Light summer menu

We are in the middle of August.

Seating on my terrace I am looking at the trees and observing that nature’s bright green colors are starting to fade, meaning that little by little summer is entering its last stage.

Lately, every time I have the opportunity I am eating my meals outside and enjoying the nature around me. Because the holiday season is coming in three months with plenty of cookies and other sweets, I am satisfying my sweet tooth with plenty of fruit.

In this menu I exchanged guacamole for a light avocado mouse, whose lemony taste pairs well with slices of chicken breast spiced with sumac.

Ground sumac is a spice commonly used in the Middle East, often put on meats or salads.It has a lemony taste so it goes well with avocado. It is easily available and if your local supermarket doesn’t carry it , you can find it in Middle Eastern stores.Clafoutis is an easy to make classic french cherry  dessert. I decided to make sour version. In this menu I combined red pepper and feta.

For the end of the meal I prepared melon balls soaked with orange juice, agave syrup and pinch of ground cardamom. T he cardamom gives a little unexpected refreshing taste, but you can omit it. Toasted almonds add crunchiness.

You can be creative and use simple plastic cutlery. I love outdoors cutlery that is available in Switzerland. Stores are filled with large variety in several shapes and colors. Creative use of transparent plastic cutlery makes the menu colorful.

Melon salad with toasted almonds and cardamom

Makes about 6 servings

  • 2 melons
  • 1 orange
  • 2 cardamom seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of agave syrup or honey
  • 3 tablespoons /20g sliced almonds

Toast the almonds. Heat the ungreased skillet on medium heat. Put a single layer of sliced almonds so they color evenly. Roast  until golden color then put aside.

Squeeze the orange juice.

Crush the cardamom seeds, take the inside and ground in mortar and pestle.

Cut the melon in half. Scoop out the seeds and with a melon baller shape the balls. Put them into a bowl and pour the orange juice and agave syrup over it. Take a pinch of ground cardamom and dust over ( don’t put too much because it will overpower the taste of fruit, a little goes long way).

Mix well and put into the refrigerator to cool. When ready to use, sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Clafoutis with roasted peppers and feta cheese

Makes about 6 small cups

  • 100ml double cream ( US heavy cream), 1/2 cup
  • 50 ml full fat milk / 1/4 cup
  • 25g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon shredded basil
  • 40g feta cheese / 1/2 cup

Roasted peppers

Preheat the broiler.

Prepare the peppers for roasting. Cut the pepper into 2-3 lobes. Remove the seeds. Trim the white membrane. Lightly oil the baking sheet as well as the peppers and put them skin side up. Broil the peppers about 5 inches from the heat until some areas of the peppers start to blister and turn brown in color.

Using tongs, transfer the peppers to plastic bag. Tie the bag and leave them for 20 minutes, then remove the skin. This technique makes peeling the skin of the peppers much easier.

Cut the peppers into strips, then into small squares. Put on a side. If left with extra roasted pepper, cover them with a little bit of olive oil and put them into refrigerator. It will last for up to one week.

Clafoutis

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Cut the feta cheese into small squares or big crumbs.

Sift the flour onto a baking paper or an aluminum foil for an easier transfer.

Cut the basil leafs into a thin strips.

In a small blender add the eggs. Blend for a couple of seconds.

Add the sifted  flour and a pinch of salt.

Divide roasted peppers, feta cheese and basil into silicon cups. Leave some of the ingredients on the side.

Pour the batter over and top with the ingredients left on a side. An easy way to fill the cups is to put the batter in a measuring pitcher.

Put the silicon cups on a baking sheet, then put it in the oven on the medium shelf. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden.

When finished take them out and let them sit for 5 minutes to cool. They will collapse but that is ok.

You can serve the clafoutis directly from the silicon cups.

Avocado mousse and chicken breast with sumac

Makes about 6 small cups

  • 2-3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 4 tablespoons creme fraiche / about 1/3 cup
  • 1/2 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • salt

 

Cut avocado in half. Twist the avocado halves in opposite direction. That way you will separate them. You can use a big spoon to scoop the stone out from one half. Cut the avocado into big chunks and put them into a small blender. Blend for couple of seconds.

Little by little start adding the creme fraiche, lemon juice and finely chopped mint, blending in-between each addition. Add a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth.

Transfer into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until preparing chicken.

Chicken with a sumac

  • a big piece of chicken breast
  • 1 teaspoon of ground sumac
  • salt

Cut a chicken breast into a 3.5-4cm/2 inches wide strips.

