April 1, 2009

Homemade Sausages and Bacon - Carnati si slanina de casa

I know spring has come and photos with beautiful colors, salads, soups, desserts and other light and fresh seasonal foods show up, but last week i was reading again about smoked and cured meats (thanks to Mike and Sherry from Menu in progress), and since i failed miserably that day to keep the lent and ate some grilled sausage, i thought i should talk about the same thing, even though the food was made 3 months ago. And talking about Mike and Sherry, i cannot tell you how much i like their food, their authenticity and craft, from charcuterie to the posts about beer, from BBQ to Mexican or Asian food and everything else, all looking good without fuss and foodie snobbery (not that i am not a sucker for that, too).
Although i helped mom back home at Christmas time to prepare all our traditional "porky" dishes, i've never thought of trying to make them here myself, until Leila (a wonderful cook i "met" when i was active on the Romanian cooking forum RC) showed us some photos with her cured pork belly, and the only way you could escape your misery was to make them yourself.
So.... i made my first sausages in December 07, but they weren't smoked, and also headcheese and cured pork belly. And here is a
link with the photos, on the forum, because i cannot find them on my computer anymore. I think they are saved on Clara's, and that one is out for sometime now. (looking at the pictures now, i remember i have to bring out to light some of my cakes, too, but maybe in the weeks to come).
At that time, i discovered the pancetta and the headcheese (testa di coppa) from
Menu in progress, a blog that i liked so much, because it showed me that it is possible to try even here in sunny and warm California to go wild and try charcuterie at home .... and lately they've been killing me with their smoking, so this past December i had to get our sausages and bacon smoked, too. Not at home off course, because it's still impossible, but when i went to buy the sausage casings, the owner of the shop told me if i want, he could smoke them for us. I think that was the best news i could give my dear husband, who enjoyed this homemade sausage / bacon business more than i can tell you, even more than myself. Clara was waiting then for Santa, Gabi for the sausages and bacon.

This year we made two kinds of sausages, and you have to believe me when i say two, because the second ones are not in the pictures. We made pork sausages (the ones you see below) and some beef & lamb ones, thin and just a bit spicy, which disappeared from the table in about 10 minutes, as we had only 3lbs and 15 people at the table. Everybody thought the lamb and the hot paprika made them excellent, so now we know what has to be done next December. The thing is, we made them only because we had casings left, and not enough pork meat (although we bought 15 lbs pork but and about 5 pork belly, ground all together). So we mixed about 2 lbs beef with 1 lb lamb, changed a bit the condiments and used the thin casings. And also made the liver and offal stuffed sausage, which in my part of the country they call lebar (kind of a leberwurst) with pork liver, ground pork meat, lungs, pig skin and onions, which is boiled and served cold with mustard or horseradish. But once again, i have no photos since i was in the kitchen and nobody else took a picture because they were just having a good time.
We took everything to the smoke house for 3 days, and we couldn't wait to get them back and try them out. The sausages came out really nice. The cold smoke he used was perfect, did not cook the sausages all the way, and the flavor was unbelievable.
And the bacon looked and smelled amazing, but it was not cooked through, like the one from back home, which is sliced and eaten without frying it, we never do that, it's like the Swedish slab bacon you find here in some delis. But we took care of that. We boiled the pork belly in water with peppercorns and bay leaves for about 20 minutes, and then it was just perfect, especially with some onion and pickled green tomatoes (another home production) and some boiled peppery plum brandy (tuica), as the tradition calls :). Back home in some parts of the country the bacon is boiled in the brine from sauerkraut, but since ours was already cured, the brine would have made it even more saltier, that's why we used water.

Next December, i'll take photos of all these and come back with the recipes. Promise.

This is the recipe for the pork sausages as we made it:

6 lbs pork meat (3 kg)
2 lbs pork fat or pork belly
2 garlic heads
3 tablespoons salt
2-3 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dry summer savory
1 teaspoon ground juniper berries
2 tablespoons sweet paprika

sausage casings

~ We ground the meat ourselves, using the larger/coarser dial blade, and the fat through the normal smaller size, but if you don't have a meat grinder, ask the butcher to grind it for you.
~ Mince the garlic and mash it well with salt and about 1/4 cup cold water.
~ Mix together the meat, condiments and garlic. Don't overmix to make it a paste. Taste the meat to make sure is well seasoned (my husband likes to taste it raw, grossing me out every time, but you don't have to do that. Just saute a small patty, then taste it).
~ Stuff the meat into the casings and twist into 6-8 inch (15-20 cm) links. Refrigerate them uncovered overnight, or, if it's cold enough outside or you have a dry cold basement, hang them there overnight, uncovered.
We didn't smoke them ourselves, so i cannot give you any advise on that, i can tell you only that we took them to the smoke house Monday morning and picked them up Wednesday at noon. But, you could definitely check out Sherry and Mike's blog for instructions. Also, in Charcuterie says that the Hungarian paprika sausage, which is similar, is cold-smoked for 2-4 hours or until a deep rich golden brown, then hang them in a cool, dry space for 3 days.

Homemade Romanian style bacon (
Leila's recipe)
for each quart of water (1 liter) you need
3/4 cup (150 g) kosher salt
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
10 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dry summer savory (or thyme)
1/2 garlic head (about 6-7 garlic cloves, peeled)
~ Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and add the salt, the ground pepper, bay leaves, the peppercorns and the savory/thyme. Smash the garlic cloves with your knife and add them to the brine. Let it cool.
~ Put the pork belly (you could also use fresh hocks or shanks) in a container that has a lid. Pour the brine over the meat only to cover it. On top of the meat place a chopping board or plate and a couple of cans or a brick (something heavy) to hold the meat down and submerged in brine.
~ Keep the container in a cold and dark place. Turn the meat around every 3 days. The pork belly and the hocks or shanks have to stay in the brine for about 21 days. (I kept ours 17 days only, then it went to smoke so we can get it back in time for Christmas.)
~ Take the meat out of the brine, rinse it in cold water, and pat it dry. Hang the meat uncovered in a cool, dry and dark place (the refrigerator is fine) for about 10-15 hours.
~ Smoke the bacon for about 3-4 days, making sure the smoke doesn't get too hot. Leila says the best smoke comes from corn cobs, wood chips, or grape vines.
Carnati si Slanina de casa

