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roasted ratatouille

Ratatouille is a Provençal vegetable stew, originating in Nice. As it is often the case with traditional dishes, there is much debate on how to prepare ratatouille. The simplest method is sautéing all the vegetables together in a large pot. Some cooks insist on cooking the vegetables separately in order to enhance their individual flavours. Eggplants and courgettes are sautéed and tomatoes, bell peppers and onion are made into a sauce. Vegetables and sauce are then cooked together or baked as a casserole.

My recipe resembles confit byaldi - a contemporary version of ratatouille, invented by French chef, Michela Guérarda. Guérard is the creator of cuisine minceur, a cooking style which creates lighter version of French classics. In his confit byaldi vegetables are cut into thin slices and baked without frying. The dish was popluarized owing to an American chef, Thomas Keller, famous for his Michelin three-star restaurant, The French Laundry in California. Keller was a consultant for the animated Ratatouille and it is his version of the dish that we can see in the film. Keller's variation of Guérard's dish added two sauces Basque piperade made with tomatoes, green bell pepper and onion and balsamic vinaigrette.

Regardless of how you choose to prepare it, ratatouille is going to be delicious.

Recipe: Roasted ratatouille

  • one eggplant
  • one courgette
  • one yellow bell onion
  • one red onion
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • one can of chopped tomatoes
  • a few branches of fresh thyme
  • one tsp. of brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • one tbsp. of olive oil

  • Thinly slice all the vegetables.
    Spread tomatoes over the bottom of a baking dish. Season with sugar, salt and pepper.
    Arrange vegetable slices concentrically on top of tomatoes.
    Drizzle with olive oil, top with fresh thyme, season with salt and pepper.
    Roast at 180C for about 45 minutes.

    Serve as a side or as a main with fresh baguette. Możecie podawać jako dodatek do dania głównego albo jako samodzielne danie, np. ze świeżą bagietką.
    The taste improves with age overnight in the refrigerator.

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    Fennel roasted with tomato sauce

    Recipe: Fennel roasted with tomato sauce

  • one large fennel
  • 2 garlic cloves - minced
  • one onion - diced
  • 4 large tomatoes - scalded, peeled and diced
  • one tsp. of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. of chili flakes
  • 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, season with sugar, salt and chili. Simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens.

    To prepare the fennel, trim off the green tops (reserve them for garnish). Peel off the tougher outer layer.
    Cook in a boiling water for about 10 minutes. Let cool and cut the bulb into quarters.
    Place in an oiled baking dish and coat fennel with tomato sauce.
    Roast at 180C for about 30 minutes.

    Top with chopped fennel fronds. Serve with bread.

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    spinach lahmacun

    Lahmacun, the Turkish pizza, is a thin piece of dough topped with minced meat, usually lamb or beef.
    It is traditionally baked in stone oven and sprinkled with freshly squeezed lemon juice before serving.
    This is a vegetarian version with spinach and feta cheese.

    Recipe: Spinach lahmacun

    Dough

  • 500 g of wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp, of active dry yeast
  • 400 ml of lukewarm water
  • one tsp. of salt
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil

  • Place sieved flour in a large bowl and combine with yeast and salt.
    Gradually add water, stirring constantly. Add olive oil and work the dough by hand.
    Once it's smooth and elastic place in an oiled bowl, cover with cloth and set aside in a warm place for about an hour.

    Spinach

  • 750 g of fresh spinach
  • red onion, sliced
  • garlic, sliced
  • one tbsp. of butter

  • Melt butter in a skillet, add onion and garlic and cook until transculent.
    Add spinach and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, until the leaves have slightly wilted. When the dough has risen, form little balls (the recipe is enough for about 20 small lahmacuns). Using a roller pin roll out the balls very thinly.
    Top each with spinach, crumbled feta and chopped parsley.
    Bake at 220 C for 7-10 minutes.
    Before serving, top with freshly ground black pepper.

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    red lentil burgers with sweet potato fries

    Perhaps not the most creative recipe ever, but everyone enjoys a good burger every once in a while.

