Category Archive: Gourmet Recipes

My 3 Favorite Dishes

I was super excited when Stevie from Weird Combinations (which I love for its eclectic topics ranging from restaurant reviews to wine tastings, and wonderfully exotic Brazilian recipes courtesy of Heguiberto) recently asked me to pick some of my posts and do a little game of reminiscing. While combing through my blog archive, I was reminded that one of my favorite things about cooking is to always try new recipes and dishes. I like being tempted and challenged by new ingredients and flavors, and would easily get bored if I had to cook the same few dishes over and over. So I thought it would be fun to change things up a bit outside of the kitchen as well, find out a little more about everyone’s favorite recipes, and give this game a new spin. I’d like to present to you

My 3 Favorite Dishes

Follow these simple steps:
- If you are a nominated blogger, pick your 3 Favorite Dishes from your blog
- Share them with us by linking to them on your blog
- Nominate as many bloggers as you want to do the same

Let’s see how many favorite dishes we can compile!

So without further ado, here are My 3 Favorite Dishes:

Risotto With Soybeans And Caramelized Lemon - because risotto is one of the most divine inventions.

Risotto With Soybean And Caramelized Lemon

 

Sri Lankan Pumpkin Curry, Coconut Sambol, and Dahl – because I love spicy food.

Sri Lankan Curry And Dahl

 

Truffle Torte - because this is classic Austrian pastry at its most indulgent. Hazelnuts and chocolate, and lots of it!

I am nominating the following blogger to share their 3 Favorite Dishes with us:

- Lazaro from Lazaro Cooks, whose blog is brimming with the most creative and fearless dishes, and incredibly cool presentation.

Happy sharing and cooking!

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Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables

Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables

The dog days of summer are here! A bit late in the season, but better late than never. Believe it or not, I like it hot, so I’m not complaining. However, when the mercury rises, my desire to stand over a hot stove and stir around in pots goes down drastically. Which is where this delicious ricotta pie comes in. It relies on the freshest and ripest green beans, tomatoes, and basil of the season, and shows them off beautifully against the backdrop of cool ricotta cheese and fruity olive oil. With the help of a food processor, the pie crust is made in a snap. This pie is a great dish to serve at a party, especially with a glass of crisp white wine. I know I keep repeating myself, but if summer only lasted forever…

Ricotta Pie With Summer Vegetables
For the crust (24cm round springform pan):
200g flour
28g corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g butter, very cold and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
80ml cold water
4 basil leaves, finely chopped

1. Put flour, corn starch, and salt in a food processor. Process for 5 seconds.
2. Add butter and egg yolk and process until crumbs form.
3. Add water and basil leaves and process until a smooth dough forms. Add more water if the dough does not come together.
4. Press dough into a disc, wrap in plastic foil and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
5. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to about 0.5cm thickness and transfer to springform pan. Press into pan, shaping a low border up the sides of the pan.
6. Prick dough all over with fork, cover with baking paper and baking weights or beans, and bake in preheated oven at 200C for 15 minutes.
7. Remove weights and paper, and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until slightly golden.
8. Remove from oven and let cool completely on rack.

For the topping:
400g ricotta
6 San Marzano tomatoes, cut into thick rounds
150g green beans, cut into 2 to 3cm long pieces, blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes
30g grated parmigiano
fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

1. In a bowl, mix ricotta with 10 finely chopped basil leaves, the parmigiano, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Spread 3/4 of the ricotta mix into the pie crust.
3. Top with green beans and tomatoes.
4. Top with spoonfuls of the remaining ricotta mix, and season with salt and pepper.
5. Top with basil leaves, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Enjoy!

 

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Caponata

Caponata, the iconic Sicilian eggplant dish

The deep purple and maroon hues of eggplants and their different shapes and sizes have always fascinated me. But for the longest time, I had a big aversion to them. Until I sampled eggplant dishes in Italy and Turkey. That’s when it hit me: I had simply never had eggplant this delicious before! My aversion had nothing to do with this beautiful vegetable, but everything with the way it was prepared.

I discovered my latest eggplant love during my recent trip to Sicily. Caponata, one of the most iconic dishes of the island’s wonderful cuisine is served there as an appetizer, sometimes at room temperature, sometimes cold. There are as many recipes as there are cooks, but all of them share one common trait – a delicious contrast of textures and aromas. Caponata is at once earthy and elegant, sweet and salty, comforting and very easy on the palate.

Make sure to use dark purple eggplants, preferably capers conserved in salt (vs. capers in vinegar), and a good quality red wine vinegar. Enjoy it with some crusty Italian bread and a glass of red wine, and you’ll wish summer would never end!

Caponata (serves 4 as an appetizer)
1 large eggplant (500 to 600g), cut into small cubes
300g pelati (canned peeled tomatoes)
50g green olives, cut into rounds
1 tablespoon capers in salt, rinsed
20g pine nuts
20g raisins
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
handful of fresh basil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper
sea salt

1. Put eggplant cubes in a bowl and mix with a few tablespoons of sea salt (this will extract the bitterness of the eggplant).
2. Let stand for 10 minutes, then rinse well under lukewarm water. Pat dry.
3. Deep fry eggplant in olive oil for a few minutes.
4. Transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper towels.
5. Deep fry celery in the same oil used for deep frying the eggplants.
6. Fry until golden and crispy, then transfer to a plate lined with absorbent paper towels.
7. Pour off excess oil from pan except for 3-4 tablespoons.
8. In remaining oil, sautee onion for a few minutes, then add tomatoes and their juices.
9. Crush tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes.
10. Add sugar and vinegar, and cook until almost all liquid has evaporated and the sauce is relatively dry.
11. Add pine nuts, raisins, capers, and olives.
12. Add eggplant, celery, and whole basil leaves.
13. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for a couple of minutes.
14. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
15. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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Blackberry Almond Cake

Blackberry Almond Cake

Hi everyone, I’m back from my trip to Sicily! First off, thanks to everyone for leaving such kind wishes for a fun vacation – and fun it was indeed. I’m still daydreaming about the beautiful light, colors, smells, and of course flavors of the island, but before I share pictures and impressions from Sicily, I wanted to put up a quick post. I still have mountains of laundry and other enchanting tasks to take care off. Just so I don’t forget I’m back in reality!