Stiu ca a venit primavara si ca peste tot in blogosfera au rasarit poze pastelate, luminoase, cu salate, supe, deserturi si alte mancaruri usoare si de sezon, dar saptamana trecuta am citit din nou despre afumaturi pe blogul lui Mike & Sherry de la Menu in progress, si pentru ca in ziua aia nu am mai fost in stare sa tin post si m-am dus acasa si am facut niste carnaciori la gratar, m-am gandit de ce sa nu si scriu despre asta, desi pozele sunt de acum 3 luni. Si pentru ca vorbeam de blogul lor, voiam sa spun cat de mult imi place mancarea lor simpla si autentica, de la afumaturi si carnati, la gratarul tipic american barbeque, la mancarea mexicana si asiatica si toate celelalte, totul aratand atat de bine fara fasoane si fite culinare (nu ca nu mi-ar placea si genul acela).....
Desi am ajutat-o pe mama la vremea Craciunului cand pregatea de-ale porcului, nu m-am gandit niciodata ca o sa pregatesc asa ceva AICI, pana cand Leila, o bucatareasa absolut minunata de pe Retete Culinare a postat niste poze cu slaninile si suncile pregatite de ea, si unica scapare sa nu mai poftim ca disperatii a fost sa incercam sa le facem si noi
Asa ca am facut primii carnati in Decembrie 2007, nu fara oarecare teama, dar nu i-am afumat, ca nu am avut unde. Tot atunci am facut si toba (tot multumita Leilei) si niste slanina. Si pentru ca nu mai gasesc pozele pe calculatorul meu, cred ca sunt pe al Clarei si ala si-a dat duhul de vreo 2 luni, pun aici
link-ul cu pozele de pe forum (si uitandu-ma la poze acum, mi-am adus aminte ca poate curand ar trebui sa scot de la naftalina si torturile, poate in saptamanile ce vin).
Tot cam atunci am descoperit si pancetta (slanina neafumata) si toba de pe
Menu in progress, si mi-a picat cu tronc blogul lor, mi-a dat curaj sa vad ca si aici, unde e cald si insorit mai mereu, poti sa incerci sa faci asa ceva.... iar in ultima perioada, de cand si-au luat si afumatoare, m-au imbolnavit de-a dreptul, de pofta si invidie, asa ca a trebuit sa afumam si noi cumva carnatii si slanina noastra. Bineinteles ca nu acasa, e imposibil la bloc, la parter, nu ca nu ne-a trecut prin cap, dar cand am fost si am cumparat matele pentru carnati, macelarul mi-a zis ca daca vrem, le pune el la fum 3 zile. Nu cred ca puteam sa-i dau vesti mai bune lui Gabi, care a fost mai incantat si innebunit de toata povestea asta cu carnatii si slanina si decat mine. Clara astepta mosul, Gabi carnatii....
Anul asta am facut doua feluri de carnati, si trebuie sa ma credeti cand zic doua, pentru ca nu apar decat unii in poza. Am facut carnati de porc, pe care ii vedeti mai sus, si altii din vita si miel, subtirei si picanti, care au disparut de pe masa in vreo 10 minute, pentru ca nu am avut decat 1.5 kg pentru vreo 15 persoane. Tuturor le-a placut gustul de miel si boiaua iute, asa ca stim ca trebuie sa-i facem din nou Decembrie ce vine. Si cand te gandesti ca i-am facut numai pentru ca ne ramasesera mate si nu mai aveam carne de porc (desi am luat vreo 7 kg de porc si 2.5 de grasime). Asa ca am amestecat un kilogram de carne de vita cu o jumatate de miel, am schimbat putin condimentele si am folosit mate mai subtiri. Si am facut si lebar (asa ii zicem noi la caltabosul fara orez), din ficat, carne tocata, plamani, soric cu grasime, pe care l-am fiert si servit apoi rece, taiat felii, cu mustar si hrean. Si din nou nu am poze pentru ca eu eram la bucatarie si nimeni altcineva nu s-a gandit, am impresia ca se simteau prea bine :)).
Am dus toti carnatii si slanina la afumat pentru 3 zile si de-abia asteptam sa-i luam inapoi si sa-i incercam. I-a tinut macelarul la fum rece de luni dimineata pana miercuri la pranz. Numai slanina nu a fost moale si gatita, cum e cea de acasa, ci cum e baconul astora de aici pe care trebuie sa-l prajesti. Dar l-am rezovat noi - fiert in apa cu boabe de piper si cateva frunze de dafin, vreo 20 de minute, numai bun cu niste ceapa si gogonele (productie proprie) si o tuica fiarta cu zahar si piper, cum cere traditia :). ***Stiu ca unii fierb slanina in zeama de varza, dar a noastra era deja sarata si zeama de varza ar fi sarat-o si mai tare, asa ca apa a fost numai buna.
La Craciunul ce vine promit poze cu toate si retete pentru ele. Promit.

Si asta e reteta pentru carnati asa cum am facut-o noi:

3 kg carne de porc
1 kg grasime de porc
2 capatani de usturoi
3 linguri de sare
2-3 linguri piper macinat
2 linguri cimbru uscat
1 lingurita ienibahar
2 linguri boia dulce
mate pentru umplut
~ noi am tocat carnea prin sita mai mare, sa fie mai grunjoasa, iar grasimea prin sita obisnuita, mai micuta, dar daca nu aveti masina de tocat, rugati macelarul sa o toace pentru voi.
~ Se piseaza usturoiul cu sarea si o cescuta de apa pana se face un mujdei.
~ Se amesteca bine carnea, condimentele si mujdeiul, pana se omogenizeaza, dar nu prea mult sa nu devina pasta. Se gusta carnea sa fie suficient de condimentata (Gabi o gusta cruda intotdeauna, in ciuda protestelor mele de fiecare data, dar se poate si altfel - prajiti o bucatica de carne in tigaie si gustati-o sa vedeti daca ii lipseste ceva).
~ Se umplu matele fara sa se indese prea tare si se rasucesc la fiecare 15-20 cm. Se pun carnatii la frigider peste noapte neacoperiti sa se zvante sau afara, daca e destul de frig, sau intr-un beci sau alt loc racoros si uscat.
Noi nu i-am afumat noi, asa ca nu pot da sfaturi la capitolul asta, dar puteti sa vedeti cum au facut
Sherry si Mike pe blogul lor. De asemenea, in cartea Charcuterie au o reteta pentru carnatii unguresti cu boia care sunt tinuti la fum rece timp de 2-4 ore sau pana o culoare maroniu-roscata, apoi la uscat intr-un loc rece si uscat pentru 3 zile.
Slanina - Reteta Leilei (In ghilimele de la cap la coada, pentru ca ii apartine Liei in totalitate)

"Saramura lichida pentru carne (pulpa din spate a porcului, ciolane si slanina):
La 1 litru de apa se pun:
150 g sare
3 foi de dafin
1 lingurita piper macinat
10 boabe de piper
1 lingurita cimbru (sau o crenguta mai mica)
1/2 capatana de usturoi
~Se pune apa sa dea intr-un singur clocot, apoi se adauga sarea, piperul macinat, dafinul, boabele de piper si cimbrul. Usturoiul se zdrobeste cu lama cutitului si se adauga la saramura. Se lasa saramura sa se raceasca.
~ Se pune carnea, slanina sau ciolanele intr-un vas suficient de mare si cu capac (Lia foloseste o caldare) si se toarna saramura peste ele cat sa fie acoperite. Se pune deasupra un fund de lemn si o greutate sa le tina presate sub saramura.
~ Se pune vasul la un loc racoros si fara soare si din 3 in 3 zile intoarcem bucatile de carne.
Slanina o punem separat in saramura. Sunca (pulpa) se tine in saramura 30-35 de zile. Ciolanul se tine 21 zile. Slanina - 21 zile.
~ Dupa ce bucatile au stat suficient in saramura, se scot si se clatesc in apa rece, se sterg cu un prosop uscat si se pun la zvantat intr-un loc bine aerisit timp de 10-15 ore. Se pun apoi la afumat unde se tin pana prind o culoare roscata cca 3-4 zile, dar trebuie avut grija ca fumul sa nu fie cald. Fumul cel mai bun este cel obtinut prin arderea lujerilor de porumb sau din rumegus. La tara se mai foloseste ptr afumat ramuri de vita de vie, se spune ca este cel mai bun fum."

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March 25, 2009

Mushrooms with polenta for Lent - Ciuperci cu mamaliguta de post

I hope this is a good sign: me - blogging - twice - this week :))) and maybe i broke the spell of rare posting and laziness.
Because i have been talking about Lent before Christmas and now, before Easter, i thought it's time for some lent food. But first, i have to tell you something - i don't want anybody to think i am actually always able to fast, i am struggling and most of the time i a have a success rate of about 50%. And even when i don't cave in, there is nothing special about it, and it shouldn't be anyway, or it defeats the purpose. It's just me talking about our food throughout the year.
Mushrooms are one of our favorite foods (mine and Gabriel, for now), and although i tried many recipes until now, i think that simply roasted or seared mushrooms with some fresh herbs, garlic and wine are the best. I love them in soups, salads, roasted veggies, grilled, stewed, in raviolli and puff pastry, stuffed, and so on, and back in January i ate some very good shiitake mushrooms at a thai restaurant, which i will talk about another time. BTW, i think my "favorite foods" list is expanding outrageously, but since i love eating, cooking and talking about food so much, it seems only reasonable, doesn't it?
My mom makes these roasted mushrooms with baby leeks, and maybe sometimes sliced baby potatoes, too.
So, i made them times and again since then and i love them, even though i never added the potatoes yet, and replaced the leeks with scallions/green onion or simply onion when that's all i had.
This time i went to my asian market and they had all these amazing fresh mushrooms, so i had to get some of each, especially when you pay only about 7$ for more than 2 lbs. They were (from bottom to top of the basket): oyster, shiitake, brown (Buna-shimeji) and white (Bunapi-shimeji) beech mushrooms, and maitake (hen-of-the-wood) mushrooms.

