,,One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.
And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends. ,,
-Laurie Colwin

Monday, May 31, 2010

New York cheesecake

We made and we have many recipes of baked cheesecakes but I think this one is the one we like the most, for the balance and flavor. From what I know, in New York they like the cheesecake rich, soft and creamy light with a crunchy crust. For an everyday dessert I would opt to make a cold gelatin-set cheesecake just because I consider this one to be special and I will keep this for special treats and occasions. To avoid lumps and ensure mixing without over-beating, is essential to have all the ingredients to a room temperature.
The way you are beating the ingredients is very important: under beating make a lumpy mixture and over beating can incorporate too much air and the result is a bubble, cracking and uneven cooking. Accompaniments to this cheesecake can be all nice fresh fruits but for winter you can use some compotes as well. This recipe is for 12 large portions or 16 medium like mine and I used a 30 cm cake spring-form tin.
- 400 gr crushed graham crackers or digestive biscuits
- 150 gr melted butter
- 100 gr sugar
- 6 eggs
- 350 gr sugar
- 900 gr cream cheese, preferably Philadelphia
- 400 gr sour cream
- 1 large lemon ( juice and zest)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla essence or 1 vanilla bean
- 3 tablespoons flour
Sour cream topping:
- 300 gr sour cream
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
For the crust, melt the butter and stir in the biscuits and sugar. Press the mixture in a 30 cm cake form and bake for 10 minutes. Cool while preparing the filling.
With a hand mixer beat the cream cheese and sugar, gradually add the flour, vanilla, sour cream, lemon zest and juice.
Whisk in the eggs, one at the time and until blended, but don’t over-beat. Brush the side of the spring-form with melted butter and pour in the filling. Bake for 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 120 degrees C and bake for 20 minutes more. Turn off the oven and let cool in the oven for 2 hours. If you prefer a creamy texture, for the 2 hours of cooling time leave the oven door open.
For the topping combine the sour cream with honey and lemon juice and spread over the cheesecake. Refrigerate for at least 4 hour or overnight before serving.
To garnish -  like you can see in the pictures - I used fresh strawberries with balsamic vinegar cream, fresh fruits or caramelized peaches, from compote, with fresh basil but you can use what you wish. Try with fresh passion fruits or serve it with grilled pineapple with mint sugar.

This is a fantastic dessert and not easy to find in restaurants because it needs care.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mission Impossible

After so many years of cooking I never thought it will come a day when I'm not able to roast some....carrots. Yes, it happened today. On my way home I bought some fresh nice looking  carrots. I wanted to make roast cumin carrots puree for dinner with some meat. So, I peeled, chopped in bigger pieces and placed them in a tray, covered with aluminium foil and start baking at 200 degrees C. After 1/2 hour, when I knew it supposed to be quite ready, they were still hard like stone. I checked again the temperature, just in case I didn't set it right (a very slim chance) and it was okay. I put the tray back in the oven for another 1/2 hour. After that....surprise, same stones with the same colour, nothing changed. At this point I got a bit frustrated, saying that's not possible. After another 2 hours in the oven, the carrots from edge of tray were burned and chewy outside and hard in the middle, and the ones from the middle of the tray were hard as a rock and white colored.
I don't know how they grow them, how they keep them, but I can't cook them, nor to eat them with my family. I'm going to dig into this problem to see what I will found out.

Here are the carrots after more that 3 hours in the oven:
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Chili Chicken & White Beans Salad

This lovely salad, easy to make, low in calories and high in fibers it's a very nice option for summer. If you don't like spices, you can leave the chili out. Zucchini and celery give this chicken-and-bean salad a nice crunch. We like serving it with lucerne salad on top or over a bed of any type of green salad. This recipe is for 4 servings, about 500 gr each.
Orange Dressing 1 medium clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt 
50 ml extra-virgin olive oil
200 ml fresh orange juice, plus more to taste
50 ml white-wine vinegar or red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard,
1 teaspoon honeySalad
2/400 gr can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
400 gr slice cooked chicken breast
2 diced red bird eye chili
200 gr diced zucchini
200 gr diced celery
200 gr diced feta cheese
200 gr chopped halved tomatoes
½ pots chopped fresh basil, plus whole basil leaves for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
50 gr pack lucerne sprouts (alfalfa)

