Lovely Little Palmiers

palmiers

Colder days, warm beverages. A cup of steaming coffee, a pot of tea, some mulled cider warms my cold cold heart hands. Hmmm. When I have the time, I try to make it a ritual by drinking from pretty vintage porcelain cups and providing a bite-sized sweet treat too.

One such delicacy I particularly adore is Palmiers. These elegant French biscuits are made from rolled puff pastry and regular granulated sugar. Flaky, buttery layers, crispy caramelized crunch – they are literally melt-on-the-tongue goodness. Very fancy on a cookie tray yet despite their impressive nature, palmiers are super easy to put together.

Let me show you!

Admittedly, puff pastry is not easy to make. Or quick. That’s why I always keep store-bought, all-butter puff pastry in my freezer. The dough is the hard part and since we already got that covered, the rest is a cinch!

Although the name translates to palm tree, I prefer making them a wee bit different from the traditional shape and form delicate little hearts instead. Also, authentically they are filled with just sugar, but if you could think of a creative variant to fold into your palmiers (like cinnamon sugar, maybe?), go ahead. Just don’t tell the French I encouraged it. 🙂

First you need to thaw your puff pastry completely, which I do by transferring it from the freezer to the fridge and let it stay there overnight. Then, if you weren’t savvy enough to get the ready rolled, you roll out your puff pastry to a rectangle.

Now grab your sugar container and try shutting the part of your brain out that screams diabetes. Sprinkle the dough generously (very generously: remember, we want caramel!) with sugar and gently press into the dough to stick. Flip puff pastry sheet carefully and repeat on the other side as well.

Mark the center of the pastry sheet lengthwise (fold in half if you don’t trust your eye), and make 2 folds from each side leaving some space in the center. Roll one fold on top of the other to form a log.

To make the cuts clean and easy, refrigerate log for 30 min or pop it in the freezer for 10. Cut firmed up log to thin (0,5-1 cm) pieces. The thinner they are, the crispier they will be.

Before you place them on a baking sheet, be a love and roll them in more sugar. Well of course, both sides! To shape them into hearts, pull the two ends slightly away. Repeat with all your pastries and place them on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

shaping palmiers

Bake at 200°C (400°F) for 25-30 min, flipping them at the halfway mark to properly brown both sides. Watch these carefully, they are thin and can burn quickly with all that sugar. Be sure to cool them completely to give them a chance to fully crisp up (and to prevent third-degree lip burns).

Your palmiers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, but… 1-2-3 gone! Quite hard to resist.

Palmiers

  • Difficulty: easy
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Perfect French Palmiers pastry. Makes about 30.

Ingredients

1 all-butter, ready rolled sheet of puff pastry, thawed

granulated white sugar

Directions

  1. Roll out puff pastry sheet and sprinkle generously with sugar. Press gently for sugar to stick to pastry.
  2. Flip pastry over, and repeat sprinkling and pressing.
  3. Mark center lengthwise. Make 2 folds from each side, leaving some space in the center.
  4. Roll one fold on top of the other to form a log.
  5. Refrigerate log for 30 min to firm up.
  6. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F), line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Cut dough to ½-1 cm thin pieces, roll both sides of cookies in sugar.
  8. Shape cookies by pulling two ends slightly away, place on baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 10-15 min, flip to bake evenly on both sides, than bake for another 10-15 min, watching pastries carefully.
  10. Cool before serving. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

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Baked Beet Chips, a Healthy Swap

baked beet chipsYesterday, the Husband and I officially strated mulled wine season, but that’s not exactly what I’m here for today. I have a confession to make.

I don’t really know how to put this, but I don’t like potato chips. Yup, that’s right. There was a time in my life when I thought I did and I snacked on them like everyone else, but they gross me out now.

What’s wrong with her I hear you ask, but it’s what it is: the thought of that rancid, oily smell and overpowering artificial flavors of the commercial stuff got me to skip the greasy bag. When I want potatoes, I make them for myself.

Cravings don’t mess around though. Speaking of nibbling on crispy and crunchy, you must have seen the veggie chips trend. Carrots, kale, sweet potato, plantains, zucchini, radishes, even tomato. And beets. Don’t forget the beets!

