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Caramelized Onion Tart with Brûléed Gruyère

KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch) tart. Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer course.

Ingredients:

  • 240 g sweet onions, thinly skiced
  • 15 g butter
  • 15 mL cognac
  • 2 large eggs
  • 30 mL milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 60 g gruyère cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 single pie crust, blind baked

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Heat the butter in a pan until melted, add onions and cook until caramel in colour. Deglaze pan with cognac, set aside.
  3. Whisk to combine eggs, milk, nutmeg and season.
  4. Spread cooked onions into the pie crust evenly, pour in the egg mixture and bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Cover the tart with Gruyère and continue to bake until cheese is melted and somewhat brûléed. Cover crust with foil if getting too dark.
  6. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Almond Flour Pie Crust

Makes one 20 cm (8 inch)  pie crust.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 8 g psyllium husk, ground
  • 30 g unsalted butter, cold
  • 30 mL egg whites
  • 20 g toasted sesame seeds
  • Salt

Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
    2. Add everything but the sesame seeds to your food processor and pulse to make a soft dough. Remove and gently kneed in the sesame seeds.
    3. Roll between 2 sheets of parchment paper to fit a 20 cm (8 inch) tart pan. Press into the pan and up the sides evenly. Dock the pastry well.
    4. Blind bake the tart shell for 12-15 minutes, covering the sides if they bake too quickly.

During our first major grocery shopping when we arrived in Spain, JT bought some frozen ready-made Tuna Empanadas. I was excited because we love tuna and we love empanadas and we had never had tuna empanadas. Sadly, we were extremely disappointed, the quality just wasn’t there. The filling was mainly tomato sauce with nary a taste of tuna. But I got the taste of empanada in my head and I knew eventually, I would need to make some.

I made most of our meals during our time in Spain. And when I did, I made double or triple batches so that we could have a quick lunch or dinner after a tiring day of exploring. The European refrigerator in our flat has three good-size freeezer drawers to store home-made meals. At home in Toronto, I make these traditional Chilean empanada made with beef and pork; years ago a friend and neighbour kindly showed my Mom how to make and it’s been family favourite ever since. But in Spain, beef is not as common so I decided to use Chicken. I didn’t grind the chicken (no meat grinder) but I roughly chopped it into smallish chunks so that you can still get a chicken texture as you eat the empanada. Another option would be to roast it and shred it.

The winds on the Med had increased to about 45 km per hour, which made sitting outside nearly impossible. In fact, I was worried the wind would pick up the empanada and steal it away!

Empanadas de Pollo (Chicken Empanada)

Makes 6 large empanadas

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 90 g onions, roughly chopped
  • 12 g roasted puréed garlic
  • 433 – 450 g skinless chicken breast, roughly chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 10 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 200 g frozen mixed vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 3 g cumin
  • 1 g smoked paprika
  • 3 sheets puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator
  • 1 egg, whisked with 30 mL water

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent. 
  2. Add the chicken and stir to cook evenly. Cook all the way through.
  3. Add the roasted garlic, cumin and cook stirring until fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the drained frozen vegetables, black olives and dates. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool completely.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each puff pastry sheet to 20 cm x 40 cm and cut in half, then cut each half into a 20 cm circle, reserve pastry ends for the fancy finish.
  5. Brush all around the edges with the egg wash. Fill one half of the round with 1/6th of the cooked, cooled chicken mixture leaving about 2 cm all the way around the edge and then fold half to create a crescent, pressing down the edges to seal.
  6. Brush the top of the empanada with the egg wash. Finish edges into a fancy design (I used the left-over pastry and made it into a rope design). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.
  7. Continue with remaining ingredients until you have 6 meal-sized empanadas. 
  8. Freeze for future use or bake at 400° F until pastry is golden.
  9. Serve with a lightly dressed salad.
The vegetables are also unusual for empanadas, but we like veggies so I added them!

Notes:

  • Traditional Chilean Empanadas are made with golden raisins but believe it or not, I was not able to find any type of raisins in our little village so I used dates. This is not a sweet dish, the dates or raisins just add a bit of sweetness so taste your dates or raisins and determine how many you will use depending on how sweet they are. The dates I used were not the same sweetness that the dates I buy in North America, so I used ten, but you may need to reduce it if you use the super sweet kind. 
  • I used puff pastry because my little kitchen in Spain is ill-equipped and very small. You can use this recipe for pastry but I am unsure of how well-fitting the proportions of filling to pastry will be. You can always freeze extra pastry in a ziplock bag.

Stroopwafels

I was introduced to Stroopwafels last summer when I assisted for a Tangerine Bank commercial. These gorgeous, sweet, caramel-filled wafers are served in Belgium and Holland with coffee or tea. They are generally a little hard so they are placed over a hot beverage so the steam could soften them.

