Sunday, October 5, 2014

Baked Zucchini with Spicy Tomatoes

The application of a little caramelizing heat brings out the best in these tender baby zucchini making sure they can still compete with the spicy tomatoes and feta cheese baked on top.  This dish is great as a vegetarian main or as a side dish. 

What’s your weakness?
I love a Cheeto or Dorito as much as the next person. Okay, okay, you’ve got me. I probably love them more. I’m not a big sweet eater so fatty and salty are definitely my dietary weak spots. That said, if I can add cheese to a vegetable dish – everybody saw my Sunday Supper potato chard bake a couple of weeks ago, right? – then my needs are satisfied in a much healthier manner.

This dish of baby zucchini topped with spicy tomatoes, feta cheese and crunchy pumpkin seeds was so good that we had it as a main course one night and delighted in it as a side dish the very next night. I was sad when it was gone.

The “unprocessed” challenge
This week Sunday Supper is featuring recipes that forgo the weird chemical ingredients that no one can pronounce, using just whole foods in their mostly natural state, if you don’t count things like pasteurizing milk to kill the harmful bacteria or making cheese out of it. I guess technically those are “processed” but, as far as I’m concerned, that’s in a good way. Our host this week is DB from Crazy Foodie Stunts and he got his inspiration for this theme from Andrew Wilder’s October Unprocessed Challenge. Whether you are willing to take the challenge or not, I'm sure we can all agree that if we can't say the ingredient or spell it, we probably shouldn't be eating very much of it!

These zucchini with spicy tomatoes, on the other hand, we will be eating more often.

1 lb 2 oz or 510g baby zucchini
1 lb 2 oz or 510g ripe tomatoes
1 small onion (about 3 oz or 85g)
2 red chilies
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 oz or 100g feta (I like one that is made with sheep’s milk but use your favorite.)
1/4 cup or 20g pumpkin seeds

Cut the stems off of your little zucchini and then halve them lengthwise.

Chop your onions and tomatoes and mince the chilies and garlic.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a non-stick skillet and fry the zucchini halves until they are browned nicely on both sides.

Put them in a baking dish in a single layer.

Add the other tablespoon of olive oil to the pan along with the onion, garlic and chilies. Sauté for a few minutes until they soften.

Add in the chopped tomatoes, the smoked paprika and the sugar. Cook for about seven or eight minutes over a medium heat until the tomatoes start breaking down.

Spoon the spicy tomatoes over the zucchini in the ovenproof dish.

Crumble the feta over the tomatoes and sprinkle everything with the pumpkin seeds.

Bake in your preheated oven for about half an hour.

It’s done with the feta is nicely browning and the dish is bubbling hot and brown all around the edges.


Check out all the great “unprocessed” recipes we have for you today!

Alluring Appetizers and Snacks
Stunning Sides
Enticing Entreés
Decadent Desserts

Friday, October 3, 2014

Caramelized Shallot and Anchovy Puff Pastry Tart

This Caramelized Shallot and Anchovy Puff Pastry Tart is savory tarte tatin made with caramelized shallots, anchovies and wine and puff pastry. It is an elegant main course or appetizer. 

Food Lust People Love: This Caramelized Shallot and Anchovy Puff Pastry Tart is savory tarte tatin made with caramelized shallots, anchovies and wine and puff pastry. It is an elegant main course or appetizer.
Sure, you could slow cook whole shallots until they are caramelized and sweet, add wine and anchovies for extra flavor and just eat them with a spoon, but why not bake them, topped with puff pastry tarte tartin style and make a meal of them?

Let the shallots shine
Technically speaking, the anchovies make this non-vegetarian so if you want to leave them out and add in a little salt, feel free. My goal was not to have a meat-free meal but to showcase the wonderful French shallots I can afford here from time to time. What I mean is, they are almost always available but sometimes the cost is so crazy that I can’t possibly justify it. But summer is shallot-harvesting season in France so the prices have dropped to a more reasonable level, even in Dubai. In fact, a 250g (almost 9 oz) bag of these beauties were on sale at my local supermarket for just a little more than one dollar last week. How could I not take advantage?

