Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tomato jam and the sweet memories of Summer afternoons

Making jam is a time consuming task. Firstly you have to take some time for cleaning and preparing the fruit and then you have to heat the sugar and fruit mixture and wait for the sugar reaching its setting point. But the end result is really worth it.

If someone asks me which jam I like the most, I will have some difficulty in identifying just one. But I am sure that I will pick tomato jam as being amongst my top preferences. Today's jam recipe is very simple to make and is one of my favorites. Perhaps because when I think of this recipe I associate it with some good memories of both my mother and myself making jam on Summer afternoons. On those times, many years ago, we made enough jam for all year round. I loved to help my mother peeling and seeding the tomatoes. I remember how our home would be filled with the sweet and warm aromas from the cinnamon. It was a delightful fragrance. When the jam was ready to eat, I was summoned to taste it. What a lovely sensation! Such pleasant and memorable recollections, all due to tomato jam!

2kg peeled and seeded tomatoes
1kg light brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch of salt
A drizzle of olive oil

1. Place the tomatoes in a saucepan. Let it boil for 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Whiz the tomatoes with a stick blender and add the sugar, cinnamon, salt and olive oil. Let it boil until the sugar reaches the correct setting point. Spoon a little jam onto a cold saucer. After a couple of minutes gently push your finger through the jam and if the surface wrinkles it is ready. If not, let the sugar and tomato mixture boil for a couple of minutes more. Don't forget to stir occasionally.

3. Put the jam in glass flasks while it is still very hot and close them almost immediately.

To peel the tomatoes, you just have to make two cuts at the base of the tomato (like a X). Then parboil them for a few minutes. The skin will come off easily.

The zest of one lemon can also be added to this jam recipe. If you prefer, you can avoid blending the tomatoes.

This jam has a beautiful strong reddish color due to the tomato and light brown sugar mixture. Its flavor is simple delicious. Here at home, we easily eat it in a piece of bread or bagel generously spread with spoon after spoon of jam! A treat from which, one cannot run away!

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Doce de tomate e as memórias das tardes de Verão ]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lamb, tomato and chickpea stew with harissa

Fresh tomato is still around here in my kitchen. Consequently, when I decide which recipe to cook I usually try to include tomato in it. In today's recipe, the tomato makes all the difference.

750g diced lamb
1dl olive oil
1kg unpeeled and unseeded tomato
50g green pepper cut into strips
1dl water
2 carrots, sliced
2 teaspoons harissa
500g canned chickpea
1 bunch coriander, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the lamb, tomatoes, olive oil, harissa, green peppers, carrots, water, salt and pepper in a pan. Bring to a simmer. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat and let it cook for one hour with the pan covered and in low heat.

2. Add the canned beans and let it boil again.

3. Serve the stew sprinkled with chopped coriander.

I served this stew with slices of freshly baked bread. This lamb, tomato and chickpea stew with a gentle touch of spicy harissa is delicious.

The lamb can be replaced by pork or beef.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Borrego guisado com tomate, harissa e grão ]

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pizzas for kids and grown ups

I love entertaining friends at home. A fun way to have a meal together is to make pizzas. We all go to the kitchen and our entertainment resembles a party. We speak, we laugh, we look at what each other uses for her/his pizza, we use the ingredients from one and another and finally when we sit at the table we end eating it all. Sharing the process of making pizzas with the guests is always a good-humored and enjoyable gathering.

Last July, when our dearest friend Nuno came to Portugal on vacation, we had two of these pizza making meals. One with a group of longtime friends and the other, a lunch with the kids. Attending the latter were David and Daniel, Nuno Santos, Graciete and Nuno Vaz who is already a veteran of these gatherings and usually cooks the best pizzas. The last time his pizza was the ultimate rage was in a gathering at Carlota's, where Nuno surprised us all with a pizza having dates and bacon.

This particular pizza session with David and Daniel started with both of them in the kitchen preparing a fruit smoothie that they would drink later at lunch. They chose their favorite fruits and then with the aid of Ricardo, who - I suspect - was enjoying as much as the kids, blended several peaches and plums with a delicious natural orange juice they also prepared. Immediately after finishing they all started drinking the smoothie so heartily that it barely reached the table. Of the many plums the kids ate at dessert, they were delighted to taste the particular sweetness of Elva's plums (Greengage plums). It is very interesting to see a child's reaction to the discovery of a new flavor.

