July 28, 2008

At the farm - La ferma


Saturday we took off to go to a farm where you could pick our own fruits and veggies, pet the animals and get away from the city.
Last year we went for the first time to Murray family farm and we loved it there. They had tons of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, peaches, nectarines, plouts, and cherry tomatoes. But because it took us about 2 hours to get there, I decided this year to look for something closer to us, and this is how I found Underwood Farm in Moorpark. Their list of produce was so exciting, so we went there looking for same beautiful experience and lots of fruits and veggies, of course.
The good part was that this was closer to us, it took us only about 45 minutes to get there. And it was not that hot like in Bakersfield. Also nice was the petting zoo and Clara loved all the animals, and this part of the farm looked really nice.

But as far as the fruits and veggies, I was dissapointed. I barely got a pound of raspberries because I was stubborn and wanted to find some, there were no strawberries in sight, no ripe peaches, apricots, oranges or avocados. Full of zucchini, squash and cucumbers, but my guys are not big fans of the zucchini and squash. The cucumbers were the largest I've seen, and since we prefer the small Persian ones or the English/hot house ones, I did not get any.
I loved the bell peppers (the purple ones are absolutely beautiful), the yellow and candy stripe beets, the zucchini flowers, for which I was looking for months now to buy and couldn't get my hands on any, and the tomatoes. And the lettuce which I forgot to take pictures of. Since I am the only one that takes pictures, but I had my hands all muddy from picking the veggies, I have no photos of the field, just the animals and veggies and fruits on the table, at home. (Sorry for some of the pictures and for the red-and-white tablecloth, but we wanted to have a picnic table).


I missed the heirloom tomato rows, but I've seen a lady with some very beautiful zebra heirlooms, however, we didn't go back for them, because we were on the way to the car already. But at the farm stand we tasted yellow watermelon and we had to buy one, it was so tasty, and we've never seen a yellow one before.



Now thinking about it, I don't think I was dissapointed at all. We had a good time and we love at least once in a while to do something like this. Maybe the timing wasn't good either for some of the fruits, so we decided we have to go to the other farm in a couple of weeks, we want some peaches and apricots, and we remember that smell in the orchard too well not to go there again.
My sister and her better half came over for dinner, and that was the perfect ending to a nice Saturday. We made whole roasted chicken, potato salad (boiled potatoes, red onion and olives), had some bell peppers and tomatoes, baked stuffed zucchini flowers and for dessert - watermelon.

The roasted chicken was seasoned, then baked for 15-20 minutes at 375F (190C) with garlic cloves, half a lemon sliced and rosemary and thyme, then lowered the temperature to 350 and baked for another 45-60 minutes.


I don't think there is another comforting food that says more "Saturday family meal" like a roasted chicken. The house smells nice, everybody likes it and any leftovers ( if there are any) are perfect later on. Not to say how easy it is to make it.
Now, the stuffed zucchini flowers, which gave my husband the opportunity to make fun of me once again, were really amazing. I didn't have the guts to fry them, it was a big chance they would come out greasy and the stuffing will be too runny, or God knows what else would go wrong, so I decided to bake them and they came out perfect.
As far as the stuffing goes, I used the cheeses I had in my fridge, but yo could use whatever you want. The most recipes online ask for ricotta, but I didn't have any.
**** Last night I found out that the zucchini blossoms could be female or male, so I know now to tell you that mine were male flowers. I didn't know this when I picked them. I didn't want to pick the female flowers, which have the little zucchini growing right underneath the flower, because I thought those are more mature ones?!?!?!?!?!? Once again, I should do my homework before, don't you think so?****




As much as I was excited to make this, I disliked the cleaning process. The flowers were full of ants and they are so delicate, it was hard not to tear the flowers. This is my excuse for "bruising" a little some of the flowers.

Baked stuffed zucchini flowers
20 zucchini flowers, cleaned, washed, pistils removed
5 oz goat cheese (125 g)
5 oz feta cheese (125 g)
a bunch of spinach, cleaned and chopped
fresh basil, chopped
1 egg
a pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

Mix the cheeses, egg, spinach, basil, nutmeg, salt & pepper until well combined. Put the cheese mixture in a plastic bag, cut one tip and pipe the stuffing into the flowers, handling them as careful and gentle as possible.
Place the flowers on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, drizzle with some olive oil and bake them at 350F (175C) for about 15-18 minutes. Serve them immediately.


~~~~~~~~


Sambata trecuta am fost la o ferma unde poti culege singur fructe si legume, copiii pot vedea si mangaia animalele, departe de oras. Anul trecut am fost la Murray family farm si ne-a placut foarte mult acolo. Aveau atat de multa zmeura, mure, afine, piersice, nectarine, un fel de prune altoite cu nectarine si rosii mici. Dar pentru ca ne-a luat 2 ore sa ajungem acolo, am cautat alta ferma mai aproape de noi si asa am gasit Underwood Farm in Moorpark. Lista lor de fructe si legume e multa mai mare, asa ca am mers acolo, sperand sa avem parte de o experienta la fel de frumoasa, si bineinteles sa culegem fructe si legume multe.
Partea buna e ca ferma asta e mult mai aproape de noi, ne-a luat aproape 45 de minute sa ajungem acolo. Si nu a fost atat de cald cum e in Bakersfield, unde e ferma Murray. De asemenea, Clara a fost atat de fericita sa hraneasca animalele, au tot felul de tarcuri - un fel de gradina zoologica, si zona asta a fermei, de la intrare, arata mai bine decat cealalta.
Insa in privinta fructelor si legumelor, eu una am fost dezamagita. De-abia am adunat 400 g de zmeura, si asta numai pentru ca eu sunt incapatanata si am stat sa caut, dar nu mai erau capsuni deloc pe camp, desi aveau de vanzare in magazinul de la intrare, iar piersicile, caisele, portocalele si avocado nu erau coapte. In schimb era plin de dovlecei, bostani si castraveti, numai ca ai mei nu sunt prea incantati de dovleci. Castravetii erau cred ca cei mari pe care i-am vazut vreodata, dar erau vestejiti si, pentru ca noua oricum ne plac cei mai micuti, persani, sau cei de sera, nu am cules deloc.
Mi-au placut tare mult ardeii grasi (cei mov sunt atat de frumosi), sfecla galbena ( micutza tare) si cea numita "dungi de acadea" (ce rau suna), florile de dovlecei, de care cautasem luni intregi si nu am gasit, si rosiile. Si salata, pe care am uitat sa o pozez. Pentru ca eu sunt singura care face poze de obicei, si pentru ca aveam mainile pline de pamant de la cules legumele, nu am facut poze pe camp, doar cu animalele, si cu fructele si legumele, acasa la noi pe masa. (Scuze pentru calitatea pozelor, si pentru fata de masa cu patratele rosii, dar am vrut sa avem un "picnic" acasa).
Nu am vazut randurile cu rosii heirloom (nu stiu cum sa spun in romana numele soiului acesta, sunt cele care arata asa, sunt ca cele de la noi de acasa de la taranii din piata, nu ca rosiile clonate, asezate frumos pe randuri in cutii de carton), si desi am vazut o fata mai tarziu cu un carucior plin de rosii din astea, nu ne-am mai intors sa cautam, eram deja in drum spre masina.
Insa am gustat la mazaginul fermei pepene galben, de care nu mai vazusem/mancasem niciodata (nu ma refer la cantalup), si ne-a placut atat de mult, asa ca am cumparat unul.
Daca stau sa ma gandesc bine, nu cred ca am fost atat de dezamagita. Am avut parte de o zi buna, si macar din cand in cand ne place sa avem o iesire de genul asta. Poate nu a fost sezonul pentru toate fructele ( desi la ceilalti am fost tot in iulie si nu puteai culege cate erau), asa ca ne-am gandit sa mergem si la ferma cealalta in cateva saptamani, ne-a ramas prea mult in minte mirosul livezii de piersici si caise, si gustul lor minunat.
Sora mea si prietenul ei au venit seara la cina, si asta a fost un sfarsit minunat pentru o Sambata frumoasa. Am facut un pui la cuptor, cu o salata orientala, niste ardei si rosii culese de noi, si flori de dovlecei umplute, iar la desert - pepene.
Puiul la cuptor l-am condimentat bine, apoi l-am pus la copt la temperatura mai mare 375F (190C) pentur 5-20 minute, cu niste catei de usturoi, cateva felii de lamaie, rozmarin si cimbru, apoi am coborat temperatura la 350 si l-am mai tinut 45-60 minute.
Nu stiu ce alta mancare e mai de suflet si face parte din "masa de familie de sambata" mai bine decat puiul la cuptor. Toata casa miroase frumos, place tuturor si ce raane ( daca ramane) e bun si mai tarziu. Asta fara sa spunem cat de simplu e de facut.
