Sunday, December 4, 2016

HOAGIE DIP IN A BREAD BOWL


Lunch meat is an occasional treat, therefore it fits in nicely during the holiday season. This hoagie dip in a bread bowl is effortless to prepare, it's liked, and it's a lovely Philadelphia treat for guests. I like to make it for taking along to a party, adding the vegetables after I reach my destination. This year's version was pronounced delicious and was shall we say, scarfed up in no time. A cook can have no better compliment! Thanks to all, and for those who asked, here's the recipe: 

Ingredients:

1/4 pound sliced Genoa salami
1/4 pound sliced tavern ham (or any ham you like. Give pepper ham a try)!
1/4 pound Provolone cheese, not sliced

1 cup of grape tomatoes cut in half
Chopped romaine lettuce
2 teaspoons of fresh basil, sliced chiffonade style 
1/2 bunch of parsley without stems, not chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
a few pepperoncini peppers drained and chopped one roasted red pepper chopped after skin and seeds have been removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 round loaf of bread, about 12-inches in diameter, purchase a nice variety
and ... extra rolls and/or sliced bread for serving (A few garlic cloves may be needed to go along with the extra rolls. It's totally optional but totally worth it).

Directions:
Slice the lunch meat into bite-sized pieces and add to a bowl.  
Chop the cheese into various bite-sized pieces, and add to the lunch meat. 
Add the onion and all the peppers and mix well. 
Add the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, and black pepper. 
Toss and cover tightly, refrigerating for a few hours so that the flavours can meld.  
Slice the top of the bread and scoop out the centre 
Take the filling out of the refrigerator. 
To the filling add the parsley, tomatoes, basil, and lettuce. 
Mix it well and use it to fill the bread cavity. 
Serve accompanied by the extra rolls, some of which you may want to slice and toast for dipping. 
And ... If you're going to toast them, why not rub the tops with a garlic clove prior to placing them in the oven? 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

TUSCAN BEAN SOUP, Kind Of Like Ribollita.


This is such a flavorful soup!  Love it! Two tricks involved: use dried beans, the ones that need to be soaked overnight, and also use a nice dose of vegetable broth or a combination of chicken and vegetable broth if you like to have chicken broth (canned beans? Who's kidding, they'll do in a pinch)!
This soup is very similar to ribollita soup. I have left the bread out because I try not to eat too much bread these days. It's just as good without it. In fact, it's so good that I can eat it cold, or I can even eat it for breakfast! Okay ... as the trend goes, this is the part of the blog where I regale you with some cute personal incidents from my adventurous life. Stillness ... Can't think of any. Some other time perhaps. Not disappointed, I know you are not disappointed! 



Ingredients: 

1 pound dried cannellini beans
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 shallot sliced
1 (15-ounce/500 gram) can whole tomatoes
1 leek, cleaned well and chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
½ bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped
¼ Savoy cabbage, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
the leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
8 cups vegetable broth
6 cups water
For topping:
grated Pecorino cheese
extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Soak the beans overnight.
In a large heavy pot heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and sauté the sliced onions and shallots until they have caramelised. While sautéing, season the onions with some of the oregano.
Mash the tomatoes and add them to the pot. Add the juice the tomatoes were packed in, and also add two cups of the water.
One by one add all the vegetables, stirring to mix after each addition.
Add the herbs and the rest of the olive oil.
Allow the mixture to cook for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, puree nearly half of the beans and add them to the vegetables.
Add the rest of the beans.
Add the broth and the remaining water. Mix well and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cover the pot. Allow the beans to cook for two hours, stirring occasionally.
Ladle into bowls and top with the grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
Store leftover soup in the refrigerator for about 3 days or in the freezer for one to two months. 







Monday, January 4, 2016

VASILOPITA WITH BRANDY AND CITRUS FLAVOURS


She's looking good, isn't she? Very easy to make. Lovely brandy and citrus flavours. This is a vasilopita made with baking powder instead of yeast. Its texture is that of a dense cake, which is characteristic of a vasilopita, also not very sweet, another characteristic. That's how vasilopitas are made; they are celebratory New Year's cakes, so they have a more substantial, doughy texture than an average cake. 

