Saturday, 21 May 2011

Red pepper, tomatoes & tofu farro salad

"This was a lazy weekend. One of those 'eat and sleep' weekend.
No plans or previous arrangements. Just some rest after a busy and restless week."

This was the original incipit of the post I was working on 5 days ago. Then I stopped, because these were the only lines I was able to write at the time. Except for the shopping list.
    Feeling not particularly creative, I just shot some photos - not many in fact - before eating the salad.
    As I said, it was a lazy weekend.
    No wonder this salad is more of a list itself than a recipe: 
    7 lines for the ingredients,
    1 line for the method.
    (Keeping a recipe blog should always be that easy!)
    It came easily: I just opened the fridge and mentally made a list of what happened to be there:
    • a red pepper
    • cherry tomatoes
    • tofu
    • farro
    • black olives
    • capers

    Even though very simple in the making, this dish makes a tasty and colourful alternative to a three-course meal, with its combination of vegetables, grain and high-protein ingredients such as tofu.

    Ingredients (serves 2-3):

    farro: 1 cup - boiled
    red pepper: 1/2 pepper - diced
    cherry tomatoes: 1/2 cup - finely diced
    tofu: 1/2 cup - finely diced
    capers: 3 teaspoons
    black olives: 10
    extra-virgin olive oil: 3 teaspoons
    salt: 1 pinch or more, according taste

    for garnish:


    In a large bowl mix the ingredients, season with oil and salt, toss the salad and garnish with basil leaves.

    Saturday, 14 May 2011

    "'Conviviality' is an attitude of being at ease with life, of openness and ease with being alive and breathing, at ease with being present with what is arising in consciousness. If you grasp the idea, “I should be convivial”, then you miss the point – what I'm saying is merely an encouragement towards trusting, relaxing and letting go. Enjoy life here, open to it rather than endlessly trying to perfect it, which can bind us to a critical attitude. Open to the aversion, let aversion be what it is. I'm not asking you not to be averse to it, but to open to that aversion or restlessness, or whatever positive or negative feelings you have."

    Ajahn Sumedho, “Intuitive Awareness”

    Springtime frollini

    This is what I call a 'save it from the ants' recipe. I am a messy person and it was about time to clean the cupboard and clear off from the shelves the flour leftovers from this winter baking season. While I was on it, I found some cornmeal – about half a cup of it – and some finely ground cornmeal that I had completely forgotten in the back row. It was then the idea came to about baking some cookies, slightly adapting the traditional 'pan de mei' sweet buns recipe?

    'Pan de mei' is a speciality from Lombardy, the Italian region where I was born and raised and where I am still living now. 'Pan de mei' literally means 'millet (mei=miglio) bread (pan=pane)' because the sweet corn buns we eat now where once prepared with millet flour. Nowadays cornmeal is much more popular in northern Italy... corn grows in the sunny and foggy plains of our region and during the summer, here in the countryside at least, you can still walk along beautiful and lush cornfields.

    As for the elder flowers suggested in the traditional recipe, plenty of them are blossoming in the woods around here right now, so I didn't need to go too far to get the ingredient. I picked only a small bunch of flowers, because I know they wither have to use them right away.
    You can omit the flowers, if you can't find them, but the flavour of the cookies will change completely. The flowers add an unusual, delicate and sweet note to this recipe.

    You can mix or knead the dough by hand or using a mixer. I usually knead by hand because I like to put my hands into the dough, and feel how the texture of the different ingredients change as they gradually melt together and become one. The 'kneading-by-hand' process is also relaxing and rewarding, a sort of meditation session at the end of which you can lick your fingers...

    all-purpose flour: 150 gr
    finely ground cornmeal: 300 gr
    cornmeal: 100 gr
    blond cane sugar: 100 gr
    softened butter: 150 gr
    yeast: 15 gr
    eggs: 3
    elder flowers head: 15 gr
    water: 50 ml
    salt: 1 pinch

    for garnish:

    icing sugar: 1 tablespoon
    elder flowers: 1 handful

    Remove the elder flower heads from their stems. Carefully wash and drain them. Delicately dry off the flowers with blotting paper before use.
    In a big bowl sift the flour and cornmeal together with salt then add the elder flower heads, the softened butter, the eggs, the sugar, and the yeast previously dissolved in warm water. Mix well and form a soft dough. If the dough seems a little too wet, sprinkle on a bit more flour. If it's not soft enough add some water. Cover with a clean dishcloth and let it rise in a warm place for about one hour or till it has doubled in size.
    Roll the dough 1 cm thick on a floured surface and cut with a cookie cutter. I used a flower shaped cookie cutter, but you can choose the one you like or have handy at home.
    Bake into a pre-heated oven to 200° for 15-20 minutes. When cold dust with icing sugar and serve with some elder flowers.

    Sunday, 1 May 2011

    Double Chocolate and Coconut Muffins

    Saturday. Late afternoon.
    A rainy and homely afternoon.
    The house is unusually quiet: M.'s playing around the dining room feeding and nursing dolls and puppets.
    In a few hours a couple of friends and their 4-year-old kid will come over for dinner and I'd like to cook a special but simple treat for the children and parents.
    Shall we make chocolate muffins?”, I suggest.
    My daughter's face brightens up.
    May I help you, mum?”, she asks, opening the cupboard and looking for muffin paper cases.
    She loves weighing ingredients, greasing the muffins tray, and – above all – licking the spoon after I pour the melted chocolate into the batter...
    It is something my mother allowed me to do when I was a little girl, and I still remember that moment as the best part of it all...the moment I looked forward to... I guess it's the same for my daughter...

    This is a simple, lactose-free recipe. Once cooked, you can keep the muffins in a tin for 3 or 4 days. Just in case you don't eat them all in the first 24 hours...

    Ingredients (for 12 muffins):

    flour: 1 and ½ cup (230 gr.)
    eggs: 2
    blond sugar cane: ¼ cup (100 gr.)
    sunflower oil: ½ cup
    oat milk drink: ½ cup
    (or, alternately unsweetened soya milk)
    coconut cream: 2 tablespoons (45-60 gr)
    dark chocolate: 60 gr, melted
    baking powder: 2 teaspoons, scant
    cocoa powder: 4 tablespoons
    coconut powder: 2 tablespoons (for garnish)

    Preheat the oven to 200° C. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tray and line with muffin paper cases.
    Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a large bowl.
    Place the eggs, the sugar, the coconut cream and oil in the food processor bowl and whisk until frothy, then gradually whisk in the milk and the melted chocolate. Pour the dry ingredients into the food processor bowl and blend until the ingredients are combined but the batter is still lumpy.
    Spoon mixture into muffin cases and put the tray in the oven for at least 20 minutes until the muffins are dark and cracked at the top (a cake tester inserted into centre should come out clean).
    Gently remove the muffins and cool on a wire rack.
    Dust with coconut powder and serve.

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