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 ]

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pizza night with friends

The coming to Portugal on vacation of an old and dearest friend was the pretext to organize, last Sunday, a dinner of DIY pizzas.

The rules of these DIY dinners where the guests get their hands dirty are the same as always. Each guest bring their own "secret" ingredients for pizza. We provide the dough and one or two basic ingredients such as the tomato sauce, for example.

This particular evening began with a toast to our friend Nuno and to the marvelous group of old friends gathered once again, with a glass of white wine Herdade do Esporão 2 Castas. I served immediately after the toast Azeitão cheese melted in the oven and sprinkled with oregano, pate, green olives with pepper and a little basket of bread and picos (Spanish mini breadsticks).

Later, in the kitchen, the guests were given a pizza tray and a piece of dough to be stretched. And they all did it very well! The process of preparing the pizza is one of the funniest moments in these occasions. When each one starts revealing the ingredients that they have brought, the inevitable happens. All of us start adding a couple of extra ingredients to our pizza. We exchange ideas. And, of course, we all have a great time.

The first pizza going into the oven was Nuno's. He laid out the ingredients in order to the pizza resemble the Stars & Stripes American flag. He used tomato sauce, mushrooms, presunto, both fresh and grated mozzarella cheese and oregano. Pedro made one of the most innovative pizzas. On top of the crust he put tomato sauce and he used fresh mushrooms, tomato, presunto and salami as the pizza toppings finishing it with a generous layer of mozzarella squared slices. It almost seemed a true Francesinha. ;)

Claudia and Ricardo also shone with their pizza although they were constantly saying they don't use to cook much! That may have been one of their tactics to trick the other DIY fellows. They used tomato sauce, canned corn and pineapple, bacon, peppers and grated mozzarella cheese. Ricardo and I used spicy chouriço, green pepper and both fresh and grated mozzarella cheese.

Some of the pizzas were served with arugula on top. The chosen red wine was Herdade do Esporão reserva 2004.

For dessert, Pedro brought a petit gâteau and I made ​​a chocolate and zucchini with hazelnuts cake. We accompanied the desserts and coffee with a glass of sweet white wine late harvest Grandjó 2007.

The dinner continued until very late. In the end, the desire to repeat this again was unanimous. We all also hoped that we wouldn't have to wait so many years to meet again.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Noite de piza com os amigos ]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chicken with tomato and pepper frittata

Five Quarters of the Orange blog, in recent times, has been guiding my life. I have been guided, in the sense, that the choices are almost food and blog oriented. It affects, my readings, some of my travels, the restaurants I go, the TV series and shows that I watch. It imposes a routine of its own, induces me to meet new people and among other things, it makes me do a lot more and a lot better.

The blog has become a challenge, that attracts other challenges. Recently, one of those challenges was to author a recipe for June 2011 Activa magazine. There was only one condition attached, it had to use chicken leftovers. The recipe was included in an article on saving.

6 eggs
1 tablespoon mustard
1dl cream
50ml olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 diced carrot
50g pepper cut into pieces
2 ripe tomatoes
150g peeled and boneless chicken
25g island of São Jorge grated cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Beat the eggs with the mustard and cream. Put aside.

2. Place the olive oil in a skillet. Bring to medium heat and add the onion and the carrot.

3. Add the peppers and the seedless tomatoes cut in cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the shredded chicken. Stir.

5. After removing the skillet from the heat add the egg mixture.

6. Place the mixture in a baking dish lined with tracing paper. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

7. After preheating to 200ºC, put the baking dish into the oven and let it bake for 20 minutes.

The frittata becomes very tasteful. The tomatoes and peppers, along with the mustard, give this recipe a very nice flavour!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Watermelon, mozzarella and olives skewers

It is commonly said that "there is no accounting for taste", nevertheless I find myself constantly wondering why I don't fancy watermelon very much. I concede that it is very suited to be eaten in the summer. A chilled slice of watermelon in a hot summer day is a marvelous sensation.

Recognizing, thus, the value of the watermelon, since last year I have been using this summer fruit. Last year, I used it in juices and in one salad. This year, seeing the recipe of watermelon skewers in the July 2011 Continente magazine, with such a tempting look, I could not resist and do it.

500g peeled and seedless watermelon
150g mozzarella snack cheese
100g pitted green olives
fleur de sel and freshly grounded pepper to taste
olive oil to taste
20 wooden skewers

1. Make small balls of watermelon with a Paris spoon (a spoon fitted for this purpose). Put aside.

2. Drain the cheese and olives.

3. Place the ingredients in separate bowls.

4. Begin putting a watermelon ball on a skewer, then alternate with cheese and olives and finish again with the watermelon.

5. Place the skewers on a platter. Season with olive oil, fleur de sel and pepper.

This can be an interesting solution for a quick and fresh starter, for example, to served at lunch with friends or family.

Here, at home, this combination of watermelon, olives and mozzarella cheese was also served as a salad. I laid out on a platter the previous ingredients, along with green leaves and seasoned it all with salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. After all, watermelon can be used in many ways!

