Archive for June, 2008

Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed

June 25, 2008
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Will you believe me if I tell you that it is currently just before 6 am, and that I have already been up for half an hour? This, by the way, is in no means due to my otherwise highly energetic nature, but rather to the fact that my little twins B. and B. (obviously not Brendon and Brenda, they are boys) are both working out their standing skills. And they both seem to believe it’s a good idea to be up bright eyed and bushy tailed at the crack of dawn. Me, not so much.

L. and I have decided to take the fall every other day, in the firm belief that this too shall pass. Today seems to be my day so here I am bleary eyed, malcoiffed and ready to share with you a lovely salad, that I would make again in a heartbeat, if I had the right ingredients on hand. For once, I don’t believe in substitution!

As an aside, I was going to share my recipe for High Tea, scones, cucumber sandwiches, radish sandwiches and meringues. Since my scones are the same ones as these, and the sandwiches are pretty easy (thinly slice cucumbers or radishes, butter some white bread with (salted) butter, spread with the thin slices of the vegetable of your choice, cut off the crust, cut the bread diagonally in four parts, serve), and ultimately since pretty much every picture of the lovely High Tea table, set all in shades of pink and the even lovelier company, was flawed to due the eminent presence of a jar of baby food at every shot (Note to self: remember your father’s adivce and always remove bottles and jars out of photos of tables!). I abstain in favor of this lemony lima bean, zucchini and chickpea salad.

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Lemony Lima Bean, Zucchini and Chickpea Salad

adapted from the Martha Stewart website
prep time: 10 min

300 g lima beans, fresh or frozen
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small zucchini
juice of one big lemon
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp of basil
1 tbsp of parsley
Parmesan to taste
olive oil
salt and pepper

Blanch the lima beans (or cook them if they are fresh) until they are just tender: 6 min for frozen, half the time for fresh beans. Blanch the zucchini for about 2 min. Toss togther with the chickpeas in a salad bowl. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Shortcut Tarte

June 17, 2008
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Hello, did you miss me?* And welcome to you, gentle readers of Nothing But Bonfires, how kind of you to drop by!

 

We had my In-Laws over for the last 10 days… and that is all I will say about it. During this time much takeout food was consumed, much beer was drunk and little was cooked.

However, we did get a lovely dinner celebration going for my husband L.’s birthday exactly one week ago. His request was something with fruit, or a chocolate cake — and since we’d just had our fill of chocolate thanks to the hippie cake, I went with the fruit. For the actual dinner however, my offer to cook was shunned in favor of BURRITOS! and QUESADILLAS! from DOLORES! who as you can see if you click on the link is a food joint, and not a lovely mexican lady.

Anyway for the dessert, because we were 7 people in a three room apartment (and that is literally three rooms), I decided to make this the most simple fruit dessert possible. A shortbread crust (pâte sablée) to which I added lemon zest, a lemony-mascarpone filling to replace the traditional vanilla custard base, and lots of delicious strawberries.

I started the dough the evening before the birthday, on a night were I was fuming and furious and sent everybody away – I can’t even remember why anymore! And making it was enough to chill me right out and helped me remember who I was making this dessert for (insert sappy sniffling and smoochiness here). The dough got to rest in the fridge overnight, and I blind baked it in the morning at 7am (it was already 30°in the kitchen by then, and we were still 7 people, but it had to be done then), filled it with the mascarpone at 7pm, amidst shrieking little boys and freaked out grandparents, and finally, painstakingly, added the strawberries, half by half. And by 8pm, it was gone.

What I am trying to say is that I am apparently moody, complicated and very specific about having my strawberries just so. L liked his dessert though, and that’s what counts in the end, right?

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The tarte dough is a variation on the basic tarte dough that I mention here. It uses an egg and rolls out much thinner. On the whole I would say it’s better, but it also is a tad more fastidious in the making.

 

Strawberry Tarte revisited

prep time: 5min, cooling time: 1h, up to all night long (oh yeah), parbaking time 25 min*

 

metal mixing bowl and knife or food processor, fluted tarte pan, baking weights (beans or rice work just fine. Just don’t ever use popcorn. Trust me)

 

Shortbread Pastry

1 egg
80 g caster sugar
250 g flour
150 g butter, softened
grated zest of one medium lemon**
1 pinch of salt

Put your egg, lemon zest, sugar and salt into a bowl and mix it up until it pales and starts smelling really good. Slowly add the flour and assemble it with your fingertips (or food processor, you lazy baker you!) until sandy and coarse. Mix in the softened butter and incorporate it well. Roll into a ball, cover with clingwrap and leave in the fridge to rest and also tolet the dough amalgamate (yes, I had a dictionary for dinner.).

