Caramelized Onions Tartelettes with Black Olives

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I baked many tartelettes during the holidays some sweet and others savory. I involved caramelized onions with tarts, poultry and oriental recipes, it always adds to my meals an intense, roasty, lightly sweet taste close to jazz.

When onions are cooked slowly, all the natural sugars in, caramelize, without the slight addition of sugar.

Mini tarts are bite-sized and enticing. They work as an appetizer on a cocktail party or a casual gathering with friends. The puff pastry is crisp and each tart is carved with love.

I sometimes make two batches; one with feta and olives and the other with goat cheese and figs. Once you know how to make you tart shells an endless variety is found on the blogosphere. Enjoy the recipe below with friends or relatives and hope it results with echoes of smiles and happy bellies.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 250g / 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • ¼ cup feta, crumbled
  • ¼ cup black olives, pitted and halved

Preparation

  1. Melt butter with oil in a skillet over low-medium heat. Add onions and thyme, and cook (without stirring) 7-10 minutes, or until onions are golden.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry, and cut out 7cms circles and place onto the baking dish. Pierce dough with a fork.
  4. Spoon feta cheese in the center of each circle. Top it with onions. Decorate with olives.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the dough starts to rise and turn golden color.

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

IMG_4570MayaOryan

Panzanella salad is one that I remember to prepare when I have a slightly stale French loaf. I love home-made croutons, and when flavored with garlic or cheese I can nibble at that all day long.

This salad uses simple ingredients, like tomatoes, red onions, basil and a couple of cucumbers to add some crunch. The sharp taste of the dressing is a good match and will appreciatively contrast with the croutons.

Don’t forget to pull out your best quality extra-virgin olive to make it!

 

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup extra virgin oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 day old, loaf French baguette or Italian bread, cut in croutons size
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cucumbers, diced
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, chopped

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (or apple vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

 

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  2. Heat olive oil for 2 minutes, then drop the garlic inside and leave it to cool.
  3. Scatter the bread pieces on a baking tray and brush or drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the garlic olive oil. Place the baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake about 5-7 minutes on each side.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.
  5. To prepare the dressing; discard garlic cloves. Add vinegar, shallot sugar and salt to olive oil and whisk.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, basil and bread (croutons). Toss all in the dressing and serve immediately.

Apple Tart

AppleTartby Maya Oryan

It’s raining again and I’m kind of sick of it. I’m so happy I booked my vacation to sunny Dubai and this is my light at he end of the tunnel. By coincidence I read this morning an old post written by Ishita, a Dubai based blogger, whom I met 15 months ago at FBC. Her story conjured up a decade of tinsel memories lived in a city I still call my second home.

Back to the main task and through this mission of cooking from whatever available ingredients at home, I spot my red apples starting to loose glam. I thought, why not use my frozen piecrust and bake this no-fail easy recipe that anyone should give a try. The blend of cinnamon with fresh apples, tangy lemon, and vanilla ice cream makes of it a true delight in every spoonful.

And don’t forget each baked pie is a labor of love:)

Apple Tart

Ingredients

  • 250g/1 ready-rolled frozen shortcrust pastry (or pâte sablée), just thawed
  • 6 large red apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (more or less, to taste)
  • 3 tbsp limoncello (if not available lemon juice}
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Caramel sauce, to drizzle (optional)

 Preparation

  1. Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon and juice in a bowl and cover. Allow to macerate for half an hour.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  3. Roll out dough on floured surface. Transfer to pie dish. Trim excess and flute the sides. Pierce crust all over with a fork.
  4. Arrange apple slices decoratively over the crust –pour remaining syrup over all.
  5. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Drizzle with some caramel and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

To prepare your own crust try Martha Stewart short crust dough

Chef Emile’s Vegetable Salad

IMG_4430MayaOryan

Last year, my daughter’s class, Grade III, at school had to present POLAND on International Day. I, of course, offered my help to cook Polish food to be presented at our stall. Some moms signed in their name in my group before I even announce myself as a contributor. Thank you for your trust;-)

Well my menu and especially the salad, turned out to be a hit as people kept on coming back for more.