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Espetada de melancia, mozzarela e azeitonas ]

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Potato, purslane and capers salad

In the last couple of years I started using purslane. I grew up looking at them as weeds that selfishly invaded the gardens in order to take advantage of the freshness between the greens and thought that they were of no interest to human consumption. I began using them in soups - I haven't tried yet the famous purslane and cheese soup from Alentejo, but it is in my to-do list! - and only since then I started using purslane in salads. I spotted the recipe of today's salad in the Kahakai Kitchen blog.

400g potatoes
1 sheaf of purslane
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon capers

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard powder
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 minced garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the potatoes in half and boil them in water. Once cooked, leave to cool.

2. Prepare the purslane by removing leaves and small twigs. Wash and drain.

3. In a bowl put the onion, purslane and the cooked potatoes cut as cubes.

4. For the sauce, mix all ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wire rod.

5. Pour the sauce over the salad, stir and serve.

This salad was the garnish of some grilled lamb chops.

The purslane I used was hand picked by me in my parent's garden. Nowadays, it is easy to find it in local supermarkets.

Other recipes with purslane (written in Portuguese):
- Purslane with baked beans and tomato soup;
- Purslane, egg and oregano soup;
- Zucchini with basil and purslane soup;
- Poached eggs in tomato sauce with purslane;
- Figs with Roquefort cheese and toasted pine nuts salad;
- Purslane, peach and cheese salad;
- Purslane, tomato and onion salad.

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Salada de batata com beldroegas e alcaparras ]

Monday, July 18, 2011

A story with a zest of beach and sea and a tomato and bream rice

There were three. Maria, João and Manuel. The big summer holidays usually would bring them all to the house of their maternal grandparents in the Algarve during three weeks. The house was near the beach. It had two storeys and was painted white. The windows were outlined by a blue bar and small vases, attached to the wall with red scented geraniums. A wooden fence, also painted in white, went around the house, cut only by a gate situated opposite the main entrance. Inside the fence, a small garden with flower beds, two orange trees, one fig tree and a three-foot vine that grew around some sticks of wood and covered all the space next to the stairs to the roof terrace - "açoteia" as it is still called in that region. Often, it was there that the children played at the end of the afternoon, in the shade, under the large and ripe bunches of grapes. Other times, they delighted themselves with very sweet ripe figs that they hand picked from the fig tree.

Maria was the eldest, Joana was the middle sister and Manuel was the youngest. They were exactly three years older between each other. Manuel often had to resort to crying many fat and salty tears, to enforce his will. But age is, at some times, a hierarchical position and both sisters would end giving up.

Summer days had a routine of its own. A trip to the beach early in the morning. Sometimes their grandmother, other times, the maid called Teresa, who their parents urged to accompany the children to the sea water. Nonetheless, what they really loved was playing on the sand.

With their shovels, buckets of various shapes and forms, they would build castles where, in more than one occasion, there lived a beautiful princess trapped by a spell which never let her leave the castle during the day, or a terrible queen, with bitter look, which trapped all the fat and chubby children who later were reduced into small lovely frogs that she liked playing with. They also would build fortresses full of spices and treasures which not even Captain Hook could dream of, and boats with sails torned by the sheer force of the wind, clumsy pirates on stilts who didn't know how to whistle, mermaid singing sweet melodies to all the sailors who were left unconscious in a very deep sleep letting their boats sink, giant whales and colorful fish that the children have never seen.

After lunch, in their naps, their dreams were populated with adventures with a zest of sea. Manuel, who always dreamt of being a brave, strong and fearless sailor, had always to save his sisters who recklessly would engage in trouble.

Apart from all the fun from playing with the sand, they were delighted when their grandfather António took them fishing. Grandpa would prepare the rods, hooks and bait, and each one would take a bucket to bring the fish or a clam or two that sometimes were picked up in the Ria Formosa. Those fishing trips were magical. But it was even more magical when they returned home and grandpa went to the kitchen to prepare a delicious meal with the small fish they had caught.

Maria, Joana and Manuel, grew, had children of their own and grandfather Antonio had already departed. But they all believed they all remembered gleefully of those summer holidays and grandpa's fish recipe, which is currently made on special occasions.

1kg bream
2 onions
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon paprika
3 ripe tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1.5dl olive oil
salt and pepper
400g carolinorice
hot water (approx. 1.2L)

1. Cut bream to evenly slices and sprinkle with salt.

2. In a pan, bring to medium heat, olive oil and sauté the half-moon sliced onions, crushed garlic, bay leaves and paprika.

3. After breaking the onion, add the chopped skinless and seedless tomato. Boil until almost it is turned into puree. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Add 2.5dl of warm water. When it starts boiling add the slices of bream. Once cooked remove the slices and set aside.

5. Add the remaining water and add the rice. Rectify the seasoning.

6. Serve the rice with the fish slices.

This rice is delicious. The tomato makes all the difference. I found this recipe in a book titled Receitas Portuguesas ("Portuguese Recipes") by Francisco Guedes.

With this story and this tasty tomato rice and fish, I join the third anniversary celebration of figo lampo.

Margarida, congratulations!

[ Originally published in Portuguese as Uma história com sabor a praia e mar e um arroz de goraz ]