Put a bit of vegetable oil in a skillet and heat to medium-high.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and sumac. Turn and repeat.

Fry chicken on both sides until done for about 5-6 minutes. When chicken is cut it shouldn’t be pink inside.

Take the chicken pieces out and let them rest for about 5 minutes.

Cut into squares about 3.5-4 cm (1.5 inch) in size.

Thread  each piece onto the small wooden skewers.

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Chocolate and fruits

I have always loved chocolate, but after moving to Switzerland it is hard not to think about it on a daily basis. When shopping for food in market you see dozens of chocolate varieties.

I always look for good quality chocolate when using it as an ingredient in recipes. Every time I am in Zürich airport I pick the blocks of Valrhona 68% which is my favorite chocolate for cooking.

This chocolate menu includes three recipes with very different textures: a rich mousse, chewy crepes and crunchy meringues. They are served with an abundance of summer fruits which pair really well with a chocolate, they also add great color to the dishes.

These recipes use techniques that are really good to master because they can be applied in many other dishes.

There are different ways of making chocolate mousse. I chose the one that uses Creme Anglaise. Creme Anglaise is a great English pouring sauce for deserts, but can be used for making ice cream as well as luxurious chocolate mousse. Leftover egg whites can be used for a Swiss meringue.

Chocolate crepes can be filled with an endless variety of ingredients. To balance the sweetness I filled these ones with Mascarpone – Creme Fraiche mix, flavored with orange water.

Little Swiss meringue cups are filled with chocolate whipped cream, flavored with Kirsch (cherry liquor).

Chocolate crepes

makes about 14

Batter

  • 90g flour-2/3 cup
  • 170ml milk-3/4 cup
  • 1 tablespoon-15g butter, melted
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 30g chocolate, melted
  • 1 teaspoon-4g  caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Filling

  • 100g Mascarpone-1/2 cup
  • 100g Creme Fraiche-1/2 cup
  • 1/4 teaspoon of orange blossom water (few drops if concentrated) or 1 tablespoon of orange liquor
  • 1 tablespoon-10g icing sugar
  1. Sift the flour on a parchment paper.
  2. Lightly whisk eggs.
  3. Add the whisked eggs, milk, vanilla extract and melted butter to a blender. Mix for five seconds.
  4. Add sifted flour, pinch of salt and sugar. Blend untill well combined.
  5. Pour in the melted chocolate. Quickly blend.
  6. You can make the crapes right away. If I have time, I like to keep them in the refrigerator for an hour to absorb the flavors.
  7. Lightly oil the pan on medium – high heath.
  8. Pour in a little batter. Tilt and swivel the pan as you pour to thinly coat the base of a pan. If batter gets too thick add a little bit of milk.
  9. When crepe is light gold turn it and continue cooking on other side.
  10. Whip the Mascarpone.
  11. Whip the Creme Fraiche and icing sugar until nearly firm. Use cold Creme Fraiche, right from the refrigerator.
  12. Fold whipped cream into Mascarpone.
  13. Fill each crepe with a cream filling and serve with strawberries. 

Chocolate mousse

  • 150 ml-2/3 whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons-25g caster sugar
  • 270g-9.30oz chocolate (64-68%) chopped into small pieces.
  • 500ml-2.5 cups whipping cream
  1. Heat the milk right before it starts to boil (don’t bring to boil). Remove from the heat and let it stand for about 5 minutes to cool.
  2. Cut the chocolate into small pieces and put them into a big bowl.
  3. In other bowl beat the egg yolks and a sugar until pale and thick using a whisk.
  4. Slowly pour the milk onto egg mixture in a thin stream whisking all the time.
  5. Rinse the pan and put the mixture back into it.
  6. Cook the mixture on low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the wooden spoon. Keep cooking on low heat stirring continuously or mixture will start to curdle. Be patient.
  7. When mixture thinly coats the back of the spoon, and when you draw a finger it should leave an impression.
  8. Take pan of the heat and strain it over the chocolate pieces. Mix until Creme Anglaise and chocolate create smooth mixture, making sure it is completely mixed.
  9. Set aside to cool.
  10. Whip the cream to medium peak (make sure the cream and bowl are well chilled) and  fold carefully into the chocolate mixture using a large spoon. First mix in one thirds of the cream, and then fold in the rest, turning the bowl while folding to ensure all parts are combined.
  11. You can serve it warm. I like to put mousse into individual glass cups and refrigerate until set. Before serving top it with fresh raspberries.

