Thursday, July 18, 2013

Three-layer vegetarian Mexican dip (or tortilla filling)

Why didn't anyone tell me how good layered dips are? Did you know?
I mean, I've seen enough of them them on blogs and Pinterest to imagine people were on to something. But never in my wildest dreams did I think the whole would so exceed the sum of the parts.
Sure, it is summer'n'all and we all like some guac and chips with a cold bear. But this is so much more, plus it solved an embarassing urge I get. I know I am not alone, I know you are out there to comfort me and let me know it happens to everybody all the time.
You know how, when you grab a tortilla chip, you can't decide what bowl to dip it into first? How you want to forget everything your mama ever taught you and dunk that corn chip into all three dips, one after the other, and then noisily snarf them up, all at once?
Come on, I know there are some closet triple-dippers out there, so if that is you, problem solved. This recipe combines all of those Mexican flavors you love and crave in one tortilla chip scoop. Or if you are filling a tortilla with it, in one large spoonful.
The earthiness of the black beans, the luscious creamy green of the avocado, the zestiness of lime, the zingyness (ok, I just made that up) of cilantro, the little nuggets of ripe red tomatoes and the crunch from the spring onion, the heat from the chili and the fresh, tangy flavor of sour cream all in one bite.
I came out, I did it for you my friends. Now follow suit or make yourself a hefty portion and hide in your kitchen wolfing it down. I don't care, just do it.
We are flying across the pond tomorrow for a little over a week. I don't know if I will be posting, but you can catch up on our whereabouts and adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (see side bar). 
black bean puree
black beans
olive oil
lime juice
crushed chili peppers or black pepper
cumin (optional)
garlic (optional)
For ingredients and recipe see here

sour cream
as much as you like

tortilla chips (to make your own, healthy version, see link above)

You  may have noticed I did not give specific amounts for the bean puree. Just add the ingredients to taste, according to how much you want to make. I cooked a whole pack of black beans the day before and used about at 2 cups of cooked beans to make it.
If you are using dried beans, pick through them discarding any little stones you might find. Soak them for about 12 hours or overnight with lots of water. I changed the water a couple of times, but this is not  a necessary step. I just did because the water got very dark and murky. Drain and place in a saucepan with plenty of water (I added a few garlic cloves and some toasted cumin for flavor) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, making sure the water continues to boil and cook until tender. Skim any foam off of the top of the pot with a slotted spoon. Add salt when the beans are almost cooked, they say they get tough if you salt  them at the beginning. I, however, have never verified this personally. When the beans are ready drain them, reserving a cup of the cooking water and few beans to add into the puree later on for texture.
Transfer the beans to a food processor. Add some olive oil and a little cooking water (as much as you like, depending on how thick you want your dip). I actually added some warm tap water as I had cooked the beans the day before. Puree until very smooth and then season with salt, some black pepper or crushed chili and the juice from a lime (or more or less). Mix in the reserved whole beans. Transfer to a bowl or large serving dish.
Prepare the guacamole following the link above and then top with some extra olive oil, chopped coriander and sour cream. Sprinkle over some more pepper or crushed chili peppers.

 Serve with tortilla chips or use to fill warm tortillas, with extra beans and chunks of avocado.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Miso and sesame cucumber salad

When it is so hot that your clothes are glued to your body like a sticker paper doll's.
When it is so hot that you look forward to going to the office: a) for the lovely breeze during your 6:00am bike ride; b) for the blasting A/C.
When it is so hot that the sky is more off-white than blue.
When it is so hot that you wonder why you even own an oven or a stove because you don't remember the last time you used them.
When it is so hot that you start turning to Pinterest to consider the endless possibilities of watermelon.
When it is so hot that putting on face cream or deodorant turns into a daily challenge thanks to that patina of sweat that covers your body 24/7 no matter how many times you shower.
When it is so hot you have the urge to fling your kids across the room every time they hug you or sit on your lap.
That is when this crunchy, cool salad and the heat from the chili is exactly what you need, all you crave.
But not only.
Because, to be honest, it has not been a scorching summer here (yet) and we have rarely even had to turn on our ceiling fans. Yet this five-minute salad (it might take you eight minutes if you don't own a mandolin) was the hit of the season. My daughter and son ate serving after serving of this (minus some of the chili flakes).
If you cook Asian now and again, you will already have all the ingredients right in your kitchen. Just go out and get some cukes, which are pretty staple in our home in the summer, and you have yourself a winning side dish, salad or appetizer. Cheap, quick, refreshing and delicious.

