Back in Business
I just got back from our Summer holiday. We visited the South of France and my purpose, aside from gazing aimlessly into the ocean and basking in the sun, was to visit the local farmers’ market and cook with local produce, shoot it and blog about it.
Upon arriving at our rented holiday house, I was very pleased to assess the state of the kitchen and find it more than satisfactory. We had the wonderful opportunity in staying in the most welcoming and beautiful home while there and I must say that kitchen had everything and then some more. The only things missing were my camera, which stopped shooting the second we got there and my laptop, that just refused to turn on. So there I was, suspended in a moment between a beautiful kitchen and the most perfect fish and vegetable waiting to be cooked with no means to show for it.
But cooked I did, as I couldn’t stay away: I made a delicious crumble with the most flavorful apricots, endless batches of granola for lazy mornings and a nice dinner of pasta alla puttanesca, because anchovies are a thing of pride around those parts.
Upon returning home, a friend to whom I had just told the story of not being able to work during our vacation, pointed out that it was the universe telling me to take a break. And I immediately bought into that, because I did take a break and because it felt really good.
My friend and the universe happened over last night’s dinner that I cooked and you’re welcome to browse through it, there’s a nice eggplant salad, my favourite zucchini salted cheesecake, a simple basil pesto for dolloping over tagliatelle and a Strawberry Icebox Cake that’s ready in 15 minutes. All photos are taken with my iPhone and hopefully I’ll get my camera back soon. Until then, enjoy the rest of the Summer, everyone!
Eggplant Salad w Shallot Dressing
3 medium eggplants
Two large handfuls of arugula
3-4 tomatoes, cubed
4 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tblsp red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
50gr hard goat cheese, crumbled
A handful of parsley, chopped
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Cut the eggplants into 2cm/½in. rounds and place on a baking sheet fitted with baking paper. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool. Make the vinaigrette by mixing together the olive oil with the red wine vinegar and the chopped shallot; season with salt and pepper and pop in the fridge until ready to use. When eggplants have cooled, halve them. Place arugula on a large serving plate, add the tomatoes and eggplants, sprinkle the vinaigrette over, then add the crumbled cheese along with the parsley and serve.
Simple Basil Pesto
50gr/2 oz basil leaves, washed and dried
3o gr/1 oz pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove
50gr/2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
100ml/½ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor fitted with the S blade, place your basil leaves and pulse about ten times. Add the pine nuts and the garlic and pulse 10 more times. Add the cheese and the olive oil and pulse until a thick paste is formed. Put in a jar, cover with a little more olive oil and store in the fridge covered, until ready to use.
2 large zucchini, unpeeled & grated
1 tsp sea salt
500gr/ 2½ cups ricotta
50gr/½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, well beaten
50gr/1/3 cup hard sheep’s cheese, crumbled
A little olive oil
Preheat oven to 170C/325F. Oil a 20cm/8 in square pan and line with baking paper. Place the zucchini and the salt in a strainer, let sit for ten minutes. Squeeze the water out of the zucchinis as much as you can. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, shallots, garlic, dill and lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and mix until well combined. Next, stir in the shredded zucchini. Fill the pan with the ricotta mixture, place on a baking sheet and place in the oven and bake for sixty minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if burning too quickly. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Cool completely and serve at room temperature.
Strawberry Icebox Cake
800gr/1½ pounds strawberries, hulled
800ml/3½ cups whipping cream plus 60ml/¼ cup more
60gr/1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
150gr/24 graham crackers
60gr/2 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
Set aside a few good looking strawberries to garnish, then slice the rest. With the aid of a mixer, beat the whipping cream until it holds stiff peaks, add the powdered sugar and the vanilla extract and beat a little more. Start assembling the cake by spreading 1 Tblsp of the whipped cream on the bottom of a serving dish. Next, place 6-8 graham crackers. Spread 1/3 of the whipped cream over them, then place a layer of strawberry slices. Continue like this until you have 3 layers of each, ending with the last layer of strawberries, which you can decorate with the reserved whole strawberries or as desired. Make a ganache by bringing the 60ml/¼ cup whipping cream to a boil and pouring over the dark chocolate; allow to sit for 5 minutes, then mix and use to decorate the cake. Pop in the fridge until ready to serve, for at least 4 hours.