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Roasted summer vegetables

Roasted vegetables are great as a light lunch or dinner. Try roasted asparagus with basil and sea salt pesto, baby artichokes with feta dip and round courgettes with cherry tomato sauce.

Surely, they would be even greater, if grilled and consumed in a garden, by the lake or in a park. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. For instance, one might not have a garden, a lake or a grill. Unexpected rain can also disrupt an al fresco dinner. Another reason could be a group of wasps.

It was during my sailing holidays in Croatia. I have spend the entire day gutting fish, squid and octopus that I'd bought on a market, geatting ready for a BBQ evening. When we'd finally managed to find a picturesque little bay and tie up the boat, we realised there were countless wasps coming to our yacht and we had to run away. We ended up staying in a marina where barbecueing was not permitted and I had to make the squid and octopus in the oven.

What lesson can be learned from this story? Probably the fact that anything that you might want to barbecue, you can also make in the oven. It doesn't always work the other way around, but in this case it does - I have prepare these recipes for the oven, but you can make the vegetables on the grill too.

Recipe: Roasted asparagus with basil and sea salt pesto

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • a bunch asparagus
  • one tsp. olive oil

Recipe: Basil and sea salt pesto

Ingredients
  • one cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
Method
  • Blend basil with olive oil.
  • Add salt, combine.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Trim asparagus' ends. Coat asparagus with olive oil.
  • Roast at 180C for about 20 minutes.
  • Serve with pesto.

Recipe: Roasted artichokes with sizzling feta dip

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4-6 baby artichokes
  • one tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • one tsp lemon zest

Recipe: Sizzling feta dip

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
Method
  • Prepare a bowl with cold water with lemon juice. To prevent artichokes from discoloration, keep the cut ones in the bow before you're ready to roast them.
  • Cut the stalks off the artichoke. Pull off the tough leaves. Cut the artichoke in half. Spoon out the inner leaves and the fuzzy choke. Very young artichokes might not have the choke.
  • Combine oil and lemon juice, coast artichokes with the mixture. Place them in a baking dish and top with lemon zest.
  • Roast at 200C for aboit 25 mintes.
  • Combine feta with oil and lemon juice.
  • Place in a ramekin and bake with the artichokes for 20 minutes.

Recipe: Roasted round courgettes with roasted tomatoes sauce

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 round courgettes
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • tsp olive oil

Recipe: Roasted tomatoes sauce

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • tsp brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
Method
  • Cut the tomatoes in halves and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and sugar.
  • Roast at 150C for about 45 minutes.
  • Cool down and blend.
  • Cut the courgettes in halves and coat with oil. Place them in a baking dish and top with chili flakes.
  • Roast at 200C for about 35 minut.
  • Serve with tomato sauce.

Pho soup

Delicious, aromatic and wonderfully warming, Vietnamese pho soup is a perfect remedy for a spring cold and a bad mood. As you can probably imagine, there are numerous variations and regional modifications of the recipe. The one I propose is my way of quickly making a satisfying bowl of soup.

I’ve made mine with shrimp, but you could use thin slices of beef instead. If you want your version to be vegan, go for cubed tofu. You can substitute mint and cilantro with your favourite fresh herbs and spice things up with Sriracha sauce.

It is consumed at any time of day in the North of Vietnam, whereas Southern Vietnamese usually serve it in the morning. It might seem weird to have a bowl of soup for breakfast, but trust me - it really is the best way to start your day. Especially on Mondays.

Recipe: Pho soup

Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 4 cups homemade vegetable stock
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • one piece (ok. 5 cm) ginger
  • one green chili
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 anise stars
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • To serve: rice noodles, raw shrimp, green chili, lime, fresh mint and cilantro
Method
  • Char the onion and ginger over an open flame.
  • In a large pot, dry-roast cloves, cinnamon, anise, coriander and cardamom.
  • Add onion, ginger, chili and stock.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer, covered, for about an hour.
  • Season with sugar, soy sauce and lime juice.
  • In each bowl, place some noodles, shrimp, sliced green chillies, lime wedges, fresh mint and cilantro.
  • Top with hot broth.

Flambeeria

Tarte flambée - a traditional Alsatian flatbread, made with bread dough and baked in a wood-fire oven with crème fraîche, sliced onions and lardons. Contrary to what the name suggests, tarte flambée is not actually flambéed, but baked in flames - the borders of the crust should be at least golden brown, or even slightly burned. The best (and so far the only one) place to enjoy tarte flambée in Warsaw is called Flambéeria. Let’s see what its co-creators, Agnieszka Wiewiórska and Krzysztof Wołyniec, have to say about good wine and the secrets of a perfect dough.

Even though tarte flambée is a regional Alsatian dish, Flambéeria is not an Alsatian restaurant.

It was never our goal to move Alsace to Warsaw. Tarte flambée is just a starting point; we would describe our cuisine as European, with influences from many different countries. The whole concept was based on our memories from various culinary travels. Our team is a mix of friends and acquaintances - everyone brought their ideas, experiences and inspirations. What’s really funny is the fact that it wasn’t France where we first came across tarte flambée, but Kiev and South Africa.

How did you get the idea to base your menu on Alsatian tart?

In fact it didn’t start with tarte flambée, but with wine. We had this idée fixe for quite a while - to create a place where people can come and drink really good sparkling wine at really affordable prices. We wanted to add an interesting snack and at one point we realised that thin tart and sparkling wine are a match made in heaven.

I totally agree, this combination is amazing!

Well, it was only the beginning, as it soon turned out that it won’t be easy to recreate the crust. We were lucky to have met Krzysztof, an expert on bread dough and our master of tarte flambée.

Krzysztof, how did your passion start?

