Another award nomination!

Thank you thank you thank you Letizia for nominating me for this award!  I discovered Letizia’s blog  Dutch goes Italian, and I love it.  I love Italy, and it is great to see it through someone else’s eyes.  Her posts are always fascinating because she goes off the beaten track and shows her readers places you might have never thought of traveling to.

With these awards I am always amazed and humbled, my little project of writing about my passion has been so rewarding, and being able to share my thoughts, recipes and stories with you makes me truly happy, and thank you all for actually reading them!

Now, on to the rules:

1.  Thanking the person who nominated me, which has been done above!  But thanks again Dutch Goes Italian!

2.  Answer some Super Sweet Questions:

- Cookies or Cake?  Both!  It just depends on the day.

Chocolate or Vanilla?  Absolutely 100% Chocolate!  I can’t imagine life without it.

What is your favourite sweet treat?  Hmmm, that’s a tough one.  If I would have to choose just one……they’re oreos….I know, not sofisticated at all, but I love those suckers.  Double Stuff=Double the fun!

- When do you crave sweet things the most?  When I take naps, which is almost never, but for some reason upon waking up, I am making a beeline to the kitchen to see what sweet things I have in my cupboards.

If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? I guess pancake momma…..from the amount of those things I make for my daughter!

3.  I need to nominate a baker’s dozen (13)……wow!  That is a lot!  So I am going to bend the rules and give out 5 awards:

Things My Belly Likes :  I love the way Cat writes about amazing and healthy recipes, with a good dose of humour that is infectious!

Girl in a Food Frenzy:  This is probably the blog I can’t live without.  Apart from some pretty amazing recipes, Alice Lau’s pictures are to die for and she is on my save cooking wavelength!

Chica Andaluza:  She is a fellow expat living in Spain, but geographically different….I love her recipes, the fact that she has her own garden and that she’s crazy enough that while she renovates a house she still has time to come up with some pretty amazing recipes!

American Chef in London:  Mike is the male version of me.  I swear!  We have the same background, and both professional expatriate chefs!  His abilities in the kitchen are superb, and he has some kick ass recipes!  He’s been in the blogosphere for a couple of months only, but you need to go check his site out, there was a recent post on gnocchi mac and cheese…..need I say more?

Madame Croquette:  Another fellow blogger who I share my heritage with.  This young lady is Colombian with recipes that are fantastic!  I always love reading her posts, and her super ideas!

 

I am not sure if I have to do the 7 things about me……so I will do them anyway:

1. I don’t like food made with squid ink.  Yes, I know it’s delicious, but something THAT BLACK in food….it’s just not appetizing to me.  And, your teeth look funny when you’re done eating!

2.  I changed my major 4 times in college.  Business to Architecture to Biology to finally settling in Art History.

3.  I hate the feel of oil on my hands.  So, working in the kitchen, that means I wash my hands CONSTANTLY.

4.  I visited Spain for the first time in April 2002.  Three months later, I was living here!

5.  I have two dogs, Scrappy and Fita.  And I talk to them.  (As I’ve mentioned before.)

6.  I was a mess in the kitchen until I turned 20, and had a revelation, when I made my first souffle and it came out perfect.  Then I though, I really enjoy this!

7.  I am a total klutz.  If there is a pebble on the street, I will trip over it.

So there you go, and I hope everyone is enjoying their Sunday!

Carla

 

 

Individual Chocolate Banana Cakes with Crushed Honeycomb

Chocolate Banana Cakes with Crushed Honeycomb

 

When I moved to the Bahamas, I tasted my very first Crunchie bar, and it was pure, sweet, magical love.  I had never tasted anything like it, that airy, sweet, crispy caramel tucked neatly inside milk chocolate.  It was pure bliss.

Crushed Honeycomb

Imagine my happiness when my Jamie’s Great Britain book arrived in the post, and I found a recipe on how to make the inside of a Crunchie bar!!!!  I literally got the book on Tuesday, and Wednesday I was making the honeycomb.  I’m flabbergasted at how easy this was to make.  I mean, I don’t know what I thought it would entail, like some super-duper complicated machinery to infuse the caramel with all those teeny tiny holes, but in reality….it’s a 4 step process.  It took me a whole of 10 minutes.  Crazy!!!

