Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ratatouille Tart

The moment I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. Oh my, this was SOOOOO good! I have no words to describe how tasty and yummy this tart is!
I made it today for lunch and just had to come here and post the recipe to share with you guys.
Cornmeal-Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart is full of delicious vegetables that are slightly roasted before the tart is assembled, which makes them moist and gives the tart a rich taste at the same time.
Super good, seriously, I looooved this recipe! The cornmeal crust was simple to make and very easy to work with, plus it was delicious! The corn taste complemented the vegetables really well, it was almost as if corn was another veggie in there; the crust was crispy all over, even on the bottom. Pre-baking the crust ensured it turned out crunchy and not soggy, even though the vegetables were nice and moist. Oh, and the recipe says to use a food processor, but since I don't have one I made my dough by hand and it turned out great (again, so yummy!!!).
Matheus loved this as well and even asked if I could repeat the recipe again this weekend! Yay! If I have everything on hand by Saturday, then why not, right?!!
As usual, I followed the recipe but made a few alterations based on what I had at home, but this time they were very minor changes: I used a mix of leeks and onions instead of shallots, and added some garlic to this sauteed onion thing; also, fontina cheese was used instead of mozzarella, and since I did not have fresh basil I sprinkled the veggies with a dried Italian herb mix. Oh, and for the crust I used 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and will do it again, as the crust turned out very flavorful this way.
I don't believe my changes were too significant in terms of altering the flavors at the end as the major ingredients were all in there, but I am pretty sure this would taste even better with the fresh basil in it. One thing I did was to sprinkle a bit of salt on each layer of veggies, before adding the remaining ingredients on top, just to make sure that each layer would get the proper amount of seasonings.
We really enjoyed this recipe today! It is perfect for a light lunch, although after 3 pieces I ended up not feeling as light as I should!

Cornmeal-Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart
(Recipe by Ellie Krieger)

2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
Cooking spray
1/2 pound thinly sliced eggplant rounds (about 1/3 medium eggplant)
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds (about 8 ounces)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine cornmeal, pastry flour, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to incorporate. Add butter and oil and pulse about 20 times, until mixture resembles small pebbles. Add water and pulse until mixture forms a loose dough. Remove dough from processor and press into bottom and about 1/8-inch up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a detachable rim. Press aluminum foil into the bottom and sides of the pan on top of the dough and weigh down with uncooked rice or pie weights. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove rice and foil. Return to oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until no longer shiny and wet. Remove from oven and let cool.

For the filling: Increase the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat; saute shallots until soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Spray 2 baking trays with cooking spray. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini and tomato slices on the trays in a single layer and brush with the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and roast the vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove the vegetables from oven and cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Lay the eggplant slices in 2 layers on the bottom of tart; cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese and some of the shredded basil. Add the zucchini and shallots, top with another 1/3 of the mozzarella and basil, then the tomatoes. Top with rest of the mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and vegetables have further wilted. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ice Cream Torte

This was one of the goodies I made while visiting my family on our last trip to Brazil. It is a very creamy and yummy molded ice cream dessert that went very well with the hot days we were getting while there. Everyone really enjoyed this treat, so I thought I would share it here with you all!
Yummy and creamy (and sweet too!), a sweetened condensed milk ice cream sort of concoction, what is not to like about this one, huh?!! Make it soon or save the recipe for the summer, whichever is the case I am pretty sure most people will like this too!

Ice Cream Torte

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream, chilled (for those in Brazil, use a can of very cold “crème de leite”)
3 eggs, yolk and whites separated
18 tablespoons water
8 tablespoons chocolate mix (such as Nesquick) – you can use cocoa if you prefer
2 tablespoons sugar

First of all, melt about ½ cup sugar in a small saucepan under low flame until it turns into caramel. Carefully pour the caramel on a bundt (those with the hole in the middle) pan, moving it around so that the caramel coats the bottom of the pan completely.
Set the pan aside, and while the caramel sets up put the sugar, water, and cocoa (or chocolate powder of choice) in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute, remove from heat and pour the chocolate sauce over the caramel on the already prepared bundt pan. Put the bundt pan in the freezer.