This particular time i didn't have leeks or green onion, so i used white onion. And this is how i make them:

Clean and cut mushrooms (if they are too large).
Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, mix them with one finely diced onion (or 2 leeks or one bunch green onions chopped), drizzle with oil, then bake them in the oven at 375F -400 F about 30 minute, or until roasted.
After about 30 minute i take them out, i add some chopped fresh garlic (about 2-3 cloves) and drizzle some white dry wine over, then put them back in the oven for about another 5 minutes until the alcohol evaporates.
Take them out and mix in some fresh chopped herbs (i like parsley, dill and thyme, but you could use whatever you like) and they are ready to be served.
I like the mushrooms with polenta (and depending on the mood i make it softer or not, using 1 cup of cornmeal and 2.5 - 3 cups of water).
When it's not lent, i add some butter to the polenta, it comes out so much better, and shave some cheese on the mushrooms. If you'd like, you could add herbs and cheese to the polenta, and make it with broth or milk instead of water. And the mushrooms could be sauteed in a frying pan instead of roasted in the oven.

The wine adds a wonderful aroma and taste to the sauce, another layer that brings everything together better, in a sofisticated way, i think. And the combination of different types of mushroom is excellent, the texture and taste of each kind are so different, some meatier, others chewy, some really sweet, and some a little bitter, but in all such an "earthy" dish.


Ciuperci cu mamaliguta

Sper ca asta e un semn bun: eu - postand - de doua ori- saptamana asta, si poate ca rup si prostul obicei ("blestem") al posturilor rare si a leneviei.
Pentru ca am tot vorbit de postul Craciunului si acum al Pastelui, m-am gandit ca ar fi frumos sa postez si ceva mancare de post. Dar mai intai, o necesara marturisire - nu vreau sa dau impresia ca reusesc sa tin tot postul, ma chinui mai mereu si reusesc numai jumatate din timp. Si chiar si atunci cand nu ma spurc, nu e nimic de lauda, sau de mandrit, si nici nu ar trebui sa fie, ca atunci numai post nu e. Asa ca vine vorba numai pentru ca postarile sunt despre toata mancarea noastra.

Ciupercile sunt una din mancarurile noastre favorite (ma refer la mine si Gabi, bineinteles), si desi le-am incercat in atatea feluri pana acum, cele mai bune mi se par facute simplu in cuptor sau prajite in tigaie, cu verdeturi, usturoi si putin vin. Imi plac si in supe, salate, cu alte legume coapte, la gratar, in tocanite, ciulama, raviolli, pateuri, si cate si mai cate feluri, iar in Ianuarie, am mancat niste Shiitake la un restaurant thailandez asa de bunee... , dar despre ele o sa vorbesc alta data. Si ca tot a venit vorba, lista mea de mancaruri favorite se extinde continuu, dar considerand obsesia mea cu mancatul, gatitul si vorbitul despre mancare, e normal, nu-i asa?
Mama mea face ciupercile la cuptor cu praz, si cateodata si cartofi noi.
Asa ca le-am facut si eu de atatea ori si intotdeauna mi-au placut, desi n-am adaugat cartofi niciodata, si uneori am inlocuit prazul cu ceapa verde sau orice fel de ceapa cand n-am avut altceva.
De data asta am fost la magazinul meu asiatic si am gasit tot felul de ciuperci, foarte proaspete, si "a trebuit" sa cumpar din fiecare, mai ales cand sunt atat de ieftine. Am gasit (incepand din partea de jos a cosului): ciuperci stridie (Pleurotus ostreatus - buretele vanat), shiitake (Lentinula edodes sau Agaricus Edodes, un fel de ruda a ciupercii albe, crem sau brune, dupa ce am citit
aici), ciuperci albe si brune (Hypsizygus marmoreus sau Hypsizigus tessellatus) si maitake (Grifola frondosa, numita si gaina padurii, creste la baza copacilor, mai ales stejarilor).

Si pentru ca nu am avut nici praz nici ceapa verde, am folosit niste ceapa alba. Si astia sunt pasii:

Se curata si se taie ciupercile (daca sunt prea mari).
Se condimenteaza cu sare si piper, se adauga ceapa tocata marunt (sau 2 fire de praz sau o legatura de ceapa verde), se stropesc cu ulei si se pun in tava la copt la 180-200 C timp de aproape 30 de minute, sau pana sunt coapte.
Dupa aproape 30 de minute, le scot din cuptor, le stropesc cu vin si adaug vreo 2-3 catei de usturoi tocati marunt, si le pun inapoi la cuptor inca vreo 5 minute, pana s-a evaporat alcoolul din vin.
Se scot din cuptor si se amesteca cu verdeturi tocate dupa gust (mie imi plac patrunjel, marar si cimbru proaspat) si sunt gata de servit.

Mie imi plac ciupercile cu mamaliguta (care uneori e mai moale, alteori mai vartoasa, facuta cu o cana de malai la 2.5-3 cani de apa).
Cand nu e post, pun unt la mamaliga, e mult mai gustoasa si rad niste branza peste ciuperci. Daca va place, adaugati verdeturi si branza la mamaliga, si o puteti face cu zeama de supa sau lapte in loc de apa. Iar ciupercile pot fi facute in tigaie, prajite, nu neaparat la cuptor.

Vinul da o aroma aparte si un gust minunat sosului, iar combinatia de mai multe soiuri de ciuperci e minunata, textura si gustul fiecarui fel e atat de deosebit.

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Grilled fish with a warm potato salad

Unintentionally, it's now 3 weeks later since my last post, and honestly i cannot make promises to change this bad habit, not even to myself. The reason this time.... nothing in particular, i don't know when the time flies. Moreover, Easter Lent started 3 weeks ago, and it's hard for me browsing online and looking at different blogs, especially if there is any photo that makes your mouth water. I am having an easier time not craving the forbidden foods (meat, fish, all dairy, eggs) if i don't see anything. On the other side, it's been hard finding ideas because we are not salad people, and Gabriel loves something more consistent.
Today i am posting a fish dish because on March 25th, each year, we can eat fish, even if it is during Lent. Today christians celebrate the Annunciation - which is the revelation to Mary by the archangel Gabriel that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God. This is one of the only two days when fish is allowed during Easter Lent, the other being Palm Sunday.
I didn't make this today, and i know i am not going to make it for tonight, even though it is very good and easy to make, but i promised Clara i will make some "pickled" fish (saramura) and maybe some stuffed sole, as i feel quite ambitious right now :)).
Fish is Clara's first choice of "meat", always. Salmon is her favorite, no matter how it is prepared, and then snapper, cod, sole and all other white fish. She would ask for fish everytime and pick it over any beef, pork, or chicken, and i am so happy for that. Fish and crab are the only seafood she likes, the rest - shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, lobster - did not make it on her list yet. She would rather go to sleep hungry and crying than take a bite of them.
My problem when i cook fish for her is what will it be the side dish. She would always ask for plain rice and a salad, or maybe potatoes (fried, mashed, or baked), and that's about it. So the roasted asparagus you see in the picture it was only on our plates, hers had only potatoes and a cucumber-radish salad.

