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Cucamelon Salsa

Cucamelons, also known as mouse melons, Mexican miniature watermelons or Mexican sour cucumbers, look like tiny watermalons (and you know that I love all things tiny, see: baby eggplants) and taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime. In spite of appearances, they have not been created by a crazy gardener - cucamelons are native to Mexico and Central America. Oh, and they are also delicious!

Recipe: Cucamelon Salsa

  • 300 g of cucamelons, cut in halves
  • 50 g of feta, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp. of chopped Thai basil
  • 1/2 tsp. of chili flakes
  • juice of 1/2 lime

  • Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
    Set aside for at least half an hour.
    Serve with toasted bread.

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    Roasted Baby Eggplants

    I have deep respect for eggplants. Can you think of any other edible item in such a deep shade of purple?
    If there's anything better than eggplant, it's baby eggplant. But I'm a fan of miniature versions of pretty much everything. Baby eggplants make a perfect starter - all you have to do is roast them, maybe adding a bit of spicy green paste.

    Recipe: Roasted Baby Eggplants

    Serves: 2
  • 5 baby eggplants
  • one tbsp. of olive oil
  • Green paste

  • one garlic clove
  • one tsp. of grated ginger
  • 1/2 green chili pepper
  • 2 tbsp. of chpped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp. of soy sauce

  • Blend all the paste ingredients together.

    Score the bottoms of each eggplant with an “X”, about 2/3 through.
    Stuff eggplants with green paste and place them on an oiled baking sheet.
    Roast at 180C until the eggplants have softened (about 25 minutes).

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    Blackberry cobbler

    It's a perfect treat for a rainy afternoon. It's almost effortless and you'll probably have most of the ingredients at hand. Combine fruit with sugar, make the dough, put the ramekins in the oven. While waiting, go take a hot shower and make some tea. It's an easy recipe for a moment of relaxation after a busy day.

    Recipe: Blackberry cobbler

    Serves: 2
  • one cup of blackberries
  • 3 tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 tbsp. of corn starch
  • Dough

  • one cup of flour
  • 50 g of butter, diced
  • 4 tbsp. of sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. of baking powder
  • 100 ml of milk

  • Combine blackberries with sugar and corn starch, transfer to two greased ramekins (I went for individual portions, but you can also make one larger one).

    Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, combine butter with dry ingredients. Add milk and mix until combined.
    Dollop the dough over fruits and bake at 180C for about 30 minutes.

    Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

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    Herby feta pasta rotolo

    Rotolo di pasta - pasta roll, in m case cut into small pieces and baked with tangy tomato sauce. Hearty casseroles make you think of chilly autumn evenings, but the filling of ewe feta with freshly chopped cilantro and mint definitely tastes like summer.

    I used Scotch bonnet pepper to make the sauce. It's fairly hot - according to Scoville scale, which compares the capsaicin concentration in chili peppers, it's on a par with habanero. Those who can sense more than just a fire in their moth claim that its taste is very deep and distinctive. This time I didn't want a very pungent and overpowering sauce, so instead of chopping the pepper, I added the whole thing to the simmering sauce. It resulted in nice, slightly smoky flavour. Give it a try!

    Recipe: Herby feta pasta rotolo

    Serves: 2 rather hungry people
  • 5 fresh lasagne sheets
  • one tbsp. of olive oil
  • ground parmesan, to taste
  • Filling:

  • 400 g of ewe feta
  • one tbsp. of crème fraîche
  • 2 tbsp. of chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp. of chopped mint

  • Combine all the ingredients of the filling. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
    Place the filling on lasagne sheets, roll and cut into small pieces.
    You might need to slightly cook lasagne sheets first, depending on how soft they are.

    Tomato sauce

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • one small onion, diced
  • Scotch bonnet pepper, whole
  • 5 large tomatoes - scalded, peeled and diced
  • one tsp. of sugar
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • one tbsp. of olive oil

  • In a saucepan heat the olive oil, add onion and garlic and cook until soft and golden.
    Add tomatoes and whole Scotch bonnet pepper, season with sugar, salt.
    Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens.



    Spread the sauce on the bottom of an oiled baking dish. Top with pasta rolls.
    Bake at 180C for about 35-40 minutes.
    Before serving, top with grated parmesan.

    11

    Grilled salade nicoise

    You probably have all heard about salade niçoise, right? And most of you have tried it at least once. So have I. But while I can easily evoke a mouthwatering image of a colourful salad, naming its ingredients comes up as quite a challenge. And this time it’s not me to cause the problem, it’s the salad. Finding the ultimate recipe seems impossible. Ok, so I didn’t verify this, but I’m willing to make a bet that ordering salade niçoise in each bistro on the French coast, you will end up eating a different meal every time.

    The first version of the salad was limited to tomatoes, anchovies and a few drops of olive oil. We will find tomatoes in most of the contemporary variations of the salad - either cherry tomatoes, or thick slices of the larger ones. Anchovies either go together with tuna or substitute it. Personally, I cannot imagine a Niçoise salad without tuna, which is also the reason why I have avoided this particular salad for years. My aversion to canned tuna comes from the time when I was starting my culinary adventures at the age of 10. In one of the food magazines I found a recipe for tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad. Needless to say, this fancy presentation seemed like the essence of elegance and good taste (I was a huge fan of mini skewers at that time too), so I tortured my whole family with this dish on every occasion. I haven’t had the courage to ever try stuffed tomatoes again.

    Luckily I have discovered that you can substitute canned tuna with slices of delicious, pink tuna steaks. Most recipes include haricot verts (or other beans), olives (black, Niçoise) and hard boiled eggs. Other add potatoes, artichokes, broad beans, slices of cucumber or radish, bell peppers, crunchy lettuce, capers, red onion or scallions. When it comes to dressing, different variations of vinaigrette are the most popular (with garlic, with red wine vinegar, with herbs), followed by olive oil mixed with fresh herbs, like parsley or basil.

    The good new is that you can make whatever you want and still call it salade niçoise. I didn’t care for eggs, went with fresh tuna, grilled everything that was grillable and opted for traditional vinaigrette. You can do something similar. Or something completely different.

    Recipe: Grilled salade niçoise

    Serves: 2
  • 2 tuna fillets (about 150 g each)
  • a few baby potatoes
  • a handful of green beans
  • a few cherry tomatoes
  • a handful of olives
  • 1/2 of red onion, cut in half
  • Vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil
  • one tbp. of white wine vinegar
  • one tbsp. of lemon juice
  • one tsp. of runny honey
  • one tsp. of coarse mustard
  • a pinch of salt

  • Whisk all the ingredients together.

    Parboil the potatoes so that they're mostly cooked, but not perfectly soft (about 15 minutes). Let them cool and slice in halves.
    Blanch green beans (about 5 minutes).

    Grill potato halves, beans, onion quarters and tomatoes. The time depends on your grill, ingredients and individual preferences. Potatoes should be tender and golden, beans should remain crunchy, onion should be browned and tomato skins should start wrinkling. Place grilled vegetables on a plate, together with olives.
    Grill tuna fillets for about 30 seconds each side (or longer, if you prefer the tuna well done).
    Slice the tuna and place on the salad. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with lemon juice. Top the salad with vinaigrette.
    Serve with bread and white wine.

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