Friday, 31 October 2008

More leftover chicken

I actually made this recipe the day we got back from Romania, but was too tired/zonked to post it.

As an update on my earlier post, I finally figured out what the mystery spice is! In Romanian it's called "cimbra" and in English it's Summer Savory (I had guessed from it's thyme-y smell it might be summer or winter savory, but wasn't completely sure) Now my task will be to find it here in the Czech Republic once the supply that my boyfriend's grandmother gave me runs out. After researching, it appears the Czech name for it is "Saturejka" so I will just have to hit up all the spice stores I know of and see what they can do for me. At least it has a Czech name!

So (again terrible with taking pictures!) I made this the night we came back. I was tired and didn't want to cook much, and my boyfriend's grandmother had sent us home with peppers, tomatoes, and leftover cooked chicken. I had some potatoes and cheese languishing in the house that demanded to be used promptly, so I created the following dish. Also, after having been fed non-stop for 4 days, I tried to lighten it up a bit (you'll notice there is no cream or milk in the mashed potatoes)

Chicken, Tomato, and Pepper Ragu with Cheese mashed potatoes

Mashed Potatoes
5 medium potatoes
1/4 c (60 g) firmly packed grated soft cheese (I used "excellent" syr, which is akin to a mild cheddar or gouda)
1 tbs butter
Potato cooking water
2 small cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Chicken Ragu
3 cooked thigh and/or breast pieces of chicken, shredded
2 medium tomatoes diced
1 small pepper (I used one of those white ones I've blogged about earlier)
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves minced finely
2 tbs tomato paste
1 cup (250 g) water or broth
2 heaping tablespoons poultry seasoning (I used "grill" seasoning)
1 tsp marjoram
1 level tablespoon podravka (use salt if you don't have it)
2 tbs flour dissolved in some hot water

Scrub potatoes well and cook in boiling water until soft

While potatoes cook, shred chicken, chop vegetables
saute onion, garlic, and pepper in a bit of oil in a non stick pan
add seasoning and marjoram and stir for a bit til fragrant
add remaining ingredients.
Give a stir, and simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occaisionally.

While ragu is simmering, peel potatoes, add cheese, garlic, butter, several ladles of the potato water, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher or whip with a handheld whipper.

It's best to do the potatoes while they're still warm and right before you serve the ragu. Once the potatoes start to cool, the cheese may get a bit gummy. You can fix this by popping it in the microwave on low-medium heat for about a minute and then stirring again.

Ladle ragu next to or on the mashed potatoes.


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Back from Romania

So I just got back from Romania yesterday. What a great trip with some great food! I'll do a run through of some of the dishes I had that were particularly yummy:

Papanache: This was a dessert. It's like a donut. You take dough, fill it with some sweet cheese (ricotta, farmers cheese) then pop a hole out, fry it, and drench the whole thing in berry sauce and sour cream (creme fraiche)

Sarmale: I can't wait to try to make this. You start with cabbage (kale) leaves that have been soaked in water and salt in a warm place for several days. Then you fill the soft leaves with a mix of ground meat, rice, salt, pepper, garlic, onions, and a spice that I am still trying to figure out the Czech or English word for. Haha. Sorry, vacation makes my mind a little less sharp. Anyway, you take these filled leaves and bake it in a bit of the cabbage water, some tomato paste, and a bit more of the spice. Yum.
Mamelige: This is essentially polenta. But so good. Romanians serve it instead of potatoes or dumplings, and it's just delicious!! I had it the last night with sour cream and brynza (akin to Feta, but a bit more salty)

I have more pumpkin!!! I'm not sure what to do wiith it. The cookies were a huge hit with my boyfriend, so I may make some more. I haven't made pumpkin pie though...I do have canned pumpkin though, so I may make one for thanksgiving. I think tonight I may either roast some or make a soup. Curried pumpkin soup. Yum. Off to look for recipes!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Mushy bananas

I love bananas. In all their stages of ripeness (well, maybe not the green ones...flavor is a bit weak)

I had two bananas that were ripening away, and yesterday I had to do something with them (the skin was almost black, and I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow morning. I would hate to think what they would look like when I got back) I don't have a loaf pan or a muffin tin, so I thought of doing banana cookies, brownies, or bars.

