Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Not Tired of My Own Cooking

Two weeks of Casa Paco meals is usually something I look forward to, but this year our trip to Spain was marred by a tag-team case of la tourista. Nothing looked good for days. The Spouse remarked that the flatulence resulting from the bug was waking him up at night, and he wasn’t talking about his gas. Oh dear. How embarrassing.

The good news is that my cooking has, in comparison, suddenly looked good to both of us. Here are some highlights.

Pork and chicken are about the best you can do for meat here in Slovakia. I recently rediscovered this recipe for ribs that I got from a fellow expat in Argentina:

About 2 kilos/4 pounds ribs or whatever you find in the grocery store. Often I get those pieces of pork without bones. Boil them in salted water for about one hour. Drain.

Cover with the following sauce made of

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vinegar (I use whatever, including balsamic)
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 onion, diced

You can thin the sauce with a little water if you want . . . 1/2 cup. I forgot this time. I spread the meat in a shallow pan like a lasagna dish. Cover with sauce and put in over at 250F for about 2 hours, turning the pieces a few times. Messy, but really delicious.

Roasted Beet Salad with Feta and Toasted Pine Nuts
I love beets. I had this salad at my friends’ restaurant and then recreated it at home. Not exactly the same, but very good.

I wrap the beets in foil and roast them in the oven. This time I did three beets, but that was really too much for just the two of us. Since roasting beets is not an exact science, I discovered that if they are still a little too crunchy, you can dice them and then finish them in the microwave. I add a little olive oil, lemon juice, crumbled feta, and the pine nuts. Chopped fresh herbs are nice if you have them: mint or oregano or both works well.

Roasted Endive and Prosciutto Ham
This is something I stole from Jamie Oliver. Take fresh thyme and pound it in the mortar/pestle with garlic . . . add LOTS of olive oil, pour the whole mess into a large bowl, and then work it into endive which I cut in half long ways. Wrap the oiled/herbed endive in prosciutto ham, pour some good balsamic vinegar over it all, and roast. It also works with radicchio, but that turns an awful color when it cooks, although it tastes really nice.

Roasted Cauliflower
Are you noticing a theme here? I like roasting things because they require so little attention (and then I can waste more time at the computer). I tried some grilling recently, but burned both the eggplant and the zucchini. I have been relieved of my tongs.

But this is easy and really good. Just cut the cauliflower into small florets. Drizzle with olive oil. I add sea salt, ground black pepper, and maybe some hot pepper flakes. Ground cumin is really good, too. Toss it all, spread in a shallow dish or pan, and roast it until it gets brown and sort of crispy.

Roasted Tomatoes
I can’t seem to get tired of this. I blanch tomatoes in boiling water to remove the skins. Those oblong Italian tomatoes work best. Slice them in half. Sometimes I deseed them, too. I put them in a shallow dish and drizzle them with olive oil. If I am feeling ambitious, I make some basil pesto and put a small dab of that on each tomato half. If I am lazy, I just chiffonade some basil leaves and sprinkle them over. Lots of sea salt and black pepper and roast. I like the results best when I use a slow oven and they take on more of a sun-dried consistency, but you can also blast them quickly in a really hot oven until they start to blacken. Some parmesan cheese or mozzarella is good on these too . . . while they are still in the oven is best so it all melts.

Plum Tart
On Monday I went to see my friend Sona and her new baby. She fed me a lovely plum tart that was just some ground almonds and a little sugar and halved plums in a pie shell. But the girls really liked it, so I was going to try my own, except I was too lazy to make a pie crust from scratch (and the better premade ones come from Austria). So I found a Nigella recipe for a plum and pecan crumble, which was really good, except the girls turned up their noses at the pecan aspect and I ate most of it myself . . . so now I feel bloated and uncomfortable. Bad girl.

While searching for a tart recipe, I found, on, a recipe for Plum Tart with Goat Cheese and Walnut-Thyme Streusel, which looks really good. I printed it off and will try to make it soon.


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