Swiss meringue cups

  • 4 egg whites ( room temperature)
  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • Preheat the oven to 120C/250F

  1. Cold eggs are easier to separate, bur after separating them leave the egg whites at room temperature. They are easier to whisk and will give you better results.
  2. Put egg whites in a big metal or glass bowl making sure the bowl is very clean or the whites will not whisk properly. Sift the icing sugar over it.
  3. Put the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water making sure the pot doesn’t touch the water.
  4. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture feels completely smooth when rubbed between fingers and until warm to the touch, 40C/110F on candy thermometer ( if you have one).
  5. Transfer the mixture to standard mixer and mix on high speed until the bowl feels cool and mixture is thick and shiny. It can take about 10 min.
  6. Spoon the meringue into the piping bag fitted with a small nozzle. I use one that is 6mm-1/4 inch to make petite cups. You can be creative with the shape and size of your designs.
  7. Line the baking sheet with a parchment paper.
  8. Pipe first the disk (base) of the meringue cup in a spiral starting from a center outwards. Then pipe two or three layers to form a wall around the edge.
  9. Turn down the oven temperature to 100C/200F.
  10. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn the heat off; prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon end let them dry in the oven.

filling

  • 100ml-1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon Kirsch (cherry liquor)
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
  • fresh cherries, stoned and cut into pieces (or canned if out of season)
  1. Make sure the bowl and cream are well chilled.
  2. Whisk the whipping cream, when it starts to thicken add the chocolate syrup and Kirsch.
  3. Beat until fluffy and nearly firm.
  4. Spoon the filling into the piping bag fitted with small nozzle. Fill the cups and decorate with pieces of cherries.

Globe artichokes and crusted pork chops

Pork is delicious and versatile type of meat. Contrary to many people’s beliefs certain parts of pork can be very low in fat.  This recipe is easy to prepare, and it is a healthy and safe way to eat pork. These thin-sliced chops come from loin and are very lean. They are about 1cm thick and boneless with barely any fat.

The chops are grilled or seared for a short time to retain their moisture. If you are using thicker cutlets you can always flatten them to an even thinness by placing them in-between 2 pieces of cling film and pounding them with a meat-pounder or a rolling pin.

When buying pork chops they should have a rosily white color and the fat should be very white. The meat should be firm and look dry.

In this recipe I have paired the pork chops with cooked new potatoes and fried sage. I used fresh breadcrumbs mixed with ground coriander, but you can substitute it for ground fennel or ground cumin seeds. For the starter I prepared globe artichokes with light vinaigrette. You can also use other types of dips such as: mayonnaise , melted butter or aioli, but those options will also add more calories to the meal.

 

 

Boiled new potatoes

  • 400 g new (young) potatoes
  • butter
  • salt
  1. Wash and scrub potatoes. Cut them into halves.
  2. You don’t need to peel delicate skin of these potatoes. Fill the pot with cold water and put the potatoes in.
  3. Bring to boil, then lower the heat to medium low and simmer until they are tender when pierced with a knife.
  4. Drain the potatoes.
  5. Put the knob of butter over the potatoes; cover until you fry the cutlets.

 

 

Crusted pork chops

  • 4 thin pork chops, lean and boneless
  •  130 g fresh breadcrumbs (white or whole wheat loaf), about 2 cups
  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander (or ground fennel , or ground cumin seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pinch of ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoon of sunflower oil
  1.  Remove the crust, put the bread into a food processor, wiz until you form breadcrumbs. spread the breadcrumbs on a baking tray or baking paper and dry for two hours.
  2. In a bowl mix together breadcrumbs, ground coriander and salt.
  3. Pat dry pork chops with paper towels.
  4. Whisk the egg in a hollow dish and put half of the flour and breadcrumb mixture on two different shallow plates.
  5. Put half of the oil in a large skillet and heat it on medium-high.
  6. Dip one of the cutlets into the flour first, shake-off the excess.
  7. Coat in egg then breadcrumbs.
  8. Put them into the skillet. Lower the heat and cook two minutes per side, or until golden brown. Don’t overcook or they will be dry.
  9. Carefully wipe the skillet and put the other half of oil. Repeat the process. Never cram the skillet, always cook in batches.
  10. Take cutlets out of the skillet and put them in a plate. Keep them worm by putting a plate in an oven on a very low temperature.

