What to expect if you're Cinderella, you've just lost your shoe and now living for being found by the Prince, and you ditch the mice and take a stroll in the Old Town, on a Thursday night, after midnight? People and food from all over the world, dance, secret quiet corners and moonrise.
Stop! Take a bite :D
...then continue following your nocturnal destiny, Cinderella...
Rest in the quietness of Stavropoleos
Good night, Cinderella!
We know that Japanese women are famous for using natural ingredients to take care of their skin. One of their favorite ingredients must be red beans. They have been using red beans for skincare for more than a thousand years. Why do they love this particular bean so much?
Red beans are packed with vitamins and minerals:
As skincare ingredient red beans give the skin a shiny and radiant glow. They make the skin firm and silky, they’re especially beneficial for oily skin.
Of course Japanese people don’t just use the whole beans, they grind them into powder and mix with milk to wash their face or make them into face masks. You can buy red bean powder on the market or you can make it yourself. I will tell you how to grind red beans with your robot.
First rinse your red beans and let them dry completely. Then put a thin layer of beans in a saucepan and use the smallest level of heat to toast the beans. Toast may not be the right word here since you won’t burn the beans but help them getting dry deeply and therefore more easy to make into powder. Your dried beans will be good for use after 10 - 15 minutes of gentle toasting. This method is used in Chinese medicine to preserve ingredients without losing their benefits, so don’t be worry that your toasted red beans will be less beneficial than the raw ones.
Grind them with your robot until they’re smooth. Store the red bean powder in a glass jar at room temperature. Voilà! It is now ready to be made into the face mask which is also a gentle face scrub. You’ll need:
Gently massage this face mask on your dry skin for 5 minutes, then keep it on your face for 3 minutes more. After this, rinse it off with warm water and pat the skin dry.
Your skin will be as good as new. It will feel so soft and silky, you’ll simply love it. As soon as the second use of this face mask, you will notice that your skin is brighter, the skin tone more even and the spots (if you have acne) are less noticeable.
I recommend that you use this face mask only once a week because it exfoliates your skin and if being used too often, it can make your skin too sensitive to sunlight.
You can preserve the red bean powder for months at room temperature so don’t hesitate to make a big batch and enjoy your red beans face mask whenever you want.
Drops of Italian blood that we carry generation after generation keep the longing of sounds, smells and tastes from Bella Italia, no matter how far in time and space. My great-grandparents emigrated from Italy during the Great Depression. Whenever me and my family, including the extended family - my friends - feel its call, I have a possible solution: my Cuore d'Italia pasta, a personal recipe that is not based on a regional or traditional recipe, but it is meant to reminisce and relive some of Italy's emblematic ingredients and tastes.
What makes Italian cuisine one of the best in the world, if not the best, is the fact that it is based on the quality of a few main, basic ingredients and the ability to save their characteristics through or even despite cooking them. Brilliance through quality and simplicity, would be the right motto for Italy's most treasured food like pizza, pasta and various antipasti.
Cuore d'Italia (Heart of Italy) as I conceived it is a way to serve pasta with a few nostalgic trademark ingredients: the tomato sauce, parmesan, prosciutto, gorgonzola and rucola, enough to say: What more can one need? for a snapshot of palate happiness and a time-space journey to Italy.
It goes without saying that, for this recipe to work its magic, one needs the best pasta (preferably fresh), a fine gorgonzola, quality prosciutto and parmesan, but I also dare you to use a great Italian olive oil, ripe farm tomatoes, and even a special salt or pepper, and generally to make it based on high quality Italian (and local) ingredients, as much as possible. The local touch would be a way to celebrate Italians around the world, and the culture of food - a perpetual anonymous collective effort - where the spirit of a country mixing in local flavors becomes a relay of traditions leading to new, creative forms.
I chose tagliattele verdi as pasta (green pasta with spinach), they went well with my current cravings, but they generally go well with this recipe. This version of Cuore d'Italia (I will repost the classical version) comes with a summery twist: apricots! You will see...
