by Thao Uyen and Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
Greetings everyone! It’s going to be Halloween soon (very soon!) and we’re doing a special post for this occasion *drums*. Just the idea of ghosts and spirits entering this human world at midnight sets our imagination on fire, and let us guess, yours too. We know that you’re going to throw a party with scary-looking food, or, to put it more bluntly, over-the-top, disgusting all-over-the-place dishes that make people wonder how they can even imagine eating them. And so with that inspiration in mind, we’re going to present to you two ideas for you to thrill your guests while having lots of fun in the process. First, let’s discover this artful recipe with a cute name…
Voma de Fantoma - Ghost (goat) Puke cheese salad
It’s a simple, fast, delicious recipe…yes, I mean it! It’s basically a cheese dip/spread (depending on how moist you want it to be).
I behave ghostly when serving this dish, follow my advice and just let the guests taste it before telling them what “it is” and surprisingly, everyone will want more. The spirit of Halloween!
INGREDIENTS ( for a party of 20)
1 kg goat cheese of your liking
1 kg cottage cheese or other soft, unsalted cow cheese
A healthy bunch of dill, and another one of parsley
30g grated horseradish
Pepper to taste
Optional: 1kg medium hot peppers for decoration and dipping
You just toss everything in the blender. First you chop the herbs and grate the horseradish, then you add the cheese and milk. Unless you have a very large blender, you might want to split the quantities in half, blend them separately and then mix the two halves in a large bowl. You can add more milk if you need it to be thinner. Your result should be a greenish, disgusting voma. It’s best to be prepared 24h before serving, for the tastes to get mixed while cooling. Keep in mind it will get thicker when cooled.
The best way to serve this cheese dip/salad/spread is with hot peppers that are not so hot, the sweet, mild kind. You can also use those to decorate the dish according to your inspiration. As you can see my result is more towards a surrealistic, supernatural version. You can replace the hot peppers with all kinds of fresh or baked/grilled vegetable slices. It’s also great as a spread for grilled bread, a dip for all kinds of meat and veggies, or as a thicker salad dressing.
'Zombie fingers' sausages
It’s an idea for your scary (and not disgusting) plate with zombie fingers and finish off with sriracha or strawberry jam for the children (the sweetness of strawberry jam and this salty zombie-ing bacon and sausage will keep them happy). Here’s how they will look like…
The way to do this is pretty simple because you don’t even need a recipe. You only need hot dogs and bacon stripes for the fingers and for the nails almond slices and Korean seaweed sheet, the one used for Kimpap.
INGREDIENTS: (prepare as many as you like)
Seaweed sheet called gim
First wrap one stripe of bacon around each hot dog/sausage, make sure that you leave a part of hot dog unwrapped to stick in the nail later.
Next heat the oven at 200C and grill the ‘fingers’ for 15 minutes, remember to turn them around if you want the fingers to have an overall ‘cooked’ looking.
For the nails, cut the seaweed sheet into nail shape figures. The nails should look bigger than the almond slices and shorter too. Next smash cooked rice and use it as a base to stick the seaweed nails onto the almond slices (you can just dabble a bit of water on the sheet instead of using rice but it won’t work as well as the cooked rice).
Alright, let’s get to the finishing part! Remember that we left out a part of the hot dog to make the nails? Use a knife to cut out a bit of the hot dog so that we can stick the nails in. Now insert the almond nails into the sausage, you can use the knife’s point and make a cut to make inserting the nails easier.
The next part is your creativity, use sriracha or strawberry jam to spread the ‘blood’ all over the fingers and what do you have there? A bloody scarred zombie hand!
Homemade vegetarian stir-fried broccoli with carrot, potato in sweet and sour soy sauce, a side-dish or main dish just under 20 minutes
Autumn is my favorite time of the year for stir-fried dishes. Not only that they are so simple and easy to make, pleasantly healthy and deliciously versatile, they also give you the opportunity to let your creative streak shine. I did an Asian stir-fried beef noodles dish last week too if you want to check it out.
Another reason that I love stir-fried dish so much is that it's one of the few dishes that can’t go wrong. You only need to keep an eye on the dish and give a good stir or a dash of water every now and then to prevent the vegetables from burning.
You can add meat to your stir-fried dishes or just keep them exclusively vegetarian, they’re delicious either way.
You can toss in any mix of vegetables and stir-fry to your heart’s content. So play around with the colors, experiment with the interesting textures, discover the flavors and fragrance of your vegetables’ combination. You just need to let your stir-fry adventure begin and have fun!
When making stir-fried dishes I always love to have colorful veggies on my plate, to feast my eyes on. I also can’t resist the textures’ richness from veggies and legumes combination. The first ones give you slightly chewy crunchiness while the latter just melt into your mouth. For this dish I choose broccoli (healthy deep green florets, anyone?), carrot, potato and mushrooms. My friends and I used to prepare this stir-fried dish when we threw a cooking party and needed an emergency side-dish. This time, though, I add a sour twist to the sauce with apple cider vinegar. Let’s make a party of colors and textures, shall we?
