Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To toast in the New Year




About this time of year I begin to contemplate what was .........


as I bid farwell to my three wise men ............




as I contemplate taking down the tree .........


Thoughts turn to festive fare and intrigue as to what the new year will hold . As New Years Eve is nearly upon us , I needed to think up something quick and festive to make as an appetiser for our fun filled night , to be spent with friends. It is the one day of the year when we all stay up - way past our bed time , when the girls have impressed me with their stamina - the record so far is 2.30am . Mum and Dad needed toothpicks to keep the eyelids open .

After much over indulgence in the past few weeks and way too many sweet things , I begin to crave something tangy and moorish to be enjoyed with some wonderful company and Pink Prosecco .

Behold, GG Green and Black Olive Tapenade , a sinch to put together and lots of wow factor .You can toast your own pita or naan bread as an accompaniment , serve it with fresh crunchy peppers, or celery sticks . Also, check out the Smitten Kitchen website ( one of my favourite blogs) and look at the yummy homemade cracker recipes.


GG Green Olive and Black Olive Tapenade
inspired by many recipes


1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 cup pitted green olives
1 small clove garlic
scant handful of flat leaf parsley - no stems
scant handful of walnuts , lightly oven roasted
juice of 1 lemon or to taste
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper


Lightly roast the walnuts in a 400F oven , until just toasted and allow to cool .

Place all the ingredients in a food processor except the olive oil and pulse a few times . Then add enough olive oil until it holds its shape .

Taste and adjust seasoning by adding some more lemon juice or olive oil .

Serve wither with some fresh vegetables or toasted pita/naan bread.

Allow flavours to develop in the fridge overnight .

Enjoy





Thursday, December 24, 2009

T'is the Season


It has been an interesting year .

I started my catering from home business in October of 2008, had a wonderful year ....... my sister visited during the summer , we enjoyed a wonderful time together . School started and before I knew it , my little gourmet just turned 10 years of age and my little little gourmet will be turning 7 years of age in a couple of weeks .

Then all of a sudden Christmas was staring me in the face .

I love Christmas , I love the fresh Christmas tree we put up every year , I love the collection of ornaments we have amassed over the years and above all I enjoy the anticipation of "what will Santa bring?" on the faces and minds of children . This year we were so busy that I did not even manage one Christmas dinner at home with friends and family ...... I always have a couple of get togethers - it is always an excuse to stop what we are doing , take some time out of our busy lives and have an enjoyable time.

This year the tree had been decorated with angels , tin ornaments and some very rustic looking ornaments - which I just love . As I started to put them on the tree - ably assisted by my little gourmets . I always stop and think about the year that has been , whenever I place the ornament above. This year it is in my kitchen , just above the sink and as I look into its face and the messages it holds - I say and truly believe the following :

"....... we must never lose hope "  AND  " ....... love always abounds" .

So Merry Christmas to my friendly readers and I wish everyone a wonderful New Year filled with "love and hope" .



............. and in closing I leave you with the Snowman my little little gourmet made at school , which she talked about for weeks , and which brought tears to my eyes when she he came home 

 


............... this is what Christmas is all about .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Caremalised Onions and Grape Tomato Naan Flatbread


It snowed yesterday. It snowed again overnight , it is still snowing ..... apparently there is huge storm barreling across the plains heading straight this way .

It is also my day to make soup for clients. What a perfect backdrop , cold, lightly falling snow - enough for a quick shovel - but I will tackle that later .

Part of the soup menu was an accompaniment . It was meant to be Naan bread with Z'ataar - my source for Z'ataar mysteriously vanished and I has no time to seek this any further. GG always has plan B in the background .

So there I am staring at several packets of Naan Bread , thinking what to do ? I thought of it would be nice to add some caremilised red onions , grape tomatoes - just bursting , cheese and  a liberal sprinkling of Herbs de Provence . Voila ! in a matter of minutes this delicious Naan Flatbread was prepared and baked in the oven - filling the house with delicious aromas .

