August 31, 2017

Penne with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms

Your favorite pasta tossed with a gorgeous variety of plump mushrooms, showered with bright lemon zest and juice, sprinkled with fresh thyme and parsley, and smothered with delicious cheese.  Sounds like a scrumptious dinner, doesn’t it?  And a fantastic recipe to tell you about after a longer than expected hiatus from my dear blog. 

I want to apologize to you all for my extended leave of absence.  I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.  I’ve been around, still trying and relishing new and tasty recipes.  But occasionally you just need a bit of a sabbatical from the things you enjoy especially when it gets harder and harder to find the time and passion to put words together, let alone stories, and burnout knocks on the door.  And sometimes, jobs, priorities, things outside of your control and life in general get in the way.  I just felt it was time to unplug for a little, long while.     

So, when life gets busy and you feel there aren’t enough hours in a day for everything you have to do, you don’t want cooking to grab a big chunk out of that limited time.  You want a few ingredients to mix together and toss them in the oven or throw them on the stove and forget about them until it’s time to smell the fabulous concoction.  This recipe is utterly fast and easy to prepare and extremely versatile.  Light yet substantial, it delivers excellent results in no time.  Enjoy! 

Penne with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms
Adapted from Nigella Lawson via Food52

Serves 4 to 6

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
4 cups (8 ounces) finely sliced mixed mushrooms such as cremini, portabella, shiitake, oyster and chanterelle
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 sprigs fresh thyme stripped to give 1 teaspoon leaves
1 pound penne pasta or other pasta shape you like
Freshly grated Parmesan, to taste (or any other cheese you have on hand or you like; I used Havarti cheese) 
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, leaves chopped, to give 1/2 cup (or more if you like; I love fresh parsley so I never measure it)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions.

While pasta is cooking: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  Stir well and then add the lemon zest, juice and thyme leaves, and cook the mushrooms for 5 to 7 minutes until tender. 

Drain the pasta reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.  Add the pasta to the mushroom mixture and toss well.  Add the grated cheese and toss again to coat the pasta.  Finish with the parsley and mix well.  Add the pasta water, about ¼ cup at a time, to loosen the pasta if needed. 

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

December 30, 2016

Easy and simple banana bread to celebrate five years

It’s been five years (and three months) since I started writing this blog.  I wanted to drop by in September, observe this anniversary and thank you all of you out there for reading my words and appreciating my stories and recipes.  And then things got in the way…unfortunately…  But this little space in the large blogosphere would not exist without you.  So, thank you from the bottom of my heart!  Also, I wanted to gift you this exquisite banana bread recipe, a sweet gem all the way from Maui.  

Lately, whenever I read or find anything Maui-related I stop and take notice.  That’s probably because Adrian and I made two trips to Maui in a year.  Needless to say we love Hawaii even if it would be faster to fly home to Romania than to get to this remote paradise in the Pacific. 

Everything tends to be simpler on Maui.  The moment we land, we instantly relax and embrace the slower island pace, soft sand, annoyingly clear water, lush vegetation and stunningly fiery sunsets.  Oh, and let’s not forget about the Maui specialty – banana bread – a bite of that buttery goodness and you’ll never want to leave.  We began to really appreciate banana bread on the winding and wondrous drive on the road to Hana, a town in the heart of the island’s rainforest.    

This banana bread truly captures the spirit of Maui.  Sometimes, simple is the way to go because the simplest of ingredients make for the boldest of flavors and stunning results.  This banana bread is case in point.  It is dense, spongy, moist and features a deep and elegant banana bouquet that easily envelopes the surroundings.  It is deeply decadent while highlighting basic, clean and unspoiled aromas that undoubtedly go a long way.   


It’s gutsy to refrain from tinkering with a recipe, over-embellishing and overflowing with needless ingredients.  I tried really hard to control myself from tossing in any crunchy texture or lemony zing.  But this recipe doesn’t need any of that.  The straightforward yet decadent flavor of banana shines through and makes for a wonderful dessert, snack or breakfast.  Enjoy this magical recipe and Happy New Year to everyone!

Easy and Simple Banana Bread

Adapted from Julia’s Best Banana Bread from Bon Appétit (March 2013)

Makes: 1 loaf of banana bread


·         Butter for greasing the pan

·         1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan

·         1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

·         ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

·         3 large eggs

·         1 ½ cups sugar

·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract

·         1 cup mashed ripe bananas (from about 2 large bananas)

·         ¾ cup vegetable oil


Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Butter and flour a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. 