Ingredients: (2 servings as a side-dish)
- 150 gr broccoli, dice into small chunks
- 100 gr or 1 medium carrot, cut diagonally and thinly
- 150 gr potato, cut diagonally and thinly
- 50 gr or 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
- 150 gr mushrooms, diced
- 1 clove of garlic and 1 small chunk of ginger root, minced
- Salt to taste
For the sauce:
- 1 and ½ tablespoons of honey
- 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- 10 tablespoons of water
- 1 tablespoon of corn starch/glutinous rice flour or like me, use kudzu root starch/flour
How to cook:
- Put in your pan a bit of vegetable oil on medium-high heat. When the oil is heated, add the minced garlic and ginger root and stir for 30 seconds or until they release their fragrance.
- Next add the carrot, potato and onion and stir now and then. Add a generous pinch of salt for them to be cooked faster. They should be cooked for 5 minutes at least, if you see that they’re about to get burned, add a dash of water, just a dash.
- When you wait for the legumes to be cooked, you can prepare the sauce (but don’t forget to give the legumes a good stir now and then). In a bowl add all the ingredients for the sauce except the starch/flour and mix until well-combined.
- When the carrot and potato are partially cooked, add the broccoli (florets and stem) and most of the sauce we prepared earlier (you must keep a bit of the sauce to dissolve the kudzu root starch in the next step). Again give them a good stir occasionally and let them cook for 5 more minutes.
- Add the kudzu root flour or corn starch to the rest of the sauce and stir to dissolve.
- Lastly add this sauce to the pan and stir for 30 seconds. If you use the kudzu root starch, it will thicken in 10 seconds. And we’re done! Serve this immediately with rice and main dish, or with rice only.
Do you often throw away the broccoli stem? You’re wasting good edible vegetable. Just cut around the stem and remove the hard cover, it is like the bark of the tree so we need to peel it off. Once you remove that layer, you will get to the core of the stem which is even softer than the broccoli florets and it tastes even sweeter. You can cut it diagonally and thinly for this dish.
As with all green veggies, keep the lid off when you cook broccoli for it to keep the delicious deep green color.
You don’t have to add the apple cider vinegar and because of that you can use less honey and soy sauce. This way the dish will taste naturally sweet from the carrot and onion.
A small cultural tidbit about the kudzu root starch:
The kudzu root starch is made from the root of kudzu, a beloved plant in East Asia. Eastern medicine believes this starch to have anti-inflammatory and detoxing effects, it can regulate high blood pressure, reduce fever and is a boost for your kidney and liver. It is very sought-after in Vietnam. This starch can be consumed raw in lemonade or cooked into compote, it can also be used to thicken Vietnamese desserts or soup/sauce like I use for this dish.
I read that the practice of growing this plant was spread widely in the US in the 90s' but because it grew so fast and so strong it became a menace to other plants. And so these days it is much harder to find kudzu root starch in the US, and it's pricier.
Unfortunately it’s rare to find kudzu starch here in France as well. I did a scourge of the kudzu here 2 years back, from supermarkets to online stores to Asian stores without any luck. And then finally after some months I stumbled upon it in an organic grocery store where they sell 100 gr of kudzu flour for 8 euros! Needless to say, I didn’t buy it from the organic store. The kudzu root flour that I’m using is brought from Vietnam from my trip there.
If you can find this starch for a reasonable price, you’d do well to bring it home. It is healthier than corn starch, doesn’t alter other ingredients’ tastes and is versatile so it will let your creative streak soar. By the way, if you happen to know where to buy kudzu root starch for a reasonable price here in France, I'm all ears.
Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
A classic Italian that happens to be one of my favorites, melanzane alla parmigiana - eggplants with parmesan (also called parmigiana di melanzane) is a simple, healthy and savory autumn must-cook. You can find many variations of this recipe all throughout Italy, depending on the region. This article introduces one of my own variations of melanzane, the simplest, faster version of it, which not surprisingly is also the healthiest.
The dish is the tastiest, perfect mélange of eggplants, cheese, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil, a classic feast of Italian ingredients. Normally, to cook melanzane alla parmigiana the traditional way, granny style, one needs to fry in olive oil each piece of eggplant, and then place them in the tray (a technique similar to how we cook the eggplants for the Greek moussaka). However, the easier, healthier way is to skip this step with this recipe and just add the raw eggplants, since the oven cooking is enough to release their sweetness. Another step that I skipped is the standard salting of the raw eggplants before cooking them (which removes some of the bitter juices). Especially when you have exquisite eggplants, sweet and fresh like I had here, you may also skip this part for this dish.
