October 29, 2008

Braised chicken with sweet peppers and olives - Pui cu ardei si masline

Maybe last week when i made this i couldn't have said that the fall is here, especially when every single day we had over 90F at lunch. But the mornings are colder, and so are the nights, the sun sets pretty early, so why not start cooking some comforting recipes that make the house smell amazing and warm.
I found this recipe in the Food & Wine newsletter i get every week, and i am glad i looked at it.
It takes a while to make, and i know it keeps going back and forth between the oven and the stove, the roasting pan and the skillet, and seems complicated, but it isn't. Or maybe just a bit, but it was so worth it. The house smelled so nice from the roasted peppers, the chicken was so flavorful and really falling off the bone, the sauce absolutely amazing and we love olives, what else could i say? We had some crusty bread with it, but i thought it could be served with polenta as well.

Now, here is the original recipe, and the one below is my tweaked version. I am not going into why i changed it, i cannot help myself not to, but i didn't take out any ingredients, just adapted it a bit. Read them both and see which one suits you better, but give this one a try if it's tempting, you will like it a lot.

Braised chicken with sweet peppers and olives - adapted after Ethan Stowell's recipe

4 bell peppers (2 red and 2 yellow), cut in strips
11/2 onions, one thinly sliced and the other half diced
10 chicken drumsticks
salt and pepper
one carrot diced or shredded
1 celery ribs, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 ½ cups dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/2 pound green and black olives
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200C). On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the bell peppers and the onion slices with a little bit of oil. Roast the peppers for about 30 minutes, turning them halfway through, until they are softened.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook the chicken in a very large skillet, over moderately high heat until it is golden all over. Put the browned chicken pieces in a large roasting pan or baking dish.
In the same skillet, add the carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and the diced onion and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the wine and the vegetables over the chicken. Add the chicken stock to the pan, cover with foil and put it in the oven, lowering the temperature at 350F(175C).
Braise the chicken for about 1 1/2 hours, until it’s falling off the bone. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and cover with foil. Set the roasting pan over medium heat (if it’s a roasting pan, but if you used a baking dish, pour the sauce in a saucepan), stir in the peppers and the olives into the sauce and boil the juices for about 5 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce and vegetables over the chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread.


Pui cu ardei si masline - reteta adaptata dupa reteta lui Ethan Stowell

4 bucati ardei gras (2 rosii si 2 galbeni), taiati solzisori
1 ceapa + jumatate, ceapa intreaga taiata solzisori si jumatatea tocata marunt
10 pulpe de pui - partea inferioara (pot fi amestecat partea superioara si inferioara, asa e reteta originala, numai ca eu am avut numai ciocanele)
sare si piper
1 morcov tocat marunt sau dat pe razatoarea mare
1 tija telina verde, tocata
2 catei de usturoi tocati marunt
1 lingurita cimbru
375 ml vin alb sec
400-500 ml zeama de supa ( de pui sau legume)
200-250g masline verzi si/sau negre
2 linguri patrunjel tocat marunt

Se incalzeste cuptorul la 200C (400F). Pe o tava tapetata cu folie de aluminiu se pun ardeii si ceapa taiata solzisori, stropiti cu ulei si condimentati cu sare si piper. Se coc cca 30 minute, amestecandu-I sa nu se arda, pana cand sunt moi.
Intre timp se condimenteaza carnea de pui cu sare si piper. Se prajeste puiul in doua transe intr-o tigaie la foc mai mare, pana cand e aurie carnea peste tot. Se pune puiul intr-o tava mare sau un vas termorezistent.
In aceeasi tigaie se pun la calit morcovul, telina, usturoiul, cimbrul si jumatatea de ceapa care a fost tocata marunt, timp de vreo 5 minute, pana cand ceapa devine translucenta. Se adauga vinul si se lasa sa dea in clocot, amestecand cu lingura sa se topeasca toate bucatelele ramase de la prajitul puiului. Se toarna vinul si legumele peste pui. Se adauga zeama de supa, se acopera tava cu folie de aluminiu si se pune la cuptor, micsorand temperatura la 350 F/175C (foc mediu).
Se lasa puiul la cuptor timp de o ora si jumatate, pana cand carnea cade de pe os. Se scoate puiul in vasul de servit si se tine acoperit. Se pune tava pe aragaz la foc potrivit (daca e de metal, daca nu, puneti sosul din tava intr-o craticioara), se adauga ardeii, ceapa si maslinele si se lasa sa fiarba vreo 5 minute. Se potriveste de sare si piper.
Se toarna sosul peste pui, se presara patrunjel proaspat tocat deasupra si se serveste imediat cu paine proaspata, din aia cu o crusta groasa, numai buna de muiat in sos.

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October 27, 2008

Apples for snacks - Gustari cu mere

Saturdays and Sundays are the days when we are lazy, go out, have fun, and spend bonding time. Usually Sunday afternoon I take Clara to Barnes & Noble and we stay there for hours. She finds lots of books to read and show me, and i find tens of magazines and cookbooks to inspire from.
Last time, Clara found a cookbook for kids and she couldn't wait to go home and have the bull's eye and the apple sandwiches.
We love eggs, boiled, scrambled, omelette, sunny-side-up, egg salad, devilled, and so on, and they are always better with toast, so why not make them together. We did not write down the recipe, but we figured it out on our own. We cut a circle with a cookie cutter in a slice of wheat bread, then put a dab of butter in a small frying pan and broke an egg in the middle of the bread slice. Sprinkled with salt & pepper and cooked it until the egg white was set on the bottom, them put it under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes.
Then the apple sandwiches, which i wasn't sure i'd like, since i’ve never been a peanut butter fan, but i gave it a try and it was really good. I could eat peanut butter this way every single day. You need apple slices, peanut butter (we like the crunchy one) and slices of cheddar cheese, put them together and you have a healthy fun snack.
The little tartines/tarts i made using the same crust from the fig tart, but i cut small discs with a cookie cutter and bake them for about 10-12 minutes, then topped them with arugula, apple slices, gorgonzola cheese and prosciutto. Drizzled a little bit of balsamic vinegar on top and sprinkled some cracked pepper.
Not really recipes, nor real cooking, again, but we can not stay every weekend in, for me to cook, so we like snacks like this when we get back home.


Sambatele si Duminicile sunt zilele cand sunt lenesi, iesim la plimbare, ne distram si petrecem tot timpul cu Clara. De obicei, merg cu ea duminica seara la librarie si stam acolo ore in sir. Ea gaseste tot felul de carti si jucarii, eu zeci de carti si reviste cu retete din care ma inspir.

Ultima data cand am fost, Clara a gasit o carte de retete pentru copii, si de-abia astepta sa ajungem acasa sa-i fac "Ochiul boului" ( nu mi-am dat seama ce bine suna in romana pana nu a trebuit sa scriu acum) si sandvisuri cu felii de mere.

Ne plac ouale, ochi, fierte, omleta, papara, salata de oua, umplute, si oricum ar fi, si mai ales cu o felie de paine prajita, asa ca de ce sa nu le facem impreuna. Nu am scris reteta (de parca ar fi una), dar ne-am descurcat. se taie un cerc in mijlocul unei felii de paine, se pune putin unt intr-o tigaie, si se sparge oul in mijlocul feliei de paine. Se presara cu sare si piper si se prajeste la foc mic, pana cand albusul se stabilizat in partea de jos, apoi am pus-o la cuptor la broiler 1-2 minute.

Cat despre sandvisurile cu felie de mar, nu am fost sigur ca o sa-mi placa asa o combinatie, pentru ca niciodata nu am fost mare fan al untului de arahide, dar le-am gustat si mi-au placut chiar tare mult. Tot ce tebuie sunt felii de mere, unt de arahide ( noi avem unul mai grunjos) si niste felii subtiri de branza cheddar (cascaval).

Tartinele le-am facut cu acelasi aluat de la tarta cu smochine pe care l-am taiat cu o forma rotunda de biscuiti, si apoi le-am copt 10-12 minute. Cand s-au racit, am pus desupra niste frunze de arugula, felii de mar, prosciutto si branza gorgonzola, picurat putin otet balsamic si piper macinat, si gata.

