Sunday, 26 April 2015

Pass th Parcel

Asparagi Verdi in Cartoccio con Vermicelli di Riso, Menta, Zenzero, Limone & Peperoncino
Green Asparagus Parcels with Rice Noodles, Lemon, Mint, Ginger & Chili


Yes indeed- asparagus is in season and everyone is going crazy for it- as always!

And they are also all preparing it the same way that they always do!

Which is fine the first time you eat it, or the second- but let's face it, as short as the season is- if you keep having asparagus in Hollandaise or other butter sauces- you are going to get bored! Plus... you are also pretty likely to get fat!



There are so many other ways you can enjoy asparagus and it is so versatile that you can also easily make up your own... like I did this evening!

I MUCH prefer green asparagus to white- which my German colleagues will not appreciate me saying- but I prefer its richer flavor and also the fact that it is so much easier to prepare as it does not require peeling- oh and whilst we are at it... because it even tastes wonderful raw!


 

So let me share with you my little recipe- which this evening consisted of 1 bundle of rice noodles, 1 red chili pepper (mild), 1 Spring onion, 1 lemon, a little fresh ginger, a little fresh mint- and of course, a nice handful of tender green asparagus!

I seasoned my dish with hoisin sauce and sesame oil- and the ingredients brought all of the wonderful flavor, all by themselves...


 

And trust me- the burst of aroma and of course flavor, when you open up that parcel to enjoy, is SO incredible!

The great thing about this parcel idea as well, is that you can prepare this beforehand if you are making it for a dinner party say, and then bake a whole batch of individual servings all in one go...

And of course. also, serve them all up in one go- piping hot, aromatic and delicious... and FUN!


 

Start off by preparing the rice noodles- which is easy! Simply cover with boiling water and allow to sit and soften for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to loosen them up.

In the meantime, finely chop those aromatics- the chili, the ginger, the onion, the zest of half of the lemon and a good couple of pinches of mint. Add as much or little chili and ginger as you personally prefer or feel comfortable with... I like mine nice and spicy!

And turn on the oven!


 

After 5 minutes, pour off the hot water from the rice noodles and cover them with cold water... and they are then finished and ready to go!

Next, briefly sautée the asparagus with the finely chopped ginger and chili, with a good splash of sesame oil- 3-4 minutes should be enough.


 

Start with the noodles and add half of the onion, mint and zest to them, along with a drizzle of sesame oil, the juice of half of the lemon and hoisin sauce for seasoning. Carefully stir together and you are good to go!

 

The noodles go onto your parchment paper first- they will serve as a bed for the asparagus and thus also soak up all of the good flavors as it bakes in the oven.

 

The asparagus then goes on top, covered with the remaining onion, mint and zest, again, hoisin sauce and the rest of the lemon juice... make sure to add it all!

 

Fold the paper together, lengthways and then twist each end nicely and tightly shut- then bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes...

 

... after which time the parcels are piping hot, full of flavor and aroma- and ready to serve!


And there you have it- all of the flavors, trapped together and nothing at all lost in any way- you can't get much tastier than this! Or easier, either!

 
 
It may be a little tricky to slide the contents of your parcel "elegantly" onto your serving dish... but you know- when the flavors are so rich and fresh and plain good- that really is not going to matter all that much!

 

 Simply grab your chop-sticks, or a knife and fork... and ENJOY!

Slightly Decadent

Crespellone Soffice con Lamponi, Banana, Yogurt & Mandorle
Raspberry, Banana, Yogurt & Almond Fluffy Pancake

 

The day got off to a grey and dreary start- so I thought I would brighten it up a little with some pancakes- that always does the trick!

And then I gave it a little thought and decided that as I am here on my own... why should I make pancakes (plural), when I can just make myself one big ol' pancake all for myself!?!?


 
 
What looks a little decadent was quite the opposite- and yet... no- it WAS a little decadent... but it wasn't unhealthy! And whaddaya think o' that??!? Good, huh?

 

I was able to nibble on half of the banana as I prepared my little pancake- that's right- to make this I needed only 1/2 of a banana! Add to that 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, a little cinnamon, a handful of raspberries and a good sprinkle of almonds... and you can have a delicious and fluffy pancake in next to no time! The only sugar I added was the powdered sugar on top!

 

The result is simple and fluffy and light. and for my taste sweet enough with only the natural sweetness of the banana, but of course you can always add sugar, honey or stevia if you so prefer- once you have these ingredients in the mix, a good flavor and texture is guaranteed- and the rest is all up to you!

 

You can't get easier than this- mash half of the banana, add the egg yolk, flour, baking powder, yogurt and cinnamon... oh- and turn on the oven to 180°C- I almost forgot!

 
Whilst the oven is warming, stir the ingredients together into a smooth paste and allow to sit for 5 minutes, whilst you whip up the egg whites nice and firm.

 

Add the egg white and fold it gently into the batter... and you are ready to go!

  
 
Pour into a buttered pan and spread out evenly- the batter should be very fluffy and light.

 

Scatter generously with slivered almonds, add the raspberries (not too much- not too little!)- and you are ready to start your pancake frying on the stove top for 3-4 minutes on a moderate heat. just so that the bottom sets- and then into the hot oven it goes!

 

And 5-10 minutes later, it will be fluffy, lightly golden, smelling delicious and just begging to be taken out and to be enjoyed!

 

A generous dusting of powdered sugar was my choice today- although honey or maple syrup would be wonderful too!

