Smoked Salmon Appetizer

Smoked Salmon AppetizerI am such a huge fan of finger food that I could eat this way at every meal. Come to think of it, I have been eating like this the past week or two. Continue reading

I have been going out quite often with my friends and when it’s not something spontaneous we eat at each other’s places, there’s always someone bringing either more food or wine and we enjoy to taste the whole lot. Now I don’t  know if it’s because we are southern women but there is always so much food. This time we had dinner at my place and I thought that making some light starter would be good because the main dish was oven melted Vacherin with boiled potatoes (which is delicious but quite nutritious, if anyone wants to know I can post this super easy recipe).

Melted Vacherin (800 x 666)

My idea for the appetizer was a dip with some crostini and crudités and this week’s recipe, which I had not yet prepared when they arrived (fortunately). With what they brought I could have welcomed three more guests. Michela is an old friend of mine and with her companion the make amazing cheese up in the mountains so she brought me some of her products which we shared. Then my Italian friends Simona and Monica arrived and they brought a spicy salami from their country, some goat kebabs (called ‘rostelle’) and some bread like rings (I forgot their name). When I saw the situation I placed the salmon back in the fridge. A couple of days past and finally I had the time to spend an evening of relax. I made them the way I intended to in the beginning and enjoyed them while reading a book and with some music to keep me company.

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Smoked Salmon Appetizer

Makes about 10 balls – 3-4 people

Prep time: 15 min

 

Ingredients:

120 smoked salmon (preferably all in one fillet)

10-12 dry roasted almonds

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 small onion

1 ½ tsp prepared horseradish

2 tsp sour cream

1 small tbsp lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Olive oil (optional)

 

Recipe:

Cut the salmon into tiny pieces (like for a tartar) and place in a bowl.

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Thinly chop the almonds and the onion and add them to the salmon with the parley the horseradish, sour cream, the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix the ingredients together.

With a teaspoon scoop a bit of the preparation and roll to form a small ball. Drizzle with a little olive oil.  Serve alone or with some bread. Just remember the napkins…

Market Morning – Bellinzona

On Saturdays I woke up earlier than usual and with my boyfriend we went to the market in Bellinzona. I admit that I go there less often than I would like to; on Saturday mornings I usually like to keep my feet in my slippers; usually one hand holds the coffee and the other is keeping the keyboard of my computer busy. Anyway, we got to Bellinzona it was mid morning. We began our tour by walking around the stands and while Stefano’s eyes were fixed on the meats and cheeses, I was looking up and around to to watch the town’s beautiful architecture.

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Bellinzona is the chief town of our canton. This place characterized by three elevated medieval castles which are now part of the UNESCO world patrimony. A couple days ago I watched a documentary on the medieval era which gave a good overall impression of how hard the daily life would have been for the lowest ranked members of the society of the time. I knew of course how the people struggled to survive but the thing is that they also led extremely boring lives. I learned that without distractions and constantly working, the market was the only amusement available to the poor people.

Maybe because it’s something I don’t really do regularly, but I love going to markets, they have a popular feel which I find heart warming. It’s not only the general feel but also all the detail our senses pick up. The smell of roasting chickens, the fresh bread, the voices of people talking in our dialect, the sight of the colourful constructions, and the idea of how much I will enjoy the local products once I get home; these are all things that make me have a great day.

General information on Market Morning – Bellinzona :

When: every Saturday from 09:00-13:00

Where: Viale Stazione, Bellinzona, Ticino.

For who: everyone.

Why: even if you don’t buy anything, it’s just a pleasure to walk around and observe and feel the surroundings.

Link: www.bellinzonaturismo.ch

 

Potato and Mushroom Gratin with Rosemary

Potato and Mushroom gratin with Rosemary 1To me the staple comfort food is a potato gratin. Continue reading

It’s creamy and it’s delicious during the colder months, especially when in the past thirty days the sun has barely appeared for ten percent of the time. Because when I don’t see the sun for a while I need to keep my spirits up, lately I have been going out quite often to dinners and evenings.  So when I get to spend an evening at home, I like to spoil myself with something I like and potato gratin is just a great candidate.  Potato gratin is an dish which is easy to make and I love to decline it into the flavour which inspires me on the moment. A few months ago I bought the eBook “The Flavour Thesaurus” and since then, I don’t know how many hours I have spent navigating through the pages (see at the end of the post). I find this book is an incredible source of inspiration and it had almost become a game to me to find the possible combinations. Often I have a look at it before going to sleep and it is when my arms start hurting by holding up my iPad that I realize I have been reading for too long.