A nice touch to this basic eggplant-cheese dish is that it gives you the possibility to use, apart from parmigiana, a verity of local cheese, which is what happens in Italy as well, where either mozzarella, cottage cheese, fior di latte or even mascarpone and many other sortiments of cheese are added, depending on the region. I do recommend for this recipe to have at least one part of the cheese as melting cheese, mozzarella, cheddar or gouda type of cheese, for part of the charm and deliciousness of melanzane is the mélange of eggplants with melting cheese.
INGREDIENTS (6 servings)
1 1/2kg eggplants
800g chopped tomatoes (or your favorite tomato sauce, you can check one of mine here)
300g grated parmesan
400g mozzarella (or other melting cheese)
300 g other cheeses (I used about 150g cottage cheese and 150g telemea)
50g garlic powder
extra virgin olive oil
basil leaves to taste (I used 5 medium branches of fresh homegrown basil)
One of my secrets of this particular recipe is the use of dry garlic powder instead of fresh crushed garlic, since its taste elevates the eggplant-parmesan combination. If you can't find it, you may use simple crushed garlic (about 1 head for this quantity) that you mix with the tomato sauce/chopped tomatoes before spreading it on the eggplants.
Cut the eggplants in 1cm round slices and add them for your first layer in the chosen tray. I used a ceramic tray that I prefer for this recipe, but you can use any oven tray or pot that allows you to make at least two layers with the eggplants you have. Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil. No one will mind if you enjoy a glass of delicious must in the meantime. It will help you concentrate.
Since I had 3 layers of eggplants in this tray myself, I am going to add now 1/3 of the chopped tomatoes and layer them all over. On top of the tomatoes, sprinkle 1/3 of the garlic powder quantity, a few fresh basil leaves, about 75g of parmesan and half of the other cheese quantity, in this case mozzarella, cottage cheese and telemea.
Repeat the above steps until all your eggplants are purposefully lined up in the tray. For the top layer, just add eggplants, sprinkled with olive oil and tomatoes and garlic powder, and only parmesan and a few basil leaves (keep the melting cheese and the other cheeses in the middle layers).
Place the tray in the oven at 220°C for about 45-50 minutes, until the top layer is crispy golden and the eggplants are soft when pinched with the fork. Add more fresh basil leaves before serving.
You can use the same recipe for creating individual servings in small earthenware or ceramic cookware.
Melanzane alla parmigiana can also be served cold, I sometimes even prefer it like this, and you can store it in your fridge for a while and then serve it as part of sandwiches, salads, side dishes or omelettes (chopping this eggplant/cheese yum and mixing it with beaten eggs and sour cream makes for a delectable omelette).
Easy and fast Asian stir-fried noodles with veggies and beef for autumn. An inspiration from Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines.
This stir-fried dish is inspired from two well-known dishes: the Vietnamese stir-fried Pho noodles and the Korean Japchae.
The Korean Japchae is also a stir-fried dish using special noodles: the ones from sweet potato starch. Japchae is done with beef and colorful veggies. To make Japchae, Koreans stir-fry each of the vegetable separately and in the end mix the boiled noodles with stir-fried beef and mushrooms and veggies. It is basically a stir-fried dish with mixing as a finishing touch.
The Vietnamese stir-fried Pho noodles, on the other hand, is entirely a stir-fried dish. The dish can be made with beef or chicken or even pork but it is most well-known with beef. The marinated beef is the only thing that is stir-fried separately. When it comes to veggies and Pho noodles, unlike Japchae, Vietnamese put them in the pan one after the other. The order of the veggies depends on the cooking time for each, and that means the one that takes the longest time to cook will go into the pan first. The final dish should have smoky noodles with little to no sauce left to avoid the noodles turning mushy and sticky.
Personally I like to have sauce in my stir-fried dish but the noodles must also remain a bit chewy. And I found that perfect fit with the Korean sweet potato starch noodles. The noodles are chewy, they don’t stick to each other and become mush no matter how much water you dump them in. And last but not least, they’re much healthier than the Pho noodles (A bonus too: they look so beautiful with a transparent glow when cooked). So for this dish I will combine the sweet potato starch noodles from the Korean Japchea with Vietnamese orderly stir-fried veggies, and there’s also a Chinese twist somewhere in the marinade ('somewhere' because Vietnamese use lots of Chinese ingredients over the years that the marinade feels to me just like Vietnamese).
The Chinese flair for this dish comes from oyster sauce and hoisin sauce. If you’re a bit familiar with Chinese cuisine, you may know oyster sauce. The sauce is made from, yes, oyster and seasonings. It is mostly used for stir-fried dishes and sometimes as a base for marinade. Hoisin sauce is made from fermented soy and seasonings and has a strong soy smell. Both sauces have a thick brown consistency, are slightly sweet in flavor and can elevate any dish made from beef. Vietnamese cuisine makes use of both sauces. For example, Southern Vietnamese cuisine has hoisin sauce as dipping sauce for the beef from Pho, and oyster sauce is present in lots of Vietnamese stir-fried and grilled dishes.
