Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Chocolate hazelnut (Nutella) granola

As I promised yesterday on World Nutella Day, here’s what I threw together to make unsuccessful granola bars, but very yummy granola!

Chocolate hazelnut (Nutella) granola

  • 3/4 cup chocolate hazelnut paste (Nutella)
  • 1.5 tablespoons ground flax seeds mixed with 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons dark syrup
  • vanilla extract
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1/3 cup chopped roasted nuts (mine were almonds and hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Place chocolate hazelnut paste in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave to melt slightly. Add flax seed mixture, syrup, and splash vanilla extract to bowl. Add oats, wheat bran and nuts to bowl and mix until everything is evenly coated. Add raisins and stir until evenly distributed.

    Press mixture into a foil-lined and greased pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool, then break up into granola-sized chunks and store in an airtight container.


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    Ribollita recipe

    Here’s the more formally written recipe for the ribollita I made yesterday. Even if you think a cabbage soup with beans and soggy bread sounds weird, I encourage you to give it a try. It might surprise you.


    My own recipe, adapted a long time ago from this recipe

    • olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, diced
    • 2 medium onions, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1 glass warm water
    • 2 carrots, finely chopped
    • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped (optional)
    • about 1/2 a medium cabbage, thick white parts removed, cut into strips
    • a few handfuls fresh or frozen spinach or other dark leafy green (if fresh, cut into strips)
    • 2 potatoes, thinly sliced into half moons
    • salt
    • pepper
    • 2 cans white (cannellini) beans
    • 1 loaf crusty white bread (preferably stale), cut into cubes

    1. Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes.

    2. When they’re soft, add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste diluted in a glass of warm water. Add the finely chopped carrot, sliced potato, and celery (if using). Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then add sliced cabbage (and fresh greens). Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium-low heat.

    3. Take one can of white beans and mash the contents (including the liquid) with a fork. If using frozen spinach, thaw it in the microwave and drain off some of the liquid. It’s not necessary to squeeze it out thoroughly. Add the mashed beans and thawed spinach to the pot about 30 minutes after the cabbage, then continue to cook for another 30 minutes.

    4. If the bread being used is not dry or stale, spread it on a baking sheet and place it in a low-temperature oven for about 10 minutes.

    5. Check the potatoes and cabbage for doneness. Add in the second can of beans, drained. The vegetables may need to cook for another 10 minutes or so.

    6. When vegetables are well done, add the bread cubes to the pot, keeping it over low heat. Stir to incorporate and add more water if necessary. Allow the soup to sit for about five minutes, then remove from heat and serve. Drizzle olive oil and/or sprinkle grated cheese (such as Parmiggiano-Reggiano) over individual servings, if desired.

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    Tuscan white bean something

    Last night I made one of my favorite things ever for dinner. It requires very few ingredients and it’s quick to make. Unfortunately, I don’t have a name for this concoction.

    It was born when I was studying abroad in Perugia, Italy and I signed up for a day tour in Tuscany that included a farmhouse lunch. The meal was incredible– there’s actually 2 things I tried for the first time that day that are now among my favorite things to cook. But the one that I’m writing about today came in the form of an antipasto, an absolutely delicious cream-colored mixture spread on toasted bread. As soon as a worker came to clear the table, my friends and I asked him what was in it, and he rattled off “fagioli…cipolle…tonno…” (beans, onions, and tuna).

    marikaAt the farmhouse, eagerly awaiting my multi-course lunch (back in 2003)

    My friends and I committed these ingredients to memory, and the next week we tried to make the mixture ourselves, tossing it with pasta instead of spreading it on bread. Even then, we didn’t have a name for it– I think we just called it “that bean stuff”– but we were all smitten with it. So simple and so good.

    To this day, I have no idea what to call it. Whenever I get my hands on an Italian cookbook, I look through all the white bean recipes, but I’ve never found a recipe exactly like this one. So here it is– the recipe for the white bean concoction inspired by something my friends and I ate at a Tuscan farmhouse.

    Start with one medium-sized onion. Cut it into thin slices and saute it in a pan some olive oil (not too much– maybe a tablespoon?).


    You’ll also need one can of white beans and a can of tuna in water.


    Once the onions are soft and have begin to caramelize slightly, add the can of beans to the pan. I usually add them along with most of the liquid from the can, otherwise the mixture could get too dry. This is also when I begin to add the seasonings. Add salt and pepper liberally. This time around I also added around a teaspoon of dried oregano and a few pinches of crushed red pepper. When I lived in Italy, I had this to-die-for rosemary salt that was perfect in this. (Actually, it was amazing in just about everything… I was pretty obsessed with it). I currently don’t have any rosemary in my spice cabinet, but if you do, go ahead and use it.