Potato and Mushroom gratin with Rosemary 4

 

Potato and Mushroom Gratin with Rosemary

 

Recipe for 1-2 as a main dish 3-4 as a side dish

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 55 min

 

Ingredients:

120 g mushrooms ( I could not find anything else at the nearby supermarket, if you have something better go ahead)

1 onion

1 tbsp olive oil

40 g Gruyère

300-350 g potatoes (the firmer kind)

1 dl milk

1 dl cream

½ tbsp fresh rosemary leaves chopped

Salt and Pepper

Nutmeg (optional)

 

Heat the oven at 200°C.

Cut the mushrooms in half and make slices of about 0.5 cm pieces. Also cut the onion in half and slice it too, not as thick as the mushrooms though.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion. After a couple of minutes add the mushrooms and brown without turning them too often. If you wish you can add some pepper. Once done set aside.

Pass the potatoes through a slicer.

In a bowl mix the milk, cream and cheese.

In a greased baking dish add the potatoes, mushrooms and onions and toss them until evenly distributed. Now add the dairy mix, pour over and give another quick toss. Place in the oven for 45-50 minutes and serve hot.

This dish can be served with a simple salad or it can work as a side dish for meat.

 

Vegetable Rolls

Vegetable Rolls 4 (800 x 601)This week I originally had another idea for the recipe; I wanted to make a bread gratin. I did do it but I find it turned out to be bland and the consistency I was not really fond of. Continue reading

So I went through my cookbooks and stopped where I had previously put tags (about every two pages). I wanted to bake and make something with either bread or any kind of dough and found this recipe for rolls. The recipe is one among the many vintage cookbooks my mother used to own. As she didn’t literally give them to me and that is why now I try not to remind her of them so she doesn’t ask them back. It’s easy and one thing I particularly liked is the dough. I will surely remake this ad I works well for a party or as a snack. On the day I went to see how dried meat is made, I came back late at night and not having had dinner yet I had a couple of these babies.  Soon I will make this recipe again and I would actually like to try a sweet version, maybe with pears…for our Wednesday’s ladies’ night it would probably go down well.

Vegetable Rolls 1 (800 x 601)

Vegetable Rolls

 

Ingredients:

For the dough:

500 g flour (white or semi-white)

1 tsp salt

30 g fresh yeast

3 dl milk ( I used half-fat)

60 g butter melted and cooled

 

For the filling:

1-2 tbsp butter

6 large onions

4 carrots (not too small)

2 garlic cloves crushed

Salt and pepper

A handful chopped parsley

2 handfuls roasted walnuts

Nutmeg (optional)

 

 

In a bowl mix the flour and the salt. Place the yeast in the milk and dilute. Incorporate the milk and the butter to the flour and knead the dough until soft and elastic. Cover and leave to until it has risen double of its size, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile cut the carrots into thin strips. Cut the onions in half and slice them a little thicker than the carrots.

Heat the butter in a pan and add the carrots and the onions. Add the crushed garlic cloves and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until soft, about 20 minutes, and stir regularly. Once done set aside to cool.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough in a rectangular shape (about 40 x 60 cm).

Chop the walnuts.

Now spread the vegetables and sprinkle the walnuts and the parsley (eventually the nutmeg) on the dough leaving a 3 cm margin on one of the longer sides. Roll the dough tight and use the uncovered part of the dough to seal it.

Heat the oven at 200°C.

Cut the rolled dough into slices of about 3-4 cm. Place them in a baking tray lined with parchment paper and leave them for 15 minutes to set.

Place the baking tray on the lower side of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes.

Ideally these should be served tepid but either hot or cooled is fine too.

The Making of Dried Meat

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Yesterday I had an appointment at my local butcher and I was really looking forward to that. Continue reading

I know that making dry meat is a simple procedure but I wanted to learn more about how it is made and thanks to the butcher a few villages away I had the chance to see it in detail. I arrived at the butcher shop in Gordevio (Maggia Valley) and the two Zanoli brothers were ready or almost. Since Boris was still fixing something, Franco generously offered me a glass of wine and we joked and chatted. I told them that to me this butcher shop is something sentimental because when I was still too small to even see what was displayed in the counter; I was already going there (except that I was more interested by the ice creams back then).