To prepare vinaigrette: With a hand blender puree the garlic with olive oil and salt in a small bowl to form a paste. Whisk in ½ orange juice, vinegar, honey and mustard; whisk until well blended. Taste and whisk in more juice to mellow the flavor; season with more salt, if desired. Set aside at room temperature.
To prepare salad: Combine beans, chicken, zucchini, celery, chili, cheese and tomatoes in a large bowl until well blended. Add chopped basil and 3/4 cup vinaigrette; toss until combined. Taste and season with salt and/or pepper, if desired.
Serve the salad with the lucerne sprouts on top and garnished with fresh basil leaves.
Tip: To poach chicken breasts, place about 1/2 kg boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a medium skillet or saucepan. Add lightly salted water to cover and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer gently until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 15 minutes. Pin It Now!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Traditional Romanian ''MICI'', with chickpeas salad

In Romania, these are served with mustard and fresh baked rolls, but today I chose to garnish them with one very refreshing salad, perfect for a summer day. Every day in Romania millions of these patties are cooked and sold across the country, in all the bars and pubs. We grew up with those and we love them.

The recipe is very similar with ćevapčići - they are considered a national dish in Balkan countries , though under different names - or with kofta from Middle East . The Middle Eastern countries use cumin, curry powder, garlic and coriander to season the lamb or beef minced meats and the Balkans are using minced pork in the mix along with lamb and beef .

For 20 ''MICI'' you need (along with the salad, will feed about 6 pers. ):

- 1,5 kg mix of  lamb, pork and beef minced meat, about 500 gr each
- 4-5 cloves of minced garlic 
- 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon of allspice powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 250 ml cold water

Why soda? Because soda is keeping the water in the sausages and won't let them dry.

Mix the meat with garlic, thyme, allspice powder, soda, salt and pepper and then mix strongly. Add water slowly, mix and kick the mixture until you incorporate the all water and the miced meat is turned into a paste. Leave to rest for 10-15 min. With oiled hands form little sausages shape and grill them or fry them in a pan, like I did. Serve them hot with flat bread and salad or mustard or tzaziki.We served them with a very easy to make chickpeas and yogurt salad.

Ingredients for chickpeas salad:

- 2 cans of ready cooked chickpeas (400 gr each)
- 500 ml natural yogurt
- 1-2 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander
- 1 teaspoon masala powder
- juice from 1/2 lemon 
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chili (if you wish)

Mix all the ingredients and chill for at least 1 hour to let the flavors to came together.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010


There is nothing like freshly baked bread and focaccia is one of the easiest bread you can bake from scratch. Is a simple bread to make at home and is related to pizza, but not considered to be the same. The flavor of the oil is important, so it's advisable to use a good, strong, fruity virgin olive oil for this. Extremely easy and great for sandwiches and snacks. A wonderful, quick alternative to garlic bread. Is a flat Italian bread traditionally flavored with olive oil and salt and often topped with herbs, onions, tomato, olives or other flavor can be added to your wish . This recipe is for traditional way but you can make the dough in the bread machine too and bake in the oven. It's practically a meal in itself, perfect for picnics with salad or serve a big chunk with a bowl of soup.
This Italian flat bread is prepared from a soft dough enriched with olive oil. Extra olive oil is traditionally sprinkled over the dough in generous quantities before baking. Focaccia makes an ideal accompaniment to Italian meats to create a wonderfully antipasto plate with cheeses and salads.
It will take some time (about 3 hours), but much of the time is waiting for the dough to rise, so you can do something else in between.
1 packet dry yeast 12 gr or fresh yeast cube 50 gr
1 Teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt (~12 gr)
650 ml warm water
1 kg bread flour
2-3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary or 1 Tablespoon dried rosemary, finely chopped.
200-250 ml good fruity olive oil
50 gr grated Parmesan cheese
250 gr cherry tomatoes
1 Tablespoon sea salt
Mix the yeast and 100 ml of warm water together in a jug, add the sugar, 50 ml olive oil and about 2 tablespoon of the flour.
Put the yeast mixture somewhere warm to activate for about 10 min, or until the yeast mixture is fizzing gently. Sift the flour into a big clean bowl and make a hole in the center. Pour in the yeast mixture and knead it energetically into the flour and add salt and little by little of the remaining water and knead for about 10 min. The dough should be soft and sticky on the hands. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about 1 h or until double in size.