Cat despre florile de dovlecei umplute, care i-au dat prilejul lui Gabi sa se distreze pe seama mea inca o data, au fost atat de bune. Nu am avut curajul sa le prajesc, mi-a fost frica sa nu iasa prea uleioase, sa inceapa sa curga umplutura, sa cine stie ce altceva sa nu iasa bine, asa ca le-am facut la cuptor si au iesit perfect.
Pentru umplutura am folosit branzeturile pe care le aveam deja in frigider, voi puteti folosi ce va place voua. Cele mai multe retete de pe net recomanda ricotta, dar eu nu am avut deloc.
**** Aseara am aflat ca florile de dovlecei sunt femeiesti si barbatesti, asa ca acum stiu sa va spun ca cele culese de noi sunt barbatesti. Habar n-aveam asta cand le-am cules. Le-am ocolit pe cele femeiesti, care cresc dovlecelul chiar sub floare, gandindu-ma ca acelea sunt probabil mai batrane?!?!?!?!?!? Clar, ar trebui sa-mi fac temele inainte de a pleca de acasa, nu-i asa???****
Si pe cat de nerabdatoare am fost sa le gatesc, pe atat mi-a displacut sa le curat. Florile,care sunt extrem de delicate, erau pline de furnici si e greu sa nu le rupi. Asta e scuza mea pentru cele mai "invinetite" si rupte.
Flori de dovlecei umplute

20 flori de dovlecei, spalate, curatate si cu pistilul rupt
125 g branza de capra
125 g branza telemea data pe razatoarea mare
1 ou
o legatura de spanac, curatat si tocat
busuioc proaspat
putina nucsoara rasa
sare si piper dupa gust
Se amesteca intr-un castron branzeturile, oul, spanacul, busuiocul, nucsoara, sarea si piperul. Se pune amestecul intr-o punga de lastic la care se taie un colt si se pune cu spritul incet de tot pana se umple floarea doua treimi. Se pun florile pe o tava acoperita cu hartie de copt, se stropesc cu putin ulei si se coc la foc mediu 350F (175C) timp de 15-18 minute. Se servesc calde.

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Braised artichokes - Anghinare la cuptor


I love artichokes, hearts or bottoms, canned in water or oil, depending what I am going to make out of them, but I've never prepared them at home until now.
I've been looking at them at the market, and although I was not intimadated by them, I was laizy and chose the more convenient jars. But since now it's their season, I bought 3 artichokes last week and after searching for a recipe for them, I decided to combine a couple and see what will come out.
They came out good, smelling and tasting like summer and sun.


After cleaning them as explained here, there wasn't too much left out of them. Which turned out to be fine, since my husband and daughter did not even touch them. And it is not because they came out bad, but because they never liked them at all. So, I don't know if I will buy fresh ones again, since I am the only one enjoying them.
You could find more recipes on the same website or do your own search.
Here is the recipe:
3 artichokes
3 cloves of garlic
2 lemons
olive oil
fresh thyme
salt & pepper to taste
I cleaned and cut the artichokes in half. As soon as each half was cut, I put them in about 2 quarts of salted water to which I added the juice from one lemon and the squeezed lemon.
I boiled the artichokes for about 20-25 minutes, covered, then strained out and cut them in smaller pieces.
I added the chopped garlic, olive oil, lemons slices (from the second lemon), salt, pepper and fresh thyme to the artichokes and put them in a baking dish, covered with foil and baked them at 350F (175C) for about 30 minutes, then uncovered them and baked for another 10 minutes.
The eating process was not them most elegant thing. Just pull the leaves apart and the ones from the center are very tender, so could be eaten as they are, but the outer leaves are tougher. Pull them through your teeth and eat only the pulp, discard the petals.
Anghinare la cuptor
Imi plac anghinarele conservate in apa sau marinate in ulei de masline, si le-am cumparat de multe ori, dar nu am cumparat nicodata pana acum anghinare proaspete pentru a le gati acasa.
Le-am tot dat tarcoale in magazine sau la piata, si desi nu m-au intimidat cu infatisarea lor, intotdeauna comoditatea ( ca sa nu zic lenea) m-a facut sa le cumpar pe cele gata preparate. Saptamana trecuta insa am cumparat trei proaspete, doar e sezonul nu?, si dupa ce am cautat niste retete, am decis sa combin cateva sa vedem ce iese.
Au iesit tare bunute, mirosind si gustand a vara si soare.
Le-am curatat asa cum e explicat aici si am ramas cu mai nimic din ele. Dar asta nu s-a dovedit o problema, pentru ca ai mei nu mananca anghinare deloc, nici cand le cumpar gata preparate, asa ca a trebuit sa ma sacrific si sa le consum singura. Asa ca nu stiu daca o sa mai cumpar proaspete de acum inainte, tinand cont ca numai eu le mananc, prea multa bataie de cap.
Puteti gasi mai multe retete pe net si chiar pe acelasi website.
Ingrediente:
3 anghinare
3 catei de usturoi
2 lamai intregi
ulei de masline
cimbru proaspat
sare si piper dupa gust
Le-am curatat anghinarele asa cum e explicat in linkul de mai sus, le-am taiat in jumati si le-am pus imediat in apa cu sare la care am adaugat zeama de la o lamaie si jumatatile de lamaie stoarse.
Am fiert anghinarele timp de 25-30 minute, acoperite, la foc potrivit. Le-am scurs de apa si le-am pus intr-un vas termorezistent cu ulei, usturoiul tocat marunt, sare, piper si cimbru. Le-am copt la 175C (foc potrivit) acoperite cu folie de aluminiu timp de 30 minute, apoi am dat folia la o parte si le-am mai tinut la cuptor timp de 10 minute.
Anghinarele nu se mananca "elegant". Petalele din mijloc sunt mult mai moi, asa ca pot fi mancate usor, dar cele din exterior sunt mult prea tari si fibroase. Se smulg una cate una si se trage cu dintii pulpa de pe petala, dupa care se arunca. ( Sa nu radeti prea mult de explicatii, sunt traduse din engleza de balta in romana de cartier dupa cum e explicat pe website-ul de mai sus).

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July 24, 2008

"Fish fries" - Pestisori prajiti


From the series "Fish, again" - a playful take on the fried fish looking like french fries.
I found fresh sprat, which I kind of butchered when I tried to clean it up. I usually fry this fish lined up 5-6 on a toothpick, but last night I thought they looked so much like fries, so why not make and plate them like a snack of fries.
And this is just what I did. I usually just coat the fish with flour or a mix of flour and cornmeal, but now I made a batter using one egg, half a cup of flour and a little bit of cold water, salt & pepper. If you want, you could add some spices or herbs ( like hot or sweet paprika, fresh or dry dill....). Dip the fish in the batter (you could also use tempura) and fry them.
Sprinkle some lemon juice on and munch.

Continuand cu alt episod din serialul "Iarasi peste", am gasit niste sprat (hamsii proaspete, nesarate- ce pofta mi-e de cele sarate, aaah...) si in loc sa-l prajesc ca de obicei dat prin faina sau faina amestecata cu malai si insirati pe o scobitoare, m-am gandit sa-i prajesc singuri, arata ca niste cartofi prajiti. Asa ca am facut un fel de lauat dintr-un ou, o cescuta de faina si putin apa rece, sare si piper. Puteti adauga niste condimente si verdeturi tocate, precum paprika dulce sau iute, marar tocat, sau ce va place voua. Treceti pestisorii prin aluat si prajitii fie separat, fie aliniati pe scobitoare.
Stropiti cu putina zeama de lamaie si sunt gata de rontait.

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Sour cherry desserts -deserturi cu visine



I missed sour cherries for 6 years, since I left home. I looked for them, and some friends told me they went to a farm to pick their own a couple of years ago, some others found in little Armenian shops, but I wasn't that lucky.
Until 2 days ago, when I found them in a Jewish store and bought 3 pounds, then rushed back home to see what I should do with them. I started looking online for recipes, but sometimes, that isn't so convincing for me, so I started looking for photoss of desserts made with cherries, because pictures of sour cherry desserts are not so many out there. I don't know if you are like me, but I am a visual eater. A beautiful picture could make me dream of something and determine me to make it more than a recipe alone.
That's how I found this blog, this photo and recipe and I knew this is it.
But because I bought a little bit too many, I made two recipes. And I already knew which was to be the second one, because it stayed with me since I saw it here, on Irina's blog. Her recipe was made with apricots, but I saw no problem in using sour cherries instead of apricots.
So, I got everything out of the fridge and pantry, baked my desserts and half of them disappeared last night. They were as good as I remembered them to be. And I just hope I'll find them again so I could put some in the freezer, because waiting 6 years for them it is toooooo much.
The first recipe belongs to Mandy and the second one to Irina. I made a couple of changes to both.
For the first one, I used less milk because I made clafoutis before and I know it is a little bit custardy. Which I like very much, but this time I wanted it a little bit more set, so the recipe written below has less milk than Mandy's. I used one full teaspoon vanilla and used slivered almonds instead of pistachios.