INGREDIENTS (for 4 portions)
For the tomato sauce
4-6 medium, well-ripened tomatoes
5-6 garlic cloves
a small bunch of basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper
(if the tomatoes aren't ripe enough, you might want to use 1 tsp of sugar)
For the pasta plate
500g green tagliatelle (or your pasta of choice)
100g parmesan (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
150g gorgonzola (I used Galbani)
100g prosciutto (I used Prosciutto di Parma)
Let's make the sauce now. This is one of my special pasta sauce recipes, I only use fresh tomatoes for it, and its main specialty is in the manner of cooking the tomatoes. Take half of the tomatoes and cut each one in 8 slices. Heat your grill at the highest temperature, and when it's hot, place the tomatoes on the grill and when their sugary selves begin to stick to the grill, turn them over with a grill turner. Grill them good, for about 10 min overall, and when charred on both sides, remove from the grill and place them on a plate or wooden trencher for a few minutes, to cool. At this point, they should look like this:
Separately, mince the rest of the tomatoes, the fresh ones.
In your saucepan or favorite pasta sauce cookware, heat some olive oil and add a few of the basil leaves, to flavor your oil. The inviting smell of grilled tomatoes will be now accompanied by the promise of an Italian visit. Then throw in the minced tomatoes, pressed garlic, the rest of basil (you can keep 2-3 basil leaves that you can finely chop and then add when the sauce is ready, to recover a fresh basil flavor), salt, pepper and if you feel the tomatoes are too dry or too green, also add a tsp of sugar. Let it cook on low heat for about 5 min, while mixing regularly.
Time to mince the grilled tomatoes and add them to the sauce.
Leave for another 10 min, on very low heat, while continuing to mix. This is a rather "dry" sauce, it will not drown your pasta in red sauce, its purpose according to this recipe is to mostly add the flavor of traditional Italian tomato sauce to the final mix.
While tending to the sauce, you can boil your pasta. You can use a pasta cooker, but if you don't have one, just fill a pot with water, enough to (this time) drown the pasta, add salt and vegetable oil (which is the best ingredient for not letting the pasta stick). When boiling, add your pasta and cook until al dente (according to label). When cooked, drain the water. Make sure to leave a little bit of liquid in the pot, before throwing the pasta back in. It helps the tagliatelle recover their moisture. Mix the pasta with the sauce, while they're both hot.
We've had enough of just smelling, let's make our plate and devour it. Quickly make a plate with tagliatelle, to which you add a little bit of parmesan, pieces of gorgonzola, then la rucola (you break the rather long leaves into smaller pieces, with your hand, it will make your hands smell like an Italian mamma's), pieces of prosciutto, more parmesan, and finely, thin slices of apricots.
Finally it’s corn season, at least here in France. I’m so happy that the season has come at last! I’ve been waiting and waiting since last year. Vietnamese people love corn. The proof of that is in their cuisine: they create many dishes with it, mostly desserts but also soups and street foods. I decide to dedicate my next posts of August to corn with its strange yet delicious dishes and I will also cover on how to choose good corn and its many benefits.
This is a simple boiled corn snack in Vietnam, a tribute to my generation and older ones. Nowadays this boiled corn snack is not very popular but it was not the case 20 years ago. After 1975 peace came back to the country, but the wars and its many bombing episodes left the land barren and the population devastated. Rice was so scarce and people had to search for other carb sources, among which are the popular sweet potato and corn. Around the end of the 80s and 90s, boiled corn became a snack and comfort food for many, me included. Back then children of the whole neighborhood played and went on many adventures together (what I actually mean is they got into mishaps together). Children used to sit in a circle with a whole pot of boiled corns and eat and joke around while those corns sweeten their childhood. The ears of corn are usually boiled whole with their silk intact for added benefits, like this:
Today the country has changed so much and boiled corn is no longer a substitute for rice. Corn nowadays is a versatile ingredient. Vietnamese people are a whole creative lot. Now they have grilled corn with spring onion oil, corn soup, fried corn cake, corn sautée with shrimps, corn pudding (not just one type of pudding but dozens) and the list is not exhaustive. However boiled corn remains for me, and for many Vietnamese of my generation and older ones, a sweet comfort food.
It’s time for us to compile our first Vietnamese street food! This dish is a specialty of the city where I come from: Nha Trang. It’s a beautiful city that lies along the coast, and so the weather is warm and inviting all year round. From the people who have already visited Nha Trang, I only hear positive reviews, never anything negative, ever. And the city owns a great deal of it to its street food. Honestly the food here must be one of the best in Vietnam (I may be a bit biased but many people would agree with me). Now to get back to Com Ga, I must say this is a simple dish, as in there is no complex cooking step. It’s very easy to make and the taste is just sublime. In a small plate of Com Ga, you can find all tastes and textures: sweet and sour pickles, salty and spicy fish sauce, buttery egg sauce; the chicken chunks are juicy and fried shallots crispy; not to mention the freshness of Vietnamese mint and cucumber is just delightedly crunchy. Hmm so yummy!!! The best part of it is you can find most of the ingredients in the supermarket. You only need to go to the Asian store for Vietnamese mint and green papaya.
