Comfort in a Bowl

Polenta with Mushrooms, Cavalo Nero and Gorganzola

I am sure everyone is wondering where I have been for the last two months. I wish I could give you some glamorous answer, but the truth is that life got in my way: work deadlines and a trip to London; and I had a cold which then turned into the flu over the holidays. Now I am back and raring to go.

Winter has finally reared its head here in Israel and all I could think of was making comfort in a bowl. First, I made us a big pot of hearty chicken soup which nurtured Mr BT and me through the cold-flu episode. It healed us, warmed us and comforted us as it always does. Good old chicken soup.

When I finally had the energy to cook again, I decided to make the second best comfort in a bowl recipe, polenta. Soft polenta, stirred clockwise with a wooden paddle over a low flame and served with sautéed White Button mushrooms, King Oyster mushrooms, homegrown Cavolo Nero from my garden and creamy Gorgonzola cheese. Life can’t get much better than that.

I am looking forward to an interesting 2012, filled with new recipes, new adventures and some lovely surprises.

I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.

Polenta with Mushrooms, Leeks, Cavolo Nero and Gorgonzola

Serving Size: 6 as main course

For the polenta:

4 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup polenta (not instant)

For the vegetables

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large leek, pale and green parts only, rinsed and thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small bunch of Cavolo Nero, kale or Swiss Chard, stems removed and roughly chopped

1 package White Button or Cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

2 large King Oyster mushrooms, cut in half and then cut lengthwise

1/4 dry white wine

2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme

100g (3.5 oz) Gorgonzola Dolce

Place the water and salt in a large saucepan over a low flame. Immediately add the polenta in a steady stream while stirring constantly in a clockwise motion to avoid lumps. Stir ever few minutes in a clockwise motion until all the liquid is absorbed and the polenta is thick, approximately 30-40 minutes. The polenta should be soft and creamy, not grainy.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add the leeks, garlic and Cavolo Nero. Saute until the leeks are slightly soft and barely golden, about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and set aside. Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the mushrooms, cooking until they are softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the leek mixture and the white wine to the pan. When the wine is cooked down slightly, add the chopped thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

When the polenta has finished cooking, crumble in half of the Gorgonzola and mix through. Place the polenta on a large platter and form a well in the center. Place the mushroom mixture in the well and crumble the rest of the Gorgonzola on top.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2012/01/14/comfort-in-a-bowl/

Happy 2010!

The first year I moved to Israel I invited a few friends over to my flat for a nice New Year’s dinner. I bought sparklers and really bad champagne in  Shouk HaCarmel in Tel Aviv. A few minutes before midnight we went out to my rooftop terrace, lit the sparklers and started yelling out “Happy New Year!”. Much to my chagrin, a neighbor yelled out of his window “Sheket!”, which means “shutup!” I never really celebrated New Year’s Eve again.

New Year’s Eve is not celebrated in Israel like everywhere else. Religious Jews do not recognize it as the new year because the start of the new year in the Jewish calendar is Rosh Hashana, which falls during the early autumn. So, even though you will see people celebrating in restaurants, pubs, and discos around the country, most people do not celebrate it.

Mr BT and I had a quiet dinner at home.

I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to cook on Thursday, so I had to find some dishes that I could make quickly, but were gourmet. I found an interesting salmon recipe from Chef Eric Ripert, who is chef of the famous Michelin three-star restaurant, Le Bernardin. I have never eaten there, but I have seen him on few cooking shows and his dishes always looked delicious. The recipe called for the salmon to be wrapped in phyllo pastry, so I went to the supermarket to buy a package of phyllo the day before. I took the box out the night before and when I came home to start cooking I discovered, to my annoyance, that I had bought puff pastry! The dessert I was making also called for phyllo, so what was the Baroness to do?! I improvised, like any good chef would do. I had a package of rice paper wrappers that I hadn’t used yet. I had Mr BT check on the internet if rice paper would crisp up like phyllo, and he reported that it was crispier than wonton wrappers. So,  I  replaced the phyllo  with the rice paper and it was a huge success. The dish is light and delicious and I will definitely make it again. We began the meal with a steamed artichoke with aioli, then I served the salmon on a bed of sauteed mushrooms with a side of Creole Orange Rice. The rice is spicy with a nice hint of fresh orange. It was perfect with the salmon.

