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Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

The slightly burnt crust didn't stop us

One of the easiest things I’ve ever made.  Can be made into a 9″ pie or 6 individual ramekin mini-pies.

Skill Level:  EASY
Preparation time:  About 10 minutes.
Cooking time:  10-15 minutes to cook, plus about 20 minutes to cool to room temperature.
Servings: 6-8.

4 eggs, separated and yolks beaten
Juice of 2 lemons
Grated rind of 1 lemon (see below for alternative)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. corn flour
2 1/2 cups of graham crackers, or digestive cookies (half a box is usually the right amount)
another tablespoon or so of sugar to match with the cookies
1/2 stick of butter or so
whipped cream (optional)

If you don’t have a grater (like me), just slice the rind of one lemon as thinly as possible.  Boil the water, sugar, juice, and rind for a few minutes.  If you have bits of rind because you couldn’t grate it, run it through the strainer to recollect the rind and pour the rest of the mixture back into the pot.  Add the corn flour slowly, trying to minimize any clumping.  Once the corn flour is blended in, remove from heat and stir in egg yolks.

Take the graham crackers or digestives and place in a ziploc bag.  Beat the living daylights out of it until you get nice even flour-like crumbs (some slightly larger crumbs are okay).  I like to use a large spoon or even a mallot to help me along.  Pour the pulverized cookies into a mixing bowl, and add the 1 1/2 tablespoon of sugar in slowly, to taste, so that you sweeten it but not too much.  Melt the half stick of butter and pour into the mixture.  You’re basically trying to achieve a moistness that will allow you to press the crumbs down into the pan (or mini-pans).  It will not become a dough, however.  If you are using an aluminum pie pan, you may want to lightly butter the pan before laying down the crumbs.  In any case, cover the rim of the crust with aluminum to prevent burning.

Take the egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form.  Then mix in two teaspoons or so of sugar.  If you don’t like merengue, skip this step and store the egg whites for breakfast tomorrow.  Pour the lemon mixture into the pressed crust.  Bake at 450˚F (we did 250˚C, which is 482˚F) for 10-15 minutes or until either the merengue is slightly browned or, if there is no merengue, until the top of the pie filling has formed a skin and gives a little resistance.  You can, of course, lower the temperature to say 350˚F (150˚C) and cook a bit longer.  The important thing is to keep your eye on the top of the pie.

Remove and let cool.  If you did not add merengue, you can add whipped cream to the top of the pie, especially if it’s been chilled.  However, we enjoyed the pie without anything at all on top.  In fact, it was gone by the next day!

I love how easy, quick, and minimalist this pie is.  I plan on playing with some variations in the near future and will post them!

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There is a fantastic tapas bar called “Mercado de la Reina” in Madrid that I take all my friends to when they visit.  The reason I enjoy the tapas so much at this bar in particular is that they take the “traditional” tapas recipes and tweak them just a bit, creating something familiar and yet entirely unique at the same time.

One of these dishes is a toasted piece of bread topped with spreadable Spanish sausage called sobrasada.  This sausage, originating from the island of Mallorca off the coast of Spain (which is gorgeous and also is the birthplace of the delicious ensaimada–more to come), is spiced and preserved with a lot of paprika, and is made from the “porc negre,” or “black pig,” which is apparently related to but slightly different from the oh-so-famous “jamón ibérico” on the mainland.

Spread the sobrasada over a fresh slice of baguette and top with a thin slice of brie, and toast lightly in an oven or toaster oven.  (You can also use a baguette that has gone stale if you can manage to break off a small piece.  The bread will soften as the toppings melt during toasting.)  For an added sweet kick–and in true Mercado de la Reina fashion–you can lightly drizzle the sobrasada with honey before placing the cheese on top and toasting.  Makes a fantastic snack or hors d’œuvre for a hosted event at your home.

I am not sure what the availability of sobrasada is abroad, but if there is none to be had, I found this recipe for the adventurous souls out there who might want to try to make a substitute.  The site also gives a U.S. substitute supplier.  For those who want to try their hand at curing their own sobrasada, the site suggests:

  • 2/3 of pork tenderloin
  • 1/3  fatback and lard in equal proportions.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot paprika

Finely mince the meat, fatback, and lard and season with salt, pepper and hot paprika. Fill natural or artificial casings with the mixture and cure your sausages in a cool place of about 50ºF. For thinner sausages (about two inches in diameter) allow a minimum of two months for curing; for thicker ones (between three and five inches in diameter), allow four to five months.

I haven’t actually tried to cure sobrasada myself, so if you do it, please feel free to write in and share how it goes!  And if you are able to find some ready-made sobrasada, this really is the easiest, tastiest little treat that takes no time to make and is a unique addition to the menu!

