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 ]