I purchased my pizzelle maker in a wonderful little kitchen store in Brussels where I was totally lost for at least an hour; I was fully aware that the pizzelle maker was almost a kilogram (2 pounds) — at least 2 pairs of shoes. These delicious cookies were definitely worth it (but don’t tell JT)!

Stroopwafels

Makes about 50 stroopwaffles (25 filled) various sizes in diameter

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 8 g active dry yeast
  • 2 g ground cinnamon 
  • 150 g sugar 
  • 125 g cold unsalted butter, cubbed
  • 100 ml warm milk 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In the large bowl of your food processor, pulse the flour, yeast, cinnamon, salt and sugar until well combined.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the texture resembles small peas.
  3. Whisk the warm milk with the eggs and slowly pour into the flour mixture pulsing until a soft ball is achieved.
  4. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand a few minutes. Cover in plastic film and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Roll the dough out to about 1 mm and cut into just slightly smaller than pizzelle-size rounds.
  6. Heat your iron according to instructions. Place one round in the middle, press down the top lid and bake each waffle for approximately 16 seconds, flipping the iron over at 8 seconds.
  7. Carefully remove from the iron and lay flat to cool. Repeat to cook each round.
  8. When cool fill with a dollop caramel sauce (recipe below).

Ingredients for the caramel filling:

  • 260 g light brown sugar 
  • 200 g unsalted butter 
  • 5 g ground cinnamon 
  • 100 mL corn syrup
  • 25 mL vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine the sugar and the butter, stirring slowly over a low heat. Add the cinnamon and the corn syrup and continue to stir until the caramel comes together and slowly bubbles (220F, softball stage). Add the vanilla extract and stir it in. Keep the caramel warm.

Notes:

  • I understand that true stroopwafels must be split and filled with the caramel, however, this pizzelle maker flattened them too much and splitting was impossible. Authentic Stroopwaffels are split when hot and filled. If you can make authentic stroopwafels you have to work fast to split each one while the waffle is hot. The moment it cools, it will break so make sure you have all the items you need within reach.
  • To evenly heat your pizzelle mould, place it over the heat and flip every 2 minutes until it has reached around 350°F.

How are you? It’s a question that has gained more substance than it garnered in the past. We used to ask it in passing, often not even thinking about the answer, which was usually, “fine”. Our answers have become more thoughtful because now we are genuinely asking. Making sure everyone is “fine” is the only way of taking care of one another at this time.

I honestly miss cooking for my friends and family. Oh sure, I’ve baked a few care-packages, but it’s not the same as sharing a meal you’ve laboured over with love. Sharing your home, a meal, or a drink with people you love. This blog also allows me to share, I thank you for kind words and support during this unparalleled time. So how are you?

I’ve been cooking a lot. It makes my day more interesting and we really look forward to the meals which have become more of a focus these days. It also makes me think of all the wonderful times we’ve shared meals with friends and family.

Several years ago we met up with friends in Almeria, we were staying one night and then driving to my cousin’s flat in San José. We stumbled upon Joseba Anorga Taberna quite by accident and had one of many memorable meals that time in Spain. One of the tapas we ordered was a seared scallop in a creamy corn velouté and it was incredibly delicious. The unexpected combination of sweet corn and sweet scallops hit our tastes perfectly. I filed it in my recipe vault in my head and in 2018, I recreated the dish and it did not disappoint.

Scallop wrapped in Iberian bacon bathed in a corn emulsion

Fast forward to our 2020 Spanish adventure to one of our favourite tapas tabernas in Almeria where we had a marvellous creamy rice dish with mushrooms. It was delicious, creamy, cheesy and absolutely more-ish. Upon our return to Toronto, I wanted to recreate the dish but I had scallops and corn on my mind, so I reinvented it.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto from Casa Paquita in Almeria.

I had also filed a wonderful cauliflower risotto recipe that my friend David (Fine Dining at Home) posted in 2012. He recreated a Heston Blumenthal recipe where Heston made a really flavourful stock using the cauliflower end cuts and I wondered if corn-stock would have a similar effect on the risotto. It sure did! Of course, because my dish had scallops in it, I skipped the cheese and used the creamed corn velouté from the stock to add more creaminess to the disk. You could also add a splash of cream or butter.

