Monday, February 19, 2018

Pasta with onion and tomato sauce and the change in my cooking habits

Pasta with onion and tomato sauce / Macarrão com molho de tomate e cebola

I was talking to my husband the other day about how my cooking and baking have changed in the past year or so: I don’t bake as much anymore (lack of time + my lactose intolerance) and I also don’t test so many new recipes as I used to. Sometimes I flip through my books and magazines and the photos make me drool, however, I have been feeling the need of eating dishes I am familiar with.

I keep coming back to recipes I call “the classics” at my house, food that comforts and nourishes. Tomato sauce is something I make quite regularly (also to keep some in the freezer for emergencies or lazy days/nights), but there are times I vary it a bit (when I am not pressed for time) and make the recipe I bring you today: it is delicious and a hit with my husband and I – we are both dying hard onion fans. What I love to use with this sauce is orecchiette, for they are like small pools of sauce. :)

Pasta with onion and tomato sauce
slightly adapted from the wonderful Antonio Carluccio

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions (300g), peeled, cut in half and finely sliced into half-moons
1 tablespoon dry red wine
1 400g (14oz) can peeled chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves
200g short pasta
finely grated parmesan or pecorino, to serve

Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat, add the onions and fry them very gently until they become transparent and soft, about 20 minutes – stir occasionally so the onions do not catch in the pan. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, followed by 1/3 of the can filled with water, the sugar, the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and continue to cook, now on a low heat, for 15 minutes. Stir in the basil and turn of the heat.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente (follow the instructions in the package). Drain well, then mix with the sauce and stir to coat all the pasta. Serve immediately with finely grated parmesan or pecorino.

Serves 2

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Loaded potatoes with spinach, cheese and bacon

Loaded potatoes with spinach, bacon and cheese / Barquinhas de batata com espinafre, bacon e queijo

I work for a Swiss company and this week several of my peers from Switzerland have been asking me about/wishing me a good Carnival – it is funny because I am not a Carnival person (they do not know that), but I do enjoy the days off (Netflix, here I come!). :)

To me these loaded potatoes are perfect for lazy days: just a handful of ingredients, easy prepping, and delicious results. My versions lately have been dairy free: I skip the cheese and add a couple of teaspoons of nutritional yeast to the filling to get the cheesy flavor. Sometimes I sprinkle a bit of Pecorino on top as well for a salty touch, since that cheese does not cause me digestion problems.

Loaded potatoes with spinach, cheese and bacon
own recipe

4 large potatoes
6 bacon rashers, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ¾ cups (120g) spinach leaves, packed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup (75g) coarsely grated Canastra cheese*

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a medium baking sheet with foil.
Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork. Place them on the foil and bake for about 50 minutes or until potatoes are tender (remove them from the oven, but keep it on). When potatoes are warm enough to handle, cut them in half horizontally, remove some of the pulp and transfer to a bowl – do not carve the potatoes too much or the shells will be too thin and delicate to hold the filling. Place the potato shells back on top of the foil.

In a large nonstick frying pan, cook the bacon over high heat stirring occasionally until crisp. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook until wilted, 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the potato pulp and mix. Stir in ½ cup of the cheese. Spoon filling back into each potato half and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes or until top is golden.

* for this recipe I used a kind of cheese typical from Brazil called Canastra cheese. Feel free to replace it with cheddar or the cheese of your liking

Serves 4 with a green salad on the side

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Vegetable tagine and some planning in the kitchen

Vegetable tagine / Tagine de legumes

There are times when work is pretty intense (like last week, for instance), and something I have been doing for those times is to have ready or almost ready meals in the fridge or freezer – it makes a huge difference. Planning is, indeed, everything.

Meatballs, tomato sauce, pesto sauce, soups, beef stews – these have been my usual suspects lately. Now I will add one more dish to my list: this vegetable tagine. It is delicious and freezes really well – just do not add the cilantro leaves in the end (do it right before serving it). I have made this tagine a couple of times already and sometimes I added green olives to it – it adds a nice saltiness to the tagine. I did not have any in the fridge on the day of the photo, but if you like olives like I do please consider my suggestion.

