Friday, August 30, 2013

Raspberry sorbet popsicles

To keep things interesting in today’s food world, you need to combine twenty different ingredients that are sometimes rare and often expensive in a single plate of food. This is true for savory and sweet dishes, and it even applies to popsicles.

The simple and unadorned ice pops that we grew up with, those icy desserts on a stick found in every periptero (Greek kiosk) in Greece, have now become edible art. Creams, sauces, pulps, juices, alcohol, biscuits, whole fruits, powders, sprinkles, everything you can imagine can go in and onto them.

Many are tempting, others not so much, but what ultimately matters when we put something into our mouth, is its flavor. How something tastes is the only thing that’s of importance to me when it comes to any type of food. Especially a fruit sorbet.

And this raspberry sorbet is nothing but delicious. The flavor of the raspberries is so vibrant, so pristine, only enhanced by the sugar syrup and the lemon juice that’s added. And that color, that almost fuchsia color, you can’t fake that no matter how hard you try.

So go, make these, enjoy them!

Raspberry Sorbet Popsicles

I always use fresh raspberries for this sorbet, but frozen (and completely thawed) berries should work just as well. Raspberries are sweet but also sharp, making this sorbet not too sweet.

Not all raspberries are the same, some are sweeter than others so once you’ve made your sorbet mixture, give it a taste to check if it’s too sour. If it is, add more of the sugar syrup (you’ll make 250 ml and the recipe calls for 200 ml so you’ll have some extra if needed).

I used these popsicle molds but any other type will do. Vodka shot glasses work miracles and that’s what I’ve used before in these cherry sorbet ice pops and these mango sorbet ice pops.

Yield: 9 popsicles (90 ml each)


for the sugar syrup
250 ml water
110 g caster sugar

for the sorbet
400 g fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
200 ml sugar syrup

Special equipment: small saucepan with lid, blender or food processor, fine sieve, popsicle molds or vodka shot glasses, wooden sticks


for the sugar syrup
In a small saucepan, add the water and sugar and place over medium heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved and turn heat up to medium-high. Once the syrup comes to the boil, turn heat down to medium and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Then take the pan off the heat, put the lid on and allow syrup to cool completely before adding it to the sorbet.

for the sorbet
In a blender or a food processor, add the raspberries, the lemon juice and the sugar syrup. Blend until smooth and pass through a fine sieve to get rid of the raspberry seeds. Careful though, don’t throw away even a drop of that precious raspberry pulp!
Give the sorbet mixture a taste to see if it needs more sugar syrup in case it is sour, or a little more lemon juice in case it is too sweet, although I doubt it will be too sweet.

Empty the mixture into the popsicle molds or shot glasses, filling them by 3/4, and place in the freezer. Once the sorbet begins to set, add the wooden sticks. Leave the sorbet popsicles in the freezer for 3-4 hours or until completely set.

Alternatively, you can pour it into an ice cream machine and then in a suitable container and into your freezer, thus making simply a sorbet and not pospicles.

Taking out the popsicles from the molds or shot glasses is a piece of cake as long as the sorbet has set properly. Run the sides of the mold/shot glass under cold running water and holding the wooden popsicle stick with your hand, pull the popsicle out. You’ll probably feel some resistance at first, but it will eventually come out.

You can keep the sorbet in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Spaghetti alle vongole

I think I’ve had enough of my little expat kitchen. I don’t mean this one here of course, but my actual little expat kitchen, the room in my apartment that is small, bursting at the seams with things I have accumulated over the years, the kitchen that drives me crazy because I If anyone but me dares to take even a single plate out of one of my cupboards, they’ll most certainly end up with a dozen other plates on their heads. You need to be dexterous and somewhat of a magician to handle the overcrowded chaos that is my kitchen.

Also, we rent our apartment, and in most cases here in the Netherlands, big city apartments have small, nay, tiny kitchens that most of the time come with the electrical appliances, which is not a good thing. No one who rents buys the major appliances, which means that you get stuck with some that may be old, dysfunctional and, well, impractical. Such is the case with mine.

The oven is too small, too old and heats in patches. The refrigerator is small, with a rickety shelf (that’s kind of my fault) and a tiny freezer. The gas stove is, you guessed it, small, and for the last couple of weeks the bigger gas ring is not working (that’s not my fault). I may have some fancy pots and pans but I can’t use them.

This situation has taken away my will to cook. For this and various other reasons, we have been thinking of moving for a long time now, but it’s not that easy because I can’t find an apartment with a kitchen that I like. Yes, it’s come to this, the kitchen is the only room in a house that matters to me.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this for a looong time, so let’s get down to what’s important here. The food. I only needed the two gas rings in my kitchen that work for this, so I put them to good use and made a fantastic spaghetti alle vongole, that classic Italian, or Neapolitan to be exact, dish that truly is breathtakingly delicious in its simplicity.

