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!)

April 29, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Cake

Sometimes baking is a messy business.  And when it comes to drowning cake squares in a pool of hot chocolate and then showering them with flaky coconut, it’s messy times two.  But it’s so worth it!  Growing up, this beautiful Chocolate Coconut Cake used to be a charming, long-awaited rarity in my grandma’s baking repertoire; a concoction bursting with unrestrained, wonderful and well-remembered flavors.  So, when I managed to trick her into making this cake when I was home in March, I fully relished the exciting and entertaining day of baking with my grandma.      




This is a simple white cake that you jazz up with rum and fully cover in a thin sheath of rich chocolate ganache and delicate coconut, and thus bring it to a whole new level of deliciousness and elegance.  The Chocolate Coconut Cake is moist and dense yet not overly sweet, nicely infused with a subtle amount of rum, while the slightly hardened ganache conveys a sophisticated exterior peppered with fine coconut flakes.  In the past, my grandma used to douse this cake in a basic cocoa and milk sauce, but I feel that the chocolate ganache gives it more texture and a lovely understated elegance.  
  




This is not your special occasion kind of cake; it’s more of a Saturday or mid-week type of indulgence but one hundred percent delicious nonetheless; not to mention an instant crowd pleaser.  Cut up in squares and displayed on a beautiful platter, this cake will make a bold statement.  In fact, I shouldn’t even call this an actual cake since it’s made in a plain rectangular baking pan and doesn’t involve any fancy layering and decorations of any sort; perhaps Chocolate Coconut Squares would be a better name, but to be honest I’ll always think of this as a cake, a laid back type of dessert packed with tons of festive flavors.  Enjoy!





Chocolate Coconut Cake
By Simply Romanesco inspired my Grandma Vicki

Makes: 24 squares

Ingredients for the Cake:

·         500 grams (3 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
·         2 teaspoons baking powder
·         Pinch of salt
·         300 grams (2 ½ cups) Confectioners’ sugar
·         2 large eggs, at room temperature
·         100 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
·         1/3 cup honey
·         1 cup whole milk
·         1 teaspoon vanilla




Ingredients for the Rum Syrup:

·         ½ cup sugar
·         ½ cup water
·         ¼ cup rum

Ingredients for the Chocolate Ganache:

·         400 grams (14 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
·         350 ml (1 ½ cups) heavy cream
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
·         1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut





Instructions for the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350º F.  Coat the bottom and sides of a 14 by 10-inch baking pan with butter and flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside. 

Heat the honey in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 30 seconds. 




In a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter with the eggs, sugar and warm honey until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the milk and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  In batches, add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 35 minutes.  Let the cake cool completely.




Instructions for the Rum Syrup:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and whisk until the sugar dissolves.  Off heat, add the rum, whisk well and set aside to cool completely.  Once the cake has cooled, pierce the surface with a fork.  Using a spoon, drizzle the syrup all over the top of the cake.  You will use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the syrup.  You want the cake to be moist but not overly damp.  Just discard the remaining of the syrup.  Allow the cake to sit and absorb the syrup, about 1 hour.  Cut the cake into squares.  





Instructions for the Chocolate Ganache:

Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl and set aside.  Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Cook until small bubbles appear on the outside edge of the cream.  Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips.  Using a fork or a spoon, gently stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.





Place the two types of coconut in two separate small bowls.  I like to cover half of the squares in unsweetened coconut flakes and half of them in sweetened coconut for an extra level of sweetness.  But you can definitely opt for either version; it all depends whether you like this dessert on the sweeter side or not.   




Take each cake square and dip it in the chocolate ganache.  Once you’re done with dipping the cake squares into the ganache, cover them in coconut flakes.  Set the cake squares on a platter and serve. 




Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

March 31, 2015

One Flew South

It seems that I literally fell off the face of my blog and PG Plate alike, this past month, but I’m happy to say that I was able to squeeze in our annual visit home to Romania during this time.  More on my adventures and food explores from the land of Dracula later on.  Right now, I want to tell you about One Flew South.  As fate has it, our travels home brought us again to the familiar (to us anyway) terminal E at the Atlanta International Airport.  And we couldn’t help but revisit one of our favorite airport restaurants, One Flew South.  