    Recipe: Red lentil burgers

  • 2 buns
  • 3 tbsp. of bryndza or other soft sheep's milk cheese
  • a few slices of grilled eggplant
  • a few slices of tomato
  • a few slices of red onion
  • a handful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • Patties

  • 1 1/2 cup of cooked red lentils
  • 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
  • one egg
  • one tsp. of ground cumin
  • one tsp. of tumeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of chili flakes

  • Combine all the ingredients on a bowl. Form two pattied.
    Bake at 180C for about 10 minutes, flipping the patties halfway through the baking time.

    Assemble the burgers: spread bryndza on the buns, top with grilled eggplant, lentil patties, cilantro leaves, tomato and onion.

    Sweet potato fries

  • one large sweet potato
  • one tbsp. of olive oil
  • one tsp. of smoked paprika powder
  • 1/2 tsp. of course sea salt

  • Cut the potato into fry-shaped pieces. Toss them into a bowl and combine with olive oil, smoked paprika and salt.
    Arrange the fries in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
    Bake at 180C for about 30 minutes, flipping fries halfway through baking time.

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    fregola sarda with mussels and clams

    Although it’s not a confirmed fact, the term sardine may actually come from the island of Sardinia, around which sardines were once abundant. Despite its obvious connections with fish and water, Sardinian cuisine is mostly based on meat. Naturally, you can enjoy a pot of fresh mussels and clams or a platter of langoustines and squids in a seaside trattoria. What is more, one of the local specialities, called bottarga, is a delicacy of salted, cured fish roe, served similarly to grated parmesan to add flavour to simple pasta dishes. The most renowned Sardinian dish is, however, porceddu - roasted whole suckling piglet, grilled on a fire built with aromatic woods, seasoned with myrtle, which is one of the most remarkable aromas of the island. Due to numerous invasions that the island had suffered from (starting as early as with the Carthaginians in the 6th century BC), Sardinians were forced to move their settlements towards the centre of the island, which meant walking away from the richness of seafood.

    Sardinian cuisine was strongly influence by the pastoralism, which’s story is as old as the story of Sardinia itself. Most of the island’s territories are grazings, unsuitable for any other agricultural production. This is why herding (mostly sheep, but also goats and cattle) had to become one of the most common occupation for the islanders. Shepherds needed food that was simple, nutritious and easy to transport, like maturing meats and cheeses, which get more flavourful with age and special types of bread. Thin and crispy carasau can be stored in a dry place for up to a year. Another light flatbread, pistoccu, can be eaten dry or softened with water. Then there’s civraxiu, crispy on the outside, soft and chewy inside. Owing to the preparation method and combination of ingredients, it can stay soft for a long time. A careful culinary observer will easily spot traces of foreign cultures. The most evident ones come from Spain, as Sardinia was under Spanish control for a several centuries. One will find the very same whole roasted piglet in Castilian cookbooks, under the name cochinillo asado. Another example is favata (in Italian) or fabata (in Spanish) - a hearty stew made in the winter with dried fava beans and pork. Arabic influences are visible when it comes to spices (saffron is now grown on the island and used to season soups and stews), roasted lamb, chickpeas and eggplants.

    Another example of Arabic legacy is fregola - little balls of pasta made with semolina. It’s particularly popular in the southwestern part of the island, where it was probably brought by Ligurian merchants from today’s Tunisia. Fregola is closely related to Maghreb’s couscous, it is even called Sardinian couscous. In fact it resembles pitim, the Israelian take on couscous, more. The balls are bigger that the regular couscous and toasted after drying, which gives them unique golden colour and characteristic taste.

    Fregola is served with fish soups and meat broths or with sauce. It is traditionally paired up with clams and tomato sauce (fregola alle arselle) or with hard sheep’s milk cheese, pecorino sardo (fregola incasada; incasado is a Sardinian term for ‘seasoned with cheese’, Sardinian pecorino in most of the cases). The recipe below is a modified version of the classic, fregola with clams and mussels.

    Recipe: Fregola sarda with mussels and clams

  • 1/2 kg of mussels
  • 1/2 kg of clams
  • 1 1/2 cup of dry fregola sarda
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • one large onion, diced
  • 2 cups of scalded, peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • one tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and onion and cook until golden brown.
    Add tometoes, season with sugar, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken.
    Add one cup of wine, increase the heat, bring to boil, add fregola and cook for 4 minutes.
    Add remaining wine, bring to boil. Add mussels and clams, cover the skillet and cook over high heat until they open.
    Serve with bread.

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