It all begun with another passion, my crazy love for Italy. I have always known that l’Italia is my place on earth. My friends make fun of me, because I recognise only one travel destination - Italy. I go there whenever I have some spare time. A few years back I’ve decided to stay for a little longer. I wanted to taste the Italian lifestyle and earn experience, I didn’t know if I would stay for a month or a year. I lived in sunny Abruzzo for almost four years. I’d tried different jobs, but what intrigued me from the beginning was the pizza dough and all the secrets of its preparation. I worked in several restaurants and finally I was given a chance to run a pizzeria. All these places were traditional, honest, with locals coming for dinners.

I was able to live my love for Italy every day. My work didn’t start until afternoon, so I would spend the first part of the day on Adriatic beach. Each evening started with lighting the oven and ended with baking bread from leftover dough. It turned out that physical work with wood-fire oven - woodchopping, kneeling the dough, sweeping out the ash - was both fascinating and purifying.

Having come back to Poland, I made a point of bringing a part of Italy with me. I start each day with coffee and a cornetto, I don’t eat scrambled eggs for breakfast. The only things missing were a warm sea and a wood-fire oven. Luckily, I have found the oven and tarte flambée became my next challenge.

Is tarte flambée very different from pizza?

They seem similar at first glance. Tarte flambée has a different shape, is thinner and cut in a different way. As usual, the devil is in the detail - it took numerous trials and errors and laboratory precision to develop a perfect recipe. The ingredients of both doughs are alike - flour, water, yeast, salt and olive oil - but finding the right proportions and method required a lot of effort. Italian dough is formed manually, Alsatian tarte calls for a rolling pin, as it has to be extremely thin. I had to discipline myself along the way, so that I wouldn’t go in the pizza direction.

But finally we got it, the recipe has been written down. We have also recently perfected our recipe for a gluten-free crust.

The menu is short, but well composed.

So far we have two salads and a few kinds of tarte flambée. The first one is a tribute to the Alsatian tradition (classic combination of bacon and onions), all the others are our variations. The base, crème fraîche, stays the same, the toppings change. We have a spicy tart with chorizo and prawns, a Polish version with white sausage, potatoes and fresh rosemary, a lighter one with pear, gorgonzola and lavender buds. There’s only one dessert position, tarte flambée with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar, but we will soon add other sweet choices. The menu indeed isn’t long, but we’ve carefully composed all the combinations and we are sure that we can recommend them to our guests.

And then there’s the sparkling wine!

We used a similar system when choosing wines - we’re selling the ones that we have tested ourselves and that we really liked (we were just as serious about wine tasting as we were with the dough). We have sparkling wines, just as promised. Our favourite is the lively and refreshing Glera, both frizzante and spumante. We have a short cocktail menu based on Glera as well. There’s traditional Kir (but with a twist: we top French crème de cassis with Italian wine), Mimosa and our version of Bellini, with nectarine or pear (depending on the season) and rosemary chutney that we make ourselves. There are no-fizzy wines too - delicate Flying Solo from Languedoc and fuller, more powerful Italian wines. So far we don’t serve Alsatian wines, but we have stronger cocktails, beer and cider. Just as with the food, the drinks menu is a combination of different experiences, ideas and inspirations.

If you haven’t had a chance to try tarte flambée, make sure to do it. Personally, I was quite surprised to discover that I found the simplest one the most addictive. On the other hand, the combination of cream, bacon and onions sounds very right and can make you feel so much better on a cold, dark evening. What is more, it won’t hurt your wallet - the classic tart is 16 PLN, a glass of Glera is, as promised, just 8 PLN. I think that sparkling wine works for every occasion. I have to say that after discovering the scandalous marriage of hot dogs and champagne, I didn’t think there could ever be a more enticing couple. But a thin Alsatian tart and a glass of sparkling Glera is at least just as good. Flambéeria is a great place for long evenings with friends, when you can share different kinds of tarte flambée and toast with sparkling FlamBellini. But don’t forget that bubbles can be deceiving!

Flambéeria, ul. Hoża 61, Warsaw

Greek salad

What is the last time you had Greek salad? Personally, I have forgotten about it for a while, probably in an unconscious attempt to block out the memories of many bad Greek salads I was served in the 90's. There was always too much lettuce, well, it was mainly lettuce, cleverly covered up with a layer of diced tomatoes and cucumbers, bad olives and poor quality feta. The original version does not include lettuce and it's beauty comes from simplicity and great quality of ingredients. Use ripe heirloom tomatoes, good olives and authentic Greek feta and you no longer need to top everything with vinaigrette. The only adjustment I made was adding crushed chili instead or oregano.

Recipe: Greek salad

Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • a handful of good, ripe tomatoes, you can use different types
  • 1/2 of cucumber
  • a handful of Greek olives
  • 1/3 of red onion
  • thick slice of Greek feta
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. of crushed chillies
Method
  • Cut tomatoes into slices or quarters, depending on their sizes. Slice cucumber and onion.
  • Arrange all the ingredients on a platter, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chili.
  • You can serve it as a meal with grilled pita or as a side salad.

Clams steamed with cider

A steamy pot of mussels or clams is a rather effective, yet extremely simple and easy dish. It takes so little time to prepare it that it almost seems unfair. Anyway, if you're looking for a spectacular main for a date, a family dinner or a larger party, go for shellfish. They're great with white wine, but beer and cider make delicious alternatives.

Recipe: Clams steamed with cider

Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 kg of clams, cleaned
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • one tbsp. of butter
  • 300 ml of dry cider
  • 2 tbsp. of freshly chopped parsley
Method
  • Melt butter in a large pot.
  • Add garlic and shallots and cook until tender.
  • Add clams and wine, increase the heat and cover the pot.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes, until shells has opened.
  • Top with fresh parsley. Serve with fresh baguette and a glass of chilled cider.
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