Monday, 27 September 2010

PEAR AND APPLE PHYLLO CRISP



A treat that's PERFECT FOR AUTUMN!!! Can be made vegan and/or Lent-friendly! A really nice, crunchy dessert made with phyllo dough and topped with pears, apples and cinnamon. There are some walnuts and sugar in it too. There's also butter, but if vegetable oil is used instead, the dessert becomes one hundred percent vegan and also suitable for Lent! That's one versatile recipe, isn't it? 


Delicately sweet pears and tangy apples are arranged on top of sheets of cinnamony phyllo dough. As the dessert bakes the aromas of cinnamon fill the house: scrumptious! There is no syrup here as there usually is on phyllo desserts. The flavour is unique, and with the absence of syrup, calories are fewer! Syrup does prolong the life of phyllo desserts, therefore, this delicious crisp must be consumed shortly after it's baked. 



Ingredients:


  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, or a combination of both, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plain, unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting
  • frozen phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator; you will be using only ten sheets of phyllo. There are several varieties of phyllo on the market, and some brands of phylo are wider than others. The amount of butter and fruit might have to be adjusted depending on the variety purchased. 
  • 1/2 stick (four tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • Seckel pears, sliced thinly; Seckel pears are perfect as they are naturally small and will look gorgeous here! No need to peel the pears 
  • 2 baking apples, peeled and sliced thinly


Directions:
  • Place a rack in the top position of your oven.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. 
  • Combine the walnuts, breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and top with 1 phyllo sheet. 
  • Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo with butter;  add another phyllo sheet on top. Brush the second sheet with butter. Add a third sheet of phyllo and guess what? Brush it with butter.
  • Hint: don't press down with the pastry brush. Use light, airy strokes. The lighter the brushing, the flakier the phyllo layers will turn out.
  • In each of the next four phyllo layers, the nut mixture will be used, so go ahead and divide the mixture into four portions. Use one portion for each layer: 
  • Add a fourth sheet and brush it with butter. Sprinkle a portion of the nut mixture on top. 
  • Repeat another 3 times, buttering each phyllo layer and adding nuts.  
  • Finally, top with two phyllo sheets, buttering each one. Top with the last phyllo sheet and go ahead, butter that one as well. 
  • Make sure that you brush the edges of the phyllo sheets with butter so that they won't dry up during baking. The original recipe called for a lot more butter but I cut down on the amount. Too much butter is unnecessary and makes for a heavy dessert. Therefore, don't soak the phyllo with butter. If you'd like to cut some of the butter amount even further, you can substitute part or all of it with a good vegetable oil. Do not, however, use olive oil.
  • Arrange the pears and apples on top of the phyllo. Brush the fruit with the remaining butter, sprinkle with sugar and dust with cinnamon.
  • Bake; rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking. After 25 minutes, when the phyllo is golden brown and the fruit is soft, the dessert is ready to take out of the oven. Let cool and slice into portions.  
  • The dessert should be eaten the same day; if kept longer, the phyllo will begin to lose its crispness.

This recipe has been adapted from Martha Stewart. It's a wonderful one, thanks, Martha!

Friday, 24 September 2010

GREEK SALAD or HORIATIKI SALATA with ROASTED CHICKPEAS


Eating a Greek salad is one of the best parts of summer! Simple to make and so very delicious. Just about everyone has their favourite version of Greek salad, and below you'll find the recipe for mine. I make it without lettuce and no, there is absolutely nothing wrong with lettuce! But a traditional Greek salad contains no lettuce chiefly because, unless harvested in a greenhouse or shipped from a colder weather region, lettuces don't grow during the heat of the summer months as do tomatoes and cucumbers. 




This is the rustic, country style version of Greek salad that goes on the table in every Greek household and seaside taverna. The dressing is simply olive oil and lemon, maybe a little vinegar too. There's always some dressing left at the bottom of the bowl and it absorbs the taste of the salad ingredients. In keeping with the rustic nature of this salad, a common practice is to mop up and eat the leftover dressing with pieces of freshly baked bread. This necessitates that one disavows a large measure of savoir-vivre but sometimes, who cares? It's a fun, sharing experience to break bread with one's tablemates in this way. There is even a colloquial term for the morsels dipped in an olive oil dressing: they are called papara ... 

The word "horiatiki" derives from the word "horio," which means village. Horiatiki salata can be translated as rustic style, or country style, or village style salad. Because of its rustic nature, there is no set amount of ingredients to be used. Just make sure the salad looks good! I use the following:


Ingredients:
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes, sliced (sometimes I use both red and yellow tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, sliced lengthwise then cut up into slices crosswise. Remove the seeds! It's preferable to use the English variety of cucumber because it has fewer seeds and tastes the best 
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced (for subtler texture and flavour you can use a sweet Italian frying pepper)
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings
  • a combination of kalamata and oil-cured olives, pits removed
  • feta cheese cut into cubes
  • chopped parsley
  • black pepper
  • a small amount of salt 
  • capers, rinsed
  • dried oregano
  • olive oil
  • a bit of lemon juice
  • if you are a vinegar fan, a bit of vinegar

optional: one small can of chickpeas or some homemade croutons if you have stale bread that needs to be used! A nice touch would be to roast the chickpeas, allow them to cool, then incorporate them into the salad. Same goes for the croutons. Drizzle with olive oil before placing in the oven and roast at 450°F/200°C for about 15 minutes. Keep checking so that they don't burn.

