Baked figs with cinnamon, vanilla honey and greek yogurt

Baked FigsMy father’s side of my family is from Egypt, Syria and Turkey.  Ever since I can remember, at our family reunions there was always an abundance of home-made Baklava, Mamoul, dates, and figs.  And this dessert is what taught me to love figs.

Normally, you find those dried figs that look a little daunting, but delicious none the less.  Fortunately, my family had a love affair with fresh figs, and this was the dessert that was made for extra-special occasions.  And let me tell you, it is an incredibly delicious and seductive dessert.

Figs are delicious on their own, but paired with cinnamon, honey, vanilla, baked and then a dollop of greek yogurt, they become sublime.

This is a ridiculously easy dessert, and one that will shine at your next dinner party, or even just to make for a simple weeknight’s dinner.  Trust me.  You will make this over, and over again!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

12 fresh figs

4 cinnamon sticks, each one cut in 3 pieces to make 12 in total

1 vanilla bean

2 tbsp sugar

3-4 tbsp honey

Greek yogurt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C.  Wash the figs, and cut them in a cross form, leaving the bottom intact.  Place in a large baking dish and  insert a cinnamon stick into each fig.

In a small bowl, place the 2 tbsp sugar.  Cut the vanilla lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the sugar, and mix well.  Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the figs.  Then drizzle the honey over the figs.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Place 3 figs in a bowl with some of the honey from the baking dish, and add a dollop of the greek yogurt.  Repeat for the remaining figs.

Place the honey and rest of the greek yogurt in bowls so everyone can help themselves to more if they want.

Baked figs in honey

 

 

Coca de Trempo with Sobrasada, Mahon Cheese and a drizzle of Honey

A few weeks ago I did a post about Coca, which is a Catalan flat bread.  It was so good, that I decided to do another type of Coca, typical from the Island of Mallorca.  This Coca is one of my favorites.  It is very akin to an American Sausage and Peppers Pizza.

All the flavours are there, and more!  Trempo is a salad from Mallorca, that consists of peppers, onions and tomatoes.  And when you have left over, you put it on the coca and bake it.  My dish was by no means original, but it was my variation.  I have to say, though, that the night I made it, one of my guests and friends is from Mallorca, and he gave me the seal of approval.
Chock full of taste, I added three types of peppers, tomatoes, spring onions, black olives and some fennel fronds.  Then, topped it off with Sobrasada, a cured type of sausage from Mallorca as well, is like a very soft chorizo full of paprika, which gives it its distinctive red color.  It is so tasty, spread on bread, with some honey, or topped with cheese.  So I combined all these flavours to make this Coca.  And I had all my Spanish friends moaning in delight, and couple of calls for the recipe!  If you can’t get sobrasada sausage, you can substitute it with some crumbled cured paprika chorizo.
So here’s what you’re going to need:

Coca Dough Recipe

1 green pepper, finely diced

1 red pepper, finely diced

1 yellow pepper, finely diced

4 spring onions, white parts only, sliced thinly

Olive oil, for cooking

4 medium Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced

1 cup black or green olives, pitted and sliced in half

Fennel fronds from 4 fennel bulbs

Salt and Pepper to taste

200 g Sobrasada Sausage , crumbled

200 g Mahon Cheese, grated (or any type semi firm cheese, like light Cheddar, Jack or Gouda)

Honey, to drizzle over

Make and bake the coca, let cool.  In a large sauté pan, with just a drizzle of olive oil, over high heat, sauté your peppers for just 2 minutes.  Set aside in a bowl.  Add another drizzle of olive oil, and quickly sauté the spring onions for another minute or so.  You want the vegetables barely cooked.  Mix with the peppers.   Mix in the tomatoes, fennel fronds and black olives to your peppers, onion, salt and pepper.  Spread on top of the baked coca dough.

Top with the Sobrasada Sausage, grated Mahon Cheese, and drizzle with honey.  Broil in a 250 C oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts.  Serve immediately.