Nu sunt retete in adevaratul sens al cuvantului, dar nu putem sta mereu in casa ca eu sa gatesc, asa ca ne plac gustarile cand ne intoarcem acasa si vrem ceva repede.

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Pho Bo - Pho, supa vietnameza de vita cu fidea de orez

A couple of months ago, i was talking with Lola about asian recipes which we like a lot and wanted to make at home, since we always enjoy them when we eat out. We've been to Chinatown so many times, but we have tried only 3 or 4 places, and only one of them is our favorite. We never went twice to the others, because the first one was far better then any new one we wanted to try. We go there usually on Sunday, for lunch, on the way home from church. We are hungry and always want to order so many things. And besides the hot & sour soup which we get with the lunch order, which we love, we always order a second soup - the seafood egg drop one, just because we cannot go there without having it.
When i talked to Lola about these soups, i ventured to say that i want to make the seafood egg drop at home (which i did, and it was a fiasco, but i won't give up, i'll try it again soon) and also, pho, the Vietnamese soup. Lola said i must feel brave, but honestly, i had no clue how hard is actually to get it right.
So, I started to look for recipes online and thru my books at home, and i found one that sounded perfect. The recipe was in my book The Best of Gourmet, but you could also find it online here.
The recipe says that the soup is a favorite Vietnamese convenience food, usually purchased at street stands, but that the quality of the broth can make or break a cook's reputation. That sounded scary, but i wasn't completely discouraged. I read the recipe and thought i can pull it off. Moreover, i changed a little bit the recipe, because i had already some beef stock in my freezer, which i used instead of making a new one as recommended in the recipe. ( I made the beef stock with some neck bones and 2 shanks, about 3 lbs together, 1 whole onion, 2 celery ribs- cut in half, 2 carrots - cut in half, one parnsnip - cut in half. I know, i know, that sounds so not Vietnamese!!!!).
And then, the toppings are a little bit different from the ones recommended in the book or the ones served in a restaurant, because i had only some enoki mushrooms, radishes and cilantro in my fridge.
What i can tell you is that it came out wonderful, so tasty and just like the one we had at Pho 99, three blocks away from our house, although i know it doesn't respect the recipe 100%. How modest i sound.... I think it's the perfect remedy when you've got a cold, so this year we are not scared of the flu season anymore. We are waiting for it with a bowl of hot Pho.
Here it is my version, very similar to the one from Gourmet:
Pho Bo
2 large onions, sliced
1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, left unpeeled

3 qt beef stock
2 teaspoons star anise pieces
half a cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns

½ lb beef shabu-shabu or 1 (1/2-lb) piece boneless beef sirloin steak or tenderloin
1 lb dried thin or medium rice noodles
1/2 cup Asian fish sauce, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Broil onions and ginger on foil-lined rack of a broiler pan about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, until charred, 20 to 25 minutes. (Or, if you have a gas stove, roast onions and ginger directly on the rack of a gas burner over high heat, turning with tongs, until blistered and blackened, 10 to 15 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and cool. When the ginger is cool enough to handle, rinse and rub under cold running water to remove the blackened skin. i did not rinse the onions, we liked it a little bit charred.
-Wrap star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, and peppercorns in cheesecloth and tie into a bundle to make a spice bag, then add to the pot along with 3 quarts stock, onions, and ginger. Simmer over medium low heat uncovered for about 30 minutes. Remove the spice bag and add the fish sauce and let it boil just a minute before serving.
- I found thin slices of beef shabu-shabu (paper-thin slices of meat) at Mitsuwa supermarket, so, I skipped this step. But you can use sliced sirloin steak or tenderloin. While the broth simmers, freeze the meat until firm but not frozen solid, about 30 minutes, then slice across the grain with a sharp thin knife into less than paper thin slices.
- Soak rice noodles in cold water to cover until softened, about 30 minutes, then drain. Cook noodles in a pot of boiling water, uncovered, stirring, one minute, then drain.
- Divide noodles among your soup bowls. Top noodles with uncooked sliced steak and ladle boiling-hot broth over steak and noodles. The hot broth will cook the meat.
- Serve the soup with fresh toppings like: fresh bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, mint, basil (preferably Thai) leaves, thinly sliced scallions, lime wedges, thinly sliced fresh Thai or serrano chiles.


Supa vietnameza de vita cu fidea de orez

In urma cu cateva luni, vorbeam cu Lola despre retete asiatice care ne plac tare mult si pe care as vrea sa le incercam acasa.

Cand am fost in Chinatown, am incercat 3-4 locuri, dar numai unul este favoritul nostru. De fapt, la celelalte nu am fost decat o data si ne-am lamurit, primul ramane cel mai bun, incomparabil cu celelalte. Noi mergem de obicei la chinezi Duminica, dupa biserica, in drum spre casa. De fiecare data suntem foarte infometati si vrem fiecare cel putin un fel de mancare. Iar pe langa supa hot & sour (iute si acrisoara) pe care ne-o servesc cu pranzul, si care ne place tare mult, intotdeauna cerem o a doua supa - pe cea de fructe de mare cu zdrente de ou - pentru ca nu putem merge acolo si sa nu o comandam.

Cand am vorbit cu Lola despre supele asta, m-am aventurat sa zic ca vreau sa fac supa de fructe de mare (pe care am facut-o, a fost un fiasco, dar nu ma las batuta, o s-o incerc din nou), si de asemenea, Pho, supa vietnameza. Lola a zis ca trebuie sa fiu tare viteaza, dar cinstit, nu aveam la ora aia nici cea mai mica idee cat de greu e sa iti iasa bine.

Asa ca ca am inceput sa ma uit dupa retete pe internet si prin cartile mele de acasa, si am gasit una care mi s-a parut perfecta. Reteta e din cartea The Best of Gourmet, dar poate fi gasita si online aici.

Reteta spune ca Pho este o supa vietnameza, de obicei vanduta la standuri pe strada, dar calitatea zeamei poate sa ridice sau sa distruga reputatia unui bucatar. Si desi asta suna un pic stresant, nu m-am lasat descurajata. Am citit reteta si m-am gandit ca nu poate fi asa de greu. Ba chiar mai mult, m-am apucat sa schimb putin reteta, pentru ca aveam deja zeama de spa de vita in congelator, pe care am folosit-o in loc sa fac una noua dupa reteta gasita. (am facut supa de vita obisnuita, din peste un kg de oase de vita, de la gat si genunchi, cu o ceapa intreaga, 2 tije de telina, 2 morcovi si un pastarnac). Suna tare vietnamez, nu-i asa?

Apoi, ingredientele proaspete cu care am servit supa sunt diferite fata de ce recomanda reteta sau servesc in restaurante, pentru ca nu aveam decat ciuperci enoki, ridichi si coriandru in frigider.

Insa supa a iesit minunat, atat de gustoasa si aromata, exact ca cea pe care am mancat-o la Pho 99, un restaurant vietnamez la trei strazi de casa noastra, desi reteta me nu respecta originalul 100%. Modesta foc, manc-o mama, nu-i asa? Supa asta cred ca e remediul perfect cand esti racit, asa ca anul asta nu mai suntem speriati de sezonul de gripa ce se apropie. Il asteptam cu un castron de Pho fierbinte.

Asta e reteta facuta de mine, cu cateva modificari aduse celei din Gourmet.