After the smoothie preparation, it was pizza making time. David and Daniel made their own pizza. Daniel chose not to use tomato sauce. They chose pineapple, chicken, mushrooms, bacon, broccoli, oregano and grated mozzarella cheese as ingredients. These pizzas were the most original of all the hand made pizza sessions, not by the ingredients themselves, but by the way they were laid out on top of the dough. They both "drew" a smiling face using the ingredients as paint. Daniel used broccoli for the hair while David used pineapple for the eyebrows. These kids imagination is astounding. One just can not imagine how thrilled and amused they both were by making their own pizza and having it eaten later by everybody. And truth be told, we - the grown ups - were also very excited. Their pizzas turned out to be very good indeed.

Nuno Vaz and Graciete made a pizza with tomato sauce, Iberian pork farinheira (pork smoked sausage), pineapple, olives, savory and grated mozzarella cheese. Again, it turned out to be very good. Myself and Ricardo made a pizza with tomato sauce, chouriço, mushrooms, olives and both fresh and grated mozzarella cheese.

For dessert we had one of those eat-again-and-again delicious coconut pudding made by Manuela, Nuno Santos's mother. I made ​​a cherry clafoutis, based on a recipe from Maria de Lourdes Modesto.

This was one of those gatherings that made me feel blissful. I hope that one day both David and Daniel remember this lunch with a a big smile on their faces.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Pizas com pequenos e graúdos ]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Roasted Atlantic horse mackerel

In my opinion, the Atlantic horse mackerel is currently one of the less preferred fishes to cook with in our kitchens. I just love grilled horse mackerel, but now that I have no more backyard grill, I don't dare to grill fish at home. And so when I usually buy fish for our meals I don't even think of buying horse mackerel. What happened was that in one of these days, I could not resist bringing home two beautiful horse mackerels, quite fresh with its shinning eyes, both caught by my father in one of his fishing trips.

I had already followed one of my working colleague's advice and had this fish roasted in the oven which turned out to be a very good suggestion. I wanted to repeat it but this time I added tomato in order to have a more colorful dish full of Summer flavors.

2 large horse mackerel
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1dl olive oil
2 unpeeled and unseeded tomatoes
1 sprig coriander, chopped
Boiled potatoes to accompany
salt and pepper to taste

1. Season the mackerel with salt and pepper.

2. In a skillet or saucepan put the oil, onion and garlic. Sauté the onion. When the onion breaks, add the coarsely chopped tomato. Conitnue to sauté until the tomato is evenly cooked. Turn off the heat and only then add the chopped coriander.

3. Place the horse mackerels on an oven dish pour over the fish the sautéed mixture carefully. Cover with an aluminum foil sheet.

4. Put it into a 220ºC preheated oven for 10 minutes and then another 15 minutes to finish cooking but this time with the fish uncovered by the aluminum foil sheet.

5. Serve the fish with boiled potatoes.

Today's recipe was inspired by this recipe in the Receitas de Culinária website. My personal touch was my decision to sauté the onion and tomate before putting all in the oven to cook. I think this way the dish becomes even more delicious. As you can see, it's easy to cook horse mackerel!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Roasted zucchini stuffed with farinheira and tomato

September is still having hot summer days. In fact, it seems that we finally will have all those warm and hot days that didn't appear last August. Now that the holidays are over, we are finally having the desire to go to the beach. Here at home, albeit the heat, the oven doesn't stop being used. Today's recipe is a delicious roasted zucchini stuffed with farinheira and tomato. A truly delight!

5 small zucchini
Iberian pork farinheira (smoked sausage)
0.5dl olive oil
2 chopped shallots
2 big ripe tomatoes
2 eggs
some savory leaves or a sprig of parsley
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cut the zucchini in half. With the aid of a knife or a Paris spoon remove the pulp from the zucchini.