Now for the next month, we will be travelling to Pamplona, Bilbao for a Russian/Basque Wedding and San Sebastián.  Then we are off to Naples, Italy for four days, to gorge ourselves with pizza and seafood, then heading home to Miami for 2 weeks to see the family!  I am so excited to post about all the places we eat while travelling and then all the goodies from the USA!  So, if I don’t reply or get in touch with you all in the next couple of weeks as quickly as I do, it’s only because of that.  Happy August Everybody!  Back in Barcelona on the 3rd of September!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Layered Crepe “Cake” with Nutella, Pastry Cream and Summer Berries

Again, my inspiration was from Girl in a Food Frenzy’s post on Crepes.  But this time, I decided to make them without the buckwheat flour.  I wanted them more sweet, less savoury, and have more of a cakey quality.  So I decided to look through my The Beautiful Cookbook: France, which had a recipe for Crepes Suzette.

I think someone somewhere has done the same thing that I’ve done, but I totally wanted a tasty, easy and ridiculously yummy cake to serve on Olympics Opening night…which just happened to be an impromptu celebration of another friends’ birthday.

So, I knew I wanted berries, I knew I wanted Nutella, and I knew I wanted Pastry Cream.  So, all three were combined.  And it was to die for my friends.  Truly, to die for.

Fairly easy to make, even better to eat, here’s the recipe for this simply exquisite “cake”:

For the crepes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

2 eggs

1 tsp sugar

3 drops vanilla extract

1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the pastry cream:

1 1/4 cups whole milk (or 2%)

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

3 large egg yolks

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tbsp flour

2 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tbsp liqueur (grand marnier, kirsch etc)

1 cup Nutella or melted milk chocolate

3 cups mixed berries, such as strawberries (sliced), raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and currants

Powdered Sugar, for dusting

To make the crepes:

Mix all the ingredients and whisk vigorously, let rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

In the meantime, make the pastry cream.  In a medium, thick bottomed sauce pan, heat the milk and vanilla bean until just boiling.  In a large heat proof bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, flour and cornstarch.  When the milk is hot and just about to boil, pour into your egg mix and whisk continuously so that the eggs don’t curdle.  Pour all the milk in a slow stream and keep whisking until done.  Then pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat until it boils, always mixing, until it thickens.  When it has thickened, take off heat and keep whisking for another minute or so.  Add the liqueur.  Take out the vanilla pod and reserve covered with plastic wrap until using.

If you are using milk chocolate, melt in a double boiler.

Separate about 1/3 cup of pastry cream.

Mix the Nutella (or melted chocolate) into the large bowl of  pastry cream.

In a large sauté pan, heat a good knob of butter until it melts, then wipe away with some kitchen paper.  Add a ladle of crêpe batter, and swirl it around so it covers the whole pan.  Cook for about 40 seconds, and with a spatula lift off and cook the underside, 30 seconds more.  Continue to do this with all the batter.

To make the cake:

Layer nutella pastry cream and strawberries on a crêpe, top with another crêpe, and continue to do so until you don’t have any crepes left.  On the last crêpe, top with the 1/3 cup of pastry cream (without chocolate) top with the mixed berries and currants.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, and just before serving, dust with powdered sugar.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

 

Raspberry Banana Breakfast Muffins

I love bananas.  I really do.  But somehow, always, there are two left over from the bunch that I buy that go overly ripe.  And then I don’t want to eat them raw anymore.  But you know what?  That suits me fine.  I always end up putting them to good use.
Saturday morning, I was flipping through my Williams Sonoma Breakfast and Brunch cookbook, and came across this great recipe for Raspberry Lemon Muffins.  And I figured, I could sneak the bananas in there as well.  They turned out wonderful.  The bananas make these muffins really soft and luscious, and I was able to cut out a heap of sugar from the original recipe.  I am only hoping they last more than two days.  We’ve already eaten 4.  I made them last night.  *Sigh*.  So much for the diet!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Adapted from William Sonoma’s “Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch”

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

2/3 cup canola or corn oil

2 very ripe bananas, mashed

2/3 cup brown sugar (as opposed to 1 1/3 cup)

2 tsp grated lemon juice

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 375 F (190 C).  Line 12 standard muffin pan with paper liners.

