Sunday, January 3, 2016

originals: Spanish fondue carbonara or whatever

When I was a kid, because that's how I now see myself when I was in my early 20s - as a kid, the connection between my mood and cooking was much simpler. When I was happy and satisfied, I made tons of crepes, when I was sad and frustrated I baked bread everyday. I'd spend hours in silence, crying and kneading, before I was finally diagnosed with severe depression. In the meantime cooking became more of a source of joy than just a way to cope with stress. I started cooking for others. I started cooking for men, finding yet another way to pleasure them. In the last years I understood to full extent what it means to put love into what you cook. I grew, I bloomed, as a person and as a chef.

Now I hit a wall. With no-one to cook for and no strength to get up from bed I lost 20 lbs, because I simply can't be bothered. There's this expression in Polish, loosely translated to "to eat through one's reason," or something - that's what I do now. I explain to myself that I need to eat. Cooking is mostly out of the question. That makes days like today special.

I'm still browsing through recipes, a lot, and bookmarking, a lot. Mark Bittman's Cacio e Pepe spent some time among my saved links and today it seemed like a good thing to try. Simple enough, comfort-foody enough. I forced myself to go shopping in the cold (-14 degrees), dragged myself back to the apartment and, I don't know, something just happened. That small, barely noticeable magic, when you look at the ingredients around you and just allow yourself to be silly and have fun.

In my fridge, there was an open bottle of my favourite white, vino turbio (cloudy wine), that I just brought back from Spain. Why use water, when you can use fresh, tangy, slightly yeasty wine? The cheese and the wine mixed together immediately reminded me of fondue, and I simply can't have fondue without a ton of nutmeg. So there it went. Freshly ground pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, a touch of cayenne for that extra kick, not that it needed one. Bittman wrote to use good olive oil, and there it was, on the table, a 5l bottle of the most amazing Spanish olive oil so delicious, I could drink it just like that, from a glass. I couldn't wait for the pasta to finish cooking, I checked it every five seconds. I started thinking of something more to add to the sauce to stop doing that. Egg-yolk, why, yes, please. As far as I'm concerned egg-yolks should go into everything.

Believe me, the result was stunning.

"We're completely different in the way that we cook. She's always looking for new recipes and trying them out, I just go through the fridge and the pantry, see what we have and try to figure out what to make from it." That's what he often said about us. Now he's gone. So I guess I have to do both.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

originals: sweet potato, white bean and kale (tacos)

There's only one way to say this: until a couple of days ago, I was a kale virgin. I actually bought it a few times with full intent of using it, but every time I chickened out and I let it rot in my fridge. Believe me - rotten kale is NOT something you want to smell, ever. But as I'm finally realising my dream of cooking for a living (well, for drinks at least) and posing as a pro, I can't run away from it any longer. And so, looking for a vegan option for our tacos (at Ricos Tacos), I created my first recipe using kale!

Prep is key here, once you have everything sliced, diced and drained it's the simplest thing to cook EVER. And the ingredients, in order of appearance, are:
  • canola oil
  • 1 red onion - diced
  • 1 garlic clove - minced
  • 1 jalapeno - chopped finely*
  • 1 large sweet potato (at least palm sized) - diced
  • 1 can of small white beans - drained
  • 1 packed glass of kale - chopped
  • salt
Now this is really simple: heat oil in a wok, toss in the aromatics, cook on small heat until the onion becomes translucent, toss in the sweet potato, stir well until it's all covered in the oil and increase heat to high, cook for a couple of minutes, add the beans, stir until warm, salt, taste, salt again, add kale, stir until it gets a pretty vivid green colour, serve.

Now, we at Ricos Tacos serve it on warmed corn tortillas with cilantro, slices of avocado, pomegranate seeds and a quarter of lime, but you can serve it any way you want. E.g. on quinoa, if you feel sweet potato and kale aren't hipster enough for you.

*adjust to your own heat preferences, use more or seed the one you're using, but DO NOT leave it out unless you want to end up with a bland dish

Saturday, February 7, 2015

originals: barley risotto pseudo-iberico

Almost 10-month break. I'm not sure how that happened. It's not like I stopped cooking - I learned to make kimchi, I helped organise an actual food event, threw a few dinners for my friends. It's not like I stopped writing either - I write book reviews now, me. But it doesn't matter.

What matters is that a few days ago I just walked into my kitchen, looked at what I had, went for a quick walk to the store (that's what I do now - I don't buy food online, I walk to the grocery store every day) and came back to prepare a proper meal for my fiancé, who was just about to come back from his Frank-like trip. These are the ingredients I ended up with.

  • 2 medium sized red onions, chopped finely
  • 250 g oyster mushrooms, cut in finger wide stripes and then in half
  • a large (I mean, large) knob of butter
  • 60 g chorizo, cut to your liking, in rather small pieces
  • 250 g flat beans, cut in squares
  • 500 g barley
  • dry white wine (in this case, Spanish)
  • grated iberico cheese - to taste
  • 1 l chicken broth
  • some olive oil (again - Spanish)
  • salt, pepper (freshly grated, duh), nutmeg,  (saffron)

Do you see the pattern? I can't say that watching Rick Stein in Spain every day for a week didn't leave its mark. And, of course, there he is - my huge, glorious cat, my well-educated sous chef, meat aficionado, known to read Cooking for Geeks for the pure pleasure of learning. He ran away as soon as I started chopping the onion.