To Irina's recipe I added 2 tablespoons of oil, because I thought it missed the fat, and added 2 more tablespoons milk. I don't know if I was right or not, but it came out good. And I added slivered almond to this one too.
I made the clafoutis in little tart pans and Irina's recipe I made it in regular muffin tins, mini muffin tins and a mini cake.


Sour Cherry Clafoutis (Mandy's recipe)

3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted (60 (57) g)
1 cup all purpose flour (125 g)
2/3 cup milk + one tablespoon (175 ml)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups of sour cherries
slivered almons for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200C).
Beat the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl, until they turn lighter in color. Gradually add in the melted butter. Add the flour all at once and mix until the batter is a homogeneous mixture. Slowly pour in the milk and vanilla, whisking to combine.
The batter should be very smooth and shiny. Distribute the cherries in your buttered baking dishes (I used 8 little tart pans). Pour the batter over the fruit and sprinkle some almonds on top.
Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes (longer if you can using a bigger pan, shorter for smaller pans - mine took 17 minutes), until golden brown. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.
It made 8 small tarts - 4"(10 cm) wide.


Sour cherry muffins and mini cake (Irina's fruit cake recipe)

6 eggs
2 cups flour (250g)
1 cup+ 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or one packet vanilla sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons luke warm milk
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound fruits, washed, pitted/stoned, cut in small pieces

Preheat oven at 325F (160C).
Separate de egg whites and the yolks. Beat the egg whites until stiff in a bowl. In another bowl beat the yolks, sugar and oil together until pale yellow. If you are using vanilla, add it now. Add the flour and the baking powder, then the milk and mix until well combined. Incorporate the egg whites, mixing with a spatula/spoon, upside down, slowly.
Pour the batter in your baking pan/ muffin pan or any baking dish you like (coated with oil and flour or baking spray) and then add the fruits. If you want you could also add some chopped almonds, walnuts or pistachios. Bake for about 35-40 minutes for a large pan, about 20-25 minutes for muffins.



Nu am mai mancat visine de 6 ani si mi-au lipsit tare mult. Prajitura cu visine e una din preferatele mele. Am intrebat pe aici in stanga si in dreapta, si unii mi-au spus ca au fost la cules la niste ferme in urma cu cativa ani, altii ca au gasit la magazinele armenesti, numai eu nu am gasit pe nici unde. Insa norocul mi-a zambit in urma cu doua zile, cand am gasit in sfarsit la un magazin evreiesc de unde cumpar legumele si fructele, si a luat un kilogram jumatate sa-mi astampar pofta. Stiu ca trebuia sa fii luat mai mult si sa le pun la congelator, dar frigiderul/congelatorul meu e atata de mic si asa de plin.... sper sa mai gasesc acum ca am facut loc pentru ele, incat sa nu astept inca 6 ani pana mai mananc o data.

Asa ca imediat ce am ajuns acasa am inceput cautarea pe net de retete pentru prajituri, dupa care am inceput sa caut poze cu deserturi cu cirese ( cele cu visine nu sunt chiar asa multe). Nu stiu daca voi sutneti la fel, dar pe mine de mult eori o poza ma convinge mult mai mult decat doar o reteta.
Asa am gasit reteta si poza aceasta, si blogul acesta minunat, si am stiut ca am gasit ce cautam.
Si pentru am cumparat prea multe, am decis ca trebuie sa incerc si reteta Irinei pentru prajitura de fructe, la care mi-a ramas gandul in urma cu cateva saptamani.
Prima reteta este a lui Mandy si a doua a Irinei, cu cateva mici modificari facute amandurora.
La prima prajitura am folosit mai putin lapte decat cere reteta originala, pentru ca am mai facut clafoutis inainte si stiu ca are o textura de budinca. Si desi de obicei imi place mult, am vrut de data asta un desert cu un aluat mai dens putin, asa ca reteta scrisa mai jos are mai putin lapte decat 225 ml cat a folosit Mandy. Am pus o lingurita intreaga de esenta de vanilie si migdale in loc de fistic.
La a doua prajitura am adaugat 2 linguri de ulei pentru ca am crezut ca ii lipseste grasimea, si inca 2 linguri de lapte in plus. Nu cred ca am facut rau pentru ca a iesit tare buna. Si am pus migdale pe deasupra si la prajitura asta.
Pentru prima reteta am folosit 8 forme de tarte (diametru de 10cm), iar reteta Irinei am facut-o in forme de muffins, mici si mari si o forma mica de tort (diametru de 10 cm).
Clafoutis de visine (reteta lui Mandy)

3 oua
100 g
60 (57) g unt topit
125 g faina
175 ml lapte
1 linguritza esenta de vanilie
2 cani cu visine
migdale
Preincalziti cuptorul la 400 F (200C).
Amestecati cu mxierul zaharul si ouale, pana cand se dubleaza in volum si sunt galben pal. Adaugati treptat untul topit, apoi toata faina dintr-o data si amestecati pana e incorporata. Se toarna laptele incet si vanilia si se amesteca. Aluatul trebuie sa fie foarte lucios si cremos.
Ungeti forma de copt cu unt si puneti visinele pe fundul formei, apoi turnati aluatul peste fructe si presarati migdalele deasupra.
Coaceti aproximativ 20-25 minutes (mai mult pentru o tava mai mare, si mai putin pentru niste forme mai mici, mie mi-a luat 17 minute), pana sunt aurii. Se servesc fie calde, fie la temperatura camerei sau reci.
Muffins cu visine ( reteta Irinei pentru prajitura cu fructe)
6 oua
250 g de faina
230 g de zahar
1 plic de zahar vanilat
1 plic de praf de copt
8 linguri de lapte caldut
2 linguri ulei
800 g de fructe

Preincalziti cuptorul la 160°C.
Separati galbenusurile de albusuri. Bateti albusurile spuma. Amestecati galbenusurile, zaharul si uleiul, bateti amestecul foarte bine pana e un galben mai deschis. Adaugati zaharul vanilat, faina si praful de copt. Adaugati laptele si albusurile. Amestecati usor, de jos in sus si tot timpul in acelasi sens. Puneti aluatul intr-o tava de prajituri si adaugati fructele. Coaceti prajitura timp de 45 de minute - pentru o tava mai mare, in forma de muffins mie mi-a luat numai 20-25 minute.

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July 18, 2008

Beans - two ways for Friday lent - Fasole de post in doua feluri



Fridays we try to fast, as all Fridays throughout the year are lent days for us as orthodox christians. Actually, I should say me and Clara try to fast, because Gabriel always does.
Lent for orthodox people is over 5 weeks before Christmas, 40 days before Easter, about a week in June before St. Peter and Paul, and about 2 weeks in August and some other days for different saints/hollidays. We were brought up this way and we are trying our best to keep our traditions, , and we are passing them to Clara now. This is part of our customs and who we are. But I fail a lot since I am not trying to hard. I either forget to cook something on thursday so we have what to eat Friday, or I get really hungry and crave for food that I should not have for lent. The funny thing, the days when I could have everything, I don't crave so much, but Fridays, that's the time when I think of diary products, eggs, fish and meat when I know I shouldn't....Sometimes it is very easy and I am surprised to see it's already time to go to bed and I did it. It's harder during the long lent for Christmas and during the one for Easter, because you are trying to have healthy and consistent meals. Clara is not in love with zucchini or mushrooms, and eggplants are not always on her Ok list, which makes it hard to make something for all three of us without repeating the menu too much.
When I have no ideas what to make next day and I ask Gabriel what should I make, it's always the same: beans, beans and more beans, a food that I don't love as much as he does.
For today I made a bean salad, a cannelini spread and braised cabbage.
The cannelini spread is Gabriel's favorite, and I take a shortcut because I used canned beans ( from 2 400g/14 oz cans). I put the beans in the food processor with 1/3 cup oil and pepper and pulse it about 30 seconds. I chop finely half a white onion and add it to the beans, together with about a tablespoon garlic aioli made from 2 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of oil and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Pulse a couple more times and that's it. Serve it with tomato salad or sundried tomatoes in oil, pickles or roasted bell peppers, a crsuty bread, it's very good. I like to add chopped rosemary to mine, but the rest of them don't, so.....
The bean salad is a mix of (1 can of each) garbanzo beans, cannelini and black beans, bell pepper, olives, red onion and cilantro, 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, salt and pepper. You could also add corn, but today I didn't have.
They are always good as side dishes for meat, and always perfect for vegetarians. And the ingredients could be played with to your liking.
Vinerea e zi de post pentru noi si incercam pe cat putem sa tinem postul. Eu si Clara incercam, Gabi reuseste intotdeauna. Vrem sa pastram traditia asta, pentru ca asa am fost crescuti, e parte din obiceiurile noastre si din cine suntem noi. Eu insa nu reusesc intotdeauna pentru ca nu mai stradui cat trebuie. Simt ca mor de foame, ma ia cu ameteala sau pur si simplu poftesc la tot ce nu are trebui, numai pentru ca stiu ca nu pot. Alta data e asa usor, ca nu-mi vine sa cred ca a trecut ziua si am izbutit.