To make the ice cream: In a saucepan mix together the condensed milk, the milk, and the 3 egg yolks. Cook it over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches a boil. Remove from heat and let it cool (don’t worry; it will be sort of a thin mixture).
Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until soft peaks, gradually add 4 tablespoons of sugar and keep beating until stiff peaks are reached.
As the first mixture has cooled, mix into it the heavy cream and then fold in the egg white meringue, carefully mix the two together until everything is incorporated.
Pour this ice cream mixture into the prepared bundt pan and return it to the freezer. Let it freeze at least for 4 hours. When ready to serve, take the pan from the freezer and let it defrost a little (about 10 minutes should be enough), or you can set the bottom of the pan on some how water, just so that it will be easy for the ice cream to be released from the pan. Invert the pan onto a platter to unmold the ice cream and serve.

Note: I tried to explain the method of preparation for this dish but I am not sure I was clear enough, so if you have any doubts please contact me and I can try to explain better. It is not difficult to make!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Stuffed Peppers

It sounds funny, but I believe that almost everyone who cooks on a frequent basis has a recipe for stuffed peppers. I am one of those and I have got to say that I literally threw my old recipe away after making this version last week.
I liked it a LOT and was not the only one to give it five stars at our home. Matheus loved it and made sure I saved the leftovers for him, and my husband could not stop saying that this was definitely a good recipe that I should save and make again.
Yay, lunch that day was definitely a success!!
And the recipe is simple to make, not much fuss and you have yourself a very nutritious and delicious meal in no time! (not counting the baking time, of course...!)
I loved the idea of using bulgur in the filling, it gave the meat a great taste and texture as well. And the addition of spinach and zucchini added a bonus of veggies and vitamins to the dish.
I sort of followed the recipe and made my own alterations, but and am posting the original one here for you all.
The things I did different was to use ground Turkey instead of beef, and I adapted the quantities for the three of us, making 4 stuffed pepper halves (1 was saved for Matheus to have the next day!!). Also, I used my favorite pasta sauce for the tomatoes part (just poured the sauce over the peppers had been stuffed), and added about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce to the meat mixture as I didn't want the filling to be too dry (although the zucchini does add some moisture to it too!).
I also blanched my peppers for a couple of minutes, just to make sure they would be on the softer side after baked, and they came out just perfect for us, husband even mentioned that (yes, he really liked the recipe too!). And since I had boiled some water, I dropped a little ball of meat mixture in it to cook, just so that I could taste the seasonings and see if it had enough salt and spices in it. Easy to taste and help you adjust the seasonings to your like.
We had ours with brown rice since it was cold outside and we wanted a nice homemade meal to warm us up, but I am pretty sure a green salad on the side would also be great with this.
This was definitelly the best stuffed pepper I have had (Husband said that too!), and it will be repeated here for sure. And if you end up trying, I hope you like it as much as we did!

Greek Style Stuffed Peppers
(Recipe by Ellie Krieger)

1 pound lean ground beef
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
1 small onion, minced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup bulghur
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, cores and ribs removed
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans low-sodium stewed tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese ( I used goat cheese which was what I had on hand. It was delicious with goat cheese!!)

Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl combine the beef, spinach, zucchini, onion, bulghur, egg, oregano, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix until thoroughly combined.
Arrange the pepper halves cut side up in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and fill each pepper half with the meat mixture. Pour the tomatoes over the peppers and sprinkle with the feta cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the meat mixture is completely cooked and the peppers are tender, about 25 minutes longer.
Yield: 6 servings.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