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, bananas and oil in a large bowl until smooth.  Add dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir just until combined.  Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 60-65 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around inside of the pan to release the bread.  Turn out onto the rack and let cool completely. 

Do ahead:  Banana bread can be made 3 days ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature.      

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

September 5, 2016

Blueberry Banana Pancakes (Revamped Apple Pancakes)

I’ve been a real slob when it comes to my poor little blog.  And I’m immensely sorry for neglecting you, my dear readers, for the better part of three months.  Sometimes life and work get in the way and priorities have to change slightly.  That doesn’t mean that I forgot about you all and I do have a tasty recipe that I want to post soon.  Meanwhile, I really want to share with you the improved version of a beloved pancake recipe.  

Sundays are for brunch in our family and this whole summer I’ve been tweaking and perfecting my grandmother’s Apple Pancakes recipe that I originally posted almost three years ago.  And every week it got better.  I added mashed bananas to the batter, replaced the apples with peaches or tossed in a pint of blueberries.  I sprinkled a much needed pinch of baking soda for that extra level of fluffiness.  And I even revisited the whole method of preparing the batter opting to mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet ingredients and then gradually adding the dry ingredients to the wet ones.  Small tweaks, big difference!

I also promise to have a new recipe for you to celebrate five years of Simply Romanesco soon, but until then I hope you enjoy these newly revamped pancakes.  We’ve been devouring them all summer long!     

Blueberry Banana Pancakes
By Simply Romanesco inspired by my Grandma Vicki

Makes: about 20 pancakes

Ingredients for the pancakes:
·         2 heaped cups (500 ml) whole milk
·         2 large eggs, at room temperature
·         3 heaped Tablespoons (60 grams) granulated sugar
·         1 teaspoon vanilla
·         Scant 2 ¾ cups (370 grams) all-purpose flour
·         1/8 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon baking powder
·         ½ teaspoon baking soda
·         2 bananas, mashed
·         1 pint blueberries or other fruits you like
·         Olive oil or vegetable oil for cooking

Ingredients for the cinnamon-sugar mix:
·         ½ cup (115 grams) granulated sugar
·         1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions for the cinnamon-sugar mix:

In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon and whisk well to combine.  Set aside. 

Instructions for the pancakes:

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Gradually, add the flour mixture to the milk and eggs mixture stirring constantly until the flour is fully incorporated, and you have a slightly thicker batter without any lumps and traces of flour.  Add the mashed bananas and then gently fold in the blueberries.  

In a nonstick skillet, heat about 1 ½ teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Fill a 2.5-inch ladle with the pancake and batter and gently pour it into the pan.  Once the pancakes start cooking, turn the heat to medium-low.  Cook pancake for 1-2 minutes per side until golden-brown.  Repeat with the rest of the batter adding about 1 teaspoon of oil per pancake. 

Place cooked pancakes on a platter and sprinkle each pancake with 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mix.      

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

May 31, 2016

Muesli with Blueberries and Pistachios

After unceremoniously bombarding you with some time-consuming, labor-intensive yet awfully tasty Romanian desserts, I’ve been delving into the realm of no-cook morning delights.  Yes, now I’m on a no-cook breakfast spree.  So, next on the menu is Muesli with Blueberries and Pistachios

Muesli is a big morning thing in Europe.  I was first introduced to it in the summer of 1997 when I spent a month at a tennis academy in Germany and every day, muesli was my go-to breakfast.  Eventually muesli slowly made its way into Romanian stores and dousing it in milk became my favorite morning treat.  That and a toast loaded with Nutella.  Can’t forget about that!


So when I happened upon this Muesli with Blueberries and Pistachios recipe, my curiosity was peaked and I had to give it a try.  I was not disappointed at all granted that it was a far cry from what I was used to growing up and there was no milk in sight.  In fact, this recipe is more elaborate, rich in flavors and bold in personality.  To be perfectly honest, the original recipe calls for pomegranate and almonds, which you should definitely fold in if you have them on hand, I did not unfortunately; that being said, pomegranate would add a brightly seasonal touch to this muesli in wintertime, so consider them when in season. 

This Muesli with Blueberries and Pistachios is a deliciously smooth contraption that you’ll demolish in mere minutes and will keep your tummy happy for hours.  In a nutshell, the oats are engulfed in a diluted sea of bright apple juice and water, allowed to soak and plump overnight while still maintaining that distinct grainy texture and clear taste ghostly tinged with a deeper aroma.  It might seem soggy at first, but the overnight preparation elevates it to a fine-looking, respectable concoction.  The mixture is then thickened with creamy, tart yogurt and drizzled with honey for good measure and an extra hint of sweetness.  The blueberries add a meaty sort of dimension and fruity consistency, while the toasted pistachios bring the smoky crunchiness. 