Pho Bo

2 cepe taiate solzisori
o bucata de radacina de ghimbir, necuratata

3 litri zeama de supa de vita
2 seminte de anason stelat
o jumatate de bat de scortisoara
3 cuisoare
1 lingura boabe de piper

250 g carne de vita taiata f.f. subtire sau o bucata de carne de vita pentru friptura sau muschi
450 g fidea de orez
125 ml sos de peste Nam Pla ( sau sos de soia), sau dupa gust
½ lingurita sare, sau dupa gust

- Se pune ceapa si ghimbirul la copt intr-o tava la temperatura maxima sau la broiler (cand se incinge si gratarul de deasupra), pana sunt arse putin, 20-25 minute. Se pun intr-un castron si se lasa sa se raceasca. Cand ghimbirul e suficient de rece, se cojeste. Eu nu am spalat si cojit cepele, pentru ca ne plac putin mai arse.
- Se face un saculet din tifon in care se pune anasonul, scortisoara, cuisoarele si piperul si se pune la fiert cu zeama de supa, ceapa si ghimbirul. Se pune la fiert la foc mic neacoperit cca 30 minute. Se scoate saculetul de condimente si in ultimul minut se adauga sosul de peste, chiar inainte de a servi supa.
- Eu am gasit carne de vita shabu-shabu (adica e taiata feliute extem de subtiri) la un supermarket japonez, asa ca am sarit pasul asta. Dar se poate folosi o bucata de carne de vita pentru gratar sau muschi. Cat timp fierbe zeama de supa, se puen carnea la congelator si se lasa timp de 30 minute cat sa fie ferma, dar nu inghetata, apoi se taie impotriva fibrei feliute extem de subtiri.
- Se pune fideaua la muiat in apa rece, timp de 30 minute, apoi se scurge. Se pun taiteii la fiert in apa sarata clocotita, numai un minut, apoi se scurg.
- Se impart taiteii in castroanele de supa. Se pun deasupra cateva feliute de carne si se toarna peste cateva polonice de supa fierbinte. Zeama fierbinte va gati carnea.
Se serveste imediat, cu muguri de fasole, coriandru proaspat, menta, busuioc thailandez, ceapa verde tocata marunt, felii de limeta, ardei iute taiat feliute.

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October 21, 2008

Chocolate roll with raspberries - Rulada de ciocolata cu zmeura

I said I’ll be back with the recipe for the chocolate roll ( and I remember I still have some recipes from the party menu to come back with). I think this is one of the easiest desserts and you cannot go wrong with it. The filling doesn’t have to be chocolate, it could be whipped cream, mascarpone cheese, buttercream, whatever you like. The same with the fruits, but I think that the chocolate frosting - berries are such a classic, and Clara loves raspberry, so the decision was pretty easy to make. Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apricots, pears, fresh or from a compote, mango, especially caramelized, all work just fine.
And the batter doesn’t have to have cocoa in it, you can make it white and roll it with your favorite jam or Nutella, and that really is the simplest alternative. Dust with powdered sugar, or drizzle with some icing, maybe even sprinkles, or whipped cream, and any other decorations you like or have.
This time for me was a chocolate roll, with chocolate filling and raspberries, and some icing on top.
The last picture is from a while back, when i used strawberries instead of raspberries.


6 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (if you want it white, use 6 tablespoons flour in all)
6 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the vanilla and the sugar until light and fluffy, then slowly add the oil and at the end the sifted flour and cocoa powder.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add half of the egg whites to the batter and mixing gently with the spatula/ spoon (no more mixer), incorporate them by mixing upside down, not clockwise, so you don’t take all the air out of the egg whites. Fold the rest of the beaten whites into the batter just until no white streaks remain, without over-mixing the batter.
Preheat oven at 350F (170C). Pour the batter in a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or coated with a nonstick baking spray/greased and dusted with flour. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, until the center springs back when lightly pressed.
I take out the cake on wet paper towels, but online you find recipes where it says to roll them on kitchen towels dusted with powdered sugar for the white roll or cocoa for the chocolate roll. I use 4 paper towels, folded in two, wet them and turn the cake upside down onto the towels. Carefully remove the parchment paper (I sprinkle with water and it comes right off). Carefully start rolling while the cake is still hot, lengthwise, using the towel to help you. Let it cool, open side down, at least 30 minutes.
Unroll the cake carefully and remove the towels. Spread two thirds of the chocolate frosting over the cake and on top place the raspberries, then roll up tightly. Spread the rest of the chocolate frosting on top of the cake. You could drizzle some icing on top or decorate with sprinkles, fruits or whipped cream. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.

Chocolate frosting
10 oz (300 g) semisweet chocolate, chopped finely (if you prefer a sweeter filling, use milk chocolate)
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon rum extract (or 1 tablespoon cognac or orange liquor for an adult version)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (125g)

Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a boil. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate, then stir with a whisk until smooth. Add the rum extract or the cognac. (if you prefer the orange flavor, you could also add some orange zest or candied orange peel). Let cool until at room temperature.
In another bowl, whip the butter with the mixer until creamy and fluffy. Slowly, pour the chocolate in and mix until all incorporated. Put in the fridge and let cool for about 30 minutes before spreading onto the cake.
You could also flavor the chocolate frosting by adding a couple of tablespoons of jam to it - seedless raspberries, orange, strawberries.
Icing: 3 tablespoons powdered sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon water, milk or lemon juice until smooth
** you could change the quantities if you have a smaller baking pan, just keep the proportions 1 of each: egg, tablespoon of sugar, flour, oil.


Rulada cu crema de ciocolata si zmeura

Ieri am zis ca voi posta separat reteta pentru rulada cu crema de ciocolata si zmeura, si iata-ma inapoi. ( inca nu am uitat ca mai am de scris cateva din retetele de la postul despre petrecerea din aprilie, si poate curand o sa le scriu).
Cred ca ruladele sunt unele din cele mai usoare deserturi si nu se poate sa gresesti cu o rulada. Crema nu trebuie sa fie ciocolata, ci pate fi frisca, mascarpone, crema preferata pentru tort, gem, orice va place. Acelasi lucru se poate spune si despre fructele folosite, dar pentru ca mandra mea Clara e innebunita dupa zmeura si pentru ca zmeura cu ciocolata e o combinatie clasica, mi-a fost foaret usor sa hotarasc. Capsuni, afine, piersici, caise, pere, proaspete sau din compot, mango, mai ales caramelizat, toate merg foarte bine.
Iar aluatul nu trebuie sa aiba cacao in el, poate fi alb, si umplut cu gemul preferat sau Nutella, e chiar cea mai simpla varianta. Rulada poate fi pudrata cu zahar praf, sau sa aiba glazura, bombonele decorative, ciocolata topita, frisca, sau orice alte decoratii va plac sau aveti.
De data asta a fost numai ciocolata, cu o crema de ciocolata si zmeura, si putina glazura deasupra. Ultima poza e de data trecuta, cand am folosit capsuni in loc de zmeura.

Aluatul pentru rulada:
6 oua, separate
6 linguri zahar
4 linguri faina
2 linguri cacao (pentru o rulada alba folositi 6 linguri faina)
6 linguri ulei
1 lingurita esenta de vanilie
Intr-un castron, se bat galbenusurile, vanilia si zaharul pana se obtine o crema pufoasa de un galben pal, apoi se toarna treptat ulei, iar la sfarsit faina si praful de cacao, cernute.
Intr-un alt castron se bat albusurile pana cand se formeaza o spuma cu varfuri mai moi. Se adauga jumatate din albusuri peste amestecul cu faina se se amesteca usor cu o lingura ( nu se mai foloseste mixerul), amestecandu-se de sus in jos, incat sa nu se scoata tot aerul din albusuri. Se incorporeaza restul de albusuri in aluat amestecandu-se numai pana nu mai sunt dungi albe.
Se incinge cuptorul la 350F (170C). Se toarna aluatul intr-o tava acoperita fie cu hartie de copt, sau unsa cu grasime si tapetata cu faina sau cu sprayul non-stick. Se coace 15-18 minute, pana cand daca se apa cu degetul deasupra, nu ramane gaura, ci isi revine imediat.
Eu scot aluatul pe prosoape de hartie, dar am gasit online sfaturi sa fie scos pe prosop de bucatarie presarate cu praf de cacao sau zahar pudra. Eu folosesc 4 servete de hartie, puse in doua, udate, pe care scot rulada cu fatza in jos. Se indeparteaza repede hartia de copt ( iese si mai repede daca o stropiti cu putina apa). Se ruleaza usor cat aluatul este inca fierbinte, cu ajutorul servetului, pe lungime. Se lasa sa se raceasca timp de cel putin 30 minute.
Se deruleaza aluatul usor, sa nu se rupa, si se indeparteaza prosopul. Se intinde doua treimi din crema peste aluat, iar deasupra se aseaza zmeura, apoi se ruleaza inapoi, strans. Restul de crema se intinde pe deasupra ruladei. Se poate decora cu glazura, bombonele, fructe sau frisca. Se tine la frigider pana e gata de servit.