2. Chop the zucchini pulp.

3. Pour the oil in a skillet then add the chopped shallots and the chopped zucchini pulp. Stir and cook for a while.

4. Add the chopped unpeeled and unseeded tomatoes. Let it cook for a while.

5. Remove the farinheira skin and then cut it into slices. Add the slices to skillet mixture while stirring. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Add the eggs after being scrambled. Add the savory leaves or parsley.

7. Stuff the zucchini with the previous mixture.

8. In a bowl mix the cheese and bread crumbs. Sprinkle the stuffed zucchini with this mixture.

9. Place the zucchini on a oven dish. Put it in a 200ºC preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Enjoy your meal!

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Courgette recheada com farinheira e tomate ]

Friday, September 9, 2011

Roasted sea bream with coriander and cherry tomatoes

Luísa woke up early. She experienced the silence through all of the house. Occasionally she liked being alone. The maids - Joana and Juliana - had both requested some time off. Jorge wasn't around. He had gone away for a few days in one of his many business trips. Luísa did not hesitate to say yes to the request of the maids. Juliana had gone to the doctor and then she would go visit her Aunt Vitória. Joana's request may have been related with some boyfriend, but Luísa didn't bother to ask. It was nice to be home alone. Able to manage her time without giving any satisfaction, without having someone ask her things or having to make decisions for others.

She began by making coffee and drinking it in a big cup. She loved the intense and slightly roasted aroma of coffee. She shared this taste with her beloved childhood friend, Leopoldina, which unfortunately due to the pressing requests of Jorge she had stopped visiting. It didn't befit her mingling with a woman with a nickname such as "bread and butter", who was known to have several lovers. On the contrary, D. Felicidade distasted coffee. She would say every time she visited her: "- Dear, I prefer tea. You know that coffee and me don't get along very well!"

After drinking her coffee, she sat on the couch and spent the morning reading one of those novels that she loved so much. This one had been offered to her by her cousin Basílio, just before he had gone living to France. The books were a way to make her dream, a way to be transported into another dimension, a way of living and experiencing a little the lives of others.

She would have lunch at home. She could have arranged a lunch in Chiado with Sebastião or even with Julião - her old good friends - but she decided otherwise. She preferred to stay at home and cook. She loved to cook although she never did since she had married. Before her mother had died, she cooked delicious dishes. She went to the fridge and saw a beautiful sea bream with its mouth open that she thought was smiling. It was what she would cook for lunch.

1 sea bream or other fish suitable for roasting in the oven
3 garlic cloves
1/2 lemon
10 to 12 cherry tomatoes
1 sprig of coriander
1 stalk of rosemary
olive oil
salt and peppercorns to taste

1. Stuff two cloves of garlic (with the its peel), rosemary and lemon in the belly of the fish.

2. To prepare the wrapper, place a sheet of parchment paper on top of an aluminum foil sheet. On top of the parchment paper sheet, place a sprig of coriander and then on top of that place the fish after being seasoned with salt.

3. Sprinkle the fish with chopped garlic and a sprig of cilantro. Place the cherry tomatoes around the fish. Sprinkle with peppercorns.

4. Sprinkle with olive oil and close the wrapper. Put it into a preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Luísa enjoyed her lunch. The fish was juicy. So delicious that she had decided to cook this recipe more often.

I was inspired in the novel Primo Basílio ("Cousin Bazilio") by Eça de Queirós to write this short story.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Besugo assado no forno com coentros e tomate cereja ]

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Zucchini blossoms, tomato and requeijão cheese tart

On one of the beautiful blue sky Saturdays that I have spent in Santarém I had the opportunity to pick several zucchinis. I found zucchinis of every size, from the very large - real dark green pumpkins - to the little ones - tender and sweet - still having its blossom.

I love zucchini and I have cooked it in various ways. Nevertheless, I have never used its blossom. That day, seeing it there at my disposal, I could not resist and picked up a few. The blossoms are very sensitive, consequently I immediately tried to cook it on the next day. The choice fell on a tomato and requeijão cheese tart.


