August 25, 2015

Oatmeal with Blueberries and Toasted Pistachios

I’ve been quite lazy recently, especially when it comes to breakfast.  Hence, I’ve been experimenting and toying with various recipes, all of which did not involve much cooking but packed lots of flavor.  Yep...this summer, I’ve been munching on easy, clean, fast breakfast and sweet concoctions.  And this Oatmeal with Blueberries and Toasted Pistachios is no exception.





This recipe will take you only fifteen minutes to whip up, just slightly longer than this other morning favorite of mine, but I assure you it’s well worth it.  I love the warm and creamy oatmeal that gets soaked in a sweet and tangy homemade-like jam of bright blueberries, and is topped with roasted pistachios, while the cinnamon-sugar adds a spicy and crunchy finishing touch.  The whole combination is deeply colorful, toothsome and way more satisfying than its individual parts might suggest.  It will keep you sated for hours. 




I also love the versatility of this recipe.  You can vary it and customize it to your liking.  No blueberries?  No problem.  Use blackberries or raspberries, or a mix, or frozen berries.  Something tells me that even plums would work wonders.  Substitute pistachios with sliced almonds or walnuts.  And if you’re an almond milk fanatic, even better, use that instead of whole milk; its nutty flavor pairs really well with the oatmeal and brings that protein boost to your bowl.  You don’t fancy the creaminess, boil the oatmeal in water; no biggie.  I’m telling you, you won’t get bored easily with this dish.  Enjoy! 





Oatmeal with Blueberries and Toasted Pistachios
By Simply Romanesco inspired by Food & Wine (June 2015) and Giada’s Feel Good Food by Giada De Laurentiis

Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients:

·         2 Tablespoon pistachios, unsalted and roasted (sliced toasted almonds or chopped walnuts also work well)
·         1 cup whole milk (unsweetened almond milk will work wonders too)
·         Pinch of kosher salt
·         ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
·         ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
·         2 heaped Tablespoons sugar
·         ½ teaspoon cinnamon
·         1 cup blueberries (or a mix of berries)





Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and the cinnamon and mix well.

If you can’t find roasted and unsalted pistachios at the grocery store, lightly toast them in a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Transfer them to a plate.  





In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, the pinch of salt and vanilla extract to a boil over medium heat.  Add the oats and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until thickened, about 6-8 minutes.  I like my oatmeal creamier, so I take it off the heat after about 6 minutes.  Spoon the oatmeal into two bowls or jars or glasses.





In the same saucepan, add the blueberries and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of the cinnamon-sugar.  Heat up the blueberries over medium-low heat until juicy and soft and some of them burst, about 5-7 minutes.





Spoon the berry sauce over the oatmeal, top with pistachios, and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.





Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

July 31, 2015

Blueberry-Pistachio Galette

What do you do when you have heaps of blueberries and you don’t know what to do with them before they go old, wrinkly and mushy?  You toss them all into a glorious, summery galette, which is just a fancy French word to describe a free-form crusty cake.





This Blueberry-Pistachio Galette is rustic, unpretentious and slightly sloppy, so don’t worry if the dough breaks while baking and the filling oozes out a bit.  Sometimes I feel that the messier this galette looks the more beautiful it is, not to mention mighty tasty.  You basically have sweet, juicy blueberries encased into a rich, crisp crust.  I only used sugar for the finishing touch before popping the galette in the oven, but if you want to take it a step further, gently press a few sliced almonds into the crust and then sprinkle with sugar for that extra bite and crunch.  





This is by far one of the easiest desserts you’ll ever make and it’s a great stepping stone for novice bakers.  Serve it on its own or with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream right on top to gently melt into the hot, bubbly blueberries.  So, don’t waste any more time and grab some blueberries, blackberries or even strawberries and start baking.   