I thought the best is to serve something cold like salad and cake, as it’s going to be a lot of people coming at the same time for tasting after the dancing show. There were 1200 visitors and maybe 12 stalls. Salatka Jarzynowa is a traditional Polish salad that is served during holidays. It is prepared with root vegetables like carrot, potatoes and celery root. This salad is best prepared one day before as it needs to mature and tastes really better the next day. This was really convenient as part of the savory menu.

The best version to make it is my dad’s recipe; I did mention that my dad was a chef and I sure learnt from him a lot of cooking. His recipe has always been a star dish! It’s so consistent that we can eat this alone. I remember how he decorates it with shrimps or cold cuts, and always place it side by side with the turkey on Christmas. This year’s dinner was at my sister, and dad showed up with THE SALAD and they were both more than welcome.

Emile’s 2 important tips are: to prepare the vegetable salad with only vegetables that are not juicy, and to never skip the honey in the dressing.

I hate when one’s look at this salad and tells me I don’t eat potato salad, am like it’s okay to venture once, it’s not only potato … my genius dad taught me how to add Emmenthal cheese, ham and apple and this is the tastier salad you can ever eat!

My last request, please don’t open cans and throw in this salad, it only tastes better when you make it with fresh ingredients. How long does it take to chop little vegetables and let it boil for 10 minutes.

I really hope you enjoy this recipe and consider making it during holiday celebrations. As I said, it is best to prepare one day before serving.

For a fancier look, store it in a round container in the fridge, and just before serving, turn it upside down on a flat round plate and decorate with salami, cheese, salmon or shrimps.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh potatoes, diced and cooked al dente
  • 1 cup fresh carrots, diced and cooked al dente
  • 1 cup fresh (or frozen) peas, cooked
  • 200g Emmenthal cheese, diced
  • 200g Ham or turkey ham/ slices of ½ inch thick, diced
  • 200g Granny Smith apples, diced
  • 2 tbsp gherkins pickles, sliced (optional)

Dressing:

  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation

  1. To cook the potatoes, boil water and cook potatoes 7-10 minutes until cooked but still hard.
  2. Cook carrots and peas same as potatoes, and each one separately. Please don’t cook all together in same pot because the time of boiling varies for each one.
  3. Set aside to cool.
  4. Combine cheese, apples and pickles. Add to potatoes, carrots and peas.
  5. Mix all the ingredients of the dressing and toss in the salad. Combine well gently. I use a rubber spatula not to mash the vegetables. Refrigerate.

Two-Potato Gratin

Two-Potato Gratin IMG_4645

Hello storm, you’re wild and angry, violent and reckless and I don’t seem to like you! I’m nothing like ready for cold obviously; a powerful storm with violent winds and heavy hail and rainfall is ripping through Lebanon leaving me with limited desire to step out.

Meantime schools are shut and my daughters are, with all the kids of the neighborhood, celebrating the happy occasion. My doorbell kept on ringing, kids in kids out, …well if I look at it from the bright side, it was a good exercise for me especially that I skipped gym this morning;-)

So it was almost lunchtime and I still haven’t decided on what to cook! I went roaming in the kitchen when my sight fell on potatoes. Since I didn’t have enough of gold potatoes to make a large dish of gratin enough for guests and us, I added sweet potatoes! Results were gorgeous and crunchy. Yummm!

I have decided to eat more vegetarian food during January and I proudly add this recipe to my meat-free repertoire. I added a dash of curry to it while the cream was simmering and some parmesan cheese on the top before baking, that I don’t mention in below recipe, but now that I reveal it you may want to try it with curry or even chili for some spicy flavor.

Two-Potato Gratin 

Ingredients

  • 2 kg potatoes (half sweet potatoes and half gold), sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup Emmenthal cheese

Preparation

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Butter a shallow ceramic baking dish.
  2. Pour the cream in a large saucepan, add salt, pepper, nutmeg and heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and drizzle with olive oil and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from the heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half of the potatoes, layer them and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Top with the remaining potatoes; pour the cream mixture and sprinkle with the Emmenthal cheese.
  4. Bake for 40-45 minutes until gorgeous and golden on the top.