While searching through the cupboard, I found a package of oats that had been sitting there FOREVER. Eager to use two goodies that had been languishing away in my flat, I decided to go for bars, also excited because I had never made them before, and assumed they would be good for my future travels. I found a recipe on for banana oatmeal bars with chocolate chunks After reading the reviews, I garnered from the recipe that

a) there was too much sugar
b) it was too cakey.

Modification time! Also, I always need to halve recipes because I don't bake in a regular oven: I bake in a toaster oven, which means I can only use a small baking pan. I think the above recipe also calls for nuts, which I leave out for my boyfriend, because his jaw was broken and he is still quite sensitive to hard, crunchy items.

SO, for my bars. The full recipe calls for 2 bananas. I actually had 2, very overripe bananas. I wanted to use them both. When I was vegan, many recipes that I used said that overripe bananas could be used instead of an egg. I kept this in mind and decided that if the batter was too thick, I would add the egg. If not, then I would leave it out.

For oversweetness, I noticed many reviewers cut the sugar in half and it was fine. So I did the same, and used more brown sugar instead of white.

To correct for the cake-yness, (I wanted a more hearty, sturdy bar) I switched the amounts of oats and flour, and also used whole wheat flour. So there I was, mixing away, following the directions, and I added the dry ingredients. It still appeared (to me) very wet. Not bar like at all. More oats. Still wet. More oats. Still wet. More oats....getting better! I wish I remembered how much oats I used. The amount in the recipe below is my best guess, but I would suggest adding the oats until the batter gets quite sticky and sticks to the beaters a bit more than cookie dough. Even after baking them, I turned them out and the bottom was still quite (cake-y) soft. I will not be afraid to bring on the oats next time!!!

I've been really bad with pictures recently, I promise I'll get better! I just never thought of taking pictures of my food...

Banana Oatmeal Bars with Chocolate Chunks

1/2 cup (125 g) all purpose flour
1 cup (250 g) quick-cooking oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (60 g) sugar
1/2 cup (125 g) packed golden brown sugar
2 large mashed ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 c (100 g) semi sweet chocolate chopped into chunks

Preheat oven to 325°F (170 C). Butter and flour 8x8-inch (sorry, don't know the centimetres on this one...) baking sheet. Blend first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add both sugars and beat until well blended. Beat in bananas, then vanilla. Stir in flour and oat mixture, then chocolate.

Spread batter in prepared pan. I always bake uncovered the first 15 minutes and then cover with foil (this allows for the item to bake evenly and not get the top burned, which I believe is a result of the small size of my toaster oven) Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean and top is golden, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on rack. Cut into bars and serve.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Officially a snob

Yesterday afternoon I had pumpkin gnocchi again.

I warmed up the gnocchi in a tupperware container on low microwave heat. While I did this, I I browned some goat butter on the stove and threw in some dried sage, salt and pepper. When the gnocchi dinged, I poured the butter over, and finished with some grated aged goat cheese (akin to Parmesan in consistency)

Cow's milk products, I fear, are just too plebeian for me.

I looked like QUITE the gourmand, eating my lovely gnocchi, awash in expensive goats milk products.....out of a tupperware container. :-)

Monday I made pumpkin cookies! I took a food network recipe and halved it, but essentially followed it to the letter. I think I added a bit more pumpkin than was called for though, which left me with a very soft batter. Also, in attempt to keep the cookies healthy-ISH, I used light cream cheese and whole wheat flour. I like what the whole wheat flour did actually: it left a lovely, nutty taste.

I love soft cookies, and I've actually figured out a couple of tricks to make them softer:

1) replace half the white sugar with packed dark brown
2) chill the dough in the refrigerator before spooning onto the baking sheet
3) take them out before you see brown on the edges (though for the pumpkin cookies, this was the sign that they were done...)
4) Rotate, rotate, rotate that baking sheet! At least halfway through cooking.

I will add a picture later, but for now, here is the recipe. Also, for excellent shaped cookies, roll the chilled dough into balls between your palms before placing on baking sheet. Do it quick though or it'll start melting on you....

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 (125 g) cup sugar
1 stick (125 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon Maple syrup
1 egg
3/4 cup (175 g) canned pumpkin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
1 cup (250 g) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

1 (8-ounce) (125 g) package softened light cream cheese
1/2 cup (125 g) confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the maple syrup and eggs. Mix to incorporate. Add the pumpkin and mix to incorporate. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges. Cool on racks. When cool, ice with the cream cheese frosting.

