Thursday, 30 July 2015

Tomato and green apple jam

I must confess that I only learned to eat tomatoes (like so many other things) when I was already grown up. Really grown up, I mean. I was a picky eater as a child, and my poor parents were desperated, especially with tomatoes. I remember just so clearly  my father's frustration whenever he offered me the best of summer ripen tomato, open in half with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, as the best dish in the world. I was young, but not enough not to realize that I had to do my best to eat it. But for me, it was a viscous thing, with uncertain taste, which I could  never really eat. As soon as I felt it in my motuh, I felt sick, and I could see my father's disappointment. Even today he eats so often tomatoes in summer, freshly picked, chosen at the point that he likes, but now he just does not invite me to try.
I can now eat them, but still they are not one of my favorite snacks. And the proof is that I can only eat them ripe, very ripe.  Still green and crisp tomatoes are a test that I failed to overcome. Another unforgivable stain on my record of culinary tastes.
What I really love  is to make jams and jellies. Never prepare them for preserving, though. At one time in my life I spent too many summers preparing canned fruit so I think I'm done for my entire existence. No, sterilized jars, then boiling and everything else is not for me.

But adding sugar to fruits and allow to slowly cook them in their own juice, for that, I am always ready. In fact, in most recipes that include jam, I prepare it myself at the moment. This way, I can give it the sweetness that I like, and just the texture that is usually lost in the manufacturing process.

And yet, I never did before a tomato jam, even though I wanted long ago. Simply I  had not done it yet. But a few days ago, at the site of Saveur Magazine I  saw this tomato and green apple jam, and I had to try it. Mine is quite different from the original, which is much more spicy and perfect to accompany savory dishes, but I just add green apple as an alternative to the idea I had in mind.
You can see the result below. A highly recommendable jam, not overly sweet, and delicious to replace oil and tomato on toast for breakfast for a couple of days.

Tomato and green apple jam


1 kg. ripe red tomatoes
2 medium green apples (Granny Smith), peeled and diced
500 grams superfine sugar


Peel the tomatoes: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Score the bottom of each tomato with an X.  Once water is boiling, drop tomatoes in for 15-30 seconds; remove with tongs and immediately plunge into cold water.  Slip off the peels with your hands, then roughly chop the peeled tomatoes. Add the tomatoes, apple, and sugar to a medium saucepan set over medium heat and stir to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil very slowly, then lower heat and gently cook, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture is thick and jammy.  When the jam is ready, remove from heat and, if desired, use a  fork to break down tomato and apple chunks to your preferred consistency and leave to cool.

Tip: This jam is perfect on a slice of bread freshly toasted and a little Brie or other creamy cheese. But try also to add a few tablespoons of jam to a vinaigrette for the salad. Mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablesppon apple vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the jam. Salt and pepper, emulsified and pour over salad just before serving. Can not be easier nor tastier.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Chocolate and choco chips ice-cream

Today's ice cream has not got any egg on its base, but it gets an intense chocolate flavor, and crunchy chocolate chips, which against the creamy base are a delicious contrast. Besides, you can prepare it in a moment.

Chocolate and chocolate chips ice-cream

Ingredients (for about 700 ml of ice cream)

200 ml whipping cream (at least 35% m.g.)
125 grams of  plain yogurt
250 ml milk
40 grams icing sugar
40 grams cocoa powder
25 grams of chocolate chips

Whip the cream with half the sugar, beating at low speed first and then up, until it hardens, being careful not to overdo it or it will become butter. Add remaining ingredients, except chocolate chips, whisking until integrate, and test. Correct sugar or cocoa to taste.
If using ice cream machine, put in refrigerator several hours or twenty minutes in the freezer before putting the ice cream, in the machine. Halfway through the process, add the chocolate chips. When the ice cream has curdled, place in a suitable containers for freezing, put into the freezer and finish cooling.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Chicken chilli