Makhlouta

Food Styling by Maya Oryan - Photography by Serge Oryan

Food Styling by Maya Oryan – Photography by Serge Oryan

Mornings are the worst when one is sick. I still have the cold and waking up in the morning with a persistent cough and a very dry throat.

My beloved husband came to bed this morning, with some freshly squeezed OJ and told me: “I cooked Makhlouta for the kids and you”.

I guessed he was cooking Makhlouta as I heard the pressure cooker whistling;-) It’s still awesome news, no! He knew I was too sick to enter the kitchen. How sweet of him!

I love how he didn’t say lunch or dinner, he said Makhlouta his favorite meal -and mine- on a cold winter day like today.

Makhlouta is a Lebanese traditional stew that means “mixed” because it consists of a mixture of pulses and beans. There’s no straight recipe, it can be any kind of 5 to 7 pulses and grains. Open your kitchen cabinet or check your pantry and take a handful of every grain you have there.

I grew in the heart of the city and my parents never cooked Makhlouta for us, while my husband grew in a Lebanese village called Baskinta situated at an altitude of 1250 meters above sea level. The winter in Baskinta is cold and snowy, so many dishes are pulses based and Makhlouta is a meal you can eat twice a week. Now that we are married, anytime I ask him what to cook, his answer would be anything with whole grains.

Makhlouta is loaded with fibers and protein, its simple ingredients makes of it a very easy vegetarian thick soup.

This recipe uses pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, whole wheat, brown rice and cracked wheat but feel free to use any 5 to 6 variety of your choice like broad beans, white beans, red kidney bean. The most common is to use brown lentils, but this recipe uses a mix of 3 colors lentils as we had an organic mix in our pantry.

NOT ONLY HE COOKED FOR ME, BUT HE ALSO TOOK THIS BEAUTIFUL, MOUTH-WATERING PHOTO! SERGE YOU’RE A TREASURE!

Makhlouta

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup mixed 3 colors lentils, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup brown rice, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup Burghul or cracked wheat, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup whole wheat
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 cup pinto beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soaked in water overnight
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin (optional)
  • Extra virgin Olive oil, to drizzle

 Preparation

  1. Drain and rinse the beans and the chickpeas. Place it in a pressure cook, cover with water and let cook.
  2. In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the onion until wilt and brown.
  3. Add lentils, rice, burghul, whole wheat and water and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the cooked beans and chickpeas, with their water, stir in tomato paste. Season with salt, and cumin if desired, and simmer until everything is tender.
  5. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and enjoy.

Tip 1: If you’re not using a pressure cook, place the beans in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer. Let it cook until tender; this might take a little over an hour, depends on how fresh are the dried beans.

Tip 2: While soaking the beans, you may rinse and change the water after a couple of hours, if you want. Use a lot of water as the beans will grow in size and volume.

 

Thai Coconut Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Noodles

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It has been really cold outside the last couple of days; winter has definitely arrived, temperature has dropped, and the wind is whipping up rain, thunder and grey sky.

Since I have the cold, I feel that there’s nothing better than cocooning inside my home and cozying up to the fireplace while sipping home made hot chocolate or a hearty warm soup.

Being sick is not fun especially when your nose is so congested that all food seems tasteless. I was craving for spicy meals and intense flavors when this recipe came to my mind.

It was ready in no time mostly because I had all the ingredients available. I love this soup, it’s creamy, flavorful and easy to prepare. Add chicken and it will become a complete meal.

Enjoy!

Thai Coconut Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms and Noodles

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 thumbed-size piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • ¼ cup green onions, sliced (green part only)
  • ½ cup shiitake mushrooms fresh or in a jar, sliced
  • 100g noodles
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation

  1. Heat oil and cook ginger and curry paste for 1 minute.
  2. Add chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk, carrots, green onions and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add noodles and cook for further 2 minutes. Stir in lime juice and season with salt. Serve hot.