Preheat the oven to 200 degree C. Put some of the olive oil into tray and with well-oiled hands shape your dough. Now it's ready for topping. Force dips in the surface of the focaccia with your fingertips, then generously add cherry tomatoes, rest of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, rosemary, sea salt and then leave to puff up again for about 30 min-1 h or double in size. Bake for about 30 to 45 min or until the top is golden and crisp and look well cooked in the center. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm.

For variation you can stuff the focaccia with grated cheese or ham to create a nice sandwich
Here is one made with slices of fresh tomatoes and olives and one with mozzarella cheese and red bell peppers.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chocolate Oblivion

We meant this to be our first post, as the blog got the name from this dessert. But is better later than never :). Some years ago when we worked in Dublin, this used to be Nico's breakfast for about...a year. I had it on the prep list every day, so the first thing in the morning when we got in for work, he will say: ''I go and check if there is any left from last night''. He knew it was not the right thing to eat in the morning, but he couldn't resist. It is his favorite treat ever.
It's very easy cake to make and I'm sure it will come through your mind every time you'll think of chocolate.
Here are the ingredients (for about 20 portions):
- 450 g unsalted butter
- 470 g dark chocolate 70%
- 600 g sugar
- 11 egg whites
- 200 ml water
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C. In a large tray fit some heat resistant cling film or baking paper.  In a bowl add the butter and chocolate together (chopped in smaller pieces)  and melt it over a steamer or in the microwave on high power for few minutes, mixing from time to time. You should not let it in the microwave until all the chocolate is melted completely. You should still have few solid pieces. All you need to do is keep mixing until all the chocolate is melted. 
Make a thick syrup from 400 g sugar and 200 ml of water.
Beat the egg whites with 200 g of sugar.
Keep beating while adding the warm (not hot) syrup.
Now easily pour the chocolate mixture over the eggs and very gentle, starting from the middle to the edge of the bowl, mix with a spatula until is all blended together.
Pour the mixture in the prepared tray.

Now improvise a bain-marie using a wider tray where you place your mixture tray and fill it half way with water.
Place it in the oven and bake for 35-40 min.
When is ready take it out from the water and let it cool down, then refrigerate for several hours.
To take it out from the tray, just turn it up side down and remove the cling film. You can decorate it as a whole cake or just slice individual portions and play a bit with the decorations.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hello! Happy Birthday! ..I’m your birthday present.

Hello. Happy Birthday ! I’m your birthday present.
In this way I started my day last Sunday at 9 am at one family’s door in Tartu. It was the lady’s birthday. She had no idea I was coming, so she was very surprised when her husband introduced me: “He is the head chef from Vilde restaurant and he is going to spend the day cooking for us and he is going to share some of the professional cooking secrets”. I was told she really likes cooking and I was very impressed about the number of cooking books she had.So we sat down for a coffee, while I checked the conditions and the utensils from the kitchen. We talked about the menu and we went off for shopping, where we spent about 2 hours. I was trying to show them the way I think when I shop and finally we decided the menu according to what we found.We returned home like this:

This is my menu for 15 persons:
Focaccia one of my favorite bread , 

  Olive tapenade , marinated olives, filo pastry with avocado and feta, duck liver pate and hummus for starter.
Main course with Shell fish Jambalaya, Duck confit with orange and Pork roulade with sun-dried tomatoes and basil in a mustard sauce .

For dessert we made a wonderful French classic lemon tart and a nice soft cheese cake with strawberry.

We all try to create roses to decorate the cake and we have great fun.

My day is to end  and I promise to post the recipes as soon as I have some time.. A nice day with fantastic people, good  fresh food and  lots of fun ... I do not think I can ask for more in one day.

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