Cand e postul craciunului si al Pastelui e mai greu sa gasesc insipratia pentru fiecare zi. Mai ales cand Clara nu mananca anumite legume si nu vrea sa fac aceleasi 5 retete tot timpul postului. de cate ori il interb pe Gabi ce sa mai fac de mancare de post, intotdeauna primesc acelasi raspuns: fasole. Iar eu una nu sunt atat de innebunita dupa fasole.
Pentru azi am facut salata de boabe de fasole, icre de fasole si varza dulce calita cu rosii. Icrele le fac cu fasole de la conserva, asa ca nu e mare lucru e facut. Pun fasolea in robotel cu o cescuta de ulei si le pulsez timp deun minut. Adaug o jumatate de ceapa tocat foarte marunt si un fel de mujdei facut din 2 catei de usturoi, o lingurita de ulei si una de mustar, sare si piper dupa gust.
Sunt tare bune cu salata de rosii, rosii conservate in ulei, muraturi, ardei copt si o paine proaspata. Mie imi place si sa adaug rozmarin proaspat tocat, dar la restul nu, asa ca....
Salata de fasole e o combinatie de naut, fasole alba (cannelini) si fasole neagra, cate conserva din fiecare, ardei gras, ceapa rosie si masline, putinulei, otet, sare si piper. Eu am pus si coriandru proaspat. Ingredientele se pot schimba dupa plac. Eu am pus alta data si boabe de porumb, dar azi nu am avut.
Sunt bune ca garnitura la mancaruri cu carne, si intotdeauna bune pentru vegetarieni.

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July 17, 2008

Cinnamon Raisin Buns





Have you ever typed with a sparrow on your hand? Just asking, cause this is what I did this morning. Tweety is doing just fine, tries from time to time to fly a little, but he/she (still didn't look into this gender dilemma) cannot see with his left eye at all, so I think we'll keep him longer or for good.

Now, back to the recipe posting. I found out from other bloggers about a blog which I have never seen before, and I took a look at some of her recipes. While I like so many of them, I am holding back, because the last two years the 3-5 pounds that I was supposed to lose never went away, just piled up. So, I am trying not to crave too much and resist temptation, whenever it's possible, and this time was truly necessary.
But I couldn't keep away from her recipe for cinnamon buns. So I made it last night, just half a batch and still got soo many buns.
A couple of changes: (1) added raisins -because I love them, (2) used 2% fat milk (that's what we drink), (3) used butter at room temperature mixed with sugar (instead of melted butter and sprinkled sugar), and (4) used only 2/3 of the quantities recommended by her for butter and sugar ( which could be hard to do it, but since I kind of want to help myself with the "watching the weight" resolution, was not so hard). The butter thing I learned it while making "Wasps nests", which look pretty much the same as these buns, but have a different dough, then when you are baking them you pour over milk and sugar, which makes them heavenly sticky and delicious.
I will post the "Wasps nests" recipe, which I have it from Angelique, later on.
This is the recipe with ingredients for half a batch. For a better and fuller one, including step-by-step photos and funny comments, go to the original link, I recommend it. Plus, you could browse her recipes, which I think you will like.

Here is the recipe for half a batch:
Mix 1/2 quart of milk (500ml), 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup of sugar in a pan. Bring it to the boiling point, then turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour, until lukewarm, NOT HOT- the yeast will not be working anymore.
Add 2 teaspoons(1 packet) active dry yeast. Let the yeast bubble up for about 15-20 minutes, then add 4 cups of all-purpose flour.
Let it rise about 30 minutes in a warm place with no drafts, then add 1/2 more cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder , 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 tablespoon of salt and stir mixture together.
Sprinkle your table/ surface with flour. Take half the dough and form a rectangle.
Then roll the dough thin, maintaining the rectangular shape. Spread 2/3 cups (12 tablespoons or 170g) butter mixed with 1/3 cup sugar over the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon and add raisins (which I soaked in water with some rum for about an hour0, if you want. roll the dough lengthwise, as tight as you can.
Butter your baking pans. Then begin cutting rolls approximately 3/4 to 1 inch thick and lay them in the buttered pans. Do the same with the other half of the dough.
Let the rolls sit for 20 to 30 minutes to rise, then bake at 400 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 17 minutes.
It made 25 buns.
I made simple icing, not the maple one - powdered sugar and milk- and poured over.

Cornuri cu scortisoara si stafide
Ati incercat vreodta sa tastati cu o vrabie pe mana? cam asa s-a intamplat azi dimineatza, cand Tweety al nostru s-a instalat frumos, iar eu m-am apucat de scris.
In urma cu cateva zile am gasit in blog de care nu stiam pana acum, unde am gasit multe retete interesante. Si desi multe din ele as vrea sa le si fac, va trebui sa ma abtin, numai dietetice nu sunt, iar eu e cazul sa am grija de kilogramele pe care le-am tot pus pe mine si am zis ca o sa le au jos, dar niciodata nu am reusit. Asa ca, nu sunt sigura pe cate le voi face daca nu le mai modific, dar la una din ele nu am putut zice nu, ci a trebuit sa fac aseara - Cornuri cu scortisoara.
Eu am facut numai jumatate de portie, pentru ca originalul e pt. 7 tavi ortunde de placinta, si tot am facut prea multe.
Am facut cateva mici modificari: (1) am adaugat stafide pt. ca imi plac foarte mult, (2) am folosit lapte degresat 2% grasime, (3) in loc sa ung cu unt topit si sa presar zahar, am frecat untul la temperatura camerei cu zaharul si am uns foaia de aluat, (4) am folosit numai 2/3 din catitatea de unt si zahar pt. uns. Am invatat sa ung aluatul cu unt asa din reteta pentru "Cuiburi de viespi" pe care o am de la Angelique si pe care o voi posta alta data.
Pentru reteta originala, completa si cu poze pas-cu-pas, precum si comentarii mai "inspirate", vizitati linkul de mai sus.
Reteta pt. jumatate de portie:
Puneti la fiert intr-o craticioara 1/2 litru lapte (500ml), 100 ml ulei si 125 g zahar tos. Aduceti pana la punctul de fierbere, apoi dati craticioara la o parte si lasati sa se raceasca timp de 45-60 minute, pana e caldutza, NU FIERBINTE, altfel nu mai reactioneaza drojdia. Adaugati 2 linguritze (1 pachet de 7g) drojdie uscata granule. Lasati maiaua sa creasca timp de 15-20 minute, apoi adaugati 500 g faina. Lasati-o sa creasca la loc ferit, timp de 30 minute, apoi mai adaugati 60-70 g faina, 1/2 lingurita praf de copt, 1/2 lingurita bicarbonat de sodiu si 1/2 lingurita sare, si framantati aluatul bine.
Presarati masa cu faina, luati jumatate de aluat si intindeti-l subtire cu sucitorul in forma dreptunghiulara. Ungeti aluatul cu untul frecat cu zahar (170g unt si 70 g zahar) , apoi presarati cu scortisoara si daca vreti si stafide (le-am tinut in apa cu putin rom timp de o ora) sau ce va place voua. Rulati pe lungime, cat de strans puteti.
Ungeti tava de copt cu unt, apoi taiati aluatul in bucati late de 2.5-3 cm, si puneti-le in tava. Procedati la fel cu restul de aluat.
Se las acornuri la crescut in tava timp de 20-30 minute, acoperite cu un prosop curat de bucatarie, dupa care se coc la 200 C(400 F) timp de 15-17 minute, pana sunt aurii.
Din ingredientele de mai sus mi-au iesit 25 cornuri.
Deasupra am pus glazura de zahar, fara aroma de artar- zahar pudra frecat cu putin lapte.
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July 16, 2008

Salmon tartar on shrimp chips - Tartar de somon pe chipsuri de creveti



**** Special note - thank you to my dear dear dear talented daughter, Clara, who took the the photo above and the one below. I think she did a wonderful job and made me so proud to have them in my post. She has being trying her hand with the camera latelly just to amaze us how good she is for a 9 years old./ Vreau sa-i multumesc scumpei dragei mele talentate fetite, Clara, care a facut poza de mai sus si pe cea de mai jos, de care sunt atat de mandra. In ultima perioada ne-a uimit cat de minunata e cu aparatul de fotografiat, pentru un copil de 9 ani.****

For this post I made Bea's recipe from here, followed her plating idea, and while my photos have a long way to be anywhere close to hers and since I have no merrit whatsoever for this recipe (please refer to her blog for it), I can come up with a story only.
Since I found her post, I've been craving to make this. As I told you, I love raw fish. But this time the attraction was not the salmon, or the nice combination with apples and radishes, but the shrimp chips as I call them, or prawn crackers as Bea refers to them.