The perfect accompaniment to drinks for the holiday season , while enjoying a game of football ....  or savoured with a bowl of steaming soup .


Caremalised Onions and Grape Tomato Naan Flatbread
a Gourmet Goddess original recipe


1 pkt Naan Bread
1 small red onion , sliced medium
1 punnet grape tomatoes , cut in half lengthwise
olive oil
herbs de provence
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
monterey jack cheese


Heat oven to 400F - convection mode

Heat a saute pan , add a little olive oil , add the sliced onion stir until soften , reduce heat if it starts to burn . When the onion softens add the tomatoes and toss until just bursting- you want them to keep their shape.

Add a little salt and freshly ground pepper plus a pinch of herbs de provence . Combine and allow to cool slightly .

Place Naan bread bottom side up on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes - you need to do this step to take out the rawness of the bread .

Remove from oven , turn right side up , sprinkle a little bit of cheese on the bread and then place some of the onion tomato muxture on top . Sprinkle a small amount of cheese on top again - this is just the glue to keep everything from sliding off .

Sprinkle with liberally , or to taste with Herbs de Provence.

Bake for 5-8 minutes until slightly golden on top. Place on a cake rack to cool and then slice into wedges and enjoy .

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Countdown is on ......

We started a tradition several years ago , the Christmas tree is purchased the day after Thanksgiving . While people rush out to the stores for Black Friday shopping , myself and the girls are cooling our heels for Daddy to finish work and make our important purchase for the day . Once we get home , it is usually soup and then the decorations are hauled up from the basement ( ... thanks Deno ) and the countdown begins .



Unfortunately there is no time for the romantic trip to a Christmas tree farm , scouring the fields for the perfect tree, but rather a rendevous with Daddy  , at a big box hardware store ...... and the search begins .It is inevitably a cold night , several years it snowed as we searched for our tree. The girls now have input is the tree is the right shape , is it full enough in the body .... does it fit in our living room ? Is it going to be noble fir or balsam fir ... will the needles drop before Christmas day ? - flashback to  Christmas 4 years ago !!!

But the the most poignant event in the countdown to Christmas is the countdown itself . I purchased a blackboard  about 5 years ago , I did not think much of it , I indeed questioned if it would even be used . It has turned out to be the most anticipated "daily" event in the countdown.

Every morning as the girls come down for breakfast , I hear a pause in the hallway , the erasing of data from the blackboard and the scratchy noise of the chalk. Then the proud announcement ".... it is XX days until Christmas" .

The Christmas stockings will be hung over the coming weekend . The Santa lists have already been typed up - in very cute font - just incase Santa cannot read the writing of a 6 year old ...... I think all that is missing are the item numbers. They have upped the ante on what is to be prepared for Santa and the Reindeers come Christmas Eve .... mum is going to be busy cooking .

So create a tradition , be it ever so small ........I guarantee you it will be something they will remember for a long long time !!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Barley Spinach Salad with Roasted Cashews and Tamari

We all survived the Thanksgiving feast , we more than likely tinkered with purchases on Black Friday - so now it is time to eat something light and healthy in preparation for the Holiday Season ahead.


I made this salad for clients a few weeks ago and EVERYONE loved it and it is my new go to salad , which even my two girls enjoyed . It is an inspiration from my go to food magazine delicious.

It is made with barley , not the instant 10 minute breakfast deal  but organic pearled barley that takes around 30-40 minutes to cook . But do not be put off by this because you will reap untold benefits for your patience and diligence . It is then loaded with vegetables whose benefits need no explanation , followed by a dressing stunning in its simplicity and taste.

I told my girls that barley is like eating brown rice ( we are all converts to this wonderful grain ) , they love broccoli and they love spinach . It also has sugar snap peas which are delicious steamed and some roasted cashews for crunch . This particular occassion I served it with pork tenderloin sliced and marinated in my own creation of tamari, fresh ginger , garlic and a touch of sweet chili sauce . The secret ingredient for me was the fresh mint , I was pleasantly surprised as to how much  flavour this herb gave the salad and it was the perfect finishing touch .