Last weekend, Adrian and I had the pleasure to attend a fabulous wedding in our beloved Boston.  And I’d like to dedicate this galette to my best friend Rachel, the gorgeous bride, who loves blueberries, cooking, wine, the pink color, opera, and her husband Andi above all.  I feel so happy and privileged to have been a part of their special day!  It was a truly amazing, sophisticated and unforgettable wedding topped with an elegant layer cake of silky, lemony goodness dotted with bright blueberries, and a smooth, stripy tiramisu deliciousness.  Damn, that cake was good and the wedding was even better!  Casă de piatră!





Blueberry-Pistachio Galette
Adapted from Bon Appétit (July 2015)

Makes: 10 servings

Ingredients for the Dough:

·         ½ cup pistachios, toasted (pecans or almonds also work well)
·         1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
·         1 Tablespoon sugar
·         ½ teaspoon kosher salt
·         ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
·         ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces





Ingredients for the Filling and Assembly:

·         12 oz. blueberries (about 2 cups)
·         1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
·         1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
·         ¼ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
·         All-purpose flour (for the surface)
·         2 Tablespoons milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream





Instructions for the Dough:

If you can’t find the already roasted pistachios, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Toast the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, about 10-15 minutes; let cool.  





Pulse the pistachios in a food processor until the consistency of coarse meal.  Add the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon and pulse just to combine.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces remaining.





Transfer to a large bowl; drizzle with 4 Tablespoons of ice water and mix, adding another Tablespoon of water if needed, just until the mixture comes together.  Gently pat the dough into a 6” – diameter disk.  Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour. 

Do ahead:  the dough can be made 2 days ahead.  Keep chilled, or freeze up to 1 month.




Instructions for the Filling and Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Toss the blueberries, flour, lemon juice, and ¼ cup of sugar in a large bowl. 

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12” round.  Carefully transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Mound the blueberries in the center of the dough, leaving a 2” border.  Fold the edges over, overlapping slightly.  Brush the dough with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  




Bake the galette until the crust is dark golden-brown and the filling is bubbling, about 45-50 minutes.  Let the galette cool before serving.

Do ahead: the galette can be baked 1 day ahead.  Store the galette tightly wrapped at room temperature.





Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

June 30, 2015

Yogurt with Fresh Figs, Honey and Pistachios

Eons ago, I heard Kelly Ripa on her morning show talk about how her breakfast for the past ten years consisted of Greek yogurt, fresh blueberries and pistachios.  To say that I was curious to try it myself is a major understatement.  Even funnier was that soon after, I discovered a recipe in Bon Appétit that was similar to Kelly’s version of the perfect breakfast and casted my beloved fresh figs front and center.  And did I mention that cooking was not a prerequisite?  I mean, you cannot possibly turn down a light yet nourishing morning treat that involves no cooking, but just some plain assembly of fresh ingredients!





This is a very simple yet nutritious breakfast meal, extremely easy to throw together yet complex in flavor.  Bottom line, you need only four ingredients to start your morning the right way.  I love Greek yogurt for its tanginess and nourishment; I adore pistachios for their sharp crunch and nuttiness; I’m into blueberries just like the next person but I’d gladly swap them for fresh, plump, meaty figs especially during the summer when they elevate this pristine breakfast to a definite elegance; and I prefer a little sweetness from the honey to bind all these ingredients together.  





You can easily substitute the honey with agave nectar if that’s all you have on hand, and if you’re not a fan of pistachios, try it with pine nuts; walnuts would be beautiful too, and even slivered almonds would nicely do the trick.  Whatever you decide to use, just make sure to toast them a bit before tossing them on top; the extra nutty, toasty crunch will send your taste buds into a delicious frenzy.  The best part about this recipe is that you should definitely play around and tailor it to your own taste or the ingredients you have available.  The possibilities are endless.  Enjoy!





Yogurt with Fresh Figs, Honey and Pistachios
By Simply Romanesco inspired by Bon Appétit (July 2014)

Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients:

·         ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
·         2 fresh figs, halved or quartered (or ¼ cup blueberries or blackberries, etc.)
·         1 heaped Tablespoon pistachios (pine nuts, walnuts or slivered almonds), roasted and unsalted
·         2 teaspoons honey 





Instructions:

If you can’t find roasted and unsalted pistachios at the grocery store, lightly toast them in a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes.  Transfer them to a plate.  