When I was a kid, these boxes of shrimp crackers/chips were one of the only 4-5 items that you could find in a grocery store in my town any single day without staying in line for it. For Romanians this will not sound strange, but for anybody else, please be assured I am not exagerating or making this up. It was during communism, we had monthly cards for all the food allowed by the state to be given to us, everything was rationalized like during the World War, we had to stay in line when and if the stores were getting anything. And for a while on the shelves of the grocery store located on the first floor of my building, this, some brown toilet paper, Bulgarian tomato juice and chestnut puree were pretty much all you could find when you were going in.

My mom was making them Saturday nights when we were watching THE MOVIE, and it was our junk food.

I looked for this since I saw Bea's post and I finally found them in a small store in China town. And tonight I was very happy to eat them with the salmon tartar ( made them much better) and I realized they are not as "spectacular" as I remembered them. I mean, I still ate them, quite a few and kind of fast, but not the same way as I did when I was 9.

I made the tartar following Bea's recipe, I used apple, radishes, chives, ginger, lemon juice and soy sauce. I didn't have coriander/cilantro, and I know it would have worked perfectly, and substituted the lime with lemon. And I put on top some Tobiko Wasabi - flying fish roe, and black sesame.

Can I tell you again how much I liked it .................... it was light, elegant, and tasty.




NB: for those who don't like or find sushi grade fish, I think smoked salmon makes a nice substitution.



Subiectul acesta este despre reteta lui Bea, i-am urmat exemplul cum sa asez mancarea, si pentru ca pozele mele sunt mult inferioare pozelor ei, si pentru ca nici reteta nu e a mea, ramane povestea. Va mai aduceti cumva aminte de cand eram copii si pe toate rafturile alimentarilor erau numai cutii de "creveti" si inca alte trei lucruri? In orasul meu, Valcea, la alimentara de la parterul blocului meu cam asta imi aduc eu aminte sa fi vazut (ma refer la ce gasea in fiecare zi, fara sa stai la coada sau sa iei pe cartela sau cu pile. L anoi erau chipusirle astea, suc de rosii bulgaresc, piure de castane si hartie igienica din aceea bej. Nu o luati ca pe o plangere sau exagerare. Nu e cazul. Aveam aproape 13 ani la revolutie, si nu am simtit greul prea mult. Eram copil, si nu vezi lucrurile la fel cum el vad acum in perspectiva. stiu cum si ce a fost greu si rau, dar atunci, ai mei stiau, eu nu prea.
Mama ne facea chipsuri din astea sambata seara cand ne uitam la film. Ii rontaiam repede si erau mancarea noastra nesanatoasa.
De cand am vazut reteta lui Bea am cautat sa cumpar su in sfarsit i-am gasit in China Town.
Am urmat reteta ei, folosind somon, mar si ridiche taiat bastonase, o linguritza ghimbir ras, 1 lingura zeama de lamaie, o lingura sos de soia si ceapa verde tocata marunt (chives). Nu am avut coriandru, desi imi place am uitat sa cumpar, si am folosit lamaie in loc de limeta. Si deasupra am pus niste icre de peste cu wasabi, hreanul japonez verde, de unde si culoarea, si susan negru.
Nici nu pot spune cat de mult mi-a placut combinatia de texturi, e foarte usor, delicat, elegant si gustos.
NB: sunt absolut sigura ca merge la fel de bine cu somon afumat in loc de somon crud, in caz ca nu va place sau nu gasiti din cel "super foarte" proaspat.


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July 15, 2008

Zucchini rolls with herbed cheese - Rulouri de dovlecei cu crema de branza si ierburi



First, Irina made her eggplant rolls, which look amazing, then Cristina, and last week I found this book by Jennifer Joyce online and was temped by the cover so much, that I had to try and replicate the zucchini rolls that appear in the middle. And because I'll get the book from the library only next week, I made them now using things that we like ( and happened to have in the fridge).

So, here it goes:
2 zucchini, cut in very thin slices lengthwise
3 tablespoons creamcheese
3 tablespoons Bulgarian/French feta cheese, grated or smashed with a fork
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons dill, parsley, basil mixed together (or any other fresh herbs you might like)
salt and pepper to taste
orange bell pepper (because that's what I had in the fridge, but I think red would look better) and chives to decorate

Brush the zucchini with oil and cook on a very hot grill for not more than 1 minute per side. After you take them out on a plate, season with salt & pepper.
Mix the creamcheese, feta and the heavy cream about 2 minutes, until airy like a mousse, season with salt and pepper and add the herbs.
Place a teaspoon of the cheese mixture at the end of a zucchini slice and roll, then place the rolls on the serving platter.
Decorate with chives and bell pepper segments, or arugula, basil or mint as it might be in the picture, or actually as you please.
They are tasty bites, nothing hard to put together and they disappear prrreety fast.







Mai intai am vazut cuiburile de vinete ale Irinei, apoi Cristina i-a calcat pe urme, iar saptamana trecuta am gasit cartea aceasta de Jennifer Joyce online, si mi-au facut cu ochiul rulourile cu dovlecei din mijloc. Iar pentru ca nu pot lua cartea de la biblioteca decat la sfarsitul saptamanii, am decis sa le fac cu ce ingrediente ne plac noua (si mai ales cu ce aveam in frigider).
Asa ca am folosit:
2 dovlecei taiati felii subtiri de cca 3 mm pe lung
3 linguri crema de branza/cascaval/Phildelphia
3 linguri telemea rasa
3 linguri smantana lichida
sare si piper dupa gust
1 linguri ierburi proaspete tocate - marar, patrunjel, busuioc ( alegeti ce va place voua sau ce aveti)
feliute de ardei gras si chives (merg frunzele de la o ceapa verde mai subtire) pt. decorat

Se ung feliile de dovlecel cu ulei si se pun pe un gratar foarte incins timp de maxim un minut pe fiecare parte. Cand se scot pe farfurie se sareaza si pipereaza putin.
Se freaca cu mixerul crema de cascaval, telemeaua si smantana lichida, cca 2 minute, cat sa devina o crema spumoasa, apoi se adauga, sare, piper si verdeata.
Se pune o lingurita de crema de branza pe o felie de dovlecel si se ruleaza, apoi se pune in picioare pe farfurie.
Se decoreaza rulourile cu feliutele de ardei gras (eu am avut numai portocaliu, dar cred ca unul rosu ar fi mers mult mai bine, pt. poza, ma refer) si cu ceapa verde, sau dupa cum arata coperta cartii, cu ceva verdeturi; arucola, menta, busuioc, sau dupa imaginatia si placul vostru.
Sunt tare gustoase, nu se fac greu si dispar repede, foarte repede.


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July Diary




This post has no recipe, it’s just a diary about our 4th of July weekend at Big Bear, right before the flooding last week, and my unexpected trip to Oceanside.

But before that, here is our new pet. Temporary pet. Tweety. Somebody found him/her (how could you tell?, I have to look for that) on Sunday at church and gave it to my daughter, so we decided to take care of him/her until is bigger and stronger so he/she can fly and find food. It is so cute, nice and shy, but not scared anymore, it loves to be held and takes its chances to fly a little bit in the house. And it tweets softly, not annoying at all, or at least yet, and it sleeps quietly throughout the night.

The weekend at the cabin in Big Bear was as wonderful and perfect as possible, and well beyond our dreams. And here is the link to Kathy and Tim's cabin listing, which we loooooooooved. First, we did not plan anything until the last minute because ....(way too may explanations would go here). Then in the last 7 days everything came together and the 10 of us, 8 adults and 2 kids made a big happy family. We made a list with what we need so we can cook and BBQ at the cabin, just to misplace it and lose it within half an hour. What can you say, we were watching the European soccer finale. But thank God our memory kind of serves us well, so we put the list together again. The hard part was to wait now for the 5 days to go by faster and then the 3 days at Big Bear to be longer than usual. We were so excited, we were talking on the phone every single day, then suddenly was Thursday night and my husband and my friend Lili were talking about how we should get up at 4 am to leave the house by 5 so we could beat the traffic. Yeap, right, my long weekend and you make me wake up at 4, even if it is because we are going to Big Bear this is not "kosher", how my Gabriel says. Although the alarm was set for 5, because we were chatting until 12 midnight and decided an hour doesn’t make too much of a difference, we actually got up at almost 6 and left the house after 7:30. And funny thing, there was noooo traffic whatsoever. Really none, which made it even more difficult to have Gabriel drive slower than 90miles/h. And, with the stop for gas and another one due to my childish stomach sickness, nausea and all, we made it to the top in less than two hours, which never happened before. (It was during that stop when I realized that I forgot to move from our car to Lili’s car the bag that held the knives and spices, especially the ones for the Romanian sausage/burgers or how you call Mititei in English, plates, BBQ sauce and ten other things which I was supposed to bring and none of the others had.) So everybody got to the cabin early, and we couldn’t wait to be 12 to go in. And when we went, what a beautiful surprise. Not that the pictures from Kathy did not show us how beautiful the cabin is, but it really was more than the pictures show. And the best surprise, the kitchen had everything we forgot, including a spice rack with what we needed, and everything else that we needed but didn't even think of.