I love beets, but that wasn’t always the case. As a kid, you encounter the dreary pickled variety in kindergarten, and that’s the point when most of us come to hate beets for the rest of our lives. (Mind you, pickled beets are really yum, just not those they serve at the cafeteria.)

Then you become a grown-ass adult, learn to admit when you’re wrong and revise your opinion on a bunch of matters. I did that with beets, among other things.

No, beets don’t taste like dirt. If you still think they do, you need to grow the eff up and learn to like them because beets are really amazing! Ok, they are unsightly and stain your hands, but also extremely healthy, crazy delicious, and more versatile than you ever could have imagined.

Let’s go over the health benefits of consuming beetroot real quick:

It may help reduce your blood pressure due to high nitrate levels, decrease the risk of diabetes thanks to a strong antioxidant and promote healthy digestion because of the fibers. Beets are also packed with vitamins and minerals and are anti inflammatory. Some people even call beets superfood!

They can be roasted, steamed, boiled, pickled, or just eaten raw. And flavoring them up is half the fun! You will feel so much better about crunching away on a delicious, real-food snack than reaching for that bag of chips. It’s so easy too!

baked beet chipsbaked beet chips

Baked Beet Chips

  • Difficulty: easy
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Healthy veggie chips bursting with flavor. Serves 2.

Ingredients

4-5 medium-sized beets

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

1 fresh sprig of rosemary finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

Directions

  1. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, preheat oven to 175°C (350°F).
  2. Wash and peel beets (it’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves so they don’t stain your hands).
  3. Using a handheld slicer or mandoline, thinly slice beets.
  4. In a large bowl, toss beets with the oil, salt, black pepper and rosemary to coat evenly.
  5. Arrange beets in a single layer on the baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 20 min, flip beets over to bake evenly on both sides, and rotate baking trays as well.
  7. Bake until sides are dried out, curled up and beets are lighter in color, about an additional 20-25 min. They will crisp up as they cool. Enjoy fresh and warm!

Love,

Fruzsi

Maple Walnut Pudding Chômeurs to Help Embrace the Fact It’s October

maple pudding chomeurs

Warning: Monday rant ahead!

I mean, weren’t we suffering from a heat wave just yesterday? And it’s October now? (*Has mild nervous breakdown)

Anyway. The following recipe is adapted from The Bojon Gourmet. A seriously mouth-watering photo of Alanna’s pudding chômeurs popped up on my Pinterest feed a few weeks ago, and I instantly said je veux!

No, I actually did not say that. I don’t speak French. But I still wanted to try them really badly. 🙂 I also felt like writing a post on chômeurs, despite the fact this dessert has nothing to do with Hungarian cuisine. Sorry not sorry, and you won’t be either!

Maple syrup is not a pantry staple in Hungary. I also believe it’s safe for me to say that we, as a nation know very little, if anything at all about French Canadian cuisine.

Which is about to change with this one!

As I’ve learnt, these puddings were invented during the Great Depression when they were presumably used to bring comfort to the out-of-work Québécois (chômeur stands for unemployed in French). Once poor man’s food, these soft, spongy cakes on top of a silky sauce flavored with maple syrup, coffee, vanilla and brown butter are rather brilliant.

Best enjoyed warm, chômeurs are simple to put together and even reheat beautifully (not that ther’s even a chance of having leftovers).

Although the recipe called for it, I neither keep chestnut flour, nor rice flour at hand. I always have walnut meal though, so that’s what I used instead and it did not disappoint. (Sidenote: nut meals are ground with the skin on, while nut flours are made with blanched nuts)

I fine tuned the recipe a little bit further by throwing greenwalnut liqueur into the mix. Plus, I simply forgot to add the vegetable oil to the batter, which I do not regret as the cake turned out perfect without it, so I won’t even list it in the ingredients.

Should’ve seen our faces when we slipped the first bite into our mouths!

Maple Walnut Pudding Chômeurs

  • Difficulty: easy
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A French Canadian dessert for the approaching colder days. Yields 6.