I have to say this salad stands up well as a room temperature salad , great for upcoming pot luck holiday get togethers - maybe consider some strips of roasted red peppers for an added festive touch  . Excellent vegetarian fare that will even convert die hard carnivores . You can also add any other combination of green you would like or have on hand . Oh..... and it keeps forever in the fridge for as long as you do not eat it !!!

Barley Spinach Salad with Roasted Cashews and Tamari
inspired by Bill Granger

Served 4-6

Salad Ingredients
1 1/4 cups organic pearled Barley
1/2 pound organic brocoli, trimmed and steamed
2 spring onions, thinly slices
2 cups organic baby spinach leaves
2 cups sugar snap peas, steamed
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly torn
1/2 cup raw cashews , roasted ane then roughly chopped .

Tamari Dressing
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp light tamari ( wheat free soy sauce)
1 1/2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp fresh ginger , finely grated

Cook the pearled barley according to packet directions.

Prepeare oven to 400F/200C and place cashews in a cake tin and roast until lightly brown - this could take anywhere for 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the cashews and you oven . Please judge accordingly.

Trim and steam the broccoli and sugar snap peas and rinse inder cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well .

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing ans put aside . This could even be made a couple of days in advance to allow the flavours to develop.

In a large bowl toss together the cooled barley,m drained broccolu, sugar snap peas and green onions , toss well to combine then add the torn  mint leaves and dressing and combine well . Allow to stand for 10 minutes to allow flavours to develop.

Enjoy on it own or as a side to some pork , grilled tofu or grilled portabello mushrooms.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

I am converted . I have had a conversion ..... I take back everything I have said or written .......NO ..... I am not joining a sect .... just beginning to like pumpkin pie !!


My little gourmet , daughter number 1 , professed to me that she likes pumpkin pie , and she would like to make one for Thanksgiving . I embraced the fact that she wanted to make something , BUT , I cringed at the thought of having to make pumpkin pie. The truth be told - my culinary experiences have been pretty sad to date and the thought of having to expose myself to actually making one needed a deep deep breathe !!!

So, we perused my collection of cookbooks and came across this wonderful and abundantly simple recipe by Sara Foster with the pie crust recipe from the Barefoot Contessa . Maybe keep this recipe in store for next year , maybe consider it for the upcoming holiday season . Have I just shown I am not a local by espousing that we dare to eat pumpkin pie after Thanskgiving ?

Number 1 daughter made this pie all by herself , barr a couple of minutes of tutorial from the Gourmet Goddess , mainly helping out with the pie crust ... the rest was sheer GG pride !!!!

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and heres to the upcoming Holiday Season !!!

Spiced Pumpkin Pie
adapted from Sara Foster and the Barefoot Contessa

The Crust
2 cups graham crackers ( 14 crackers)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinammon
1 stick unsalted organic butter
Place crackers in food processor and pulse until nice and crumbly, add sugar and cinammon and pulse to combine then add the melted unsalted butter . Place in 11inch tart pan , with removable base , press evenly into the sides , using a measuring cup for uniformity. Bake for 10 minutes at 350F ans allow to cool slightly before adding the pumpkin mixture .
The Filling
3 large organic eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 can sweetened condense milk, 14 oz
1 tin organic pumkin puree , 15oz
3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 tesaspoon ground cinammon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of kosher salt

1 prepared pie crust as per recipe above.

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine eggs, sugar , condensed milk and pumpkin puree in a bowl and mix with a wisk to combine well. Add the butter and stir until thoroughly blended .
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add to the pumpkin mixture.
Pour into prepared and cooled pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes until the pie is light golden brown on top and firm to the touch and set in the center when you jiggle it .
Cool completely and decorate with whipped cream or some delicious good quality vanilla ice cream.

