Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Ong-ones"

My love of Sofie Dahl has come to a whole new level tonight. I have been wanting to prepare her Grilled Salmon with Baked Onions recipe for ages and tonight was finally the night. Just listen to her description of the onions: "There is something almost puddingy about a slow-cooked onion with the mellow sweetness that the oven coaxes out." Now, insert her melodious British accent and how could you possibly not want to make that and devour it up?

I can't believe that I'm salivating at the mouth over onions--my sworn enemy at the age of about 2 or 3. I used to pronounce them "ong-ones" and oh, I hated them so much! Over the years, I've grown to like them more and more--first in Mexican cuisine, then Thai cooking--and I eventually grew out of my hated, but I never thought I'd be loving them this much!

Salmon with Baked Onions
Adapted from Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights: Recipes For Every Season, Mood and Appetite

Ingredients:
2 medium yellow onions (I threw in a few shallots as well)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup of lighy cream
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
2 skinless fillets of salmon
Olive oil
1 lemon

Directions:
Cut the ends of the onions and peel the outside layers off. Boil them in water for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Once the onions are tender, take them out of the water and cut them in half. Put them in a small baking pan or pie pan. Salt and pepper the onions and add them cream, finishing it off by sprinkling the cheese on top. Bake them in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
When the onions have been cooking for about 10-15 minutes, start the salmon. Wash and season the fillets and cover with olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Heat a grill pan or a skillet and sear the slamon for about 5 minutes on each side, until cooked thoroughly.
Take out the onions once the cheese is bubbling and golden brown. Serve the salmon and the onions together on a plate.


These were my leftovers, ready to go in the fridge after I had already devoured a plate full of salmon and creamy oniony-goodness.  I am so head over heels in love with baked onions now and I really can't describe them better than Sophie Dahl, so you're just gonna have to take her word for it. Oh, they are glorious and go excellently paired with a nice fillet of salmon.

How to Cure the Travel Bug

Sometimes, my heartstrings get pulled and tugged as all I can think about is Greece and how much I miss living there. Good thing my soul is so easily soothed by a delicious meal, full of happy-memory-inducing tastes.

One of my favorite dishes in Greece (that I sadly did not get enough of) was moussaka. This is a casserole-type dish made out of eggplant, ground meat and spices and topped with béchamel sauce. It's oh so hearty and has a wonderful, creamy texture, making for the perfect comfort food. 

Moussaka

Ingredients:
1 eggplant
a water and salt solution
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
For the meat:
1/2 pound ground meat (I used ground meat substitute, but lamb or beef are most traditional)
Olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
1 can of chopped tomatoes
For the béchamel:
4 tablespoons of butter
4 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
2 egg yolks
A dash of nutmeg
Salt to taste

Directions:
Peal and slice the eggplant into rounds and place in the salt solution for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, brown the meat in the olive oil. Once browned, add the onions, spices and tomatoes and let simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside once done.
Once the eggplant has been soaked, take it out of the solution and dry it on paper towels. Broil, grill or
sauté the rounds on both sides until somewhat tender.
While the eggplant is cooking, start the sauce. Melt the butter at medium heat and whisk in the flour, letting simmer for a few minutes, without letting the mixture get too dark. Add the milk and whisk over medium while it thickens. Add the nutmeg and salt. Once thickened, temper the yolks by pouring a couple ladles of the sauce into a bowl with the already whisked yolks, whisking the whole time, then pour the egg mixture into the sauce, still whisking until it is all incorporated.
Now it's time to assemble. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Layer the bottom of a 9x9 inch pan with the grilled eggplant. Top with the meat mixture. Cover with half of the cheese and then the béchamel sauce. Finish off with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the cheese is nicely browned. Take out of the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.


I can't believe that this dish turned out so well. It tasted just like the moussaka I fell in love with in Greece. It's so comforting to be able to recreate my favorite dishes from such an incredible summer. It's a simple way to sooth my travel withdrawals.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Spontaneity

There are those nights that go like this:

"I have angel hair pasta. That's good, I want this dinner to be easy. Oh look at what I have in the fridge. Might as well throw a bunch of it together. Oh yeah, that looks good too...and that! And that!"

And yeah, sometimes that is just a complete and utter disaster and ends in me wishing I had just ordered take-out. However, sometimes it turns out being your favorite dish of the week! Recently, I had the luck (or was it intuition?) to create a situation like the latter.


