Special Dessert for Holidays Season


This is my pumpkin-orange spicy-flavored XMAS-tree dessert. The idea to make a dessert shaped like an XMAS tree was raised in the 3rd round of “Chefs Battle Winter” competition. As there were no limitations whatsoever defining the ingredients, I first tried to think of the final image of my tree. Simple googling brought up the idea of a tree-over-cupcake/muffin 🙂 As I don’t like butter-made frosting, both for amount of calories and for flat flavor, I decided to use whipped cream instead – it’s much easier to work with, and you can give it almost any twist you like. And to make it even simpler – you don’t really have to make the cone by yourself as I did. Just tale ready-to-use ice-cream cones and fill them either with my pumpkin batter, or your favorite English cake batter, and then bake. The result would do the job as well.

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So, let’s start working. Btw, don’t be afraid of the length of the recepie – I wanted it to be as details as possible. It’s really quite easy to make. Would you believe me if I said that I did the decoration of the tree for the first time in my life? 🙂

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Seafood Risotto


The inspiration for making this dish (as always) is that we recently visited our favorite fisherman store not far from Jaffa port. They have huge variety of fresh fish and seafood. The mussels were so fresh, that even after spending a couple of days in a refrigerator they were still in a top shape and almost all “opened up” when being cooked.

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It is absolutely crucial to use fresh seafood for this risotto. Don’t even bother trying this with frozen or pre-cooked ones.

Ingredients:

(For 6-7 portions)
A pinch of Saffron “threads”
1.5 liter of fish stock
300 ml. of dry white wine
0.5 kg. shripms
1 kg. mussels
2-3 crabs
6 small calamari
75 gr. butter
1 onion finely chopped
500 gr. of large round risotto rice
Parsley for serving

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Sicilian Caponata


I have tasted my first Caponata in a nice traditional restaurant in Catania (Sicily). The dish was so good, I ended up literally licking the cup that was used to serve it and asking for some more. As for the restaurant, named I Crociferi (the Crusaders), it was something special. Lets set aside the fact that the food was very good, and the selection of fresh fish and sea food was absolutely out of this world (which is pretty normal for Sicily), the place itself was memorable. Imagine being sent back in time for, say, 40 years or so… Large hall (30-40 tables) with tall arches separating it to a number of areas. The tables, made of dark wood, were covered with flawlessly white cloth. A memorable experience…..

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Caponata is a widely prepared salad in Sicily, heavily based on eggplants. We’ve tried many versions of it and all other ingredients could vary (sometimes it would have some local flavors, depending on the are of Sicily you are in). Here’s what I managed to taste in the majority of them: tomatoes (of course), tomato paste, olives (green or black or both), capers, red pepper, chili pepper, vinegar (wine vinegar). Almost in every traditional Sicilian restaurant, you’d get a version of this salad with local bread.

When preparing mine, I was trying to emulate the most memorable one – the one from I Crociferi. It definitely isn’t identical, but quite similar and, regardless to authenticity, very tasty. Every time I am making this dish, I start remembering the vacation and the restaurant, so for me, its always a double pleasure 🙂

Ingredients:

(For half-a-liter of salad)
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 medium-sized eggplants
2 tomatoes
1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp of small capers (salted)
7-8 green olives
2 tsp. tomato paste
50 ml. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

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Lightning Fast Chicken Liver Pâté


How do you make a chicken liver pâté? Probably, you fry the onions until golden-brown, then cook (or fry) liver meat and then turn it all into a puree. Right? Anyway, that’s what I used to do, and it worked for me for some time. There’s nothing wrong with this process, but it is a bit time-demanding and requires a lot of attention. Recently I’ve seen another recipe, in which the pâté “practically” prepares it self, and it all takes only 10 minutes. The result is simply fabulous – its a great appetizer and you’ll get tons of compliments from your guests….

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Ingredients:

  • 500 grams of fresh Chicken liver
  • 2-3 glasses of chicken broth
  • 250 grams of lard (melted chicken fat, or even butter)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 50 grams pistachios

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Passion Fruit Cheese Cake with White Chocolate and Basil


This cake has participated in a grand cheesecakes competition in my workplace last year, reaching the final and receiving lots of feedback from tens/hundreds of people. It took me about a week to come up with a complete recipe, deciding on with the basis quite quickly, but spending lots of time on decoration. In fact, the final variant got “materialized” only when baking the cake.