Preheat the oven to 200°. Butter and flour the fluted tarte pan. Roll out the dough thinly to the desired size, fold it and unfold it into your tarte tin. Cover the dough with parchment paper which you have weighted down with beans, or actual baking weights and bake for 15 min or until golden. Let cool about 30 min if you are using anything creamy or custrady, otherwise your filling will melt .

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Meanwhile, make your

 

Lemon-Mascarpone Filling

prep time: 5 min

 

1 zest and juice of a medium sized lemon (about 130 g)
80 g sugar
250 g Mascarpone

Whisk all the ingredients together and spread on your cooled tarte-base.

Add the strawberries (I used a little under a kg for the Tarte), either all neat and orderly, or not. And voilà, you’re done!

* Whoever (apart from my sister) completes this sentence with “I know I’m hard to resist” and knows who’s quoted gets two thumbs up from me! And please tell me who you are, so I can high-five you from a distance…

** I grated mine with a fancy microplane thingie, but chopped up zest would be fine, you just don’t want giant long lemon ribbons dangling of you tarte slice.

flatbread

June 1, 2008

DISCLAIMER: this post has absolutely nothing to do with the fabulously red vegetable slicer pictured in the last post. Sorry!

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My first encounter with flatbread, was an intolerable ad for the golden arches’ newly invented chicken flatbread in Vancouver in 2003. I thought it was a weird cross between a tortilla and a pizza and vowed never to try it. However, the donna hay magazine that already brought you potstickers, had a recipe for flatbread in it as well which I tried. And liked.

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Flatbread tastes like a cross between focaccia (a word the germans love to pronounce for some reason, saying with a lot of emphasis on the tchia at the end!) and emerican style pizza. The yeast dough is made with milk, and uses more of it than you would use water to make pizza dough. Meaning, the flatbread gets very doughy and chewy and tasty! I could get all poetic about how pillowy and and savoury and whatevery it was, but I’ll let you find out for yourself.

Our flatbread was topped with some thyme and lemon marinated mozzarella (which I marinated for all of 5 min, due to my permanent lack of TIME!) and it was so good, it was still tasty eaten cold in my office the next day! You could use any kind of simple topping, although I wouldn’t really use it as a base for anything saucy, rather something simple (Donna, my high priestess of all things caloric, suggests using caramelised shallots or simply salt and rosemary).

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Flatbread topped with Marinated Mozzarella

adapted from donna hay magazine
prep time: 30 min, active time: 10 min, baking time: 15-20 min,


for the dough

2 tsp of active dry yeast
1 tsp of sugar
1 1/3 cup of lukewarm milk
2 1/2 cup of white flour

1 tsp salt
1 tbsp of oilve oil and more for brushing

silicon mat / parchment paper

In a small bowl combine the yeast, milk and sugar and set aside in a warmish place until bubbles rise to the surface – about 5 min.
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper. In a bigger mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, olive oil and the yeast mixture and knead with a handmixer fitted with dough hooks. Add some extra flour if the dough is too sticky. When you have reached an elastic consistency, cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rest until doubled in size – about 20 min.

Press the dough to about 1.5 c thickness onto a your baking tray covered with the silicon mat or parchment paper. Brush with oil and / or the topiing of your choice. Bake for 15-20 min or until golden. Serve warm.

For the Mozzarella

1 ball of buffalo mozzarella packed in brine
2 tbsp of lemon zest
2 tbsp of fresh thyme
about 1/4 cup of olive oil

Tear the mozzarella into small pieces and place in a shallow plate or bowl. Add the thyme and lemon zest and cover with the olive oil. Leave to rest until ready to use. It should keep for a couple of days covered and refrigerated. The flavors intensify with time.

For more immediately intense flavors, you could infuse the olive oil with the lemon zest and thyme by putting them with the oil in a shallow frying pan and gently heating it up for a couple of minutes. Don’t forget to cool down the oil before you add it to the mozzarella or you’ll end with a gloppy mess!