Ingredients: (for 2 servings)
300gr of beef (choose the filet part), cut into thin slices
200gr of sweet potato starch noodles
150gr of pak choy, chopped thinly
1 average tomato or ¾ of a big one, cut into small cubes
Half of an onion, cut thinly
150gr mung bean sprouts
2 handfuls of coriander of about 20gr, chopped roughly
2 cloves of garlic and 1 small chunk of ginger root, crushed and minced
First we prepare the marinade for beef. When it comes to marinating beef, remember that it goes well with soy sauce and garlic. You will need an agent to keep the beef soft if you want to stir-fry it, either with oil or butter, or in this case, oyster sauce. So combine the minced garlic and ginger with:
and give them a good mix.
Pour the marinade in a zip lock bag and put in the beef slices. Give the bag a good massage for the marinade to spread evenly. Put the bag in the fridge from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Don’t let the beef marinate too long or the ginger will get fermented in hoisin sauce and have a wet smell. It’s not that the wet smell is offensive but we want our dish, especially the beef, to have that spectacular fresh fragrance, the kind that lifts you up and sets your hunger radar on alert.
The actual cooking part:
When the beef is marinated enough, then comes the cooking part.
- Boil the noodles on high heat for 5 minutes then run cold water on them to stop the cooking process. Put them on a drainer to dry. Use scissors to cut the noodles short, about 8 cm long should be good to go.
- On medium-high heat, put in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the wok. When the oil is heated, stir-fry the marinated beef for 2 minutes.You will notice the beef produces water/sauce, this is what I want for this dish. Set the water/sauce aside along with the beef.
- Back to the used wok, put in 1 tablespoon of oil and throw in the tomato cubes along with onion slices. By now you can add a pinch of salt to help them cook faster.
- After 3 minutes, add the chopped pak choy and 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce. Stir constantly for 5 minutes. Next add the mung bean sprouts and stir for 2 minutes. If you find the veggies are closed to burning, pour in the sauce gotten from stir-fried beef that we set aside earlier. It should solve that problem. Then come the boiled noodles, the chopped coriander and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce along with a pinch of salt. With the noodles now in the wok, we mix all the ingredients together. This is the Japchae influence. When the noodles and soy sauce mix well together, put in the stir-fried beef and mix again for half a minute. This is when our hybrid dish is done.
You will notice the tomato cubes melt and serve as a sauce base for the dish. If you want to have slices of tomato for decoration purpose, just set some slices aside and add them in at the last 2 minutes.
If you can’t find hoishin sauce or if you don’t like its smell or taste, you can leave it out.
You can use a wok or a pan to stir-fry. Always stir-fry the beef separately from the veggies and noodles as the stir-fried beef will produce water and stop the veggies to be stir-fried properly.
Stir-fried dish must be done on medium-high to high heat to prevent lots of water leaking out from veggies. If you find the veggies are about to be burned, add the sauce from stir-fried beef like I showed you earlier or water. When it comes to the mixing part, you can lower the heat to medium.
As you can see, this dish takes about 45 minutes to prepare (including the 30 minutes of marinating beef) and provides much-needed veggies in autumn. It is also a light dish and so is perfect for dinner when you come home from work and don’t have much time to cook. This Asian stir-fried noodles dish is best to serve immediately when it’s still hot. A bit of a warning though: don’t expect to have any left-over when you make this dish for your guests.
The quince is a hard yellow beauty, an archaic fruit of the mighty Aphrodite. Perhaps it is meant to tell us that true love can be found and preserved the hard way. It's astringent and tarty just like how love feels when it brings us down (not to mention you don't want to be down under when shaking the tree, so to speak, for receiving a quince in the head is just like a love blow), yet the same taste brings a special flavor in the mouth, reminding us that love's true sweetness is mostly found within and after lots of chewing and it is forever piquante (just like what love needs to endure: on the edge). An edgy fruit. There's also the other down (the quince fluff), as gentle as makeup moments, when the pain begins to heal. It may grow in Aphrodite's garden, but I would call the quince tough love and if I may be allowed to introduce an astrological analogy here, I would compare the quince with Saturn ennobling Aphrodite:
Some see only you,
Others see only me,
We overlap so perfectly
That no one can see us at the same time
And no one dares to stay on the edge
From where both of us can be seen.
You see only the moon,
I see only the sun,
You miss the sun,
I miss the moon,
Our bones have united,
The blood spreads rumors
From one heart to the other.
How do you look like?
