Friday, April 21, 2006

Ravioli with asparagus

"Olive oil? Asparagus? If your mother wasn't so fancy, we could shop at the gas station like normal people." Homer Simpson

Thats a springtime classic. I should have made the ravioli myself. But I wanted this for a picnic and since it wouldn’t be served immediately and would be eaten cold, I thought “why bother”.
I was inspired to make this recipe by Jamie Oliver’s asparagus recipes and by several I found on the internet. And of course by Homer.

For 4 servings you’ll need

  • 1 big packet of ravioli or 2 small ones. You need about 40-50 ravioli.
  • 2-3 tbsps olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5 tbsps mascarpone or other cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • About 12 asparagus
  • ½ cup chopped basil or mint
  • Salt- pepper
  • Grated parmesan to serve
You don’t need a knife to cut asparagus. Just bend the spear until you see where it breaks naturally. Snap off there and they are ready to be cooked.
Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté garlic.
Add the asparagus and sauté for 3 minutes.
Stir in the butter and add the vegetable stock. Lower heat and cook the ravioli in salted, boiling water.
When they float to the top they are ready. But because I never believe science, I try one.
Drain ravioli and add to the asparagus sauce. Add the mascarpone, but keep 4 teaspoons aside for serving. Season to taste. Serve with some more mascarpone on top, parmesan and chopped basil or mint leaves.

Portobellos stuffed with cracked wheat

Life definitely isn't too short too stuff a mushroom, especially if it's a big and juicy portobello mushroom.
So I bought some portobellos the other day but didn't want to just grill them or stuff them with cheeses. I wanted to make a meal out of them, so I decided to stuff them with some bulgur, which is wholesome and delicious. If you want a richer taste, add some tomato sauce to the boiling water.

You'll need

  • 8-10 portobellos
  • 150 gr spinach, chopped
  • 1 big bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsps olive oil
  • 8-10 tbsps parmesan (1 tablespoon for each mushroom)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups bulgur (cracked wheat in this case)

Cut the portobello stalks and carve the inside using a small spoon, reserving the flesh.
Cover the portobellos with a little oil, using your hands so that the oil goes everywhere.
Put them in the oven and grill them until they are almost done.
Bring 6 cups of water to the boil, add one tbsp of olive oil and some salt. Add bulgur, stir to prevent sticking. Taste to see if it is cooked after about 10 minutes. Drain.

In a pan, heat some olive oil, sauté bell pepper, garlic, onion, spinach and portobello flesh. Add the bulgur and stir everything together. Salt and pepper to taste.
With this mixture, stuff the portobellos, sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

Aubergine thin crust pizza

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore

This is a thin and crispy dough. It’s my favourite dough because it lets me eat more pizza as I don’t feel full after the first piece.
Making the dough is neither difficult nor time consuming. And it’s a shame to just make a little quantity that is only enough for one pizza. Best to make enough for several pizzas and refrigerate them and play with all the different toppings. The quantity in this recipe is enough for 5-6 thin pizzas.

Haloumi is a delicious cheese made in Cyprus. It is made from goat's and sheep's milk. It tastes heavenly when grilled and it is resistant to melting. But if you can’t find haloumi, that’s still okay, as you can go back to basics and use mozzarella instead.

For the dough

  • 1000 gr bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 14 gr dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 ¼ cup warm water

Combine water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Let it rest for a couple of minutes. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl and add the water in the centre of the bowl , pouring slowly and steadily. Stir with a fork. In a few minutes the dough is going to become too thick and we are going to need our hands to do this.
Remove to a floured surface. Now it’s time for the fun part: kneading. Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and you can stretch it with your hands.

Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest in a warm place for half an hour. Now it’s time to start the oven because it should be really hot. Preheat it to 250 C / 500 F.

Later, cut dough it into six pieces and just use one. Put the rest in the fridge after you have covered them with cling film.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a thin circle -about 0.5 cm thick. Pour a few drops of olive oil over the dough and bake for 5 minutes. Then, top with the sauce and bake for about 10-15 minutes, until it is crispy.

