Monday, September 27, 2010

PEAR AND APPLE PHYLLO CRISP




This is a really nice dessert made phyllo dough and topped with pears, apples and cinnamon. There are some walnuts in it too, and butter and sugar of course. This recipe appears in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living. 

The picture of the dessert in the magazine looks very appetizing. It jumps out at you, makes you feel as though you can reach out and touch the real thing: dessert!  While looking at that picture you get the urge to rush into the kitchen and get to work peeling apples and buttering phyllo dough.  Then, before you know it, you'll have delicately sweet pears and tangy juicy apples topping a piece of crunchy, cinnamony, phyllo dough. I was hoping that my photographic skills would be adequate to convey what I am describing to you.  However, I found out, to my chagrin, that I can't paint fruit canvases the way Martha Stewart's photographer can. Sigh!  I wish I had half the skill.  
I made my pear and apple phyllo crisp.  The aroma of baking with cinnamon and fruit filled the house.  The dessert itself was very, very good!  
This was the picture from the magazine.  Just imagine a full page glossy spread that makes you feel as though you can reach out and pick up a slice....                                 
Ingredients:

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, or a combination of both, finely chopped
1/4 cup plain fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting
8 sheers frozen phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
3 small pears, peeled (some Seckel pears would be perfect)
2 baking apples, peeled


Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400° F, with a rack in the top position.
  • Combine the walnuts, breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and top with 1 phyllo sheet. Brush the phyllo with butter and add another phyllo sheet on top. Brush with that with butter too.
  • In these next phyllo layers we will be using the nut mixture:  Brush the third phyllo with butter and sprinkle it with some of the nut mixture. Repeat another 3 times, buttering the phyllo layers and adding the nuts.  
  • Finally, top with another phyllo sheet and just brush it with butter.  By now you should be all out of the nut mixture. Top with the remaining phyllo sheet and brush that with some butter too. Make sure that you have brushed 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.  These days using lots of butter on phyllo is not necessary. Brush sparingly, don't soak the phyllo in butter.  If you want to cut some of the butter amount even further, you can substitute part of it with a vegetable oil such as canola.  Do not use olive oil, however).
  • By now you should have about 1 tablespoon of butter left. Cut the the pears and apples into slices 1/8 inch thick and discard the seeds. Arrange them on top of the phyllo.  Brush the fruit with the remaining butter, sprinkle with sugar and dust with cinnamon.
  • Bake, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the phyllo is golden brown and the fruit is soft, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool slightly and cut into 8 pieces.  
  • The dessert should be eaten the same day it's made, because phyllo tends to loose its crispness by the next day.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

GREEK SALAD or HORIATIKI SALATA


Eating a Greek salad is one of the best parts of summer. Simple to make and so very delicious. Just about every one has their favorite version of Greek salad, and here is mine. I make it without lettuce, because a traditional Greek salad contains no lettuce. It seems that here in the US we can't think of a salad not having some type of leafy green in it. That's fine. Actually, I have a favorite American style version of Greek salad, that includes lettuce & arugula. Today though I am presenting the rustic, country style version that goes on the table in every Greek household and seaside taverna. It 's usually served along with the entrée rather than before or after it. 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 disregards a large measure of savoir-vivre one might possess, but sometimes, who cares? It's a fun, sharing experience to break bread with family or friends in this way. There is even a name for these morsels dipped in dressing. They are called "papara," which is a term for bread dipped in olive oil.


Ingredients:

  • The word "horiatiki" (χωριάτικη), derives from the word "horio" (χωριó), 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 right or wrong amount of ingredients to use. Just make sure the salad looks good! I use the following:
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes, sliced (sometimes I use both red and yellow tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber (preferably the English variety because it has fewer seeds and tastes the best), peeled, sliced lengthwise, seeds removed if they are too big, then cut up in slices crosswise.
  • 1/2 or 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced (for subtler texture and flavor you can use a sweet Italian frying pepper).
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced in thin rings
  • a combination of kalamata and oil cured olives, pits removed
  • feta cheese cut in cubes
  • chopped parsley
  • black pepper
  • a small amount of salt (salt is optional, you may not want it because the capers and feta all ready contain salt, plus salt will mask the fresh taste of the vegetables)
  • dried oregano
  • olive oil
  • a few capers
  • a bit of lemon juice
  • if you are a vinegar fan, a bit of vinegar

Directions:
Arrange the sliced tomatoes and cucumber on the bottom of a nice sized salad bowl.
Next go the peppers and the capers. Then add the onion slices, salt if using, black pepper, oregano 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, olives and parsley in a decorative pattern. Top with a bit more olive oil and oregano.
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 flavor.
If you try this or any other Greek salad, I hope you really, really enjoy it!