It’d been a long while since my mouth was graced with the not at all predictable food bonanza that is One Flew South and my stomach was loudly begging for a Pulled Duck Sandwich by the time I was scanning the menu.  Yes – that exact sandwich I raved about three years ago. This time around, I managed to take a picture, a rushed picture.  Okay… a lousy picture that won’t do it any justice but at that point in time I was drooling like Pavlov’s dog, my brain lost any function at the enticing whiffs, and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into that fantastic sandwich.  No excuse, I know but trust me when I tell you that this sandwich is one of the best I’ve ever had!  It’s juicy, flavorful duck meat piled up high on a toasty Challah bun with a sweet and tangy fig and toasted peanut relish, fresh scallions and a side of creamy slaw.  It will rock your world!




Adrian opted for the “ofs” Dirty South, an open face meatloaf sandwich with pimento cheese, some sautéed spinach, crispy and slightly sugary bacon, sweet and tasty bbq sauce, and a perfectly fried egg stacked on top.  It’s one of the restaurant’s signature sandwiches.  He loved it!  I loved it too after one bite and made my husband trade half of it for half of my Duck Sandwich.  He reluctantly conceded and at the end of our meal we were both very happy campers, stuffed and ready for our long flight.  But we couldn’t skip dessert. 




Dessert consisted of yet another signature dish; this time, “ofs” Banana Pudding.  A smooth and velvety custard, peppered with chunks of banana and spongy cake throughout and a light whipped cream atop.  The dessert was also accompanied by homemade vanilla wafers.  A lick-your-fingers-sweet perfection! 




Before I encourage you to fly through Atlanta next time around just so you can dine at One Flew South, I have to tell you that we also ordered the Pork Belly Sliders.  They were mouthwatering, rich and impossibly tasty, enveloped in a golden raisin slaw and bathed in bbq sauce, nestled in between toasty buns and finished with buttery pickles.  But you guessed right – no picture for these ones, unfortunately… So, I owe you one.

Now, next time you travel, make sure you fly through the Atlanta International Airport and pay a visit to One Flew South.  Your layover will be wisely spent and your stomach will thank you!

Restaurant Information:
One Flew South
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Terminal E
Phone: (404) 816-3464

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

February 21, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Date Bars

I’m still comfortably basking in the realm of chocolate goodness but this time the magic comes in the form of energy bars.  That’s right!  These awesome Chocolate Coconut Date Bars are actually considered to be power bars; homemade power bars.  So, forget about shelling out your money on pre-packaged energy treats and whip up these flavorful super snacks that will conveniently power you through your most hectic days. 




These Chocolate Coconut Date Bars are laden with nutrient-rich elements and tons of flavor.  They are fudgy, intensely chocolatey and pleasantly chewy.  The bars are not overly sweet and they sport the right punch of salt to balance out the sweetness and slight bitterness of the chocolate while the coconut atop is the perfect finishing touch.  One tiny bar can effortlessly replace the mid-afternoon-pick-me-up espresso shot.  





Although they are named energy bars, I personally view these Chocolate Coconut Date Bars as a super easy, no baking required energy dessert.  But whatever you want to call them, dessert or power bars, the truth remains that nothing beats a homemade sweet treat.  Enjoy!    





Chocolate Coconut Date Bars
Adapted from Bon Appétit (January 2015)

Makes: 12 bars

Ingredients:

·         Nonstick vegetable oil spray
·         Parchment paper or aluminum foil
·         2 cup Medjool dates, pitted
·         ¾ cup cocoa powder
·         1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
·         ¼ cup cacao nibs
·         2 Tablespoons agave nectar
·         1 teaspoon kosher salt
·         2 Tablespoons water





Instructions:

Coat an 8x8” baking pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray and line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil leaving overhang on all sides.  





In a food processor, process the dates, cocoa powder, ¾ cup coconut, cacao nibs, agave nectar, salt and water until smooth (you may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times).  Press the mixture firmly into the prepared pan.





Scatter the remaining ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut over the top and press to adhere.  Cut into bars. 
 




Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)