If I lift my arm
And I stretch it so much backwards
I discover your beautiful collar bone
And going up, my fingers touch
Your holy lips
Then suddenly they come back and they crush
My mouth until it bleeds.
How do we look like?
We’ve got four arms to defend ourselves
But I can strike only the enemy in front of me
And you can strike only the enemy in front of you,
We’ve got four legs to run
But you can run only on your side
And I can run only on the other side.
Every step is a life and death battle.
Are we equal?
We’ll die at the same time or one of us will carry
For a while
The body of the other one stuck on them
And slowly, too slowly contaminating it with death?
Or maybe it won’t even die as a whole
And it will carry into eternity
The sweet burden of the other one
Like a hump,
Like a wart,
Oh, only we know the yearning
Of being able to look each other into the eyes
And thus, being able to understand everything,
But we are back-to-back,
Grown like two branches
And if one of us tore oneself away,
Sacrificing for just one glance,
They would see only the bleeding, cold back
From which one had torn oneself away,
Of the other one.
by Ana Blandiana
More poems by Ana Blandiana here
We've always had quince trees in the garden, since I was little, so the quince gives me the opportunity to begin a series of childhood recipes that mostly come from my paternal grandmother, of mixed Greek and Turkish descent. Many of them, just like the ones I present in this article, are essentially Romanian, as having entered in the Romanian cuisine, but they encompass the influences the many visitors have brought to us throughout history. They have been in my family culinary tradition for many generations, and the cultural relay can only go on, just like the golden quince announces autumn every year, and we all try to both preserve them, but also to take the innovation further, to look for the perfect recipe. And enjoy them. Just like I hope you will enjoy four of my essential childhood recipes, dancing around the discreet, yet compelling yellow quince.
They bring hard work, these yellow beauties, even starting from picking them: they mostly fall by themselves, in the morning, and you need to be there soon enough, for they start to decay quite quickly, especially if the weather is humid. And they mostly fall one by one, keeping you on your toes. And then everything is hard about them, including the bite.
Dulceaţă de gutui (quince jam)
1 kg grated quinces
1 l water
The recipe is for just a kilogram of prepared fruit, while of course most times we use a larger quantity when we want to prepare the jam for winter.
One important thing we want to do with the quince when making this jam is to keep its rather distinctive tarty flavor while sweetening it. We don't want to drown it in sugar which is the danger with this jam. That's why I prefer to break the 1 kg fruit/1 kg standard proportion for syrup-based jams and we will use a little less sugar. The lemon will also help with keeping the special flavor, apart from its other purpose that you will discover soon.
We start by washing the quinces pretty well, removing the down and then we grate them on the large grating side, while being careful to not let seeds and little worms and worm houses slide in. The quinces are quite wormy, especially ours, which are not treated in any way. While grating roughly 1 kg 1/2 in order to get 1 kg of prepared fruit, after we grate about half a quince, we put the grated fruit into the jam pot, in about 1 liter of water for this quantity, mixed with the squeezed lemon. The purpose of putting the quince into the water/lemon juice is preserving both the taste and especially the color of the quince, otherwise it turns brown while being caramelized as jam. So the trick is to grate and add in the water, in small quantities, and to keep the fruit covered by water/lemon at all times.
After grating the pulp, it's time to cut and clean the rest of the fruit, the fruit cores, and put them aside, for our next recipe. Make sure to keep the seeds and the seed core too. We don't throw anything from the quince (except for the little worms, their houses and galleries :D )
After we finished grating the entire harvest, we put the jam pot on medium heat, we add the sugar and we just let it cook, following jam rules: low to medium heat, removing the foam when it forms, testing the syrup on a small plate - when the jam makes lots of small bubbles on top - until we get the caramel cord, if you wish, although I prefer this jam to be less thick, so I turn off the heat when after putting a little syrup on a small plate, it turns like runny honey when cooling. Since we also have water in the mix, it should take about an hour for this quantity to be ready.
You will get a colorful, delightful and especially aphrodisiac jam, with lots of perfume and flavor, to be enjoyed all winter with a couple of salted crackers, a good cup of coffee, tea or milk, or to be heavenly tasted on pancakes or crêpes.
Peltea de gutui (quince peltea - jelly)
1 kg quince cores
2 kg sugar
3 l water
From Turkish pelte, peltea is perhaps the most refined quince produce, and the one we most enjoyed as kids, undoubtedly because of its magical light and color qualities and its candy-like taste.
It's a simple recipe, and I love that it uses everything of the fruit (another Saturnian quality, isn't it?), already a bridge to winter, when we will need to preserve all our resources. It does require a bit of skill when it comes to timing.
You might need 2-3 more quinces, depending on the size, to have 1 kg of cores. After you roughly cut and cleaned well the quince cores - remember to keep the seeds and seed sheets, that's where the pectin making the jelly lives - you put them in your designated peltea pot with 3 l of water and you boil them normally, until they turn soft when you pierce them with a fork. The liquid that remains in the pot is what interests us, and we will measure it.
