Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Green Salad With Caramelized Pears, Blue Cheese and Crisp Jamon Serrano

Spring is in the air and things start to green up.
So wave the winter blues good bye and get out in the fresh air, enjoy the breeze and live.
It's time for fresh seasonal products and I promise your vitamin intake has never tasted so delicious and crunchy.
This salad is thrown together in a few minutes, but still fancy enough to entertain.
Anyhow, who wants to spent hours in the kitchen, when the sun is shining for the first time after so many long, cold winter days?
When I went shopping at the farmers market, I'm afraid that I must have behaved a bit like a junky  because I couldn't get my eyes off all these beautiful, vitamin loaded greeneries and bought far too many.
Lettuce is filled with chlorophyll, vitamin C, a good source of fiber, potassium and folate.
OK, I know it might be still cold and wet on some days but no doubt, spring is in the air and it's quite legal to get a bit over enthusiastic or, as Emily Dickinson wrote so beautifully:
" A little Madness in the spring is wholesome even for the king"
Spring greens do not only taste delicious, but are beautiful in flower arrangements as well.
In this one I combined green lettuce, red lettuce and yellow roses.

Here is what you will need to prepare the spring salad:
About 1 pound fresh , mixed greens ( I used butter head, red leaf, baby spinach and arugula)
2 pears, peeled and cut in cubes
1 cup jamon Serrano
3 figs ,quartered
1/2 cup blue cheese cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 

For the Honey Mustard dressing: 
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Put all ingredients (except for salt and pepper) in a medium bowl and whisk  together until creamy.
Season the dressing with salt and pepper. 

  Preheat oven to  200 °C.
Cut the jamon Serrano in medium sized pieces, place on a baking sheet with parchment paper.

If you want the jamon extra crisp brush with a bit of olive oil.
Bake in preheated oven at 200°C (375 F) for about  ten minutes or until jamon serrano starts to crinkle and changes color..
To drain the excess fat, place the baked jamon on a paper towel.
Apart, place pears on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and brown sugar.
Bake in preheated oven at 200°C (375 F) for about 10-15 minute.

Quarter figs and crumble Blue cheese.

In a large bowl, combine greens, pears and blue cheese.
Before serving add the honey mustard dressing and toss to combine.
Sprinkle the crisp jamon serrano on top.


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Friday, March 14, 2014

Wheat Berry Risotto

Ever heard of Watson?
I mean, forget Sherlock Holmes.
I'm talking about Watson the super computer who caused sensation when winning Jeopardy in 2011.
Now Watson is cooking.
This super culinary brain has access to two huge different databases - one with innumerable already existing dishes another one compiling flavor compounds and a huge variation of ingredients.
Watson creates out of this its own Frankenstein like kitchen.
The whole project is called Cognitive Cooking and is blending suggestions from Twitter and Watson's huge database to scour for innovative flavor combinations.
Indian Tumeric Paella anyone?
The huge advantage is that nobody can oblige Watson to eat it's own creations. Lucky guy.
Anyhow, the whole project sounds like fun and who knows - maybe a new Super Food Blogger is born. As the saying goes: competition is good for business :)
Thank heavens most of us are still into good old fashioned cooking and recipe creating and we are even brave enough to try our own creations before serving it to others.
Today I would like to share with you a delicious "Wheat Berry Risotto".
No typo, it's prepared like a Risotto but instead of rice you use wheat.
Wheat berries are loaded with nutrients and fiber and very tasty.
Hope you enjoy this dish as we did with a group of friends.

You need:

2 cups of wheat berries, washed and previously soaked in water for about 1hour
2 spoonful of extra virgin olive oil
2 spoonful of butter at room temperature
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 spoonful of yellow chili (ajii amarillo), deveined, sheets removed and blended in the mixer with a bit of water until creamy.
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3 cups of home made or low sodium store bought vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup of heavy cream 
3/4 cups of shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup of firm white cheese, diced
Salt end freshly ground pepper
chopped parsley for decoration

Wash the wheat and soak for about one hour in cold water

In a large pot, add vegetable or chicken stock and the 2 cups of water (wheat berries should be covered by the liquid)
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer  and cook at low heat stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed. Add more liquid if necessary and wheat berries are done.  Set apart.

Heat the olive oil and 1 spoonful of butter in a large pot.

Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent.

Apart, bring peas in hot water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until cooked al dente.

Add the chili cream to the onion and garlic mixture and stir until ingredients blend well together.

Add the wine and bring the mixture  to a boil for about 2 minutes.

Add the wheat berries and Thyme and mix well with the other ingredients.

Add the heavy cream, stir in.

Add Parmesan and 1 spoonful of butter, mix well.

Stir in peas.

Cook at low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Than add half of the diced white cheese.
Stir until all ingredients have blend in well.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Decorate with the rest of the white cheese and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.
Serve immediately.

 Serves 6 to 8.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Spring Preview: Oven Baked Asparagus with Parmesan and Prosciutto

Winter has been long and chilly and everybody is longing for the first signs of spring.
We were lucky to escape the cold weather by the end of January when we travelled back to Peru and are now enjoying summer at it's best.

Here it's Asparagus season - a veggie we all love.
Back in our Austrian country home, my grandfather used to grow his own Asparagus in the vegetable garden.
Harvest time was from the end of April until the end of June (usual finishing at St Johns Day, the 24th of June)
I still remember the excitement when watching him cutting this delicacy so that our cook ( as most of the outstanding Central European cooks coming originally from  the Czech Republic) could prepare it as fresh as possible.
Nobody ever dared to come late for dinner because my grandfather took punctuality for this special dinner as serious as you can possibly imagine.
It was served after delicately cooking in slightly buttered salt water with a bit sugar added to enhance the flavor.
Served with a wonderful Sauce Hollandaise that literally melted in your mouth and matched the delicate asparagus flavor perfectly, this meal was as close as one could possibly be to culinary heaven.
One of the great qualities of asparagus is it's versatility.
The key to great taste is freshness and not to overcook this delicate veggie.
Todays preparation is quick and tastes fantastic.
You need only a few ingredients and the flavors and textures pair very well.
A great sneak or appetizer as well as a light meal, it will bring a bit of spring time feeling to your table.
I wanted to apologies for the poor quality of some of the pictures but I had some problems with  my camera.

You need:

1 bunch (about 1/2kg) green asparagus
1/4  cup melted butter
1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
100g thinly sliced Prosciutto or Serrano ham, halved
1teaspoon Olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
Coarse salt and freshly grated pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 220 C ( 425F)
cut the ends of the asparagus off (don't throw them away, they make a great cream soup!), leaving you with about 9 cm spears from the tip to the middle of the spear.

Blanch the asparagus for just 1 to 2 minutes in boiling water with a bit of salt.

Drain and pat dry with paper towel.
Brush with melted butter.

Coat in grated parmesan cheese

Wrap each asparagus with a 1/2 a slice of prosciutto.

season with salt and freshly ground pepper (I recommend very little salt as the parmesan and prosciutto are already salty)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place asparagus onto  the baking sheet

and bake for about 7 minutes or until parmesan is golden brown.

Sprinkle with a bit of Olive oil and lemon juice (optional)


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