Directions for the salad:
  • Arrange the sliced tomatoes and cucumber on the bottom of a nice sized salad bowl.
  • Top with the peppers and capers. 
  • Add the onion slices, salt if using, black pepper, oregano, parsley, and olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with a bit of lemon juice and the vinegar if using, and mix.
  • Once the above ingredients are mixed, add the feta and olives in a decorative pattern. Top with a bit more olive oil and oregano.
  • If you made the chickpeas or croutons, make sure they have cooled and throw those on there as well!
  • Before the salad is served let it sit in the refrigerator for a while. It will come out tasting refreshing, plus the aromas of the vegetables and olive oil will get a chance to mix together, creating their own unique flavour.

If you try this or any other Greek salad, I hope you really, truly enjoy it!

Monday, 20 September 2010

ROASTED FALL VEGETABLE SOUP PUREE



With fall just around the corner, and with the weather getting a just a bit chilly, making soup is the right thing to do.  Plus, this soup is a total winner!

I chopped vegetables, seasoned them and roasted them. Along with the vegetables I used two juicy honey-crisp apples (my favourite). That was the best part! 

The kitchen smelled great as the vegetables were roasting and when they came out of the oven they looked and tasted wonderful. I pureed them in the food processor, added some broth and enjoyed a delicious chunky-creamy fall soup, one that I will make again and again. 



Ingredients:

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1½ inch pieces
2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed well and quartered (leave the skin on)
1 small sweet potato peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 leek, cut lengthwise, washed well, chopped into  inch pieces, white and light green parts only
3 carrots halved lengthwise and cut into 1½ inch pieces
3 stalks of celery chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and quartered. Use a sweet tasting variety of apple (That does it! Too much talk about apples. I'm going to have to stop right here and go get a honey-crisp apple from the kitchen to snack on as I write this) ...
one head or half a head of garlic left unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
sprigs of fresh marjoram 
6 cups vegetable broth
optional: a bit of cream or milk to add to the soup at the end of cooking
roasted pine nuts for garnish


Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450° F.
  • Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (makes for easy clean up) and grease the surface of the paper with olive oil. Place the vegetables on the baking sheet - don't add the apples yet - and toss the vegetables with some olive oil, salt and pepper and the leaves from some marjoram sprigs.
  • Roast until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 50 minutes.
  • Halfway through roasting take the vegetables out of the oven, turn them over so they roast evenly, and mix in the apples.  Place them back in the oven and continue cooking until done.
  • In a large saucepan warm four cups of the vegetable broth along with some marjoram sprigs. The rest of the broth will be used when puréeing the vegetables.
  • Squeeze the garlic and remove the roasted part. Discard the garlic peel.
  • Divide the roasted vegetables into two batches. Place each batch along with one cup of broth in the food processor and purée.
  • Add the vegetables to the saucepan with the warmed broth and stir to mix well.
  • Heat the soup and taste it for seasoning. 
  • If you like, you can mix in a bit of cream or milk and garnish with roasted pine nuts. The soup is great without any additions, but you can always spruce it up according to your individual taste.
Make sure the vegetables are well caramelised.


Saturday, 18 September 2010

ZUCCHINI WITH COUSCOUS



Quick, easy and tasty. That's a perfect way to describe this meal. I was very hungry when I came into the house after having spent most of the day pruning, and weeding, and cleaning the garden. There was plenty of zucchini to be found in the refrigerator, and I also had on hand some fennel, scallions and pasta which were begging to be used. So I threw this pasta and zucchini dish together, and it only took twenty minutes. I had dinner and then I headed back outside to finish clearing a spot for planting mums. Satisfaction.

Ingredients:

2 zucchini
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup couscous or small pasta
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence


Directions:
  • Wash the zucchini and peel some of their skin off with a vegetable peeler. You should wind up with zucchini that appears striped: white flesh and green skin. Doing this eliminates most of the bitterness that is sometimes given off by the zucchini skin.Slice the zucchini thinly lengthwise, and then chop it crosswise.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the scallions. Cook them for about a minute and then add the zucchini, fennel, herbs de Provence and lemon juice. 
  • Season with salt and pepper and saute until the zucchini is soft.
  • Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to package directions, and then drain it.
  • Heat a small skillet over medium heat and dry-toast the almonds.
  • Toss the couscous with the zucchini and the toasted almonds.
  • Serve garnished with the cheese.