We will break down the steps to make it more simply. First you need to prepare your pickled carrot and green papaya one day prior. You can find the recipe here.
After keeping the pickles in your fridge for one day, we can start to make the dish.
For the fish sauce recipe, click right here. Be sure to add ginger in this fish sauce, it’s crucial for the success of this dish.
Ingredients (for 2 people):
Half of a chicken (or 3 chicken breasts)
3 cups of Thai rice
Fat of the chicken (optional)
A pinch of turmeric powder
Half a cucumber
1 egg yolk
Half an onion
The finished fish sauce
Pickled carrot and green papaya
Make the chicken:
Now if you want to make rice with chicken fat which is a Vietnamese traditional practice, instead of using chicken breasts, use half of the chicken and don’t trim the fat off of it.
Boil the chicken with salt and half an onion for 25 minutes or until it’s cooked through.
While the chicken is being massaged by hot water, there will be yellow fat floating on the surface of the broth, skim this fat and store it to make rice, or you can discard it and your meal will be healthier this way.
When the chicken is done, put it in a bowl to cool down, store the broth to cook other dishes.
Make that golden rice:
Wash the rice and keep the second batch of water for your fermented rice water if you want. Yes, take care of your stomach with this dish and do a skincare with the fermented rice water.
We will cook rice with a rice cooker and so the water and rice proportion should be 1:2.
Add in a pinch of turmeric powder and salt (and that chicken fat that you skimmed earlier if you want to try the traditional fatty chicken rice) and stir to dissolve. Set the cooker and just wait for your rice to be cooked.
Make the crispy fried shallots:
While waiting for the rice, slide the shallots into rings and fry them just like you would with your crispy fried onion. Sprinkle a little bit of salt in vegetable oil and fry your shallots until they become golden then quickly transfer them onto paper towels. Help the paper towels do their work properly by spreading the shallot rings evenly. Be sure to dry the shallots completely for them to remain crispy.
Make the luscious egg yolk sauce:
It’s a very simple sauce, just like mayonnaise. You just separate the egg yolk and put it in a bowl. Now you can make this sauce by hand or use your egg hand blender. Personally I like to make this sauce by hand. If you use your hand blender, be sure to beat the egg yolk gently. First, break your egg yolk and then add a little bit of oil, just a couple of drops, and beat to mix egg with oil evenly. Then add in more oil and repeat the process. As you go along, increase the amount of oil eventually (up to 1 tablespoon) until you get the consistency of mayonnaise sauce, which means when you raise your mixer the sauce should be glued to the tool for at least 3 seconds before falling down. The finished sauce should have a bright yellow color and no longer smells of egg. It shouldn’t taste like raw egg either.
When the rice is cooked, time to take care of small matters:
Pluck out the leaves of Vietnamese mint and wash them well.
Tear your boiled chicken into stripes
Cut cucumber diagonally or however you like them.
Now to assemble the dish the Nha Trang way: First put in a layer of golden rice then add the chicken stripes. After that, put in a small handful of pickled carrot and green papaya, mint leaves and cucumber slices. Lastly add a tablespoon of egg sauce on top and sprinkle on the crispy fried shallots. Serve this dish with a generous bowl of fish sauce so that every Com Ga bite has fish sauce on it.
Finally, a small reminder: This dish is quite heavy from the chicken fat, the egg sauce and crispy fried shallots, so it may be more fit for a fall meal or in small portion in summer, just a little of it can go a long way. I ate this for lunch yesterday and I was full until dinner time, no snack needed. Have fun with Com Ga!
Today it's the right time for two more summery recipes to accompany our star, tarragon.
Grilled Trout with Tarragon
The delicate taste of fish, especially trout, mixes quite well with the inviting green flavor of tarragon. I will teach you two tricks for using herbs with meat or fish, when you decide to grill them. After cleaning the fish (or meat, if that be the case) with cold water and removing the excessive moist with paper towels (which, in case of grilled products, allows for a nice crust to be formed instead of the surface boiling on the grill), you rub the interior with your herb of choice. Personally, I often prefer to grill the fish in a simple way, without many condiments, since it has a delicate flavor and taste we want to feel when eating it. I don't even use salt, often times, and add the condiments, under the form of a sauce or dip, including the salt, after the fish is already grilled.