By now you may have noticed the Santa decoration. What's he doing up there you may ask? Doesn't Santa take a much-needed vacation after Christmas Day? No, not really. He still has the Greek New Year's Eve to contend with, that's when Santa visits Greek households. You might ask why, the words "Greek time" might come to mind, but that isn't the reason for Santa's late arrival. Saint Basil and Santa are one and the same in Greek tradition. Saint Basil's feast day is on January first, therefore, Saint Greek Santa (Agios Vasilis) puts in his appearance directly after the arrival of the New Year. Oh, then there's the coin. There is a coin hidden within every vasilopita. Saint Basil was a generous individual, a philanthropist, so the coin commemorates that fact. The actual practice of hiding a small trinket inside a cake, a surprise meant for a lucky recipient, dates back to pagan times. The practice was very popular and rather than eradicate it, the early Christian church incorporated it into its rituals. It's a fun ritual that survives to this day. 

I wrapped a shiny penny in aluminium foil and dropped it in the dough right before baking. A penny I thought, not the usual quarter. To me, a penny is symbolic of much more than a quarter dollar can be. Problem was, the penny being small, people had trouble finding it. "Did you forget?" they asked several times. I was entitled to two pieces, one for myself, and another for an absent friend. I took them apart, who wants to eat vasilopita when the coin can't be found? I turned them into crumbles. Cake crumbles are just as nice to eat as regular cake, alright? Everyone else also smashed their slice into tiny pieces. "Is it that important?" my nephew Alex asked. This from the kid who a few years ago used to storm upstairs and hide in his room if he couldn't claim the coin. "Yes, Alex, it's important, it's very important." "Where is that coin? Let's have the cake x-rayed. Can we get a portable x-ray machine over here?" That one got a big laugh. "Then we'll eat it and glow in the dark." We all gave up after a while. After a long, long while. 

The next day at breakfast, Alex finished eating his slice, and there was the penny, he found it. "Somewhere in the middle of the piece," my brother said when he called. I had asked him for the coordinates. 

Below is the recipe. Decorate the cake as you wish, perhaps use a dollar coin, it's larger, or you may want to use a penny, much more fun! As you probably know, the alcohol in the brandy gets burned off during baking, and only the flavour of the brandy gets left behind. For those of us either permanently or temporarily on the wagon, that's a plus!



Ingredients:

All ingredients should be at room temperature. Remember that beating egg whites into a meringue requires a bowl and a whisk that are free of oils. Make sure no yolk has accidentally fallen into the egg whites.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour
4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Grated zest of 2 oranges


5 eggs, separated
a pinch of cream of tartar
1 ¼ cups sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

¼ cup brandy
½ cup milk


Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 375° F, 190° C.
  • Grease and flour a 10-inch, 25-cm, round cake pan. Fit a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and grease the top of the paper. 
Note: I use a square 11-inch, 28-cm, pan because I don't have a round 10-inch one. My vasilopita doesn't suffer, but I should note that I am looking to buy a round 10-inch pan, it's been on my "to buy" list for years. There is an unwritten rule specifying that vasilopitas must be round. The circle is a symbol of  lots of things, I like to think it symbolises love, love without beginning or end. Oops, I got sentimental and somewhat serious for a moment, I apologise.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the orange zest. Set aside.
  • In the large bowl of your mixer, on high speed and using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar until stiff peaks are achieved. You want a nice, thick meringue. When ready, remove it to another bowl and set it aside. 
  • Clean your mixer bowl and add the yolks. Beat with the whisk attachment until the yolks are creamy. 
  • Add the sugar and beat until creamy and pale in colour.
  • Add the butter and oil, and beat until incorporated. 
  • Add the orange juice, brandy and milk, beat until incorporated.
  • Slowly add the reserved flour mixture to the yolk mixture. Halfway through, switch to mixing by hand. Use a spatula and mix only until incorporated. 
  • Fold in the reserved egg whites. 
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. 
  • Bake the cake for about 1 hour, or until it's golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • Cool on a wire rack before removing from the pan. Decorate as you like, let your inner artist take command!

Season's Greetings Everyone!!!