Aubergine topping for one pizza

  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • A big aubergine in strips but unpeeled
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 red or orange or yellow bell pepper in strips
  • 250 gr. Tomatoes grated
  • 1 cup sliced haloumi cheese
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • ¾ tsp marjoram
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • Salt- pepper to taste
  • Some chopped mint leaves

Pour oil into a big skillet and heat it. Add the aubergine, pepper and onion and sauté. Add the vegetable stock and let it cook so that aubergines are really tender. When there is no water left in the skillet and the vegetables are ready, add tomato and marjoram and cook until the sauce thickens.
Finally spoon the sauce over the pizza dough, add the cheeses (haloumi first) and bake (see instructions above).

Serve with chopped mint leaves.

My pizza soundtrack

-Malavida / Mano Negra
-Once upon a time in america (cockeys song)/Ennio Morricone
-Sun hits the sky - Supergrass
-That's all right mama - Elvis

The Princess and the Pea

“Now they knew that she was a real princess because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds.
Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that.”
Hans Christian Andersen – The Princess and the Pea

Hilopittes and peas

Hilopittes are a kind of noodle. They are made with eggs and milk and are usually added to soups. They can be long flat ribbons like fettuccine, or tiny flat squares like the ones I used here.
They really are great in soups, especially in tomato soups. But this time I made them with peas and spearmint and they were great. It’s such a simple recipe and so quick.

You’ll need

  • 300 gr. Hilopittes or any other small pasta
  • 2-3 tbsps olive oil
  • 4 spring onions
  • 250 gr. peas
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp spearmint
  • 600 ml Vegetable stock
  • 50-60 gr pine nuts
  • Salt, pepper
  • Parmesan for serving

Cook pasta in boiling water. Drain well.
Heat 2-3 tbsps olive oil in a large pan, add chopped garlic and chopped spring onions. Stir, add peas and after a couple of minutes, pour the vegetable stock. Cook until peas are done. Add one tbsp. fresh chopped spearmint or dry if fresh isn’t available. Add pine nuts. Stir everything together and season to taste.
When the peas are ready and there isn’t much liquid left, stir in the pasta and combine everything together.
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Eat while listening to: Sweet Pea, my Sweet Pea by Paul Weller

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Zucchini and tomato tart

This is a recipe that combines two or three recipes I found in the New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas and in the BBC recipes section (sadly, I had done this a long time ago and it seems I have cooked up the exact link). I had bought the Vegetarian Epicure when I was a student and needed to cook for myself, and I remember reading it at night in bed, like a novel. Because Anna Thomas writes so beautifully. All the recipes I have tried from her book are excellent and really really work.

I made this for the magazine and after the shoot, we had some out in the balcony, under the sun. It is a recipe for summer lunches.

For 4-6 servings

For the shortcrust pastry

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ -3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 oz/115 g cold butter
  • 2 ½ fl oz / 70 ml ice water

For the filling

  • 2 zucchinis in slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 400 gr potatoes, peeled, cooked and in slices
  • 350 gr tomatoes in slices
  • 100 gr gruyere cheese, grated
  • A handful of basil leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 ml double cream
  • 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Sift together flour and salt. Slice butter and drop the slices into the flour. Work the mixture until it resembles big breadcrumbs.
Pour the cold water over the flour butter mixture and stir it in very quickly with a fork, until the dough gathers together. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in foil and chill it for about two hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out into a circle about 2 ½ in/62 mm larger than your quiche or flan tin. Roll the circle of dough round the rolling pin and unroll it over the tart tin, centering it as well as possible.
Press the sides in against the rim of the tin, pushing the extra dough down, to make an edge slightly thicker than the bottom.
Crimp the ridge of dough neatly just above the rim of the tin. Prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork and chill the shell for 30 minutes.

Line the inside of the shell with aluminium foil and fill it with dried beans or nuts so that the pastry won’t puff up. Bake the shell in a preheated oven at 450 F /230 C for about 8 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and bake for another 5 minutes until the bottom of the shell begins to colour. Allow the shell to cool slightly, then fill the tart shell with the filling.

Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté zucchinis.
Layer potatoes, zucchinis and tomatoes in the pastry shell, season between layers and sprinkle with a little gruyere and basil leaves. Repeat, finishing with a layer of tomatoes.
Beat together the eggs and cream. Season, stir in the remaining gruyere and half the parmesan.
Pour this over the filling and sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden and firm. Sprinkle with the remaining basil. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.