Now, i don't have a recipe for the fish, i just sprinkle it with salt, pepper and some sweet smoked pepper (i love the sweetness and the smokiness), brushed it with oil and grilled it for about 2 minutes per side.
The warm potato salad is so easy to make, i cannot really call it a recipe either, but i'll try to come with something:
- boil sliced red potatoes in salted water until fork tender, but don't overcook them as they will break and become mushy (use about 2-3 potatoes/person, depending on their size)
- while the potatoes are boiling, prepare the vinaigrette for them:
1/3 cup olive oil,
1/4 cup rice vinegar or white balsamic vinegar,
1-2 seeded and finely chopped tomatoes,
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill,
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon,
2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onions,
salt & pepper to taste.
Whisk everything together well and try to crush the tomatoes into the vinagrette with a fork. Drain the potatoes and while they are still hot, pour the dressing over them and mix slowly so you don't break the slices completely. Adjust the seasoning if needed by ading more salt & pepper, or whatever spices you'd like.
Plate the warm potatoes, top with roasted/grilled/boiled asparagus and then with the grilled fish. On top of the fish, i put one more spoon of the tomato dressing and some chives.

I love the licorice taste of the tarragon, the freshness of the dill and chives, the acidity from the tomatoes and i could have these potatoes any day with anything or just by themselves.


Peste la gratar cu salata calda de cartofi

Fara sa vreau, au trecut iarasi 3 saptamani de cand am postat ultima data, si cinstit vorbind, mi-e greu sa promit sa schimb asta, chiar daca e o promisiune facuta mie. Ce motiv am avut de data asta.... nimic in particular, habar n-am unde si cand a trecut timpul. Intre timp a inceput postul Pastelui, si mi-e tare greu sa ma plimb pe net si sa poftesc la diferite mancaruri de pe blogurile mele preferate. Asa ca e mai usor sa nu poftesc daca nu le vad :)). Si asa mi-e greu sa gasesc idei pentru mancaruri de post consistente, nu suntem genul care mancam numai salate in fiecare zi....
Azi - mancare cu peste pentru ca e Bunavestire si e dezlegare in fiecare an, chiar daca pica in Postul Pastelui. Si cum nu sunt decat doua ocazii (azi si in Duminica Floriilor), de-abia asteptam

Nu am facut pestele asta azi, si nici nu o sa-l fac diseara, pentru ca i-am promis Clarei ca facem saramura si poate daca am tine entuziasmul ce ma incearca de azi dimineatza, si niste peste umplut (rulouri). Pestele e carnea preferata a Clarei, intotdeauna. Somonul este prima alegere, indiferent cum e pregatit, apoi orice fel de peste alb. Cere peste cel putin o data pe saptamana si intotdeauna il prefera carnii de porc, vita sau pui, ceea ce ma bucura tare mult.Pestele si crabul sunt singurele care ii plac, restul - creveti, scoici, midii, stridii si toate celelalte nu sunt inca pe lista ei. Mai degraba s-ar culca nemancata si plansa toata decat sa le guste. Singura problema care o am cand gatesc peste e ce garnitura sa fac. Clara cere invariabil orez simplu si o salata sau poate cartofi, si cam atat. Asa ca sparanghelul din poza era in farfuriile noastre, Clara a avut numai cartofi si o salata de castraveti si ridichi.
Nu am o reteta pentru peste, il presar cu sare, piper si niste condimente de ardei dulce afumat (care imi plac la nebunie), il ung cu ulei si la gratar cam 2 minute pe fiecare parte.
Salata de cartofi e tare simplu de facut, nu pot sa zic ca e o reteta, dar cam astia sunt pasii:
- se fierb feliile de cartofi (din cei rosii, fara sa ii curatati de coaja, cam 2-3 de persoana, depinde cat sunt de mari) in apa sarata pana cand se patrund cu furculita, dar nu mai mult sa nu inceapa sa se sfarame,
- in timp ce fierb cartofii, se prepara vinegreta:
~ 75 ml ulei
~ 50 ml otet de orez sau alb balsamic
1-2 rosii tocate marunt (fara seminte)
1 lingura marar proaspat tocat
2 linguri tarhon proaspat tocat
2 linguri iarba ciorii sau ceapa verde tocata
sare si piper dupa gust
Se amesteca toate ingredientele impreuna zdrobind putin rosiile cu furculita. Se scurg cartofii de apa si cat sunt inca fierbinti se toarna peste ei vinegreta, amestecand usor sa nu se zdrobeasca feliile de cartofi de tot. Se mai adauga sare si piper daca e nevoie, si orice alte condimente va plac.
Se aseaza intai cartofii pe farfurie, apoi niste sparanghel pregatit la cuptor / fiert/ pe gratar si desupra pestele. Am pus o lingura din sosul de rosii pe peste si niste iarba ciorii (chives). Mie imi place gustul de anason al tarhonului, prospetimea mararului si a cepei verzi, si aciditatea rosiilor, asa ca as putea manca salata asta cu orice sau nimic langa ea

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March 3, 2009

Memoirs of a Valentine's Day dinner - Amintiri de la cina de Sf. Valentin

I have been slacking off again on my blog, but i certainly hope it will not become a once-a-month posting deal. It seems i cannot joggle very well my job, spending time together with my family and friends, the house chores and the blog. Still doesn’t mean that i am not cooking or not taking photos, but i am very slow when it comes to posting. On top of all this, i will be changing jobs. It will be same field, or at least i hope so, as i am still looking, haven’t got another one yet, but i'll have to find one in the next 4-6 weeks since my boss is retiring. And the stress from this is another reason why i haven’t got time for the blog. Basically, i spend my nights with Clara doing homework, while i am trying to put dinner together, then watching movies, reading or chatting about everything and nothing, bonding a lot. Gabriel has been rehearsing and is excited about working with some very talented people right now. On weekends, we have been either at home or out with friends, nothing special, but actually pretty good times enjoying everybody’s company.
While i still have so many photos of dishes made in the last 3 months and even from before, i thought today it’s time for the ones I made for Valentine’s day. We stayed home because Gabi had a terrible tooth infection with aches and pain for days, taking antibiotics and hopeful waiting for him to get the courage to have that root canal done (it’s now almost 3 weeks later, and he still didn’t go to the dentist). So, my planned meal almost didn't happen as my poor guy looked and felt awful, was half numb from all that Ibuprofen 800, but i cannot tell you how much more i love him now for staying at the table with me and Clara, eating everything, really everything, making both of them fun of me with foodie comments a la Iron Chef, Top Chef and Chopped judges :)) ("... was not overpowering", "the main ingredient was showcased perfectly", "the plating was beautiful", "the combination was .... and so on, and i don't know who was worse, the father or the daughter :D), and even asking for the dessert. THAT IS LOVE people, and I am lucky to have them.....

So, the menu was:

~ Shrimp on edamame puree with a ginger soy sauce dressing

~ White & Green asparagus, arugula and bell pepper wrapped in prosciutto

~ Seared scallop on cucumber and daikon, with some micro-greens on top and dried miso sprinkled over
(the dried miso idea is from Nobu West, which I drool over at least once a week and keep on my night stand)

~ Steak, mango, arugula and lemon basil salad with an Asian vinaigrette

~ Pears in a cage with vanilla ice cream and pear syrup

Nothing too difficult to make, but these are things we like, so we enjoyed them a lot. Still have to work on the lighting, our house doesn’t have too much natural light, the windows (not too large and not too many) face south and north, and the building is buried between two others with only maybe 5 feet between us and the neighbors. I plated one dessert as soon as it was done in the afternoon just to take a photo, so I had better lighting, but the rest of the food was ready too late, and i know 3 dim light bulbs with/without flash is not great photography, but please bear with me a bit more. Or consider the light part of a romantic setting :D.