If you’ve never had the opportunity to cook with proper French shallots, do seek them out. Their flavor is robust, some might even say strong, but they are less sharp than their fellow alliums, like onions and garlic. They are beautifully sweet when caramelized and divine chopped finely in a vinaigrette dressing. I fell in love with them when we lived in Paris, along with skinny little green beans, stinky cheese, bargain-basement Côtes du Rhône and, especially, a certain little blue-eyed blond we named Cecilie. Oh, yes, Paris was good to us.

No shallots on hand?
Can you make this tart with normal onions? Of course, you can. I substitute them all the time when a recipe calls for shallots, but just cut the onions up into wedges and keep an eye on them as they caramelize. You don’t want them to burn.

I served this beautiful savory tart with a big casserole dish of baked zucchini topped with spicy tomatoes and crumbled feta. I’ll share that recipe on Sunday when our Sunday Supper group brings you fresh whole food recipes for the theme we are calling “unprocessed.” If you are trying to eliminate multisyllabic ingredients that sound like chemicals from your daily diet, you’ll want to check back this weekend.

Meanwhile, if you just caramelize the shallots and eat them with a spoon, you’ll get no judgment from me. Carry on.

1 lb 10 oz or 750g shallots
Olive oil
1/2 cup or 120ml wine – red or white as long as it’s dry
5 or 6 anchovy fillets
Black pepper
8 oz or 230g ready made butter puff pastry

Optional to serve: crème fraîche or sour cream

Peel each shallot from the top.

Now, gently whittle off the roots with a sharp knife to keep the shallot whole.

In an ovenproof pan, drizzle a little olive oil and a little water and add the peeled, whole shallots. You want them to fit fairly snuggly because they will shrink a bit as they soften.

Slow cook them over a low flame with tight-fitting lid on for about an hour. Check on them every once in a while and add a few drops more water, if necessary. Shake the pan or push the shallots gently around to make sure they aren’t sticking but don’t break them apart. We want them to soften and caramelize, never burn.

After an hour or more of simmering, add your five or six anchovies, broken up into pieces and then the wine.

Add a generous sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Turn the fire up just a little bit and cook the shallots with lid off until the pan is almost dry.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 400°F or 200°C and take the pan off the stove.  Allow the shallots to cool for about 15 minutes while your oven preheats.

Unroll your puff pastry and cover pan with it.

Tuck the edges under all the way around the shallots.

Cut a few holes in the pastry to let the steam out.

Bake in your preheated oven until pastry is puffed and golden, about 15-20 minutes.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then invert on serving dish.

Food Lust People Love: This Caramelized Shallot and Anchovy Puff Pastry Tart is savory tarte tatin made with caramelized shallots, anchovies and wine and puff pastry. It is an elegant main course or appetizer.

Serve each slice with a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream, if desired. Although the cream is rich, somehow it complements the silky sweet shallots. I’m not even going to tell you because I’m sure you already know, but pour yourself a glass of wine as well.

Food Lust People Love: This Caramelized Shallot and Anchovy Puff Pastry Tart is savory tarte tatin made with caramelized shallots, anchovies and wine and puff pastry. It is an elegant main course or appetizer.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cheese-Stuffed Soft Pretzels #FoodieExtravaganza

These pretzels are a bit fiddly to stuff, but the chewy texture created by the melted cheese inside is well worth the extra effort. And, honestly, it took very little time. 