In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand up mixer, whisk together the eggs and milk until blended.  Ad the oil, brown sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extract and whisk until just blended.  Add the bananas, and blend well.  Add the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just moistened.  Do not overmix.  Fold in the berries.

Spoon the batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each to within 1/4 inch of the rim.  Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes if using fresh raspberries, or 25-30 minutes if using frozen raspberries.  Transfer to a rack and let cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto the rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 12 muffins

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Shaved Artichoke, Celery and Mahon Cheese Salad

I know that most of us in the northern hemisphere are suffering in this heat.  I am too.  I cannot believe how hot it is.  The last few days in Barcelona have been scorchers, with a hot wind slicing through the city.  I personally would like to live in my fridge.  It has made me lethargic, cranky, and well….not so enthusiastic to cook.

Then I thought of this salad.  It is so refreshing, and light, and honestly, probably one of my absolute favorites!  I love artichokes.  I could eat them every day.  And any way.  But, the beauty of this, is that there is absolutely NO COOKING INVOLVED.

These are the ingredients you’re going to need, along with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper.  In this recipe I used Mahon cheese, which is a mature cheese from Menorca, similar in taste to a very sharp cheddar.  But you can swap it with Parmesan, or cheddar, any mature cheese you have on hand will do.

It’s as easy as that, and I promise you, incredible.  And a heat buster.  The lemon juice refreshes, and the celery is basically just water, so it is thirst quenching!

So, for two people, here’s what you’re going to need:

3 medium artichokes

1 large stalk of celery

1 lemon, juiced

1/8-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Shaved Mahon cheese

In a large bowl, place the lemon juice.  Now, peel all the tough outer leaves of the artichoke until you get to the tender heart.

Then trim the stem, like this:

Then trim the tops off, like this:

Then thinly slice the hearts, and toss it in the lemon, to prevent them from browning.  Do this with all the artichokes.

Thinly slice the celery, and shave off some of the Mahon cheese, and toss in with the artichoke.  Add the extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

Let stand about 15 minutes before serving, so that the lemon juice softens the artichoke hearts out.

So that’s all folks!  Easy, refreshing and healthy!  Great for this summer heat we’re having.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Two “Bean” Salad with Corn, Avocado, Mango and Salsa Verde Vinaigrette

Again, after such a food extravaganza, my body was craving something delicious and healthy.  This Sunday, we had a barbecue at a friends’ house, and I was asked to prepare the side to her ribs.  Corn always comes into my mind, but I also wanted something that was healthy and colorful.  I feel that the more colors you put in a salad, the more nutrients you are giving your body.  I also knew I didn’t want your typical lettuce and tomato salad that is prevalent in almost every menu here.  It’s funny, Spaniards are not big on salads, and it baffles me that the variety of produce that you get here aren’t translated into a cornucopia of a salad bowl.

This “salad” was delicious, full of black beans, chickpeas, corn, cherry tomatoes, avocado, mango and then a slightly tangy Salsa Verde (made from tomatillos) vinaigrette, and some fresh cilantro.

Really easy to make, gorgeous to present, and you have a filling, healthy side to any lunch.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

1 can Black Beans, drained

1 can Chickpeas, drained

1 small can Corn, drained

1 avocado, diced

1 large slice mango, diced

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tbsp cilantro, chopped

For the vinaigrette:

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp salsa verde

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Fresh ground Pepper

Just mix all the ingredients, except for the avocado if you aren’t serving immediately.  When you are ready to serve, then dice and mix in the avocado, if not it gets all brown.  And it’s that easy!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Roasted Summer Vegetable and White Bean Salad

After all these days eating out, my belly needed something healthy, satisfying and delicious.  Ta-da!  Here is the perfect salad to satiate your hunger and make you feel oh-so-good about eating.

It’s so easy to make, and quick too if you buy the beans already cooked.  I love the markets here in Barcelona, because there are these lovely ladies that all they do is cook legumes so you won’t have to.  I could kiss them.  And they are always perfectly done, never too mushy, always fork tender.