You let it cool a little, you remove the boiled cores and you strain the liquid. You will measure the strained liquid and put it in the same (cleaned) pot or another one. For every liter of juice, you add 750g of sugar (the classic principle would be 1kg of sugar per l of water, but again, I prefer to preserve a tangier taste to the peltea). After the proper boil of 1kg of fruit cores, you should have about 1 1/2 to 2 kg of juice. So you will either put about 1130g or even 1500g of sugar added.
Then you start boiling the jelly until ready, while mixing in the beginning, until the sugar is melted.
The readiness point can be determined by using the jelly point (with a candy thermometer, the jelly is set to be ready when the temperature reaches 220F (104 °C)) or you can use a granny method, by testing the jelly on a plate until it sticks to the finger, like honey, when cooling a little. Just like with the jam, at some point, it will foam and you need to remove that foam in order to keep its final clarity. Don't forget it on the stove, for it can burn, as all caramel dishes. It takes about 1h 1/2 for this quantity to be ready on medium heat.
The result is the essence of quince perfume, its precious golden color becoming translucent and alchemical red gold.
Plăcintă cu mere şi gutui
(Quince and apple pie)
For the Carolina fine pastry dough (French pastry dough)
125 vegetable oil
a pinch of salt
For the apple and quinces filling
2-3 medium quinces
I am not even going to try to convince you how delicious the pie is, I am sure you already feel the quince flavor in your nostrils. The dough is a tasty buttery pastry dough bearing the name of the lady aunt who introduced the recipe to many generations. It's basically a French pastry dough, the result being a crusty, breaking, yet consistent pie dough. And all buttery. Did I say butter enough?
At first, you grate the apples the same way you did with the quinces for the jam, on the large grater. You put them in a pot where you will boil them with the quinces and the sugar (no water added, though, just stewing the apples and the quinces with the sugar). You grate the quinces too and you boil it all on low heat, while stirring continuously, so that the filling cooks uniformly. I don't recommend adding other flavors such as the traditional cinnamon, since it can interfere with the quince taste and perfume.
It is ready when it turns uniformly golden brown and all the fruit is cooked, at which point you can turn off the heat and add and mix the raisins, covering the pot.
For the first part of dough making, you mix the flour, water, oil and the pinch of salt with your hands, just like with bread dough, you mix it well for about 10 minutes until it turns smooth. You cover it and let it rest for another 10 minutes. Before that, you might want to play a little and make Alien hands :P
After E.T. rests a bit, it is time to roll the dough, with enough flour to not let it stick. You roll it just once on the shape of your baking tray (since this dough is elastic, you can use both a larger or a medium tray, like I did here, obtaining a thicker pie crust).
You break the butter with your hands and you distribute it evenly (keep the butter paper for greasing the tray), and then you start a move you will do 4-5 times. You fold the dough, over the butter, from down up, up down, left right, and then finally right left, to make a pouch with it. It's important to remember the order for you will use it each one of the 5 times.
You fold and you roll once, then you fold again, you roll, 5 times.
For the 6th, you just fold and make an uniform ball and you put the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes (or in the refrigerator for up to 24h if you plan to cook the pie the next day).
After the cooling time, you remove the dough from the freezer and you split it in half. You roll one half to make the bottom crust, and you put it in the baking tray, after greasing it with the butter paper. Then it's time to add the filling, and then to roll and place the last layer of crust, on top.
Before putting the pie in the preheated oven (which should be immediately, being a butter dough) you cut it in pieces all the way to the bottom, with a large knife (it will make it easier to cut and serve it when cooked).
The cooking takes about 45 minutes at 210°C. It doesn't necessarily turn golden on top when cooked, so make sure to test it with a toothpick, after 45 minutes. It's ready when the dough is hard all through the bottom and non-sticky.
After it cools a little bit (it most certainly is delicious when hot, too), add the icing sugar on top (you can use a tea strainer if no fancier devices).
A trick for getting an icing is using a plain clean A4 paper and pressing it on the sugar, after straining the sugar evenly on the surface.
Ahh the smell of apple pie, right off the oven is already a killer on the plains of nostalgia, but this quince addition will create a new realm of memories for you.
I don't like to add a lot of sugar in this type of apple pie, especially with the quinces (sugar compliments their perfume and taste, but too much of it can be a bit of an overkill for the delicate quinces), but you are free to add more sugar in the filling, from the beginning, to taste. However, I recommend to save the sweetness for a hearty sugar icing.
Enjoy with...everything and everywhere.