My friend came over for lunch yesterday, and I hadn’t baked in a while.  Luckily, my pantry is always stocked with the necessary accoutrements (I just wanted to use a fancy word.  Ingredients, actually) to whip up a simple sponge cake.  Which also came out of Jamie’s book.

Queen Victoria Sponge Cake

I decided I would combine his recipe for honeycomb, with his recipe for Victoria Sponge, and add a little banana and some ganache.

Individual Chocolate Banana Sponge Cakes with Crushed Honeycomb

This is the bomb.  Tastewise and calorically.  But heck, it was worth the run I did afterwards!

So, if you are so inclined, here is the recipe for my little concoction!

Serves 6

Adapted from Jamie’s Great Britain Cookbook

Basic Honeycomb Recipe:

1/2 heaped tsp baking soda

125g white sugar

1 tbsp honey

Line a shallow baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper.  Measure out your baking soda so that it’s ready to go – you’ll need to work quickly once the sugar reaches the right temperature.  Put the sugar, honey and 25ml of water into a medium-sized, deep, heavy-bottomed pan.  Stir together and heat to 150 Celsius on a sugar thermometer.  Whatever you do, do NOT touch or taste the caramel, as it will burn you.

As soon as the caramel reaches the right temperature, turn the heat off and add the baking soda, whisking quickly and carefully to combine it.  It will froth right up, but that’s normal.  Carefully pour the mixture out onto your lined tray right away, then gently tilt the tray a little from side to side to get the mixture to spread out in a fairly even layer (again, being careful not to come into contact with the hot caramel).  Leave to one side to cool, then crack it into bite size pieces and crush some into powder or smaller pieces.

For the Victoria Sponge:

125g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

125g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting

2 large eggs

zest of one lime

a few drops of Rosewater

Preheat your oven to 190C.  Grease your individual cake tins with butter, and dust with flour.  Trust me on this, I didn’t dust with the flour and they stuck….so instead of 6 I had 4.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixer until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure you beat each one before you add the next one.  Fold in the lime zest, flour and rosewater.  Divide the batter among the cake tin, and with a greased spatula, smooth the bottoms.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and rise, and a toothpick comes out clean.  Turn out on a baking rack to cool completely.

For the ganache:

250g dark chocolate

1 cup heavy cream.

Shave your chocolate with a serrated knife.

Shaved dark chocolateThis will make sure that the chocolate melts all at the same time.  In a medium sauce pan, heat the cream just before boiling.  Place the chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl, and add the cream.  Mix once and let sit for 1o minutes.  Then whisk well, until all the chocolate is mixed with the cream and it is glossy.

To Assemble:

1 banana, cut 6 slices, and chop the rest

Crushed Honeycomb

6 individual cakes

Ganache

Place a piece of parchment beneath the baking rack.  Add the honeycomb and chopped banana to the tops of the cakes.  Then drizzle the ganache over the cakes.  Let it set for about 3 minutes, then pour over again, and smooth the sides and top with a spatula.

Top the cakes with the small crushed honeycomb, then add one large piece.  Add one slice of banana to each cake.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Arroz con Pollo – Colombian Chicken and Rice

 

 

Arroz con Pollo

The last time I made this dish, was 5 years ago.  5 YEARS AGO?!?  Why the heck has it taken me so long to make it again?  As a child, this was the staple dish for large gatherings with my mum’s side of the family.  Really, what can be simpler, a crowd pleasing dish, that is full of protein, veggies, and best of all, flavor.

There a many variations of Arroz con Pollo, every family has their own recipe, and many latin american cultures have their methods too.  For example, the cuban variety uses the chicken on the bone, and the rice is a little soupier, almost like an Arroz Caldoso,  or soupy rice.

My version is probably influenced by my Italian grandfather, with the addition of olives and capers.  Either way, it is awesome.  It’s a dish that has a few steps, but totally worth it, because it’s a whole meal on a plate.  My daughter loves it, and always has, it was a great way for me to sneak it some vegetables that she would never normally eat.  As I said, there are many, many variations.  I like to use annatto seed, or as some call it, achiote.  This is a small red seed, and it is used for food coloring, much like saffron but with a nuttier taste.  In some countries, like Mexico, they grind the outer layer into a paste, but in Colombia you boil the seeds in oil or water until it releases its natural color.  The longer you boil, the deeper the hue you get, so it can turn your oil from yellow to deep red.  Then you discard the seeds and use the oil in your food.