Adding a little lemon-dill vinaigrette for that summer zing, and you’re done.  It’s a one plate meal that your taste buds will love and your waistline will thank you for.

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

6 or 7 medium broccoli florets

6 or 7 medium cauliflower florets

A handful and a half of cherry tomatoes

1 large yellow pepper (or orange, or red, whatever tickles your fancy) cut in half and ribs and seeds removed

1 red onion, thickly sliced

Olive oil, for drizzling over the veggies

Salt and Pepper to taste

250g of white beans

1 large bunch of dill, chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice from one lemon

Sea salt

 

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Place all your veggies (minus the beans) onto an oven sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Roast for 10-15 minutes, until they are nicely browned and fragrant.

Let cool a few minutes before chopping the peppers.

In the meantime, make your vinaigrette with the extra virgin olive oil, dill and lemon juice.  In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with the beans and dressing.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

And voilà!  You have your meal!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta, Bufala Mozarella, Pancetta and Pine Nuts

From my jobs last week, to whirlwind tour guide this week, I haven’t had a moment’s time to sit down and post a recipe until now, so sorry my friends.  You see, my aunt, uncle and their friend are here visiting for the first time, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show them around my beautiful city.  We’ve been traipsing through the Gothic Quarter, frolicking in Gaudi’s Park Guell, feasting on Paella by the azure Mediterranean, and last night sipping Margarita’s while watching the Spain vs. Portugal match!  But two nights ago they came to my house for dinner, and that same afternoon I had taken them to the Boqueria Market and had spotted some amazing Zucchini Blossoms.

I knew immediately I wanted to make something with them, stuff them actually, but I figured I would just play it by ear with what I had at home.  I decided I would stuff them with ricotta, mozzarella, the gorgeous pancetta that I had brought back from Italy and some pine nuts.  I also chopped the baby zucchini into tiny little pieces and mixed it all up.

It was DELICIOUS.  Like, mouth-watering, crazy insane delicious.  I only bought 7 blossoms.  Now I wish I had gotten 20.  I could have just had that for dinner!

This is a surprisingly easy preparation, that will be heavenly for dinner, lunch or canapes.  So, I hope you all try this soon, before these delicate blossoms are out of season again.

 

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

8 zucchini blossoms

4 baby zucchini (the ones that come attached), finely chopped

1/4 cup pancetta, sliced thick and diced

2 tbsp pine nuts

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 bufala mozzarella, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp flour

1 egg

1 tbsp cold water

Slice off the zucchini blossoms, retaining a little bit of the zucchini at the base.  Carefully open the flower and remove the pistil.

In a small frying pan over medium heat, sauté the pancetta and zucchini until crisp.  Add the pine nuts and sauté for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Reserve in a bowl, and mix well with the ricotta and mozzarella.  Add salt and pepper.

In another large frying pan, heat the olive oil.  Meanwhile, place your cheese mixture in a pastry bag.

Stuff the blossoms with the cheese mixture, and then twist the ends of the petals to close.  Don’t twist too tight, they are quite delicate.  In another bowl mix the flour, egg and water.

Dip your blossoms in the batter and fry, about 1 minute each side.

Serve hot.

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

 

Yogurt and Parsley Pesto Lamb Kebabs with Feta, Watermelon and Dill Salad

When summer rolls around, your body just naturally craves lighter, fresher foods.  That means chilled soups, salads and grilled meats.  Of course, when I lived in the States and had a nice backyard, that would mean grilling and eating outside.  But I changed countries, and therefore living space, and now I am stuck with a tiny stove top grill and the closest I can get to outside dining is to open up all the windows and let that lovely noise of cars and traffic become the soundtrack to our dinner.  Sounds idyllic, right?