Zucchini, Feta and Pancetta Angel Hair

Ingredients:
(for 1)
A handful of angel hair--you know how much you'll eat
2 tablespoons, olive oil
Half of a small zucchini, sliced
A few slices of pancetta, sliced
1/2 of a shallot, sliced
A few slices of feta, crumbled
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions.
Meanwhile, heat up a skillet with the olive oil. Add the shallots and a few minutes later, add the zucchini to brown on both sides. Salt and pepper to taste.
Start another skillet heating for the egg. Once the pasta is almost ready, cook the egg to your liking--I enjoy sunny side up or basted. (A poached egg will be great as well!)
Add the pancetta to the skillet with the zucchini and sauté for a few minutes.
Once the pasta is ready, drain and top with the zucchini mixture, the egg and the crumbled feta.



The rich flavor of the shallots, with the saltiness of the feta and the pancetta went so well together, while the wonderful yolk of the egg really brought all of the flavors together into one hearty dish.

Greece Revisited

This is a very late post, considering that I did this over a month ago! But I still thought I'd share. Since half of the students in my Greece program all live in Davis, we decided to do a little get together once school started--a chance to make some Greek cuisine and reminisce about our summer. Everyone pitched in and brought a few of the ingredients and we had a feast of Greek salad, plenty of feta, figs and olives, and a main course of steak, falafel and chicken souvlakis--our favorite meal that was served in literally every taverna in Greece. I don't have all of my recipes because I went on the fly for most of it and since it's been quite a while now, I can't quite recall what I did.

The Greek Salad was a staple at most of our meals and is so easy to make--cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, olives, feta, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper so that was very simple to recreate.

For the souvlakis, I marinated the meats in a Greek marinade that consisted of a olive oil and a few spices like oregano, garlic, and dill and I baked them in the oven, then sliced them thinly to place on the souvlakis which are small "sandwiches" made of meat (traditionally pork), tzatziki sauce, tomatoes, onions, and french fries.

I made the tzatziki sauce for the souvlakis by combining sour cream and Greek yogurt, lime juice, salt, pepper, shredded cucumber and lots of garlic.

 Homemade tzatziki. I couldn't believe that I pulled if off and it tasted like the real thing!



Not as good as the figs Corinna picked for Lianna but still delicious.



Oh how we love our Feta.




I don't have many photos from this because I was too busy enjoying the company of my friends and catching up on our post-Greek lives. Though we were so ready for a change in our diet after a month in Greece, it was so fun to get back together and attempt to make some of our favorites.

Keeping Warm

I really love making fall dishes. There are so many autumn dishes that are simple to make but do an incredible job warming up the soul. Another spontaneous TJ's grab: acorn squash. Seriously, I shouldn't be allowed in grocery stores without first taking a pledge to only buy what's on my list. Oh well, my lack of self control always ends in a yummy meal so I'll deal with it.

This is a dish that my mom and dad made all the time when I was a kid. It was within my strict dietary restrictions and it was simple for them to make on those busy nights when they were running my brother and I to our various practices and lessons.

Basic Acorn Squash

Ingredients:
(for each acorn squash)
2 dabs of butter
1 tablespoons brown sugar
a few dashes of cinnamon
a small dash of cloves
a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Cut the acorn squash in half and spoon out the seeds. Place a dab of butter in each hollowed out section, followed the sugar and spices, half in each side of the squash.
Place the squash in a pan and bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash is tender.
Take out of the oven and enjoy!


I love scooping out huge spoonfulls of this wonderful, creamy squash. It's like the equivalent of pumpkin pie for dinner. This was so perfect with a simple side of israeli couscous, topped with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Something about fall makes me adore those simple dishes with one distinct and overwhelming flavor and this is definitely one of those. I wouldn't want to overpower the wonderful taste inherent in the squash with anything too strong. I adore this dish for it's beautiful fall flavors and it's minimal preparation time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hello Fall!

It's official, Trader Joe's is finally open in Davis and it's frighteningly close to my house. Now, I'm smack in the middle of The Co-op and Trader Joe's. Oh dear. Self control is going to come in handy.

I went to TJ's with my roommates the other day and the brussels sprouts were calling my name. As my roommates were unpacking their grocery bags, I started preparing my sprouts, throwing together a few of my favorite tastes to create a perfect fall dish.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Pancetta

Ingredients:
(I didn't measure anything, throw it all in to your own tastes)
Brussels sprouts (I cut a few in half if they were large)
Olive oil
Pine nuts
Salt
Pepper
Sliced pancetta

Directions:
Toss together all of the ingredients except the pancetta. Roast in an oven at 375 for about 35-45 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are about cooked through. Raise the temp to 400 and add the pancetta. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the pancetta and the edges of the brussels sprouts start to get crispy.


Mmm, I can just taste fall in this meal. The brussels sprouts are so warm and comforting and well contrasted by the saltiness of the pancetta and the nuttiness of the pine nuts. It was the perfect throw-together meal for a cold, rainy afternoon.