Annato Seeds

 

I also like to use cabbage, well, because I love cabbage.  Then I add some raisins, because I love having every other bite give you a surprise of sweetness amid the saltiness of the olives and capers.

Ingredients for Arroz con Pollo

This dish is very heartwarming, and tastes of home and family to me.  I hope you take the time and make it so you and your family and friends can savour the tastes of Colombia!

So here’s what you’re gonna need:

Serves 8

For your basic white rice:

1/4 onion, finely minced

1/4 green pepper, finely minced

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups long grain white rice

4 cups water

2 tsp salt

For the braised chicken:

1/4 cup annatto seeds

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 small green peppers, chopped

4 small tomatoes, chopped

4 scallions, sliced and set in a bowl of water to wash, then drained

1 heaping tbsp of cumin powder

2 tsp of salt, more to taste

1 packet of Sazon Tropical

2 carrots, chopped

1/2 chicken, cut in pieces, skinned

1 1/2 cups of cabbage, chopped, plus one large leaf to “cover the pot”

1 handful of green beans, chopped

2 tbsp of pimento stuffed green olives, sliced

3 tbsp raisins

1 tbsp capers, rinsed

1 cup water, or more to cover and braise the chicken

First, make your basic white rice.  In a medium heavy bottomed pot, add the vegetable oil, minced onion, green pepper and garlic over medium low heat.  Saute for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and fragrant.  Wash your rice, and strain.  Add the rice, and then the four cups of water and the salt, and raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil, covered.  When the rice boils, lower the heat to medium low again, and leave the rice partially covered.  When the water is almost all evaporated, about 15 minutes, with a large wooden spoon, “turn” your rice, which basically means to flip the rice with the spoon so the bottom layer goes to the top and vice versa, and let it dry out, another 10 minutes.  Switch off the heat, and leave to further dry out, partially covered.

In the meantime, in a small saucepan, add the annatto seeds and the 1/4 cup oil and boil, for about 3-4 minutes or until the oil is a deep red hue.  Take off the heat and strain the oil into a large stock pot, discard the seeds.

Heat the oil over medium heat,  now you are going to make the Sofrito.

Sofrito, Ingredients

Add the onions, green pepper, tomatoes, scallions, cumin powder and salt.  Saute for about 15-20 minutes, until very soft, the vegetables have released their flavors and reduced, but not browned.  Add the carrot and cook another 5 minutes.  Now add your chicken and brown on all sides.  Add the water, sazon tropical, cabbage and bring to a boil.  When it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and “cover” it with the large cabbage leaf.

Arroz con Pollo

Let the chicken braise for about 15 minutes, and check to see how the breast is doing.  We don’t want to over cook the breast, so check it to see if it is cooked through, and if it is, take it out and keep cooking the rest of the chicken parts.  Add the green beans.  After about 10 more minutes, check the legs, thighs, and wings to see if they are cooked through.  If they are, remove and let cool along with the breast.  Add the olives, raisins and capers at this point.

When the chicken is cool to the touch, shred it and discard the bones.  Check the vegetables and see how much water has reduced.  You want it to be a bit liquidy, but not so much so as when you mix it with the rice it will be soupy.  If the liquid has almost reduced, turn off the heat.  If not, wait another 5 minutes.  You want about 1/8 cup of liquid, approximately.  Add the chicken back to the braising liquids, and then add your white rice and stir, so everything mixes up together and it is all beautifully colored a vibrant yellow.  Turn the heat down to low, and let “dry” a few more minutes, now fluffing with a fork.

You can serve it immediately, but I prefer to let it sit over night in the fridge, that way all the flavors meld.  Serve with a wedge of avocado and and ice-cold beer!

Buen Provecho!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Chicken Noodle Soup with Lemongrass

Chicken noodle soup with lemongrassI haven’t posted  a couple of days, but it’s not because I was neglecting you my friends, I just didn’t want to bore you to tears with the mush I have eaten.  You see, last Sunday I came down with a severe tooth ache,  and all I have eaten is porridge like stuff, or yogurt, or mashed potatoes.   I mean, I assume you didn’t want a post on how to make oatmeal.  Naaaaah. So, I kind of got tired of the blandness, and once my tooth started feeling better, I decided to venture on something a little more consistent, like a noodle soup. But, I was craving taste, and something different, so I picked up this copy of Fine Cooking magazine that I had lying around, and they had this amazing noodle soup on the cover.