For the Frosting: In a mixer, fitted with a paddle, add the cream cheese. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar until smooth. Add vanilla. Beat until smooth. If frosting is too thick, thin with a little milk. Fold in the lemon zest. When cookies are cool spread with some of the frosting. Garnish with a pecan or raisin if desired.

Monday, 20 October 2008

True to my word...

I've spent the weekend with pumpkin. I cooked down the rest of the meat Saturday. The way I did it this time was to just spread it out in a baking dish and bake it at 350 F (175 C) for about an hour and a half. I periodically stirred it and also carefully drained any released water out. The only sad part is that I really don't have a lot of total meat. I'd say the entire 6 kilo pumpkin yielded only about 640 g of puree. Sad!!

So as I mentioned Friday, I wanted to make pumpkin burgers. I actually followed the recipe pretty closely until it came to breadcrumbs/wheat germ. Instead of that, I used 1 cup of ground hazelnuts. I also used 2 tbs chopped coriander instead of the parsley. For some reason, parsley in a "southwestern" dish seems wrong. It's always coriander!! Also, I ended up using about 3/4 to 1 cup of pumpkin because I kept smelling the mixture and deciding it wasn't "pumpkin-y" enough. The only problem with adding more pumpkin though was that the mixture was decidedly more moist than it should have been. I ended up forming the mixture into patties, and baking the burgers on parchment paper for about an hour at 375 F (180 C) and flipping them halfway through. So they were GREAT with my homemade guacamole and salsa. My friend brought a gorgeous baguette and we had a veritable feast. I was unfortunately so excited, that I didn't take ANY pictures, and even though I promised my boyfriend I would save him a burger...they were so good that none were available for consumption by the time the night was over.

Last night I made more guacamole, more onion and garlic jam, and pumpkin gnocci. This was almost ridiculously easy.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

125 ml pureed packed pumpkin
50 ml whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of pepper.

Mix all ingredients together. Mine looked like this:

Here it gets interesting: At this point, the dough is not dry enough to roll out and cut into little squares. However, I REALLY wanted the taste of the pumpkin to shine through, and not have the flour be the star.

I had been watching Jaimie Oliver a couple of weekends ago and he had made edamame dumplings (I totally cannot find the recipe online!!!!). The way he formed them was interesting and looked easy, so I tried it with this dough. Absolutely perfect!!! You take two spoons, and spoon a bit of dough into one. Then you use the other to scoop it off, and between the two you keep scooping until a dumpling shape is formed. Very easy, here's a picture for the visual learners out there:
After this, I placed them on a baking sheet. I used the tines of a fork to make the classic gnocchi-esque grooves, but I don't think they're incredibly necessary.
After that, you just drop them in boiling salted water, and wait a couple of minutes until they rise to the top and start bouncing around. Remove with slotted spoon...

I had some last night with some smoked ricotta and sprinkled some dried sage and toasted hazelnuts on it. I think the ricotta overwhelmed it though. Today I would probably just have it with some browned goats butter, sage, and the hazenuts. Or even by themselves! They are QUITE yummy.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Pumpkin on my mind

I LOVE Fall. It's such a great season. The weather turns a bit nippy, the leaves are beautiful, all the crops have been harvested, beer gets brewed, wine gets made (mmmmm, burčak...) Anyway, I have a tradition (aka, ever since I moved here, so 2 years) that I buy a pumpkin and carve it. For some reason, I always end up going to buy the pumpkin alone. This doesn't make me sad, I actually don't mind it. It's kind of fun to go and ponder over the pumpkins at Tesco (29 crowns (~$1.75) a kilo, by the way. Total steal) Then I pick one, and take it to the check out. The cashier woman/man inevitably always says something like, "Awwww, what a pretty pumpkin!" or "Oh my goodness that's huge! How will you take it home?" Very cute.
So I bought my pumpkin last Sunday, with the intent on hollowing it out soon after. Well, I got a bit lazy and it was only yesterday that I worked on it. Pumpkins are pretty easy to hollow out. You just cut off the top, pull it out, empty all the seeds, and then scoop out the meat with an ice cream scoop. It's a bit time consuming and messy, but fun!!! While I scooped out the pumpkin, I made toasted pumpkin seeds. VERY easy:

Toasted pumpkin seeds:
Pumpkin seeds

Chicken/grill/any sort of seasoning


Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet
Sprinkle seasonings and salt LIBERALLY all over
Bake at 350 about 10 minutes.
Take them out, give them a stir, spread them out again, and put them back in the oven.