Ingredients

For the sauce:

55 g unsalted butter

½ cup maple syrup

¼ cup freshly brewed espresso

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp greenwalnut liqueur (optional, use 1 tsp vanilla if you don’t have it)

For the cake batter:

½ cup AP flour

½ cup walnut meal

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp fine salt

2 large eggs

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup maple syrup

powdered sugar and whipped cream to serve

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175 °C (350 °F). Place 6 ramekins on a baking sheet and grease them lightly.
  2. To make the sauce, place butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally. When butter foams up, turns golden and smells nutty (3-5 min), remove from heat. Carefully pour in maple syrup, coffee, vanilla and greenwalnut liqueur (if using), transfer to a measuring pitcher and set aside.
  3. To make the batter, sift together flour and walnut meal with the salt and baking powder into a bowl. Make a well in the mixture and add the eggs, buttermilk and maple syrup. Whisk until well-combined.
  4. Scoop the batter into the ramekins, dividing evenly. After giving it a good stir, pour sauce over the batter, also dividing evenly (it will pour straight through the batter which is fine).
  5. Bake puddings until puffed and golden, about 20 min. Remove from oven and let cool a little before serving, sprinkled with powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream on the side. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

Homemade Appleasauce Because It’s Apple Season (Enthusiastic Thumbs Up)

apples on linen

On this climate, apples are one of, if not the most widely available and cheap fruits. I don’t know a single soul who doesn’t like apples, and with colder days approaching, the idea of a warm slice of anything with apple and cinnamon gets stuck in my head like earworms.

Cinnamon-apple is our pumpkin pie spice: come fall, every product gets this flavor update from cereal to yogurt to porridge to rice pudding to bubble gum to scented toilet paper. No kidding!

And while the whole health picture just might be more complex than eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away, apples undeniably supply nutrition vital for good health.

This fruit is a great source of natural fiber that lowers risk of heart disease by decreasing bad cholesterol levels. A serving can supply much of your daily vitamin C needs, plus the flavonoids in apples reduce inflammation, regulate blood pressure, and reduce excessive fat production in the liver. Also, phytonutrients in them work as antioxidants.

Not bad from the humble apple, huh?

If you have a few that you won’t be able to eat before they get grainy, soft and wrinkled, or you simply want to stock up on a delicious, healthy and versatile food item, turn them into applesauce! It’s inexpensive, takes no time to make and keeps well canned or frozen as well.

Commercial applesauce is not a common sight in Hungarian supermarkets, but I don’t mind at all. The advantage of making my own at home is that I can choose my favorite apples and make the applesauce as sweet or as tart as I prefer.

Applesauce contains only about 100 calories per serving (if you choose to make it unsweetened), and while most of those calories come from sugar, it’s the naturally occurring fructose.

There’s no fat in it, yet applesauce is a great substitute for fats in baked goods. Try swapping half of a recipe’s margarine, butter, shortening or oil component with applesauce to reduce calories while adding fiber. The finished baked item will have a tender, crumbly texture and a slightly sweeter flavor.

As I said, applesauce is really easy to make. This recipe is for 4,5 kg (10 pounds) of apples, which will yield somewhere around 3 to 3,5 litres (7 pints) applesauce. I used golden delicious apples this time.

homemade applesauce

Here’s how to make applesauce at home:

Wash, peel, and core apples. To prevent browning, slice apples into water containing ascorbic acid (1 tsp to a gallon of cold water).

Place drained slices in a heavy bottomed pot, add ½ cup water. Stirring occasionally to prevent burning, heat quickly until tender (5 to 20 minutes, depending on maturity and variety). Don’t overcook, it’s not a jam.

Blitz with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Reheat sauce to boiling (it will spatter, so be careful) and add the juice of 1 lemon, or 1 tsp citric acid to serve as a natural preservative.

Fill sterilized jars with hot sauce, leaving ½-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in boiling water for 15 min. Applesauce can be frozen as well.

Traditionally, applesauce is eaten along cooked meat or roasts around here, but I’m beginning to see it in desserts as well. I like it either way. If you can’t imagine applesauce with a slice of roast beef, give my healthy oat bars recipe an autumn update substituting the fig jam with applesauce heavily flavored with homemade apple pie spice, or try apple pie baked oatmeal for a delicious and filling breakfast.

Love,

Fruzsi

Title image by Lindsey S. Love

A Short Introduction to Sourdough and Pre-ferments

bread dough

Artisanal sourdough breads are all the hype, and rightly so. In fact, it might seem like if you’re even a wee bit serious about your bread, sourdough is the only way to go.