I have to admit, this is easy, but it has a lot of steps to it.  So, to further ease the process, I changed up the recipe a little, like instead of cooking my chicken breasts, I bought a roast chicken and used them.  Also, since I love mushrooms, I added a bit more shiitake than called for, and it gave the broth more depth and flavour, it was more umami.

chicken noodle soup with lemongrass ingredientsThis soup is a cross between Vietnamese Pho and Japanese Udon, and the combination works.  I love the acidity of the lime juice, paired with the earthiness of the shiitake.  And who doesn’t love fresh cilantro and chilies?  (Yes, a lot of people, I know.)

The subtle aftertaste of lemongrass was divine, and every two bites or so you would get this bit of basil.  I really cannot wait to make this again.  It is going to be a staple in my kitchen this winter!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, Apr/May 2010

Serves 4

2 1/2 tbsp canola oil

2 small boneless chicken breasts, butterflied (or use the chicken breast of a roast chicken, or any other pre-cooked chicken you have leftover)

3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings

2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, outer layers discarded , halved lengthwise, and smashed with the side of a chef’s knife.

1 tbsp fresh minced ginger

2 tsp packed light brown sugar

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered ( I used dry, and added 3 cups, presoaked in boiling water for 20 minutes.)

9 oz. udon noodles

1 Thai bird chili (or 1 small Serrano pepper) sliced into thin rings

8 fresh basil leaves, torn

1 medium lime, half juiced, and half cut into wedges ( I used three… I love me some lime!)

1 tbsp soy sauce, more to taste

2 medium scallions, trimmed and sliced for garnish

1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks, for garnish

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

If you are using the uncooked chicken breast, heat a dutch oven over medium high heat,add the oil and add the chicken breasts and cook until browned on each side and cooked through.  Transfer to a cutting board and let cool, and when cool to the touch, shred it with a fork or your fingers.  If you have leftovers, just omit the step and get to shredding!

If there isn’t enough oil left over, add a little more and then add the shallots to the pot.  Sprinkle with salt, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the shallots begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add the lemongrass, ginger, and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until the ginger and lemongrass sizzle and become fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the chicken broth and shiitake, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and raise the heat to medium high.  Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 15 minutes.  Then turn off heat and let it sit for a while, so the flavours meld.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of well salted water to a boil and cook the noodles, stirring, until just tender, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a colander and run under cold water to cool slightly.  Drain well.

When you are ready to eat, heat the soup up again, add the chicken and noodles to the broth and cook until the noodles are completely tender, about 2 minutes.  Discard the lemongrass.  Stir in the chilies, torn basil, lime juice, and soy sauce; season with more soy to taste.  Divide noodles among 4 large, deep bowls.  Ladle the soup over the noodles and garnish with the scallions, carrot, and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges for squeezing.  Slurp away!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

Warm Chickpea Panzanella Salad with Torn Basil

Chickpea Panzanella SaladAs summer begins to wind down, and it’s just that teeny little bit cooler, I feel my body asking for warmer things.  Not your fresh lemony bright food, something with more of a consistency, and warmth.  It’s funny, before I moved to Spain, there were two things that I would have never eaten.  Cold Soup and Warm Salad.  They were just weird to me.  But, as I see that living in Barcelona is coexisting with your environment perfectly, a.k.a. no air-conditioning, you find more creative ways to cool yourself off.  Hence the cold soup.  Now, with the wind just a bit chillier, and not yet time to put on the heating, the warm salad.

Panzanella is such a simple salad, it literally is the epitome of ease.   The large crusty bread chunks soak up the vinaigrette.  I wanted to add some chickpeas because 1) I LOVE EM!  2) well, they elevate this salad from side dish to main dish in my book and 3) they’re healthy!  And what is better than having a few friends over and all you have to do is fry up some bread, and toss some dressing on to the greens?  Nothing, in my book.  It just gives you more time to spend with them.

chickpea panzanella salad

 

Apart from adding some torn basil into the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and chickpeas, I also fried the bread with some basil leaves and cracked pepper.

bread cubes

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

1 baguette, cut into cubes

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large bunch basil, 3/4 of  the leaves torn, the rest left intact

200 g cooked chickpeas

1/2 cucumber, diced

10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 head of romaine lettuce, cut

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

Lemon juice

Garlic Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large frying pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and warm up.  When hot, add the bread cubes, some cracked pepper and the intact basil leaves.  Fry the bread until crispy on all sides.  Keep warm.