My parents have two giant blackberry bushes in their yard, which produce the most magnificent fruit every year. They are best eaten right off the vine when they are still warm from the sun. The day we returned, my parents dropped off a container of freshly picked blackberries – the perfect excuse to bake a cake! I made a simple cake base with ground almonds and vanilla, and topped it off with fresh berries and chopped almonds. If you don’t have blackberries at hand, you can use apricots, blueberries (they go great together!), nectarines, or raspberries instead. The batter is enough for a 26cm round cake pan.

Blackberry Almond Cake
125g soft butter
100g sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
grated peel of 1/2 lemon
3 eggs
150 g flour
40g ground almonds
blackberries
40g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
pinch of salt

1. Cream butter, sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon peel and pinch of salt.
2. Separate eggs and mix yolks into batter one at a time. Mix until well incorporated.
3. Add flour and ground almonds.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
5. Gently fold egg whites into batter.
6. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly.
7. Sprinkle blackberries on top of batter.
8. Sprinkle with chopped almonds.
9. Bake in preheated oven at 180C/350F for about 30 minutes or until golden.
10. Let cool on cake rack before unmolding.

Enjoy!

I’m looking forward to checking out what everyone has been cooking while I was gone! Stay tuned for a post on Sicily coming up next.

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Wachauer Marillenknödel

Marillenknödel

Austria is not only home to more cows than people (and that’s a good thing, because those cows are responsible for incredible dairy products), but also to a legendary variety of Knödel, which come in both savory and sweet form and are a beloved culinary treasure. The word Knödel alone refers to their ball shape, but gives no indication of taste, ingredients, or filling. Knödel are as much of an integral part of Austrian cuisine as rice is in Asian countries, with different parts of Austria producing their own local versions of these delights. Some are quite hearty, such as Tiroler Speckknödel, while others are fluffy pillows of dough filled with the summer’s ripest fruits.

Like in many Austrian families, the production of Knödel filled with fruit has a long tradition in my own family, including my great-grandmother (who was the queen of Knödel, Strudel, and other Austrian pastries), my grandmothers, and my mom. However, there are two different ways to prepare the dough – one is made with potatoes, the other with Topfen. Called Quark in Germany, Topfen is a creamy cheese not unlike ricotta, but drier and with a different taste. My mom usually makes her dough with potatoes, because that’s how my dad likes it, while I am partial to the dough made with Topfen. I find that the Topfen gives it a lighter texture that is a better match with the fruit. I also like to stuff my apricots with a sugar cube, which not only intensifies the aroma of the fruit, but results in a wonderful pool of apricot juice at the center of the Knödel.

The most popular fruit for Knödel are apricots (called Marillen in Austria) and plums (Zwetschken), with the most fragrant and sweetest apricots growing in the Wachau, a scenic stretch along the river Danube not far from Vienna (Richard the Lionheart spent a few months in captivity there at the end of the 12th century – it’s fair to assume though that he wasn’t served anything as fancy as Marillenknödel, and not just because his captivity fell during the cold winter months).

The following recipe can be easily replicated as long as you have access to Topfen (Quark). Unfortunately, there is no substitute for it. A word on the bread crumbs: these are traditionally made from Semmeln, a small white bread extremely popular in Austria, and are called Semmelbrösel (Brösel = crumbs). You can substitute with regular bread crumbs (make sure they are not salty though). Marillen- or Zwetschkenknödel are either eaten as a main course, or for dessert. They are usually preceded by a light soup if eaten as a main course.

Marillenknödel (makes about 7-8 Knödel)
For the dough:
250g Topfen (10% fat)
finely ground peel of 1/2 lemon
50g butter at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 egg
60g flour
60g wheat semolina

7 or 8 ripe apricots
sugar cubes

For the bread crumbs:
100g butter
120g Semmelbrösel (substitute with bread crumbs)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

powdered sugar for dusting

1. In a bowl, mix 1/4 of the Topfen with butter, lemon peel, and a pinch of salt until creamy.
2. Add egg, remaining Topfen, flour, and semolina and mix well.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
4. Cut a slit into each apricot wide enough to take the pit out. Be careful not to cut them in half!
5. Stuff each apricot with a sugar cube.
6. Using your hands, roll dough into a thick log on a floured surface.
7. Cut off equal slices and flatten with your hands.
8. Put an apricot in the center of each flatten piece of dough, and enclose fruit with dough.
9. Roll in the palm of your hand to achieve a uniform ball shape.
10. Bring water to a boil in a wide pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt.
11. Add Knödel and turn down heat so water barely simmers.
12. Simmer Knödel for about 7 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare bread crumbs:
1. Heat butter in pan until melted. Add both sugars and bread crumbs.
2. Add cinnamon and stir until bread crumbs turn golden.
3. When Knödel are done, lift out of water with a slotted spoon and let drain.
4. Transfer to pan with breadcrumbs and cover evenly.
5. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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