garlic aroma and the potatoes. For more spicyness I usually sprinkle some hot fresh pepper slices above. Other tasty dishes with Chorizo I prepare often are Fried prawns with Chorizo and Pizza with Chorizo, prawns and Mozarella. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Crunchy buttery cookies with chocolate chunks

Crunchy buttery cookies
These cookies are crunchy. And buttery. And salty. And all this makes the chocolate even more obvious and tasty. The recipe yields 8 cookies and this is the place I saw it.
Crunchy buttery cookies

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Peach tart with fresh peaches and apricot jam

The recipe for this tart is from Marco Canora's book Salt to taste. This is one of the best cookbooks I have. The Italian-style recipes represent home cooking at its best, but the thing I like most about this book is that it sounds like a bunch of advices how to do everything in the best possible way. 
This tart is light, fruity and very fresh.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Fried roasted peppers with tomato sauce

Fried roasted peppers with tomato sauce
This light vegetarian dish is very common in Bulgarian homes at the beginning of autumn. The sweet taste of roasted red peppers, the spicyness from the garlic and the freshness of the rape tomatoes make it one of my favorites for October. 
Fried roasted peppers

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cretan Dakos - Cretan rusk salad

Suchlike Panzanella - the Italian bread salad, Cretan rusk salad (Kρητικός ντάκος) is based on bread. 
In fact, it is a large barley rusk topped with chopped tomatoes, crumbled Feta or Mizithra cheese and some olive oil. People in Creta and especially the sailors, used to eat a lot of rusks. Main reasons - rusks are lighter than fresh bread and more of them could be laded on the ships. They are unexpensive and long-lasting and do not get mouldy which is important on any island where every product is limited. Cretan dakos is still one of the traditional Cretan salads. If you do not have rusks on hand, you can use toasted or grilled bread - taste is nearly the same. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Eggplant Parmesan (Melanzane alla Parmigiana)

Eggplant Parmesan

Melanzane alla Parmigiana is a rich dish from Northern Italy, composed of alternating layers of fried eggplant, tomato sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella.  
Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Monday, August 27, 2012

Roasted eggplant dip (Kyopoolu)

One of the main characteristics of the cuisine of the Balkans is the wide variety of salads. Countries in the region have hot and sunny climate and vegetables grow full of taste. But this is only one of the reasons for the huge consumption of salads here. The heart of the matter is that we start lunch and dinner with hard alcoholic drinks. Rakia in Bulgaria, raki in Turkey, ouzo and tsipouro in Greece are national drinks served at the beginning of the meal. These strong drinks go well with salad. Kyopoolu - a roasted eggplant dip, is one of the most popular Bulgarian summer salads, although it has a Turkish origin. The typical smoky taste of its roasted skin, the soft inside which absorbs a lot of olive oil and salt, the freshness of grated tomatoes and roasted peppers, the garlic as an ingredient make this dip irresistable.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Home-made sour cherries liqueur

Sour cherry liqueur. Elegant liqueur for elegant occasions. You serve it in little glasses and sip it sparingly enjoying every drop. My Granny prepared it when I was a child and I still remember the big green bottles filled with sour cherries and sugar. As it is with many other good things, preparing sour cherry liqueur is a slow process. You need more than a month  between buying the fresh sour cherries and taking the first sweet sips from this drink. 
Vodka is the perfect base for it, because it hasn't own flavour and color.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My favorite sour cherry cake

The last sour cherries of the season. I picked them from our sour cherry tree, trying not to eat too many. I needed two cups for the sour cherry cake. My favourite sour cherry cake, the one my mother-in-low prepares. She knows I love it and so does everybody else in our family. Half of the tray is for me, the others share the other half. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bean and nettle soup with wild plums

We escaped from the heat in a large forest yesterday. The excursion took some hours along a fast flowing river under the shades of old trees and I was surprised to see new nettles  - fresh, soft and young. So I collected some handfuls. No, I did not have gloves, but my craving for nettles was so huge, that I took the risk. Yes, my finders have pins and needles now and they are covered with tiny red spots. But it was worth it. Coming home with my plunder, I decided to prepare a cucina povera dish from the Bulgarian cuisine - bean and nettle soup with wild plums. Although this dish consists only of simple ingredients, it has a rich and diverse flavor. With grassy softness of the nettles, fresh and sour taste of the wild plums and velvet base of the beans, it is deffinitely something to rememberThe perfect warm weather bean dish - good for vegans, vegetarians and everybody else. Recipe calls for crushed beans - the only reason for crushing beans is making them faster soft, if you prefer you can keep them whole. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sour cherry cake with buttermilk