Vegetable tagine
own recipe, inspired for several around the web

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
½ yellow pepper, finely diced
½ large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon hot paprika – use the sweet kind if you don’t like spicy food
1 teaspoon Baharat
¼ cup dry white wine
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into ½cm (¼in) slices (the ones in the photo are too thick, they take too long to cook)
1 sweet potato (about 250g/8oz), peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
200g (7oz) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
1 400g (14oz) can peeled chopped tomatoes
2 cups boiling water, plus more if needed
2 bay leaves
1 small eggplant (about 250g/8oz), cut into 2cm cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas, unthawed
handful of fresh cilantro leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over high heat – a deep frying pan works well here. Add the yellow pepper and the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spices and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the wine and scrape the brown bits around the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the carrot, sweet potato and butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the peeled tomatoes and crush them with the back of the spoon. Add the water, bay leaves, stir in the eggplant, season with salt and pepper and cook, partially covered, for 30-35 minutes or until vegetables are tender, checking eventually - if the tagine starts to get dry, add more water. Stir in the peas, cover, remove from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Serves 4-5

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Lemon and raisin oatmeal cookies

Lemon and raisin oatmeal cookies / Cookies de aveia, limão siciliano e passas

Days ago I was thinking (again) of certain ingredients and why they are so hated: aside from coconut and cilantro, I can’t think of anything that divides people as much as raisins do – at least here in Brazil. Every December there are hundreds of memes on Facebook and Twitter of either people saying how much they hate raisins and begging others not to add them to the Christmas dishes or people saying how much they love them, “please add raisins to everything”. It is crazy. :)

I like raisins and have nothing against them, but have to say I prefer them on sweet dishes rather than savory ones. In cookies they work beautifully and here, combined with lemon and oats, make them even more delicious.

Lemon and raisin oatmeal cookies
own recipe

¾ cup (105g) all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (58g) light brown sugar, packed
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
½ cup (113g/1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups (120g) rolled oats
1 cup (150g) raisins – use golden raisins if you prefer

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, rub sugars and lemon zest together with your fingertips until sugar is fragrant. Add the butter and beat until creamy and light – scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally throughout the making of the recipe. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the oats at once and mix on slow only until a dough forms. Stir in the raisins.

Roll 2 leveled tablespoons of dough per cookie into balls and place onto prepared sheets, 5cm (2in) apart. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies are golden around the edges. Cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then slide the paper with the cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 20

Friday, January 26, 2018

Panzanella with a Spanish touch - perfect for the weekend

Panzanella with a Spanish touch / Panzanella com um toque espanhol

I remember the first time I made panzanella at home: it was a revelation. Who could have thought that a salad made with stale bread would be so delicious? The Italians, of course. :)

As much as I love Italian food – half of the blood in my veins is Italian, after all – I have added a couple of Spanish touches to my panzanella: crispy chorizo, chickpeas, sherry vinegar in the dressing. The salad turned out wonderful and it is a beautiful idea for lunch or dinner in the really hot days we have been having in Sao Paulo (to make it even fresher, add 1 thinly sliced small Japanese cucumber sliced to the salad). It is also great for lazy weekends, like the one I plan to have. :)

Panzanella with a Spanish touch
own recipe

½ red onion, peeled and cut in half
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 cups stale bread cubes (approximately 2cm each cube)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
100g chorizo, chopped in small cubes
¾ cup (127g) cooked and drained chickpeas
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves

Thinly slice the onion, transfer to a small bowl and drizzle with the vinegar. Set aside for 15 minutes or until you get the other parts of the salad done.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a medium baking sheet with baking paper or foil. Spread the bread cubes over the paper/foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Bake for about 8 minutes or until bread is crispy and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In the meantime, heat a nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring now and then, until crispy. Drain the chorizo over paper towels.

Transfer bread, chorizo, tomatoes and chickpeas to ta large bowl. Drain the onion (save the vinegar for the dressing) and stir into the salad. To the bowl with the vinegar, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper and whisk well. Pour over the salad, toss to combine and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir in the basil leaves and serve.

Serves 2

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