Bake another 10-15 minutes until light brown.

That's them on the lower right.

As you can see, I had a MASSIVE bowl of pumpkin meat. All this needs to be cooked down into pumpkin puree. I plan on making cookies, pie, gnocchi, and tonight....Pumpkin Burgers! I found the recipe on but I think I already know how I'm going to change it.

So to cook down pumpkin, just take all that meat, put it in a wide saucepan, and cook at medium high heat for about 30 minutes. Basically all the water has to evaporate out of it, which you will see happen.

The only sad thing is that you don't get much puree from the pumpkin meat. I just got this much (about 200 grams) from about 700 grams of meat:
Anyway, I'm excited for Pumpkin burgers tonight! Pumpkin gnocchi this weekend.... :-)

Thursday, 16 October 2008


So, I didn't have much to do at work today so I took a little longer lunch than usual. I went to the outdoor market on Havelska, which, as I've blogged about before, has GREAT deals on fruit and veg during the week.
I bought a bunch of coriander, a head of iceberg lettuce, about 5 tomatoes, and 2 small white peppers for 32 crowns ($1.80, about)

On a side note, a lot of Czech supermarkets/markets sell these white peppers that look like this I'm never quite sure what to do with them. They're very mild, but I feel like there must be something better to do with them than just slice them up for salads. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to comment.

I had some avocadoes that I bought over the weekend (sale at Tesco!) so I decided to make guacamole. I would have used all 4 avocados, but 2 were not ripe enough. Even one of the ones I used in the guacamole was bordering on unripe. Every time I make guacamole I fall in love with it all over again. I have no idea why I don't make it more often! I think the main reason is that my hands get so goopy and messy from all the chopping that it puts me off slightly. Anyway, I made the guacamole, and then threw some salad leaves in the mixing bowl after I had transfered the finished product to its own container. Delicious.


2 avocadoes, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped finely
3 large or 4 medium garlic cloves, minced and mashed with 2 tsp of salt
1/2 tomato, deseeded and chopped finely
4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
juice from 1/4 of a lime
1 tsp pepper
dash hotsauce, or 1 tsp minced jalepeno

If the avocadoes are very soft, just mush it all together. If you like chunky guacamole, mush half of the ingredients together and then stir in the rest. If the avocadoes are not very soft, use an immersion blender or food processor to get your desired consistency.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Imitation is the sincerest form of...chutney

I am a bargain hunter when I go grocery shopping. I often buy the vegetables and cheese that have been marked down because they are ABOUT to turn (or have possibly started already, as is sometimes the case with the vegetables) I do this because it MAKES you think of ways to cook/use a food. I sometimes also buy lots of things that have been marked down because they're sold in bulk. This offers another unique challenge: how can I make ____ into different, interesting, appetizing recipes before it goes bad?
I recently bought a bunch of garlic heads. Of course they were on sale. After pondering what to do with them, I remembered that my friend, VelkyAl, had made a roasted garlic and onion jam. I love garlic, I love onions, so....ding!

I was sitting at home yesterday, actually eating his delicious chilli chutney on vanočka with some cheese, and decided to get up and do it.

He also made it with beer, and I happen to have quite a bit of Burčak at my house. I love it, but don't want it to go bad (starts smelling like feet) so I thought I'd use that as a substitute for the beer. Also, it's a sweet drink, so that could take care of the sweetness!

First of all, I hate roasting garlic. The usual method, where you cut off the top of the bulb, bake it, then squeeze the cloves out is SO wasteful. You lose out on LOTS of the garlic and the resulting output is messy and ugly. So I took a few suggestions (mainly from VelkyAl) and did it another way.

take apart the bulb, throwing away as much of the papery covering as you can without exposing the cloves. Wrap the cloves up in foil. Bake at 350 F (170 C) for about 50 minutes. After that, you can pretty easily peel them and end up with gorgeous, golden cloves.

Now, I didn't really want a jam so much as I wanted something a bit more spicy/salty, so I followed the recipe albeit with a few modifications.

Garlic Onion Jam/Chutney

2 heads roasted garlic
4 largish onions peeled and chopped
2 tbs butter
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
3 tbs sugar (Note: I used splenda because I have way too much of it and need to get rid of it. No discernible difference)

1/4 c (125 ml) burčak (or other alcoholic beverage!!)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Saute the onions in the butter on low heat until they are soft making sure they don't stick to the bottom. (LOTS of stirring. My arm still hurts)
add in ALL the other ingredients. Simmer and stir on low heat til it gets to jammy consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings if so desired.