Sour cherries are one of my favourite fruits. Probably that is one of the reasons I spent the other day around the stove trying two different recipes for sour cherry cake. This is the first one I would like to tell you about. It is based on the recipe for buttermilk blueberry cake I saw in one of my absolute favorite blogs. It does not look very attempting, but it is. You can feel the butter and the crust is crunchy. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mussels marinara

Mussels marinaraMarinara is one of my favorite sauces for mussels. Marinara means 'sailors' style' in Italian, so probably the sailors preferred to have mussels that way. Because of the wine as an ingredient. Or because mussels get hot and full of flavors. Mussels marinara are usually served over boiled linguine, but I love them so much, that I skip the pasta and sip the sauce of the mussels right from the shells. Or enjoy to wipe up the spicy sauce with a slice of crusty bread. 
MusselMussels marinara

Friday, July 06, 2012

Cold cucumber soup (Tarator)

Tarator is one of the most typical dishes of Bulgarian cuisine. It is a cold soup based on the combination of yogurt, cucumbers and garlic. Some olive oil, dill and crushed walnuts are the recommended additions to this summer dish which slakes the thirst in the hot summer days. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Yellow cherry jam with fragrant geranium

Granny prepared jams every summer. 
Cherry, yellow cherry, sour cherry, apricot... a lot of jams. I loved to be around her in the kitchen and to observe her skillfull movements which turned the fresh ripe fruits into jars full of summer. Especially the cherry jams, they really required patiency. We had no cherry pitter and she removed the pitted all the cherries with the ears of small hairpin, used only for these purposes. One after another. Gently touches, careful pressing of the little fruits in order not to destroy their tender structure. I was always around ready to eat any torn fruit which did not meet granny's criteria. But she was always very good and I had to rely on my fast reactions to take one while she turned her back to me. The best fruits of summer intended to send the summer message to all the other seasons. I really love to recall these moments. And inspite the fact that the shelves of the supermarkets are full of jams I prepare some home-made jams every summer and present them to the people I love. Like hitchhiking a time-machine which moves me back to the time I was a kid, Granny was alive and we were both in the kitchen surrounded by cherries. 
And I know from her - yellow cherry jam has to be flavored with fragrant geranium leaves. The scent of geranium provides the jam with rose-vanilla aromas and makes it taste homy. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Crisp skin roasted chicken for St. Peter's day

Today is St. Peter's day - one of the most honored Orthodox feasts in Bulgaria. The rituals observed today aim to protect houses and farmer's land from fire. Traditionally, there is a rooster or chicken on the table. In the orthodox tradition roosters measure time and signify the power of sun. They are accepted as a symbol of fertility and harvest abundance. We are not huge chicken eaters in our home, but this is one of the recipes, which make chicken disappear in minutes. Think about crispy skin which crackles between teeth. Tender succulent meat which fills mouth with heavenly juices. A well roasted chicken does not need anything else. OK, probably the subtle additional flavor of rosemary for instance. Or thyme. According to the Internet, this recipe originated in Zuni cafe in San Francisco. I wish to go there in order to taste the original as soon as I can, but until then I will only use their know-how at home. 
There are some requirements to follow if you want to obtain a tasty chicken with a really crisp skin:
  • Pat dry chicken very well after rinsing - the wet skin will make it steam into the oven and this will make the skin soft.
  • Salt chicken a day or two in advance - this will 'lock' the moisture inside and will improve the taste (I never have the patience to obey this requirement and the chicken is also perfect, so you can skip this step). 
  • Choose your favorite herb - rosemary, thyme or salvia and slip some sprigs under the skin of the chicken. This will provide it with lots of flavor. 
  • Do not use any oil or butter for roasting the chicken - its own fat will do the things.
  • Preheat the skillet into the oven very good, so to allow the chicken to sizzle when you put it into the skillet. This will prevent the skin from sticking to the pan.
  • Put the chicken breast side up first.