This dreamy dish will whet your appetite at first sight and will be a robust start to your day.  There’s nothing overly fussy about this bowl of goodness, just a plain old hearty breakfast; a thorough mélange of flavors and textures while still showcasing that pristine muesli identity.  Enjoy!    

Muesli with Blueberries and Pistachios
Adapted from Bon Appétit (December 2013)

Makes: 4 servings (bowls)


·         2 cups old-fashioned oats
·         1 ½ cups apple juice
·         ½ cup water
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         Heaped ¼ cup raisins
·         2 cups plain Greek yogurt
·         1 cup blueberries (or pomegranate seeds or any other fresh fruit you prefer)
·         ½ cup chopped toasted pistachios (or almonds etc.)
·         Honey or agave nectar or maple syrup


Combine the oats, apple juice, water, vanilla and raisins in a large bowl.  Cover and chill overnight.  Mix the yogurt into the soaked oats.  Divide the mixture among bowls and, dividing evenly, top with blueberries and pistachios.  Drizzle with honey, if desired, and serve.    

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

April 30, 2016

Blood Orange Chia Pudding

All winter long I’ve been basking in the wonderful taste and nutritional value of the striking blood oranges.  And even though spring is well upon us, I’ve been lucky enough to still get my hands on them at the grocery store.  Now, the real magic happens when you marry blood oranges with yogurt and chia seeds to create an exceptional and lip-smacking treat that you’ll crave every morning.  Yes, we’re talking breakfast and the best part about this breakfast is that this Blood Orange Chia Pudding is a no-cook silky pudding that you whip up the night before.   

People have been going gaga over chia seeds for a long while now and I have been on the chia bandwagon myself.  Truth is, with all the nutritional benefits of fiber and omega-3s that they pack they are hard to ignore.  Plus, once drowned in the velvety blood orange juice and yogurt mixture, these chia seeds plump up and turn into tiny fat bubbles that burst onto your tongue and crack under your teeth.  As Giada de Laurentiis noted in her cookbook, they do remind you of tapioca pearls, which I happen to adore, but even if you’re not a tapioca fan, this Blood Orange Chia Pudding will convert you into a chia lover in no time.    

Although it might look like one while sporting a beautiful pale pink hue, this pudding is more than just a flavored, textured yogurt.  It is a smooth, pleasantly thick, creamy, tangy, citrusy and sweet pudding with a lovely somewhat bubbly texture that provides a substantial and filling breakfast in a tiny serving.  Top it with bright fruit and toasted pistachios and you’ve created the breakfast of champions.  

In addition, this Chia Pudding is quite versatile.  While I love the blood orange version, Giada offers a recipe that calls for vanilla-flavored unsweetened almond milk instead of orange juice.  So, you can definitely replace the blood orange juice with almond milk and still end up with a phenomenal and slightly creamier concoction.  Enjoy!    

Blood Orange Chia Pudding
Adapted from Bon Appétit (February 2016)

Makes: 2 servings


·         ½ cup Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt)
·         ½ cup fresh blood orange juice
·         2 Tablespoons honey or agave nectar or maple syrup (whichever you prefer or have on hand)
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         Pinch of salt
·         ¼ cup chia seeds
·         Blood orange segments or blueberries or any other fruit you like
·         Chopped pistachios or sliced almonds, toasted


In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, blood orange juice, honey, vanilla and salt.  Whisk in the chia seeds.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 8 to 24 hours.  When you’re ready to eat the pudding, stir the pudding and divide it between small bowls or glasses.  I, however, recommend that you divide the mixture between small bowls and glasses, cover them with plastic wrap and then chill for up to 24 hours.  That way, come morning, I only have to grab one of the glasses from the fridge, stir, top the pudding with fruit and nuts and enjoy.  

Before serving, layer the pudding with some orange segments (or other fruit you prefer).  Top with the chopped pistachios and remaining orange segments.  Drizzle with more honey if desired and serve. 

Note: To top the pudding with orange segments, cut the peel and white pith from 2 blood oranges.  How to do that: cut a slice off the top and bottom of the orange, making sure you cut just past the pith to expose the fruit underneath.  Stand the orange upright on a cut end.  Following the curve of the fruit, use a small knife to slice away the peel and pith.  Working over a bowl, cut along either side of membranes to release the segments.  

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)