Roasted beet and avocado dip

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Lately I’ve been going nuts about beets.  It’s probably one of the most amazing vegetables. There are so many things you can do with it, be it sweet or savory. And I just love that color!

There’s more on its health benefits in one of my older post. Anyway, raw, cooked, steamed or oven baked. Everything goes. So here it is, my favorite dip/spread.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large avocado
  • 2 medium size beets
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1.5 cumin seeds (Cuminum cyminum)*
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt
  • some roasted hazelnuts to garnish

Preparation:

  1. Cut beets in quarters, sprinkle with olive oil and bake on low temperature (at 180ºc) until it softens. Cool and peel off the skins.
  2. Finely grind coriander and cumin seeds.
  3. Using a hand blender mix all the ingredients.
  4. Serve with corn tortillas or crackers. You can also use it like this.

 

*more on cumin – carvi – black cumin here.

Baked cheese with cranberries, pecan and maple syrup

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These days we had our first snow this winter. If the Christmas wasn’t white, at least New Year will be. It will be cold they say. It doesn’t really matter. I managed -40ºc in Montreal last year. I fear nothing!
And this will be the first New Year after four years I’ve been spending it away from home. I am really happy and excited about it!

It’s funny how I never had the idea of organizing a good dinner before going to France couple of years ago. I like the idea of organizing a New Year’s dinner at home before going out. But the last thing I want is to spend my evening in the kitchen cooking, preparing plates and serving. So, do it yourself/themselves convivial dishes are a must.

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Baked soft french cheese such as Camembert, Brie, Coulommiers, Pont l’Evêque, Neufchâtel served with some good french bread (aka sourdough) is simple and cheap solution that needs only a trick or two to turn it into a most luxurious dish. And it will keep you away from kitchen, being able to hang out with your friends while spreading the soft cheese over your slice of bread, splashing it down with some good red, being in the middle of the action.

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It’s a recipe you can use in every season. Put on some mild olive oil and rosemary in the summer. Top it with figs and honey. Stick in couple of garlic cloves and thyme in the autumn. Or do as I did, being inspired by my travels to Canada: cranberries, pecans and maple syrup.

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Ingredients:

  • whole soft french cheese like Camembert, Brie, Coulommiers, Pont l’Evêque, Neufchâtel…
  • handful of dried cranberries + water to cover them
  • 3 Tbsp roughly chopped pecans (you can also replace them with walnuts)
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup (or use agave syrup instead)

Preparation:

  1. Roughly chop cranberries, cover them with water and cook over a medium fire to get a jam consistency.
  2. Unwrap cheese, put it on a sheet of baking paper. Top with cranberries, chopped pecans and drizzle with maple syrup.
  3. Bake in preheated oven at 180ºc for 8 – 10 mins.
  4. Serve with some good grilled bread and a glass of red wine.

Marinated cheese & olives and oat crackers

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This is one of the easiest gifts ever. And a really good one too. Served with oat crackers makes a great appetizer.

Ingredients:

  • olives
  • young goat cheese
  • dried or fresh thyme, basil, rosemary
  • red peppers
  • extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Mix everything in a bowl, than transfer to a jar. All the ingredients should be covered with oil. Let marinate at least 2 days.

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Sesame and nigella oat crackers

Ingredients:

  • 200 g rolled oats
  • 40 g butter or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 50 – 70 g water
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp  nigella or sesame

Preparation:

  1. Finely grind rolled oats into a flour consistency.
  2. Mix oats, salt, seeds and baking powder. Add butter (or coconut oil if using) and evenly mix with hands.
  3. Add water, mix and let sit. Oats will soak up. It it gets too dry, add a bit more water.
  4. Form a ball and place it between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll as thin as possible.
  5. Bake at 180ºc for 20 mins.

 

Back to Last minute DIY Christmas gifts

Grilled eggplant with sundried tomatoes and pecan goat cheese

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This is actually so easy to make that I shouldn’t even be posting it. But I can’t help myself. It looks nice and tastes soo good. Besides, with the abundance of homegrown goods and the lack of time to cook lately, this is a perfect fast food without renouncing great taste.

Whether using nuts, walnuts or pecans, it’s really important to oven roast the nuts for couple of minutes. This will give them an amazing crunchy texture and will enhance the nutty flavor which works really nice with goat cheese.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 150 g of soft fresh goat cheese
  • 1 Tbsp of spreadable goat cheese or mascarpone
  • handful of pecans
  • sundried tomatoes
  • fresh thyme
  • extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Get the cheese out of the fridge at least 30 mins prior to mixing. Oven roast pecan nuts for couple of minutes. Let cool, roughly chop and mix with both cheeses.
  2. Cut eggplant in 1 cm slices and grill in a pan. Use little oil and cook covered on both sides. There’s no need to fry them in oil.
  3. Assemble eggplant slices and goat cheese, top with sun dried tomatoes, thyme and good amount of high quality olive oil.

Roasted strawberry camembert crostini

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Crostini are small slices of grilled bread with different toppings and served as appetizers. An italian classic is grilled slice of ciabatta rubbed with fresh garlic, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper that can also serve as a good base to upgrade to more colorful creations.

My crostini is somewhere in between rustic, french and mediterranean. You can serve it as an appetizer, but can also work as a snack or a light main thanks to its simplicity but yet complexity of flavors.

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A good rustic bread with walnuts, topped with some french cheese and balsamic glazed strawberries rounded with a hint of mediterranean freshness of thyme is a pure poetry.

It is so good that I have no words left. Just treat yourself with a glass of cabernet besides.

