Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pizza with roasted red pepper sauce

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pepper pizza


Remember that roasted red pepper and ricotta sauce I used on a penne a while ago? Here it is again, making another appearance, this time as a pizza sauce. This versatile sauce not only brings lots of flavour to the pizza  but also makes for an extra cheesy, creamy one. That is because I added shredded mozzarella, so you end up with two types of cheeses. Not everyone may like it, Andrew for example thought it was a little over the top. I love it, I am used having creamy cheeses on pizzas, it's a common thing in Brazil.

I had a batch of the roasted red pepper and ricotta in the fridge and also had a pizza dough ready and resting in the refrigerator, so dinner was ready in no time at all.


Here is what I used:

1 ball of my  homemade pizza dough

about 1/4 cup of roasted red pepper and ricotta sauce (recipe here)

shredded mozzarella

sliced mushrooms


fresh basil


Just roll out the pizza dough, spread the sauce, layer the mushrooms and cheese and top it with a few olives. Bake it at 475 degrees for about 8 minutes. Top with fresh basil and enjoy it!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Apple Strudel - Daring Bakers

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apple strudel 1

The last couple of months have been quite busy for me and unfortunately it has taken me away from the kitchen. But I couldn't pass on this month's Daring Baker's Challenge: Apple Strudel. I love apple strudel and was quite excited about making my own strudel dough from scratch. We could do any kind of filling we wanted, sweet or savoury but I wanted to stick to the classic German Apple Strudel, in part because  Andrew and I both like apple desserts.

Making the dough was easier than I expected, but I didn't manage to stretch it as much as needed and it resulted in only 2 layers of rolled strudel dough. It was delicious anyway, and I figure that the more you practice the better you get at stretching the dough. Mine covered half of my dining table, next time I'll try to cover the whole table. The dough is so nice to work with, it made me realize how much I enjoy cooking, making foods from scratch, transforming simple ingredients into delightful creations. I intend to get back to my baking and cooking routine very soon and will definitely make this strudel again, playing with different types of fillings.


The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.


apple strudel 2

I did not make many changes to the recipe given to us, posted bellow.  This is all I changed:

  • I used panko instead of fresh bread crumbs,because that was the only thing I had in hand.
  • I used 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • Following some tips from other daring Bakers, I spread the bread crumbs all over the stretched dough as shown in the photo bellow.

strudel dough


Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

apple strudel

Monday, May 18, 2009

Kale and Chard Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

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kale salad 1

This salad is now one of my favourites to make at home. It is so easy to make and the result is amazing. I am a big fan of  greens like kale, chard, mustard greens, collards. They are so good for you, versatile and inexpensive. I use them in soups, sauteed with vegetables or raw like in this salad. I also love to add nuts to my salad dishes and walnuts is the choice here, it goes very well with the blue cheese.  This salad is nice enough to serve for guests and since curly kale makes a lot of volume, you can get a lot of bang for your buck.

The recipe (if we can call it that) is very loose, I make it without any measurements, but since I know many people have a hard time making vinaigrette at home, I put a simple recipe with the proportions I use here at home. It is my everyday salad dressing, sometimes I add some Dijon mustard, other days a little crushed garlic. The recipe posted here is always the starting point.


Kale and Chard Salad Recipe:

This is more an ingredient's list rather a recipe, the quantities are up to you, keep in mind that curly kale leaves make lots of volume.


Swiss Chard

crumbled gorgonzola cheese



parmesan cheese (shavings)


Remove the tough stems from the kale and roughly chop the leaves. Do the same with the chard, leaving some of the stem. Wash and dry leaves well. Toast walnuts in a dry pan for a few minutes over low heat. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and toss it with the vinaigrette (recipe bellow).

For the vinaigrette:

This recipe makes 1/2 cup of dressing, make more if needed, or store left overs in the fridge if it's too much.

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/4 cup of lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon of honey

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon of pepper

1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano (optional)


Place all ingredients in a jar, close the lid and shake it well. Alternatively, whisk it with a whisk or fork in a bowl until combined.


kale salad

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Caramelized Onion Quiche

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quiche 1


I wasn't sure if I should post this recipe or not, because I don't like how the photos turned out so much. I wasn't really planning on taking photos of it, but this quiche tasted so good that I thought it wouldn't be fair not to share it. I am a huge fan of caramelized onions, to me it is one of the easiest, simplest and most inexpensive ways to turn a good dish into a great one.  A while ago I made a quick list of my most affordable recipes, this quiche definitely deserves a place on that list too. Using one onion, eggs and  gruyere cheese, this is as budget-friendly as it gets, but if you want to spend even less than that, substitute the gruyere with mozzarella.

The quiche crust is nothing more than a flaky pie crust, the type you find in every supermarket and it is a real time saver. But if you have time, making your own is super easy and (again) inexpensive. It freezes very well and all you have to do is thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. I normally have some in my freezer and I use it for savoury quiches like this one, vegetable pies or sweet fruit pies. I listed the recipe I use here, so you can choose to make it or just use store-bought ones, whatever fits you.

One last note about the onions. When caramelizing onions, don't rush the process, they should cook slowly at a medium-low temperature gaining colour towards the end of the cooking time (normally 20-30 minutes).



 Caramelized Onion Quiche Recipe:

makes one 9 inch round quiche


You will need:


1/2 recipe of flaky pie dough, store-bought or homemade (recipe bellow)

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped

1 large onion, thinly sliced

3 eggs

3/4 cup of milk ( I use 2%)

1 cup of shredded gruyere cheese

salt and pepper



Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll the dough until you have a circle 10-11 inches in diameter. Lay dough into a 9 inch pie pan. Be careful not to stretch the dough, or it will shrink back in the oven. Trim edges around the pie plate leaving a 1/2 inch border. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.