Creamy Corn Risotto with Bay Scallops

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2 for a main course or 4 for an appetizer course.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g frozen corn see notes)
  • ~250 mL water
  • Pinch of salt
  • ~250 mL chicken bone broth (or the amount that would yield 500 mL corn broth in total)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 75 g sweet onion, finely minced
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • 120 g La Bomba Rice
  • 30 g clarified butter
  • 200 g bay scallops

Directions:

  1. To make the corn broth, bring the frozen corn, water and salt to a simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. Strain and reserve both the corn and broth separately. Reserve 70 g corn kernals, set aside.
  2. Add the chicken bone broth to the corn broth to make 500 mL stock and heat to a simmer.
  3. Purée the cooked corn (minus the 70 g) from the corn broth and press through a fine sieve. Reserve.
  4. Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic. Add the dry rice and toast, stirring for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the warm broth 125 mL at a time, stirring constantly, adding additional broth as the rice absorbs it. The rice should be tender with a small bite to it and it should be creamy but not soupy. This process will take about 25 minutes. Add the puréed corn and stir well. Turn the heat off, cover and set aside.
  6. Dry the bay scallops well. Heat the butter in a cast-iron frying pan, add the scallops to the pan but do not crowd, we want seared scallops not steamed!
  7. When the scallops have cooked fully, add to the risotto and stir. Plate.

Notes:

  • Grilled corn would have been better but we were still on lock-down when I made this dish. Grilled corn cobs would have made excellent stock.
  • Bacon would have been a nice addition, I had actually forgotten I had some in the freezer, next time.

Liege Waffles

While we were in Spain, we decided to subject ourselves to a little winter reality-check and travelled to Belgium and Holland. I can hear the gasps but there was good reason and some misplaced trust in our decision:

  1. The first is misplaced trust: the LiePhone weather app said it was 10° C (50° F) more or less. It couldn’t have been further from the truth, it was 2° C to 5° C (35.6° F to 41° C) with heavy winds that made it seem like -5° C (23° F)! And it rained. Like cats and dogs! Unpleasant doesn’t even cut it!
  2. The good reason was that blogger-friend Stefan (of Stefan’s Gourmet blog) lives in Amsterdam and invited us to a gourmet meal in his lovely home. Definitely worth the blistering winds and Arctic temperatures.

There were a few things on our bucket list which included site-seeing and food-eating and we managed some but the weather put a bit of a damper on things. For Amsterdam, Stefan kindly outlined some excellent restaurants (his suggestions we’re some of the best food in our Northern European adventure) and markets where he focused on ”must-try” delicacies. Unfortunately, we really wimped-out on the open air market delicacies. We managed to walk around the Albert Cuyp Market in teeming rain for 30-minutes but we’re unsuccessful in finding the perfect salted herring sandwich stand (which I still regret). We did buy some lovely cheese to bring home from another market, so that made me happy (although it seriously challenged our carry-on weight restriction).

Since we were going to Amsterdam, we decided to pop into Belgium for a few days because we’ve always wanted to go. First Bruges and lastly Brussels. Of course, there was the Liege Waffle on my bucket list in Belgium. We ate very well, so well in fact, that any time an opportunity arose to sample a Liege Waffle, we were just too full! Deep regret still haunts me. But I was able to further challenge my carry-on weight with the purchase of a bag of Belgium Pearl Sugar!

My history with the Liege Waffle started in June 2016 when I read dear Lorraine’s post (Not Quite Nigella) of Australia’s first Nutella road trip! The recipe was, of course: Liege Waffles! A Liege waffle is made of a brioche dough dotted with Belgian Pearl Sugar; these surprisingly dense, chewy waffles are wrapped in a divinely crunchy, caramelized crust. You had me at chewy and caramelized!

Lorraine’s recipe creates 12 waffles but I really didn’t want such an abundance of temptation in the house, so I cut it to six. Don’t bother making these without Belgian pearl sugar, it’s just not the same. Belgian pearl sugar melts at a very high temperature so it’s perfect for decorating baked goods.

Liege Waffles

Makes 6 waffles

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon instant dried yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 30 mL milk, warmed to 110F
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 56 g butter, melted and cooled for a few minutes
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 150-175 g plain all-purpose flour
  • 95 g Belgian pearl sugar
  • 25 g butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Whisk together the yeast, sugar and milk and allow to sit for about 10 minutes until frothy. Whisk the yeast mixture with the egg, melted butter, honey, vanilla and salt.
  2. Add 150 g flour to the bowl of your stand mixer and add the yeast mixture to it, and knead with the dough hook to combine. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Then continue to knead for 4-5 minutes adding the remaining flour (if necessary) to make a smooth dough if it’s still shaggy (think brioche dough), mine was fine.
  3. Cover and allow to rest in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
  4. Into the dough, knead in 50 g of the Belgian pearl sugar, reserving the remaining sugar to coat the exterior prior to cooking. Divide the dough into six equal pieces, cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. To cook, heat your waffle iron when hot brush generously with butter. Slightly flatten each dough ball and dot each round with 1/6th of the remaining pearl sugar. Place flattened dough onto the iron, close and cook for xx minutes or until interior temperature of the waffle is 220° F.
  6. Carefully remove and keep warm. Repeat until you’ve cooked the lot.
  7. To serve, sprinkle icing sugar over the waffles.

Notes:

  • At step 3, you may rest the dough, covered in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
  • I cut the Belgian pearl sugar quantity in half and it was pleanty.

We ate lunch at 4 Nudos at the Port in San José, Spain. You may see a trend here of luncheon restaurants in Spain, it is because we eat too early and nothing is ever open at 7:30 (17:30) in the evening for dinner (they open at 9-9:30 which is far too late for us to eat). We have eaten at 4 Nudos many times and it’s always busy because it is a local favourite and it’s a destination restaurant.

4 Nudos is known for its seafood; they don’t serve meat, period. The port side restaurant is tastefully decorated with a seaside theme but the main focus is the view of the port through the open wall, the inside just flows outside seamlessly. We have dined on their delightful Paella (takes about 20 minutes to make) and other seafood delicacies but for our most recent lunch, we ate Tuna Tartare and the Tuna Tataki.

They began our meal with a lovely amuse bouche of phyllo-wrapped torpedo shrimp with a creamy fresh cheese sauce (sorry, forgot to snap a pic) and some wonderful warm bread.

I ordered the Tuna Tartare (~20 €) which was beautifully presented and delicious. It was lightly dressed in a creamy mayo and tossed with avocado, celery and red onions, wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber. This one is a keeper!

A delicious combination of fresh tuna, perfectly ripe avocado, crunchy celery and crisp red onions; thinly sliced white onions cascade from the tower like a waterfall.

JT ordered the Tuna Tataki. To say this was a generous portion would be an understatement. It was at least 250 g or more! There were perfectly roasted vegetables served alongside with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. The lemon wedge brightened everything up. The tuna had the best sear I have ever seen, still leaving a good part of the insides rare. It was a perfectly executed dish.

The portion size of this dish was huge. I think we may share this next time. The photo is a bit misleading as the lemon wedge is huge too!

We also ordered a little dessert of Almond Flan (~6 €). It was my least favourite of the meal and didn’t have much almond flavour but perhaps it was my misunderstanding, it might have been only almond topped! But the presentation was lovely and I love how the plate reminds me of the Azur colour of the Mediterranean Sea that this lovely restaurant sits near.

I would definitely recommend 4 Nudos in San José, the servers speak just enough English that they understand what we are ordering (although, I do try to pronounce the Spanish menu items). But beware, they have an English menu but it is not up to date and they warn you that things on it may be different or unavailable. It’s best to pull out your phone and Google translate with the picture feature.

Overall rating of 4 Nudos, San José (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4.5/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

As our time in Spain was sadly coming to an end, I had developed a menu plan that utilizes the food we had in our pantry/refrigerator so that there was little to no waste (I didn’t have a group of friends here to have a pantry clean out party with). This was one of those meals.

As most recipes, this one evolved to the posted rendition. We’ve enjoyed this meal a few times in Spain and again during the weeks of isolation upon our return. Now my focus is rationing pantry items and getting a tasty, healthy meal out of a recipe. A few friends have kindly offered to grocery shop for us, for which we have been grateful because the online shopping/delivery services all seem to be a week out! But I don’t want to push their generosity, so I’m rationing the staples. Plus, this is a fantastic opportunity to clean out my Toronto pantry!!!

Mediteranean Tuna Casserole

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g dry Romano Beans, cooked
  • 125 mL greek yogurt
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • Sea salt
  • 100 g celery, sliced thinly
  • 10 black olives, roughly chopped (no pits)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 50 g green onion, thinly sliced
  • 45 g Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 85 g canned tuna, drained
  • Butter, for greasing casserole pan
  • 50 g cheese, grated
  • 50 g bread crumbs, toasted
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • EVOO

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk the greek yogurt with the roasted garlic and salt. Combine the beans with the celery, black olives, red peppers, green onions, feta and tuna, mix well. Add the yogurt and mix well.
  3. Grease a small casserole with a bit of butter. Pour the tuna mixture into the casserole and spread evenly in the pan.
  4. Combine the grated cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley. Spread evenly over the tuna mixture. Drizzle with a little EVOO.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or everything is heated through. Tent with foil if the breadcrumbs are toasting too quickly.
  6. Serve hot.

Notes:

  • This is a meal that I was trying to use up ingredients, if it strikes your fancy, throw caution to the wind and improvise with whatever you have in the fridge/pantry!
  • The first version had rotini pasta which was lovely but I prefer the beans.
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