Utilizing sourdough starters and preferments will no doubt take your game to the next level: the complexity, the depth of flavor, the better texture a starter gives your bread simply can not be compared with anything else. Even the shelf life will be increased!

Starters do require time and commitment though. They are the challenge to top all challenges, and therefore can be a little intimidating at first. I am quite new to the art myself, but I thought it would be a good idea to share the basics in a not-too-scientific way to help you decide whether baking bread with starters is for you.

Let’s talk about yeast first!

Before commercial baker’s yeast was developed in Vienna, Austria in the 19th century (with Hungarian high milled grains, no less!), bakers had been using old-dough leavens to bake bread.

These are based on propagating wild yeast. Wild yeast refers to the natural yeasts and bacteria found in our surroundings: they float in the air and stick to the surface of objects. Basically when making a sourdough starter, you provide an environment sufficient for cultivating wild yeast. (The sour taste is the result of acetic and lactic acids produced by fermenting sugar.)

Believe me, this is completely achievable!  All that is required is flour, water and time, the yeast is already there around you, wherever you live.

Mix 50% bread flour and 50% water into a batter in a non-reactive, see-through container (note that the volume will double), place in a cool environment with no direct sunlight.

24 to 72 hours later your sourdough should be bubbling due to CO2 gas produced. At this point, the yeast population is still small and weak, not really ready for baking. From now on, every day (preferably at the same time) you’ll need to take out half of the starter and discard, then replace the pulled out amount with 1:1 fresh flour and water. This is called ‘feeding’ the sourdough.

In 7 to 10 days, you’ll have a batch that’s strong enough and ready to bake with. If you’re not sure about the strength of your sourdough, the float test will help: put a small amount in water; if it floats, you’re good to go.

As I said, it’s a commitment with constant monitoring and maintenance, but you’ll get the most out of a loaf. And you only really have to do this once, after the first 7-day period, one feeding is enough weekly to maintain the sourdough.

Still not sure if you’re ready to take on the challenge? That’s totally fine! The next best thing is using preferments. This also needs some forethought, but it’s ready in 12-16 hours at room temperature without the feeding process, and the bread will still have a wonderful aroma to it.

Preferments are flour, water and yeast mixtures, allowed an initial fermentation. Commercial yeasts (used when making wine, beer and bread) are quicker acting, take shorter to propagate, and leaven your bread quicker compared to wild yeast.

There are three main types of preferments. When mixing equal parts flour and water with 0,2 to 1% yeast, you’ll get a 100% hydration poolish-style starter.

The old dough method is more convenient when baking the same recipe on a regular basis: about 1/3 of the bread dough is reserved to levin the next batch. This old dough can be stored 8-12 hours at room temperature, or up to 3 days refrigerated. It can also be frozen for up to 6 months, in which case it will need to thaw fully before using.

Last but not least, the method that makes for results closest to sourdough: a stiff, bread dough like, low hydration biga. This Italian-style starter is more stable, contains more acid, and takes 16-24 hours to ferment. Made of flour, 60% water, and 2% yeast, once it has expanded by about double its original volume, biga can be incorporated into your bread dough. It stays fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days, and can be frozen as well (again, it needs to thaw completely to be active).

Biga is what I use mostly. I make batches with 500 g bread flour, 300 ml water and 10 g fresh yeast. When it’s ready, I divide the dough into 200 g portions, put them in ziplock bags and freeze. This amount makes enough starter for 4 loaves.

Ready to dive headlong into sourdough, or play it safe with biga? I’d love to hear your opinion! Also, share any experiences you have with starters!

Love,

Fruzsi

Photo by Sanda Vuckovic Pagaimo

Operation Save What You Can: Homemade Flavored Salts

homemade flavored salt

If you have a herb garden, chances are this is the last call – they will start wasting away soon as the weather slowly changes. Here’s a great opportunity to save some of the fresh sprigs: make flavored salts with them!

Food enthusiasts like you and me will love these finishing salts because they add a pop of flavor to everything they touch. In this post I’m sharing a way to take your dishes from good to oh my faster than you can say fűszersó (flavored salt). DIY seasoned salts are a tasty and elegant addition to almost any food and considerably more economical to make at home than buying at high-end grocers and specialty spice stores.

And who wouldn’t want to add a layer of complexity to just about any meal and expand the flavors that are already present?