Mâncare de gutui (Quince stew)
INGREDIENTS ( for 4 servings)
1 kg cleaned and cut quinces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 full tbsp flour
I saved the best for last. A dish that is perhaps the best way to taste quinces. A dish that can hardly be categorized, it can be a main meal, a sauce or side dish, but also a dessert. A sweet and salted memory of my grandmother, a bridge through time, a bridge of love.
It's simple. You cut and clean the quinces, cut them in rough pieces, or even cubes if you feel up to (see above image), not long before you want to cook them (to avoid their speedy oxidation). When ready, heat the oil in your cooking pot and throw in the quince pieces, that you will continue to stir for about 10 minutes until they turn a little soft. This way, they release their flavor and absorb the oil, for better cooking under water. After about 7 minutes of the 10, you add the sugar and you mix it well and let it caramelize a bit among the quinces (I prefer to let it melt, mix, but keep it light golden, for a final white result of the sauce).
At which point, you will add water enough to cover them, but do not drown them. This dish does not have a lot of sauce, in the end. They will cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. At some point, after about 10 minutes, you add the salt (about half of teaspoon) and a few black peppercorns. Make sure during the boiling, to keep the water even, almost as in the beginning.
They are ready when you pinch them with a fork and find them soft, yet not mushy, don't let them turn mushy.
As I said, this is a sweet-salty-sour delicacy, so you can actually adjust the sweet salty proportion to your taste, during the boiling stage, especially now, by the end, when the final sauce is ready.
You need that final liquid that you have carefully preserved to mix it with the flour. For this, you mix the flour with cold water in a separate bowl and mix it well for it to not have lumps, and then you add the mixture to the quinces and their sauce, in the pot, and you mix it evenly, stirring continuously and lowering the heat, in order to keep the sauce smooth and you keep stirring and cooking for another 6-7 minutes or so. (Romanian rântaş cooking technique)
You can eat it hot, you can eat it cold; as a simple vegetarian dish, being all veggie; as a snack; a dessert; or accompanying other dishes as side dish, as we did here with veal steak (served with butter and summer savory, a traditional way to eat beef steaks); it's a quirky outsider, a lovable loner, with its special place in my heart and I am sure it will make you taste and see quinces in a different, new, tasty light if you try it.
This dish has been on my mind ever since I tried it for the first time. At work my colleagues and I have this ‘tradition’ in which each one will cook a feast for the others every 2 months. Needless to say we had fun with lots of dishes and this French classic dish has a lasting impression on me.
I’m amazed by how a dish without any kind of meat can have that tasty sweetness and how with just little salt added, the dish is great to eat with rice. For a Vietnamese like me who often eats rice with salty main and side dishes, this is a big discovery in how a dish which is seasoned so delicately can create a party of flavors with bland rice. I tried to recreate the dish for several times and now I think I found the right recipe. So today I will share with you my experience with this French homey delicacy. This dish is very simple with few ingredients, most of them vegetables, and doesn’t take much time to be cooked. It is really fitting when you’re short on time. Also this dish with its warm rich herbal, cheesy aroma will make you feel warm and refreshed in this slightly cold autumn weather. It smells like I’m having a pizza, only it's healthier.
While researching on this dish, I found many variations. You can stuff courgette with its tender meat and tomatoes only or with other added ingredients. Most of the recipes I can find also include mozzarella, onion and herbs. In this recipe I also add white mushrooms as I like to have something to chew on and because I find mushrooms, tomatoes and herbs make a great combination. Doesn’t any dish with mushrooms give you an autumn-y feeling? Let’s get started!
Ingredients: (for one serving)
1 average courgettes (choose the one that is evenly round from one end to the other)
2 small white mushrooms
¼ of an onion, about 10 gr
20 gr mozzarella
10 gr grated cheese (more or less, it depends on how thick the coverage you want to have)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 small portion of butter
2 tablespoons of bread crumbs
1 pinch of salt
Herbes de Provence
The well-known mix of herbs ‘Herbes de Provence’ consists of thyme, rosemary, oregano, savory and basil, all of them give a Mediterranean flavor and smell. There is no consensus about the kind of herbs in the mix, because sometimes bay leaves, marjoram and sage are used instead of basil. However, the official version has 26% rosemary, 26% savory, 26% oregano, 19% thyme and 3% basil. This mix of herbs is optional for this dish but I find that it really elevates the taste with its aroma.
Cut each courgette in half then use a small spoon (preferably a spoon for dessert) to scoop out the tender meat inside each half. Be careful to not pierce the skin, we want all flavors and aromas to be preserved in the courgette, not leaked out. Mince the meat and set aside.
For the tomato, we will remove its skin for this dish. To do that, make a cross on the tomato. In a pot, bring water to a boil then submerge the tomato for no longer than 30 seconds. Take it out and put it in cold water for 1 minute. You can now easily remove the tomato’s skin. Remove the seeds too before cutting the tomato into cubes.