From Cooking Light
1 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds,
2 tbsp white miso paste (you can substitute with soy sauce)
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp hot water
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
2 tsp sesame oil (preferably dark)
about thinly sliced cucumbers
Whisk together the toasted sesame seeds, miso paste, rice vinegar, honey, chili and sesame oil adding the hot water to help emulsify.
Peel and seed the cucmbers (unless you are using a skin-on variety like English cucumbers for example), slice thinly and then toss with dressing to coat.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Roman fried, stuffed zucchini blossoms

After a few weeks of total germ-and-work-deadline-induced craziness, I am finally back with a new recipe. It is my mother in law's recipe to be honest, I just snapped pictures with my iphone while she was frying.
If you have been reading my blog long enough you already know it is impossible to get into my MIL's kitchen to cook and to tell you the truth, it was really nice to let someone pamper me for a change. She is queen of her kitchen and cooks up a feast when we are there. She is the kind of person that shows her love through her cooking and she clearly loves us very, very, very much if you ask me! Feel free to check out some of the other wonderful recipes she spoils us with when we are visiting. Ok, so the last link is for a restaurant, but if you ever go to Elba, you might want to check it out.

Anyhow, back to our vacation. We spent a lot of time at the beach, swimming, building sand castles and people watching. Here are a few considerations I came up with while minding everybody's business but my own.
1. Italy is known for its healthy Mediterranean diet. In Milan people are mostly in pretty good shape, so when I travel to other areas, especially southbound, I tend to forget how many are actually overweight in this country. I by no means have a waif-like figure, au contraire, but let me tell you, in that crowd I pulled out my bikinis and ditched the one piece. What really shocked me was the amount of heavily overweight children I saw. Apparently infantile obesity is becoming a huge issue here too. That's globalization for you. Mamma/nonna, why are you feeding your kid lasagna, insalata di riso, potato chips and foccaccia under the blazing midday sun?
2. Sun tents are all the rage now. Fair enough: they are practical, especially if you have little kids, and they protect you from the unhealthiest rays of the day. However, tent family, they do tend to be invasive and pretty ugly. So tent family, please pitch your condo more towards the back, not at the water's edge, where you are blocking the view of the sea for everybody behind you. Especially if you have one of those mega, whopping, family-sized pop-up sun tents. Oh, and by the way, that is my little toe you just knocked your damn peg into.

3. I get that you are on vacation and that you are in love, but please do not stand right in front of my kids making out and please ask your partner not to stroke your thong-clad 50+ year butt while doing this. It is difficult: a) to surpress their shrieking laughter; b) to ignore their pointing and insistent questions when you are two feet from us.
4. I have been married for more than ten years and I enjoy watching a good looking, tanned  guy walk by with droplets of salt water running down his abs as much as the next gal. But why is every attractive man over the age of 20 wearing a slip instead of swim trunks? I like admiring your six pack dude, but not your family jewels.

5. And why is every girl under the age of ten wearing a bikini top (sweetie, whatever you are trying to cover is two inches below the triangle), while the large majority of pubescent girls with, ehm, blossoming buds are walking around carefree and topless, attracting the inappropriate gaze of several middle-aged men (shudder)?
6. And last but not least, why oh why, body-building couple, did you feel the need to bring your humongous Saint Bernard to the beach? Besides the fact every time he moves  he hurtles half a sand dune, a quart of drool and a gallon of water our way... the poor sucker is really suffering.

What drives you crazy at the beach? Any funny anectdotes you want to share?

This recipe is typically Roman, but you can stuff zucchini blossoms in many ways. If you want a vegetarian version you can omit the anchovies or use just plain ricotta and Parmesan or flavor it in a variety of ways (pesto, saffron anyone?). Mozzarella and diced ham is also popular, although some people like them just as they are, with no stuffing at all.
If you want a lighter version you can make them in the oven, especially if you want to serve them at a seated dinner and be there to enjoy some too instead of standing in the kitchen sweating over a hot pan of splattering oil while your guests have all the fun. But dount count too much on the crunch factor, although you will definitely be eating a healthier, less caloric version of these.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

We're back

I haven't disappeared from the face of the earth, in case you were wondering.
Those of you who follow me on Instagram or on my new facebook page know what I have been up to. Here is a taste of what we all did for those of you who don't.
When we got back, life got in the way with a pretty evil bout of the flu (or?) which still hasn't completely subsided coupled with me having to be in the office because my co-worker is on vacation and this, as per Murphy's law, happens to be one of the most chaotic weeks of the summer to date. When it rains, it pours. I'm probably being punished for the lovely time I I had! ;o)
I will be back soon with a new recipe, I promise.
Fortezza medicea
Bye bye cruise ship
Jumping waves
"...if you like pina coladas..."
Pasta alla Norma
The view at the end of my run
Spaghetti con vongole e bottarga