Special thanks to Maria Selyanina for the excellent idea of using aromatic herbs. The cake itself is very simple to make and doesn’t even require a mixer.

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Ingredients:

Base:
150 gr. flour
40 gr. sugar powder
100 gr. cold butter cut into cubes
30 gr. cold milk
1/2 tsp. passion fruit extract

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Quince Jam


Believe it or not, but this was the first jam I’ve ever made. I spent some time home with a nasty cold/flu, and I thought of making a jam for more medicinal reasons than culinary. I’ve been curious about quince jams before, especially being impressed by their color. Somehow, I was avoiding making jams because of an assumption that it would be complicated. I couldn’t have been more wrong! It is very easy and the attractive color just occurs by itself (some sort of mystical transformation). So, if someone wants to try, I definitely recommend this method.

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Ingredients:

2 large quince fruits (in my case their combined weight was 1kg and they yielded 920 grams of fruit)
700 gr. sugar
Juice of half a lemon
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 tsp. of Cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg powder

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Orange Soup with Goat Cheese


There is something about thick/creamy orange-colored soups that make them especially popular in my family. Maybe its the fact that a bright orange color is a great mood setter, or my husband’s love for sweet potatoes (and mine for pumpkins) or something else. The fact is, that, at least twice a month, I find myself preparing an orange-colored soup. They can be lighter in summer and heavier/thicker in winter. This time I wanted to make something original and “play” a bit with the ingredients.

Here’s the logic for the ingredients: goat cheese is a great companion for pumpkin and sweet potato, as its piquancy combines well with their natural sweetness. Additionally acidity and aroma of oranges provides a great complement/contradiction to a velvety sweet pumpkin taste. All that’s remaining is to add some low-fat cream to balance (and subdue) all the flavors and we’re getting a very original, rich winter-type soup with great aroma and substance. It is thick, but, thanks to orange notes, doesn’t feel heavy at all.

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Ingredients:

(For 2-2.5 liters of soup)
1 Cucurbita moschata pumpkin (or 1.5 kgs of ordinary pumpkin)
1 medium-size carrot
1 medium-size sweet potato
1 small onion
1 trunk of leek
30 gr. butter
3 branches of thyme
water
2 oranges
250 gr. low fat cream
100 gr. young white goat cheese

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Cheese, Rosemary and Garlic Puff Pastry


‘T was the day after XMAS and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Seriously, it was a morning after some holidays (and holiday meals) and all I’ve had left in the refrigerator was leftovers – some cheese and sheet of ready-made puff pastry dough. Apparently, this was enough to prepare a very quick (less than 5 minutes) and very tasty salty pie for breakfast.

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Ingredients:

  1. ~70 gr of hard cheese (Kashkaval, Parmesan or Grana Padano)
  2. 100 gr of soft Goat Feta cheese
  3. 100 gr of Sour Cream (9%)
  4. Small sheet of ready-made puff pastry dough
  5. 1 garlic clove
  6. 1 branch of rosemary
  7. 1 egg

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Cauliflower “Couscous”


I saw this idea in a culinary magazine issue dedicated to gluten-free recipes and the technique of preparing a couscous-like dish with cauliflowers has caught my attention. So, the next day I bought some cauliflowers and prepared this salad. It turned out very fresh and original. I did leave the cauliflower “crunchy”, leave its original unmistakable texture. This is the main difference between my version and the original one where the cauliflower was cooked longer and became soft. I use this dish as either a light “dietary” garnish or as a salad in its own right. Preparing it can’t be easier and the taste can be combined with many dishes.

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Ingredients:

(For a medium-sized salad bowl)

1 head of cauliflower
A handful of dried cranberries
1/2 glass  finely chopped coriander leaves
1/2 glass  finely chopped mint leaves
Juice of half a lemon
A little olive oil (optional, can be removed due to dietary preferences)
Salt

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Zuppa di Pesce con Faggioli


I have tasted this Italian-style fish soup with beans at my sister’s. If you follow the proper procedure, making it can take up to 1.5 hours, but you prepare the fish stock in advance (and freeze it for later use), the whole process can go much faster.

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Ingredients for the fish stock:

A head and a spine of a large white-fleshed fish (in my case I’ve used a meagre)
1 branch of celery
Parsley and silantro
1 branch of basil
1 (!!) whole allspice berry
3 berries of white pepper
2 liter water

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