Monday, September 20, 2010

ROASTED FALL VEGETABLE SOUP


Today I am making roasted vegetable soup from a recipe that can be found in Martha Stewart's web site. 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 the vegetables, seasoned them and roasted them. That was the best part. The kitchen smelled great as the vegetables were roasting and when they came out of the oven they looked wonderful and tasted wonderful. I pureed them in the food processor, added some broth and had a delicious chunky-creamy fall soup. Pru made and posted her recipe before I did, and I saw that she had added apples to the vegetable mix. What a great idea Pru! I hope you don't mind, but I followed suit. I peeled and chopped two juicy honey-crisp apples (my favorite), and mixed them in with the squash and the carrots and potatoes. Results? A very nice soup that I will make again and again. 

Delicious roasted vegetables with the honeycrisp apples right on top!

Ingredients:
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into  inch pieces
3 or 4 medium sized red potatoes, scrubbed well and quartered (leave skin on)
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
2 leeks, cut lengthwise, washed well, chopped into  inch pieces, white and light green parts only
5 carrots halved lengthwise if thick, and cut into  inch pieces
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 of garlic left unpeeled, cut in half crosswise
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
6 sprigs of fresh marjoram 
optional : a bit of cream or milk to add to the soup at the end of cooking



Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450° F.
  • Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (makes for easy clean up) and grease the surface of the foil 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 four of the sprigs of marjoram.
  • Roast until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 50 minutes.
  • Half way 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 sauce pan warm three cups of the chicken broth along with the remaining marjoram.


  • Divide the roasted vegetables in two batches. Place each batch along with one cup of chicken broth in the food processor and puree well.


  • Add the vegetables to the saucepan with the warmed broth and stir to mix well.


  • Heat up the soup and taste it for seasoning. If you like, you can mix in a bit of cream or milk. The soup is great without any additions, but you can always spruce it up according to your individual taste.



  • Saturday, September 18, 2010

    ZUCCHINI WITH ACINI DI PEPE PASTA



    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:

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


    Directions:
    1. 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.
    2. Slice the zucchini thinly lengthwise, and then chop it crosswise.
    3. 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.
    4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, and then drain it.
    5. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and and dry-toast the almonds.
    6. Toss the pasta with the zucchini and the toasted almonds.
    7. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    FLAT IRON STEAK WITH MEDITERRANEAN FLAVORS


    This has been a month where I've found it difficult to go near the kitchen. Busy days that leave you in no mood to cook, or to take pictures, or to sit down alone with your thoughts in front of a computer screen. Couldn't even think up of a sentence or two to accompany an article... Burned out, I was.






    I guess I needed a healthy dose of protein to pep me up.  In the September 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living I found this recipe for steak, and it's a winner!!! Making it was fun, and it got me back into the kitchen, back to my usual routine. Routine sometimes can be good. Now I want to buy more of this cut and make the recipe again. I'm not even that much of a red meat eater. Yet this was so good. The challenge was to buy an inexpensive cut of meat such as flank or skirt steak, marinate it, grill it or broil it, and see how by marinating an inexpensive cut of meat, one can have a tender and delicious steak for dinner. The magazine offered two recipes for marinade: a Latin, and a Mediterranean. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I chose the Mediterranean recipe.

    First thing I did was to pound the steak well. This breaks down the fibers and tenderizes the meat.

    Then I cut it into serving pieces that I placed into a container to marinate. After grilling, the pieces were further sliced into thin strips.
    My butcher did not have skirt steak, and he had just ran out of flank steak, so he recommended a similar cut, called flat iron steak. Flank and skirt are cuts from the beef abdomen, flat iron is a cut from the beef chuck.

    The flat iron steak was inexpensive, moist and tasty. I served it with a salad of arugula and tiny pasta beads (acini di pepe, which means peppercorns). Also for accompaniment I used some olive tapenade. The idea for the salad came from Food and Wine magazine. All in all this made a nice dinner, with a nice amount of leftovers, which is always good. This was a really tasty dinner!