Rice Paper Wrapped Salmon with Sauteed Mushrooms

Serving Size: 2

The Salmon:

2 (250g or 1/2 lb) salmon fillets, boneless and skinless

4 large round sheets rice paper

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

The Soy-Mustard Vinaigrette:

1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon cut chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauteed Mushrooms:

1/2 lb mixed mushrooms

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup white wine

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salmon wrapped in rice paper

For the Salmon:

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Soak two sheets of rice paper, one at a time, in warm water for 20 seconds. Place the sheets on top of each other and place one fillet of salmon in the middle. Wrap the rice paper around the salmon like an envelope. Repeat with the next two sheets of rice paper and salmon fillet. Set aside.

Mix together the soy sauce, mustard, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, and stir in the thyme and parsley. Set aside.

Place the oil in a medium frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the two fillets of salmon and saute for about 4 minutes on each side, until the rice paper is lightly browned or crispy to the touch.

For the Mushrooms: Trim the ends off the mushrooms and cut them in half, depending on size. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the minced shallot and garlic and saute until soft. Add the mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the white wine and reduce adding the butter to create a silky delicate sauce. Add the herbs to the pan and remove from the heat.

To plate, place a fillet on top of a bed of mushrooms. Sprinkle the soy-mustard vinaigrette on top of the salmon.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/01/02/happy-2010/

 

Creole Orange Rice

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 medium navel orange, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

1 cup rice

2 cups water

Saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Sprinkle the salt and cayenne on the onions. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, cover and cook the rice for 20 minutes.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/01/02/happy-2010/

I wanted to make individual cranberry strudels for dessert, but I didn’t have any phyllo, so I decided to make bourekas instead. Mr BT suggested that I serve them to guests and not tell them what is inside. I would say that I didn’t have time to make dessert and thought we could have a savory dessert instead.

Cranberry Bourekas

Yield: 10 to 12

1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen

1/3 cup water

2/3 cup Granny Smith apple, peeled and finely chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon chopped candied orange peel

1 package puff pastry

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking sheet with silicone and set aside. Put the cranberries and water in a small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until the cranberries pop. Drain them, discarding the liquid and return the cranberries to the pan.

Add the apple, raisins, walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, and orange peel; toss gently until mixed.

Cranberry-Apple Bourekas

Unroll the puff pastry and cut strips about 5cm (2 inches) wide. Place a rounded tablespoon of the cranberry mixture near the bottom edge of the puff pastry.

Cranberry Bourekas

Take the bottom right corner and wrap it over the filling and roll the filling up into a triangle. Repeat with the remaining strips.

Cranberry Bourekas

Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the bourekas are golden. The bourekas make leak slightly during baking. Transfer the bourekas to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/01/02/happy-2010/

Chicken with Barley and Mushrooms

We are starting to feel winter approaching here in the center of  Israel. The temparature is around 19C (66F) during the day and around 12C (54F) in the evening. I know that most of you are having a real chuckle over my definition of winter, but the only true winter that you see in Israel is in the Golan Heights and Galilee, Jerusalem and the Negev.

Given the temperature change,  I was in the mood for a nice hearty dish for Shabbat dinner. I have been trying to convince my husband for a while now that he will like the way I cook barley. His experience with barley has apparently not been a good one. I on the other hand love barley and have nice memories of my father making a big pot of  barley & mushroom soup. I really miss this soup and I have not made in years.  So, I did a little bit of Southern sweet talking and convinced him to try an interesting barley recipe I found.

The recipe called for barley groats which is the least processed form of barley, with just the outermost hull removed. While it is chewier and slower to cook than more processed forms of barley, it is rich in fiber. They sell it in the supermarkets here in Israel, but you should be able to find it at Whole Foods or a health food store.

This simple one-pot chicken dish is perfect for a cold winter day. It is full of flavour using good chicken stock, fresh thyme and white wine. It  is even better the next day. You can make this with pearl barley, but reduce the cooking time from 1 hour to 35-40 minutes.

And the best part is that Mr. Baroness Tapuzina said he loved it and I could make it again for him. Twenty-five points for using my Scarlett O’Hara impression. It works every time. 😉 Now I can make the mushroom and barley soup.

Chicken with Barley Groats and Mushrooms

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped

3 3/4 cups chicken stock

4 cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press

1 1/2 cups barley groats or pearl barley

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1/2-tsp dried)

Season chicken with 1/8-tsp salt and pepper. In a shallow Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown the chicken in batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and saute the onion until golden. Add the leeks and the garlic, sauteing until the leeks are softened. Add the barley and bay leaf, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. Then stir in the wine and cook until it evaporates. Add the chicken stock, mushrooms, thyme and remaining salt. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes and then add the chicken, nestling it into the barley. Cover and cook until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 1 hour for barley groats (35-40 minutes for pearl barley).

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/12/10/barley-chicken/

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