Note to self : Maybe by this time next year I can write and let everyone know that I now LOVE pumpkin pie .... but lets not get ahead of ourselves !!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Acorn Squash and Red Quinoa Harvest Salad

I am not too sure if you have heard of Quinoa , I discovered this amazing super grain a few years ago and I am completely obsessed. Apart for the amazing health benefits , supergrain , complete vegetarian protein , has all the amino acids our body requires ............. it is just so darn tasty .
Last weekend I was asked to cater for a christening brunch, as I discussed the menu details , a must have in my books was Quinoa . It is autumn , it is close to thanksgiving , it is also a tad chilly and I needed no excuse to make this delicious dish. 

In its entirety I named this dish Acorn Squash and Red Quinoa Harvest Salad  , some acorn squash was baked in the oven with apple cider and I thought this was the perfect bed and contrast for the quinoa salad.

I usually prepare the quinoa the day before and let it sit overnight in the fridge , I just find that it tends to become fluffy and separates easily. Just like rice which always tastes much better when it has "rested" in the fridge overnight . I am not a vegetarian,  so some prociutto was added at the last minute - but if you wanted to keep this dish 100% vegetarian I recommend some crumbled feta or goat cheese just before serving .

So here goes the recipe , and original GG recipe inspired by the season and thanksgiving . It can easily be halved - but please do not write to me with regrets !!

Acorn Squash and Red Quinoa Harvest Salad
served 12-16 people

1 packet Red Quinoa or 2 cups Quinoa
2 tblsp olive oil
2 handfuls Brussel Sprouts
2 stalks Celery
4 green onions
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
fresh thyme 2-3 sprigs
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 small tin water chesnuts
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 cup dried cranberries
8 slices prociutto (optional)
feta cheese or goat cheese (optional)

2 acorn squash
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
olive oil
unsalted butter


Cook Quinoa according to package directions.

Clean outer layers of brussel sprouts and then slice in half , lenghtways then each half into 4 pieces . Clean and slice celery on a diagonal , approx the same size as the brussel sprouts .

Heat some olive oil in a non stick pan , add brussel sprouts and saute until they turn a light green colour , then add the celery some salt and freshly ground pepper . Saute until the vegetables just start to soften . Meanwhile chop the red and yellow peppers into chunky squares, slice the green onions on a diagonal and drain and rough chop the water chestnuts . Add all these ingredients to the pan and stir until combined and the peppers barely start to soften . You need to just take the rawness out of the peppers .

Season again with salt and pepper and DO NOT overcook at this point or the brussel sprouts will become bitter . Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Remove from pan and add to the cooked and cooled quinoa. Toss to combine - it should very colourful .

Add the craisins and the apple cider into the saucepan and bring to a boil , then simmer for about 3 minutes until the craisins soften and the cider has reduces ever so slightly . Add this to the quinoa salad. Toss to combine.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400F , place the prosciutto slices onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake until it becomes crispy . Keep an eye on the time as each oven varies - should take about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Also, clean and slice the acorn squash ( do not remove the peel) into 1 inch thick slices , saute slices in a combination butter and olive oil then place in an oven proof dish . Place rest of ingredients in a cup and mix well , then pour over the squash and bake until slightly brown and cooked through .

When all is done and cooled , get out your best platter , arrange the squash in an artful manner on the platter , then pile the quinoa salad mix on top then garnish with either crumbled prosciutto or feta/goat cheese .

Enjoy !

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apple Cranberry Loaf

Thanksgiving is but a mere 8  days away , I am sure for everyone who is hosting, menus have been planned , shopping trips mapped out with military precision . And the all important "Turkey" has been nabbed !


Until I arrived to this country, I was not familiar with Thanksgiving. Yes,  I had heard of the pilgrims and the Mayflower , Yes, I had heard how they ate what the Indians ate ..... however the whole tradition surrounding this holiday began to slowly unravel itself to me over the past 10 years .

Upfront let me announce to the world that I LOVE turkey , as much as I LOVE chicken . Where I come from turkey was the main event for Christmas , stuffed "just right" and accompanied with roast vegetables ... and of course plum pudding . It was inevitably always hot on Christmas day - but all good cooks sweated it out in the kitchen - because Christmas just would not be Christmas without the turkey.