As with other holidays Valentine's Day has also turned into something more commercial than anything else, plus everyday is supposed to be a time for showing our fondness for the closest ones. However, who doesn't like celebrations, and being remembered by getting a lovely card?
There is always room for some love, and a heart filled day is certainly always welcome at our home!
By the way, the little hearts on the picture above were some croûtons I made to have with our "romantic" fondue dinner for three (we all love one another, so why not include Matheus in the fun, right?!), so yummy and cheesy, just perfect for the cold days we have been getting lately! (You can get my favorite fondue recipe here)
Ohh, and look what I got from my dear husband, he couldn't have gotten me a better bouquet!
I love him SO MUCH!!
Hope you all had a great and lovely time today too!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Guess what?!
A couple weeks outside my sweet home and guess what was the first thing I whipped up in my beloved kitchen??? Muffins, of course!
I have said it before, and don't get tired of repeating, I love muffins!! It is so easy and quick to make it, and you can fill them up with all sorts of yummy and healthy things, what is not to like!?!?!
Two days after we got home I just had to make something and whipped up a batch of Apricot Muffins for breakfast! They turned out really good, not very sweet just as we like, and the apricots were just right on, smooth texture and the right amount of fruity sweetness to the little cakes. I got a little inspired when making them and decided to throw in some white chocolate chips I had in the pantry and let me tell you, the white chocolate complemented the apricot flavor really well, I would certainly add the chips when making these muffins again.
They were delicious warm right out of the oven, however they got a little on the dry side after sitting for a day. We had them the next day with a warm glass of milk and it was no problem at all, just as good, but warming the muffins before eating is actually a good idea... I just didn't do it because we are still microwaveless.
Oh, and besides providing us with a nice whole wheat breakfast treat, the muffins also gave me a chance to try my little silicone muffin cups, which by the way worked perfectly well!!

Whole Wheat Apricot Muffins
(Adapted from Cooking Light)

cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons grated orange rind ( I omitted, didn't have at home)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, sugar, orange rind, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, butter, vanilla, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in apricots.
Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pan, and place on a wire rack.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

We are back home, but a little piece of our hearts is still in Brazil...
It is not easy to come back, every time is the same thing, sad, the goodbye at the airport is hard, and then we get home and there is this huge feeling that we are already desperately missing our family that stayed behind...
But, life is going on, now and here, so we have to take a deep breath and keep going, happy and more than anything, strong.
The trip to Brazil was great!!! We had a ton of fun, spent our time exclusively with our family members, and ate a lot of yummy Brazilian foods!
We brought back with us not only a bag full of Brazilian goodies that will help us stay connected for the months to come, but also a lot of good memories from the awesome time we had there!
It was sunny and warm, the peak of summertime. We went to the pool, had lots of fresh fruit juices, ice cream, and even had time to go fishing with my dad, as you can see above!
This time though I didn't cook much... 21 days was definitely not enough to do all I wanted to, but it certainly was fun. I made a few things while there, some I photographed, but a few others I forgot... including two yummy cakes that I will definitely make again here at home and share the recipe here for sure.
And talking about pictures, here are some of them:

This is a dessert that is as easy to make as it is delicious to eat! It is called "Torta de Sorvete" or Ice Cream Pie, a creamy summertime concoction that everyone enjoyed!

These little cookies brought us back wonderful memories as we sat down to eat them with some coffee. It is a recipe from my grandmother that I haven had in many years... You need real cream from cow's milk (called "Nata" in Brazil) to make them. Nowadays not many people have fresh cow's milk, so it is hard to collect the "nata", but one of my aunts has a cow in her farm and saved some for me so we could make these delicious "Nata Cookies" again! Ohhh, how much I miss my grandma...

One of my Dad's favorite desserts (after Rice Pudding!), Bread Pudding, Brazilian style of course!

Another great moment of my stay in Brazil was a few days before I returned, when I met Karen (from Kafkanapraia) and Miki (from coisascabecagorda). It was super cool! I loved meeting them, they were very nice and we had a great time talking and eating all the delicious things they made! Miki made a wonderful fruit salad with gelatin and vodka that I could not stop eating and can't wait to make myself, and with so many cookies and cakes I didn't even get a chance to try Karen's great looking cocoa cake, which I will also make here at home soon!
Miki was a great host and Karen was such a delicate girl; I had the best time that afternoon learning more about two of the many friends I made through my beloved Kitchen Space!

And can you believe that besides all the yummy goodies I even got little gifts!?! Aren't they really nice?!?!
Thanks Karen and Miki for such a nice time! I just can't wait to go back to Brazil and see you both again!

All in all we had a wonderful time in Brazil, among family and friends, what else can you ask for right?!!
Today I went back to the kitchen and already whipped up two new recipes that turned out really good and will certainly be posted this week to come, and I will also post a few of the recipes from the pictures above! By the way, I have them in both languages, so if my Brazilian friends want them in Portuguese, just let me know!