The pear dessert i wanted to make for a while now, but never had time, so what better occasion than this. I made a pear custard tart the month before, which is still waiting on the back burner to come out, because everybody was blogging pear recipes, especially poached pears, so i had to try them too. But i didn’t want just poached pears, so first time i poached them for the custard tart, and now they were "caged" in puff pastry. The dessert looked beautiful (even though I don’t have a lattice cutter, so I cut the puff pastry with a sharp knife (who wouldn't like those leaves!), tasted amazing, and the syrup was absolutely delicious. The puff pastry was store bought, and so was the ice cream.
I combined the recipes from here and here, and made some adjustments, because .... I think i am a tweak-er, i cannot help myself not to....
And this is the final draft of my version

Pears in a Cage

(for 6 servings)
2 cups white wine
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
½ cinnamon stick
½ vanilla bean
3 pears, peeled, halved and cored (Bartlett or Bosc)
12 squares (about 4.5" x 4.5") puff pastry (or one package with two sheets of puff pastry), thawed, kept in the fridge until ready to use

Bring the wine, water, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla bean to a boil in a large saucepan. Boil for about 5 minutes, then add the pear halves, and poach the fruit over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tender, but not longer, as they will become too soft. Remove the pears and let them cool on a plate covered with a paper towel.
Continue cooking the poaching liquid until it is reduced to about 1 cup, and it looks like honey. Set aside.
Preheat oven at 375F ( or the temperature indicated on your puff pastry baking instructions).
Take 6 of the puff pastry squares out of the fridge and cut them out in the shape of a pear. Place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and put them back in the fridge to keep them cold.
Take the other 6 puff pastry squares out of the fridge and cut them the same way in the shape of a pear. Using a paring knife cut slits on the pear shaped pastry, leaving about ½" around the edge. Slowly pull apart the dough to show the lattice. Don’t let the dough get too soft, and it cannot be too hard either, as it will break.
Working quickly so the dough doesn’t get too soft, take out of the fridge the baking sheet with the pear cut-outs and place one pear on each, cut side down. Lay the lattice cut pear shapes on top of each pear, press down the sides and trim the edges if necessary. Brush the top pastry with the syrup from the poached pears (or with egg wash, if you want, then sprinkle some sugar on top).
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and definitely with more of the pear syrup. (The vanilla bean is from the syrup, I saved them for garnish).
Am neglijat iara blogul, desi sper din tot sufletul sa nu ajung sa postez numai o data pe luna cum s-a tot intamplat in ultimul timp. Se pare ca nu pot balansa foarte bine slujba, familia, prietenii, trebaluiala pe-acasa si blogul. Asta nu inseamna ca nu am gatit sau facut poze la mancare, dimpotriva, numai ca sunt foarte inceata cand trebuie sa postez. Pe deasupra, voi schimba serviciul. O sa fie acelasi domeniu, cel putin asa sper, pentru ca de-abia am inceput sa caut, dar va trebui sa gasesc ceva curand pentru ca mi se pensioneaza seful. Si stresul asta e alt motiv pentru care nu am avut timp de blog. In general imi petrec serile facand lectiile cu Clara, pregatind ceva mancare, apoi uitandu-ne impreuna la vreun film, citind sau stand la taclale despre totul si nimic. Nu contenesc sa ma minunez de cat de repede creste Clara si imi place cand stam la povesti ca fetele. Gabi a avut repetitii de cateva ori pe saptamana si e incantat sa lucreze cu niste oameni tare talentati. Weekendurile le-am petrecut fie pe-acasa fie cu prietenii, nimic special, dar de fiecare data simtindu-ne excelent si bucurandu-ne sa fim impreuna. Desi mai am multe poze de la diferite mancaruri facute in ultimele luni si chiar mai demult, m-am gandit ca azi le-a venit randul celor de la Sf. Valentin. Am stat acasa pentru ca Gabi a avut o infectie la masea cu dureri groaznice si nedormit vreo 3 zile la rand, luand antibiotice si eu sperand ca isi va gasi curajul sa mearga la dentist sa ii scoata nervul (au trecut acum aproape 3 saptamani si inca nu a fost). Uite asa planurile mele pentru Sf. Valentin aproape ca nu s-au intamplat pentru ca scumpul meu sot se simtea groaznic, era umflat toata partea dreapta si era cam drogat de la atatea calmante, dar nu va pot spune cat de mult il iubesc pentru ca a stat cu noi, mancand totul, chiar totul, facand glume pe seama mea impreuna cu Clara, cu tot felul de comentarii genul celor de la show-urile Iron Chef, Top Chef si Chopped :)), si sincer nu stiu cine era mai rau, tatal sau fiica-sa :D, ca in sfarsit sa ceara si desert. ASTA E IUBIRE CURATA, oameni buni, si eu sunt norocoasa sa o fi gasit ....
Astea fiind spuse, meniul a fost:
~ Creveti cu puree de boabe de soia (edamame) cu un sos de soia si ghimbir
~ Sparanghel verde si alb, rucola si ardei gras rosu invelit in prosciutto
~ Scoica prajita cu ridiche alba japoneza (daikon), castravete, salata de micro-verdeturi si miso (pasta de soia) uscat (idea cu miso uscat este din cartea Nobu West, pe care salivez macar o data pe saptamana si o tin pe noptiera intotdeuna)
~ Friptura cu mango, rucola si busuioc cu o vinegreta asiatica (sos de soia, otet de orez, ghimbir proaspat ras, ulei)
~ Pere in "colivie" cu inghetata de vanilie si cu sirop de pere
Nimic nu e prea greu de facut, dar sunt mancaruri care ne plac, asa ca le-am savurat pe toate. Inca trebuie sa mai lucrez la lumina din poze, nu poate editatul sa faca minuni cand lumina naturala e atat de proasta. Problema mea e ca in casa nu prea avem lumin naturala, geamurile (nici prea multe, nici prea mari) sunt toate spre sud sau nord, iar cladirea noastra e inghesuita intre alte doua blocuri, cu numai aproape 2 metri intre noi si vecini. Desertul l-am pus pe farfurie sa-l pozez imediat ce l-am terminat de pregatit, asa ca am avut lumina mai multa, dar restul le-am terminat cand era deja tarziu, si stiu ca 3 becuri chioare (chiar deasupra mancarii) cu sau fara blitz nu e arta fotografica, dar va rog sa fiti ingaduitori cu mine inca putin.
Desertul cu pere am tot vrut sa-l fac de ceva vreme, dar nu aveam timp, asa ca ce ocazie mai buna decat asta.
Am facut o tarta cu pere in urma cu o luna, care mai are de asteptat, pentru ca toata lumea scria pe bloguri retete cu pere, mai ales pere fierte, asa ca a trebuit sa le incerc si eu. Dar nu voiam numai pere fierte, asa ca prima data dupa ce le-am fiert le-am pus in tarta, iar acum in "colivie" ( suna mai bine decat cusca) de foetaj. Desertul a aratat ata de frumos (desi nu am avut rotita aia de taiat aluatul, asa ca l-am taiat cu un cutit ascutit), a fost tare gustos, iar siropul de la pere, delicios. Foetajul si inghetata le-am cumparat.
Am combinat retetele de aici si aici, si am facut mici modificari, pentru ca.... nu am nici un motiv mai bun decat ca nu ma pot abtine sa nu le schimb...Si asta e versiunea finala:

