Friday, September 21, 2012

Banoffee Tartlets

For some reason, the idea of fresh bananas in a dessert has never appealed to me. Banana split leaves me cold, so to speak :). Then one day we were at a restaurant (great restaurant, I should say) and there was nothing on their dessert menu that would appeal to me. They did go to great lengths to describe their banoffee tart though. And I had just read a recipe for a banoffee pie in Jamie Oliver's book. He claimed that it was the most popular dessert at a pub where he once worked. So I rolled my eyes and ordered it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Good tomatoes are not always easy to find, but when you do, it's party time!

Tomato salad. These words alone make my mouth water. It could be because of the memory of its sweet tartness. Or just because tomato salad is so darn tasty. As a kid I used to love my father's summer salad: segments of ripe, soft tomatoes, paper thin slices of onions, flavorful dark sunflower oil and lots of cayenne pepper. Collecting the salty juices with a chunk of bread was the best treat.

Now I have access to more sophisticated ingredients, which allow me to build on my memory and make something that works for my family and my grown up taste. With tuna for protein and croutons for carbs this salad makes a well-rounded meal.

Tomato Salad

Serves 2 for lunch

3 large, very ripe tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 5-oz can water-packed tuna, drained
1/2 small onion, cut paper thin
12 Kalamata olives, pitted, cut into quarters lengthwise
1 tablespoon capers, minced
croutons made from 2 large slices of bread
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
freshly ground black pepper

To make croutons, preheat oven to 300F. Cut bread into 1/2 inch cubes, spread over a cookie sheet and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes.

Cut tomatoes into segments, add salt and drain them over a bowl for about 5 minutes to catch the juices. Toss tomatoes with tuna, onions, olives, capers and croutons. With a fork, whisk tomato juice, lemon juice, sunflower oil and black pepper. Drizzle over the salad.

Friday, September 7, 2012



If you show a Russian these two ingredients: beets and green peas and ask him/her to tell you what dish comes to mind, undoubtedly you will hear "vinegret" (pronounced vinaigrette). One of the long standing favorites, this salad uses the ingredients that are available year round, inexpensive, and were there even in the years of severe shortages in the eighties. Many a holiday table features vinegret. And why not? It looks festive - all bright and red; it can be made ahead and it goes well with vodka :).

I once wrote about the fiasco resulting from my attempt to use beets in a cake, but beets in a savory recipe is a different matter. They work! :) One example would be borsch, THE dish that Russians consider their national pride.

Normally, the beets for vinegret are cooked by boiling them in water. They are very easy to peel when cooked this way: the skin slips right off. But cooking them on the stove top takes a long time, up to an hour (determine the doneness as you would for potatoes, by piercing with a knife or a fork). A quicker way is to zap them in the microwave... and there are always canned beets. I still cook mine in water though.


2 small beets (about 1/2 lb), cook in simmering water, peel and dice
2 medium carrots, cook in simmering water, peel and dice
3 small potatoes (about 3/4 lb), cook in skins, peel and dice
1/2 cups (about 1/2 of 14.5 oz can) sauerkraut, squeezed from excess liquid
1 cup frozen young peas, brought to room temperature
1/2 cup diced dill pickles
1/4 cup finely diced onions
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients and let the salad sit in the fridge, covered, for at least an hour, to let the vegetables absorb the bright red color from the beets and the salt from the sauerkraut and pickles.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tres Leches

Tres Leches is one of those cakes I hope to see when they bring me the dessert menu. When it's good, it's sooo good. In that respect, it reminds me of creme brulee: too often it is an eggy custard, but when it is perfect, it is one of the best, most exquisite desserts around. With tres leches, it can be too sweet, too boring, too... rough? But if you're lucky, the cake will be creamy, milky, mildly sweet and with a naughty hint of rum. I've found a lovely recipe in Bon Appetit a few years ago and after tweaking it this way and that I got the cake that works well for me. I like that fact that it is covered in meringue rather than whipped cream - really, who doesn't like meringue?

I hope you'll enjoy.

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