Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mussels saganaki (μύδια σαγανάκι)

Everytime I want to feel the taste of the sea, I buy blue mussels. I love to scrub and clean their dark blue shells, to check for broken ones, to put the good ones into the pot. I like the smell of my kitchen in the short 10-20 minutes of preparation and long hours after that. And I always enjoy sipping their juices from the shells and feel their salty broth as a juicy message from the sea. I know, female mussels are orange, male mussels are light yellow. Their colors match perfectly the red of tomato sauce and the white of Feta cheese. But this is not the main reason I prepare often mussels saganaki. The taste of this dish is unforgettable. Along with garides saganaki, this is a very popular dish in the fish restaurants of Northern Greece. And also in my home. As with many other dishes, I increase the spicyness by adding lots of hot peppers and chili flakes, but you can adjust it according to your taste. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Panzanella - Italian bread salad

Do you know what cucina povera means? It is an Italian term for the poor man's food. 
But nothing offensive. Peasant cooking means take the best from the ingredients you have on hand. Fresh ripe vegetables. Cheap cuts of meat and offals. Stale bread. The meaning is  cheap ingredients or ingredients you anyway have at home, simple recipe, rich taste.
In fact, bread and olive oil are two of the fundamental ingredients of Tuscan cookery and stale bread should not be wasted. So, Panzanella is a way to use a day-old bread. Roast or pan-fry the bread. Chop some ripe, but firm tomatoes. Add dressing and some more ingredients and you've got the summer taste in your plate, even if it is late spring outside. Bread soaks up all the juices from the vegetables and dressing and melts in mouth. Most of the recipes call for fresh basil as an ingredient, but I prefer to skip it in my version. I also substitute hot green peppers for the sweet ones used in the original. 
Italian bread salad

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spinach and yogurt dip (Ispanak borani)

Yogurt dips and salads are highly appreciated in the Eastern and Middle-Eastern countries. Yogurt provides the dishes with a rich and cooling taste, which is important in places with hot climate and harsh sun. Borani is a persian cold dipping sauce, based on yogurt and vegetables. As long as tsatsiki it goes well with meats or fried potatoes, but also just with a slice of toasted bread. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Goat cheese and candied kumquat sandwich

Morning rituals. 
Weekdays mornings are usually challenging - fifteen tasks for thirty minutes. Bathroom - kitchen - nursery - bedroom - kitchen - bedroom. Every step has its right time - if I omit or add one, I will break somebody else's ritual. So, sequence is important. Key word is discipline. I don't complain. Routine gives me the feeling of being safe, no surprises mean everything is OK. Habits give me the opportunity to enter stress less into the day. Coffee is the only luxury of my weekdays mornings. But fast, no time the smell its taste or aroma. Coffee as a wake up tool, nothing to do with joy. 
But I have my weekends. My weekend mornings are quiet and sunny. I love the silence of the house while my beloved ones are sleeping. This is my time. My kitchen has an eastern exposure and I enjoy the sun spots moving onto the walls and filling my eyes with light. Good morning, day. The steam of my coffee. A book from the shelf and so much time to get through its pages. The roofs of the neighbouring buildings, the blackbirds singing their lovesongs, the plants on my terrace. Time to read, to observe, to savor the day, to pamper myself. Long breakfast is part of the weekend morning rituals.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Asparagus with Feta cheese: green for my eyes and soul

I love asparagus. It fills my eyes with green and makes me feel spring with all my senses. And this is one of my favorite asparagus dishes, proper for the light diet-intended evenings. With a glas of white wine. Or two. Or... it's up to you.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Garlic Knots: green for my eyes and soul

Kissing is important part of life. So is garlic. But they both are not compatible. Along with onion and cigarettes, I find garlic one of the worst kiss-enemies. That is why it is a good idea to decide what is more important on a certain day. I usually prefer kissing, that is why despite loving the pungent taste of garlic I serve it rarely on my table. But there are some days and some recipes I could not resist. On such days I prepare my favorite garlic knots. Since the day I saw the recipe here, I was sure they were worth it. And they did not disappoint me a bit. Of course you can omit the garlic part of the coating and pour only hot butter and parsley. I tried it, but it is not the same. 

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Tarte Tatin

'I burnt the apples!', she exclaimed. And that is how a long story began. Because this happened more than 100 years ago. And she was one of the two sisters Tatin. Probably nobody would know her name except of the few hunters and travelers who stayed at the hotel, owned by her and her sister, about 100 km south of Paris. But there were some clients in the restaurant at the hotel who were waiting for the apple tarts they had ordered. And she, who was responsible for the kitchen things, had to do something. What exactly was her mistake - probably nobody will ever know. Was she tired, distracted by something or just absent-minded? We will never know. But she lacked of time and she had to do something with the caramelized apples she had in the pan. So she put the tart pastry onto the apples, baked the cake and turned it upside down. Little bit frustrated, little bit nervous she served the upside-down apple tart to the clients. What was their reaction? They were fascinated and wanted more. Because the caramelized apples tasted far better than the ones used in the classical apple tart. 
How did the story continue? A man from French restaurant Maxim's heard about this little treasure and wanted to know the key to it. He found a way to take the recipe and that is how Tarte Tatin, named after the above mentioned lady, became part of Maxim's menu and made its official entrance to the golden culinary pages of the world. 
That is how a mistake turned into something appreciated all over the world. I like this idea very much. Not so exaggerating like turning lemons into lemonade but I suppose, sometimes there is opportunity even in the worst situations. In fact, being involved into the situation makes you some kind of blind to all the possibilities around. But they still exist.
I rarely admit I have made a mistake. But now I 'burned my apples'. Literally and figuratively. And I have to decide what to do with the 'pastry', with the 'clients' and how the story should continue. In other words, I should decide what my future steps should be. 
The things which are obvious in the pictures are that I am a little bit angry. And anxious. And that is why I was thinking I should not publish this post. But this is my place. And the tart is still tasty. So here is the recipe, taken from a book about the French cooking.