Bread Making 101
My husband is a good sport. Last year I signed us up for a bread making class, so that we could accompany a couple of good friends who are interested in culinary pursuits. We ate breakfast, drank coffee and took notes while German master baker, Chef Rainer Scharold mixed flour and yeast and butter into a wonderful soft brioche dough, all the while explaining those steps but expounding on the virtues of real German pretzels. He asserted that the lye bath before baking was absolutely essential to achieve their proper golden brown color, then he dashed our hopes by saying it was not available in the UAE. So, when it was our turn to get our hands on the dough, we made little braided brioche loaves instead. I must admit that part of the fun for me was watching my husband roll out his three strands and then braid them, not his usual métier. He’s more of a hammer and nails get-things-done type.

Such concentration! That's him in the middle.

Much to my delight, I found a short video of our very class while searching for information on the chef so I'll put a link at the bottom of this post for anyone who wants to watch.

Foodie Extravaganza celebrates the pretzel
The point of this story is that when the “pretzel” theme for this month’s Foodie Extravaganza Party was announced, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make traditional German ones here without lye, but I had learned from the bread class that an egg wash helped with the browning. That would have to do. And instead of boiling them in water before baking, as some folks on the internet suggested, it occurred to me that I could probably add chewiness to my pretzels from the inside by stuffing the dough with cheese.

I was right. These were fantabulous straight out of the oven but they also made wonderful sandwiches in the next couple of days, sliced in half and filled with roast chicken or salami and mustard with even more cheese.

For the dough:
1 1/2 cups or 360ml warm water
1/4oz or 7g active instant yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup or 120g whole wheat
1 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups or 345g strong white bread flour plus extra for rolling and kneading

For the filling:
7 oz or 200g Tomme de Brebis (a semi-hard cheese made from sheep's milk) or other strong cheese - A good sharp cheddar would work well too. I used a little bit of this for sprinkling on before baking as well.

To finish:
1 large egg, beaten
Sprinkling of cheese, optional

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and the yeast and add the warm water. Stir or swish the bowl around to mix the yeast in. Leave for a few minutes to make sure your yeast starts foaming up, which means it’s still active.

Add in the cup of whole wheat flour and the salt. Mix well.

Add in the bread flour a cup or so at a time, mixing well in between. You should end up with a sturdy but pliant dough.

Knead thoroughly for at least five to seven minutes.

Set aside to rest, covered in cling film, for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate your cheese and prepare your baking pan by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Now use a sharp knife to divide the ball into eight equal pieces.

Roll them out into sausages about 22 in or 56cm long and then flatten the sausages.

Add healthy pinches of grated cheese all along the middle.

Start at one side and pinch the dough together the whole length of the roll, enclosing the cheese, and trying not to leave any air inside.  Fold the seam over just a little to make sure it won’t split right back open.

Shaping the pretzel
Make an upside down U shape with the dough roll and cross the ends over.

Now cross them under again to make a little twist.

Bring the crossed ends up and lay them on the circle of dough and move the pretzel to your prepared baking sheet. Continue until all the the pretzels are done.

Make sure to leave some room between them on the cookie sheet for when the dough rises. My cookie sheet isn’t very large, so I put the first four on the prepared cookie sheet and then put the next four on another piece of parchment so I could slide that easily to the cookie sheet when the first batch were baked.

Brush the pretzels all over with some of the beaten egg and sprinkle on grated cheese, if desired.

Put the pretzels in a warm place to rise for about 15 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 425°F or 220°C.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until desired brown color is reached.


Dough adapted from this recipe at Sally’s Baking Addiction.

The cheesy inside

We are a group of bloggers who love to blog about food! And each month we all incorporate one main ingredient or theme into a recipe. This month we are celebrating pretzels. We hope you all enjoy our delicious pretzels this month and come see what next month's new ingredient or theme is. If you would like to join our group and blog along with us, come join our Facebook page Foodie Extravaganza.  We would love to have you!

15 Pretzel Recipes via Foodie Extravaganza 600x600.jpg

If you are a fan of pretzels, this month’s Foodie Extravaganza, hosted by Lauren of From Gate to Plate,  is right up your twisted alley!

The video - I'm in the purple t-shirt.