Put into storage container of some sort.

It IS simple, but it's just a bit time consuming watching and stirring all the time.

Next time I think I want to make it a bit more indian: throw in some garam masala, etc. I may also try doing it again with raw garlic. Though the roasted does add a lovely mellowness.

Here's a picture: doesn't look highly appetizing, but tastes YUM.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Sweet remix

I look up a LOT of recipes online. I never claim a recipe to be my own unless I completely create it myself. There will be times, however, where I use the ratios in a recipe, and create something entirely new. Other times, I will take a recipe and make substitutions or shortcuts until I have to concede that the recipe is completely dissimilar to the original.
I had a lovely weekend with my boyfriend. We went to a castle, where we took a tour, and were lucky enough to browse around a medieval faire that just happened to be going on that weekend. We went to a gorgeous restaurant where he ordered rabbit, I had boar, and we each had a drink, and the whole thing cost 240 crowns (about 12 US dollars) My boar was cooked in natural juices with a bit of oil, and two kinds of sauerkraut and two kinds of dumplings. My boyfriend's rabbit was served in a carrot cream sauce with bread dumplings. Both were delicious, both were incredible value for what they were!
Anyway, my big disappointment of the day was that the brewery attached to the castle was under reconstruction. To be finished in 2011. That would be TWO THOUSAND ELEVEN!!!!
I told my boyfriend: "That's it. We're waiting here til it's done"
"Ok" He lovingly conceded.
While I am obviously back at home, I was incredibly disappointed. So I decided to forget my unhappiness by baking brownies for my ever understanding boyfriend. It was when I was baking, that I realised the original recipe had been so far modified by me, it wasn't the original anymore.
So here is MY fudgy brownie recipe.

10.5 oz (300 g) bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup (125 g) butter

2 eggs
1/2 cup (125 g) packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 g) white sugar
1 tbs vanilla
1 tbs brewed black tea or instant coffee if desired
1/2 cup (125 g) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3.5 oz (100 g) chopped bittersweet chocolate

Take the 300 g chocolate and 125 g butter and melt together. Gently.
while that is going, beat together the eggs and the sugars and the vanilla and the coffee or tea if you want (I never add the coffee/tea: too lazy) Do this rather by hand. If you use a beater, the eggs may get to thick and frothy.
Slowly add the chocolate butter melted mixture, making sure it's not to hot: it will cook the eggs if it is.
Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt)
Stir in the chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Pour into a buttered 8x8 inch pan. I use a 10 cm by 15 cm pan.
bake uncovered in a 350 F (170 c) oven for 15 minutes. Cover with foil, rotate the pan 180 degrees, and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven when toothpic inserted comes out almost clean. Let cool. Turn out. Cut into pieces.


Friday, 10 October 2008

Lucky's Leftovers

I would have liked to post this yesterday, but I was fasting, so I didn't exactly want to think about food whilst my stomach was growling on empty.
Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of atonement. Now, I personally believe in some higher force, power or being. I don't know if I necessarily identify Judaism or Christianity or Islamism with this force. Having been brought up as Jewish, I obviously know much more about that religion than others. However, growing older has introduced doubt and confusion into my mind about Judaism. First of all, I don't believe in half-assing things. My dad decided to behave more or less like an Orthodox, so I learned then EXACTLY what you SHOULD do if you're orthodox. As much as I don't like to admit it, I like and appreciate the orthodox way of worship a lot more than reform or conservative (minus the separating women part, that should NEVER be done!!!)
Me, the oftentimes abrasive and solitary creature that I am, have great respect for the individual praying that is more or less the hallmark of Orthodox worship. Yes, the rabbi/cantor oftentimes says something that the congregation has an answer to, but most of the time it is a hum of individual prayer. I like this, but I can't do it because I absolutely suck at reading hebrew. It takes me about 10 minutes to read one sentence, and even then I butcher it. So I can't read hebrew, and thus feel excluded when I go to Orthodox services. I also can't identify with some of their rules: Cut your hair off when you get married, no touching the opposite sex, covered collarbones, etc. etc. The funny thing is, I went to a temple where this was the norm, so now, I'm literally AFRAID to shake hands with any Jewish man I'm introduced to because I don't know if they are Shomer Negiyah or not. Lots of internal stress bubbles for me.
I went to conservative services on Wednesday night where they DONT have these stipulations, but it was still awkward. I STILL felt like I shouldn't shake hands. I hated how all these fat Americans walked in and then left after the first prayer. For many reform/conservatives, Judaism isn't about the spiritual or religious aspect, it's a cultural thing (much like christmas)
For some reason, I just get annoyed and angry at people like this EVEN THOUGH I AM ONE OF THEM! So to end the annoyance and anger, I try to avoid services.
I DO like the concept of Yom Kippur though. You fast for the day to atone for your sins. You think about all the people you have wronged and ask them for forgiveness. On an empty stomach, this is truly a humbling day. In a good way. To end it, you break the fast with...FOOD! So I decided to make a really quick open faced quesadila that I had prepped the night before with inspiration from Sara and Lucky the turkey's Leftovers.