If you are family or a friend of mine, you know you can expect food gifts from me. These would make lovely housewarming presents, wedding favors or holiday sets as well.

homemade flavored salt

Infusing the salt is done by simply mixing it with whatever flavor you choose in a food processor, mortar and pestle, coffee grinder or simply by hand.

What type of salt should be used? It’s up to you! Coarse, flaky salt adds flair when sprinkled over dishes just before serving and is preferable for texture and appearance, while fine salt is more useful in cooking.

As for the herbs and spices to season salt with, the flavor possibilities  are limited only by your imagination. My favorite combinations include pairings like rosemary and lemon, thyme and lavender, dried mushrooms and sage, garlic and black pepper or chilies and lime.

Ingredients may be fresh or dried (a food dehydrator like this from Hamilton Beach is a good investment, you’ll be surprised how versatile an appliance it is). You may leave the sprigs of herbs whole, or chop to small pieces. Citrus rind can be grated or peeled into strips prior to drying, or you could also use slices.

Salt is a natural preserver, so your flavored salts, stored in an airtight container, can be used indefinitely (note that over time intensity of flavor will diminish). To avoid clumping, spread out mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and air dry or dry in the oven at low temperature, stirring occasionally. Once the moisture is gone and salt has cooled, use a fork or your fingers to break up before packing up in a nice container. Ideally, let it sit at least a few days before using.

As a rule of thumb, work with a ratio of 1 teaspoon of flavoring per 1/4 cup salt.

homemade flavored salt

homemade flavored salt

Now let’s hear it from you! What blends do you have in mind, and what are you going to use flavored salt on?

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders, what I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion. I am not being compensated through sponsorship or gifts, but this post contains an affiliate link: I may get a commission for purchases made through it. Thank you for helping me earn a little something on the side!*

Transitioning to Fall With More Baking: Almond Butter Babka

almond butter babka

I am sad that summer is over but at the same time so very excited about fall! Not fully committed to waking up in the dark yet (it’s happening though… downside to being an early bird). Mornings are finally cooler and after the record-braking temps of past months, I actually enjoy putting on sleeves.

I’ve been reluctant to turn on the oven for weeks, but now things are back to normal: bread baking Saturdays are on again, and we started craving other baked goods too.

That’s the short story of my Almond Butter Babka, a really rich and tasty sweet bread we indulge in for breakfast every once in a while. It’s perfect alongside tea or coffee, but it’s by no means limited to morning consumption. Quite difficult to stop at just one slice too (I warned you!).

The history of babka is certainly uncertain, but it’s origins likely lay at distant generations of Eastern European Jews. It’s most consumed and associated with the culture in the Baltics, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus (the initial name was likely baba meaning grandmother in Slavic, later shifting to the diminutive form babka).

The well-known chocolate version seems to be a mid-century American Jewish invention: the dough is spread with cocoa, then rolled up tightly, twisted, folded, and finally baked into the rich loaves we love today.

This time I thought chocolate would be just too decadent though (WTF?), so it got filled with almond butter instead. Beyond being packed with protein, fiber and good fats, almond butter is also loaded with antioxidants, magnesium, iron, and potassium. My sister supplies me with Costco’s store brand Kirkland Signature Creamy Almond Butter which is an all natural, non-GMO, no sugar and no sodium added product. Just roasted almonds, and the price is decent too.

Unfortunately none of this is making your babka any healthier. At all. Plus, I sprinkled it with sugar too. Oh well 🙂 On the plus side, almond butter adds some serious sophistication – a deep, earthy flavor, while the sugar caramelises for a slightly crunchy sensation.

almond butter babka

The dough is the same egg and butter enriched brioche like the one I shared earlier in the post on braided challah, so I won’t repeat myself. At first, making the sliced braid might seem tricky, but it’s actually easier done than said. Practice makes perfect, and oh boy you’ll want to try this again and again!

