Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fresh figs and my first ice cream

My birthday is in August. This year, on that day, to celebrate here at home I made fig ice cream. My first ice cream had to be with figs! I love figs, especially fresh. I cannot resist them and I end up eating almost always not two, not three but four or more, one after another.

This year, the production of figs in the backyard of my parents was not at its best and consequently, to my regret, I haven't picked as many figs as I did in other years. Here, at home, figs are usually used fresh in salads, sandwiches, cakes and jams. Fresh, grilled and even fried, they always turn out to be wonderfully delicious.

Last year I received an ice cream making machine as a gift from my in-laws. Time passed, moving from one house to another, packing up, tidying and and other higher priorities activities made me not putting my desire to make ice cream in practice.

16 to 18 fresh figs ("pingo de mel" type)
125g sugar
125ml water
zest of one small lemon
600ml cream
4 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Remove the stems from figs and cut the remaining to pieces.

2. Place the figs in a saucepan with the sugar, water and the lemon zest. Bring to medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the figs and water is reduced. Let it cool.

3. Place the figs, the cream and lemon juice into a blender. Whiz until thoroughly mixed.

4. Place the mixture in the ice cream making machine according to manufacturer's instructions.

This fig ice cream recipe is from Gordon Ramsay and is published in The Times. The cream I used had only 35% fat but the original recipe suggested to use 48%, what the British call double cream. I am not sure if it was the reason that it didn't turn out to be as creamy as I was expecting. I think I was "ill accustomed" after going on a trip to Italy, where almost every ice cream was fabulous. But even so, in the end of the meal, there wasn't any ice cream left.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Figos frescos e o meu primeiro gelado ]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wild blackberry and fresh goat cheese salad

My summer vacations came to an end. Today I go back to work. It is time to reopen my organizer and starting make plans and scheduling tasks along the week. It is time to choose a book to be read on public transportation. Preferably a novel that makes me dream. It is time to look more closely at the wardrobe. It is time to return to the working day routine. It still seems like it was yesterday I went on vacation. Time really flies, that is why it so precious.

Today's recipe has a bit of nostalgia because some of its ingredients make me remember the recent holidays. It uses wild blackberries that were picked on a very hot day I spent in Santarém and the bresaola that I brought from my trip to Italy.

mixed greens (lettuce, arugula and lamb's lettuce)
4 tablespoons wild blackberries
2 fresh goat cheeses
6 slices of bresaola or dry-cured ham
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar to taste
olive oil to taste

1. Cut the fresh goat cheeses into small cubes.

2. In a bowl put the mixture of greens. Add the cheese, slices of bresaola and the blackberries.

3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Stir and serve.

This salad turned out to be very nice. The blackberries combine very well with the cheese and the bresaola's saltiness.

A salad with a zest of vacation that can also help balance the excesses committed at the table on these days of August. It is time to start thinking about the diet! ;)

To all those who return today or have already returned to work, wishes for a great day!

Other recipes with blackberries (written in Portuguese):
- Blackberry mousse;
- Grilled salmon with wild blackberry sauce.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Salada de amoras silvestres com queijo de cabra fresco ]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Scallops au gratin for a friend

At the beginning of August, a longtime friend stayed with me for a couple of days. Paula Borralho, comes almost every year during the summer and spends a few days with me.

When she is around, I try to take her to some sites that I like - this year's novelty was the terrace of the Darwin's Café restaurant, here in Lisbon - and cook different delicacies. I like to suggest her new flavors or new ingredient combinations.

This year, for one of our lengthy lunches, among other recipes, I made scallops au gratin which turned out to be delicious.

8 scallops with the shell
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
0.5dl olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon coriander, chopped
1dl cream
1 tablespoon cognac
8 small stalks of coriander
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1/2 lemon

1. Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil.

2. Add the chopped coriander and the bay leaf.

3. Add the cream. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

4. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of cognac. Remove from the heat when the sauce has a consistent flavor.

5. If necessary, wash the scallops to remove traces of sand. Sprinkle the scallops with a few drops of lemon juice.

6. Spread the cream and coriander sauce among the scallops. Place a stalk of coriander on each scallop.

7. Sprinkle the scallops with breadcrumbs.

8. Put in a 180ºC preheated oven for 10 minutes.

These scallops were a really delicious treat!

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Vieiras gratinadas para uma amiga ]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

There is nothing like a bowl of soup ...

Returning from vacations usually involves resuming, with a twinge of nostalgia, a routine that we are no longer used to. Sometimes, I wish my life was mainly traveling and writing!