Crema de ciocolata
300 g ciocolata semi-amaruie, tocata marunt (daca va place crema mai dulce, folositi ciocolata cu lapte)
180 ml smantana lichida pentru frisca
½ lingurita esenta de rom (sau 1 lingura cognac sau lichior de portocale pentru adulti)
125g unt nesarat
Se pune ciocolata intr-un castron. Intr-o craticioara se pune la foc mediu smantana si se incalzeste pana la punctul de fierbere. Se toarna imediat peste ciocolata si se amesteca bine pana toata ciocolata s-a topit. Se adauga esenta de rom sau lichiorul. ( Daca va place aroma de portocala, se poate adauga coaja rasa, sau coaja zaharisita.) Se lasa sa se raceasca pana junge la temperatura camerei.
In alt castron se freaca untul cu mixerul pana e spumos si cremos. Se toarna ciocolata treptat si se amesteca pana se obtine o crema omogena. Se punela frigider sa se intareasca vreo 30 minute inainte sa fie intinsa pe rulada. Crema mai poate fi amestecata cu cateva linguri din gemul preferat - de zmeura, capsuni, portocale.

Glazura: 3 linguri zahar pudra amestecat cu o lingura de apa, lapte sau zeama de lamaie.
** Cantitatile pot fi adaptate dupa dimensiunile tavii, pastranduse proportiile: pentru fiecare ou, o lingura de zahara, una de faina, una de ulei.

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October 20, 2008

Fig tart - Tarta cu smochine

I have been lazy again when it comes to posting. I couldn’t get myself to stay in front at the computer too much at home, and you have to excuse me, but I get enough at work 8 hours a day. I have been cooking, although not a lot, but I have been trying new recipes, which are waiting their turn to be posted.
The summer about which I wrote a couple of weeks ago, it is definitely now gone. It is still nice, sometimes still very warm, but you could now feel the sun worn out and mellow. The earth smells different and the evening’s and morning’s chill remind you that fall is here. Still not the same fall you would have in other places, but our south-west coast nice, warm and sunny 80% of the time kind of fall. At least now it makes sense to see pumpkins all over, and it doesn’t seem so out of place. I still miss the rain, and I was hoping for it this morning when the marine layer was pretty thick and it was chilly when we left to school, but by 11 o’clock, it was almost 75F (~20C) outside and no clouds in sight. So I’ll keep waiting for it.
Since we had so many nice days in the last two weeks or so, we have tried to get out with Clara for rides on her scooter or walking around in Santa Monica, and had friends over (including from Romania). I love when the table is full and we are passing the food around ( I just don’t like that our table is still too small), it reminds me of our Sunday meals either at my grandma’s house or at our home. We are noisy and loud, we eat and talk a lot, laugh and have a wonderful time. It’s not too much about the food, or at least not as much as I am always stressed about it, but I cannot help myself.
Before my sister went back home last week, we had them over with our goddaughter (actually our parents’ goddaughter, Oana, who is one year younger than my sister, and she is more like a cousin to us) and my friend Lili with her niece. Gabriel stopped by the Polish store in Santa Monica and bought Hungarian sausages, headcheese and some wonderful slab bacon, which you cannot compete with, no matter what you cooked. I made a potato and leeks soup, then we had the fig tart, BBQ chicken with salad and a chocolate roll with raspberries. Oh, and I forgot, I baked bread, one plain and one with rosemary.
Today’s post is about the fig tart and then I’ll come back with the chocolate roll and the bread.
The pastry recipe belongs to Bron Marshall and here is her post (take the time to check our her blog, she is so talented). I found it looking for fig tarts recipes, not for pastry crust, but her photo was so tempting, I decided to use it and it was really amazing. So good, that a couple of days later I made some other small bites using it again. I was completely sold.
I didn’t follow her recipe otherwise, but improvised a little bit with the ingredients I had. I used mascarpone and goat cheese for the first layer on the crust, I baked the figs alone first and I topped the tart with gorgonzola cheese and honey.

It came out really good and the figs with the cheese and honey worked out well. At least me and other 4 of us liked it, but Gabriel and my dear sister made faces and did not care to taste it, they said they had enough food already and figs with gorgonzola cheese and honey were not supposed to be combined. They kept making fun of me all afternoon and didn’t cut me any slack, as usually.
When I made the crust again a couple of days later, I didn’t add honey on top, and Gabriel really liked that snack.
Pastry - recipe from Bron Marshall
1 cup high grade flour ( I used all purpose)
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of baking powder
100 grams of butter, cut into small cubes and then frozen
¼ cup of iced water approximately

Place flour, salt and baking powder in to a food processor, pulse to mix.
Add the small frozen butter cubes and very briefly pulse again to mix and break up the butter a little more.
Add enough of the iced water just to bring the pastry together in a few short pulses and form a soft dough.
On a lightly floured board roll the pastry out to a ½ cm thickness and cut 4 disks about 16cm in diameter. ( I made one big tart instead of 4 small ones, and i had about 1/4 of dough left over).
Chill the pastry disks for 20 minutes or until you’re ready to assemble the tarts.
** I mixed everything in a bowl using my hands and it worked out just fine.

3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese mixed with 3 tablespoons goat cheese
500 g figs, cut in quarters, previously baked for about 10 minutes at 450 F/ 230 C
3/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (ab 100 g)
2-3 tablespoons honey
Preheat your oven to 375 F/ 190 C.
I spread the mascarpone and goat cheese mix on the pastry crust, and topped it with the sliced figs.
I baked it for 20 minutes, then added the crumbled gorgonzola cheese and baked for another 5 minutes or until golden and crisp. When I took it out of the oven, drizzled about 2-3 tablespoons of honey over the top and served it immediately.


Tarta cu smochine
Am fost cam lenesa in ultimul timp cu postatul. Nu-mi vine sa stau seara la calculator cand sunt acasa, si sper sa fiu scuzata, dar imi ajung 8 ore pe zi la lucru. Am gatit saptaminile trecute, desi nu ingrozitor de mult, dar am incercat retete noi care isi asteapta randul sa fie scrise pe blog.
Vara despre care am scris cateva saptamani in urma, s-a terminat cu siguranta. Este inca foarte placut, destul de des chiar foarte cald, dar poti simti acum soarele molesit, pierzandu-si ardoarea. Pamantul miroase altfel, iar racoarea serilor si diminetilor iti aduce aminte ca toamna a venit. Poate nu aceeasi toamna din alte parti, dar e toamna tipica pentru sudul coastei de vest, placuta, calda si insorita 80% din timp. Cel putin acum face sens sa vezi dovleci peste tot, si nu ti se mai pare ciudat. Inca duc dorul ploii, si azi dimineata speram ca o sa stropeasca macar putin, ceata marina era destul de deasa si rece cand noi am plecat la scoala, dar la 11 erau deja aproape ~20C afara si nici urma de nor pe cer. Asa ca tot astept ploaia pentru cand s-o indura sa vina si la noi.
Si pentru ca am avut atatea zile frumoase in ultimele saptamani, am incercat sa iesim cu Clara de cate ori am putut cu trotineta sau la plimbari prin Santa Monica, am avut prieteni in vizita, chiar si din Romania. Imi place la nebunie cand suntem multi la masa si trecem mancarea de la unii la altii (desi inca avem aceeasi masa destul de mica), imi aduce aminte de mesele de duminica cand mergeam toti la bunica sau ne adunam toti la mama acasa. Suntem galagiosi, mancam si vorbim mult, radem si ne simtim minunat. Nu mancarea e importanta, cel putin nu atat de importanata cat ma stresez eu pentru ce pun pe masa, dar nu ma pot abtine sa nu fiu asa.
Inainte ca sora mea sa mearga acasa saptamana trecuta, ne-am adunat la noi, impreuna cu fina noastra, venita din Romania in vacanta, Oana, care e de fapt fina parintilor nostri, iar noua ca o verisoara, si prietena noastra Lili cu nepoata ei. Gabi s-a oprit pe la magazinul polonez din Santa Monica si a cumparat niste carnati unguresti, toba si slaninuta, care clar ca nu pot fi concurate de mancaruri gatite, mai ales cu paine proaspata si o ceapa rosie langa. Am facut o supa-crema de cartofi cu praz, smantana si bacon, o tarta cu smochine, pui la gratar cu salata si o rulada de ciocolata cu zmeura. Oh, si am uitat, am copt paine, una simpla si una cu rozmarin.
Postul de azi e despre tarta cu smochine, si o sa revin alta data cu rulada de ciocolata si painea.
Reteta pentru aluatul de tarta ii apartine lui Bron Marshall si aici am gasit
postul ei. Cautam retete pentru tarte cu smochine, nu pentru aluat, dar poza ei e atat de frumoasa si de tentanta, ca nu m-am putut abtine sa n-o folosesc, si a fost intr-adevar foarte buna. Atat de buna, ca am refacut-o din nou cateva zile mai tarziu, pentru niste gustari. Si m-a castigat complet.
Nu am urmat reteta ei in ce priveste tarta, ci am improvizat cu ingredientele pe care le aveam deja. Am folosit mascarpone amestecat cu branza de capra pentru primul strat peste aluat, am copt smochinele partial inainte de a le pune pe tarta si am pus deasupra niste gorgonzola sfaramitata si miere.
A iesit foarte buna, iar smochinele impreuna cu branza si mierea au mers tare bine. Cel putin mie si inca la patru dintre noi ne-au placut, dar Gabi si sora-mea au facut fete-fete si nu au gustat-o, zicand ca au mancat destula mancare buna, iar smochinele cu gorgonzola si mierea nu ar trebui combinate niciodata. Au facut glume pe seama mea, ca de obicei, toata seara.
Cand am facut aluatul din nou cateva zile mai tarziu, si nu am mai adaugat miere pe tartine, chiar i-a placut lui Gabi. A zis ca asa pot sa le mai fac oricand.