Pere in "colivie" de foetaj

(pentru 6 portii)
500 ml vin alb
500 ml apa
100 g zahar
½ bat scortisoara
½ teaca de vanilie
3 pere, decojite, taiate jumatati si fara cotor (Bartlett sau Bosc, sau orice pere destul de tari)
12 patrate (de cca 12x12 cm) foetaj dezghetate, tinute in frigider pana sunt gata de folosit
Se pun vinul, apa, zaharul, scortisoara si vanilia la fiert intr-o cratita larga. Se lasa sa fiarba in clocot mic vreo 5 minute, apoi se adauga jumatatile de pere si se fierb la foc potrivit cca 15 minute sau pana sunt patrunse, dar nu mai mult, pentru ca nu trebuie sa fie prea moi. Se scot perele pe un servet de hartie si se lasa sa se raceasca.
Se lasa lichidul sa fiarba in continuare pana se reduce la o cana si arata ca mierea. Se da la o parte.
Se incinge cuptorul la 375F/ 190 C (sau la temperatura de coacere recomandata pe pachetul de foi).
Se iau 6 din patratele de foetaj din frigider si se taie sub forma de para. Se pune cele 6 foi pe o tava tapetata cu hartie de copt si se tin la frigider pana se asambleaza desertul.
Se iau celelalte 6 patrate de foetaj si se taie si ele sub forma de para. Cu ajutorul unui cutit foarte ascutit se taie fiecare bucata de aluat in interior, pe lung, lasand o margine de 1.5 cm, ca sa arate ca o fereastra cu zabrele ( asta e traducerea pentru lattice). Se trage incet de aluat ca sa se deschida taieturile. Sa nu lasati foaia sa fie prea moale, si nici prea inghetata ca se poate rupe usor.
Lucrand repede sa nu se incalzeasca aluatul prea tare, se scoate tava cu primele sase forme din frigider si se aseaza o jumatate de para pe fiecare aluat, cu partea taiata in jos. Se aseaza "zabrelele" deasupra, intinzand aluatul si apasand marginile sa se lipeasca. Daca e nevoie, se taie excesul de aluat. Se unge aluatul pe deasupra cu siropul in care au fiert perele (sau cu un ou batut si se presara cu putin zahar).
Se coc 15-20 minute, pana sunt aurii.
Se servesc calde (nu fierbinti) sau reci, cu inghetata de vanilie sau frisca, si stropite cu restul de sirop. (Teaca de vanilie este cea din sirop, am pastrat-o pentru decorat.)

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February 5, 2009

Puff pastry tarts with cheese and slow roasted tomatoes - Tarte cu branza si rosii coapte

I am cleaning up my photo folders and before I come back with a soup or something else, it is time for these small bites to see the light. I chose them because they pair well with the sunny days and high 70's we had this past 10 days. (i started writing these lines yesterday, but as we speak it started raining and that's how it will be for the rest of the weekend)
I told you already about Chez Pim’s blog being the "virus", but I can be more precise than that. My first reading was her post about oven roasted tomatoes, I craved for them, so I made them that very night. It was my entry to the monthly contest on the Romanian culinary forum reteteculinaro.ro when the theme was canned goods. And then I made it again and again for the past 2 summers because I like them a lot. The only problem - even though you can find tomatoes all year round, they don’t seem ripe, they are not bursting with flavor and although roasting helps, it cannot do wonders.
But last fall I stumbled upon the fix for my roasted tomatoes problem, when reading another recipe which said "you can use canned tomatoes". Hello!!!! How dumb of me, but it never crossed my mind until then.
I owe this food induced happiness to Molly Wizenberg’s article
"My Usual, Please" from September 2008 issue of Bon Appetit which had the recipe for Pomodori al Forno from Café Lago in Seattle.
I made the tarts using store bought puff pastry (cut in 4"x4" squares, pricked with the fork all over) because I had some left over in the fridge. But the tomatoes are just perfect on grilled bread with some cheese and olives.
I topped the puff pastry with a ricotta - feta cheese mixture (no goat cheese laying around in my fridge at the time) and with the tomatoes roasted according to the recipe from Bon Appetit (a couple of changes only - I used 2/3 cup of oil instead of a full cup as the pastry has enough fat, 1 teaspoon of sugar and one of salt, and no parsley at the end), baked them, then drizzled over some basil & chive oil (homemade, because I got myself a pretty fine sieve that day, so I had to use it).
They look springy or summery, don’t they?
here is another recipe for roasted tomatoes which is pretty similar, but comes from Gourmet.
Pomodori al Forno
(recipe from Bon Appetit - September 2008, courtesy to Cafe Lago, Seattle)

1 cups (or more) olive oil, divided
2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh Italian parsley
Aged goat cheese (such as Bûcheron)
1 baguette, thinly sliced crosswise, toasted

Preheat oven to 250°F. Pour 1/2 cup oil into 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange tomatoes in dish, cut side up. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup oil. Sprinkle with oregano, sugar, and salt. Bake 1 hour. Using tongs, turn tomatoes over. Bake 1 hour longer. Turn tomatoes over again. Bake until deep red and very tender, transferring tomatoes to plate when soft (time will vary, depending on ripeness of tomatoes), about 15 to 45 minutes longer.
Layer tomatoes in medium bowl, sprinkling garlic and parsley over each layer; reserve oil in baking dish. Drizzle tomatoes with reserved oil, adding more if necessary to cover. Let stand at room temperature 2 hours. DO AHEAD Cover; chill up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Serve with aged goat cheese and toasted baguette slices.
Tarte cu branza si rosii la cuptor
Incerc sa trec prin pozele nepostate inca, si pana sa revin cu o supa sau alta mancare mai serioasa, a venit vremea gustarilor astora sa vada lumina. Le-am ales de fapt pentru ca se potriveau foarte bine zilelor insorite cu peste 20 C pe care le-am avut in ultimele 10 zile. (am scris randurile astea ieri, dar azi e innorat si ploua, si la fel o sa fie tot weekendul)
V-am spus mai inainte cum m-am "virusat" de la blogul lui Pim, dar pot spune ca prima mea lectura a fost despre rosiile uscate in cuptor, la care am poftit instantaneu, asa ca le-am facut in aceeasi seara. Au fost intrarea mea la concursul lunar de pe retete culinare cand tema concursului a fost conserve de toamna. Si apoi le-am refacut in ultimele doua veri pentru ca ne-au placut mult. Singura problema - desi gasesti rosii tot timpul anului, nu sunt cu adevarat coapte si gustoase, si desi uscandu-le in cuptor sunt mult mai bune, nici macar metoda asta nu poate face minuni cu ele.Dar toamna trecuta am gasit din fericire solutia citind o reteta care spunea ca poti folosi rosii din conserva, din cele puse intregi in suc de rosii. Ca sa vezi!!! Ce prostie sa nu imi treaca asa ceva prin cap pana atunci......
Ideea minunata apare in articolul scris de Molly Wizenberg
"My Usual, Please" din revista Bon Appetit - Septembrie 2008, care avea reteta pentru Rosii la Cuptor (apartinand Cafenelei Lago din Seattle). Am facut tartele cu aluat cumparat (l-am taiat in patrate de 10x10 cm si le-am intepat cu furculita peste tot), pentru ca imi ramasese de la niste pateuri. Dar nu sunt necesare tartele pentru rosiile astea minunate, sunt absolut perfecte pe paine prajita sau la gratar, cu niste branza si masline.
Am pus pe fiecare tarta un amestec de branza telemea - ricotta (urda) (reteta originala cere branza de capra, dar nu aveam deloc in casa in ziua cu pricina) si deasupra rosiile pregatite dupa reteta de mai jos ( cateva schimbari, am folosit numai 2/3 din uleiul recomandat pentru ca aluatul e destul de gras si el, am pus o lingurita fiecare sare si zahar, si nu am pus patrunjel proaspat la sfarsit); am copt tartele si apoi le-am stropit cu niste ulei "verde" cu busuioc si frunze de ceapa verde (pentru ca tocmai imi luasem o sita deasa si trebuia sa o folosesc la ceva).
Miros a primavara/ vara, nu-i asa?
Iar aici e o alta reteta asemanatoare, gasita pe Gourmet.
Rosii la cuptor
(reteta din revista Bon Appetit - Septembrie 2008, oferita de Cafe Lago, Seattle)
225 ml ulei de masline
900 g rosii, taiate pe jumatate, fara seminte (sau rosii din bulion, conservate intregi)
1 1/2 lingurite oregano
3/4 lingurita zahar
1/2 lingurita sare
1-2 catei de usturoi pisati
2 lingurite patrunjel proaspat tocat
branza de capra
o bagheta taiata in felii subtiri pe diagonala
Se incinge cuptorul la 250 F ( 120C). Se toarna jumatate din ulei intr-un vas termorezistent. Se aseaza rosiile in vas cu partea taiata in sus. Se toarna peste restul de ulei. Se condimenteaza cu oregano, zahar si sare. Se coc o ora. Se intorc rosiile cu partea taiata in jos si se mai pun la copt inca o ora. Se intorc rosiile din nou cu fata in sus si se mai coc intre 15 si 45 minute pana cand sunt de un rosu intens si sunt foarte coapte.
Se pun rosiile pe platou, se presara deasupra usturoiul si patrunjelul si peste se toarna uleiul din vasul in care au fost coapte. Daca este nevoie de mai mult ueli, se adauga dupa plac. Se lasa la temperatura camerei timp de 2 ore. Daca nu sunt servite imediat, se acopera si se pun la frigider pana la 5 zile. Se lasa sa revina la temperatura camerei inainte de a fi servite.
Se servesc cu branza de capra si felii de bagheta prajita.

