Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pear, olive oil and chocolate cake

Pear, olive oil and chocolate cake / Bolo de pera, azeite de oliva e chocolate

I have been running around like a headless chicken lately, with loads of work and other things to solve. For that reason, I haven’t posted much and I am also behind with my personal emails.

I decided to stop by very quickly with an equally quick to make cake: put together in almost no time, it is a tender and delicious combination of fruit, olive oil and chocolate. Good for those weeks you have barely time to breathe but still want a slice of cake and a cup of coffee or tea at the end of a tough day.

Pear, olive oil and chocolate cake / Bolo de pera, azeite de oliva e chocolate

Pear, olive oil and chocolate cake
own recipe

2 large pears, about 200g (7oz.) each
lemon juice, for drizzling over the pears
1 ½ cups (210g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ cup (120ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ cup (130g) plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped – I used one with 70% cocoa solids

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a tall 20cm (8in) round cake pan with a removable bottom or a springform pan*, line the bottom with a circle of baking paper and butter it as well.

Peel and core both pears, slice one thinly and dice the other. Drizzle with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt and sugar. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, yogurt and vanilla. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in the diced pear. Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the pear slices on top of the batter, then sprinkle evenly with the chocolate. Bake for about 50 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan over a wire rack.

* if your pan is not very tall, use a 9in (23cm) pan

Serves 6-8

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Spinach, cheese and chorizo calzones

Spinach, cheese and chorizo calzones / Calzones de espinafre, queijo e chorizo

When I have difficult and/or very busy days I usually take a breather and go to People magazine’s website: I get to read about celebrities and for that I don’t need to use any of my brain cells. :D

Today I read about how Kim Cattrall “killed” the plans of a third SATC movie, and for that we all have to send Kim a big thank you card – the first movie was nice, but the second was absolutely ridiculous and just the thought of certain scenes makes me agonize all over again. Some of the comments suggest that the writers kill Samantha Jones and do the movie with the other three women instead, however I don’t find it a smart decision for the fun of the TV show was the four of them together, and Samantha was always my favorite character (followed very closely by Miranda).

I will borrow inspiration from SATC and present you these delicious calzones: the filling is a combination of spinach, cheese and chorizo and I beg of you not to remove any of the ingredients from it: the calzones would not be the same. The spinach and the cheese benefit intensely from the saltiness of the chorizo, however if you can’t find it bacon goes well here too.

Spinach, cheese and chorizo calzones
own recipe

2 teaspoons dried yeast
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups (300ml) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 ¼ cups (455g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

¾ cup (105g) finely diced chorizo
2 large garlic cloves
2 cups (120g) fresh spinach leaves, packed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (200g) coarsely ground yellow mozzarella*
extra virgin olive oil, for brushing the calzones

Start with the dough: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the yeast, sugar and water with a fork. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil, flour and salt and mix for 6-8 minutes or until a soft and elastic dough forms. Shape dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, make the filling: heat a large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook stirring occasionally until the pieces are golden and crispy. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant – do not let it burn or it will get bitter. Stir in the spinach leaves and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper – go easy on the salt for the chorizo is usually salty. Cool, then stir in the cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it lightly with olive oil.
Divide the dough into 8 equal parts – each will be around 100g (3 ½ oz.). Roll out each portion of dough on a lightly floured surface until you get a rough 25cm (10in) circle. Place some of the filling on one side of the dough and fold the other half over, pinching the seams well to keep the filling inside. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling. Place the calzones onto the prepared sheet and brush them lightly with olive oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately.

* the yellow mozzarella I used is not like fresh mozzarella balls, therefore it does not release too much liquid. Replace by cheddar or something similar texture wise.

Makes 8

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Stuffed zucchini, not like my grandma's

Stuffed zucchini / Barquinhas de abobrinha

One of the dishes that remind me of my grandmother the most is stuffed zucchini: she would make these quite often when she lived with us because my father liked it a lot.

I did not like meat growing up and back then I did not understand why my grandma would make this dish so often, but now that I am all grown up it makes a lot of sense to me: it is delicious – when prepared properly – and it makes things quite easier for the cook, since you only need a green salad on the side to call it a complete meal.