280g flour
90g butter
0.5dl water

1. Mix the flour with the butter. Then add water and mix again.

2. Roll the mass.

3. Line a tart tin with the dough. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork.

90g grated zucchini
2 cloves garlic, minced
30g dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil, chopped
5 eggs
1 requeijão cheese
1dl milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 sprig of parsley and coriander, chopped
2 small ripe tomatoes
8 very small zucchini with blossom
A drizzle of olive oil
70g grated mozzarella cheese

1. Place in a bowl the grated zucchini, the minced garlic cloves, the dried tomatoes, the eggs, the milk and the requeijão cheese slightly smashed by hand. With the aid of a whisk, mix the ingredients very well. Season with salt and pepper and add the chopped herbs.

2. Put a portion of this mixture in the tart tin. Add the diced tomato. Pour the remaining mixture. Lay out the small zucchinis with blossom on top. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

3. Put the tart tin into a 180ºC preheated oven for 40 minutes.

The handmade tart pastry turns out to be very good and this recipe is so simple that it is quite practical.

This tart is delicious served either warm or cold. The zucchini keeps crisp. The blossoms contribute with a slight sweet and velvety flavour. Next year I will try to use just the zucchini blossoms.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Tarte de courgettes em flor com tomate e requeijão ]

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Grilled veal steak with coriander and garlic

There are days when you need to make a meal in a short time. One of the things I like to do in those occasions is a grilled steak, sprinkled with a mixture of aromatic herbs, garlic and olive oil. It is a delight. It doesn't seem like a quick meal at all!

2 sirloin steaks
2 garlic cloves
1 sprig of coriander
fleur de sel
black pepper, freshly grinded
olive oil

1. Grill the steaks.

2. Season with fleur de sel and black pepper to taste.

3. Mince the garlic and coriander. Sprinkle the steaks with this mixture and with a little bit of olive oil. Serve immediately.

The coriander can be replaced by fresh rosemary leaves or any other aromatic herb. Instead of sirloin steaks you can also use veal chops.

When it is required a quick recipe, these steaks can be an excellent choice. Give it a try!

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Bife de vaca grelhado com coentros e alho ]

Monday, September 5, 2011

Provençal tomatoes with fried egg

This summer I have been using tomatoes enthusiastically. I have already devoted them an entire week and they have been an indispensable companion in my cooking. By now, my kitchen has already seen cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes and rounded tomatoes, beautiful, of which I don't know the name, but when looked at they make me think of big and juicy apples with a sweet aroma. It is one of my favorite types of tomato.

This is one of the recipes I made to honor the tomatoes that have been coming to my kitchen. I have cooked it twice recently. One of the occasions was for a lunch with my longtime friend Paula.

4 to 6 medium ripe tomatoes
4 to 6 fried eggs
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
chopped parsley
10 pitted black olives chopped
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
olive oil

1. Cut the tomatoes in halves. Place them with cut side up in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with salt and a little olive oil. Then put it in a 190ºC preheated oven for 40 minutes.

2. Mix the garlic, parsley, olives and bread crumbs. Season with pepper.

3. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the previous mixture. Then sprinkle again with two tablespoons of olive oil. Put it all in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Place a fried egg on top of each roasted tomato. Don't forget to grind black pepper and/or dried oregano on top of the eggs immediately before serving.

The roasted tomatoes with the mixture of breadcrumbs and herbs turned out to be very good. The result is an interesting mix of flavors and textures. You can also add two tablespoons of grated cheese for those who prefer. The fried egg makes all the difference.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Tomate à Provençal com ovo estrelado ]

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mackerel fillets with harissa and lemon

In one of the last fishing trips at sea, my father brought several mackerel as the reward of the time spent among the salt, the sea water and the sun. When fresh they have a look so appetizing. I didn't waste any time blinking my eyes before accepting my mother's offer and saying: yes, I want them!

I brought four beautiful mackerel that were frozen after being cleaned. It seems to me that mackerel became a fish that fell into disuse for a few years now. I recall that at my parents' house we all used to eat a dish with heavily salted mackerel cooked with potatoes. I have never liked it. So I had to cook the readily accepted mackerel in a different way.

4 mackerel
3 tablespoons flour
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon harissa
chopped parsley
olive oil

1. With a knife cut fillets of mackerel. To do this simply slide a sharp knife along the spine and remove the head. After cutting the fillets remove some of the bones.