So, we enjoyed ourselves for two days, cooked together, cleaned together, laughed together, watched the fireworks at the lake, loved the jacuzzi, the kids loved the swing and our neighbors' golden retrievers, played sharades, and the weekend came to an end too soon. Two photos only, as the rest were taken for my mom - I mean the three of us in about 30 different settings.

Then, last week, my dearest daughter, went with her friend, Tasha, and her grandmother, our friend, to Oceanside, to stay in a wonderful condo right at the beach. And I mean right at the beach, as there is only the bike lane between the house and the sand. We were supposed to go there before, but something came up every time, so this was Clara’s first time there and she couldn't wait. She had no problems before with going away without us and stay over night, especially with her friend Tasha, but this time turned out different. She left on Wednesday after lunch, and at 6 o’clock, my friend called really scared and ready to call 911 because Clara fainted, she was dizzy, rolling her eyes in her head and white as the wall. So, try not to freak out about 100 miles away, and help. And this was supposed to be a nice mini-vacation for her and for us. It turns out she got dizzy after being in the jacuzzi for about 10 minutes, but drinking some cold orange juice and taking a rest helped a lot. We were on stand by the whole evening to go pick her up, but she felt better and didn’t want to come back home. Next evening however, without feeling sick, she was home-sick and missed us sooooo much that she called asking for us to come and pick her up. So, what can you do, but get in the car at 8:30 pm and drive there. That's when my husband came with this wonderful idea - why not pack some things and stay with them there, and that’s what I did. He had to come back and rehearse for his Sunday audition, but I stayed and had a wonderful time until Saturday when we came back. And this worked for the best, because Tasha was crying badly that if Clara leaves she wants to go, too, and then I kept my friend company and had a very nice time together. I had a wonderful lobster corn chowder at Rockin' Baja Lobster in the Harbor, and a very nice Itallian dinner at Jay’s in Carlsbad. We shopped at the little stores in the Harbor and played at the beach, the girls went in the freezing cold water, we watched the surfers and ate ice cream, how could we not fall in love with the place? So, we’ll be going again in about a month. Maybe then I’ll take more or better pictures. Until then, here are some, including the ones with the gray pelicans.


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July 14, 2008

Plum Jam - Gem “condimentat” de prune si nuci - Marmellata speziata di prugne



My friend Cristina has a link posted on her blog to Il Gato Goloso’s blog, who wanted to put together a collection of recipes for jams, marmalades, preserves, canned fruits or veggies, pickles, you know, everything make in the summer to have later in the pantry.
So I started looking and found some interesting recipes, two of which I couldn’t wait to make myself and share with others. And because they were meant to go to Il Gato Galoso’s blog, these two posts will be trilingual, English-Romanian-Italian. The Italian translation belongs entirely to Cristina, so I have to thank her a lot for her help, and for her advise on how to store and sterilize the jars.

If you are a Romanian, this will sound very familiar to you. When I was a kid, my mom and my grandma will make every summer tens of jars of jams/preserves, pickles and relishes, tomato juice and paste, later on the big barrell of sauerkraut, and they were supposed to last us until spring was coming and you could find again fresh produce. The fruits and veggies were at their peak, so everything was sooo tasty.


A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a little bit older than my mom and she comes from Yugoslavia, but we shared similar stories about this subject. She told me how one summer, when she was 8 or 9, she wanted to taste every single kind of jam but her mom told her to wait because if they started eating them in August, they will have nothing left to eat after December, so my friend sneaked in the storage room, and thinking if she opens them all and takes just a spoon out of each, her mom will not notice and this sounded better than eating one full jar. And since she knew nothing about how the jams get moldy if not sealled and stored properly, she ruined the whole production. That was the last time when she couldn't wait and the story did not end that well, believe me.

The first recipe is for Plum Jam, with condiments, which makes it tastier than if made with plums and sugar only. The original recipe is here, but I made only half and used less sugar than it asked for, so I’ll write the recipe as I made it.
Second change, I added chopped walnuts to the jam, I love this combo.
Third change, I used water instead of wine and it came out perfect. But the recipe written below has the directions as in the original post, so if you want to use wine, go ahead as explained, if not, use water to make the syrup.
The second recipe will be kind of a pickle and I’ll have it ready this coming weekend.



Plum Jam


1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds or one star anise
3-4 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 dried bay leaf, crumbled
1 cup (250 ml) dry red wine + 1 cup (250 ml) water
400 g white sugar
2.2 lbs plums (1 kg) , quartered, stoned
2 tablespoons (20ml) lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts (not too fine)
Place spices, bay leaf, wine and half of the sugar in a large, wide, heavy-based saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave to cool. When cool, strain though a fine sieve over a bowl.
Return strained syrup to pan with the water and plums. Bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer over low-medium heat for 35 minutes. Uncover pan. Add lemon juice and remaining sugar. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then simmer, uncovered, over medium heat, skimming any scum from top, for 45-50 minutes or until jam jells when tested.
To test, place a small spoonful on a chilled saucer then return to freezer for 1 minute. Run your finger through chilled jam; it should be the consistency of honey and wrinkle slightly when pushed. Once at this stage, pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.

Keep the jars upside down until they are cold, this way they are closed perfectly and you don’t need to sterilize them anymore, they keep wonderfully, .... and they are ready for their journey to the pantry. (Cristina’s words of wisdom)


Gem "condimentat" de prune si nuci


½ linguritza boabe piper negru
½ lingurita seminte de anason/anason stelat
3-4 cuisoare
½ bat scortisoara
250 ml vin rosu (se poate inlocui cu apa)+ 250 ml apa
400 g zahar
1kg prune, taiate in patru, fara samburi
20 ml zeama de lamaie
100-150 g miez de nuca (nu il tocati prea marunt)

Se pun la fiert 250 ml vin, mirodeniile si o ceasca de zahar intr-o cratita larga si se fierb pana se dizolva zaharul. Se fierb la foc mic timp de 10 minute, apoi se da la o parte sa se raceasca si se strecoara intr-un bol.
Se toarna inapoi siropul in cratita si se adauga restul de apa si prunele, se aduce la fierbere, se acopera si se lasa sa fiarba la foc mic timp de 35 minute. Se da capacul la o parte si se adauga zeama de lamaie si zaharul. Se amesteca bine pana se dizolva zaharul, si se lasa sa fiarba din nou la foc mic, fara capac, timp de 30-45 de minute. Aruncati spuma care se formeaza deasupra in timpul fierberii.
Ca sa testati daca gemul e gata, luati o linguritza si puneti-o in frigider/ congelator timp de un minut. Atingeti cu degetul - trebuie sa fie ca o miere mai groasa, gelatinoasa. Daca este deja asa, adaugati nucile, amestecati, si apoi puneti gemul in borcanele sterilizate si inchideti-le imediat.
Tineti borcanele inchise cu fundul in sus pina se racesc, fac vid imediat in plus nu mai e nevoie sa le sterilizezi dupa, tin de minune si sunt gata pt calatoria lor spre camara ! (sfatul si cuvintele Cristinei)

Marmellata speziata di prugne


1/2 cucchiaino peppe nero
1/2 cucchiaino semi di anice o anice stellato
3-4 chiodi di garofano
1/2 stecca di cannella
250 ml acqua e 250 ml vino rosso
400g zucchero
1 kg prugne, tagliate in quattro, snocciolate
20 ml succo di limone
100-150 g gherigli di noce ( non devono essere tagliati troppo piccoli)

Mettiamo a bollire 250 ml vino, i condimenti e un tazza di zucchero in una pentola larga, lasciamo bollire fino quando il zucchero si scioglie. Si continua a bollire a fuoco basso altre 10 minuti e si lascia a raffredarsi, alla fine scollare il sciroppo ottenuto (col collino) in una ciotola.
Versiamo il sciroppo di nuovo nella padella e aggiungiamo acqua e le prugne. Quando inizia a sobbollire copriamo con un coperchio e lasciamo per 35 minuti a fiamma bassa. Trascorsi i 35 minuti alziamo il coperchio e aggiungiamo il succo di limone e il resto di zucchero. Amalgamiamo bene fino quando il zucchero si scioglie e lasciamo di nuovo a bollire a fuocco basso per 30-45 minuti senza coperchio. Raccogliamo e buttiamo via la schiuma.
Facciamo la prova piattino o un altra prova come questa: prendiamo un cucchiaino di marmellata e lo mettiamo nel frigo, lo lasciamo la per 1 minuto, se dopo questo tempo prendendo il cucchiaino tocchiamo la marmellata con uno ditto e lo sentiamo come una miele grossa, gelatinosa la marmellata e pronta (in questo tempo non tenete la pentola con il resto di marmellata sul fuocco).
