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Shrimp pesto pasta with roasted fennel

Hi guys, how are you?

 

So … I haven’t written anything in a while. I could make up excuses (I’ve had stomachflu, been on holiday…) all true, but the real truth is that I wasn’t really inspired and motivated for a new post. Yes, I cooked, some things turned out pretty alright, but blog-worthy, I wasn’t sure.

But that is all over now! Guess what did the trick? An inspiring, sunny, happy and tasty weekend in Turin, Piedmont, Italy! If you ever get into a cooking-rut so to speak, just jump into a car or plane and head down to Italy. Okay, jumping on a plane is not always the most realistic option, but a elaborate dinner at an extremely good Italian restaurant might help a little as well.

I just returned from a great weekend which I spend with my dad, walking through the city, exploring coffee bars, icecream shops, beautfiul buildings, arcades and interesting musea. Did you know that, outside of Cairo, Turin has the largest Egyptian museum in the world? I did not. Did you know the shroud of Turin supposedly holds the image of Christ? I did not. (I’m not saying it is really Christ, but still an interesting relic). Did you know the complete city centre of Turin is covered with beautiful, old arcades? I really did not. What a decadent way to shade shoppers from the sun. Did you know the Piedmont kitchen is absolutely to die for? I do know now!IMG_0049
We feasted on the most fantastic things, from espresso machiatto’s (like a Spanish cortado), to perfect pistachio ice-cream, fresh lemon granita-like ice cream, parmaham foccacias, fresh pastries and enormously tasty fresh fruits. And I haven’t even got to dinner yet! And the wines;). From a classic spaghetti bolognese or pesto-covered gnocchi, to a more modern salmon tartar with caramelized white onions and not at all rubbery but soft squid on a mousse made of cannelloni beans and fresh rosemary. And yes, the list goes on.

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After getting home I already made a gnocchi and pesto dish, filled with scrumptious sun dried tomatoes I bought in Turin on an enormous food market. Also made a classic lasagne bolognese, radicchio and witlof salad and today I am thinking something with shrimp! Ow and I also fabricated an oven full of foccacia, made from spelt flour, because, well, that was what I had in my pantry!IMG_1430

 

 

Some of the lessons my last trip thought me:

Don’t be afraid to use freshly ground salt and pepper, be copious with the olive oil. Never dress a green salad in the kitchen but put some olive oil and (balsamic) vinegar on the table.Do not smother the pasta with sauce, here utter a little restraint and coat your pasta with sauce or pesto. Never accept anything then the best quality of produce. Whether it’s a coffee to go, a glass of wine on the plaza or a copious dinner. Never settle! If you are on a budget, do not disappear. beautiful produce is found on marketplace, directly at a farm or you can for example ask an excellent bottle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar as a birthday present. And last but not least: Adding cheese is always, yes always, a good idea.

Let’s start cooking!

Spaghetti with pesto, shrimp and roasted fennel

Ingredients for 2:

  • about 125-150 grams of uncooked spaghetti
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 4 or 5 sundried tomatoes
  • half a chili pepper
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • olive oil, extra virgin
  • handful of shrimp
  • handful of fresh basil
  • small handful of pinenuts.
  • small cube of Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground salt and pepper
  • optional: fresh thyme

Put a large pot of water on the stove, bring the water to the boil, add salt and cook the spaghetti as instructed on the package.

Slice your fennel, toss in an oven dish with pepper, salt, olive oil and some fresh thyme if you have some. this takes about 12 minutes to roast in an oven on 200 degrees Celcius.

Then take out your foodprocessor and add 1 clove of garlic, the basil, the parmesan cheese, 1 clove of garlic, the pinenuts and a generous amount of oil, about half a cup. I am not giving specific measurements, because I never measure this out. Just use your intuition and quality ingredients. I blitz it all for a minute or so, taste, and sometimes add some pepper/salt or more olive oil, because it needs to have the consistency of a nice pesto sauce, so it cannot be too dry.

Heat a frying pan on the stove with olive oil. Chop up 1 garlic clove and some chili pepper (use however much you want, I prefer medium heat so I just added half a chili). Toss the chili and  DSC_0907
garlic in a pan and add your shrimp. Then add some chopped sundried tomatoes. After a few minutes, when the shrimps seem cooked, add the spaghetti and pesto. Give it a stir and make sure everything is properly heated.

DSC_0894Take your fennel out of the oven. Taste your dish to see if there is anything missing, like salt or pepper or maybe a squeeze of some fresh lemon juice. Serve the pasta with the roasted fennel, and you’re done allready!