Open face quesadila (or mexican pizza)

about 1.5 cups (300 g) cooked turkey or chicken meat
1 medium-large onion
1 small red bell pepper
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tablespoon mexican seasoning
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

Heat some oil in a pan. Saute garlic, onions, and pepper until slightly softened. Stir in tomatoes, meat, and seasonings. Simmer about 5 minutes. Stir in coriander.

For quesadila/Pizza:

Pita bread halved (so you have 2 circles)

Put halves on baking sheet.
Put turkey mixture on halves.
Put cheese on turkey mixture.
Bake at 170 C (350 F) for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan or hot pepper flakes if you feel so inclined. Serve with sour cream and salsa if you feel so inclined.

Note: this makes about 3 pizza/quesedilas, so you will probably have an extra half for something else.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Hidden Treasures

I recently took some friends on a shopping excursion around Prague. Many people gently complain that you can't find ANY exotic food in Prague. I beg to differ, and I believe that you can find some great groceries in Prague for decent prices. You just need to know where to look. So here is my list of never fail grocery go-to's.

Asian Food Shop
Gorazdova 3, Nove Mesto
(Tram Stop Palackeho Namesti)

This large place has anything and everything Asian. Sauces including soy, fish, hoisin. Vinegars, fresh tofu, frozen shrimp, frozen dim sum, MASSIVE bags of rice, even black rice! Why I go here? In a little fridge in one of the rooms they have little bags of bean sprouts. Delicious on salads, for only 20 crowns. Total bargain.

Arabian Food Shop (Farah)
Myslikova 5, Nove Mesto

This not so large place has a great variety nonetheless. Consistently carries lamb. Large vats of spices, beans, etc. They make fresh harissa, baklava, and have olives galore. Tahini, garbanzo beans, baba ghanoush, roasted corn, rose water, orange water, halva...the list goes on and on. Why do I come here? Cheap garbanzo beans and tahini to make my own hummus, and yummy pita (white AND whole wheat!)

Happy Bo Ling Groceries (seriously)
Belehradska 81, Vinohrady
(Tram stop I.P. Pavlova)

This place inevitably ALWAYS has a good deal on SOMETHING. They had figs for 9 crowns a piece one time, salad for 3 crowns a head, etc. etc. One of the best parts about them is that their grocery section is open from 7 to 23 EVERY DAY. They have an astonishingly comprehensive variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as frozen shrimp, fish, etc. Vats of chinese chip mix, banana chips, dried cranberries, nuts, etc. This place will ALWAYS have very large sweet potatoes as well as squash. I also come here for the certainty that they carry large bags of fresh coriander (cilantro) basil, mint, parsley, etc. Herbs are a bit expensive at 49 crowns, but they're always clean and fresh.

Olympia Greek Groceries
Radhostska 3,
(Tram stop Radhostska)

REALLY friendly place. They have about 30 different kinds of feta, and make their own greek yogurt, eggplant spread, tzatziki, baklava, and all these different, interesting salads. A decent assortment of cheeses too: I recently got a smoked ricotta that was absolutely indescribably good. Also great greek spices that you can give as gifts along with greek wines. Why do I go here? The yogurt really. It's just so thick and good. How can you say no? The owner even gave me a goats milk yogurt to try (for free!) last time I was there.