However , I have digressed from the theme of Thanksgiving . As I eargerly await my portion of the bird next week I have begun to look at other offerings that can be enjoyed . Again , not wanting to put a damper on all things dessert for this day - pumpkin pie ......just does not cut it for me ....... . Don't get me wrong I love fresh pumpkin oven roasted - delicious ... but this strange dessert that everyone clamours for at Thanksgiving - has to this day, remained a mystery to me . My eldest daughter came home the other day after tasting some pumpkin pie and announced that it was " the best pie she had ever tasted!!!" .... I think an intervention is required .

So , the Apple Cranberry Loaf recipe was sent to me from down under , it had one crucial ingredient that make this a Thanksgiving must ... dried cranberries ....... I just simply had to make it .

It is delicious, it is healthy ( whole wheat flour and very little butter) , it is like an energy bar in cake form and perfect for the Thanksgiving table and travels really well . I made it in little mini cake loaves - because I thought they looked so cute .

So , if you are not responsible for the turkey and the hostess asks your " just bring a dessert" , consider forsaking the pumpkin pie and shake things up a bit with apple cranberry loaf .

Apple Cranberry Loaf


1 stick Unsalted Organic Butter
¼ cups White Granulated Sugar
¼ cups Light Brown Sugar
3 whole Organic Eggs
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
½ teaspoons Ground Allspice
½ teaspoons Ground Cinammon
¼ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
¼ teaspoons Ground Cloves
½ cups Organic Whole Milk Or 2%
2 whole Granny Smith Apples, Grated
½ cups Walnuts, Chopped
½ cups Roasted (Unsalted) Whole Pepitas
¾ cups Cranberries


Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line a loaf tin or 4 mini loaf tins.


Cream butter and sugar till pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating and scraping sides between each addition.

Sift flour and spices into a bowl, then add flour mixture to the butter, slowly along with the milk.

Once the mixture comes together, add the grated apples (see note below). Fold in nuts, seeds and cranberries. Place in the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, on the center rack of the oven. Remove from the oven and let the loaf stand in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out. Allow to cool before slicing.

Note: I peeled and quartered my apples, then put them in the food processor and pulsed until coarsely chopped. Do this step after you have added the eggs, or the apples will start to turn brown.



Enjoy this deliciously healthy bread!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Harvest Apple Sauce

I love apple sauce , it is comfort snacking at its simplest . What I do not like is the store bought apple sauce - way too much added sugar and things that do not belong .

My girls also like apple sauce - but growing up I spoiled them . Unlike all their friends who would open a packet of sauce and immediately start devouring the contents - my little pumpkins wanted the homemade - real deal - so every so often I whip up a batch .

Now that we have just enjoyed a wonderful apple season - what could be better than apple sauce made with apples from the orchards ( thank you for the contribution Kelly ! ) , fresh , unwaxed, crisp apples - it does not get better than that !
Preparations are simple , clean out the fruit bin of all the odds and ends of apples -I always seem to accumulate plenty


wash well , quarter and roughly cut out the core

place in saucepan with a cup of water

bring to a boil and simmer until everything is soft and mushy

by leaving the skins on the applesauce takes on a lovely pink/rosy hue


Allow to cool slightly then pass through a coarse sieve using a spatula , scrape all the goodness into a container , store in refrigerator and eat with abandon !!!

Enjoy on its own , with granola , and of course with roast pork and even roast turkey.

Please make some, you will never go back to the mass produced stuff again.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween .......... and the great pumpkin adventure

Well we just survived another halloween , it was colder than usual - so bundling up was essential . The whole process begins the night before with the carving of the pumpkins . A lot of thought goes into this . Strategies are plotted , designs are sketched out ad nauseum ............ and most years we come up with some good pumpkins .














Now , getting to this point is all the fun . For the first time , the girls were brave enough to deal with pumpkin goop ............ yes! the hands dived in and scooped out all that fun stuff ( albeit with a little help from the master pumpkin carver - Dad) ....... Mum was spared the hard work ..... I think they had fun !!