I am quite sure that I were Mexican I 'd hardly enjoy those strange distortions on my traditional dishes that you often find as junk food anywhere. Well, most probably, not a single Italian native would recognize in cheese macaroni or American style pizza any familiar flavor, either. Actually, I think I had a similar feeling when some local friends drove me in Munich to eat at an allegedly Spanish restaurant. I'll save you the nasty details, it is not worth remembering such a culinary  aberration.
I have to say that I have rarely eaten better than during a working visit to Mexico City. I truly felt for Mexican cuisine during that trip. What I tried there had little to do with what I had experienced before as an alleged Mexican food anywhere outside Mexico. I especially remember a cold coriander soup (which is shocking, as I can't stand coriander, I am one of those people to whom coriander tastes like detergent instead as like a wonderful herb), but everything, absolutely everything  of what I eat there exceeded my expectations by far.
I am trying to reduce fat and calories on my dishes, so I'm sure that my Mexican friends would eventually think that this adaptation is another unseemly aberration. In advance, my apologies. But I do not want to eat just a bit of lettuce while trying to eat healthier. It's more than possible to eat tasty, or at least modified versions of these dishes as flavorful as the originals. And just one more thing: if you choose to try this option, please, please: just control yourself with your servings of rice or corn tortillas.  If  you manage to do so, enjoy it fully, because it will not disappoint you at all.

Chicken Chili

Ingredients (for 2 people)

1/2 white onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
Jalapeño peppers (to taste)
Cayenne pepper powder
2 chicken breasts
400 grams of tomato (skin and seed cleaned) and diced -(you can also use canned ones)
Olive oil (if you get used to spray, it will save you many calories!)
Half cup chiken broth (or the same amount of water with quarter a cube of stock)
1 teaspoon soda bicarbonate


Put a few olive oil sprays into a deep saucepan. Heat and slowly fry the chopped onion, very smally diced. Add a few tablespoons of water when onion starts to get brown, and let it cook slowly. Add the peppers, chopoped into very small cubes, and if necessary, add a little more water, so that they cook slowly over medium heat. Chop the chicken breasts in a blender or by knife, until they have the consistency of ground beef. Add to skillet and brown over medium-high heat, stirring continuously. When browned on the outside, optionally, add half a cup of broth (or half a stock cube and half a glass of water), reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Add  diced tomatoes (fresh or canned, but not puréed), and cook about 15 -20 minutes over medium heat with some chopped jalapenos and half a teaspoon of chilli powder (or more, depending on how spicy you like your chilli) Add a teaspoon of soda bicarbonate instead of sugar if your tomato is acid. Test, add salt and pepper if necessary (if you use broth or chiken stock, check it out because it is already salty and it would probably be enough). Enjoy!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Oatmeat and cranberries guilt-free cookies

Since I'm trying to lighten my diet I have been missing terribly a little baking. Not so much the taste of something sweet (well, might be a little) as the need of baking something delicious, sweet but not too much, that I could have with  my coffee without completely destroying my new good habits. Baking is indeed a chemical reaction in which each element -from the type of flour to the yeast, liquids and fats- work and react to heat from the oven to achieve the final result. So it is not easy to replace ingredients and make recipes lighter without a too saggy result, either in flavor or texture, or appearance or in all of them.  At least, for me it was not so simple.

While looking for a small treat under control, I came up with these cookies. The oats provide carbohydrates so you can not say that they are low in calories, but they have a sensible amount of sugar, along with dried fruits, one single egg and purée apple in place of butter or oil. So, I think they result in a more than acceptable flavor and texture, while still being reasonable from a dietary standpoint, especially if you eat only one at the time.

Conclusion: cookies can be made differently. Puréed apple does not add much apple flavor but they make the inside juicy, while oats keep the cookies crisp and cranberries give them a fruity and slightly acidic touch.

And most importantly: you can eat guilt-free, good-for-you cookies.

Oatmeal and cranberries cookies
Ingredients (for about 12ish cookies)

120 grams of  oatmeal
1 medium apple
1 egg
25 grams demerara sugar (or equivalent sweetener)
2-3 tablespoons dried cranberries


Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Peel and slice the apple. Cook in the microwave for 5 minutes, until apple is soft enough to mash with a fork and makes easily a puree. If  it is not cooked, just add 1 minute at the time, check and stop before adding more time. Mash the apple, working well with a fork, and let cool to room temperature.

Put in a bowl the oats, cranberries and sugar and add the apple puree. Beat the egg and add. Mix all ingredients.
On a baking tray covered with a sheet of baking paper or silicone, put spoonfuls of dough a bit apart.
Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until they get consistence and are slightly brown on the surface.