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February 4, 2009

Got milk for these pop-tarts? - "Placintele"

I made this back in November, but i didn't get to post it then, and since now my daughter asked me to make them again tonight, i thought it's time for this post, too.
I found the idea on Chez Pim's blog, and fell in love with it immediately. (And digressing a little bit from the post - Chez Pim's blog was one of the first blogs i discovered about 2 years ago on the net. I cannot tell you how mesmerized i was and how much time i spent reading every single post over and over again, checking all the other blogs she mentioned and starting saving them in my bookmarks. I think that is the time when i was actually "contaminated" for good. And i couldn't be happier that i found that this is IT for me, my passion and calling. While i still lack in so many departments - knowledge, experience, writing or photographic talent, and also the courage to give up my job for a culinary training, i am living this dream now every moment. And though the level is still below the bar set by those who inspire me so much and whose blogs i admire, they push and help me every step of the way, without them even knowing i exist.)
Back to the subject of this post -I bought the pop tarts for Clara only once, because the kids at her school were eating them, there were commercials on TV and she wanted to see how they taste. And while she keeps asking me from time to time to buy them again, i never did after tasting one from that first and only box. And saying that they are not healthy would be the understatement of the year, although the sweetness and colors make them so very popular for kids. Don't get me wrong, if i would have had one when i was Clara's age i am sure i would have loved them too, without thinking as i do now what am i actually swallowing?!?!
That's why i was so happy when i found Pim's post. It's nothing complicated (if you don't start panicking at the thought that you have to make pie crust), and when you see them you ask yourself: how come i never thought of this until now? This is brilliant.
Here is Pim's post, and please take the time to check it, her photos are beautiful and the post is explicit. Also check out the links she gives for pie crust recipes here, here, here and there, for step by step instructions with photos, you never know which recipe you'd actually like better.
I've read all of these links, some of them more than once, but in the end i went with the crust recipe i have from my friend Lili, as i made it so many times before, and we really like it.
The fillings were Nutella (what else ?!?!?!), cherry jam and the last of my homemade plum jam. I think it took us only about 2-3 hours to finish them, and they were just perfect with a glass of cold milk on the side. We were all kids again, happy, happy ones, and tonight is once more time for some sweet pop-tarts induced happiness. Got milk?

Pie crust

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
7 tablespoons ice water + 3 tablespoons vinegar

I use two knives and my hands to mix the ingredients, I don’t like the food processor and I don’t have a pastry cutter.
In a bowl put the flour, salt, sugar and the butter and cut the butter into the flour using the both knives. Mix them only until the mixture is grainy and coarse. Pour slowly the water-vinegar mix and mix with your hands or a spatula until the dough comes together. If needed, add up to 3 tablespoons more ice water, one at a time. DO NOT OVERMIX.
Cut the dough in two, shape them into disks, wrap them in plastic and put them in the fridge for at least an hour.

Flour your work surface very well and roll the dough until about 1/8" thick. Cut the dough in 4x6(8) rectangles. Spread a tablespoon of your favorite filling on one half of each rectangle, leaving about 2/3" on each side, then fold the other half over. Press the edges to close the tart (you can use water to brush the edges if they don’t stick well). Use a fork to press the sides of the tart to make a pattern. Trim off the edges (if you want to), then brush the pockets with eggwash, sprinkle some raw sugar and cut a few vents on top.
Place the tarts on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and put them back in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Bake at 400F (~200C) for about 15-20 minutes, until the pop tarts are nicely golden and not too brown around the edges.


Placintelele de azi le-am facut tot inainte de postul Craciunului, dar nu am apucat sa le postez pana acum, si pentru ca mandruta mea m-a rugat sa le facem din nou diseara, m-am gandit ca e timpul sa le postez.
Am gasit ideea asta minunata pe blogul lui Pim, si m-a cucerit imediat. (Si abatandu-ma de la subiect - blogul lui Pim e unul dintre primele pe care le-am descoperit pe net in urma cu vreo 2 ani. Nu pot sa spun cat de "vrajita" am fost si cat timp am petrecut de atunci citind fiecare post de nenumarate ori, mergand pe toate linkurile catre alte bloguri postate de ea si incepand sa le salvez ca favorite cu zecile. Si asa m-am "imbolnavit" definitiv. Nu pot sa spun ce mult m-am bucurat sa descopar ca asta e pasiunea si chemarea mea. Si desi inca imi lipseste experienta, cunostintele, talentul scrisului sau al fotografiei, si curajul de a renunta la slujba mea de acum ca sa o iau de la inceput in lumea culinara, sunt bucuroasa ca traiesc acest vis in fiecare zi. Si desi nivelul este inca mult sub cel al persoanelor care ma inspira si ale caror bloguri le admir, ei ma imping si ma ajuta in fiecare pas, fara macar sa stie ca exist.)
Inapoi la subiectul postului de azi - am cumparat "placintelele" astea pentru Clara inainte (le pui in prajitorul de paine si gata), pentru ca i-a vazut pe colegii ei mancand asa ceva, le faceau reclama la Tv si a vrut sa vada ce gust au. Si desi ma roaga din cand in cand sa ii mai iau o cutie, nu le-am mai cumparat niciodata de cand am gustat una din prima / ultima cutie. Sa spun ca nu sunt sanatoase si gretos de dulci ar fi mult prea putin, dar copiilor de aici le plac mult. Nu vreau sa fac pe lupul moralist, probabil ca daca as fi mancat una cand eram de varsta Clarei le-as fi placut si eu, fara sa ma gandesc ca acum ce inghit de fapt.
De asta am fost bucuroasa cand am gasit postul lui Pim. Nu e nimic complicat ( daca nu te apuca panica gandindu-te ca trebuie sa faci aluat de placinta), si cand le vezi te intrebi cum de nu m-am gandit la asta pana acum? Pentru ca sunt absolut minunate.
Aici este postul lui Pim, cu fotografii si pasi explicati pe larg. Si puteti intra pe linkurile puse de ea pentru aluatul de placinta, aici, aici, aici si aici, pentru retete cu instructiuni detaliate cu poze, nu stii care reteta o sa va placa mai mult.
Am citit toate linkurile de mai sus, unele din ele chiar de mai multe ori, dar pana la urma am urmat reteta pe care o folosesc de vreo 3 ani, de la prietena mea Lili, pentru ca sunt sigura de rezultate si ne place cum iese.
Umplutura a fost Nutella ( se poate altfel ?!?!?), gem de cirese si ultimele linguri din gemul meu de prune. Cred ca ne-a luat numai vreo 2-3 ore sa le terminam, si au fost perfecte cu un pahar de lapte rece langa. Ne-am simtit cu totii copii iarasi, foarte foarte veseli, asa ca diseara e din nou timpul pentru niste "placintele". Bineinteles cu lapte :)).