So, as you can see from the sequence of events , things were moving along nicely, even Penelope gave her look of approval - before she disappeared for a while .

.

The next important strategy is the carving process ........... Number 1 daughter picked a "ghastly face " to carve ........ Engineer Dad plotted out the drawing with exacting precision and then set about carving the "ghastly face " ...... under the watchful eye of Number 2 daughter.



So, in the final stretch the girls were very proud of their efforts , Mum helped Number 2 daughter with her carving - hence all photographing ceased - because you cannot carve and photogragh at the same time .

Here is the final product - note how life imitates art ............ Number 2 daughter's toothless grin is also reflected in the pumpkin !!!! and Number 1 daughters devil ears are reflected in the"ghastly face" .....
The next day ........... Halloween preparations were in order and my two little pumpkins set off to trick or treat  as the "good little witch" and "the little devil" ............ but they hammed it for a photo.





Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tomato Soup ...... with a twist

Nothing says comfort , like tomato soup . The ubiquitous mass produced soup has been the comfort zone for generations .




Growing up I never experienced tomato soup accompanied with a grilled cheese sandwich . It was always lentil soup ( I know good for you - but try convincing a 5 year old) , white bean soup (because that is what we were fed in the army - another story!!)  and avgolemono - because that was good for the soul !!!

Coming to america , with time on my hands as an "alien" non-resident - and we are not talking E.T. - I also stumbled upon Ina Garten cooking up a storm on the Food Network. One day she made Roasted Tomato Soup - I had to make it and ever since then I have been hooked . Finally...............I broke away from lentils and avgolemono .

Another influence on my palate has been the Latino Cuisine . After making something for Gourmet Goddess menu - I was left with a tin of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce , bell peppers and a half of a huge tin of crushed tomatoes , a handful of sundried tomatoes and a wedge of queso fresco begging to be used.

 What to do ???? There was a chill in the air - it begged for tomato soup - but as always I make things and add a twist . So, in a frenzy of saturday afternoon culinary experimentation Chipolte-Tomato soup with Queso Fresco  was born . It has warmth from the chipolte, a depth of flavour, a nice thick texture that is simply delicious . It was handed out to a couple of friends for "opinions" - they both loved it ........... so a star was born to rave reviews .

So, move over Mr Campbell , your time has been cooked . Take the time to make this soup and you will not be disppointed . If you do not have queso fresco some crumbled feta will do the trick and if you do not have sundried tomatoes on hand - it will survive , but as the french say it may be missing that "je ne ce qa" .

Chipotle Tomato Soup with Queso Fresco
an original Gourmet Goddess recipe


2 cans (28 Oz. Cans) Crushed Tomatoes

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 large Spanish Onion

2 cloves Garlic roughly chopped

1 whole Yellow Bell Pepper

1 whole Red Bell Pepper

2 whole Carrots, Medium Size

½ cup Sundried Tomatoes In Oil - Drained
½ can (3.5 Oz. Can) Chipotle In Adobo Sauce

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt, Or To Taste

½ teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper, Or To Taste

2 quarts Water

FOR GARNISH:

5 sprigs Fresh Cilantro

Queso Fresco crumbled - or feta cheese

Mexican Crema - or Sour Cream


Method :
Heat soup pot until hot, then add olive oil, quickly followed by roughly chopped Spanish onion. Saute until slightly softened but not brown. Then add garlic and stir until aromatic. Meanwhile, core, deseed and roughly chop the bell peppers. Peel and roughly chop the carrots. Add peppers and carrots to the pot along with the drained sundried tomatoes and chipotle peppers ( I used half of the 3.5oz tin, but you may use as much of it as you like).

Cook the mixture until it starts to wilt slightly. Add salt and some freshly gound pepper, to taste. You can always adjust the seasoning once the soup is cooked .

Once the mixture has softened , add the cans of crushed tomatoes and stir through, followed by 2 quarts of water. Stir well and bring to a boil. Then lower and simmer for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until all the vegetables have softened. Every so often, stir the soup .