TIP: Alternatively, if you prefer, you can add cranberries (or other dried fruit you use) on top of each cookie rather than mixing into the dough. Try raisins, desicated coconut or kiwi, chopped dried apricots, or any dried fruit you like. You can also add fresh or frozen berries and it would go well: raspberries, blackberries and currants.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Light moussaka

Even before I got familiar with the expression "comfort food" I already knew it existed.
Not the expression itself, but the feeling of food that automatically warms you up, food that makes you feel good when you first taste it, food that can solve almost, almost any problem, present or future; Food that will warm your body and soul at once.
In my personal comfort food category there are quite many things, as to get into that category all they need is just to put a smile in my face.
In this category there is always a place for moussaka.
What I have done in today's recipe is just a leaner, cleaner version of the traditional one, but still with all its comforting filling –and taste! So, I have significantly reduced the fat by substituting beef for chicken and turkey, and I have changed béchamel by a sauce made with yogurt. Although you might think that it does not sounds appealing at all, believe me: you should give it a chance. Even as light and reduced in fat, this version is still one of those dishes that will cheer your stomach every time.
 It will be nice as prepared, but will get into perfection overnight. It  freezes wonderfully (with the only precaution of freezing it without the yogurt sauce). You can double the amount and freeze one moussaka without the yogurt sauce. When you want to have it, add the sauce and re-heat as needed.
Just one tip: as you will need some time for the yogurt to release the serum you have to do this step at least a few hours earlier. Best if you leave it running down overnight in the fridge and prepare directly the following morning.
Then, just prepare to open your comfort food repertoire to a clean take on the traditional moussaka.

Light moussaka
Ingredients (4 to 6 people)

250 grams plain non-fat yogurt
500 grams ground turkey (or chicken or mix of both)
1 onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (1/2 if you are not too fond of spice)
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for the aubergines
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 can (400 grams) chopped peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
2 medium aubergines (about 500 grams)
50 grams grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white
Olive-oil cooking spray


Drain the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined sieve until thickened, (2 hours or overnight). Place the turkey in a medium saucepan over medium heat; cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a medium bowl. Add onion, garlic, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and pepper to the saucepan; cook until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Return turkey to saucepan with tomatoes and oregano. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low; simmer until sauce has thickened, about 1 hour. Remove from heat; set aside.
Preheat your grill. While the stuffing cooks, cut the aubergines into slices, longitudinally. Sprinkle with salt on both sides. Place in a colander over a bowl; let stand to drain. Discard liquid; rinse each slice under cold running water to remove all salt and juice (this is the classic way, as they say aubergines will be bitter unless you do this. However, in my experience, you can perfectly live skipping this step, so, if you do not have the time, just skip it altogether without fear of any catastrophe).  Dry the slices on  paper towels. Lay the dry slices on a clean baking sheet; coat with olive-oil spray; grill until browned, about 2 minutes. Turn; coat with olive-oil spray; grill again until browned, about 2 minutes more. Repeat until all aubergine slices have been grilled; then, set them aside.
Place the drained yogurt in a small bowl. Add parmesan and the eggs. Whisk together briskly with a fork and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC degrees. Then, assemble the moussaka: Place a layer of aubergine on the bottom of an 20 cm by 20 cm baking pan. Cover with half the turkey sauce. Place another aubergine layer, then the remaining turkey sauce. Add a final aubergine layer; cover with the reserved yogurt mixture. Bake until the mixture is bubbling and the top starts to brown, (about 30 minutes). Transfer to a heat-proof surface; let sit until the moussaka cools slightly and firms, about 10 minutes. Cut into squares; serve.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Yogurt and raspberries ice lollies

It should be warm.
It is July, come on-
But if it were much warmer we´d probably have to talk about the heat, and would feel terribly strange, because heat and lovely weather more than a couple of days in a row are extremely rare in this part of the world. 

My inner Mediterranean child cannot think of July without icecream, sorbets and frozen treats. So I needed a very quick frozen fix just to remind myself that, after all, ice lollies will forever be the taste of summer- 

Happy summer.

Yogurt and raspberries lollies
Ingredients (6 units)

500 grams  natural yogurt (full fat or skimmed, as you prefer)
2 spoonful of sugar (or swetterner to taste)
A handful of raspberries (fresh or frozen)

Mix well the yogur and sugar and fill half way the lollies moulds with the mix. Add some raspeberries and complete with the rest of the yogur. Add the sticks and put into the freezer for at least 4 hours, or preferibly, overnigth.