Aggiungiamo i gherigli di noci, amalgamiamo tutto e versiamo la marmellata nei barratoli, chiudiamo il copperchio e gli mettiamo a testa in giu fino quando si raffredno. Sono pronti per il loro viaggio verso la dispensa!

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July 9, 2008

Chinese Hats with Tuna Tartar and Microgreens


The second post with another recipe from the coctail dinner. When I made this it was because I love sushi, sashimi, tartar, ceviche, and California is a heaven for the Japanese cuisine (I know tartar and ceviche don't belong to the Japanese, but they are all the same). And my friends that came over that night love it too. I never tasted raw fish before coming here, even more, I was sceptic that I will like it, because this never happened back home, but as you could see I am adventurous in the food department.
You could never say the same about the rest of me. I am a Capricorn, very stubborn, very set in my comfortable ways, never liked changes or the new, I am an old soul (or better said, although I am 31 years old, I behave as a grandma pretty much), I am very conservative and pesimistic. All this goes away when it's about food, I like new, my imagination is running wild, I am passionate and feel that I have a creative side after all. Then, if you look at my dearest husband, he is the opposite in all I've just said about me. He is an adventurous Scorpio, loves changes, never holds back from anything new, never tired, always optimistic, passionate, enjoys life and he will always feel like a 19 year old, sooooo talented, and I promise you I'll come back just to brag more about his opera singing and his wonderful voice. But when it comes to food, he is the conservative one.

Returning to the tuna, I am lucky to have found a Japanese store close to us, Mitsuwa, where they have wonderful sushi grade fish and all other ingredients you want for asian recipes.
The hats were made from round gyoza/won ton skins, which I cut from the center of the circle and overlapped the sides to form a cone- hat. I sprayed them with oil and baked them for 2-3 minutes in a muffin pan.
The tuna has to be sushi grade. I chopped it and marinated it for about 10 minutes with grated ginger, chopped chives, ½ teaspoon lemongrass paste, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons soy sauce.
The microgreens did not have any dressing. I put some greens on the bottom of the hats and topped with tuna and some black sesame seeds.

Palariute chinezesti umplute cu verdeata si tartar de ton


Nu credeam vreodata ca mi-ar putea place atat de mult pestele crud, dar pentru ca numai la domeniul mancare sunt si eu aventuroasa, am ajuns sa spun ca imi place la nebunie tot ce tine de sushi, sashimi, tartar sau ceviche.
Pestele pt. retetele de genul acesta trebuie sa fie neaparat extrem de proaspat, cum ii spun astia aici, calitate sushi. Eu am norocul sa fi gasit un magazin japonez foarte aproape care are peste pt. sushi si ingrediente pt. tot felul de retete japoneze.
Tonul l-am taiat in cubulete si l-am marinat pt. 10 minute in 2 lingurite sos de soia, ghimbir ras, iarba ciorii - cippollino/ chives, pasta de lemongrass si zeama de la o jumatate de lamaie. asta pt. o bucata de 150-200 g ton.
Palariutele le-am facut din foite rotunde de gyoza/wonton/ dumpling skins, dar se pot face si din foi de egg roll decupate cu o forma rotunda. Am taiat o raza din centru, apoi am suprapus colturile cam 2 cm incat sa iasa palariuta, si am lipit cu apa colturile. Am sprayat cu ulei si le-am pus la copt in forma de muffins timp de 5 min la 350 F.
Am pus putina verdeata in palariute ( microgreens sunt niste foi de salata f.f.f.f. mici) si deasupra o linguritza de ton.

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Asparagus Tart/ Tarta cu Sparanghel


I am returning with some of the recipes from that January dinner, and the asparagus tart is the first one. My friends liked it a lot, they said it's like a bistro tart or quiche, tasty and very presentable. Not that my cutting it in small squares made it very presentable, but this time you have to trust me, the photo is not as good looking as the tart.
My ingredients were for a 18"x13" baking pan, so if you are making this in a different sized pan, adjust them accordingly. I think they will be enough for two round 10"-11" tarts.

The pie crust I made it using the same recipe as for the apple pie:
2 sticks margarine
7 tablespoons chilled water
3 tablespoons white vinegar
flour as much as needed - (this is how some Romanian recipes for desserts are, dont' you love them, especially when you just started baking and have no clue how much is actually needed or how the dough should look like.....)
Mix all ingredients with your fingertips, with a fork or in the food processor pulsing it. Form a ball, then press it into a rounded disk and refrigerate it for 30 mins. Roll the dough 1/8 inch thick, lay it in the pan, trim if necessary and poke it with a fork all over. Bake for about 20 mins at 375 F, until slightly golden.
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1 red bell pepper chopped
While the pie crust is baking, boil the asparagus for 2 min in salted water, drain and put in a bowl with icy cold water to stop the cooking.

For the filling you need:
1/2 cup cream
2 eggs
3 tbsp cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup Parmesan
1 tablespoon fresh dill and 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped finely

Mix all ingredients together, until blended well. Fill the pie shell with the cream mixture, arrange the asparagus in the cream and sprinkle the red pepper. Bake for about 20 min until the custard is set.
Let it cool completely before cutting it. It could be made up to 8 hours ahead of time.

You could use puff pastry dough or the pie shells from the stores as well, just make sure you are poking the crust with tehf ork so it would have air pockets. And, if you have some small tart shells, maybe you could make them bite sized and really pretty, how I would like to if I find the time to make them one day soon.


Tarta cu sparanghel
Ingredientele mele au fost pt. o tava dreptunghiulara de 25x40, asa ca voi schimbati cantitatile in functie de tava voastra, dar cred ca ajung pentru doua tarte rotunde cu diametrul de 20-25.
Foaia pentru tarta am facut-o ca pentru placinta de mere:
225 g margarina,
7 linguri apa foarte rece,
3 linguri otet,
faina cat cuprinde.
Se framanta un aluat care se da la rece o jumatate de ora, apoi se intinde o foaie de 3-4 mm, care se inteapa peste tot cu furculita si se coace cca 20 minute la foc potrivit.

cca 700 g sparanghel
un ardei rosu tocat marunt
Intre timp, am taiat sparanghelul si l-am fiert timp de 2 minute in apa cu sare, apoi l-am scurs si pus in apa f. rece cateva minute sa se opreasca fierberea.
Umplutura:
125 ml smantana lichida,
2 oua,
1/2 lingurita din fiecare: sare, piper, nucsoara rasa,
3 linguri cu varf de parmesan ras,
3 linguri de crema de cascaval sau Philadelphia,
1 lingura de marar tocat si 1 lingura cimbru proaspat
Se ameteca toate ingredientele cu mixerul si se toarna crema de branza in forma de tarta, apoi se aseaza sparanghelul si se presara cu ardei gras tocat marunt. Se coace la foc mediu inca 20-25 de minute. Se lasa sa se raceasca in forma si se taie cand s-a racit complet. Se poate face cu pana la 8 ore inainte.
Si se poate folosi foarte bine si foaia de pateuri, daca o intepati peste tot cu furculitza, incat sa nu creasca prea tare. Sau daca aveti niste forme mici de tarte, puteti face ce niste aperitive mult mai prezentabile, dar calculati-va timpul bine pt. ca sunt mai meticuloase.

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July 7, 2008

The Meme award

I cannot say enough "Thank you", "Grazie mille" or "Multumesc" to my dear friend Cristina for her advise and support, and for the compliment of passing this award to me. Cristina never stops amazing me with her baking, her homemade pasta and her knowing what the italian cuisine means. I truly believe she is Mario Batali's lost twin sister. I am grateful more than I could say ( and this is not because my English is lacking so much, my words are poor in Romanian as well).
The girls that I've met on RC, although we've never met in person, I feel them so very close to my heart. And it's not just the fact that we are Romanian, but we share the same passion for food and had a wonderful time together on the forum, where I found new friends. And what I love the most, is that I learned from them sooo much, from recipes to how to blog, and how to look for new things everytime.
I don't think I deserve this yet, but I cannot let it go either, so I am glad and proud of it and hope to make this blog better.
And as the rules ask, I am passing it on to four people (I know it said 6, but it also said the number is flexible) :
- Nico - because I like your agenda a lot, recipes, photos and stories,
- Mona - for her wonderful recipes, especially all those desserts which make me crave and the warmth of her virtual kitchen,
- Meli - who is not a beginner blogger anymore, who finds the time for her passion and is a role model for me, and to
- Irina - whose posts are so creative and the photos are absolutely wonderful, she could have cardboard on a plate and my mouth would still be waterring.
Nu pot spune Multumesc de atatea ori cat ar trebui Cristinei pentru sfaturile si suportul ei, si pentru complimentul de a-mi acorda mie acest premiu. Cris nu inceteaza sa ma impresioneze cu tot ceea ce iese din bucataria ei, cu pastele ei de casa si cunostintele ei despre bucataria italiana. Cred din toata inima ca este sora geamana pierduta a lui Mario Batali. Sunt mult mai recunoscatoare decat pot spune in cuvinte (si asta nu pentru ca engleza mea e saraca, dar la fel de sarace imi sunt cuvintele si in romana).