Well, to tell you the truth it isn’t that bad.  But I do miss having a backyard.  Or front yard.  Heck….a porch would do.  But, I don’t.  So, anyhow, my body still craves these types of food, and today I satisfied that craving.  I wanted to use up the Parsley Pesto that I made for the Nicoise Salad the other day.  But, I also wanted to take it down a notch, so I added some greek yogurt to have that wonderful creamy, cooling effect.  So I marinated the lamb in that, it smelled divine.  It really reminded me of green goddess dressings, but with a gorgeous garlicky smell.  And I had some watermelon in the fridge and leftover Feta from those Feta and Walnut Cheese Coins I made a while back.  I have seen in all these magazines the birth of the watermelon salad.  I’d never gotten along to try or make one, but tonight seemed the perfect night for it.  I thought some fresh dill from my garden, balcony would be perfect, although I admit I was a bit scared because I had never actually made it before, it could have turned out to be a disaster!  But it wasn’t thankfully!  The whole meal was really refreshing, healthy, and delicious.  I especially loved the salad.  Who knew watermelon, feta and dill could become best buds?

I pulled out my little cast iron grilly-thing, and made some skewers with the lamb, zucchini and onion.

I thought they looked really nice, all green!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

1.5 kilos of lamb leg, cut into cubes

1 Zucchini, sliced in half, then cubed

1 onion, sliced thickly

Parsley Pesto

1/2 cup greek yogurt

For the Salad:

1/4 of a small watermelon, cubed

1 small package of feta cheese, cubed

2 dill sprigs, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Mix the parsley pesto with the yogurt, and marinate the lamb and vegetables for about an 1.  Pre heat your grill.  Thread onto skewers, and then place them on your grill.  I prefer my lamb a bit charred, you might like yours less, so mine took about 20 minutes…..I’m sorry I can’t give you more precise times, but that’s the fun of grilling right?

In the meantime, mix the watermelon, feta, dill with the lemon juice, oil, and seasonings.  Set aside until your kebabs are ready.

In the end, I think it was a pretty perfect meal!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Apricot, Blueberry and Rosemary Galette

To me, summer means stone fruit and berries.  Mouth-watering cherries, peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums.  Ripe and succulent blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and the such.

Yesterday at our market, we overdosed on these.  We bought about 20 apricots, those fabulous flat peaches, which they call Paraguayos here, nectarines and blueberries.  I was pretty certain we couldn’t consume all that fruit before it goes bad…..but that is us.  We see things and we want them, thinking that we are going to go on a fruit fast or something.  But not so, because well, you know about how much food I brought back from Switzerland.

Since Sundays are our official lazy days, I figured, why not make a galette?  It is such an unfussy dessert, I love the free form crust, flaky yet consistent enough to hold all that fruit.  I chose to make the dough with rosemary, because my little plant is doing quite well, and I love rosemary in savoury and sweet dishes.  I also decided to fill it with apricots and blueberries.  That way, I am sure none of our fruit will go bad.

This is really easy to make, feel free to add any other herbs to your dough to make it your own.  And for these lazy summer days, nothing is nicer than a no-fuss galette with a glass of lemonade or iced tea.

Enjoy!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

For the galette:

Makes 2 disks

3 cups flour

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

16 tbsp butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled

2/3 cup ice water.

1 small sprig of rosemary

2 tbsp of sanding sugar

1 tbsp cream

Filling:

6 apricots, halved, and then slice the halves in two.

a handful of blueberries

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the flour, sugar and salt.  Mix on low-speed with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter, and mix until incorporated, and looks like wet sand, but there are still some big chunks of the butter that are visible.  Add the rosemary and mix.

Add the ice water all at once, and mix until incorporated.  Don’t overmix.  Gather the dough, and shape into two balls.  Wrap in plastic and shape into disks.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Take out the dough, and roll out one of your disks to whatever shape you want, square, rectangle, round.  Place on a baking sheet that is covered with parchment.  Arrange the fruit in the style that you most like, and then fold up the sides.  With a galette, you are the artist.  If you only want a tiny little peek of what’s inside, make the borders 4-5 inches.  If not, a good rule of thumb is stick to two inches.

Press some of the sanding sugar onto the borders of the dough, and sprinkle a little bit on the fruit.  Brush the entire galette, fruit and all, with the cream.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let cool a little before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla