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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.

Calamares Fritos

We enjoyed a lot of seafood in Spain. But this recipe did not come from our time there, it graced our cocktail table soon after we moved back into our newly renovated bedroom. We were watching a little Jamie Oliver before turning out the lights and the recipe that night was this gem: Crispy Squid and Smashed Avocado. It was a hit the first time I made it, and soon after, I was getting requests to make it again. It is a deep-fried recipe, and you all know how much I love deep-frying, but it is quickly fried and on my first measure of the oil used, I was able to get most of it back after it cooled which means the calamari did not absorb much. Cutting the calamari length-wise instead of in rounds will allow the calamari to curl up like a spring which looks super cool. I paired this tapa with Romesco Sauce and Avocado Cream, and they were both awesome!

Calamares Fritos

To see the original recipe, please click here.

Serves 1-2 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 calamari tube, cleaned and sliced lengthwise to open up
  • 65 g all-purpose flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 L vegetable oil

Ingredients for the Avocado Cream:

  • 1 Avocado
  • pinch of cumin
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 lime, juiced

Ingredients for Serving:

Directions:

  1. Cut the calamari into strips lengthwise (not rings). Add the flour and sea salt to a bowl and toss the calamari strips until well coated.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil to 375° F. Fry the calamari strips 5 at a time until golden. Drain excess oil on kitchen paper.
  3. Meanwhile, mash or cream the avocado with cumin, sea salt and lime juice.
  4. Serve calamari hot with the sauces.

Notes:

  • The calamari will curl into a spring shape as it frys. Shorter ones will curl less.
  • This dish is equally as good with either sauce so if you don’t want two sauces, just go with one.
  • To scale up the dish, just add another calamari tube for each additional person. More than 4 people, double the avocado cream recipe.

This is one of the last recipes I developed in Spain, before we returned to reality on March 12. We’re already talking about two months next year, provided things settle down and the world becomes safe again. JT and I left on the second last plane to Gatwick from Almeria, they cancelled the flights the next day! We are so fortunate in so many ways. We hope everyone is doing well under the circumstances.

I was inspired by Chef David Rocco’s Instagram post but didn’t have some of the spices he used so I improvised, in addition , this was the culmination of my kitchen clean-out. It turned out exceptionally well and can be eaten as breakfast, brunch or lunch. Heck, you can even have it for dinner. It’s quite easy to prep and you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, perfect for veg that may not be at their best.

Eggs in Purgatory Indian-style

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 90 g onions, diced
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 2 g garam masala
  • 2.5 g cumin
  • 1.5 g meat masala
  • 5 g curry powder
  • 250 mL passata
  • 125 mL water
  • 3 g freshly grated ginger
  • 5 mL roasted, puréed garlic
  • 230 g frozen vegetables, defrosted and drained
  • 50 g grilled peppers, diced
  • 2 g fresh Cilantro, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and sauté onions until golden. Add the spices and cook until fragrant. Add the passata and water and mix well. Add the vegetables and cilantro and mix until combined.
  2. Prepare an oven proof dish by rubbing with olive oil or butter. Pour in the vegetables and spread out evenly. Make two large divets in the vegetables and crack on egg into each one.
  3. Bake in a 200C preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your taste.

Our time in Spain seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the short time of our return. In Canada, everything seemed to come to a head the day after we got home!

To put your minds at ease, we were in the province of Almería in my cousin’s little village of San José, some 573 km (356 miles) from Madrid. Our stay took place during low season, many (probably more than half) restaurants and shops were closed for the season and there were very few tourists. My cousin’s flat is in a complex of 14 and the busiest weekend had maybe 5 flats inhabited; during week days there were usually only two inhabited flats and we were one of them! The province of Almería has only 46 confirmed cases to date (March 20 when I wrote this post), we were fortunate. We are into our second week of isolation with no symptoms (I am so relieved). But it’s a moving target and we need to be diligent. Having been away for 40 days we haven’t seen any of our friends so coming home to isolation is emotionally challenging. A big thank you to you, our blogging community, you’re never too far away with a kind word. As we are learning to be virtual with our local friends, it’s comforting to know that our virtual friendships are tried and true.

We had lunch at La Tagliatella in their CC Torrecárdenas, Almería City location just prior to skipping over to Northern Europe. It gets 4.5 stars from Trip Advisor reviewers. The food was excellent and service was good too. Our Spanish is pretty sad so the young woman serving us brought English menus to the rescue, we didn’t even ask.

The restaurant is tastefully decorated in a contemporary Italian style and unless you look out the interior window, you wouldn’t know you are in a mall. There were very few patrons when we dined (at one point it may have been just us!).

We began with a little amuse-bouche that was a cracker topped with fresh cream cheese (sorry, forgot to take a photo).

I had the Carpaccio al Tartufo Bianco (paper-thin slices of veal, with white truffle ice cream and white truffle pearls)(~16 €), it was excellent. It was accompanied by a very large but very thin, grilled bread/cracker with a drizzle of olive oil. It was a little difficult to eat but it was delicious (later during our sojourn in Northern Europe, I discovered that it should have been saturated in olive oil). The carpaccio was doused generously in olive oil and a little too generously peppered; the truffle flavour was mild but enough to enjoy (sometimes it can be too strong). The white truffle ice cream was sweet, which was a bit of a surprise but there was so little of it, it did not impact the enjoyment of the dish.

JT had the Scaloppine (slices of Pork tenderloin in a creamy sauce with mushrooms, fries and vegetables)(~15 €). It didn’t look like much but it was quite delicious. The fries were a nice portion too (quite the opposite of what we became used to in America!).

JT felt like a little sweet after lunch and I felt like an espresso so we ordered the Caffè Gustoso (Coffee with chocolate truffles and a mini tiramisu)(~6 €) which was perfect for sharing (I forgot to take a photo so I took one from their website). The tiramisu was a take on the classic dessert but the pudding itself was quite tasty. The truffles were exceptional.

If you’re looking for a nice Italian meal in Almeria, check out La Tagliatella. They have two locations.

Overall rating of La Tagliatella, Almeria (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, 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.

Miss you Dad. March 23, 1923 – July 16, 1981

Our little village in Spain has an awesome Indian restaurant at the far end. We ate there once and even though everything was great (food, service), we decided that going forward it’s a better take-out place because it just didn’t have a cool vibe (overly lit); and a bonus is that it’s far better value as take away, if you don’t order way too much rice, like I inadvertently did!

Even though the rice wasn’t expensive, I really hate throwing away good food so I kept it for something in the future. The future arrived in the form of a tapa! I made a spin on the famous Spanish Tortilla de Patatas but used rice, cauliflower purée and cheese instead of potatoes. It made a very tasty tapa which we later used as breakfast.

The measurements are approximate because I used leftovers.

Tortilla de Arroz, Coliflor y Queso

Makes 1 omelette about 20 cm in diameter (serves 4-6 people)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 250 g cooked rice
  • 125 mL cauliflower purée
  • 125 mL milk
  • 50 g cheese, finely grated
  • 30 mL pesto

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Set aside for 20-30 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  3. Heat a small 20 cm frying pan on the stove on medium heat and brush generously with olive oil.
  4. Pour the contents of the omelette into the hot frying pan and press evenly in the pan.
  5. Cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Place pan into the oven and finish cooking until a toothpick tester come out clean.
  7. Serve warm with a roasted garlic aioli.

During our time in Spain, we ate a lot of delicious tapas. One such tapa was the Ensalada de Aguacate y Atún, a simple yet spell-binding combination of tuna, avocado, lemon juice and olive oil. Using the very best of all four ingredients allows each one to shine individually and together they melt into the most magical concerto. We just couldn’t get enough of it. It was, however, not easy to find in our little town so I decided to make it part of our weekly meal plan. I made this one for our Valentine’s Day lunch.

Ensalada de Aguacate y Atún

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 150 g canned tuna in oil
  • 200 g ripe avocado, cubed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • A good drizzle of olive oil
  • Arugula

Directions:

  1. Drain the tuna and combine it with the cubed avocado and lemon juice.
  2. Spoon evenly onto a bed of arugula. Drizzle generously with olive oil.

Notes:

  • For presentation purposes, I layered the ingredients over the arugula. In reality, it is served well combined.
  • The arugula was my addition, the true dish is served on its own.

Mesón El Pescador, San José

I am uncertain if it’s just us, but travel seems to get easier as we get older. I seem to recall that the transatlantic flights used to bag us completely, but now it hardly bothers us at all. And I used to be able to sleep on the plane, now I just binge-watch a series that I’ve downloaded. We generally land in the UK in the morning and stay one night; JT and I drop our luggage off at a hotel and take the train into town. Last year, we even saw Come from Away in the evening and we were still OK around midnight!

First things first, we ordered our adult beverages.

For our 2020 trip, we flew into Gatwick, spent the night and then the early the following morning we flew into Almeria and picked up our car. We like to feel at home as soon as possible so we unpacked our luggage and drove into town for lunch. February and March are definitely low season in San José and many of the retailers and restaurants are closed. We don’t mind because we don’t like crowds or the heat of the summer when everything is open. Unfortunately, Mesón Il Pescador was one of the few restaurants open when we went hunting for lunch. We just dived in without reading reviews which is totally out of character for me, but it turned out well and I’m glad we went. Sadly, it doesn’t get good reviews but it was relatively busy with the locals when we stumbled in, so we took a chance that it was good and it didn’t disappoint.

We sat outside along the beach and were lucky to get a table. There were mostly locals dining that day; I could tell because they were all sporting winter jackets while the tourists are wearing T-Shirts and Shorts!

Steamed Mussels € 10. ($14.50 Canadian)

JT ordered a ham and cheese sandwich that wasn’t available and then the chicken cutlet of which they also ran out. The steamed mussels (10 €) were his third choice. The dish would have been nice with some crusty bread alongside, we asked but it never showed up. The mussels were relatively large, fresh and tasty. I ordered the grilled octopus (20 €) (incidentally, it was my only choice) which was grilled to perfection, tender and nicely flavoured by the grill. The octopus was drizzled with a good, spicey olive oil which made for a nice sauce to dip the fries into. Although it was delicious, I found the 20 € pricey.

We enjoyed the meal and if I crave grilled octopus again, we will definitely go back. But read the reviews and be your own judge. We may have been lucky that day.

Pulpo a la Plancha 20 € ($29 Canadian)

Overall rating of Mesón Il Pescador (in my opinion): Decor n/a, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2/5, Noise: n/a (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.

Happy Birthday, Mom. She would have been 84 today. She’s been gone 15 years and I still miss her.

It’s easy to come up with easy, healthy recipes when this is the view from your flat.

This is the view from our flat.

Although the kitchen is at the back, with no view, I strategically place my computer so that it faces the view. I pop out to the computer every few minutes to jot down the recipe as I come up with it. This view makes me edit a lot. It’ll get posted or nixed based on the JT review. This one was pretty good. Many vegan ‘cheese’ dip recipes use nutritional yeast to make it taste cheesy, so I thought this would taste cheesier, but it didn’t so the name was modified from Tangy Butternut Squash “cheese” dip to Tangy Butternut Squash dip.

The dip can be enjoyed with inferior views.

Tangy Butternut Squash “Cheese” Dip

Makes 500 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 885 g Butternut Squash (about 1/2 a large squash)
  • 50 g roasted red pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 26 g roasted garlic
  • 5 g cumin, toasted
  • 1 g smoked paprika
  • 59 mL Vegetable Stock
  • 15 g nutritional yeast
  • 15 mL white vinegar
  • Chopped Cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Brush the cut side of the butternut squash with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet, cut side up and bake until soft, roughly 45 minutes. Scoop out the soft flesh into the heat-proof container of the immersion blender.
  3. Toast the cumin until you can smell it. Add it to the immersion blender container with the cooked squash. Add the toasted cumin, vegetable stock, nutritional yeast and lemon juice and blend until very smooth.
  4. Press through a fine sieve to achieve a super velvety texture. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve warm with toasted tortilla chips.

 

My dear friend Lorraine Elliott published this recipe while we were wintering in Spain. It’s not super hot in Spain this time of year and we prefer it that way because we are not fans of extreme heat or crowds. I like to choose simple recipes that can be baked in the oven to warm the kitchen up a bit. The moment I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t source Halloumi in our little village or even the big supermarket in the city so I used a Spanish Manchego. It was delicious! A perfect lunch with a tomato side salad.

It’s similar to Spanakopita but not really.

Spinach, Feta and Manchego Pie

Makes a pie about 12 cm x 25 cm x 3 cm.

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
  • 400 g frozen spinach, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
  • 100 g sweet onion, finely sliced
  • 20 g roasted garlic, puréed
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 120 g Greek feta, crumbled
  • 80 g of Manchego, grated
  • 15 mL milk, divided

Directions:

  1. Once the spinach has defrosted, squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  3. Roll out one sheet of the puff pastry to about 2 times the size of your pan. Insert it into the parchment-lined pan and dock it with a fork.
  4. Press a sheet of foil into the pan to hold the sides of the pastry up. Add some weight to avoid it from rising too much. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden.
  5. In the meantime, sauté the onion until translucent, add the spinach and break it up to incorporate the onion evenly. Stir in the roasted garlic purée and nutmeg. Transfer to a bowl.
  6. Add the cheese to the spinach and stir until entirely combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Roll the second sheet of pastry to the size of the pan. Return it to the refrigerator.
  8. Remove the foil from the baked pastry and spoon the spinach mixture pressing it evenly into the pan.
  9. Brush the top part of all four sides of the pastry with milk. Remove the second pastry from the refrigerator and lay it over the spinach-filled pastry. Press the sides of the top pastry into the spinach-filled pastry.
  10. Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining milk and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.
  11. Slice the pie into equal portions, serve piping hot with a little salad.

Note:

Ham and Cheese Egg Cups

I made this simple breakfast dish for overnight guests in early February. Unfortunately, they had to leave before they could be oven-ready so I popped them into the nuker and presto, done in three minutes! They are super easy to put together the morning of, but I wanted even less kitchen time so I assembled them the night before. To bake quickly, allow them to come to room temperature for an hour before you bake them.

Ham and Cheese Egg Cups

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 200 g of cooked ham
  • 200 g of grated cheese, divided
  • 50 g of tiny broccoli florets

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Spray each ramekin with non-stick spray.
  3. Break the eggs into a medium bowl snd whisk well to break the yolks and combine with the whites.
  4. Add the ham and broccoli florets and mix well. Add the cheese, reserving a small amount to garnish the tops.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the four prepped ramekins. Garnish with reserved cheese.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Or you can nuke them for 3 minutes on high.
  7. Allow ramekins to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Option to serve: Carefully turn out each egg cup onto a warm plate and turn right-side-up. Serve warm.

Winter has come. But the weather has been really strange because as soon as we have any snow accumulation, it warms up, the rains come and the snow melts.

Notes:

Inclusions are limitless:

  • Smoked salmon, capers, red onion slices, cream cheese.
  • Cooked shredded chicken, roasted red pepper cubes, avocado cubes, sliced onions, roasted corn, shredded jalapeño jack cheese, served with salsa.
  • Roast pork tenderloin, sluced red onions, sliced black olives, roasted red pepper and greek feta served with Tzatziki sauce.

We have been doing a lot of entertaining since our return from Arizona. I love feeding my friends, it really does make me happy. A few weekends ago we had a marathon weekend entertaining on Friday, Saturday, Sunday AND Tuesday! Fortunately, I was able to plan ahead and make a few things for a couple of the dinner parties considering both friends had gluten-free requirements. First, I made a batch of the original recipe with almonds then I recalled that my dear friend’s hubby is a nut-hater (the food kind) so I created a chocolate version of the recipe. It was wonderful. I served them with coffee.

The snow just doesn’t want to stop.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″) sheet, cut to make cookies of various sizes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 95 g sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 30 mL unflavoured oil
  • 50 g Gluten Free flour (I used this mix)
  • 15 g cocoa powder
  • 80 g milk chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 250° F.
  2. Beat the egg with the sugar until it reaches the ribbon stage, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and oil.
  3. Sift the gluten-free flour with the cocoa powder and salt together then fold into the egg mixture.
  4. Pour the entire batter onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and spread out until it is quite thin (about 3-4 mm (about 1/8-3/16 inch) works out to about 25 cm x 30 cm (10″ x 12″). Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips onto the batter and gently push into the batter.
  5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until evenly baked, turn the pan once about halfway.
  6. While still warm, move parchment onto a cutting board and cut into uneven shapes with a pizza cutter or break into natural shapes after it cools. Transfer parchment to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
  7. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for about a week, but they won’t last that long!

Notes:

  • I use an offset spatula to spread the batter onto the parchment paper.
  • This recipe will work well with store-bought gluten flour too.

I have wanted a Tamagoyaki pan for the longest time. There are several cheap and cheerful ones on the market but they are all non-stick and to be honest, I just don’t care for the non-stick coating. This past Christmas, JT got me a cast iron Tamagoyaki pan and I love it! Tamagoyaki is described as a sweet yet savoury rolled omelette and it is ever-so moreish! I’ve made quite a few since the day I received this lovely gift and they have all been well received. I used Nami’s recipe over at Just One Cookbook and it’s a keeper. I generally make them for hors d’œuvres but you can easily make a lunch out of them. For Hors D’œuvres, estimate 2-3 pieces per person or about one half of a roll.

Tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette)

Makes one rolled omelette about 5 cm in diameter and 20 cm long (or the width of your pan).

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 30 mL neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
  • 45 mL dashi
  • 5 mL soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 5 mL mirin
  • slice of cheese

Directions:

  1. Combine the eggs, dashi, sugar (if using) soy sauce and mirin and whisk well.
  2. Bring the Tamagoyaki pan to medium heat. Brush the entire surface with oil. Pour about 30 mLs of the egg mixture into the pan and tilt to spread the egg mixture evenly. Lay a single slice of cheese onto the omelette allow it to melt.
  3. Using a heat resistant spatula, begin rolling the thin layer of egg starting from the sloped end of the Tamagoyaki pan and move it back to the sloped end. Brush the entire Tamagoyaki surface with oil again and repeat pouring and rolling until all of the egg mixture has been used.
  4. Roll the Tamagoyaki in a parchment-line bamboo or plastic sushi mat and hold with elastics for about 5 minutes. Slice into six even slices. Serve warm.

Notes:

  • Nami has a great video to show how to accomplish this task; it’s not difficult at all and it doesn’t take long to become quite expert at achieving the perfect Tamagoyaki!
  • Nami adds about 2 teaspoons of sugar to her recipe but I reduced it to one, then one time, I totally forgot and didn’t miss it. The mirin is sweet enough.
  • To get the cool texture, roll the Tamagoyaki in a bamboo or plastic sushi mat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. I line my bamboo sushi mat with parchment to protect it.
  • Serve with finely shredded daikon radish seasoned with a little rice vinegar.

Many years ago, a dear friend discovered this recipe for chocolate chunk cookies; she shared it with us and then. Here is the original recipe.

Granted, there are A LOT of chocolate chips in these babies but damn, they’re GOOD!

Double Chocolate Chip and Cranberry Cookies

Makes 60 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 227 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 360 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 300 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (chocolate chips work too)
  • 300 g milk chocolate chips
  • 150 g of dried, unsweetened cranberries or dried cherries

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine the butter and two sugars in the large bowl of your stand mixer with the creaming paddle attachment and cream until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time beating well. Add the vanilla.
  4. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together and add in two batched into the batter, mixing until combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
  6. Drop walnut-sized balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and press down a bit.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until slightly golden. For chewier cookies, slightly underbake.

 

Orange Olive Oil Cake

We rented a different house this year in Arizona and the kitchen was much better equipped so I had a lot more fun with it. Needless to say, we entertained a lot; three sets of friends came down from Toronto and of course, our two sets of friends in Encantarra were repeated guests. I’m guessing I was the first one to give the kitchen a good workout, even the BBQ had not been used in the two years the house had been rented!

I made this cake the first week we were in Arizona. I found the recipe in a very outdated Phoenix magazine. The recipe was created by a 14-year-old boy. I loved the use of olive oil in it, plus I just adore orange cake. I modified the recipe a bit so that it better reminded me of a cake my dear Mom used to make.

Orange Olive Oil Cake

This recipe originated in the Phoenix magazine, May 2015 but I couldn’t find it online. I’ve converted it to metric and made some alterations.

Makes one 23 cm cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 155 g sugar, divided
  • 80 mL EVOO
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 2 oranges, divided
  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50 mL Grand Marnier
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F
  2. Spray a 23 cm pan with non-stick spray
  3. Combine the eggs and 135 g sugar and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla.
  5. Add all of the zest and 45 mL of the freshly squeezed orange juice and beat until well combined.
  6. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
  7. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat only until combined.
  8. Pour into the prepared 23 cm pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Allow to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining juice and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar has melted into the juice. Cool and add the Grand Marnier.
  10. Turn out the cooled cake onto a decorative plate and slowly spoon the orange juice mixture onto the cake allowing it to be absorbed.
  11. Decorate with icing sugar.

This is a highly flavoured and scented cake that is kept moist by a delicious orangy syrup.

Would you care for a slice?

As you know, we spent just over a month in Arizona again, and our friends house-sat for us. I made these tasty treats for dessert the night before we left, they absolutely loved them. The cornflakes replaced the graham crackers and we didn’t even miss them. I have made these treats a few times since then.

I often get my dessert inspiration from my dear friend Liz, that Skinny Chick Can Bake; this tasty treat came from her but I modified it to be gluten free. Although I’ve never tasted the original version, I can tell you hands down that this one is a real winner! If you like peanut butter and chocolate, give this super easy, tasty treat a go.

Gluten-Free Reese’s Peanut Butter Squares

Makes one 20 cm pan

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL butter, melted
  • 120 g corn flakes, pulsed to a powder
  • 170 g icing sugar
  • 195 g natural peanut butter
  • 6 g sea salt
  • 190 g semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 15 g butter or vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in the large container of your food processor and process until smooth and comes together.
  2. Press into a 20 cm square pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile add the chocolate chips and butter or vegetable oil to a microwaveable bowl and melt, stirring intermittently.
  4. Cool slightly and pour over chilled peanut butter pan, spread evenly. Refrigerate for an hour before slicing.
  5. Slice with a warm, dry knife, wiping between slices.

The winter light is quite evident here, but don’t allow that to dissuade you, these are very yummy.

The cornflakes add an incredible texture that make these taste just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Tarts, only better!

Notes:

  • I’ve used a variety of natural peanut butters (no sugar or salt) to make these, including crunchy, with no substantial difference to the outcome of this recipe.
  • To make this recipe vegan, try melted coconut oil. Although I have not tried using melted coconut oil, I’m certain it would work because there is not much in the recipe.
  • Once the recipe initially sets, you can bring the bars to room temperature to serve.
  • Try using other nut butters (such as Hazelnuts) to up the ante!

Happy New Year! Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, spoiling your loved ones! Wishing you a new year filled with joy, good health, good friends and good food! Love from Éva

I do apologize for not being more present with my blogging buddies, but we’ve only just returned from our month-long sojourn in Arizona. We had three sets of dear friends visit us for 5-6 days each during our stay; it was a fun-packed time away, also enjoying our dear friends who currently live in Arizona.

I made this delicious winter stew for friends just before we left for Arizona. It was a perfect way to begin winter. The stew was filled with succulent seafood drenched in a creamy béchamel. And if you’re super hungry, you can eat the bowl, or part of it!

Seafood Stew in Sourdough Bread Bowls

Please click here for the original recipe.

Serves 4-6 depending on size of bowls.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 a sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 8 mini potatoes
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 500 g mixed firm seafood — peeled shrimp, scallops, lobster meat, mussels, calamari or white fish (cubbed)
  • 1 cup shredded flavourful white cheese, like Gruyère and Asiago
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • 4 sourdough bread bowls

Directions:

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté the onions until translucent.
  2. Add the potatoes and carrots and sauté until about half-cooked. Add the celery and sauté for about 2-4 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat and add the butter and allow it to melt. Sprinkle the flour into the vegetables and mix well. Cook for a minute or so. Add the dried herbs. Slowly add the milk, stirring to mix into the floured vegetables and bring to a slow simmer, stirring and allowing the mixture to thicken. You may bring this to room temperature and refrigerate until required.
  4. If you have refrigerated the vegetable mixture, simmer on low until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked through. Add the seafood with the longest cooking first (shrimp, scallops, calamari and lastly, mussels). Cook the seafood through.
  5. Add the shredded cheese, mix well and taste for seasoning. Serve piping hot in hollowed out sourdough bread bowls.

Here is that gorgeous winter light again.

Notes:

  • I like to spend as much time with our guests instead of stuck in the kitchen cooking dinner so I try to make as much of the dishes in advance as possible so that my time spent in the kitchen is minimal while we have guests. Because I cooked most of the stew earlier that day, I was able to reheat it and cook the raw seafood quickly without missing too much of the evening.
  • I gently warmed the sourdough bread bowls so that they kept the stew warm a little longer, things cool down so quickly in the winter.
  • I used a mixture of Wild Argentinian Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, and Chopped Calamari for this dish but white fish would also work beautifully.
  • If the thought of adding cheese to a fish dish offends you, please omit it. The original recipe called for cheddar but I did not wish to add red cheese to discolour the sauce. The cheese adds a nice background flavour with a little body, it’s really not enough to make it stringy.
  • The smooth béchamel flavoured with the tarragon and thyme made a lovely background for the seafood. Our guests loved it, the homemade sourdough bread bowls helped! 😉
  • It’s a really heavy meal, I hollowed out the bread bowls so that there was only about 1 cm of the bowl all around, even so, most of us couldn’t finish it!

No-Knead Sourdough Bread

I have had a love/hate relationship with sour dough starters. We start off loving each other, fully enjoying the dependant relationship but soon after I get bored and lose interest and the poor blob starves to death. Yes, I’ve tried putting it into the fridge to hold but it eventually dries up and I’ve a horrible mess to clean. Sour dough starters and I just don’t work. Until now!

I started this starter about a month ago. My first bread was a flop. The bread I made with it did rise but not much. But I wanted to give the starter another chance so I put it into the fridge to think about its incompetence. Then about a week or so later, I pulled it out of the fridge and within hours it overflowed the jar into a bubbling, beautiful mess! I danced with glee! My starter was alive, and not just alive, it was a living, breathing, blob of natural, yeasty, goo! We will have sour dough bread on the weekend!

As many of you have experienced, it’s not difficult to make a starter, it just takes patience. Finally, I achieved undeniable success! And the bread was awesome!

This is the recipe I used. My version was much shaggier than that in the video, so I might add a bit more flour into the mix next time (I used the weight measurements), but the bread had an awesome chewiness that was extremely moreish, so I may just leave it be. I can’t wait to try this again using an older starter, hopefully it will be a bit more sour. Bottom line is that I loved it!!

No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Makes one 25 cm boule or 4 personal-size sourdough bread bowls. Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 50 g live, bubbling starter
  • 350 g water at about 110F
  • 500 g AP flour
  • 9 g sea salt, finely ground

Directions:

  1. Follow your regular directions to bring your starter to life (if refrigerated), about 2-4 days before you need the bread.
  2. The day before you wish to bake the bread, make the dough by mixing the starter with the water, then slowly add the flour and salt mixing with a wooden spoon and then your hand, until it comes together like a shaggy dough. It will be sticky, very sticky.
  3. Return it to the bowl and cover it with a clean, damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm spot overnight (until it doubles in size).
  4. The next day, scrap the ball onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough onto itself, a few times, tightening up the boule. Flip the boule onto the folded side and cover with the bowl and allow to rest for about an hour (should rise a bit again but not a whole lot).
  5. About 30 minutes into the rise, preheat the oven to 450 F with a cast iron Dutch oven (including the lid). Keep the Dutch oven in heating up for 20 minutes after the oven has reached 450F
  6. Remove the Dutch oven and sprinkle inside it with cornmeal. Carefully cut the boule across the top. Then gently lift it and carefully roll it into the Dutch oven. Place the lid on and bake for 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake for 30 minutes until golden. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • The covered Dutch oven steams the bread at first, giving it the gorgeous, chewy texture.
  • Make sure the knob on your Dutch oven can handle the high temperature, we had to get a special Le Creuset knob.
  • This has the traditional chewy texture of sourdough bread.

Here’s a little peek of what I served in personal-size sourdough bread bowls!

Ginger Snaps Revisited

This is an old recipe that I’ve made on the blog before, I just wanted to update it using weight measures instead of imperial volume and I also wanted to use fresh ginger instead of the dried powder. If you like the bite of ginger, this one is for you. This day I made them in late October was actually quite lovely and I braved the chill to take this photo on our back deck. Winter is coming!

It has that delicious chewy texture that some ginger snaps might have if they don’t dry out.

Ginger Snaps Revisited

Makes about 36 to 46 cookies, depending on how large you make them\

Ingredients:

  • 75 g butter
  • 115 g brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup black molasses
  • 30 g fresh ginger
  • 280 g you all-purpose flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 5 g baking powder
  • 5 g baking soda
  • 2 g ground allspice

Directions:

  1. Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and molasses and heat gently until melted. Set aside.
  2. Grate the fresh ginger and stir into the melted butter mixture.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk or sift to stir. Make a well in the centre and pour the melted butter mixture into it and mix until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Drop the cookie dough by even spoonfuls (I used a large melon baller) onto the lined cookie sheet. Roll each ball in the palm of your hand to create a smooth ball, then press down to flatten with a flour cookie press to about half a centimetre.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes (I baked mine for 10) and cool on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container but don’t worry, you won’t have to store them for long.

Bottarga Bucatini

Way back when I began my food styling journey I tagged along with a renowned food stylist’s assistant while she shopped for some recipe development. We purchased many things but the one thing that left an impression was a piece of bottarga that the silly cashier rang in at $4.95 instead of $495! I immediately drew her attention to the misplaced decimal point and she thanked me profusely (the high-end grocery store would have definitely taken the error from her wages!).

And that was the last time I thought about bottarga, until one sleepless night in October while watching Martha Stewart on Create TV. JT and I were intrigued but I had to find the elusive delicacy first without having to put a second mortgage on the house! I ended up on Amazon and found a small jar of grated bottarga for $20 and I was able to stomach that! As one reviewer said, it’s not the best bottarga he’d ever tasted but it’s not the worst either. We definitely liked the dish well enough to invest in a higher quality product the next time.

Bottarga Pasta

Serves 2 main portions or 4 small starters

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp roasted garlic purée
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 50 g panko
  • sea salt
  • 160 g bucatini pasta
  • 20 g capers, drained
  • 20 g raisins, chopped finely
  • 10 g preserved lemon, chopped finely
  • 250 mL chicken stock
  • juice of one lemon juice
  • 45 g unsalted butter
  • 35 g pine nuts, toasted (see notes)
  • 50 g grated Parmesan cheese, plus Parmesan shavings for serving
  • 30 g grated bottarga, divided

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta until it is almost done but still has quite a bite (it will finish cooking in the sauce). Strain and reserve 125 mL pasta liquid.
  2. Add about 1/2 of the oil to a skillet and toast the panko with about 1/2 of the roasted garlic, set aside.
  3. Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. and add the remaining roasted garlic. Add the capers and raisins and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the preserved lemon, chicken stock, lemon juice, butter, and a pinch of salt and simmer for a minute.
  4. Continue to simmer the liquid and add the pasta, cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, almost 3 minutes; remove from heat and stir in pine nuts, grated Parmesan, and bottarga, toss well.
  5. Garnish with reserved breadcrumb mixture with reserved parmesan and bottarga. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • I didn’t realize I’ve run out of my wonderful Spanish pinenuts until I was well into this recipe. I discovered I had some apricot kernels so I toasted them up and used them instead.
  • There are many simpler recipes for this traditional pasta dish, but I was really intrigued by the addition of the preserved lemon and raisins.
  • I made a small batch of Mark Bittman’s quick preserved lemons but didn’t end up using them for a few days, it still worked out wonderfully. I was disappointed that the recipe called for such a small quanitity.

Like many blogs have already declared, it is officially soup season in this part of the world. I often use lentils to “beef” up soups because they are super filling. JT loves creamed soups and I love brothy soups, so to be fair, I try to make a variety of each type to keep us both happy. That way he doesn’t complain when I make Phố or chicken soup at least once a month (read: week). This was a spur of the moment creation that was so tasty, that I wanted to make sure that I remembered what I did. Hope you enjoy it too.

Creamed Cauliflower, Lentil and Coconut Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 750 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florettes
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 50 g red lentils
  • 250-400 mL vegetable or chicken stock
  • 250 mL coconut milk
  • 15 mL EVOO

Directions:

  1. Heat a large dutch oven with the olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the cauliflower and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the 250 mL chicken stock and lentils and cook until everything is soft. Blitz with an immersion blender slowly adding coconut milk, blending until smooth. Add more chicken stock to achieve your desired thickness, if necessary.
  3. Serve piping hot.

 

Panettone Breakfast Bake

This tasty breakfast treat is super easy to make. Assembled the night before and baked for 40 minutes. I used a mini store-bought panettone like this but you can definitely make your own. If you serve them directly from the oven, they puff up like a soufflée, but they deflate just as quickly. Turn them out onto a plate and no one will be the wiser!

Panettone Breakfast Bake

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 100 g panettone
  • 3 eggs
  • 125 mL milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Butter 2 ramekins (about xx mL each)
  2. Cut the panettone into cubes and place into the ramekins evenly.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk and nutmeg together and pour into the ramekins evenly. Cover and set in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. The following morning, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the eggs have set.
  5. Turn out onto a plate and serve with maple syrup.

The first time we tried gnocchi was in the late 80’s or early 90’s. It may seem a bit odd that it took so long living in a multi-cultural city like Toronto, particularly since Toronto had the largest Italian population of any city outside of Italy (in 2016, we had the fourth largest Italian population), but back then the restaurant scene was really bad. Italian food was more or less American Italian (not to imply that it’s bad food, just limited), serving spaghetti, lasagna or pizza, nothing quite as exotic as gnocchi graced the menus. High-end restaurants were generally decorated in a men’s club style, dark and dingy and the waiters were often grumpy old guys in dark pants, white shirts and short aprons. Then, for some reason it all changed. JT read a lot of real estate articles and one such article was about a restaurant in mid-town that spent a million dollars in creating one of the best Italian restaurants in the city; imported décor, a well-paid chef and a menu that used traditional Italian ingredients described in Italian words. Of course, we had to try it and we were not disappointed. It still took a few more years for the rest of the industry to up its game but we were certainly on the right track.

When I told my Mom that I’d ordered gnocchi and what it cost, she was appalled! She called it peasant food! Of course, my generation had no idea what that was and maybe that’s why the restaurant industry changed, we were willing to pay for it! And we were hooked! Those soft little pillows drenched in a rich sauce were stuff dreams were made of, so I began experimenting with recipes after seeing Biba Caggiano make it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen) on the very early Food Network. She made it look so easy, and it was! JT proclaimed that he would no longer be able to order gnocchi in a restaurant because he would be disappointed after eating mine! Then came the low carb movement and we put those dreamy little pillows on the back burner. Fear not though, they are making a comeback albeit in moderation.

In our effort to eat less animal protein and more plant-based proteins, I created this gnocchi recipe using lentils. I’ve made them a few times because they are quite easy to make and super tasty, and they have the same light, fluffy consistency of traditional gnocchi. We like the contrast of texture by pan-frying the little pillows until one side is crispy, but you don’t have to. This recipe would be quite lovely with a sage and butter sauce or any sauce for that matter.

Pan-Seared Lentil Gnocchi with Blue Cheese Sauce

Makes about 40 gnocchi, about 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 50 g red lentils
  • 90 g “00” flour
  • 10 g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 20 g unsalted butter, divided
  • 125 mL milk or cream
  • 50 g gorgonzola, divided (any blue cheese will do)
  • parmesan for serving

Directions:

  1. Cook the lentils until soft (about 1:2 ratio) in enough water to cover. Blend in a processor until very smooth.
  2. Add the flour a little at a time and blend. Add the cheese and pulse to combine, then remove and knead gently with your hands until a smooth dough is achieved. Roll into a 1 cm roll and cut about 1.5-2 cm lengths. Roll each pillow up the tines of a fork or a gnocchi paddle to get the grooves.
  3. Boil water with a little salt and cook the gnocchi until they float to the top. Strain the gnocchi and set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Melt butter in a frying pan and sear the gnocchi until a little crispy on one side. Remove from the pan. Add 5 additional grams of butter to the pan and sprinkle about 10 g of flour on it. Cook the roux and add about 125 mL milk or cream. Add some of the gorgonzola into the roux and allow it to melt (reserve a little gorgonzola for garnish).
  5. Add the gnocchi back to the pan and stir to coat. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan and dot each plate with remaining gorgonzola.

Notes:

  • I use my trusted gnocchi paddle that I bought in Florence to make the grooves in the little pillows and recently I discovered that using a very small round measuring spoon to press the gnocchi up the paddle creates perfect groves on one side and a nice little divet on the other (without ruining my mani). The more grooves and divets the more the sauce will stick to it, and who doesn’t love sauce?!
  • I used gorgonzola cheese but you may use any blue cheese. Gorgonzola is slightly milder but creamier than blue cheese.
  • Traditional gorgonzola sauce uses heavy cream instead of a roux, but I prefer to use milk and a roux. You may do it either way.
  • I never add egg to my gnocchi because that is the way Biba Caggiano made it (Biba’s Italian Kitchen). My gnocchi binds well and has never fallen apart in cooking.

JT and I just completed refinishing our kitchen floors, don’t they look lovely? (and yes, that means renting a belt sander and working our ancient butts off!). The best light was on the floor, they are clean!

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Canadian Thanksgiving was at my SIL’s place in Peterborough. She asked that we bring hors d’œuvres so I made three dips. This one was blog-worthy.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Makes about 250 mL dip

Ingredients:

  • 160 g roasted red peppers, skin and seeds removed
  • 15 g roasted garlic purée
  • 1 g salt
  • 10 mL red wine vinegar
  • 20 g almond flour

Directions:

  1. Combine everything in your food processor and process until smooth.
  1. Serve at room temperature with crackers or bread.

It’s been a busy year and I’ve seen spending a lot of time in front of my computer. I don’t mind doing that type of work, but I do miss cooking and with that, getting my advanced blog posts ready to publish. In fact, I am nowhere near the advanced the blog posts I should be, in preparation for our yearly sojourn to Arizona. I have four posts ready to go but I should have 10! That makes me nervous because I may not have time to post while we are in Arizona; we have three separate group friends coming down for 5-7 days each! That means a lot of sightseeing and daily adventures and less cooking and recipe developing.

You can definitely see the winter light creeping in.

I modified and made this little recipe because during one coffee break JT mentioned that he would love to have a little biscotti to nibble on while we sit and enjoy our coffees. I like making biscotti because they are easy and are not overly finicky. This recipe came together quickly and more or less in one bowl.

Chocolate Chip and Almond Biscotti

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes about 20 biscotti but it depends on how thickly you form and cut the logs

Ingredients:

  • 57 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 225 g brown sugar
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 5 mL almond extract
  • 275 g all-purpose flour
  • 75 g almond flour
  • 20 g baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 165 g chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time and best until entirely incorporated. Add the extracts and beat.
  4. Whisk together the dry ingredients (omit the chocolate chips) and blend into the butter mixture.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Form into two even logs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Slice diagonally into 10 slices each and lay flat on the same parchment-line baking sheet and bake again for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely before serving.

Notes:

  • I shaped my logs too wide, next time I shall make them more slender and have twice the number of biscotti.
  • Biscotti store well in an airtight container but if it will take you more than a week to consume, I would freeze them until required. Defrost at room temperature.
  • I didn’t have whole almonds but this would have been lovely having a few whole almonds folded into the batter.
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