My traveling usually requires walking a lot of miles through towns, catching public transportation, being little time in each location, taking photos - a lot of photos! - and tasting new flavors. This year, I had also to face huge crowds of tourists and had to endure burning hot weather. On these occasions, I tend to think I need a vacation from the vacations! Predictably, in the end, I would do it all again.

Little by little, the old pace and routines start settling. A visit to my parents. Catch the tomatoes that remained in the garden. Catch some blackberries and zucchinis - possibly the last ones from this season - and some quinces. Peek at the pumpkins that are almost ready to harvest and start choosing which one will be used for next Christmas fried treats. Read all the messages accumulated in my eMail account and start planning what we will eat.

Usually, when I return from vacation, I have an urge to eat soup. There is nothing like a bowl of soup when you arrive from holidays abroad.

I chose a roasted tomato soup. Around here, the tomatoes returned in abundance.

1kg ripe tomatoes
550g peeled pumpkin
1 large onion cut into halves
2 cloves garlic, rolled
3 bay leaves
1 sprig rosemary
1dl olive oil
2dl of hot water
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Place the tomatoes cut in halves in a pan with the pumpkin, onion, garlic, bay and rosemary leaves.

2. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with olive oil.

3. Put into a 210ºC preheated oven for 50 minutes.

4. Triturate and then blend the roasted vegetables with 2dl of hot water. Finally, adjust the seasoning with salt and add a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste.

The tomatoes I used did not have many seeds. But if that is not the case, I advise you to filter the soup with the aid of a sieve.

This soup is very good. The flavor of tomatoes, slightly acidic mixed with a touch of caramel from the other vegetables, makes eating this soup an experience to repeat.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Não há nada como um prato de sopa ... ]

Monday, August 8, 2011

Minestrone with tortellini

Today's recipe is still devoted to celebrating the tomato, one of the fruits that reaches its apex in this time of the year. I just can't recall how much kilograms of tomatoes I have used last week. In addition to the recipes presented here I have used it in many more recipes for all the daily meals. I also included tomatoes in every salad I have prepared. I didn't make any tomato jam nor tomato sauce. I will give it a try at the end of the month.

Because I love eating soup and in contraposition to the chilled tomato and watermellon soup, I now present a hot soup in which the use of tomato is the key to its success.

1dl olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 stalks celery
1 carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 zucchini, diced
750g ripe tomatoes
600ml water
250g of bacon and cheese tortellini

1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic. Season with salt and let it cook for a while.

2. Add the chopped celery, carrot, zucchini and half the bunch of parsley. Let it all cook between 5 and 6 minutes. Add the peeled and seeded chopped tomatoes. Stir and add water. Cook for about 10 minutes.

3. Boil the tortellini in a pot following the package instructions.

4. Serve the soup with tortellini and with the rest of the chopped parsley.

This recipe was published in the September 2009 edition of Olive magazine. This soup is to eat and cry for more.

Five Quarters of the Orange is going on vacation, as of today. During that period I will try to do some "culinary research" in the Country of Pasta.

I wish everybody have a great summer holiday.

P.S.: By the way, does anyone have good suggestions for Rome, Perugia, Assisi, Siena, Florence, the coast of Tuscany, Venice and Milan? Any tips regarding eating, or visiting interesting markets, peculiar neighborhoods and stores?

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Minestrone com tortellini ]

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tomato and watermellon chilled soup

When two people live together, they often have to compromise in many things, including the food one eats. Ricardo loves chilled soups, especially after the recent visit to Andalusia. I can eat it and most of the times I like it, but I am not as passionate as he is. Occasionally, Ricardo asks me to cook it. So, from time to time, I make him happy and prepare a chilled soup.

Yesterday, for lunch, as an appetizer, I made a chilled tomato - the ingredient being currently celebrated - and watermelon soup. Tomato and Watermelon proved to be a tasty combination that worked very well.

3 large ripe tomatoes
1/2 skinless cucumber cut into cubes
1 clove garlic
1/2 onion
550g peeled and seeded watermelon
15 basil leaves
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Parboil the tomatoes. Remove the tomato skin and seeds.

2. Place all ingredients into the blender and whizz until smooth.

3. Chill the soup in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

4. Sprinkle the soup with a basil and olive oil emulsion immediately before serving.

To prepare the basil and olive oil emulsion, you just have to blend about four tablespoons of olive oil and a handful of basil leaves.