2. Season the fillets with salt and put them through flour.

3. Cover the bottom of a non-stick frying pan with oil. Heat it. When the oil is hot, place the mackerel and cook them between two to three minutes for each side.

4. Mix the lemon juice with the harissa. Sprinkle the fillets with this mixture and let it finish cooking in the pan.

5. Sprinkle the fillets with chopped parsley immediately before serving.

I served these fillets with unpeeled boiled potatoes, cured olives and a cherry tomatoes salad.

The mackerel fillets were an excellent surprise. The flesh is firm and tasty. The acrid taste of the lemon and the slightly spicy harissa made this dish special. It worked very well.

Other recipes with fillets (written in Portuguese):
- Fillets in almond crust;
- Fillets with dry-cured ham filling en papillote;
- Fillets with herbs and citrus sauce;
- Grenadier fillets in tomato sauce;
- Herbs and cheese crispy crust fillets;
- Panga fish fillets au gratin;
- Roasted grey triggerfish fillets.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Filetes de cavala com harissa e limão ]

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 ]

Friday, July 29, 2011

A salad with a zest of vacations

The day has finally came! The feeling is one of freedom and relaxation. Even so, I have already started to make plans and writing lists of what I want to do on this vacations. Time flies. I haven't done anything and I have already a feeling that I won't get everything done.

Before I start publicizing what I have planned reading, which movies to watch, etc., I first wanted to celebrate the beginning of this holidays with a light, simple and tasty canned white bean and tuna salad.

70g lettuce and arugula
1/2 roasted red peppers
1/2 roasted green pepper
1 red onion
3 roma tomatoes
300g cooked canned white beans
2 cans of tuna
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. In a bowl combine the lettuce leaves and arugula, roasted peppers cut into small strips, sliced ​​onions, sliced ​​tomatoes, canned beans and the previously drained cans of tuna.

2. Season with salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil to taste. Stir and serve.

This salad, like most of the salads I have prepared, was made ​​with the ingredients I had close at hand. And it tasted lovely!

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Uma salada a saber a férias ]

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A friends gathering

The arrival to Portugal of our dearest friend Nuno has been followed by several gatherings. Last Saturday, we went to Casais de Além, located near Batalha, for a great lunch that put together many friends that belong to the Comida & Fotografia (Food & Photography) club.

This recreational club, for over a decade, has been operating informally, that is, it has been accepting anyone who loves to eat and to take pictures. Especially if one likes more to do of the former than the latter, according to some club members opinion. With these principles in mind, the organization of several gatherings, all over the country, has been arranged. I and Ricardo went to some of these gatherings after being introduced to this club by our friend Nuno Santos. I can still remember quite well the weekend we spent at Sabugueiro. From there we discovered many parts of Serra da Estrela - I can't recollect any other time when I have eaten so much Serra da Estrela cheese and presunto! - and the darn cold we had to endure once, only because someone had the idea to shoot some stars at night! I also remember when we all met in Oporto where we ate Francesinhas, or when we had a delightful breakfast in Foz, or when we went to a fantastic restaurant in Matosinhos - I can't recall its name - or the promenade we took through the parish of Se along it narrows streets. There were also trips to Lisbon and Sintra. I missed the journey to Montesinho. It was in this club that I have been introduced to Ricardo Abranches and Paula, Hugo Silva - our kind host - Fabrício Santos, Ricardo Janeiro, Pedro Frazão and more recently Marisa. All these friends were convened with Nuno Vaz and Graciete and with many small children - the future generation of great photographers - who after lunch run around the house in a reinless exhilaration while the grown ups were bringing each other up to date.

After having caipirinhas, we began eating pataniscas de bacalhau (made with salted cod) and some other appetizers at the same time that Fabrício was playing the saxophone, indulging the guests who were requesting specific songs, such as Summertime. Then we went for cheese, grilled morcela de arroz and grilled farinheira, served with slices of corn bread. While we were nibbling, our host's father was taking care of the barbecue, where he was managing the broiling of different kinds of pork meat. When we seated at the table, the pork was served with two salads prepared by Hugo's mother and baked black beans and plain rice cooked by Marisa. There was also a soy moussaka cooked by Hugo.