Cover pie plate with foil paper and top it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes, removing the foil paper and beans on the last 10 minutes. Set aside until it cools.

While dough bakes, melt butter over medium-low heat, add the onions and thyme and cook slowly until onions are browned, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.

Lightly beat the eggs with the milk and season with salt and pepper.

Spread 1/2 cup of the cheese on the bottom of the quiche, add the onions on top and cover with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Pour the egg mixture and bring quiche to the oven. Bake it until golden brown and puffed, about 40 minutes.

Enjoy it warm or at room temperature along with a simple salad.


Making a Flaky Pie Dough:

This recipe makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9-inch pies. I used half for this quiche and froze the other half for later.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup ice water


In the food processor, combine the flour and salt and pulse once. Add the pieces of butter and process until mixture forms small pieces of dough, like a crumb. With the processor on, slowly add the water until the dough comes together. Test it by squeezing a piece between your fingers, it should hold together. If the dough is not coming together yet, add more cold water, a tablespoon at the time. The dough should be a moist one.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, divide it in 2 parts and form disks. Wrap each disk with plastic film and store in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using, or freeze it.


quiche 2

Friday, May 8, 2009

Light Lemon Basil and Shrimp Pasta

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lemon basil shrimp pasta 1

This is a super simple and delicious pasta I like to make for Andrew. There is a misconception that pasta is a heavy, fattening dish but what makes a pasta dish caloric is normally the sauce. Here at home, I like to make pastas using fresh and often raw ingredients as well as lots of vegetables and herbs. This makes eating pasta easier on our waist lines... I normally have a bag of cooked frozen shrimps in the freezer. I find it very convenient and it allows me to whip up a meal in minutes, like this one. The touch of lemon is very subtle and brings a freshness to the dish. You can choose to leave the zest in the dish or remove it after it infused the oil.

Lemon Basil and Shrimp Pasta Recipe:

serves 1

The ingredients listed are for a single portion. To serve more, multiply them for as many portions you want to make. *If using fresh or frozen raw shrimps, just adjust the cooking time, it should take a few extra minutes, but remember that shrimps cook quickly and overcooking them may result in tough shrimps.

You will need:

1/4 of a package of spaghetti or linguine

olive oil

zest of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove, chopped

10 medium frozen (cooked) shrimps * (see note above)

a handful of fresh basil, chopped

salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.

While pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil. Add the lemon zest and let it infuse the oil over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn it. At this point you can strain the oil and discard the zest or keep it in the dish, it is up to your taste. Add the garlic and shrimp, turn the heat to medium and cook until shrimp is pink. Season with salt pepper to taste. Add the pasta along with some of the cooking liquid and stir well. Check the taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Add the chopped basil, mix well, transfer to a plate and serve immediately.
I am submitting this recipe for this month's edition of Weekend Wokking, an event created (and also hosted this month) by Wandering Chopsticks, check it out!

Enjoy it!

lemon basil shrimp pasta

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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This cookies are really easy to make, as most cookies are. At least the ones I choose to make.  They are thin cookies, which means you can have two, or three...:)  The raisins are soft and make a nice balance with the crispy oats. These cookies filled my kitchen with a great cinnamon aroma.

When baking these cookies, make sure to separate them well apart on the baking sheets as they spread a lot.  I made three cookie sheets using two at the time. If you need to reuse the same cookie sheet (like I did) make sure it is completely cooled before placing the dough on it, or it will affect the cooking time. Running the cookie sheets or trays under cold water will speed up the cooling time.


oatmeal raisin cookie 1

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe:

makes about 25 cookies

You will need:

1 3/4 cups of rolled oats (not quick-cooking)

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour

3/4 cup of raisins

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup of  dark-brown sugar

1/4 cup of sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line your cookie trays lined with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon until combined. Add the oats and stir well. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer beat sugars and butter until pale and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Slow down the mixer speed and add the egg and vanilla extract, mix until it is well incorporated. Add the flour mixture slowly, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl when necessary. Add the raisins and mix it quickly, or stir it with a spatula.

Drop cookies by the spoon full onto cookie sheets, be sure to leave space between them as they spread a lot. Bake for about 10-12 minutes. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack and keep it in an airtight container.

Enjoy it!



Monday, May 4, 2009

Sweet Cream of Avocado (Creme de Abacate)

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Cinco de Mayo means avocados are on sale everywhere, but instead of guacamole, I decided to make cream of avocado, a sweet treat I used to have as a child. I just love the creaminess of the fruit and this is, for me, one of the best ways to enjoy it.

This is something very simple and yet super tasty. The idea is to combine avocados and vanilla ice cream to make a creamy dessert that's ready in minutes. Brazilian avocados are the large type that are hard to find here in the U.S. They tend to be much sweeter than the small ones and Brazilians use them in dessert and sweet recipes. I only found small Hass avocados to make this cream and even with the use of ice cream, it was still not quite sweet. I added some sugar, and depending on your sweet tooth you might want to add even more, but I like to be able to taste the fruit as well.

You can also make an avocado smoothie by adding more milk until the mixture becomes liquid enough. Another alternative is to omit the ice cream all together and add more milk and sugar. Choose very ripe avocados for this recipe, and if you can find the large variety, even better.

Cream of Avocado Recipe:

serves 1

You will need:

1/2 large avocado or 2 small ones, very ripe

8 oz of vanilla ice cream, softened

a splash of milk

1/2 teaspoon of lime juice

1 tablespoon of sugar (approximately)

Peel avocados and remove the pits. Blend all ingredients until smooth, adding milk until you get the consistency of a pudding. Add more or less sugar, according to your taste.

Enjoy it!