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The other day I was schlepping around my local supermarket, El Corte Inglés–where all the foreigners flock to get pseudo-familiar versions of their foods from home.  I once found a bag of “Authentic Mexican Tortillas” and excitedly skipped home only to find they were super thick and even sweet to the taste!  Never again–I’ll make my own.

I find that this place caters to 1) lazy Spaniards and 2) clueless foreigners who don’t have any idea about (or inclination to make) local cuisine.  They have plenty of “ready to eat” versions of home cooking–and of course I know this is never as good as the real thing, but since I don’t live with a host family anymore and I can only crash so many house parties, what is a girl to do?

So I like to play around in the store and see what I find.  So in the seafood section I found these ready-made patties that looked like small, yellow cod fritters with scrambled egg.  The interesting thing is, there are no eggs in tortillitas de bacalao.  The yellow is from the chickpea flour.

These tasty little treats are a lot like latkes, except with cod in place of potatoes and, again, no eggs.  Before you say “then they can’t be like latkes,” let’s take a look at this very easy, very delicious recipe.  I guess they could also be considered tiny fish schnitzels.

If you don’t like cod, or you are boycotting them because they are becoming overfished, feel free to replace with any of your favorite seafoods or meats.  The key is to keep the pieces small, so that they fry better.

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 10 minutes.

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes.

Servings: Depends on how many pieces you make.

Piece of cod

Small bowl of chickpea flour

1 part wheat flour to 2 parts chickpea flour, to even out texture when fried

Fresh parsley (dried if fresh is not available)

*My added recommendation*: Finely chopped onion (you can also use onion powder)

Glass of lukewarm water

Vegetable oil (I use olive oil)

Saffron (optional)

Pinch of salt (optional)

Cut the piece of cod into small, very thin pieces to achieve a pancake-like shape.  (You can also just cut into very small pieces without regard to shape, known as “migas.”)  Put the pieces in a pot of water and bring it to a boil.  Remove the water and set aside pieces.  In a bowl, mix chickpea flour, wheat flour, parsley, and onion.  Saffron and salt may also be added.  Slowly mix in lukewarm water just until you achieve a paste-like consistency (not runny).

Dip pieces into paste, and place in hot skillet with vegetable oil.  Fry until lightly browned.

Some people just add salt and eat as-is, although I think they go well with sour cream. Garnish as desired.  Enjoy!

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Before summer gets here for those of us above the equator, I wanted to get out one recipe I picked up while living in Armenia.

Armenia is situated high atop the Armenian Plateau in the South Caucasus, with less than 15% arable land throughout the entire tiny country.  What few forests remain are quickly disappearing due mainly to illegal logging.  So the available produce is not nearly as plentiful as that in, say, the Mediterranean.  But in this case, less is more.  With only a handful of ingredients, they make some kickass foods.

The stew is wildly popular there, although the name remains in Turkish, and literally means “[It was so good] the Imam fainted.”  Well, I have to agree, this is some seriously delicious vegetable stew.  The easiest thing ever to make.  Completely vegan.

Armenian/Turkish Imam Bayildi (Stewed vegetables, usually served with bread)

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 20-25 minutes.

Cooking time:  About 20 minutes.

Servings: 8 as a side dish or appetizer; 4 as a meal.

8 medium tomatoes, chopped into quarters

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped into thin strings

2-3 Japanese eggplants (alternative: 1 American eggplant), chopped into small squares for more even cooking

1 pale green bell pepper (alternative: 1 mild-flavored orange, yellow or red bell pepper–NOT American dark green bell pepper), chopped into thick strings

Olive oil

Salt

In a 2 qt. pot or pan, heat up a thick layer of olive oil with a few teaspoons of salt.  Once heated, add the onions, stirring frequently so as not to singe them.  Once the onions begin to soften when stirred, add the garlic.  After 5-10 minutes, after the onions and garlic have caramelized (or turned clear and soft), add the tomatoes.  The water from the tomatoes should begin to make a broth of sorts for the rest of the vegetables to cook in.  Add the eggplants and the bell pepper.  Cover and stir occasionally.  Add oil as needed to achieve a stew-like consistency.  Add salt to taste.  Let cook for about 10 minutes or until all the vegetables have “melted” into the tomato juice and become soft.  Serve hot.  In Armenia the dish is served with a large piece of bread to sop up the juices; when in the U.S. I usually use a baguette from the supermarket.

Even if you don’t have 3 other people to feed, this dish makes a fantastic leftover snack.  I usually live alone and I have found that one pot usually goes pretty fast, even when it’s just me.  (Perhaps especially because it’s just me.)

Imam bayildi is extremely satisfying, especially on a cold day.  It can be served as a side dish or appetizer, or as a full meal.  When I’ve brought this dish over neighbors’ houses and forgot the bread, we found it was quite tasty with spiral pasta as well.  Experiment and have fun with it!

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