Back to our troutie! For the first method, just rub the tarragon inside the fish and carefully place it on the grill. The fish meat will be gently infused with the distinctive herb or herb mix.
The second method, that I used this time, is to just grill the fish, remove from the grill and place in your barbecue pot or tray, and quickly, when it's still hot, sprinkle the herb all over the fish and cover with aluminium foil or a metal lid. This way, the steam coming from the fish, while covered, will infuse the herbs and then condensate onto the meat, flavoring it.
Before serving this delicious, simple, healthy trout, add salt, pepper and lots of lemon juice, or, for a different taste, use a light version of mujdei for a specific mixture with the tarragon flavor. (for pickling tarragon, check the recipe here).
Kapia and Courgette Warm Salad
Kapia Peppers are used in many recipes in Romania, for their sweet flavor, when cooked (for example zacusca - stand by for it!). This is another simple, yet delicious recipe that can also be enjoyed as a separate vegetarian meal. Grill the peppers as they are (without removing the seeds beforehand) - this prevents them to dry excessively during grilling. Only after they cool a little, remove the skin and the seeds and place them in a salad bowl. The trick with peppers, just like with eggplants - by Romanian traditional recipes, at least - is cooking them directly on the flame. If you use your in-houses stove, it might be a little messy, but put them directly on the flame, and rotate frequently. It's much more pleasant and tastier if you can cook them outside, on the grill, in which case allow for direct flames to touch them now and then. With this method, you get a distinctive smokey, charred flavor that cannot be achieved otherwise.
I used the same method with the courgette - let them be "burnt" now and then - which led to a charred, chipsy result. When vegetables are being marinaded in wet marinade before the barbecue, they come out juicy and don't dry. But if you want to get them crunchy, as I did here, in order for their specific, natural flavor to come out through grilling, just put them on the fire as they are. Seasoning them when hot with wet condiments like oil and vinegar or lemon will restore part of the moisture anyway. Which is exactly what I did with this warm salad, by quickly adding the olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I specifically recommend the combo olive oil + balsamic for warm pepper salads), and salt, for them to absorb them and become a sweet/sour/perfumed and perrrrfect! mix.
Summer can be irritatingly hot but the beauty of it is incomparable.
Looking at these blooms etched in the rich blue sky feels like something wonderful is about to happen.
First day in Rome, first amazing pizza at L'Antica Salumeria, by the Pantheon. Pizza Amatriciana, e Quattro Formaggi
...and dinner at a local restaurant, where Romans eat. Delicious fish and potatoes al forno, with rosmarino, — at Ristorante Il Pettirosso.
Starting the day with cappuccino freddo and pasticceria di casa
— at Villa Borghese gardens.
Cold prosecco against a hot Roman street wall — at Fontana Di Trevi-Roma.
Spaghetti di Parma near Fontana di Trevi
— at Spaghetteria l'Archetto.
Panini and granita, — at Colosseo.
Crossing Tevere, Trastevere
And then...dinner! bruschetta con frutti di mare, bombolini with mussels and parmigiano, saltimbocca alla romana and Macedonia.
Music and Aperol Spritz as the night is young.
We received a Vermentino di Sardegna as a gift and here is the brunch around it: prosciutto (di Parma and Montagnana) melone, fresh figs from the market with pecorino picante and caciocavallo di capra, fresh black cherries and magnifico pesto romano and ciabattine.
More Roman essentials (a.k.a do not miss): Bellini, the peachy prosecco — at Taba Cafè • Campo dé Fiori.
Mozzarella di Bufala
— at Campo de' Fiori.
Capricciosa — at MERCATO hostaria.
and....drumms!!! Tiramisu, of course :)
After several attempts and of course many gelati :D I finally resisted long enough to take a pic of the delicious gelato artigianale di Roma. Lemon and mango.
...at Club Floreasca, one of my favorite places in Bucharest, by the lake. It happens to be the place where I burn calories as well :)
The Bulgarian Salad is a pretty common dish in Bucharest restaurants, and here you can eat a particularly good one. Recipe: tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, lettuce, olives, finely sliced ham, grated telemea and boiled chicken or quail eggs. Dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!