Reteta pentru aluat de tart - ii apartine lui Bron Marshall
125 g faina
½ lingurita sare
½ lingurita praf de copt
100 g unt, foarte foarte rece, taiat in cubulete mici
cca 60 ml apa f.f. rece
Se pun faina, sarea si praful de copt in robotelul de bucatarie si se pulseaza de cateva ori sa se amestece.
Se adauga bucatelele de unt si se pulseaza rar incat untul sa fie sfaramitat si incorporat in faina.
Se adauga apa treptat, pulsand, numai atat cat sa adune aluatul intr-o bila.
Pe o planseta presarata cu faina se intinde foaia de aluat cu grosimea de ½ cm, si se taie 4 discuri de cca 16 cm diametru. Se pun la frigider cel putin 20 minute, sau pana cand sunteit gata sa asamblati tarta si sa o puneti la cuptor.
** Eu am framantat aluatul cu mana, si a mers foarte bine, si am facut numai o tarta mare, nu patru mai mici.

Umplutura pentru tarta:
3 linguri branza mascarpone amestecata cu 3 linguri branza de capra
500 g smochine proaspete, taiate in patru, coapte timp de vreo 10 minute la 450 F/ 230 C
aprox. 100 g branza gorgonzola sfaramitata
2-3 linguri miere

Se incinge cuptorul la 375 F/ 190 C.
Am intins amestecul de mascarpone si branza de capra pe aluat, iar deasupra am aranjat smochinele. Am copt tarta timp de 20 minute, apoi am presarat gorgonzola pe deasupra si am pus-o inapoi la copt inca 5 minute, pana marginea a devenit aurie si crocanta.
Cand am scos-s din cuptor, am picurat mierea pe deasupra si am servit-o imediat.

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October 10, 2008

Party food - Menu pentru petrecere

This post is not about something recent, the party was back in April, and the pictures were taken then, but since at that time i wasn't yet ready to start this blogging affair, i saved them in a folder. Honestly, i was thinking i'll have the time to re-make some of the food to take new pictures, but until now, i didn't get to do it. Maybe later on, and then i'll edit the post to add the new pics.

First, about the party. It was meant to be a surprise birthday party for my friend Lily, even though it was a week after her B-day. On her birthday we went to her house for dinner, gave her the gift and she really didn't expect anything else after that. We planned it for a couple of weeks. Claudia, her daughter was supposed to get the flowers and decorations, then together with my sister to clean and set up our place for the party, while i was in charge with the food. Everything was planned, when my dear husband, while chatting with Lily three days before the party said: "so, we'll see you at the party Saturday". He knew it was supposed to be a surprise, but somehow forgot Lily is the only one who shouldn't know about it!! He called both me and Claudia immediately to appologize, i think he was actually affraid how mad we'll be, and to repair the damage we told Lily that he meant to say "we are having a BBQ on Saturday, see you then", but he got it wrong. While we were thinking that the surprise was ruined and Lily will no longer be surprised, she actually wasn't paying attention to Gabriel when he said party, and all our worries were for nothing. The only worry we should have had it was that Saturday, Lily was so tired after her work day, that she thought a BBQ is not worth all the trouble and she wasn't lanning to come to my house. She had a bad day, she couldn't wait to go home and get in bed. I don't remember why Gabriel dropped Clara at her house that day, but if it wasn't for the fact that i asked her to bring her back home instead of us going to pick her up, Lily wouldn't have come at all. We had no clue about this until it was after 7 o'clock and Lily wasn't showing up. We kept on calling her to make sure she is coming, otherwise, the three buckets of flowers Claudia bought that morning from the flower market downtown ( for which she had to wake up at 6 am on a Saturday morning), the hours spent by her and my sister decorating and then helping me, and the hours i worked in the kitchen were in vain. I mean we could have managed to eat everything and enjoy the party, but this was not meant for us, it was meant to celebrate Lily, and thank her for the wonderful friend she is, hoping to make her feel special.

That's why, in spite of all the worries, it was actually a big surprise. So big, that for about two minutes she didn't understand what are we celebrating. And that this was really for her. And that she had no clue whatsoever, and she almost missed everything. After those two minutes, the party was on, and Lily got the message - we love her dearly and she deserves ten times more than this.

Here is what we had that night:

- Tartines with pork tenderloin and a celery - carrot remoulade
- Mini savory palms with an olive -roasted red bell pepper - parmesan - parsley stuffing

- Cucumber cups with whipped cream cheese, cured salmon, shallot, dill and capers

- Crab Salad

- Beets and cheese "cake" - layers of roasted beets and feta - ricotta - dill with crackers

- Black Forrest prosciutto with cantaloupe

- Squid ink pasta with shrimp

- Chicken "Lollipops" with herbed couscous and roasted mini squash/ zucchini with feta crumbs and basil

- Napoleons with vanilla custard and strawberries (really sorry for the blurry photo, but i'll make it again very soon, when i'll post the recipe too).

Since this post is long enough, I think i'll break them down in different posts, at least the ones that have kind of a recipe to write about. There was nothing extraordinary about the cucumber-salmon bites and the cantaloupe-prosciutto combination, or about the beet & cheese "cake" with the crackers, but i knew our friends would like them. The rest, to be continued....

