Saturday, July 27, 2013

Classic Shopska Salata

I first had this salad at the Hotel Sofia in Sofia, Bulgaria a long, long time ago when Bulgaria was still under Communist rule and no one in the country could (or would) give an American change when purchasing any sort of item.  You had to make sure that you carried around small bills and a lot of coin in order to not get stiffed.  This salad, however, certainly made the trip worthwhile.  Very simple with fresh ingredients, it's a staple in Bulgaria and surrounding regions.  Similar to Horiatiki, it distinguishes itself with a shower of finely crumbled Bulgarian feta instead of slices or cubes.

Makes about 4 side servings

1 long thin English cucumber
1/2 of a large red onion
1/2 of a large green bell pepper
2 large, very ripe plum tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
4 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely crumbled Bulgarian feta cheese

Half peel the cucumber by paring every 1/4 inch or so to create a striped pattern and then slice into 1/2 inch rounds.  Toss them into a medium bowl.
Chop the onion and bell pepper into a 1/2 inch dice and add them to the bowl along with the olives and parsley.
Whisk the oil and vinegar together and add it to the mix. Toss the vegetables until they are coated with the dressing.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Now place the salad into an appropriate size serving bowl and shower the top with the feta.  Chill before serving.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Apricot Phyllo Crisp

A number of years ago I caught an episode of " Everyday Food" where the host was making a spinach pie with a "tangled" phyllo crust on top.  What a terrific idea I thought, for those of us who are "phyllo challenged".  This week I wanted to make an apricot cobbler type dish and decided that this tangled topping would make and excellent Crisp.

Makes one 10 inch round baking dish

 For the apricots:
3/4 cups sliced almonds
3 Tbl butter
3 Tbl honey
4 Tbl granulated sugar
2 to 2  1/2 pounds apricots, pitted and sliced into 1/3 inch wedges
1 Tbl cornstarch
1 tsp almond extract

Place the sliced almonds in a large dry saute pan and over medium heat gently toast them. Remove from pan.
In the same pan melt the butter along with the honey and sugar.  Add all but 3 Tbl of the toasted almonds (reserved almonds will be for sprinkling over the finished Crisp)
Gently stir in the sliced apricots and sprinkle the cornstarch over again gently stirring over the heat for about one minute.  Off the heat stir in the almond extract and pour the mixture into a 10x10 inch baking pan or a 10 inch round baking dish with sides about 2 inches.

For the crisp phyllo topping:

8 ounces phyllo dough, thawed overnight in the fridge if purchased frozen.
4 Tbl butter, melted
2 Tbl granulated sugar
The prepared apricot mixture
Th 3 Tbl of reserved almonds
Confectioners sugar for dusting (optional)

Pre heat your oven to 350F.  open your package of phyllo but don't unroll it.  Lay the roll on a cutting board and with a sharp knife cut the roll in 1/2 inch pieces.
Toss the pieces of phyllo around to open the rolls and then pour the butter over and sprinkle with the sugar. Toss again so that the phyllo is somewhat all coated with butter and sugar.
Top the prepared apricot mixture with the tangled phyllo and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the apricots are bubbly.  Out of the oven, sprinkle with the remaining almonds.  Let rest about 10 minutes before serving. Dust each serving with confectioners sugar if desired.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sweet Tomato and Peach Cobbler

Ever since I made a tomato tart tatin from Bon Appetit"s August 2010 issue I've been totally addicted to tomatoes sauteed in butter and sugar.  They make a great ice cream topping, pound cake topping and are even lovely spread on toast.  I added this sweet goodness to peaches, and with a little cinnamon and cayenne arrived at this cobbler.

Makes one 9x13 inch cobbler

For the tomatoes and peaches:

8 large plum tomatoes
6 large yellow peaches
3 Tbl butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbl plus 1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Peel the tomatoes and peaches by marking an "X" on the bottom of each and plunging into boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Once a bit cool, the skins should peel right off.
Halve the tomatoes lengthwise and scoop out the core and seeds with a small spoon.  Slice each half in half again and set the slices on paper toweling to drain.
Spread the butter in a large saute pan and sprinkle with the sugar.  Add the tomatoes in one layer and over medium heat cook the tomatoes for 20 to 30 minutes until the syrup created becomes amber like in color.
Slice the peaches into wedges about 1/3 inch thick and add them to the pan of tomatoes.
Combine the cornstarch, cinnamon and cayenne and gently stir into the mixture.  Transfer the mixture to a 9x13 inch baking pan.

For the biscuit topping:

1  1/3 cups AP flour
3 Tbl granulated sugar plus one extra Tbl for sprinkling
1  1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
The tomato-peach mixture

Pre heat your oven to 400F.  In a medium mixing bowl whisk the flour, 3 Tbl sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together.
Cut the butter into small pieces and with a fork, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture gets crumbly.  Pour in the buttermilk and combine with a fork until everything comes together.
Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the top of the tomato-peach mixture.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top browns a bit and the fruit gets bubbly.  let rest for about 20 minutes before serving.  Ice cream or whipped cream are optional but darn good!!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Savory Mushroom Pate

I grow many herbs in pots all around the garden - basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, mint...but one of my favorites is summer savory, an annul related to its perennial counterpart, winter savory.  Summer savory is not as harsh as the winter variety and its uses are common in beans, sausage and stuffings.  Bulgarians call it chubritza, a must in bean soup.  When dried, chubritza will sit on the Bulgarian table mixed with salt and paprika as a seasoning for all kinds of dishes.  Here I combine fresh summer savory with mushrooms and ricotta for a lovely summer pate.

Makes about 1  1/2 cups

3 Tbl unsalted butter
4 ounces shitake mushrooms
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1  1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbl minced summer savory leaves

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and finely dice the caps.  Melt the butter in a large saute pan and add the diced mushrooms.  Saute the mushrooms for about 3 minutes on high heat and then add the garlic.  Continue to saute until the mushrooms brown a bit and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Let cool.
In the bowl of a food processor add the mushroom mixture along with the rest of the ingredients and process until almost smooth.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving with crackers or little toasts.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Creamy Rosemary Scented Beans and Tomatoes

White beans and tomatoes meet a little rosemary for a nice side for grilled or roasted meat, fowl or fish.

Makes 4 to 6 side servings

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 dry pint grape tomatoes
2 three inch sprigs fresh rosemary
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
3 cups cooked white beans ( or two 15.5 cans drained and rinsed)
1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
Additional s & p if needed

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the tomatoes and sprigs of rosemary and saute until the tomatoes soften and start to break down. Help them along with the back of a wooden spoon. (This might take up to 10 minutes-take your time)
Once the tomatoes break down add the minced garlic and continue to saute until the garlic softens and becomes very fragrant.
Remove the sprigs of rosemary from the pan and stir in the salt, pepper and minced rosemary.  Stir in the beans and heat until hot, stirring all the way.  The beans will soften a bit and get a little creamy.  Taste for adjusting salt and pepper.
Stir in the minced parsley and serve.