Fetele pe care le-am cunoscut pe RC, desi nu ne-am intalnit niciodata in persoana, le simt tare aproape de inima mea. Si asta nu numai pentru ca suntem romance, dar impartasim aceeasi pasiune pentru gatit si am creat niste amintiri frumoase impreuna pe forum, unde am gasit prieteni noi. Si ce imi place cel mai mult e ca de la ele am invatat ataaaaat de mult, de la retete la cum sa pornesti un blog, si cum sa caut tot timpul lucruri noi.
Nu cred ca merit acest premiu inca, dar asta nu ma opreste sa-l accept, asa ca sunt bucuroasa si mandra de el si sper sa fac blogul acesta mai bun.
Si, dupa um cer regulile, il voi pasa mai departe la alte persoane (am inteles ca nr. 6 era flexibil):
- Nico - pentru ca imi place agenda ei, retetele, pozele si povestile,
- Mona - pentru retetele ei minunate, in special cele de prajituri care imi fac asa o pofta si cele de post, pentru care mereu am nevoie de inspiratie, si pentru "caldura" din bucataria ei virtuala,
- Meli - care nu mai e un blogger incepator, si care gaseste timpul si inspiratia pentru pasiunea ei si e un model pentru mine, si
- Irina - ale carei posturi sunt atat de creative, iar pozele absolut minunate, incat ar putea avea o bucata de carton pe o farfurie si tot as saliva in prostie.

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A Saturday Night Dinner from archives

The minivacation is over, we are back and have to get into the working mood. As you see I am blogging, not working, so the mood did not make a full come back yet. I will clean up the pictures and stories from Big Bear and put them together in a couple of days, so now I am looking through my old photos and recipes, and as I am cleaning the folders, I decided to post some of them.
This post is about a cocktail dinner party back in January, with some friends and my bosses. Everything was made with the great support of my husband - in charge of cleaning up the house, and my sister, who helped with the plating and cleaning up after me in the kitchen.
I don't know how you guys are when throwing a party, but I am all about the food. It doesn't matter that I am exhausted when the guests arrive, it matters to me that all that I planned is on the table. Last month I went to a dinner, where my friend planned everything so that she could enjoy her guests, so the appetizers were plated and the 2nd course, asparagus lasagna, was cooking while we had drinks and the appetizers. That's when I realized how different (not to say wrong) my thinking is and how it needs improvement.

This was a cocktail party because we were too many for a sit down dinner at our small table, and also because all of my guests enjoy small bites. I'll write now about the menu, but some of the dishes will show up separately afterwards.
The appetizers were:
* Greek olives and fresh mozzarella balls which I marinated for about 2-3 hours in olive oil with paprika, basil, chili flakes, salt and pepper
** pear slices with goat cheese mousse, topped with caramelized walnuts and red currants
I whipped 7 oz goat cheese with 5 tablespoons heavy cream, salt and pepper, then mound it on top of round pear slices. I put a hand full of walnuts in a small pan, sprinkled them with sugar and wet them with water (a tablespoon), then let the sugar melt and caramelize the walnuts over medium-low heat. I chopped the walnuts when they cooled down, then topped goat cheese mousse with currants and walnuts.

*** cucumber slices with sour cream, smoked salmon, dill and fish roe
We all like smoked salmon and this combination with cucumber is such a staple, but I loved my little forks and couldn’t wait to use them. I loooove dill, and it couldn’t be missing, and I added some lumpfish caviar which thought that looked good on top.


**** asparagus tart
This was so simple to make and was very tasty. I like asparagus grilled, roasted or steamed, and I wanted to use it this time, so this recipe was just perfect. I’ll post the recipe separately this week.

***** lettuce cups with orzo salad and shrimp
The lettuce leaves could be called anything but cups this time, as the Bibb lettuce (or Boston) was not very curvy, but was still tasty. The orzo salad is one of my favorite pasta salads of all times, and the original belongs to Ina Garten, but this one is slightly different from the one she has on the Food Network website, as I change it sometimes based on what I have in the fridge. This one will come in a separate post too.



****** "Chinese hats" made from won ton skins, with tuna tartar and microgreens



For the main courses we had salad with grilled salmon on skewers with an Asian orange glaze and bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and blackberry-wine reduction.

The dessert was almond tuile cups with raspberry and lemon sorbet and some chocolate sticks.

Because my pictures are not the best for all of these dishes, I'll post some now, and later, for each individual post I'll try to remake them and have a better picture hopefully.



O cina din arhive

Am revenit din mini vacanta noastra de la munte, si pana o sa pun pozele si povestile impreuna, am zis sa fac curat prin pozele vechi si pe cele pe care le pastrez sa incep sa le postez treptat. Asa ca incep cu o petrecere din Ianuarie, cand ne-am adunat cu sefii si niste prieteni. Am planificat meniul cu o luna inainte, schimbat planurile de nu stiu cate ori si nu as fi reusit sa termin toate fara ajutorul sotului meu si al surorii mele, care m-au ajutat curatand si aranjand masa.
Nu stiu cum sunteti voi cand aveti o petrecere, eu sunt obsedata si ma stresez numai in privinta mancarii. Nu conteaza cat de epuizata sunt cand vin musafirii, conteaza sa fie pe masa toate cate mi-am propus. Mai degraba ma obosesc mai tare decat sa tai ceva de pe lista. Si nici o data nu ma invat minte sa fiu mai calculata data viitoare. Insa luna trecuta am vazut cat de aiurea gandesc, cand am fost la cina la niste prieteni si Jennifer a planificat totul atat de bine incat a stat cu noi tot timpul, nu era deloc obosita. Aperitivele erau pregatite pe farfuriute incat numai le-a adus la masa cand ne-am asezat, iar felul doi, o lasagna cu sparanghel se cocea in cuptor cat noi am stat de povesti si sa ne cunoastem la un pahar de vin. Si desi mi-am dat seama ca asa trebuie facut, nu sunt sigura ca data viitoare ii urmaresc exemplul.
Pentru ca noi nu avem loc la masa pentru o cina formala cand sunt atatia invitati, am pregatit totul ca pentru un bufet. Meniul urmeaza mai jos, dar multe dintre retete o sa le postez separat zilele ce urmeaza, cand poate o sa am si timp sa le gatesc din nou si sa refac pozele.
Aperitivele au fost:
1. masline grecesti cu bile de mozzarella proaspata marinata timp de 2-3 ore in ulei de masline, busuioc, ardei iute, sare si piper
2. felii de para cu mousse de branza de capra frecata cu smantana lichida, cu nuci caramelizate si coacaze
Pentru mousse-ul de branza de capra am spumat cu mixerul branza de capra (200 g) si smantana lichida (cca 75 ml, din cea pt. frisca), cu sare si piper, pana a iesit o spuma. Nucile le-am prajit in tigaie cu cateva linguri de zahar si o lingura de apa, cat sa se caramelizeze. Am pus cu spritul branza pe feliile de para, iar deasupra nuci si coacaze.
3. castravete cu somon afumat, smantana, icre si marar
Combinatia asta e atat de clasica si de banala, numai ca voiam tare mult sa folosesc furculitele micutze pe care tocmai le luasem. Mararul imi place la nebunie, asa ca nu putea lipsi, iar icrele aratau dragut in varf.
4. tarta cu sparanghel
Mie imi place sparanghelul pregatit in toate formele - la gratar, la cuptor, oparit, asa ca am vrut sa il adaug la meniu si m-am bucurat sa gasesc reteta asta, pe care o voi posta separat saptamana asta.
5. cupe din frunze de salata cu orzo si creveti
Frunzele de salata de data asta nu au fost prea curbate incat numai a cupe nu arata, dar au fost la fel de gustoase. Salata de paste orzo e una din preferatele mele, originall ii apartine Inei Garten si reteta ei de pe website-ul Food Network e putin diferita, incat o fac dupa cum imi vine si in functie de ce am prin frigider. O s-o postez separat de asemenea.6. "palarii chinezesti" facute din foite de pachetele, umplute cu verdeata si tartar de ton
Pentru felurile principale am avut o salata cu gratar de somon, taiat fasii, pus pe frigarui, cu o glazura asiatica de portocala, si medalione de muschi de porc invelit in bacon cu piure de cartofi si sos de mure si vin rosu.
Pentru desert - cupe dintr-un aluat cu migdale cu inghetata de zmeura si lamaie, si niste sticksuri invelite in ciocolata. Nu stiu cum sa traduc numele retetei, se cheama almond tuile, si m-am gandit ca vine din franceza, dar pt. tuile am gasit tigla, iar desertul asta e mai mult ca o dantela decat o tigla.
Toate retetele pe care nu le-am scris aici o sa le postez separat imediat dupa ce le refac.

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