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Ingredients:

  • rye or buckwheat bread with walnuts
  • camembert
  • strawberries
  • balsamic vinegar (aged)
  • thyme
  • fleur de sel

Preparation:

  1. Open a good bottle of cabernet!
  2. Cut thin slices of bread and top with slices of camembert.
  3. Cut strawberries in 0,5 cm slices and add on top of cheese.
  4. Sprinkle with approx. 1 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar, thyme and flour de sel.
  5. Oven roast at 200°c until golden brown.

Strawberry & Tomato gazpacho

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Gazpacho is a soup made of raw vegetables and served cold. Its origins are apparently disputable, since many mediterranean countries have similar dishes, but let’s just stay by the fact it comes from Spanish cuisine. Traditionally it is made of tomatoes, bread, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, water and salt.

I’m giving it a modern twist: tomato, strawberry, basil and balsamic vinegar. That’s about it.

Gazpacho always has some texture, so don’t blend everything in a soup. Chop very finely all ingredients. Strawberries and tomatoes have high percentage of water, so when chopped they will release a lot of juice. Also, strawberries should be marinated with balsamic vinegar and basil for couple of hours before adding chopped tomatoes. This will allow develop a sort of velvet flavor. Tomatoes will add freshness.

Peeling fresh tomatoes can be really annoying. Here a little trick: cut a cross on the bottom side, than submerge the tomato in boiling water for 10 or 15 seconds. Cool immediately in cold water, than just pull off the skin.

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Ingredients:

  • 250 g strawberries
  • 250 g tomatoes
  • 3-4 Tbsp of aged balsamic vinegar
  • fleur de sel
  • bunch of basil leaves

Preparation:

  1. Chop strawberries, add balsamic vinegar, fleur de sel and finely chopped basil leaves.
  2. Chill and let marinate for at least 5 hours.
  3. Cut crosses on the bottom part of tomatoes. Submerge in boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds. Chill in cold water then pull off the skins. Remove the seeds from tomatoes.
  4. Finely chop tomatoes and add them to the strawberry mixture.
  5. If needed, finish with some additional salt, balsamic and basil leaves.

* If strawberries are not as sweet as they are supposed to be, add a sweetener to enhance the flavors. Tomatoes always need a hint of some sort of sugar.

Zucchini pizzeta in a hurry

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I must admit that I cheat from time to time… I buy puff pastry. At least it’s low fat (15%). I once tried to make it on my own. Started a day before, got up at 5 am to make fresh croissants and was a complete disaster in the end. I guess this plan will have to wait for a while.

Meanwhile… This might not be the healthiest thing, but it’s good, easy to prepare and a perfect thing to serve with a glass of wine when unattended guests come by.

There are two important rules to consider :

  1. Pre-bake your pastry!
  2. Don’t put too much and too many things on it!

Pre-baking puff pastry is very important to get the crunchy bottom side. If you won’t do it, the inside will stay raw and the bottom won’t get baked properly. If baking on a plain surface like here (and not in a pie dish), take the pastry out when the top starts baking – it will change color, but won’t get brown. The other common mistake when people make pizza or pizza style snacks is that they put too many things on. Be minimalistic with the choice and quantity of ingredients! Less is better than too much.

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Ingredients:

  • puff pastry
  • zucchini
  • mozzarella
  • salted pistachios
  • lemon thyme
  • smoked salmon (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Pre-bake puff pastry at 170°c as indicated above.
  2. Cut zucchini in fine slices – try using potato peeler!
  3. Crush pistachios.
  4. Garnish puff pastry with slices of zucchini, fine slices of mozzarella, sprinkle with crushed pistachios and thyme.
  5. Bake at 180°c until golden brown. Savory smell from the oven is usually a good indicator that it’s done.
  6. Put small pieces of smoked salmon on top while still hot.

Sweet potato hummus

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Since you can not buy neither go to the Lebanese to have some, you have to learn how to make it on your own. Luckily! Hummus is a rare treat at my place. Except if you’re in Ljubljana and you go to the best Falafel in the town. Anyway, apart from a classic, a sweet potato hummus is a must.

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Everyone is talking about superfood these days. But they are leaving out one of the most important ones. Chickpeas are a great source of protein and carbs to give you energy. They have a low glycemic index (which is great for diabetics) and are rich in fibers. Normally making hummus from the scratch involves soaking the chickpea for couple of hours, but if you’re in a rush, the canned one will do either.
And what’s the trick to make a really silky and smooth hummus? According to Jerusalem, after soaking, the drained chickpeas should be sautéed with baking soda for a few minutes, before dumping in the water to cook them through.

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Why sweet potato? It adds a nice flavor… It must be the sweetness. My grandma was always saying that adding something sweet to your vegetable dishes will enhance the flavors. I has a lower glycemic index than regular potatoes – around 50, more fibre and there’s approx 23 g of carbs in 100 g of sweet potato. There are many different varieties, but normally you’ll find purple, white or orange sweet potatoes. I like the orange ones the best, but it’s true that the choice depends on the purpose and preparation.

Cumin seeds (Cuminum cyminum) are often confused with caraway (Carum carvi). In slovenian cumin stands for carvi. So the real cumin is something that is hard to find here. I always get mine when traveling. In hummus you need to add the real cumin seeds. I’m also using black cumin seeds (Nigella sativa) to garnish which are actually not related to cumin.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 big sweet potato (approx 200 g)
  • 240 g chickpea
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 big tsp freshly ground cumin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • black cumin seed and olive oil to garnish

Preparation:

  1. Cut sweet potato in two, add some oil, salt, pepper. Bake in skins at 220°c until soften.
  2. This step only if using dried chickpeas
  3. Remove potatoes from skins.
  4. Put all ingredients in food processor and mix at high speed.
  5. Transfer in a large bowl, make a hole for olive oil and garnish with black cumin seed.
  6. Serve with pita bread or wholegrain sesame crackers. Carrots work well too.