 

 

 

 

DSC_0898For the Love of Parmesan:

Parmesan really is a wonderful invention. Parmigiano Reggiano is a traditional Italian cheese, made from Cow’s milk and is usually an unpasteurized,hard, yellow-orange cheese. If you do not use it very often – unthinkable – you can freeze it can grate it straight from the freezer!

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Spanish style

So we just got back from Spain. I can’t wait to go back there again. Seriously, I want to live there! If anyone knows of a job opening there… I am game!

I thought I might add a recipe to my blog while we were in Andalucia, but I was really to busy, with, well, enjoying all that Spain has to offer. I am talking food and wine ofcourse, but also sun, loads of sun, nature, history, flamenco music and dance and brushing up on my Spanish and talking to the local people. Upon arriving back home the temperature was a lot less agreeable and it was pouring with rain… I really don’t know whether to post some sort of hearthy stew or other warming dish, or write about sunny Spain and it’super tasty foods and tapas… Well it is going to Spain, what else?!

All the foods we had there… loads of meat, what else. I am talking ham, chorizo and lomo. Delicious pork. Not a lot of chicken and beef to go around, they do love their pork. If the pork here would be as tasty as in Andalucia, I would eat it all the time, now I rarely eat pork. Then there is the manchego cheese, queso fresco, queso de cabra… Then we move to the warm dishes such as fried eggplant – OMG never had eggplant that good. Of course it is fried and covered in syrup, but it is so finger licking good, worth every calorie! I plan to recreate this dish soon! We also have the abundance of homemade croquettas, which I fear will be a bit harder to make, but I will attempt those too! Let’s not forget about the soups: warm garlic soup, cold gazpacho and salmorejo, silky smooth gazpacho made with white bread. Seeing we had days as hot as 30 degrees celcius, that cold soup tasted amazing! I really wanted to make salmarejo today, but it is pouring with rain. No cold soups. What then…. Maybe we will just have it easy tonight and feast on all the delicious things we brought with us: some heartwarming red wine, delicious sausage, cheese. The only think I will make are roasted red peppers, or pimientos in Spainish. This is easy and quick, and a perfect accompaniment for every tapas board. I also love it on a manchego sandwich or on a green salad. With some nice olive oil, sherry vinegar and a good glass of red wine perhaps?

OK I must run to the gym as soon as possible, looking back on our stay it looks like all we did was eat… But we walked a lot to, discovered Seville, Cadiz, Jerez de la Fronterra, Arcos the la Fronterra, Ronda, Grananada… All beautiful villages, cities and nature. Some of these places I had actually visited before, but I never tire of strolling through Seville, driving around and for miles and miles, just seeing olive trees and cork oaks. Strolling through the Alhambra palace again it took my breath away, just like it did the first time, just like it would do on another visit.

So please, get going. To Spain. Bring me some jamon while you’re at it.

Spanish roasted red peppers 

The red peppers in Spain are enormously huge. I never knew peppers could grow so big, and be so sweet as well! They are just perfect, but I think our own red peppers will do nicely too.

Ingredients:

– 2 large red peppers

– salt, pepper

– good quality olive oil

– vinegar of your choice

Heat your oven to about 250 degrees Celcius, or as hot as it can get. Put your peppers on a tray and into the oven. You don’t have to do anything with them, just turn them every five minutes. Check after 20 minutes if they are blackened en the skin is starting to come of. If so, take them out. I have noticed that in some ovens this will go a bit faster or slower, maybe also depending on the peppers. Give it more time if needed, do not worry if it blackens. There are other ways to roast peppers, but I prefer this one, just too simple!

Leave them to cool slightly so that you can touch them, then start pulling of the skin. This should be fairly easy. If the skin does not come off, they need more time in the oven. When you remove the skin, you automatically remove the black bits. Remove the seeds as well.

Cut up the peppers in long small strips. Put them in a bowl and grind over fresh salt and pepper. Use a good drizzle of olive oil and vingear. I like mine quite sour because of the sweetness allready in the peppers, but add vinegar and oil to your own flavor. Also, there will be juice coming from the peppers. No need to throw this away, just mix it in.

There you have it allready, something typically Spanish, but also something fast, delicious and not super unhealthy ;-). Disfruta! (Enjoy:-)!)

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Sopa de Paraguay

I am reminiscing about our South American travels. What a wonderful trip we made this year! Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay…

So we went into this café, advertising Sopa de Paraguay and other local dishes outside. I could eat some soup! I tried ordering this Parguayan soup, but they didn’t have any soup, the owner of the café exclaimed! What is this soup I keep reading and hearing about, I exclaimed in return. He showed us this dish is nothing like a soup, more like a cornbread. Allright, now we got it! Turned out that the soup that wasn’t a soup tasted darn delicious and we ended up eating it numerous times, for lunch, as a snack or as a side dish during a real South-American parilla, aka enormous BBQ time!