International Food Shop (Diana Svet Orisky)
Belehradska 87, Vinohrady
(Tram Stop I.P. Pavlova)

This place has EVERY single kind of dried fruit or nut that you could want. Seriously. They also have chocolate coated, yogurt coated, carob coated, DIA chocolate coated yummies, as well as a wide variety of caramels. Good spice and loose tea assortment too. Why do I come here? My sister LOVES "Prazene mandle" (almonds cooked slowly with sugar so they devlop a sugary crust and are DELICIOUS hot). This place not only has almonds, but they have sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and hazelnuts done in the same way. No fail. Every day. 32 crowns for 50 grams. Not bad!

U Zavoje
Havelska 25, Stare Mesto


You WILL miss this place if you're not careful. It's actually down a little passage that looks like the entrance to a restaurant, but just look for the gorgeous yellow circle that says "syr" (cheese) and you'll be there. This place probably has the absolute hands down BEST assortment of cheese in Prague. The lady there is no nonesense, but speaks very good english and will usually let you sample all sorts of goodies. They have sheep, cow, and goat milk cheeses there. They even have a price list of all the cheeses they have in case you want to check it out. A tasting event goes on every Tuesday as well. My favorite? Small black tome, and raclette.

Havelske Trh,
Havelska, Stare mesto

This open air market is only good during the week. You have to get there around 2 or 3, because the vendors are leaving soon, and they're marking down all their products. On Fridays, this ESPECIALLY happens. I have snagged massive bunches of coriander (cilantro), mint, basil and the like for TEN CROWNS a bunch. They will also mark down peppers, tomatoes, cucmbers, pears, and apples. The mean price per kilo for these? about 12 crowns. It's so cheap. So good. But you really have to go at the right time. Don't even try on the weekends, it's a total rip off.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Lucky Turkey

This past week, there have been many turkeys. And many lucky people. Due to the credit crunch, congress is scrabbling to pass a bill that will bail it out. Having studied economics, I am internally (and oftentimes externally) screaming against this. I'm an Adam Smith, Laissez faire econmist: let the markets do what they will do. Things will balance out eventually.
I also, may be incredibly lucky, or I may be the turkey. You are reading the blog of an almost (within a week probably) sub-prime borrower. I wanted this apartment. I got the apartment. Can I afford the mortgage? Not really. Unless my boyfriend lives with me. And pays rent. Which he has promised. But will he? It remains to be seen...

So for the turkeys, the luckies, and the lucky turkeys, I have a recipe for you. I originally created this recipe last year, for thanksgiving. I was handed a 15.5 pound, 7 kilo turkey and profusely thanked for the next several hours where it would be roasting in my oven. Now, I've cooked, but I've never been responsible for a turkey that will feed about 25 people. Fortunately, after about 6 or 7 hours of all day cooking, I walked into the party, and my turkey (there were 2 others) was immediately named "Lucky". It was golden brown on top, gorgeous pink white underneath, and not a BIT dry. It turns out that the method I used is actually often used in Czech cooking, so it must have been my ancestors subconciously poking at my brain to "do it the right way" I recently recreated lucky, albeit on a much, much MUCH smaller scale! Same results, yummy turkey.

Lucky Turkey

one 2 kilo turkey breast, bone in, skin on
50 g fatty meat (you can use the czech slanina which is essentially just pork fat, extra marbled bacon, or leftover beef/chicken/pork fat that you might have trimmed from other cuts of meat)
1 tbs fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
2 tbs fresh chopped basil
4 cloves of garlic chopped finely
2 small apples cut into cubes
1 large onion cut into cubes

take the fatty meat and fry it in a skillet. You should get a few crispies and a lot of liquid fat in the skillet. Pour it all in a heatproof bowl. Put the bowl in the freezer to quick chill. When the fat has the consistency of soft butter, mix the herbs and garlic in to create a paste-y consistency.

LIBERALLY salt and pepper the turkey. Gently open the skin of the turkey breast, and spread this paste underneath the skin. If you can't get under the skin in some spots, it is ok to insert a knife in, create a pocket, and just stuff some paste in here and there.
Put the turkey in a baking pan. Spread the apples and onions around it. If you'd like, you can pour in some water or white wine, but I've found the juices released are quite good on their own.
Broil uncovered for about 10 minutes. Lower the oven heat to about 175 C, and cover the turkey with aluminium foil. Bake about 45 minutes per kilo. About 10 minutes before baking is finished, uncover again, and broil for crispy skin. If at any point you notice the pan is dry, pour in some wine, water or broth. It probably won't be though.