The steps:

  1. Roll dough into a 1 cm (around 1/3”) thick rectangle.
  2. Spread with almond butter and sprinkle with packed dark brown sugar, leaving about an inch bare around the border.
  3. Starting on the long side, roll up tightly into a log.
  4. With a sharp knife, cut log in half lengthwise. It might get a bit messy, but don’t worry if the filling starts oozing out a bit. Just hold together the best you can, it’s still going to be delicious.
  5. Now you have two strips of filled dough. Pinch two ends together, and twist the logs around each other cut side up 2-3 times. Pinch ends together too.
  6. Place in a loaf pan, let rise, then bake as directed. Enjoy!

almond butter babka

almond butter babka

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders, what I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion. I am not being compensated through sponsorship or gifts, but this post contains an affiliate link: I may get a commission for purchases made through it. Thank you for helping me earn a little something on the side!*

Illegally Delicious Plum Preserves Infused with Tonka Bean

plums in paper bag

I was raving about plums almost exactly a year ago and guess what, I’m still a huge fan of this slightly overlooked stone fruit. Since they are in season, you can get them on the cheap now and that’s exactly what I did.

The result: a new addition to my rapidly expanding jam collection. This time, it’s a thick plum preserve with no added sugar and an extra layer of flavor thanks to shavings of a firm, dark brown and somewhat wrinkly seed resembling a woody raisin: the tonka bean.

I haven’t even heard about this spice until my mother-in-law gave me a few pieces recently. Have you? This is what I’ve found out since:

This haute cuisine ingredient is actually the seed of the cumaru or kumaru tree, a plant native to Central America and Northern South America.

tonka beans

Tonka beans have been banned by the FDA for sale in the U.S. as a food item because they contain coumarin, a chemical that is believed to cause liver problems. In extreme concentrations, that is: at least 30 entire tonka beans would need to be eaten to approach levels reported as toxic, when a single bean is enough to flavor 50 servings of food.

Coumarin has since been found to occur naturally in cinnamon, lavender, licorice and other commonly eaten plants too by the way, which are, to my knowledge, still freely available. Seems to me as a rather overreaching ban, no?

“Dreaded” coumarin is responsible for the seed’s unique, complex and very pleasant odor coveted by the perfume industry for centuries: a rich, heady, fruity aroma somewhat similar to vanilla. Just the twist my humble plums needed! Lucky it’s legal here.

I wanted this jam to be not sweet. I’d like to try it with meat (duck and game come to mind instantly) and use it in desserts that call for some tartness. When you don’t add sugar, you need to increase the cooking time a great deal to ensure your jam won’t spoil. And that’s where a crock pot comes into play: the low and slow temps and the nonstick pan allows you not to stand next to the batch all day.

It’s hard to tell the exact time it takes for the plums to break down completely and thicken, but be advised it’s not a quick process. I turned the slow cooker on early on a Saturday morning, and it was already getting dark outside when I sealed the jars. It’s time intensive, but not labour intensive in return.

The washed, pitted and halved plums go in, the machine is set on low with the lid on. Every now and then you check on it to make sure it’s simmering slowly and not catching. As the preserve starts to thicken, you need to stir more frequently. Approaching the end of cooking time, grate a tonka bean with a microplane, as you would with nutmeg, to infuse the jam with the exotic notes. After preserves reach desired consistency, transfer to sterile jars and seal.

Love,

Fruzsi

Plums in paper bag hoto by Katrín Björk

Tonka beans photo by Rebecka G. Sendroiu

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup, a Salute to Summer

roasted heirloom tomato soup

When I told him I’m writing a post on tomato soup, the Husband pointed out I once said  – in front of an audience to make matters worse – that I quote despise unquote said meal. In so many words, yes. Anything I said about tomato soup, I meant and I stand by.

Mind you, the conversation was about the Hungarian variety and I’m sorry to say this, but it’s really, truly appalling. Sweet (like, really sweet), thickened with plain flour and often further aggravated with overcooked alphabet pasta. A fond school cafeteria memory for some, a dreadful flashback for me. I never made it, and my mother gave up on it long ago as well.

Then I’ve learnt about this rustic, Italian approach and I was immediately smitten. This soup is not in heavy rotation at my house, merely because I’m only willing to make it with in-season, sun-ripened produce, nothing less: heirloom tomatoes, yellow onions and garlic from my parents’ garden. A celebration of the wonderful flavors of summer.

(I understand not everyone’s as lucky as I am to have a personal farmers’ market in the form of a childhood home. Your next best option is buying fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables directly from the source.)