Postul acesta e cu poze vechi, de la o petrecere surpriza in Aprilie. Am salvat atunci pozele, si am tot zis ca o sa ajung sa le postez si poate chiar sa refac bucatele pentru niste poze mai bune, dar nu am apucat pana acum.
Petrecerea surpriza a fost pentru ziua Lilianei, prietena noastra. Chiar de ziua ei fusesem la cina impreuna, i-am dat cadoul si nu se mai astepta la nimic dupa aceea. Dar noi vorbisem cu fata ei Claudia sa ii facem petrecerea la 3 zile dupa, la noi acasa. Am planificat totul cu saptamani inainte, si a ramas Claudia o sa cumpere florile, decoratiile si sa aranjeze casa noastra cu sora-mea, iar eu ma ocup de mancare. Numai ca scumpul si dragul meu sot s-a scapat si i-a spus Lilianei ca ne vedem la petrecere Sambata, iar noi ca sa dregem busuiocul am zis ca ne-am gandit sa punem de un gratar la noi Sambata, si Gabi i-a zis din greseala petrecere. Ne-am facut noi griji sa nu cumva sa se fi prins, cand de fapt Lili nici nu-l auzise bine pe Gabi, si habar n-avea de nimic. De fapt, nu numai ca nu avea habar, dar dupa o zi lunga la lucru sambata aia, s-a gandit nici sa nu vina la noi. Noroc ca Gabi a lasat-o pe Clara la ea, si am insistat noi sa o aduca ea inapoi, altfel toata munca noastra ar fi fost de pomana (Claudia a fost la 6 dimineata in piata de flori si a venit cu 3 galeti acasa, iar dupa-amiaza a muncit cu sora-mea sa aranjeze totul si m-au ajutat in bucatarie, in timp ce eu am petrecut jumatate de zi cu pregatitul). Nu ca nu am fi fost noi in stare sa consumam totul, dar ideea e ca totul a fost pentru ea, sa-i multumim pentru prietenia ei si sa o sarbatorim.
Lili a ajuns la noi dupa 7 jumate seara si in primele doua minute nu a inteles pentru cine era surpriza si de ce e casa aranjata asa frumos. Se uita la noi, la flori, la masa, de parca nimic nu facea sens. Dupa cateva minute, pupaturi si imbratisari, din nou, am inceput petrecerea, iar Lili a primit mesajul - ne e tare draga si merita chiar de zece ori mai mult, mai ales de ziua ei.
Meniul a fost:
- Tartine cu muschiulet de porc si salada de telina si morcov
- Mini plamieri cu umplutura de masline- ardei copt- parmesan- patrunjel
- Cupe de castraveti cu spuma de Philadelphia, somon, ceapa rosie (esalota), marar si capere
- Salata de crab
- "Tort" de sfecla si branza telemea- ricotta - marar cu biscuiti
- Prosciutto cu pepene galben
- Paste negre ( cu cerneala de sepia) si creveti
- "Acadele" de pui la gratar, couscous aromat si mini dovlecei la cuptor cu telemea si busuioc
- Cremsnit cu vanilie si capsuni (scuze pentru calitatea pozei atat de incetosate, dar o sa le fac in curand din nou si o sa postez atunci reteta si pun alta poza).
Si pentru ca postul asta e destul de lung deja, o sa am altele separate pentru fiecare din mancarurile care au un fel de reteta. Nu a fost nimic iesit din comun in ce priveste castravetii cu somon, prosciutto cu pepene galben si sfecla cu branza si ( mai ales biscuti), dar sunt combinatii care stiu ca le plac prietenilor nostri. In rest, o sa vina continuarea....

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October 8, 2008

About dissapointment and a recipe - Savory Stuffed Crepes - Clatite umplute

I don't know if you've read here when i was talking about my dream of becoming Suzanne Goin (by the way, i've just seen again the commercial for land of food and wine, she is one of the chefs featured in it, and i still like her in spite of what i wrote lower).
I have been planning for a long time to go to her restaurant Lucques, but for some reason we didn't get there until last Sunday. I've read about her, her talent, her inspiration, her recipes, awards and book, and about her restaurant which was voted best in LA last year and it is rated in the best 10 in LA all the time. But our dinner at Lucques two days ago wasn't all i have been dreaming of. I was looking to show my husband that this is what food means to me. More than a plate on the table, but something that can make you feel better, because it carries the soul of the one who makes it, and brings everybody together, having a great time, and creating wonderful memories. And all my dreams were shattered in about 60 minutes, making me pretty sad. And this happened on our 10th year anniversary night, which was worse, especially for me, since i am the food-crazy one, Gabriel couldn't care less.
It doesn't mean that the James Beard winning chef Goin isn't a talented chef, that her book isn't inspired and that the dishes served at Lucques could not be truly amazing, because her "record speaks for herself " (debate talk, anybody?). And anyway, i am no food critic, as anybody could see, although i would love to find my words at least 1/10 as well as
Opinionated About Dining. (off topic - now i really want to go to Bastide and to Providence here in LA, and i cannot wait for Steve Plotnicki to go to Lucques so i could read what he has to say.)

The Sunday supper we had (the meals for which Lucques is known) was far away from being extraordinary. The bread was cold (refrigerated cold), but we liked the snack - olives and almonds tossed in oil. The salad was just so-so, lacking some acidity, the roasted grapes should have been bursting with flavor, it's their season, isn't it?, but they didn't. I thought the niman ranch pork chop was good, with breadcrumbs on top and roasted tomatoes, served on green beans, strings and shelled, but the meat had several gristles, which couldn't be swallowed, just gracefully spitted out. I had the fish (grouper) with boiled potatoes in a saffron broth, tomato confit and oranges. Normally, this is a combo i would like, but this time, for some reason it didn't work for me. It was ok, but not more than that, and even i made fish with oranges at home, so i was looking for something more adventurous or exciting from them. The dessert was apple and frangipane galette with crème fraîche and vanilla ice cream. The crust underneath the apples was really very hard, not flaky, and the almond taste was so strong that made it very bitter. I could not finish the slice and tried to pass it to Gabriel, but he didn't want it. I couldn't believe my ears, he usually eats three times as much as I do and never says no to anything. The vanilla ice cream was so blaaah, i think Haagen Dazs is three times better and we are talking about supermarket ice cream.
I know it sounds harsh, it was not the worst dinner, but was definitely not memorable, nor inspiring, just acceptable. Lucques seemed overrated, and it didn't live up to all the praise. Maybe weekday meals are better, and maybe we'll go back to see, but not very soon. The only thing i know is that they fell short. Maybe the chef was not there this time, who knows...

The service was not spot on either, some of them being quite smug. The salads came out quick enough, but for the main entrees, we waited a while. The table next to us, received theirs one after another, although they came after us, while we were still waiting.
On the other side, the portions are large and the price is not bad at all for a 3 course menu in an upscale place. The restaurant looks nice, i like the rustic elegant setting, and the patio, too, and if i am still dreaming of having my own restaurant one day, i would love to have one like that and so full all the time.

Enough gossip, now my post for today - Savory Stuffed Crepes

I like crepes, but not very much making them, because (1) i don't like to be glued to the stove like that, i usually multi-task, (2) they dissapear so quickly and (3) when you start eating them, it is hard to stop after just one or two.
I like making stuffed crepes with savory fillings, baked or served as appetizers. I like the mushroom stuffing, the spinach and cheese, the chicken livers, or ground meat, ricotta and dill, baked au gratin, served with a salad....
This time, i could not make up my mind, i suffer of this a lot, and made two separate ones - one stuffed with a mix of spinach - ricotta - feta with a bechamel sauce and another one with chicken livers -onions -zucchini -herbs with a tomato sauce and parmesan. This is not diet food, but since i make them only once or twice a year, i think (hope) we'll survive. I know how long this post is and how the recipes are not complicated though they look scary, but they are not difficult at all, and the results are really worth all the trouble this time.

(makes at least 12, depending on the size of your skillet)
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups milk + 1/2 cup sparkling water (or 2 cups milk)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons oil
Whisk the eggs with the milk and the sparkling water until they are combined. Put the flour in another bowl and add the liquids, mixing well to avoid any lumps, until all is thoroughly incorporated. Add the salt and oil, and if the batter is too thick, more milk (it should look like heavy cream). Cover and refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes to an hour, even longer.
Heat a non-stick skillet, over medium heat. Brush it with oil, and when it's hot but not smoking, pour about ½ of a ladle/cup of batter into the center of the skillet and rotate it so the batter covers the bottom of the pan in a thin layer. Cook the crepe until it is just golden on one side, 1 to 2 minutes, turn it and cook until it is golden on the other side, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate, and keep warm by covering with aluminum foil. Continue until all the batter is used.

Bechamel sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups milk
Salt, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don't let it brown. Add the milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 more minutes. Stir in ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Remove from the heat.