 
 
Sweet- but not too sweet, fruity, fluffy and crunchy at the same time... I can think of worse ways to start the day... But I can't think of many that are that much better!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

I'll Bake You a Pasta You Can't Refuse!

Ditalini al Forno con Bietola, Ragu di Carne & Ricotta Fresca
Baked Ditalini with Swiss Chard, Meat Sauce & Fresh Ricotta

 

It is pointless getting frustrated about the weather if you live in Frankfurt, Germany- even if you have just been out to buy lovely Spring produce and the weather is like Autumn all over again, all of a sudden!

And so suddenly, I found myself craving some comfort food rather than a salad this evening- and quickly came up with an easy solution- easier still as I had some left-over meat sauce in the freezer!


 

I am going to go out on a limb here and presume that you all know how to make a simple ground meat and tomato sauce- haha!

And as usual, as I live alone and only prepared a small portion, unless you are single too, the exact amounts of ingredients really won't hit-home for you if you are cooking for the family or friends... but as is always the case with my dishes, it is simply about the combination of ingredients and flavors and the method. That's all that you have to know and you can make it work for yourselves just fine... with food as simple as this, you have nothing to worry about!



So here you have it- for my 2 small potions I had 1 very small and tender Swiss chard, 1 cupful of meat sauce and 1 cupful of fresh ricotta- apart from that, 2 handfuls of your pasta of choice (ditalini in this case) and a little salt, pepper and nutmeg to season.

There- I told you it was easy!


 

This is satisfying on a very basic level- it hits all of the right spots and is a lot lighter than many baked pasta dishes...

What's best is, the flavor is somewhat reminiscent of my mothers canneloni recipe- although this does not have bechamel in it and so is a lot lighter and faster to prepare. So- it's all good!


 

Ok- first things first... if you don#t have a meat sauce ready, like I did- you are going to need to make one! Haha! And secondly- you are going to need to get your oven cranked up to 180°C to be ready to go!

But then the good news is that the rest is easy!

Wash and chop the chard into nice, chunky, bite-sized pieces and begin to boil for 5 minutes in plenty of well salted water.


 

After 5 minutes, add your pasta and continue to boil for a further 7-8 minutes.

 

Next, drain the pasta and chard and add the ricotta- season with plenty of freshly grated nutmeg and pepper... and you will see- the flavor will indeed be reminiscent enough of bechamel to make this dish delicious... promise! Of course it will not be so buttery and creamy... but this IS a different dish after all!

 

Stir together well to get all of that creaminess and good flavor well incorporated... creamy enough for you? Yeah- it's plenty good enough! No need for all of those extra calories at all!

 

And finally- add the meat sauce and stir everything together well, ready to transfer to a baking dish and to finish off in the oven... hurry, hurry, hurry!

 

A last dusting of nutmeg and pepper and off it goes, into a hot oven, at 180°C for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden brown, everything is bubbling away... and you can't resist it any longer! It will be smelling terrific! I promise!


Yes, indeed I would say that this looks more than good enough to eat! You have the sweet but earthy chard, the savory sauce, the creamy ricotta- (I used a lower fat one as well- works just fine) and the aromatic nutmeg... comfort is absolutely guaranteed with this dish!

 

So even when the weather plays up- you can always rustle-up something to chase away the blues! And it can be as quick and easy to do as this!

Friday, 24 April 2015

The Best for Last

Insalata di Cetriolo, Crescione, Feta & Cuore di Sedano
Cucumber, Cress, Feta Cheese & Celery Heart Salad

 

Just a simple little salad for supper this evening- but even the simplest of ingredients can still make for a wonderful little meal as we all know!

My favorite part about this salad was, that I got to use up the last of a rather old celery that I had sitting in the fridge, in the best way possible. Because as opposed to many other ingredients- those leaves, nestling in the heart of the celery, no matter how "old" they get- they always have the very best flavor of all!



Cucumber salads are always wonderful and refreshing- but they can be a little boring too. Have a little fun with your ingredients and cut them differently- and suddenly they seem like something completely different!

 

This was all it took folks- well- these few ingredients and of course the dressing as well... so here we go! 1 cucumber, 1/2 of a feta cheese, 1 block of watercress and the inner leaves and stalks of a bunch of celery. For the dressing- a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt pepper, a good pinch of dried oregano... the end! And maybe 10-15 minutes to put it all together- haha!

 

I don't know about you good people- but I think this looks a lot nicer and much more fun than those over-dressed and squishy cucumber salads that you usually get... there is no reason to not re-think how you do things... in fact- there is every reason that you SHOULD!

 

Wash the cucumber, top and tail it, cut it into quarters lengthways and then remove the seeds, before proceeding to slice it into long shreds using a vegetable peeler... a little tricky, but also fun as soon as you get the hang of it!

 

Once you are all done, sprinkle lightly with salt and set to one side for 4-5 minutes- this will give it time to give-off some of the excess juices, so that the salad does not end up tasting "washed-out".

 

In the meantime, stir together a dressing from 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of honey, a good pinch of dried oregano and season with salt and pepper.

 

Set the drained cucumber shreds onto you dish first and then add the celery stalks, finely sliced, the tender leaves, plucked apart, the feta cheese crumbled and the cress scattered all over, before drizzling generously with the dressing. The salad should hold-up pretty well in this state until you toss it together before serving... and it does look rather beautiful this way too!

 

But of course the real "genius" of it, is the combination of flavors and textures when you take that first bite... and the second... and the third...

 

It's just a cumber salad- really! But- what a lovely one it is at that!

 

It's good to be getting back to these lighter and more Summery dishes, don't you think? And it is about time too! Time to enjoy!