The two brothers:

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So we began and the first thing to do is to weight the meat. From then, according to the amount of meat, the salt, sugar and the spices (they use peppercorns, ground nutmeg and cloves) are calculated and weighted and placed in a batch. I was quite surprised by the use of sugar but it actually helps keep the colour of the meat. After a bit of enquiry among the clients I was happy to notice that I was not the only ignorant about the use of sugar in the making of dried meat.

DM 1This is how to calculate the amount of salt and sugar (1/3 of the amount) needed:

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Then the meat is then rolled in the mix and placed in another batch where it will rest for a couple of weeks, stored in a fridge. During this time the meat will lose the water and by the end the meat will have lost between 30-50% of its weight.

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After the meat has rested a couple of weeks it is then turned so that the salt and spices are evenly distributed. In this picture is a piece of lard after two weeks. In this case the loss of water is inferior because the amount of fat is greater that in the beef pieces.

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Once the beef pieces (the part used is the thigh) have lost most of the water; it is then set to dry in one of these socks.

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Soon the pieces develop a non-toxic white mould (I used to think it was flour) and from there on there is still a little to wait before it is safe to eat the dried meat. Before sealing it a quick rinse is given to each piece. This is the end result.

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This is not only a butcher shop, it is also a place where people get together and while they buy their meat and they take the occasion to share a drink and have a chat. This is exactly what I did after the demonstration. Thank you Boris & Franco for the great moment!

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Pumpkin Knoepfle / Spaetzle with Sage Butter and Caramelized Onions

Pumpkin Knoepfle 6As a student, I remember going to the supermarket and buying the ready made spaetzle. Continue reading

Once you have tried home made ones I can tell you: there’s no comparison with the commercial products. Now I know why I wouldn’t get excited over the store bought ones: plastic consistence and a lack of flavour in general. When I made these ones, the bad memories of the flavourless disappeared and was replaced this version. I found the recipe in a book I recently bought and instead of using spinach I used pumpkin. I like the way it turned out from the first try. Next week is my turn to cook for our new weekly event: the ladies’ night. I thought I could make some knoepfle, maybe served with some meat. Anyway there’s basically still one week to go and I know I will probably change my mind three or four times before I take a decision. Thinking about it, I get the same dilemma when I have to choose which shoes to pack when leaving for a weekend. So, this is my version of the spaetzle / knoepfle or as we call them in Switzerland spaetzli and knoepfli.

Pumpkin Knoepfle 1

Pumpkin Knoepfle / Spaetzle with Sage Butter and Caramelized Onions

Prep time:

Cook time:

Ingredients:

300-400 g pumpkin cut into cubes

400 g white flour

4 Eggs

1 tsp salt

0.75 dl milk

0.75 dl water

¼ tsp nutmeg

2-3 tbsp butter

A small bunch of chopped sage leaves

2 red onions

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 small tbsp sugar

 

For the knoepfle:

Soften the squash cubes in a pan with a couple tbsp water on a low-medium fire.  Once they are soft (after about 15 minutes, depending on cube size) remove from fire and mash well. Set aside to cool (if there is, remove excess of liquid).

Add the flour with salt, nutmeg, milk, water, eggs. Mix all together with a wooden until bubbles form. Add the mashed squash and mix it in. Set aside to rise for 30 min.

Heat water with salt. Divide the dough into four parts and use either a knoepfle sieve or scrape the dough on a cutting board, making the small pieces fall into the water (these will be larger and will become spaetzle). When the knoepfle rise to the surface they are ready. Remove them with a skimming ladle and rinse under cold water.

Heat 2 -3 tbsp butter with the sage leaves. Once the butter is starting to colour, add the knoepfle to brown.

 

For the caramelized onions:

While the dough is resting cut the onions in ½ and slice them.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on a low fire and add the onions. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so the onions don’t burn.

Once the onions are soft (personally I like them when still have a bit of a bite) add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until caramelized.

 

-Serve the knoepfle with the caramelized onions and eventually some good grated cheese.