Spinach stuffing: (for 6 stuffed crepes - 18 rolls)
10 oz spinach (ab 300g)
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup feta cheese
one bunch scallions chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 eggs
Salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

Saute the green onions and spinach until there is no more moisture in the pan. Let cool, then mix the spinach with the cheeses, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper and chili flakes.
Stuff each crepe with about 2 tablespoons spinach mixture, roll them, then remove the ends and cut the crepe in three segments.
Butter a baking dish and spread half of the bechamel sauce on the bottom. Place the crepe rolls standing in the dish, then pour the rest of the cheese sauce on top. Sprinkle more grated Parmesan cheese on top if you like. Bake at 350F (170C) for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Chicken liver stuffing (for 6 stuffed crepes)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 zucchini, grated (makes the stuffing moist; squeeze out all water from it when ready to use)
2 slices bacon, diced
one pound chicken livers
1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
salt, pepper and ½ teaspoon dry thyme
225 ml tomato sauce

Cook half of the onion, the bacon and garlic in a skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden. Clean and rinse livers, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Add livers and thyme to onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until livers are just cooked through and they are no longer pink in center. Remove from heat, let cool, then chop the livers. I don’t use the food processor for this because it will come out like a pate, and I like the liver a little bit chunkier for the stuffing.
Saute the other half of onion with the zucchini until no longer moist. Add the zucchini, the dill and the egg to the chicken livers and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
Use about 3 tablespoons chicken liver mixture for each crepe. Stuff and roll all crepes.
Butter a baking dish, spread half of the tomato sauce on the bottom, then place the crepes on top of the sauce, and cover with the rest of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped thyme or parsley on top. Bake at 350F (170C) for about 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Serve both immediately, preferable with a salad.



(Ingrediente pentru cel putin 12, depinde de marimea tigaii)
3 oua
375 ml lapte + 125 ml apa minerala (sau 500 ml lapte)
175 g faina ( o ceasca si jumatate)
un varf de sare
2 linguri ulei

Se amesteca ouale cu laptele si apa minerala (sau numai lapte) pana sunt combinate bine. Intr-un castron se pune faina si se adauga lichidele, amestecandu-se bine incat sa nu fie cocoloase. Se adauga sarea si uleiul, iar daca e nevoie si mai mult lapte, incat compozitia sa fie ca o smantana subtire. Se lasa sa se odihneasca la frigider aproape o ora, chiar si mai mult.
Se pune o tigaie neaderenta sa se incinga la foc potrivit. Se unge cu putin ulei, se toarnă o jumatate de polonic de compoziţie in mijloc si se roteste tigaia incat compozitia sa acopere tot fundul intr-un strat subtire. Se prajeste clatita 1-2 minute pe o parte, pana e aurie, apoi se intoarce pe partea cealalta sa se rumeneasca, aproape 30 secunde. Se fac pe rand toate clatitele si se aseaza intr-o farfurie una peste alta. Se continua pana toata compozitia e folosita.

Sos alb (Bechamel):

4 linguri unt
2 linguri faina
350 ml lapte
Sare, piper si 1/4 lingurita nucsoara rasa
½ ceasca Parmesan ras

Se topeste untul intr-o craticioara la foc potrivit. Se adauga faina si se prajeste, amestecandu-se continuu, pana cand arata ca o pasta, fara sa se arda. Se adauga laptele, amestecandu-se continuu in sosul care incepe sa se ingroasa. Se lasa sa ajunga la clocot, apoi se adauga sarea, piperul si nucsoara, se micsoreaza focul si se amesteca in continuare inca vreo 2 minute. Se amesteca parmesanul ras si se da la o parte de pe foc.

Umplutura cu spanac: (pt. 6-8 clatite - 18-24 ruluori)

300g spanac
1 ceasca urda proaspata ( ricotta)
½ ceasca telemea zdrobita
o legatura ceapa verde tocata marunt
2 linguri patrunjel proaspat tocat
2 oua
Sare, piper si 1/2 lingurita ardei iute uscat

Se calesc ceapa verde si spanacul pana se evapora tot lichidul. Se lasa sa se raceasca, apoi se amesteca spanacul, urda, telemeaua, ouale, patrunjelul si condimentele. Se umple fiecare clatita cu 2-3 linguri de spanac, se ruleaza, se taie capatele si se imparte fiecare clatita in trei parti.Se unge un vas termorezistent cu unt si se intinde jumatate din sosul alb pe fundul vasului. Se pun rulouri cu spanac in picioare unul langa altul pana se umple vasul, si se toarna restul sosului de branza pe deasupra. Se presara Parmesan ras pe deasupra si se da la cuptor la 350F (170C) pentru vreo jumatate de ora, pana se rumeneste deasupra.

Umplutura de ficatei de pasare (pentru 6-8 clatite umplute)

1 ceapa potrivita, tocata marunt
2 catei de usturoi
1 dovlecel micut dat pe razatoarea mare (face umplutura mai putin uscata; se scurge bine de apa cand e gata de folosit)
2 felii de bacon tocate marunt
500 g ficatei de pasare
1 ou
2 linguri marar proaspat, tocat
sare, piper and ½ lingurita cimbru uscat

225 ml sos de rosii

Se caleste jumatate din ceapa cu baconul si usturoiul, pana se aureste ceapa. Intre timp se spala si curata bine ficateii, se sterg si se condimenteaza cu sare si piper. Se adauga ficateii si cimbrul peste ceapa si se gatesc pana nu mai sunt roz in mijloc, fara sa fie uscati/ prajiti prea tare. Se lasa sa se raceasca, apoi se toaca marunt. Eu nu ii pun la robotel pentru ca ar iesi prea pasta, ca pentru pate, si noua ne place umplutura sa aiba bucatele mai mari.Se caleste restul de ceapa si dovlecelul pana se evapora tot lichidul. Se amesteca dovlecelul, mararul si oul cu ficateii si daca e necesar, se mai adauga sare si piper, dupa gustul fiecaruia.Se umplu fiecare clatita cu vreo 2-3 linguri din amestecul de ficatei si se ruleaza ca un sul.Se unge un vas termorezistent cu unt si se intinde jumatate din sosul de rosii pe fundul vasului. Se pun clatitele una langa alta, si se toarna restul sosului de rosii pe deasupra. Se presara Parmesan ras si patrunjel sau cimbru proaspat pe deasupra si se da la cuptor la 350F (170C) pentru vreo jumatate de ora, pana se rumeneste.
Se servesc imediat cu salata.

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October 2, 2008

Summer is not really over - Popsicles - Inghetata

I don’t know how the weather is where you live, but here, last week was hotter then July or August. And I don’t know if it is just my impression, but this summer was more humid than ever here in Los Angeles. The last three days were so hot, that is hard to believe is October already. Especially when I look at the stores and see displays with Halloween and Thanksgiving. I looked at the cooking magazines and their newsletters and everybody is writing about fall menus, seasonal ingredients, Thanksgiving, and it feels weird, at least for now.
My mom told me that back home has been raining lately, and about two weeks ago it was so cold, it felt like November- December, but here you could hardly say that.
I live in Los Angeles for almost 7 years now, and I think we are in a blessed place. I love the weather, but from time to time, I miss the rainy days, the smell of autumn, leaves and earthiness, the wind, and the frost at Christmas time (just for a week would be fine, thank you). I miss those days when on the way home the clouds gathered out of nowhere, we had no umbrella, and we were running, but not too fast, to get home before we were soaked - and I know I would have never said this back home, but after 7 years and 15 rains in all, if they were 15...... And I miss tasting the snow flakes (don’t laugh, but since I was a kid I loved opening my mouth and let some melt on my tongue, not to talk about the times when we were actually eating snow, ahem). It’s funny now in December when we are going to buy a Christmas tree and following tradition we are making sausages, headcheese, stuffed cabbage rolls and cozonac (which is almost like a Challah bread, but has a sweet stuffing), and at the same time you are wearing t-shirts and outside are 20C.
That’s why last week, instead of looking at chilli recipes and hearty soups or stews, we wanted ice cream. So, we made popsicles to cool down, and they were a tasty treat, plus the work was minimal.
There is no recipe, just one cantaloupe, one and a half cups mango nectar, one cup pineapple from a can. The cantaloupe and the nectar had enough sugar, so I didn’t add anymore. I cut the cantaloupe in small cubes, then put everything in a blender and pureed for about 10-15 seconds. Put it in the popsicle tray and into the freezer for about 1-2 hours. It made 10 popsicles, after we have been tasting the fruity mixture too many times.
They were very refreshing and tasted so sweet, that next day we made a second batch.
And if the weather continues to be so warm this coming weekend, we’ll make popsicles again, this time with some berries and maybe yogurt