Roasting makes all the difference in this soup, so do not omit this step! Going the little extra really isn’t any trouble, it’s just time the tomatoes spend on a sheet pan in the oven while you carry on with whatever household chore you’re choosing to entertain yourself with. The added flavor is just incomparable! Close your eyes and imagine your ingredients going soft, caramelized and sweetened naturally with their own juices… that’s right!

After they come out the oven, you’re just minutes away from the best tomato soup of your life. Everything goes into a pot to simmer some more, then in the blender to be pureed to smooth greatness. (It can be blitzed with a stick blender instead, no worries.)

On a sidenote, let me tell you a story about me and blenders: after two broken cheap-ass units (one of which flooded my kitchen with raspberries and plastic shrapnel at stupid o’ clock in the morning while prepping a post-workout smoothie), I finally invested in a high-power one.

Should’ve done it way earlier – my Philips ProBlend 6 is a workhorse. So far it tackled everything I’ve thrown in the durable glass jar: hot, cold, raw, cooked, frozen, fruits, vegetables, even ice. I use it to make smoothies, soups, purees, frozen drinks, even dutch babies. It’s multi-speed function will blend, crush or cut to the consistency you want. It has an easy clean option, and the parts are machine washable too, bless their little souls.

Back to the soup, it’s best served warm, garnished with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of cream, scattered with more basil. Some crunchy croutons, or a cheesy-garlicky toast might be in order too.

Go dip in!

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup

  • Difficulty: easy
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A hearty, creamy soup bursting with the best of summer’s flavors. Serves 6.

Ingredients

1 kg (2 lbs) sun-ripened tomatoes

2 medium yellow onions

1 head of garlic

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

salt, black pepper

handful of fresh basil, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 l (1 quart) chicken or vegetable stock

200 ml (3/4 cup) cooking cream

1 tbsp sugar, if needed

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 230°C/450°F
  2. Wash and cut tomatoes in half, peel and quarter onions. Peel most of the paper off the garlic, trim the top off the head to expose tops of cloves.
  3. Spread tomatoes, onions and garlic onto a baking tray in 1 layer, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  4. Roast for 30-40 min until caramelized, remove from oven.
  5. Press on the bottom of the garlic cloves to push them out of the paper (careful, hot!). Including the liquid in the tray, transfer vegetables to a pot.
  6. Add stock and bay leaves. Simmer for 15 min or until liquid has reduced by a third, discard bay leaves.
  7. Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back to pot, add cream and basil, bring to a boil. Taste to adjust flavors (if tomatoes were too acidic, add a tbsp of sugar). Turn heat off.
  8. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

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5-min Creamy Feta Dip

creamy feta dip spread

Hors d’oeuvre? Warm, a little to the East. Antipasto? You’re getting there, but further eastwards. Mezze – now there you are!

Mediterranean mezze or meze, typical in the Balkans and the Near East, is a selection of small appetizer dishes just like the more renowned French and Italian varieties. Hot or cold, spicy or savory, served at the beginning of a multi-course meal or a meal in its own right, meze is a social event – you are not expected to finish every dish, but rather share at ease.

The recipe I have for you today is meze at its best: not only it is a total no-brainer to make, but also ready in under 5 and full of flavor. You might even have all the ingredients at home as we speak, and hopefully also the wine to go with it!

Fact: I am a feta addict (but you already know that). And after careful and completely unscientific observation of people, I came to realize it’s not just me. So meet your new way to obsess over feta cheese: a smooth, tangy spread Greeks call Kopanisti.

Base your end-of-summer party formula around this dip and lots of complimentary fresh veggies (think zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, celery sticks) and freshly toasted baguette or crusty ciabatta. Seriously, eff those carbs! Just slather on.

So, without further ado, here it is. Because you can never have too many easy, cheesy recipes up your sleeve! 🙂

Creamy Feta Dip

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The taste of the Mediterranean in a schmear that’s so so easy to make.

Ingredients

500 g feta or similar white cheese

1 cup sour cream

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil to garnish

optional: lemon zest, red pepper flakes, crushed garlic

Directions

  1. Use a food processor, or mash feta with a fork in a medium bowl.
  2. Season and mix in other ingredients.
  3. Garnish generously with olive oil.
  4. Serve with warm, toasted slices of baguette or ciabatta, or as a dip with raw vegetable chunks.

creamy feta dip spread

creamy feta dip spread

Love,

Fruzsi