 

 

Fry sage leafs

  • bunch of fresh sage leafs
  • sunflower oil or olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)
  • salt
  1. Put the sunflower oil into small pot to dept of 3cm, about 1 inch. Heat the oil on medium high until registers  180 C/ 350 F or  test the temperature by putting small piece of bread. Bred should bubble all over. Dry sage leafs well before adding to hot oil. Put no more than four sage leaves at a time for about four seconds. Don’t take to long or they will turn brown. Regulate the heat to prevent the oil from overheating or smoking.
  2. Transfer with a fork or a slotted spoon.
  3. Dry them on kitchen paper. They will crisp as they cool.
  4. With a fork break the potatoes and put salt to taste. You can add a little more butter and reheat for a minute.

 

 

Globe artichokes

  • 4 globe artichokes
  • juice of one lemon
  1. Choose a big enough pot that can hold the artichokes. Fill it with water to about half and bring to boil.
  2. Prepare artichokes. First cut the stalks and make sure that the bottom is well-trimmed so it will sit flat.
  3. Cut off the top third of the artichoke.
  4. Trim the points of the outer leaves with scissors. To prevent discoloration put them in water with some lemon juice while you prepare the other artichokes.
  5. Place the artichokes in the boiling water, stem with the base down. Add some of lemon juice.
  6. Simmer for about  45 min, when testing the leaf will pull out easily. If they turn you can weight them down with a plate.
  7. Take them out of the water and drain in a colander, putting them upside down.
  8. Let them cool, then open the center of the artichoke and pull out all the pale leaves shaped like a cone.
  9. Now you will expose hairy choke (fibrose section) that you should scrape off with a spoon. Put the cone back on the artichoke.

Taking off fibrose part.

 

 

Vinaigrette

  • 4 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoon red vine vinegar
  • salt
  1. In a small bowl whisk oil and vinegar. Add salt to taste.
  2. Divide into four small cups for dipping.

Spring tea time

My first spring in Switzerland!

My street is surrounded by nature; each week brings new surprises in terms of plants and flowers, flowers that come in rainbow of colors.

When you live in a big city, as I used to do, spring’s arrival is much more subtle and less impactful than when you live so close to the countryside as I do now.

With the new season and its warmer temperatures entertaining is moving outside; dishes are lighter and more colorful. It is a great time to call friends to come over and try some new seasonal dishes.

I miss teatime in London, where I used to live, because it is a place where you can see all the creativity that goes into preparing a great variety of teatime “menus”, not only at high-end hotels, but also in smaller coffee shops.

The challenge is that some of these treats are quite sweet. If you are like me and can’t resist tasting everything that is on the plate in front of you, the calorie count can be overwhelming!

For the outdoor teatime menu, I am going to share with you, I made classic mini-egg sandwiches with dill, choux profiteroles filled with rose cream, and fruit skewers with lemon-grass syrup.

Because we are now coming to the time-of-year when fresh fruits are becoming more abundant, I am adding them to my menu to bring freshness and vibrant colors.

This treats are also appropriate for an Apero, a Swiss form of socializing that includes finger-food and a glass of drink.

Egg Sandwiches (around 12 petite sandwiches)

  • 8 slices of wheat bread
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper
  1. Put the eggs into a saucepan and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to boil, then immediately lower the heat and simmer for 10 min. Never boil the eggs.
  3. Put cooked eggs into cold water to stop cooking process and peel.
  4. In a small bowl mesh them well with a fork.
  5. Add two tablespoons of mayonnaise and one teaspoon of chopped dill to the eggs. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
  6. Divide the filling on one side of bread slices, and then top with other slices.
  7. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge if not serving within one hour.
  8. When ready to assemble, cut of the crust with serrated knife and then cut the sandwiches into small squares.
  9. I like to use small square cutters.
  10. Just before serving dissolve butter in a small pot and add one teaspoon of dill.
  11. Lightly apply butter mixture on top of each sandwich using a small kitchen brush.
To add a little colour.
Fruit skewers
  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 watermelon
  • 1 honeydew melon
  •  lychees (10-12), peeled and pitted
  • fresh mint (optional)
  • 12 bamboo skewers
  1. You can first remove the skin with a serrated knife before cutting the mango or first cut mango into two halves and then remove the skin. If the mango is not  too soft  you can use a peeler.
  2. Slice the flash of mango by placing the knife slightly away from the center and cut downwards. Repeat on the other side.
  3. Cut the flesh lengthways into strips, then crossways into squares.
  4. Squeeze a little lime juice over the mango to prevent discoloring.
  5. Peel and take the pits out of the lychee. If fresh lychee are not available use caned ones in syrup.
  6. Cut the cantaloupe and the watermelon. Remove the seeds and scoop-out the flash with a melon baller.
  7. Thread the pieces of fruit on the skewers; in between pieces of fruit you can decorate with fresh mint.
  8. Arrange them in small transparent glasses.
  9. Put little bit of lemon grass syrup over.