Aluat de placinta

325 g faina
o lingurita sare
o lingura zahar
225 g unt nesarat, foaret rece, taiat in cuburi
7 linguri de apa foarte rece + 3 linguri otet

Eu amestec aluatul folosindu-ma de doua cutite si cu mainile, nu imi place cum iese la robot / mixer si nu am un cutit din ala de patiserie pentru aluat.
Se pun intr-un bol faina, zaharul, sarea si untul, si se amesteca taind untul in faina cu ajutorul cutitelor ( sau daca aveti maini mai reci, cu mana). Se amesteca numai cat sa arate ca niste firimituri mai mari. Se toarna treptat lichdiul (apa + otetul) si se amesteca pana aluatul se aduna intr-o minge mare. Daca aluatul e prea uscat, puteti adauga pana la 3 linguri de apa rece in plus. NU SE AMESTECA MAI MULT.
Se imparte aluatul in doua bucati, se inveleste fiecare in folie de plastic si se pune la frigider cel putin o ora.
Se presara faina din belsug pe suprafata de lucru si se intinde aluatul pana are grosimea de 3-4 mm. Se taie aluatul in dreptunghiuri de 8(10) x 16 (20) cm. Se pune o lingura din umplutura preferata pe una din jumatatile fiecarui dreptunghi, lasand liber cam 2 cm pe fiecare margine, apoi se acopera cu jumatatea cealalta. Se apasa marginile si se formeaza un pachetel. Daca marginile nu se lipesc, ungeti cu putina apa si le apasati din nou. Cu ajutorul unei furculite se face un model de jur imprejur. Se niveleaza marginile ( daca vreti), se ung pachetele cu ou, se presara cu zahar neprocesat (brun) si se taie cateva deschizaturi in partea de deasupra.
Se pun tartele pe o tava tapetata cu hartie de copt si se pun la frigider 15 minute.
Se coc la 400F (~200C) timp de 15-20 minute, pana cand se auresc. Se verifica dupa 15 minute pentru ca marginile sa ard foarte usor.

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January 28, 2009

Shrimp and snow peas stir fry - Mancare chinezeasca de creveti si mazare (teci)

When i took a break from posting from the end of November till January, i also took a break from reading my favorite blogs and i'll tell you now why. We tried to keep the Lent before Christmas, which is about 6 weeks, and for me it is pretty hard. Gabriel doesn't seem to mind or wonder like me. I always think about food and i always crave food, especially when i see beautiful photos, so i decided not to look, to make it easier for me and avoid the temptations. I feel sometimes is very easy to go thru the day without feeling hungry for something that i am not supposed to have, but there are so many other days when i feel i will faint if i don't eat some cheese or eggs or anything else, but vegetarian dishes. The food doesn't have to be boring during Lent, but it could be, especially if you feel that you are running out of ideas and i always feel like that. I wrote down so many recipes and ideas so i could have them handy for fasting before Christmas or Easter, but when time comes, i feel so uninspired for the majority of the time, and in the end, there are about 15 dishes that i keep on making, with small variations, for the whole 6 weeks.
At least during the Lent before Christmas you are allowed to have fish on Sundays, but for the lent before Easter, which is just about 5 weeks away, i think there are only 2-3 times when fish is ok. And since we really are not vegetarian people, just veggies and fruits, grains, beans, rice and no meat, fish, eggs or dairy could be cumbersome. That's why i have to confess that my success rate is not very good yet, but at least i am trying. And when we couldn't do it, we tried not to have meat, but just dairy, fish or eggs.
And in spite of our ( please read my) failure to fast the whole period, we felt wonderful every time when we succeeded, and i say that without a bragging tone, as that would defeat the purpose, isn't it?
Now, since we are here, the menu is richer because we have year round all these wonderful veggies, which taste pretty decent even in December. And on top of that, we have seafood. In Romania the shrimp, mussels, clams, squid and calamari are not food for Lent. But then again, they are not common foods at all, and until some years ago they were not available not even frozen. I know there is a big dispute about shellfish being allowed or not. The orthodox Greeks accept it and so do some orthodox Romanians who say that it is not the same with fish, it has not blood. This being said, you can't have shellfish during lent to the point where you stuff yourself and indulge with this food which for some is even better that meat, because again, that is no abstinence. But from time to time, i make a soup or different dishes, using shrimp, mixed shellfish, mussels or clams to have a more consistent meal. I haven't cooked squid or calamari at home, except for some rings, only once, and if i remember it right, it wasn't during Lent.
Before i go on with my shrimp stir fry, i remember when 2 years ago, my friend Lili wanted to fast, too. We went to her house one night and she was happily telling us how she was able to do it for about a week, while she was eating some meat, so we started laughing. And she replied serenely that meat is not a problem for her, she could give it up at any time for weeks, without craving, (and indeed there were weeks when she didn't eat any), so that's why she didn't feel she had to stop eating it. But for that whole week she gave up eggs, which are her favorite food, and she was proud for being able to abstain from them for so long, and that's how she was fasting :))).
Back to the shrimp. I have told you so many times that we like Chinese food. And Gabriel really loves Chinese food more than any other ethnic food that we found here in LA. I don't think there has been not even one dish that he would say he wouldn't order again. I like Chinese food too, to the point where i started buying all these ingredients, sauces, condiments, and cookbooks to try to make some recipes at home. And some of them came out really good. Others, not so much, but i am not giving up.
I love the stir fry, i like that the veggies remain crunchy, and i find the recipes versatile - it could be shrimp for the two of us, but chicken, beef or pork for Clara, too, and i could whip something up depending on what is in my fridge, or i buy ingredients especially for one recipe or another.
This time, i had the snow peas and some red bell pepper, but they could be replaced with anything you like - broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, bok choy.... I love adding some fresh ginger, garlic, bamboo shots, water chestnuts, and bean sprouts, depending what i make and if i didn't forget to get some. I got a full load in my pantry of oyster sauce, black bean, garlic-chili, hoisin, sweet & sour, cornstarch and soy sauce, and i use them either following a specific recipe, or not really.
Snow peas are one of my favorite greens. I never had them before back home. We have pea pods (which here are called sugar snap peas), but we buy them to shell the peas, or at least that's what i knew back then and i've seen everybody do. For those of you who don't know what snow peas are, here are some things i found online: snow peas are also called Chinese peas, Chinese snow pea, edible-podded pea, mange-tout pea (i love this mange tout, i found them called this way in some european cookbooks)The snow pea is a legume, a variety of pea eaten whole in its pod while still unripe. Snow peas are thin, crisp, bright green pods, almost translucent. They are tender and sweet and have a crisp, firm texture. The tiny peas inside are small and flat. Sugar snap peas on the other side, are sweet, tender pods that have fully developed plump, rounded peas inside. They are thicker and could be cooked as they are (sometimes they need to have the string on the side removed) or they could be shelled and only use the peas.

Shrimp and snow peas stir fry

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
half an onion, cut into thin wedges
1 medium red bell pepper cut into strips
2 cups fresh snow peas, tips and strings removed
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon black bean sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Add the cooking oil to a wok or a large skillet and cook the ginger and garlic over medium-high heat about 15-20 seconds. Add the onion, bell pepper and snow peas and cook and stir for about 3 minutes or until the vegetables are crisp tender.
Take the vegetables out of the wok with a slotted spoon. Stir together in a mixing bowl the soy sauce, oyster sauce, black bean, cornstarch and water. Add to the wok and let it cook until slightly thickened and bubbly.
Add the shrimp. Cook and stir about 3 minutes or until the shrimp is pink. Stir in the vegetables for one more minute, until heated through. Make sure you are not overcooking it, as the shrimp will be chewy and the veggies soft and wilted. Serve with plain white or brown rice.


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