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Portugese Patterns

portuguese tiles

ceramic tile

Portugal has been one of those few European countries to which for some reason both my husband and myself never had been to. We had often been very close by, in Spain, we had seen pictures, heard recounts and read articles though. According to them, every pore and place of this history laden little country sounded fantastic, and a few weeks back we finally decided to go see for ourselves and travel to Portugal.

What a great decision this was! Even though our expectations were high, we did not get disappointed in any way. The cities are charmful and pictuesque, full of art and beauty stories, the villages and landscapes ever changing, rural and genuine. There’s colors and gardens and architectural styles, orchards and green spaces and traditions. The people act calm, friendly and helpful towards strangers, and seem like a happy and serene bunch between themselves.

pulpo

vineyards in the duoro

And the food, oh the glorious food, is an entire story on its own. Portugese food is down to earth and does, what food first and foremost used to be and (at least there, how refreshing to witness) still is intended to do: It nourishes. Both the body and the soul, and abundantly so. There is little Froufrou in Portugese food, and much honesty. Animals and plants are used in their entiety. So one will get served pig ears instead of just the loin, turnip greens instead of just turnip, or tiny, whole fishes, eyes, fins and all. Continue reading “Portugese Patterns” »

Swiss Kiss #11 – Omeletten

cheese omelette

They are not pancakes and they are not crêpes and they are not omelets. They are something in between all those. They are very Swiss. And they are called Omeletten.

omeletten stack

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My “I Love You All” Papaya Salad

Papaya salad on an Asian dressing

Blame it on the rain. – We were all set up at the market, us vendors, ready for the customers. But it was unusually grey and wet and unfriendly on that specific morning, and the clients very obviously were not in a rush. So we had time to walk between each others booths, and chat. And of course we talked (mostly) food. My friend from San Salvador told me about a meal a Chinese neighbor had fixed for her – a Thai version of green Papaya salad with chicken. She gave one of the green – not quite ripe – Papayas her neighbor is growing in Matlacha to me. I was fascinated and kept on tinkering about what I would be transforming my green gift into.

Later that day, my son came home from his farm job with a box of longish, yellow, beautifully glowing peppers I had never seen before. A little research made clear that they were Aji Amarillo. From Peru. – One more tempting country and cuisine. One that ignited my plan: I was going to make  salad of Floridian products that have their roots in South- and Central America, and an Asian style dressing. An ode to all of my international food and market friends.

unripe papaya

open papaya, with  seeds

Julienning the Papaya on a mandolin makes for a good crunch. I used Aji Amarillo, Serrano and Red Bell peppers, simply because I had those on hand. One can adjust the varieties to desire, creating a more or less spicy salad. I also added red and yellow Cherry Tomatoes, which turned out to be vibrant eye catchers. For more green speckles (besides the fine strips of Serrano), i put in fresh, chopped Cilantro and some green onions. Basil would work very well also, as would the addition of cooked green beans. By using sesame oil, lime juice, soy sauce and cooking rice wine, I kept the dressing simple yet tasty. This salad can be served as a light appetizer, a refreshing side dish or, complemented by fresh, grilled or dried shrimp, some cooked chicken, seared Tofu and a handful of toasted peanuts or cashews, as a healthy main dish.

Oh, and it works as a cooling meal on a sweltering hot day just as well as for a brightening and soothing bite on a rainy one. So no blaming here.

ingredients for papaya salad

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One Happy Couple

Edamame dip and Sesame crisps

Summers are hot and humid, where I live, and always too long. They are the season we complain about. It is too hot to be outside, too hot to move, too hot to do anything, too hot even for most plants to grow. So naturally, many of those summer days also are too hot to even think about hot food. Which translates into endless meals of grilled, chilled and then marinated vegetables, fish or light meats, cooled down pasta dishes, salads in abundance, frittatas, savory and sweet tarts at room temperature, cold soups, vibrant salsas and decadently tasty dips. (Oh, and did I mention refreshing cocktails, crisp whites and dry rosés?)

After having served and enjoyed guacamole, tzatziki, a chunky, pepper and peach based salsa and hummus, all in one week, I was in the mood for – still not hot food, no, but – a new version of a chilled and chilling side dish. While contemplating ingredients I had not worked with recently, Edamame came to mind. And, almost at the same moment, the Rice and Sesame Crackers I wanted to try in a long time. So that would be it: A smooth, soothing and speedy Edamame dip, accompanied by some crunchy, chewy crackers.

Dried Soy Beans

The couple turned out to be a match from heaven. The intensely contrasting flavors and textures of both components are fantastic and fun. The dip can also be used as a spread on sandwiches or burritos, or as a filling for deviled eggs (oh, I want some right now!). – With the help of a food processor, it is prepared within a few minutes. The crackers require a bit more time, but don’t fret, they are so worth it. During the majority of the time they take, only the dough is working – sorry: cooling -, and you don’t have to do anything. The most difficult thing about this little treat, really, is to not start eating the dip while the crackers are not ready yet. Once you have had them together, this should be manageable. Because this is one happy couple!

dip on cracker

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Have a Crush!

herb pesto without basilNo basil? No worries! You still can prepare and enjoy pesto. The classic and ubiquitous recipe from Genova, a busy port town on the Ligurian coast of Italy, calls for basil (plus olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and finely grated, aged cheese) in its cold sauce. But pesto – meaning “crushed” or “pounded” in Italian – can be made of any fresh herbs, really.

So when I received more mixed herbs from a farmer friend recently that fit into my fridge, no kidding, I decided to preserve them in the form of pesto (which I prefer so much more than dried herbs). I took out my food processor, gave it a long and grateful look, cut the garlic chive, vietnamese coriander, parsley and lemon thyme into about two inch long pieces, peeled plenty of garlic and grated a good amount of Paglierina, a wonderfully well balanced sheep milk cheese from Italy. And into the groove we went, my food processor and me: I poured some oil, added some greens, garlic and cheese, and in barely any time the mighty machine worked it down into a smooth, luscious paste. More oil, more solids. Out of the bowl the pesto went with the help of a spatula, into  a very large pan, so that there was space for the next batch. On and on, until those pounds of herbs all were turned into thick, concentrated sauce – and ready for a long, long life around many happy eaters.

triple cream brie cheese sandwich with pesto

jars full of herb pesto

Don’t stop thinking outside the box once the ingredients of your pesto are chosen. Do the same when it comes to its application. Of course pestos are great on pasta. But they can do so much more! They perk up any kind of sandwich. They make for big eyes and surprised “aahhh’s” as the base layer of savory tarts. They hide in the middle of a horizontally cut wheel of Brie and, once discovered, turn out to be the star of the show. Pestos can be added to salad dressings. They bring zing to tomato based pasta sauces. Or to pizza. A little dollop of pesto does not only make a polenta look better, but also taste richer. Same with boiled, baked or fried potatoes. Fish adores pesto. Soup, anyone? It too, loves your pesto. Oh, and if you dress your favorite nuts in some pesto and then bake them shortly, your guests will love you – and your drinks will taste so much better.

So, yes. Have a crush! It is so delightful. Even the unorthodox way.

pasta al pesto