Sunday, July 24, 2016

Tomato Feta Salad

I spotted this simple & delicious salad on The Kitchn's website (via their Facebook feed).   I've made it three times in a few weeks- I really love it.  It contains tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, red onions, kalamata olives, feta, fresh basil & mint, and dill weed.  (Fresh would be good but I used dried cuz I had no fresh.)  The recipe calls for putting the salad on a platter to serve, leaving the juices behind, but I serve it all together, to let people decide if they want some of the flavorful juices or not.
The first time, we enjoyed it with rice and grilled Cilantro-Jalapeno pork chops.  It was a delicious combo.  It's a great summer dish and I love the flavor so much.  (Soak the onions in cold water while you're chopping the other veggies to take the bite out of them.)
Tomato Feta Salad
adapted from the Kitchn

1/2 red onion
1 pound tomatoes, about 2 large, 1 red and 1 orange
1 clove garlic
Flaky sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1.  Finely slice the red onion and put the slices in a bowl of cold water while cutting up the rest of the vegetables, 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized chunks. Drain the onion and pat dry.

2.  Place the garlic, a pinch of salt, and the vinegar into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking.

3.  Add the red onion, red pepper, cucumber, olives, and herbs. Add the tomatoes and feta, and toss gently to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve (with a slotted spoon if desired).
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Peach Cobbler

We loved this peach cobbler- I made it twice in two weeks recently, with good fresh Italian peaches. The second time, I ran out of peaches, and used half nectarines, which worked very well.  It tastes just like summer.  Love it.  I like the biscuit topping because it contains buttermilk.  The recipe calls for cake flour, but I usually don't have that on hand, so I used regular flour minus 2 teaspoons.  It worked well.

Peach Cobbler
adapted from Cooking Classy

Peach filling
3-4 lbs fresh peaches (firm but ripe) peeled, cored and sliced
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp (8g) cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

3/4 cup (94g) cake flour (or regular flour minus 2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup (106g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tbsp (143g) unsalted butter, cold and diced into small cubes
1 cup (235ml) buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp granulated sugar, for spinkling over top
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

1.  For the filling:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter (or use cooking spray) a 13 by 9 by 2 3/4-inch baking dish, then pour peaches into baking dish and toss with lemon juice. In a small mixing bowl whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and the nutmeg. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over peaches then toss to evenly coat, set aside.

2.  For the topping:  Sift cake flour into a large mixing bowl. Add in all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk 20 seconds. Cut butter into flour with a fork or pastry cutter until it resembles coarse meal then make a well in center of mixture. Mix vanilla with buttermilk then pour buttermilk mixture into well in flour and stir with a spoon just until combined (don't over-mix, it should be lumpy). Dollop and just lightly spread spoonfuls of the mixture evenly over top of peaches (it will seem like there's not quite enough but it will bake up nice and fluffy and fill up the pan). 

3.  Whisk together remaining 1 Tbsp sugar with 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or just use 1 Tbsp cinnamon-sugar) and sprinkle evenly over top. Bake in preheated oven until topping is golden brown and set and and filling is bubbling well, about 40 - 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool several minutes before spooning into bowls. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
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Monday, July 11, 2016

Moroccan-Spiced Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Cucumber Salad

I saw this delicious-looking chicken recipe on David Lebovitz's blog recently and made it soon after. I couldn't find the flatbread I wanted, and I didn't want to make it myself, so I picked up a few packages of Italian "Piadina" bread- it's like a large wrap bread.  It's really, really large, lol; I had to cut them in half for dinner.  (Usually I can find "Arabic Flatbread" here locally but I couldn't find it anymore.  Just use your favorite flatbread.  Homemade Naan bread would be great too.)
You make the chicken yogurt marinade ahead and let everything sit in the fridge for a while.  I made my own Moroccan spice mixture- Ras El Hanout, from a recipe I found online.  Then I made cucumber-feta salad from David Lebovitz.  I didn't even realize, until I was making it, that I've made the Cuke Salad before, a lot!  It's one of my favorite things.  I make it differently, usually, with tomatoes and olives added.

Moroccan-Spiced Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Cucumber Salad
adapted from David Lebovitz

6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, peeled
3/4 cup (180g) whole milk plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 teaspoons Ras el Hanout spice mix, recipe below (I just used the whole mixture)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2-pounds (900g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 1/4-inch (4cm) pieces

1. Finely mince the garlic. Grate the onion with the large holes of a grater. (Alternately, you can cut the garlic and onion into smaller pieces and finely chop them together in a mini-chopper- I used a mini food processor.) Put onions and garlic in a large zip-top freezer bag. You may also put them in a medium bowl and marinade the chicken in the bowl.

2. Mix in the yogurt, lemon juice, Ras el Hanout, salt, black pepper, paprika, red pepper, and chicken. Before you close the bag, push most of the air out of it, then seal the bag. Massage the chicken pieces so that they are all covered. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

3. To cook, thread the chicken pieces on 4 to 6 skewers. Light the grill until the heat until it’s very hot. Brush the grill with a bit of oil and grill the skewers on one side until they are seared with grill marks, about 4 or 5 minutes, then turn the skewers and grill until the chicken is cooked through. They’ll take about 8-9 minutes, total. If you don’t have a grill, you can make these in a lightly oiled grill pan on the stovetop.