Allow to cool, then puree with either an immersion blender or in batches using a regular blender. Pour into a bowl and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Reheat when ready to eat and garnish with a sprig of fresh cilantro and either crumbled or cubes of queso fresco, or Mexican crema, OR both, if you like.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zebra Caprese Insalata


I remember when tomatoes were available in wooden boxes and they were always wrinkly around the stem , I grew up eating only heirloom tomatoes - because that is how tomatoes existed , back in the day . Fast forward a few years and the masses started to want the "perfect" tomato, without wrinkles, without character without flavour - but with all intent and purposes it looked like a tomato .

Remember my first blog ............. well the  zebra tomatoes are no longer lurking .

This morning I  looked at them long and hard, gave them a gently squeeze and decided that they were ready for harvest . They had started to turn a slight golden colour , they still had their stripes - but the anticipation of how and what they tasted like was killing me .



In its simplest form a tomato with a sprinke of sea salt ,a few turns of the pepper mill and a splash of extra virgin oil ............ is tomato nirvana . But , add some fresh mozzarella a splash of aged balsamic and a few sprigs of basil leaves ...... you are now on the road of complete self gratification .

I had forgotten how sweet an heirloom tomato can taste and I was quite surprised that after a very long and anxious wait of 90 days ( give or take) the zebra tomatoes were intoxicatingly delicious . Their cousins the cherry tomatoes , growing but a mere couple of feet away from them, gave me a pretty good harvest this year - taking into account the lack of summer in Chicago this year .

However , I was just wanting heirloom zebra tomatoes ............ and today I finally enjoyed the fruits of my labour !!!!!

So ...... next year as you contemplate your garden, I urge you to plant some Zebra Heirloom tomatoes , wish and hope for summer not to bypass us and enjoy tomatoes like a child in a candy store !!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blueberry muffin perfection.

If you search the web , if you flip through tomes of cookbooks , you will finds myriads of recipes for blueberry muffins . Each of them promising the perfectly moist , most tastiest muffin you will ever eat . I am sure many of you have also tagged plenty of pages attesting to the quest for the perfect muffin.

Your quest has ended .




Behold the perfectly moist blueberry muffin , with blueberries picked at the peak of season and cooked with love .

Many recipes , for me, have lacked that blueberry taste , and after much testing and trialing I think I have found the secret ingredient .......... lemon peel and the juice of a  fresh lemon.

In August the family, along my sister visiting from overseas and family friends, we all trekked out to New Buffalo Michigan and went blueberry picking. It was a glorious day , the children were filled with much anticipation . We were all looking forward to a funfilled day . There was not a lot of complaining from the little ones, they were happy to walk up and down , in between the rows and happily fill their little tin cans with the luscious fruit , and the many handful of blueberries which were enjoyed - on site .....

At this point I should be inserting photos , showing blueberry pickers in action ...... alas the delete button was activaed on the camera - before I had a chance to download the pictures - so imagination please !!!!

I share with you a recipe I use from my go to book by Sara Foster .

So , if you have had your fill of fresh blueberries and the freezer is packed with happy blueberries , take a moment to make some yummy and delicious muffins the whole family will enjoy .


Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Sara Foster

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs , preferably organic
3/4 cup whole milk
greated zest and juice of a medium size lemon
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375F and line muffin tins with paper liners - put aside .

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In  a separate bowl place the canola oil, eggs ( room temperature) , milk, lemon zest and juice and combine well with a whisk.

Add to the egg mixture to the dry ingredients , stir a couple of times then add the 2 cups of berries ( if they are frozen do not defrost) and mix with a wooden spoon until just everything is well blended .

Use an large 1/3 cup icecream scoop and scoop the batter into the muffins tins. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes .

Enjoy !

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not your mommas fried green tomatoes

As promised here is my first recipe post .