In a large bowl, add the rest of your ingredients up to the romaine lettuce.  Drizzle with the olive oil, and the lemon juice (however much you like) and garlic salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Add the fried bread and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Ragu Alla Bolognese del mio Zio – Bolognese Sauce

Spaghetti Bolognese

Everybody has their own version of Bolognese, or Ragu as we call it in my house.  My recipe, handed down from three generations, stays true to my uncle Gianni’s version.  As I’ve mentioned before, my family is from Ferrara and Bologna, the food capital of Italy.  With such amazing products as Parmigiano, Mortadella, Balsamic Vinegar, Tortellini and Ravioli coming from my region, Emilia-Romagna, it indeed is a wonderful place to visit and have family!

One of my first food memories is Ragu, my mother made it every week, and when I met my uncle in 1986, I also tasted his version, passed down to him from his mother, who owned a restaurant in a little town outside of Bologna.  Cut to 26 years later, I now make it very often, because alas, it is my daughter’s favorite (along with Carbonara).  So needless to say, I can make this with my eyes closed.

There is something so comforting to me about Ragu.  Just the cooking process screams comfort, and time-honored tradition.  I like to use a mix of pork and veal, pancetta, and white wine.  And I let it simmer for three hours or more, if I have the time.  As my uncle explained to me, his mother taught him how to make this when he was 12 years old, and said, start out on a large flame, and keep moving it to smaller, and smaller flames so it can simmer delicately for hours.  And the smells wafting from the kitchen….divine.  For me, it always tastes better than next day, when the flavors have fully developed, but my daughter can’t wait to have it the moment it’s done.

Ragu Bolognese

It seems like a daunting long process, but actually, once you are done with the preparation, all you have to do is sit back and let it bubble, and just enjoy the warmth in your kitchen like I do.

Ragu alla Bolognese

2 slices pancetta, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, minced finely

1 large carrot, minced finely or grated

1 celery rib (0ptional….some people don’t like the taste) minced finely

1 heaping tbsp tomato paste

1 garlic clove, with skin

300 g ground veal (or 600 g ground veal if you don’t eat pork)

300 g ground pork

1 large glass white wine (if you don’t have white, or it’s really cold, you can add red)

425 ml pureed tomatoes

4 cups beef stock

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, over medium low heat, warm up your olive oil.  Add the pancetta, onion, carrot and celery (if using).  Add the salt and  cook for about 10-15 minutes, until softened and translucent.  Add the tomato paste, garlic and mix well.  Cook for another 5 minutes, to let it caramelize.  Add the veal and pork, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring constantly to break it up and make sure it cooks through.  Add the wine, and let it reduce, stirring to remove all the brown bits, about 8-10 minutes.

When the wine is completely reduced, add the tomatoes and beef stock, mix well.  Let it come to a boil, let boil for about 5 minutes, and lower the heat to medium low, and cook covered for about 30 minutes.  Switch it to your lowest flame, uncover, and let simmer for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  Adjust the seasonings, and add the fresh cracked pepper.

Let cool and refrigerate overnight so that the flavors meld.  If you can’t wait, by all means, serve it up over your favorite pasta.  Mine is tagliatelle or pappardelle, but over spaghetti is perfect, or rigatoni.  It is also heavenly in Lasagna or cannelloni.  Or you can reduce it further to use it as a filling for ravioli, which would be the Brasato filling (braised beef).

 

From my zio’s kitchen to yours,

Carla

And now for something completely different.

Karla and Juleisy

A couple of days ago a friend of mine said I should do a post on what NOT to do in the kitchen.  I thought it was a great idea, and said I would start thinking about things that I could put on that list.

Then yesterday, a friend of mine posted a hilarious video on his FB page.   It is so ridiculous, and hilarious, and perfectly describes what you should never do in the kitchen.  Shot by some fellow Miamian’s, taking the piss out of themselves and “cooking shows”.

If you are offended by some NUDITY (Hey!  Shout out to my friend at Sybaritica and his extremely funny post!) then don’t watch.

So here goes, what I think you should never do in the kitchen!

COOKING WITH HIALEAH’S FINEST: JULEISY Y KARLA:

PULLED PORK WONTONS

Cooking with Hialeah’s Finest