The most important ingredient is of course the vongole (clams), and you need to buy them fresh, don’t use canned or bottled ones, unless you want to ruin the dish. The sweet, supple vongole, with that fresh, intense aroma of the sea is what this dish is all about. As for the rest of the ingredients, you most probably already have them in your kitchen; spaghetti, garlic, olive oil, white wine, dried red chilli flakes, fresh parsley.

As soon as we sat on the table, I couldn’t stop devouring the plump, briny flesh of the bivalves, swiftly twirling the spaghetti around my fork, slurping on any stray strand that had the audacity to resist getting into my mouth, dunking my bread into the aromatic sauce with the light acidity from the white wine, with the chili that tingled my palate and the garlic, present but not overpowering.

This ultimate taste of summer, just before its unofficial end, was exactly what I needed and it made me realize that I may not have the kitchen of my dreams, but what I create in it can be, at times, dreamy.

Spaghetti alle Vongole in bianco (Spaghetti with Clams in a white sauce)

The Italians prepare this dish in two ways: a) in rosso, meaning in a red (tomato) sauce and b) in bianco, meaning in a white sauce without tomato. I prefer the second version of the dish as in my opinion, tomatoes overpower the flavor of the little mollusks.
By the way, the broth-like juices are essential in the dish, so make sure to have some bread to soak them all up.

This dish is easy but also a bit tricky. The spaghetti need to be cooked al dente, the vongole should be just cooked and not overcooked otherwise they’ll become rubbery, and the bringing together of the two needs good timing. Also, the correct cleaning of the vongole is important (in the recipe I explain in detail how to do it).

Oh and something else, spaghetti alle vongole is never topped off with cheese. If you insist on adding cheese, I will turn a blind eye, but don't let any Italians see you.

Yield: 4 main-course servings

1 kg fresh, live vongole (palourdes / small clams)
400 g spaghetti (I used De Cecco no12)
4 plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing the dish
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
250 ml dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
A handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: large bowl, large and deep frying pan with lid


Cleaning the vongole
Vongole should be alive when you buy them. You can store them in the fridge for 1 day before you use them. Place them inside a bowl while they’re still inside the net (they’re usually sold wrapped in small nets) and you can loosely cover them with a plastic bag. Just make sure you make holes in the bag for the air to circulate.

When you want to prepare them for cooking, you need to clean them. The vongole have sand inside and if not purged, the dish will be sandy and grainy. For the vongole to purge the sand, they need to be put in salted water for a few hours. The vongole will open up, take in the clean water from one side and purge the sand from the other.

Remove them from the net (or any other packaging), rinse them well under cold running water, checking if their shells are clean. If not, rub them with your hands or a soft brush to remove any dirt. Transfer them to a large bowl, add enough water to cover them and add 3-4 Tbsp salt. Stir them around with your hands and cover the bowl with a dark-colored tea towel (the vongole open when it’s dark) and leave the bowl in your kitchen, somewhere shady, not in direct sunlight. Leave them like that to purge the sand for 3 to 5 hours, depending how much time you have, and then remove each vongole from the bowl. You’ll notice that the water is now dirty. Discard any vongola that has a broken shell and keep the ones that are tightly closed. If you find any that are open, tap them gently and if they close after a few seconds, keep them, otherwise discard them because they’re dead. Place the vongole in a clean bowl until ready to use, which should be soon.

Cook the spaghetti
Boil the spaghetti in salted boiling water until cooked al dente (to the tooth) or to your liking, stirring often so they don’t stick to one another.

Cook the vongole
While the spaghetti is cooking, in a large frying pan add 4 Tbsp of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and the chilli flakes and sauté for 1 minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. It will become very bitter if you do. Add the wine, turn heat on to high and once the wine begins to bubble, add the vongole, stir well and put on the lid. Boil/steam the vongole for about 3 minutes until their shells have just opened, shaking the pan from time to time. Do not overcook them as they’ll become rubbery and lose their flavor. Remove pan from the heat and ideally at this point the spaghetti should be ready. Strain them and add them to your vongole, add some black pepper and 1 Tbsp of olive oil, and mix well. Give it a taste to see if it needs any salt. The vongole have that natural salty quality from the sea, so most probably you won't have to add any salt.

Serve immediately into bowls, sprinkle with some extra black pepper, parsley and a little olive oil to finish.
In case you find any vongole that haven’t opened, discard them.

Enjoy with some bread and white wine. Pinot Grigio is an excellent choice.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chocolate sorbet

It’s been since March that I’ve posted a recipe including chocolate, but don’t let that fool you. I’ve been eating chocolate this whole time, I was just being a little selfish and keeping the recipes to myself.