This soup, when cold, it is an excellent way to start a hot summer meal.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Sopa fria de tomate e melancia ]

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tortellini with roasted tomatoes

For the beginning of the current summer holiday and before leaving on a trip, I have selected some movies to watch, including 2003 Under the Tuscan Sun, directed by Audrey Wells. This movie tells the story of Frances Mayes (Diane Lane), an American writer who buys an house in Tuscany, after her divorce, in order to start a new life and be happy. Her search for love and happiness develops alongside the rehabilitation of her house. We can watch Frances picking olives and mushrooms. We can also enjoy watching the breathtaking scenery of this inviting Italian region. We can feel that life follows a leisurely pace and that the simple things in life are valued, albeit following the traditions closely. Tuscany seems to be a magic and peculiar place. And we thrill when she meets Marcello, played by Raul Bova, a very charming Italian.

In addition to all this, we still have the food stuff. Frances begins to cook with the help of a neighbor and one of the meals they cook left me salivating. So many good things happen to be cooked. I found myself trying to guess every single dish served. Lets watch:

On this day, with Italy in the back of my mind, and because Five Quarters of the Orange is currently celebrating the "tomato week", I went to the kitchen to cook a dish using tomatoes that could, in some way, be linked to Italian cuisine.

650g roasted cherry tomatoes
0.5dl olive oil
250g bacon and ricotta cheese fresh tortellini
1 sprig of parsley or other aromatic herb
3 to 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 210ºC. Place the cherry tomatoes in a tray. Season with salt to taste and sprinkle with olive oil. Put it into the oven and let it roast for 30 minutes.

2. After the water, which was previously seasoned with salt, starts to boil, cook the pasta al dente for 7 minutes.

3. In a bowl add the cooked tortellini and the roasted tomato along with a small portion of its sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese. Stir and serve.

To cook this dish, I followed the recipe from September 2009 BBC Good Food magazine's Take 5 Ingredients supplement. However, in the original recipe the tomatoes were sauteed in a pan instead of being roasted, which could substantially reduce the cooking time. Lately, I have been a complete fan of roasted tomatoes. It is a truly tasting delight.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Tortellini com tomate assado ]

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cherry tomato with olives and mozzarella cheese tart

The tomato week continues and today I have chosen a tart I saw in the June 2011 edition of Saveurs magazine. That seemed an excellent choice to use some of the cherry tomato that arrived last Saturday. One may well say: Long live the tomato!


100g pitted olives
280g all-purpose flour
90g margarine or butter
5cl water

500g cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
120g mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

1. Finely mince the olives.

2. Place the flour in a bowl. Add the butter and the olives. Mix well. Add water in order to mold ball with the dough.

3. Stretch the dough with the help of a rolling pin.

4. Lay the dough into a tart tin. Prick the dough with a fork.

5. Cut the cherry tomatoes in halves. Place the tomatoes on top of the dough. Season with salt, pepper, sugar and rosemary leaves.

6. Place the ​​cheese in small lumps over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with olive oil and put it into a 210ºC preheated oven.

I used mozzarella cheese instead of Valençay cheese as mentioned in the original recipe. This tart is delicious. I loved the baked dough with olives and the flavor of the tomatoes with rosemary. A simple recipe, nonetheless delicious. A excellent choice for a light meal on vacations. A very tasty way of eating tomato.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Tarte de tomate cereja com azeitonas e queijo mozzarella ]

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lentil and salmon salad with roasted tomato

Tomato is one of the vegetables and fruits that really shines in the summer, specially in August. Due to the huge quantity of tomato that arrived to my kitchen on last Saturday coming from my parents garden, I have decided to make tomato as the theme of this week's posts.

Throughout the week I will publish different suggestions for use - and abuse - of fresh and appetizing in season ripe tomatoes.

2 salmon fillets
175g cooked lentils
2 shallots, chopped or sliced
olive oil and red wine vinegar
roasted tomatoes with herbs
salt and pepper

1. Broil the salmon seasoned with salt and pepper.

2. In a bowl mix the chipped grilled salmon with lentils and shallots. Season with salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar to taste.

3. Accompany the salad with roasted tomatoes.

Herb Roasted Tomatoes

8 tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig fresh oregano
3 bay leaves
fresh chives
salt and pepper

1. Cut the tomatoes in halves.

2. Place the halves on a baking sheet with the cut side up. The tomatoes should not be overlapped. Add the garlic and bay leaves.

3. Season with salt and pepper, rosemary leaves, fresh oregano and chopped chives. Sprinkle with olive oil and put it in a 210ºC preheated oven. Let it roast for about 40 minutes.

The roasted tomato was delicious and really shone on this salad.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Salada de lentilhas com salmão e tomate assado ]