Lemon grass syrup

  • 1 lemon grass stem, bruised
  •  80 gr granular sugar
  • 135 g water
  • juice of one lime
  1. Place sugar, lime juice and water in a saucepan on low heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Bring to boil, add  lemon grass stem and cook for three minutes or little longer if you want thicker syrup.
  3. Cool. Put into refrigerator overnight.

Choux profiteroles with a rose cream

 

  •  55 g  butter
  • 170 ml water
  • 55 g plain flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200 ml double cream
  • 2 teaspoon rose-water
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry rose petals
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
  2. Sift the flour with a pinch of salt.
  3. Put butter and water in a saucepan and melt the butter over medium heat.
  4. Increase the heat and bring it to boil.
  5. As soon as the liquid boils add the sifted flour in one go. Remove from the heat and with a wooden spoon mix quickly until mixture is smooth and leaves the sides of the pan. Don’t  overbeat.
  6. Spread the mixture on the plate, until it cools slightly, about 10-15min.
  7. When cooled put the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer.
  8. Incorporate eggs a little bit at-a- time so that each addition is well incorporated. In the beginning mixture may look like it is splitting. Continue mixing until smooth and glossy.
  9. Put the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a  nozzle ( I used 8mm ) and pipe small chouxs buns 3-4 cm size on a nonstick baking paper. I like a thin silicone sheet that you can reuse and is easily available.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the choux buns are golden and firm.
  11. Place them on a wire rack to cool.
  12. Whisk double cream with rose water and icing sugar.
  13. Cut the tops of the pastry cases.
  14. Put the cream into a piping bag with a small nozzle and pipe into the pastry cases.
  15. Ground some of the rose leafs using paste and mortar.
  16. Dust choux  profiterloes with icing sugar and sprinkle with ground rose leafs.

Chicken baked in a clay pot with Kohlrabi salad

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A couple of weeks after moving to Switzerland my attention was drawn to a beautiful, rustic looking , Romertopf clay pot.

Cooking in clay is one of the oldest methods of preparing food and I am a big fan of slow cooking, so i decided to buy it and try-it-out, because it wasn’t that expensive.

The one I bought is partially glazed. It is recommended to soak the pot in water 10 -15 min before each use.

My first experiment was with chicken, later I will try with other meals. I like it served with a crunchy kohlrabi salad.

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I tried a lot of different temperature variations and I achieved the best results with following recipe:

 

 

Chicken 

  • 1×1.35kg / 3lb
  • 12 baby carrots
  • 12 baby potatoes
  • 2 springs of fresh thyme
  • batter softende
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable oil
  1. Soak the clay pot in water for 10-15min.
  2. Season inside of the chicken with salt and pepper and put two springs of thyme.
  3. Smear a little butter all over the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Put the potatoes and the carrots in a bowl and cover lightly with oil and season.
  5. Place chicken in the clay pot and surround with the carrots and potatoes. You don’t need to add any liquid.
  6. Close the lid and put in a cold oven.
  7. Turn the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook for one hour and fifty minutes.
  8. Check is it done by making a small cut to see if the juices run clear. If not cook for an additional couple minutes.

Do not place the hot clay pot on a cold surface, I place it on a wooden board. Don’t tie the legs, the chicken will cook more evenly, you can tie them later for presentation.

You can cook the baby carrots separately. It will add better color to the dish.

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Baby carrots

  1. Trim the ends.
  2. Put the carrots into cold water and cover. Slowly bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
  3. Cook until tender 7-8 min and pierce with a knife to check if ready.
  4. Drain and serve with chicken and potatoes.

 

 

Kohlrabi salad

  • 2 kohlrabi
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • ground pepper
  1. Make the dressing. Whisk olive oil with little bit of salt and pepper.
  2. Peel the kohlrabi. Use a mandolin to get thin slices, and then cut them into matchsticks.
  3. Lightly spoon dressing over kohlrabi, and toss to coat well.

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