In a small bowl, serve the Greek yogurt.  Add the figs, top with pistachios, and drizzle with honey. 





Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

May 28, 2015

Feta Cheese and Dill Stuffed Flatbread

I’m an only child, which on occasion means being spoiled rotten.  So, when at age eleven I demanded a puppy, my parents happily obliged.  Granted, the three of us lived in an eight hundred square foot one bedroom apartment on the sixth floor of a ten story building with no air conditioning during the scorching summer months.  Did it matter?  Not at all…  The four of us simply learned how to gloriously bake in the one bedroom hell of a sauna.  But being treated like a princess was not the case when visiting my grandparents in the northern part of Romania.       





Maramureș, a region in the northern part of Romania, is a place where time seems to stand still and hundreds of years of culture and traditions are firmly engrained in the rugged mentality, hardened way of life and extremely hardworking people.  It is here where the nearby volcanic mountains are proudly covered in a dense layer of snow well into spring; where locals master the elaborate process of making the famous ţuică drink every year (my ninety five year old great-grandmother is still deeply invested in this process); not to mention how chickens and other domestic animals roam freely around the yard all day long and are considered proud members of the family.  Maramureș is also the place where I learned how to forage for plump beautiful mushrooms in the untamed forests, how to gingerly maneuver a two handle saw and help my grandfather cut wood at the very young age of four, and most importantly where I learned how to whip up this rustic and mouthwatering Feta Cheese and Dill Stuffed Flatbread. 






These flatbreads are without a doubt a staple in my grandma Aurica’s kitchen – simple, basic dough stuffed with a cheesy goodness.  It can’t get better or easier than that!  They are unpretentious and versatile; delicious for breakfast, satisfying as a snack, great for lunch, and light for a quick dinner.  Needless to say, they are a terrific alternative for the beloved bread.  The yeasty dough winds up tender and sweetly chewy while nestling a perfectly salty and savory interior.  These Feta Cheese and Dill Stuffed Flatbreads are deeply flavorful without being fussy and I guarantee you won’t stop with just one.  Enjoy!  





Feta Cheese and Dill Stuffed Flatbread
By Simply Romanesco inspired my Grandma Vicki and Grandma Aurica

Makes: 15 stuffed flatbreads

Ingredients:

·         500 grams (3 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
·         ½ teaspoon baking soda
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 packet (7 grams) fast rise dry yeast
·         1 ½ teaspoon sugar
·         1 large egg, at room temperature
·         125 ml (1/2 cup) water
·         125 (1/2 cup) whole milk
·         50 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil, plus more for frying

Ingredients for the filling:

·         350 grams (12 oz) feta cheese
·         A good bunch of fresh dill, chopped (the green parts of green onions, chopped, also work really well)





Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, yeast and sugar.  Mix well.  Add the egg, water and milk and, using clean hands, gently combine all the ingredients.  Add the oil and mix well until the dough gathers into a ball.  Knead the dough for a few minutes until it becomes pliable and easy to work with.  Leave the dough in the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a dish towel and allow the dough to rest and rise for an hour and a half until it almost doubles in size.





In the meantime, combine the feta cheese and dill in a medium bowl and set aside.
Divide the dough into 15 balls.  Lightly flour the work surface and the rolling pin and roll out the balls of dough one at a time.  Add a heaping Tablespoon of the feta cheese and dill filling and fold the edges of the dough to seal the filling inside.  Set aside and allow the filled concoction to rest for 10 minutes.  Proceed the same way with the rest of the dough. 





Lightly flour the rolling pin and roll out each of the filled doughs careful not to break the surface and the filling to spill out.    
    
  



In a large skillet, heat about ½ cup of vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add one or two flatbreads at a time and cook them over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden-brown.  Place the cooked flatbreads on a platter and cover to keep warm.





Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)