They make all kinds of varieties, I think they just sneek in some leftover meat from last night’s parilla, or some fresh veggies they have lying around. It’s all good! They really do have wonderfull produce over there. And so much corn, it’s unbelievable. The basic version of sopa contains …. cheese! Perfect combo no?! You can eat it warm but it’s delicious as well the next day with some butter on it. (What is not delicious with butter I think….)

The recipe is for a medium tray. Sopa de Paraguay is something best shared with friends while grilling enormous amounts of meat, the Paraguayans feel.  This recipe is for a slighty more managable amount. I did stick to the most basic version: The cheesy kind.

Ingredients – serves 4:

  • 4 eggs – seperated
  • 200 grams of fresh corn kernels (otherwise from a tin)
  • 200 grams of fine polenta or cornmeal
  • 150 ml of milk
  • 150 grams cheese of your choice, grated. (Cheddar, Feta, Dutch Farmer’s Cheese, Swiss cheese… )
  • A pinch of salt, pepper and cayennepepper
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 75 grams of soft butter

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Finely chop the onion and bake in a tablespoon of butter until soft. Add a small pinch of salt, pepper and cayennepepper.

Mix the remaining butter with the onion and cheese in a bowl. For the cheese I used about 50 grams of crumbled feta and 100 grams of grated Dutch farmers Cheese. Other cheese will work nicely too. I don’t really know what kind of cheese they use exactly in Paraguay, but I am quite sure we don’t get Paraguayan cheese here.

Add the polenta or cornmeal and cornkernels and stir it all together. You can season with a little more pepper and salt. It’s time for the milk to go in there as well.

Seperate the eggs. Add the yolks to the cheese mixture. In a clean bowl whip up the eggwhites until stiff. So now you have got the cheesemixture and your eggwhites. Get a spatula and carefully fold those two together. The sopa we had over there always was quite light, despite the cheese or other fillings. I think the whipped up eggwhites ensure a little lightness in the mixture.

Grease an ovendish with some butter, sprinkle in some polenta or cornflour instead of breadcrumbs. In goes the mixture. Add some extra cheese on top. At least that’s what I always do when cooking with cheese – more, more, more!

A sopa this size will need at least 30 minutes in the oven on a 175 degrees Celcius. After 30 minutes check if it’s done with a wooden skewer: if it comes out clean, it’s done!


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Some impressions from our trip:

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South American Parilla

 

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Dinnertime @ La Granja

 

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Greek Salad

Greek Salad. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? I thought so too. But after visiting Greece on holiday I realised it is simple yes, but there are definitly some do’s and don’ts if you want your Greek Salad to taste as authentic as possible. I went to the Island of Crete, changes are ‘authentic’ will taste different on other islands, but I can only offer you what I experienced.

> Buy good quality extra virgin olive oil. That doesn’t necessarily needs to be the most expensive one, it just needs to be a good one. It rarely is one of the cheaper ones though!

> Look for tasty olives. The simple one from a can usually doesn’t hold a lot of flavour, so start looking for ones that do. Most of the time they will still have their pits, and I personally prefer the darker kinds, such as kalamata olives. If you have a deli nearby where you can taste them before you buy, perfect!

> Try to get real Greek feta, not something that says ‘white cheese’ on the package. Also, there is feta-like cheese on the market made from cows milk, and the flavour is just not as good as the goat’s cheese kind, I think.

> See if you can get some proper Greek oregano, or dry your own oregano. The flavour of freshly dried herbs, as opposed to store bought, is very noticable!

> Then buy cucumber and juicy, flavourfull tomatoes.

Start chopping and mixing! On the island of Crete we also had a lovely take on Greek salad with enormous chuncks of avocado and thinly sliced red onion. The village we drove into was surrounded by enormous avocadotrees. We sat down at a tiny cafe and a sweet Greek lady made us one of our favourite salads to this date. She mixed in fresh avocado, red onion and her own olive oil. What a treat!

Ingredients:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Oregano
  • Freshly ground pepper, salt
  • Olive oil extra virgine

Optional:

  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Diced avocado

 

The recipe itself is so simple! Chop it rougly and mix all the ingredients together. Find a nice dish or serving bowl and it’s ready to serve!

I made Greek Salad this weekend to serve it with a lamskofte and pitabread. My next post will be all about lamb!