Inghetata de pepene galben, mango si ananas

Nu stiu cum e vremea pe la voi acum, dar aici, ultima saptamana a fost ingrozitor de cald, parca mai rau decat in Iulie si August. Si parca a fost mai multa umezeala decat verile trecute. Nici nu-ti vine sa crezi ca e deja Octombrie, mai ales cand te uiti prin magazine si vezi produse si vitrine aranjate pentru Halloween si Thaksgiving deja (?!?!). Ma uitam prin revistele culinare tiparite luna aceasta si la emailurile lor cu retete, si toti vorbesc de retete si meniuri de toamna, supe si tocani, ingrediente de sezon, si chiar despre meniul pentru masa de Ziua Recunostintei si mi se pare ciudat, e prea devreme, doar nu le-a venit inca vremea....
Mi-a spus mama ca acasa a plouat deja saptamanile trecute in nestire, ca a fost chiar frig rau, ca in Noiembrie - Decembrie, dar ca apoi s-a facut iar frumos si apoi iar frig, dar aici, nici vorba de asa ceva.
Traiesc in Los Angeles de aproape 7 ani, si cred ca stam intr-un loc binecuvantat. Imi place la nebunie vremea asta, dar din cand in cand mi se face dor de ploaie, sa miroasa a toamna, a frunze si a pamant umed, a vant, si chiar a ger, macar o saptamana in preajma Craciunului. Mi-e dor sa ma prinda ploaia fara umbrela, si sa grabesc pasul in drum spre casa, dar nu prea tare, ci numai suficient cat sa nu ne facem ciuciulete. Mi-e dor sa gust fulgi de zapada ( sa nu radeti, dar asa faceam copii fiind, si nu de putine ori mancam zapada de-a dreptul). E ciudat acum in Decembrie, cand mergem dupa bradul de Craciun, ne-apucam de facut carnati, toba, sarmale si cozonaci, iar afara sunt 20 C si lumea poarta tricouri.
Din cauza vremii, saptamana trecuta, in loc sa ma uit la retete de chili, mancaruri si ciorbe, noua ni s-a facut pofta de inghetata. Asa ca am facut inghetata sa ne racorim, si au fost un desert delicios, si cu munca minima.
Nu am o reteta, un cantalup (aproape 1 kg), 300 ml nectar de mango si o jumatate de conserva de ananas in compot. Nu am avut nevoie de zahar pentru ca si pepenele si nectarul au fost suficient de dulci. Am taiat pepenele galben in cuburi, si am pus toate ingredientele la blender, pulsand 10-15 secunde, apoi am pus in forma de inghetata la congelator pentru 1-2 ore. Noua ne-au iesit 10 bucati, dupa ce am tot gustat piureul de fructe de mult prea multe ori.
Au fost atat racoritoare si delicioase, incat a doua zi am mai facut o tura.
Iar daca vremea continua sa fie atat de calda, weekendul asta facem altele cu ceva zmeura si iaurt.

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October 1, 2008

My grandma's moussaka - Musaca, reteta bunicii mele

About two weeks ago, i made moussaka. Almost at the same time when Bea posted her wonderful vacation journal and pictures from Crete, including the moussaka she made back home in France with her mom.
Off course her pictures are amazing, and her moussaka looks so good and tempting, that if i wouldn't have made it myself a couple of days before, for sure i would have made it after looking at hers.
So, i decided to go ahead posting this and not feel bad about the inferiority of my pictures (not that we have the same visitors anyway on our blogs, ahem...).
My grandma from my dad's side has some balcanic roots in her family, and maybe that's why her moussaka and baclava were always so good, but then again, everything Maia made was excelent.
My grandma's moussaka is made with beef, and that's how i had it all the time in Romania, nobody it made it with lamb (i don't know if now you could find lamb meat in the supermarkets any time, but before i moved here, the only time when you found lamb was Easter time). As a matter of fact, until about 10 years ago, i didn't even know that the original Greek recipes call for ground lamb meat. I didn't know about the eggplant, i thought that adding grilled eggplant or zucchinis was just another version.
You see, the recipe that Maia has is different. She uses thin slices of potatoes, which she fries only for about a minute, until they are light golden. The meat mixture is mixed with tomato sauce, sour cream and eggs, and then on top she added either a bechamel sauce, or just some eggs beaten with cream and cheese to have a nice golden top.
That's how i learnt to make it when i left to college and moved away from home, and only sometimes i add a layer of grilled zucchini or eggplant, but otherwise it's pretty much Maia's original recipe.

That doesn't mean that i don't like the traditional Greek lamb recipe, because i really do. I had it here at the Greek taverna accross the street from St. Sophia Cathedral, and also at the Greek festival that the church has each September. They make it with mashed potatoes, eggplant and lamb, wonderful rich bechamel sauce, all blended together with the smell of oregano...
The only change i brought to Maia's recipe this time is that i didn't fry the potatoes, but i blanched them in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes. I was trying to cut down the grease and fat, and i think it worked just fine.
Next time, i'll try maybe a recipe closer to the Greek one, but it will still be made with beef instead of lamb, because my dear ones from home, would not have ground lamb in anything else but meatballs with a yogurt sauce and pita bread, and that's another post to come.
Maia's Moussaka recipe
8-10 potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1- 1.5 pounds ground beef
1 onion diced
2 garlic cloves chopped
250 ml ( ab 8 oz) crushed tomatoes (canned)
1 teaspoon dried thyme or summer savory
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sour cream
3 eggs beaten (divided - half for the meat sauce, half to pour on top)
2 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
For the meat sauce: Saute the onion in sunflower oil until translucent, then add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, and after about a minute, the meat, crumbled. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until it is all browned.
Add the salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, the crushed tomatoes and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Let it cool down, then add the sourcream and half of the beaten eggs.
In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the potatoes for only about 2-3 minutes. ( You could also fry the potatoes, or prepare your favorite mashed ones and use those for the layers in this moussaka. As you see we are not so close to the traditional recipe anyway, so one more change is not going to kill anybody, right?)
In a buttered dish, arrange a layer of potatoes ( use 1/3 of them for each layer) on the bottom, then add half of the meat sauce, followed by the second layer of potatoes, the rest of the meat sauce and last the rest of potatoes. On top, pour the sauce made from the second half of the beaten eggs, mixed with the cream and parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350F (170C) for about 40-60 minutes, until the top is golden.
It is great with a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and scallions, or pickles. And the leftovers are just as good as the first serving.


Musaca - reteta bunicii mele
8-10 cartofi taiati felii, fierti
500 gr carne tocata
250 sos de rosii
o ceapa tocata marunt
2 catei de usturoi tocati
2 linguri smantana
o lingurita cimbru uscat
o lingurita oregano uscat
sare si piper
3 oua batute (jumatate se folosesc la sosul de carne, jumatate se toarna deasupra pt. gratinat)
2 linguri smantana dulce
3 linguri parmesan ras

Sosul de carne: se prajeste ceapa si usturoiul putin, apoi se adauga carnea, sarea, piperul, oregano si cimbrul uscat si se prajesc 8-10 minute, pana s-a facut maronie. Se adauga sucul de rosii si se lasa sa fiarba sosul la foc mic timp de 15-20 minute. Se da la o parte si cand s-a racit putin se adauga smantana si jumatate din ouale batute.
Intre timp se fierb cartofii taiati felii timp de 2-3 minute in apa sarata. Se scurg bine si se aseaza intr-un vas uns cu unt, un strat de cartofi (1/3 din ei), apoi un strat de sos de carne, iar un strat de cartofi, restul de carne si se termina cu ultima treime din cartofi. Deasupra se toarna restul de oua amestecate bine cu smantana si parmesan.
Se pune la cuptor la foc mediu timp de 40-60 de minute, pana sosul de deasupra devine auriu.

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