Immediately after preparing this thing I figured out a few ways to improve it, so allow me to tell you how I would do it again rather than how I did it this time. The beginning is simple, like with every risotto. In a large pot (I figured it won't fit in any skillet I have) melt the butter with some great quality aromatic olive oil for additional flavour. [I know I might have overdone it with the fat, especially taking under consideration the later added fat from the chorizo - for me fat equals flavour, but you don't have to add as much as I did - just make sure it will cover the whole bottom of the pan.] Add the chopped onion and chorizo with a pinch of salt and cook them until the onion is translucent and the fat melted away from the chorizo. Already at this point the smell is amazing - the essence of the joy of cooking.

Add the barley and stir everything well so that it's completely covered in the fat. Adjust the heat so that it's pretty high, but without the risk of burning everything. For a few minutes stir everything well and let the barley really take in the flavour from the chorizo and onions. Add the wine - enough to cover the barley and then some. Again stir well and let the barley drink up the wine, making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Start adding the (hot) broth (keep it in a pot on small heat), bit by bit, still making sure there's no sticking at the bottom - I usually use a big ladle and add more broth as soon as the rice/barley takes in what I poured in. Somewhere halfway through the broth add the chopped beans and season generously with black pepper. Be careful with salt, as the cheese that is to be added later is pretty salty itself. Continue adding the broth and check the seasoning. I also added a bit of nutmeg. Somehow I had no saffron at home, but I imagine a strand or two would elevate the whole thing (and make it even more Spanish, since Rick Stein said he can't imagine a more Spanish spice ; ) ).

When there's almost no broth left, add some grated cheese - to your liking - and once again check and adjust the seasoning. Add the last batch of the broth and if the barley is cooked through after it's absorbed - finish cooking. If not, you can add some water and cook it until it's done.

Now - when I made this I added the oyster mushrooms to the whole thing about the same time I added the beans. This was a mistake, as they completely disappeared among the other flavours. So what I'd do the next time round - sauté the mushrooms on butter with some salt and pepper and serve them on top of the risotto with a few flakes of cheese.

I'm pretty happy with this recipe - I think both the flavours and the textures go great together, it's rich, creamy, with a bit of crunch from the beans and relatively healthy, I think. I hope you like it too. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


No, this isn't about one of those fancy birthday cakes that look like toys, TARDISes or pizzas. This is about a birthday cake made of pizzas, a terrifying and fascinating invention by Boston Pizza featured on their Pizza Game Changers website. Mine doesn't have as many layers and isn't as regular (although I planned to make it quite regular using an actual cake form, but I didn't account for the proofing and growing and stuff), but, mind you, this is a result of the first attempt.

When I first saw Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake I asked the many pizza-crazed pizza-loving pizza-maniacs I know who's birthday is coming first and decided to make it for that occasion. The day came on Saturday and since I'm a woman of my word, here's my pizza cake.

I used Jamie's pizza dough recipe, which allowed me to make four small pizzas and a ring to bind them (had some dough left). No need to get into details about the sauce and decoration - I tried not to use too much topping so that the layers don't collapse under the weight.

I baked every pizza separately for a few minutes, a bit shorter that I would bake a single pizza, also making the base a bit thicker than I normally would. The one that goes on the bottom was baked for the shortest time, as it's the one most exposed in the final stage. Then I stacked the pizzas and wrapped them in the leftover dough. If I wasn't in such a hurry I'd let it proof for a while in that state, before putting it back in the oven. Also, the next time I think I'll use some mozzarella to bind the pizzas and the dough around them. Anyway, this is what came out.

It doesn't look great inside, because I used rather flat toppings, that don't support the layers on top, unlike it was apparently done (?) in the original idea. Also, transporting it included some running and about 1,5 hour passed between taking it out from the oven and slicing it so it dropped a bit.

Still, I'm pretty proud of it and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Disclaimer: this post may be a bit chaotic, sorry for that, the spring has really gotten to my brain

Saturday, April 12, 2014

almost tinga de pollo and mango guacamole

Of course the day I decided to go Mexican had to be the day when my fiancé, who works in a Mexican restaurant, went on a week-long road trip to shoot a movie. So there was no response when I asked him "how do you make tinga de pollo at work?". So I had to rely on a recipe from Epicurious and, unfortunately, the limited supplies of the Polish suburbia.

This recipe is pretty good, but I call what came out from that "almost" tinga de pollo, because I couldn't find chipotle en adobo within a 5km radius from my parents' house and I had to use marinated jalapeños. It still turned out great. I served it with mango guacamole, which is totally amazing, especially with such great ingredients as we had:

  • 1 super ripe avocado
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 1 small chili pepper
  • juice from 1 lime
  • chopped fresh cilantro

Using a spoon scoop the avocado out from its skin and squash it in a bowl using a fork. Add the rest of ingredients, mix thourougly. The end.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

seasonal: grilled asparagus with oyster mushrooms

Finally! Spring! Asparagus!

This is a quick one - I trimmed and scrubbed the asparagi (I love to think this is the proper plural form) and grilled them with a dash of unfiltered olive oil, some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
At the same time I sliced the oyster mushrooms, chopped a large shallot and fried them on butter until they relinquished all liquids (also with salt and pepper). Voila!

You can't see it on the picture, becuse the dish was already a mess when I figured it out, but parmesan shavings really bound it together, elevating it from different ingredients thrown on a plate to a proper dish.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Coconut Lime Mussels

Friday night I made Coconut Lime Mussels from this recipe at, turned out pretty well, my mussel-loving friend said they were amazing (she took the photo). I'm still on the road to get convinced to shellfish.

Thanks to Marta I also discovered the Vivino app, which we used extensively that evening. So cool!