    Here's the steak sliced up with the olive tapenade on top.  No pink in this steak, I love mine well done!
    Ingredients:

    Flat Iron or Skirt Steak, about 1 & 1/2 lb
    4 tablespoons 
    olive tapenade
    For the marinade:3 garlic cloves
    1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
    Salt & pepper to taste
    5 tablespoons olive oil
    4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

    For the salad:1 medium red onion cut crosswise in ½ inch slices
    1 orange peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
    4 large radishes, thinly sliced
    5 ounces baby arugula
    1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup acini di pepe pasta

    Directions:
    1. In a food processor mix the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, oil and balsamic vinegar. Place the steak in a bowl and pour the marinade over. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours, or if you can, marinate it overnight, particularly if you are using skirt steak.
    2. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
    3. Grill the onions and steak. (I like steak to be well done, so I grilled it for 4 minutes per side). Let it rest 10 minutes. Let the onions cool slightly, then coarsely chop them.
    4. Into a large bowl add one tablespoon of the tapenade and the olive oil. Whisk the lemon juice into the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Add the orange slices, arugula, fennel, radishes, pasta and grilled onion and toss well.
    5. Slice the skirt steaks thinly across the grain and arrange on plates. Spoon the olive tapenade over each steak, place some of the salad alongside, and serve.

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    EAT SOME TABOULEH SALAD WHEN THERE'S A HEATWAVE


    What do you do when the temperature reaches 97° F (36C°), and suddenly your air conditioning unit goes on the blink? I'll tell you what I did. I cried. First I called the repair man, but his mail box was full, so I could not leave a message. Then I shed tears. To judge by the number of calls the repair man was getting, there must have been lots of other people in the same fix I was in.  I was able to get in touch with him the next morning, and he rushed right over at 8:30 in the evening. By then, pessimist that I am, I had given up on the hope that he would show up. However, Bill, the air conditioning, and refrigeration and washing machine repairman, is a great person and really loves his job. He loves tinkering with all that machinery - isn't that just like a guy? Guys love to tinker. Am I being sexist?  No.  Real women don't tinker.  With machinery.  OK, some do, and that's all right, as long as they wear lipstick while doing so. Anyway, Bill had been extremely busy all day, but he came late in the evening and worked hard to fix the air conditioner. Unfortunately, our unit is old and this time it could not be fixed. The fan that blows cool air through out the house is broken, so the whole unit needs to be replaced. Which means that here I am, temperatures in the high 90s, depending on a few fans and lots of cold showers to make it through this emergency. There's the Labor Day holiday weekend coming up: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Businesses are closed, so where is Bill going to find my brand new unit at? My best guess is that it won't be installed until next Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest. That's five or six days from now. Maybe a week. I dread this waiting. Which makes me wonder: Am I a sissified city dweller who needs creature comforts with all the fixings, including a climate controlled abode? Yes!  On top of that, right now I am really cranky. And lonely. Because, to make matters worse, my family is out of town, gone way down south to gaze at the blue Floridian ocean from our Floridian condominium balcony. I couldn't get away. Maybe next time. After the air conditioner is fixed, and matters are put to right in the world of creature comforts. A world to which I've realized I have a serious dependence on.
    Dreaming of Singer Island Florida... That's our view.  It's where the family has gone, leaving me behind (sob). Somehow, a heatwave is kind of pleasant when you are near the ocean...

    One tends to lose the desire to eat when it's really hot. Who wants to cook or even eat when stuck in a sweltering house? Have some lunch at work, and that's it for the day. However, even though appetite changes drastically, there comes a point when hunger pains beckon. The best thing I found to eat was a really cold tabouleh salad. There is no cooking involved. If refrigerated, the bulgur wheat stays cold for a long time and feels good going down. The mint tastes really refreshing. All the fresh vegetables in the salad remind you of the fun part of the summer. So I started chopping, and mixing, and soon I had a fresh, aromatic and nutritious salad for dinner.


    Tabouleh Salad

    Ingredients:

    3/4 cup bulgur wheat
    2 cups boiling water
    3/4 cup chopped parsley
    1/2 cup chopped scallions
    2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
    1/4 cup olive oil
    Juice of 1 lemon
    salt and pepper to taste
    2 firm ripe tomatoes or you can use grape tomatoes
    1½ cups baby arugula leaves
    1 roasted pepper cut into strips (get the bottled ones from the supermarket) - no roasting when there is a heatwave, please.
    Some Kalamata olives and some feta cheese for topping

    Directions:

    Rinse the bulgur wheat and place it in a bowl, cover it with the boiling water and leave it for 30 minutes to soften. Drain through a fine sieve, and use a spoon to press out more moisture. Fluff it up with a fork and place it in the refrigerator to cool.
    In a bowl, mix the bulgur with the spring onions. Then add the parsley, mint and arugula. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well. Dice the tomatoes. If using cherry tomatoes just cut them in half.  Stir into the salad. Top with the Kalamata olives and add the olive and feta cheese.  Chill for about an hour before serving.
    If you’re going to keep the salad in the refrigerator for longer, don’t add the tomatoes and arugula until ready to serve. In my case, I knew I was going to eat leftover tabouleh salad the following day, so I reserved a portion without  arugula and tomatoes.