For dessert we had a variety of fruit, almond morgadinhos from the Algarve, Dom Rodrigos, folar de Olhão, yogurt cake with poppy seeds and a fresh and delightful dessert made by Marisa with ladyfingers, jelly and fruit filling and a wild blackberry jam icing. At the very end of the meal, while having coffee we were able to savor some Belgian chocolate bonbons. I could not resist trying up to three kinds of chocolate flavors. Or would have been four? Five?!

Late in the afternoon, before going on a visit to Batalha Monastery, we all took part in a geocaching activity. That is, we searched for an hidden artifact, with the aid of a GPS equipment. That was entertaining. Both children and grown ups carefully seek and only after a good deal of time did we find the hidden "treasure". It was the first time I ever participated in this kind of activity and I enjoyed it very much. It can be quit thrilling. I now understand that there are many hidden artifacts waiting to be found in Portugal.

Hugo, let me, once more, thank you for receiving us in such a lovely and heartily manner. Meeting up with these friends made me recall all the good times I have had with them. Convening with people who you are fond of makes you feel very well. After such a good gathering, one can only say: when will it be the next one?

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Um encontro com amigos ]

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chocolate and zucchini with hazelnuts cake

In that time of the year when zucchini is in season one should take it to the fullest. It isn't a popular expression, but it is an unwritten rule in my home. This coming weekend I will check and see if the zucchini output from my parent's garden has run out. When it will run out, I know that I will feel a little bit nostalgic. Zucchini can be so versatile in its use.

Zucchini tastes good in practically every kind of recipe. It can be grilled, roasted, used in rice, used in soups, used in stews and it can even be used in cakes! I love cakes with zucchini as one of their ingredients. Although it is no longer a novelty, I can sometimes surprise some guests when I present them a zucchini cake.

Last week, for the pizza dinner where longtime friends were gathered, I made ​​a chocolate and zucchini with hazelnuts cake. The recipe is from the BBC Good Food site.

350g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tablespoon of spices (I used 10g)
175ml olive oil
375g brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 small zucchini, grated with peel (approx. 450g)
140g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

For the icing:
200g dark chocolate, chopped
100ml cream

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.

2. In a bowl mix the flour, cocoa powder, the mixture of spices and a pinch of salt.

3. In another bowl add the olive oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and grated zucchini. Stir and then add the dry ingredients already mixed.

4. Add the hazelnuts.

5. Put the mixture into a round cake tin greased with butter or oil spray.

6. Put it into the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes. Once baked, leave it to cool. Unmold.

7. Place the chocolate chopped into pieces in a bowl. Bring the cream to the boil and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Stir very well until it is completely melted. Let it cool for a while and spread it over the cake.

I chose to make my own mix of spices. I added cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg, ginger, cumin and cloves. They weren't mixed evenly. I used more cinnamon and fennel and less of the others.

The cake is not very sweet and it contrasts beautifully with the icing. It ended up having a moisture and an intense flavor of its own.

All the guests loved this cake and so did we!

Other cakes made with zucchini (written in Portuguese):
- Zucchini and cocoa with walnuts cake;
- Zucchini and lemon with poppy seeds cake;
- Zucchini and walnuts cake;
- Zucchini with carob flour and almonds cake.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Bolo de chocolate e courgette com avelãs ]

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pearl couscous with pesto, feta cheese and shrimp

In the days preceding the summer holidays when the idea of vacations dominates almost everything we do, it is a good thing to have one or two recipes handy. Here at home, this pear couscous with pesto salad is one of them. The ingredients may change according to one's taste and preferences. For example, you can easily use chicken instead of shrimp and the result still is pretty good.

250g pearl couscous
200g prawns
300g peas
100g feta cheese, in cubes
1 red onion, chopped
4 tablespoons pesto
salt to taste

1. Boil in different containers, the pearl couscous, peas and shrimp. Drain after being cooked.

2. Place the pearl couscous, peas and shrimp in a bowl. Add feta cheese as cut in cubes and the diced red onion.

3. Add the pesto and a little bit of salt. Stir and serve.

This salad can be served warm or cold. It is usually very difficult to stop eating it.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Massinha couscous com pesto, queijo feta e camarão ]