I hinted recently about a sorbet I’ve been making since early May, and this week, when I made it again, I took some photographs so that I could share it with you.

It’s full on chocolate without the distraction of eggs or cream or milk. It’s reminiscent of the chocolate mousse by Hervé This, yet it’s a David Lebovitz concoction (I so love his recipes).

It’s a sorbet made with water, sugar, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, a pinch of salt to bring out the chocolate flavor even more and a dash of vanilla extract for good measure.

It’s easy to make, foolproof one could say, and the result is a smooth, silky sorbet with a deep, pure taste of chocolate. Slightly bitter, enough to remind you that what you have used is indeed really good chocolate with a high content of cocoa solids, not too sweet, not too heavy.

Served with fresh berries—I used blackberries and raspberries this time—that balance out the richness of the chocolate with their slightly sharp kick, is perfect for someone who, much like me, is totally and utterly addicted to the dark temptress.

To those of you who are not satisfied with only one chocolate icy treat, allow me to remind you of this dark chocolate ice cream, this white chocolate ice cream with caramel-Kahlua sauce and this chocolate semifreddo.

Dark Chocolate Sorbet
Ever-so-slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop

Use good quality chocolate and cocoa powder as it will make all the difference in the flavor and texture of the sorbet. Also, use a chocolate whose flavor you enjoy as that will be the prominent flavor.
I used chocolate with 72% cocoa solids but I suppose anywhere between 60%-70% would be fine.

Yield: about 1 liter

200 g caster sugar
80 g good quality Dutch-processed cocoa powder
Pinch of sea salt
560 ml water
175 g good quality dark chocolate, 60%-70% cocoa solids, cut into small pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Special equipment: immersion blender (or regular blender), ice cream machine (optional yet preferable)

In a large saucepan, add the sugar, cocoa, salt and 380 ml of the water and whisk over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil while whisking continuously and once it comes to the boil, allow it to boil for 45 seconds while still beating non-stop.

Take the pan off the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract and the rest of the water (180 ml) and whisk to incorporate.
Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture for 15-20 seconds. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer the mixture to a regular blender, blend it and then return it to the bowl.

Place the bowl with the sorbet mixture in the refrigerator to chill, covered with plastic warp. Once it chills thoroughly, take it out of the fridge, whisk it well and add it to your ice cream machine. Churn the sorbet according to the manufacturer’s instructions, empty it into a container suitable for the freezer and place in the freezer for a couple of hours or until the sorbet is firm enough to serve.

Alternatively, if you don't have an ice cream machine, empty the sorbet mixture into a container suitable for the freezer. Place the mixture in the freezer, take it out after 40 minutes and whisk it very well. You can also use a blender, or even an immersion blender. Continue doing the same thing every half hour, until it's too thick and frozen to beat or whisk. The whole process will take 2 to 3 hours, depending on how strong your freezer is.

Take it out of the freezer about 15 minutes before serving to soften.

You can keep the sorbet in your freezer for a week.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another tartine

Well, you didn’t think I’d leave you with only one tartine recipe did you? If you know me even just a little you’d know that wouldn’t happen. A bit of variety is always good, especially when it comes to tartines.

This tartine is as delicious as the last one, albeit a little less complicated. It is a tartine with a homemade Greek olive paste or pasta elias (πάστα ελιάς) as we call it in Greece, coeur de boeuf tomatoes and feta. The olives I used are from Kalamata, the region of Southern Greece famous for the production of olive oil and olives, and they are fruity and briny and everything a good olive should be, making this paste exceptionally flavorful.

No matter how much I love other cheeses, my one and only true love is and will always be feta. Whipped, in salads, on tartines, it elevates the flavor of dishes and gives them a rich, sharp, creamy quality.

Along with the sweet, sumptuous coeur de boeuf tomatoes oozing with freshness, the distinct salty flavor of olive from the paste with bursts of garlic and acidity from the capers and lemon, this tartine is absolutely divine.

I’m sure many of you can’t get enough of tomatoes right now and this tempting and simple option is ideal for those of you who want to enjoy the ever so beloved fruit of the summer to its fullest.

Tartines with Pasta Elias Kalamon (Kalamata Olive Paste), Coeur de Boeuf Tomato and Feta

Coeur de boeuf (ox heart) are what these tomatoes are called here in the Netherlands were I currently reside. I think they’re called beefsteak tomatoes in English-speaking countries. If you can’t find this variety, then go with any other juicy and sweet tomato you can get your hands on. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding them this time of year.

Choose a type of bread that can handle the weight of the ingredients that you'll put on top. Sourdough is ideal but any kind of bread with a crusty crust and a dense crumb will work.