Many years ago I started a serious collection of cookbooks , as a stay at home mum , I was about to fulfil my dream of being with my children as they grew up and indulge in my love of cooking . I came across a cookbook author Sara Foster , I was smitten by her southern charm , her amazing recipes and in particular her spin on "fried green tomatoes".

Forward to the summer of 2006, when I spent 7 weeks holidaying in Greece . Enjoying some time in Athens then travelling south to visit with my parents at their house up in the mountains. A bountious garden greeted us , beans, corn, tomatoes ( ....no heirloom zebra ,alas ) peppers and I think a rather brave canteloupe plant clinging to dear life on the side of the driveway .

The days were passing and it would soon be time to return to Chicago, but up until that time , we did not have the opportunity to enjoy that many vine-ripened tomatoes. Plenty of green ones ....... oh.... so many green tomatoes - just starting to blush , teasing us with the fact that we would not be here to enjoy them .


Not too sure how the following recipe came to be, but I thought of Sara Foster's recipe and the fact that people do eat green tomatoes - I had to put my spin on this dish and give it a mediterranean makeover .
This dish is a great appetiser , to be enjoyed atop a slice of sourdough bread, as a side dish for steak , grilled fish and plain rice .
The secret is not to salt the tomatoes while they are marinating , as this draws out too much moisture and makes them mushy. I used thyme and rosemary , that is what I had in my kitchen , if you are not a friend of rosemary just use thyme ( or vica-versa)  if you are not a friend of garlic - please omit - the dish will survive without it . The herbs have to be fresh - the dry stuff just does not cut it .


So, as the tomatoes in your gardens start to look a little sad and the chances of then ripening are getting slimmer , consider this dish ............... I know you will fall in love with it . 


Not your mommas Fried Green Tomatoes
a GG original recipe  
2 large green tomatoes - just starting to blanch a little , but still quite green
some fresh thyme and rosemary - roughly chopped
freshly ground pepper
good olive oil to coat
balsamic vinegar - a couple of drizzles
Kefalograviera Cheese , substitute Parmiggiano or Pecorino
sea salt - recommended brand , Maldon Salt

Cut the tomatoes across the width of the tomato then into long slices . Place in a ceramic dish and add the rest of the ingredients except the cheese and sea salt .

Toss to combine and allow to marinate for about 1-2 hours.
Heat a cast iron saute pan or any type of non stick pan until it is quite hot. Place the slices of tomatoes in the pan , making sure they do not touch ( as this causes them to steam ) for about 1 minute - or until they take on a bit of colour.
Continue cooking all the tomatoe slices place on a serving dish . Sprinkle some sea salt on the  tomatoes, drizzle with a little more balsamic vinegar and another drizzle of oil . Add a few shavings of your preferred cheese and some freshly grated pepper ......... enjoy !

Friday, September 4, 2009

Welcome to autumn everyone

It was a beautiful autumn day today , I had plans to meet friends for lunch at Fuego where we enjoyed a wonderful mexican meal and my first time to enjoy sopas ........delicioso!!!! .... thank you for all the great selections Teresa . The finale for me, was the flan , chocolate at that - nothing more needs to be said at this moment .

This weekend we celebrate Labour Day , technically heralding the end of summer and one last chance to fire up the bbq and entertain family and friends . However, September can be the most enjoyable month to sit outside and enjoy a great meal . The warmth from the sun is loved and needed , the chill in the air beckons us to wear some warm and snuggly and the upcoming changing of the leaves ( more on that in a few weeks) is a much anticipated event - by this transplant to the Mid-West .


We also look forward to apple picking , check out the photos from last years adventure :
This of course is then followed, by the big decision as to which pumpkin to carve .....hhhmmmm
So , my girls definitely enjoyed the adventure and eagerly await this years expedition .
Food at this time becomes a comfort and an opportunity to savour the last of the summer bounty , tomatoes, zucchini and corn .  My zebra tomatoes are still struggling to ripen ........ I have a great recipe to share with you in my next post a little twist on "fried green tomatoes" .
And a postcript to all that have enquired , I will start posting recipes on my blog very soon .