This is my version of stuffed zucchini: out with the mushy rice mixed with pale beef, in with with wine, tomatoes, fresh marjoram and gorgonzola – absolutely delicious (sorry, grandma). :)

Stuffed zucchini / Barquinhas de abobrinha

Stuffed zucchini
own recipe

4 zucchini, about 250g/8oz each
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
400g (14oz) beef mince
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (60ml) dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 ripe tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
handful of fresh marjoram leaves
150g (5oz) gorgonzola, coarsely grated or crumbled
finely ground parmesan, for serving

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush it with some of the olive oil.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise – you should then get 8 halves that look like little boats. With a small spoon, scrape some of the flesh – do not carve the zucchini halves too much or they will be too flimsy. Chop the flesh and set aside. Place the zucchini on the prepared sheet and brush the inside of each half with some of the olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes – in the meantime, make the filling: heat the remaining olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant – do not let the garlic burn or it will turn bitter. Stir in the mince and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden. Season with salt and pepper – go easy on the salt since the cheeses can be salty. Stir in the wine and cook again for 2-3 minutes or until wine is reduced – using a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits in the bottom of the saucepan for extra flavor. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, ¾ cup of the reserved zucchini flesh (you can freeze the remaining flesh and use it to make vegetable stock) and the marjoram. Cook for about 5 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Remove from the heat, stir in the gorgonzola and divide the meat filling among the zucchini halves. Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the parmesan and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Apple cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing

Apple cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing / Pãezinhos de maçã e canela com cobertura de cream cheese

Baking bread is something I deeply enjoy, even though I have not done that much lately. Unless you have access to good artisanal bakeries (which are very few here in Sao Paulo), it is the only guaranteed way of having good bread on the table.

These apple rolls were my idea to turn the humble cinnamon roll into something even more special, to get people interested in them again – like Nic Pizzolatto casting Mahershala Ali for the third season of True Detective, after that not-so-great season 2. :D

I was very happy with the recipe: the rolls are tender and perfumed with cinnamon and the tangy icing compliments the apples beautifully. They disappeared quite quickly every time I made them, and next time I prepare this recipe I intend to use pears + nutmeg instead of apples + cinnamon – I believe it will be just as delicious.

Apple cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing
own recipe

200ml whole milk
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, room temperature and chopped
2 ¼ teaspoons (7g) dried yeast
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (75g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ¼ cups (455g) all purpose flour

¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, softened
4 Granny Smith apples (about 650g/1 ½ pounds), peeled, cored and cut into small dice*
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (44g) light brown sugar, packed
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ cup (113g) cream cheese, very soft
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter, very soft
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140g) icing sugar, sifted

Start by making the dough: in a small saucepan, heat milk until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and let it melt. Once the mixture is lukewarm, pour it into the bowl of an electric mixer and stir in the yeast and sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt, vanilla and flour and mix with the dough hook for 8-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly buttered large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.

Generously butter a 20x30cm (8x12in, and 13x9in also works) baking pan. Set aside.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and roll it into a 30x40cm (12x16in) rectangle. Spread the butter over the dough leaving a 1cm (½in) border. In a medium bowl, stir the apples with the sugar and cinnamon until well coated, then spread evenly on top of the butter layer. Starting from the longest side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder, then slice into 12 equal pieces. Place the slices side-by-side in the prepared pan, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to prove again, 40-45 minutes – in the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°/400°F.

Bake the buns for 25-30 minutes or until risen and golden. Cool in the pan over a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully unmold the buns onto the rack. Now, make the icing: in a small bowl, whisk the ingredients together until smooth. Spread over the buns and set aside to cool completely, or serve them warm.

* it is important to keep the apple pieces small otherwise they will not bake properly inside the dough

Makes 12

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My tuna salad sandwiches

My tuna salad sandwiches / O meu patê de atum

My husband and I are not people who swap meals for sandwiches very often – we do like our rice and beans, soups, pasta dishes, and now Joao has some serious competition on my Bolognese sauce, since my 2 ½ year-old nephew loves it as much as Joao does. <3

However, when burgers or tuna salad sandwiches are involved we are happy to have sandwiches for lunch or dinner, and more recently, the sardine rillette has become part of that small list. I did not imagine my husband liked tuna salad sandwiches until the day I made this recipe, which I have been making for over 20 years. He went crazy for the tuna salad and it instantly became part of our favorite things to eat on lazy weekends.

This tuna salad goes very well with all kinds of bread – including the soft rye bread I posted a while ago – but I find it very important to have the slices toasted if the kind of bread chosen is not very sturdy: it prevents the sandwiches from getting soggy.

My tuna salad sandwiches
own recipe

1 can of tuna preserved in water (120g/4oz drained weight)
1 carrot (about 100g/3oz) peeled and coarsely grated
1 small onion, finely diced*
handful of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
½ cup green olives, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oli
2/3 cup mayonnaise – homemade is even better
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Drain the tuna very well, then transfer to a large bowl and flake it with a fork. Mix in the carrot, onion, parsley and olives. Drizzle with the olive oil and mix well. Mix in the mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with your favorite kind of bread.

* this recipe is delicious too if you replace the onion with celery

Makes 5-6 sandwiches using regular, white bread

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