4. Serve with pita or flatbread and the Cucumber Feta Salad, recipe below.  

Ras el Hanout 
adapted from Epicurious

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1.  In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients until combined well. Spice blend keeps in an airtight container at cool room temperature 1 month. (Use the whole amount for the chicken recipe.)

Cucumber Feta Salad Recipe
adapted from David Lebovitz

1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into pea-sized pieces (I shredded it in my food processor)
coarse salt
8 ounces (225g) feta cheese (I used 6 oz- what I had)
1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, peeled and finely-diced (optional)
1 tablespoon (each) chopped fresh mint, parsley and fresh dill

1. Place the cucumber pieces in a colander, mix with a light sprinkling salt, and let drain 30 minutes to an hour, shaking the colander from time to time. (If you choose to shred it instead, you can skip this and squeeze out water with your hands.)

2. Crumble the feta into a bowl and mash together with the olive oil, lemon juice, water, and a few turns of black pepper.

3. Mix in the cucumbers, onions, and herbs. Taste, and add more salt if desired.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Easy Peanut Butter Brownies

I'm calling these Easy PB Brownies because the recipe just uses cocoa powder- no melting of chocolates or anything, and they're still so good and fudgy!!  I love these.  I just took the recent Snickers Brownie Recipe, left out the Snickers, and was left with delicious PB brownies. (You could also use Biscoff or Nutella in place of the PB).

Easy Peanut Butter Brownies
adapted from here

1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Place butter in medium saucepan on the stove. Heat over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; stir until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Drop dollops of peanut butter over the batter. Using a knife or skewer, swirl peanut butter into brownies. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (Mine were perfect in 25 minutes- 35 would have ruined them. Check them early.) Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares and serve.
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Thursday, June 30, 2016

San Marino (the country)

Back in May, we went to the tiny country of San Marino for a day.  (We stayed at a beach town in Italy for a few nights and just took a day trip to San Marino.)  San Marino is a tiny country located within Italy, about 10 kilometers from the Adriatic coast.  It's located entirely on a little mountain. We drove up to the top and parked at either parking lot 6 or 7.  It was almost full, but we waited a few minutes and got a parking spot!  Miracle.  This was a cool, foggy day in May; I'd hate to see July or August.  We walked around the town, around one of the castle towers, and took in the views.

We stopped at a little outdoor market area with booths. At the honey stand, we sampled some honey, bought it, and asked the lady selling it where to find good food, since everything was so touristy. She recommended a place, we went, had good food, and were happy.  :)
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Friday, June 24, 2016

Mulberry, Raspberry & Blueberry Freezer Jam

In a grocery store parking lot around here, there are a few big mulberry trees.  They have sweet fruit; there are a lot of mulberry trees around here where the fruit is more sour/tasteless.  My neighbor said the sour ones are called "white mulberries".  But I forgot what the "sweet" ones are called.  Anyway, the sweet ones are more rare here.  There's wild white trees up around where I live, but I went to the grocery store parking lot recently and harvested some there.  I wanted to make jam.  I knew I didn't get enough to make a batch, so I bought some fresh raspberries to use as well.  It turns out I didn't have enough of those, either, so I threw in a few blueberries.  Hence, mulberry, raspberry and blueberry jam was born.  :)

Mulberry, Raspberry & Blueberry Freezer Jam
adapted from Ball

mulberries, raspberries and blueberries- enough to equal 1 2/3 cups crushed fruit
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin (pic below)

1.  Crush fruit.  Crush one layer at a time using a potato masher.  A large dinner plate works well to set it on as you're crushing.  Measure out exactly 1 2/3 cups of crushed fruit.

2.  Stir sugar and pectin together in a large bowl. Add crushed fruit; stir three minutes.  Ladle into clean freezer containers and let stand 30 minutes.  Store in the fridge.  If storing longer than 2 weeks, store in the freezer.  Enjoy.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Italian-Style Hot Chocolate

I love getting hot chocolate here at a pastry shop or cafe.  It's super thick, like melted chocolate, and tastes amazing.  Some cafes use a mix, so I love finding places that make it from scratch.  One can buy the mix here, and I always have that on hand so we can whip it up at home, and it's pretty good, but I wanted to try to make some "real" stuff.  (You always use milk to make Italian hot chocolate mix, never water, like mixes in the US.  Preferably whole milk!)  (Btw- it's been cool and rainy here lately so this hot chocolate hit the spot yesterday, even though it's June!)

This is made with good-quality dark chocolate (I used Ritter Sport, which is German... lol!), milk, sugar, and cornstarch.  The recipe called for cinnamon, but I've never tasted that in local hot chocolate, so I left it out.  There's not much sugar, but it was still a little too sweet, so I'd reduce it next time and play around with the amounts.
Italian-Style Hot Chocolate
adapted from 12 Tomatoes
Serves 2; easily cut in half to serve 1

4 oz. dark chocolate, shaved (I used 50% cacao Rittersport)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon sugar (try a little less at first)
3/4 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
whipped cream, optional

1.  Place shaved chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and add 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract.  Use a wooden spoon to stir chocolate as it begins to melt.  Slowly add remaining milk and continuing stirring until completely smooth.

2.  Add in sugar, cornstarch, and sea salt, and stir until everything is dissolved and combined.  Use a whisk to keep it smooth.  As it heats up, it will start to thicken.  It needs to thicken enough to coat the back of a metal spoon.  You can bring to a low simmer if needed- mine thickened without simmering. It's supposed to be thick and smooth.  

3.  Pour into 2 mugs (top with whipped cream if desired) and serve immediately.
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