Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ribboned Zucchini and Parmesan Salad

Eating out, exploring new restaurants, is not only such a pleasure in itself, but can often inspire dishes to be recreated at home. A few weeks ago I shared a few bites of a starter salad of delicate ribbons of zucchini atop some punchy arugula. Lovely chunks of Parmesan were stuffed between the curls and some deeply flavoured olive oil was drizzled over all. Perfetto.
Since then, there have been few waking moments where that salad hasn't been on my mind. So this week, I've been doing the same, with the addition of fresh lemon juice, Maldon sea salt, and with some warmed Italian flatbread called Piadina. Fresh and simple, it works beautifully as a light lunch, a starter, or even as a late night meal for those working evening hours and facing that dreaded 11pm I-need-a-quick-and-light-meal-and-don't-want-to-dive-into-the-bag-of-tortilla-chips-again moment. Although I must warn, try this salad once, and you'll be dreaming of zucchini ribbons for weeks to come!

Continue to Recipe...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Multi-Cultural Goulash

Another wee blog absence has gone by...the last few weeks have been filled to the brim with 'important things to do' and weekends that disappear in a flash.

One such weekend was spent back in Brno eating platefuls of dumplings and meat with my favourite 'granat' pivo to wash it all down.

I hadn't noticed how much I'd missed Czech food (despite years of moderately good-natured kvetching) until I arrived, and my hosts asked if I was hungry. I replied, nope, I had řízek (schnitzel) for lunch before the flight. In Italy? Up went the eyebrows...Ummm, yes, I confess, I made řízek for lunch in Italy. At least I didn't smash it between bread slices and bring it on the plane with me à la traditional-Czech-travel-snack.

And what should happen when I'm back in Rome, in my kitchen, staring at some choice pieces of beef stew meat I'd just picked up? Yes, goulash.

Yet this is not just any goulash. This is a trans-national goulash. Using a smoked Spanish paprika, marjoram in the Czech style, but served on polenta like in northern Italy. (Note: the American tradition of tossing in elbow macaroni will never taint a goulash from my kitchen - but anything else goes!)

Just like any goulash with strict country origins, it's quickly prepared, with a long simmer, and the flavour improves on the second day. Last year I fiddled with getting a traditional Czech recipe right and came up with this one. It was complete with homemade bread dumplings, which I must say that while polenta is a nice twist, nothing pairs with goulash like dumplings.

Some weekend, when I am truly Czech nostalgic, I will figure out a way to make one of the best street sweets on the planet - trdelník - a crispy yet soft tube of dough cooked on a hot iron and rolled in sugar, cinnamon, or nuts. When warm and fresh, it can't be beaten.

Continue to Recipe...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chicken Fricassée and Olive Snobbery

If (insert colour of choice here) is the new black, then surely the Gaeta olive is the new Kalamata.

Once a sought-after niche item, jars of plump Kalamatas now grace the shelves of even the smallest American supermarkets. After those dark Greek orbs were widespread enough for the foodies to snub the slightest mention of Kalamata, in marched the Niçoise. It was French, and had a crazy letter C, which made the pronunciation intimidating enough to make the average American home-cook shy away from them. It was perfect. The foodies were happy with their Niçoise, that is, until the cooking magazines published enough retro Niçoise salad recipes, coaxing middle America to roll out that niswaaaaahhhz while ordering in chain restaurants and chatting with friends at book club. The foodies had to move on.

The Italian Gaeta is smaller than the Kalamata, and not as difficult to pronounce as the Niçoise, but nevertheless hasn't had a salad named after it, so is still somewhat under the radar. Now, I haven't seen too many recipes specifying Gaeta olives yet...but it will come. Of this, I am sure.

If, but more likely when, Gaeta olives present themselves to you, a great dish to show them off in is a simple and quick chicken fricassée. I've been falling harder and harder for this stove-top method of cooking whatever choice chicken pieces are fresh at the market. Anything but another pan-fried chicken breast is what my taste buds crave (have I mentioned the lack of oven at the moment? I thank my lucky stars I'm not a baking fiend, but I do miss my Sunday roast like something else.) A fricassée is such a great way to make a complete meal for two with minimal time and effort. I usually add in leeks and whatever else is seasonal. Here, rosemary, tomatoes, and the coming-of-in-vogue-age Gaetas make an appearance. It was savoury, the chicken wasn't soggy thanks to browning it well first, and the sauce was amazing. A repeat will be soon.

Continue to Recipe...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...