Cut the onion into cubes, the mozzarella into thin slices. For the mushrooms, cut them into chunks or in a freestyle way, as you like.
Now we take care of the courgette ‘boats’. For this dish the French use a cooking method called “blanchir”, ie “to blanch”. It’s a method they usually do for vegetables before preserving them in the freezer. It consists of bathing the vegetables in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then submerge them in cold water to stop the cooking process. In the end you have soft partially cooked vegetables to preserve. For this stuffed courgette dish, the method has nothing to do with preserving vegetables of course. Instead this step has many purposes:
Put a pot with enough water to cover the courgette halves on high heat and bring to a boil. Boil the courgettes for 1 minute then take them out, immediately put them into a bowl of cold water for 1 minute. Put the halves on paper towel and wipe off the liquid that is left. Your courgettes are now ready to be stuffed.
Now for the filling, use a pan to stir fry the minced garlic with butter on medium-high heat. First add the courgette minced meat and let it cook for about 2 minutes then add the tomato and onion cubes and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add salt to taste and to speed up the cooking process. Stir constantly until the tomato cubes melt into a thick sauce. This step should take about 5 to 8 minutes. Add a pinch of 'Herbes de Provence' and the mushrooms, stir well. The liquid from onion and tomato ensures the filling won’t be burned on the pan, so no water is needed. When the mushrooms soften, take the pan off the heat and add bread crumbs. The bread crumbs will absorb the liquid and make the filling less runny. Alright, it’s time to stuff the boats.
Alternatively place mozzarella slices with spoonful of filling in the courgette boats until the boats are filled. Finish them off with grated cheese on top. Preheat the oven at 190 C then put the boats in for about 15 minutes. I put the courgettes on the upper part of the oven for about 5 minutes more to get the golden color from melted cheese. Your dish is now done.
Serve the stuffed courgette with rice, or not. The cheese coverage will keep the filling beneath hot for a long time. The marriage between melted cheese and soft courgette is divine, not to mention the cozy aroma and delicate sweetness from the filling will make you come back for another taste. It is that delicious!
Harvest Day in Romania extends itself to be almost a month :) It usually starts around the end of September and it continues way into October until around the 20th. Also having been embraced by the Romans, along with their own celebrations, its origins are mostly Thracian and focused around an essential local activity around this time: vintage, the harvesting of grapes and preparation of the wine. The whole autumn harvest season is accompanied by festivals, fairs, tables of local products (fruits, vegetables, cured meats and cheeses), dance and music.
We built our own little celebration as we usually do, around the ultimate star of Harvest Day: must (vinum mustum, "young wine"). The must is sweet and enchanting, it contains the whole body of the grape, pressed, with seeds, skin and stems and it is the first gate of the alchemical transformation of the wine. Its name is a perfect mirror of its properties, since must is an elixir of youth, among its many other properties.
A glass of sweet, perfumed must by the end of September connects us with an ancient rite of passage from summer to winter that we share with nature, our ancestors and the future, an opening gate for an important metamorphosis happening around this time of year, that is meant to take us back inside, to preservation and transmutation of resources, and it prepares not just our body, but our soul as well, for this long journey through the regenerating cold.
In Romania, there is an old and widespread tradition to enjoy the must with mutton pastramă (pastrami, which in Romanian is connected to the verb "a păstra" - to keep), as the perfect combination of sweet-flavor-rich with salty and meaty. Pastrama is salted raw meat, brined, then dried and smoked, which can be eaten as it is or, just like we did here, barbecued. This way, pastrama also puts the fire where it belongs, at the center of such a rite of passage, as the hearth. Mmm I am carrying with me the smell of the smoke, the salty taste and the sweetness of căpșunică must until next year.
The main cast was not alone, there has been an entire firey preparation for us to become worthy of tasting them. Starting with hot tea with fallen silver fir needles...
...a very special guest, the amazing Iris...
and continuing with the help from pelin wine (Romanian bitter wine, fermented with Artemisia absinthium, making for a delicate aperitif taste similar to Aperol) and 3D (I think 45° of mirabelles - plums alcohol, a killer! not for the faint of heart), we managed to keep the fire going and enjoy the heart of autumn with a special mujdei, traditional Harvest Day delicacies like sheep cas, urda and telemea (don't despair, I am preparing a surprise when it comes to Romanian cheeses), Mau vegetables pie (recipe coming soon), lots and diversely marinated steaks and meats, among which a mutton chops specialty masterfully marinated by Bogdan with honey and secret ingredients, grilled harvested veggies, all crisp and perfect thanks to our master Grillman Alexandru, fruits, cookies and a divine Lavinia apple pie with ice cream. Sending you our autumnly love! Wherever you are, may your harvest be bountiful.
* Thank you, Fims, for the beautiful photos.
Cover photo: Thao Uyen
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!