Yield: 8 tartines / about 2 cups of olive paste

3 large coeur de boeuf (beefsteak) tomatoes, sliced
200 g Feta cheese
8 slices of good crusty bread (sourdough or multigrain)
Olive oil, to drizzle over the tartines
Freshly ground black pepper

for the pasta elias (olive paste)
170 g pitted Kalamata olives (about 1 full cup)
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed very well
2 anchovy fillets in oil, drained well
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper, 3-4 grinds of the pepper mill
A handful of flat-leaf parsley (leaves and stems), roughly chopped
About 80 ml extra virgin olive oil, more or less to achieve the right consistency
Salt (if needed, I actually never need any)

Special equipment: small food processor, griddle pan (I use this one)


for the olive paste
Add all the ingredients for the paste except the olive oil and salt in your food processor and blend until smooth, stopping the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, add the olive oil little by little until you have a smooth paste, taking care to add enough oil to reach the right consistency. You don't want it to be runny nor too thick. Give the paste a taste, add salt if needed (I doubt it’ll need any as the capers and anchovies have enough salt) and set aside until ready to use.

You can keep the olive paste in the fridge, covered for 5-6 days.

Heat your griddle pan over high heat and grill the bread slices on both sides. Transfer them to a plate. Alternatively you can toast the bread in the oven or in a toaster.

Spread enough of the olive paste on the bread to cover it. Add some sliced tomatoes and crumble some feta cheese on top. Drizzle the tartines with a little olive oil and grind some black pepper over the top.
Serve immediately.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A tartine

Saturdays have been tartine days these past couple of weeks for S and me. We love them, we could practically live on them for the entire summer.

The combinations of different ingredients that you can use to make a tartine are endless and that’s my favorite part about them, but so is the fact that they’re so damn easy and filling. You can have lunch just by eating a couple and you wouldn’t feel like you ate a glorified sandwich.

I used regular peaches for the tartines but the wild (doughnut, Saturn) peaches were even more delicious.

If you put some thought into it, a little care and if your ingredients are seasonal and fresh, then a tartine can be spectacular. Allow me to say that these here were just that. Grilled peach, beetroot and blue cheese tartines with a walnut and garlic spread; they were seriously delicious and I’m not just saying that.

Apart from the obvious freshness and juiciness of the peaches that are in season and that you’d have to be insane not to be all over them, the earthy, mellow sweetness of the beetroot and the sheer scrumptiousness of the soft, rich blue cheese, the secret to these tartines is twofold. First, the grilling of the peaches that makes them soft and caramelized and charred and kind of smoky, and second, the walnut and garlic spread, so nutty and aromatic, that gives them an extraordinary depth of flavor.

Along with the crusty grilled bread and the crisp salad leaves there’s a beautiful balance of flavors and textures that make these tartines worthy of making again and again until the peach season comes to its end and you start looking for new and imaginative combinations.

Tartines of Grilled Peaches, Beetroot and Blue Cheese with Walnut and Garlic Spread
Adapted from Food & Travel

Use good bread otherwise there’s no point in making a tartine. No matter what you put on top of it, if the bread is not right, i.e. with a dense crumb and a crusty crust, then you got a failure on your hands. I used multi-grain bread.

Enjoy your tartines with a nice dry red wine such as a Beaujolais or a Syrah.

Yield: 6 tartines

6 large slices of good crusty bread (either sourdough or multi-grain)
3 firm and ripe peaches (not too ripe as they’ll fall apart while grilling), stoned and cut into 8 wedges
1 plus 2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small beetroot, boiled, peeled and cut into thin slices
100 g blue cheese (I used Danish blue)
100 g frisée lettuce, roughly chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

for the walnut and garlic spread
100 g walnuts
50 g bread (crumb and crust), cut into small pieces
85 ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
60 ml water
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, 3-4 grinds of the pepper mill

Special equipment: small food processor, griddle pan (I use this one)


for the walnut and garlic spread
Add all the ingredients for the spread in your food processor, being careful not to add too much salt, and process until you have a chunky spread, stopping the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Give it a taste, adjust the seasoning and set aside until ready to use.

You can keep it in the refrigerator, covered, for 2-3 days.

Heat your griddle pan over high heat and grill the bread slices on both sides. Transfer them to a plate.
Add the peach wedges to a small bowl and toss them with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Grill the peaches for a couple of minutes on both sides, until they slightly soften and have griddle marks. Be careful not to grill them for too long because they’ll disintegrate.
Toss the frisée lettuce with 2 Tbsp of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a bowl.
Toss the beetroot slices with 1 tsp olive oil in another bowl.

Spread enough of the walnut and garlic spread on the bread to cover it. Add the frisée lettuce and 2-3 wedges of grilled peach. Add 2-3 slices of beetroot and crumble the blue cheese on top.
Serve immediately.

More tartines:
Broccolini and Parmesan Tartines
Spinach and Feta Tartines