    After adding the seasonings, start to squish some of the beans with your spatula.


    Once you’ve done the desired amount of squishing and the mixture is bubbling, add the can of tuna. It’s good to drain this first, because too much tuna water makes the whole dish taste too fishy. Stir the tuna in, taste it, adjust seasonings if necessary. Allow the whole mixture to heat through. Enough of the liquid should be cooked off by now so that it’s pretty thick (it also thickens up after you take it off the heat). If you have some hard Italian cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino around, grating about a quarter cup of that in or just sprinkling it over the top after serving is an excellent touch.

    Also, you should be cooking some pasta to go with this– penne or the curly pasta shape (I forget what it’s called!) are good for this.


    The end result, unfortunately, looks sort of like dog food, but believe me– it is so delicious. It also smells fantastic. Whenever I have made it– at my parent’s house, at college, even here with J– somebody has commented, “Wow, that smells so good. What are you making?” And time and again I’ve struggled for an answer, since this beloved dish of mine, as delicious and nostalgic as it is, has never had a real name. Perhaps it’s time to come up with one? Any suggestions?

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    Lingonberry muffins

    I used my silicone bakeware for the first time! As promised, I used the muffin pan. It didn’t take long to think of what kind to make– I saw a chance to use up more of the still-abundant lingonberries in our freezer. I found a simple recipe for muffins with fresh cranberries and made a few changes. I added some vanilla and cinnamon and of course substituted lingonberries for cranberries.


    I used cupcake liners in the muffin pan. The muffins were so easy to pop out when they were done, and they were nice and evenly baked with crisp tops. I put the pan back in the oven with just a few cups filled to bake a few extra muffins. There were some spots where the lingberries had been against the paper liners and their juices kind of leaked through, and the second bout in the oven turned those spots black. And I couldn’t get them off! I soaked the pan and scrubbed it, and the black spots stayed. I was so bummed, but then I tried scratching them with my fingernail, which did actually get them off. It’s just such a tedious cleaning method. I should probably double up on liners next time.


    Oh, and the muffins! I thought they came out really well. I’m glad I used fresh-squeezed orange juice, as they gave a really bright flavor to the muffins. J said they could be sweeter, so next time I might sprinkle some coarse sugar on top for sweetness and texture.

    In case anyone is interested, this is the recipe I used, based on something I found on allrecipes.com:

    Lingonberry muffins

    2 c. flour
    1 c. sugar
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. salt
    1/4 c. soft butter
    1 tbsp. grated orange rind
    3/4 c. orange juice
    1 egg
    splash of vanilla
    1 tsp. cinnamon
    1 3/4 c. lingonberries

    Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.Cream butter and sugar together in a larger bowl. Add egg and mix well. Add orange juice, orange rind, splash of vanilla and cinnamon and mix until combined. Add flour and mix until just combined. Gently fold in lingonberries. Pour batter into muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes.

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    Gnocchi with blue cheese sauce

    My love for blue cheese sauce began in 2003, a few days after I’d started my semester in Perugia, Italy. Our kitchen was still fairly bare, so my roommate and I opted for dinner at a ristorante, and I ordered the gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce (I didn’t have much experience with gnocchi at that point either). And OH MY GOD… it was so good. So simple, but so enchanting. Happiness on a plate. Shortly thereafter, I found a recipe for it in an English-language Italian cookbook in the library at my study-abroad school, the Umbra Institute. Yay! The book states that it’s not a traditional sauce, which probably explains why it’s not the kind of thing you find at every single Italian restaurant (unlike spaghetti bolognese or something).


    It’s simple but still somehow impressive. I’ve made it for my isa for Father’s Day, and when I was living in Tartu and met a guy who was obsessed with blue cheese, I just had to make it for him too.

    The accompaniment of smoked salmon is an idea stolen from the now-defunct ZumZum, which used to reside on Küüni street in Tartu (it’s been replaced by a place called… Place. Seriously). Anyway, I once ordered their blue cheese pasta for a late-night dinner, and despite the fact that their sauce wasn’t flavorful enough, the surprising smoked salmon paired with it deliciously. Somehow the smooth saltiness of the fish and the rich tanginess of the sauce just work.

    I’d been wanting to make it again for a while, but since it is so indulgent, I felt I needed a reason to make it (not to mention a dinner partner to help me eat it). Last weekend I was fortunate enough to find myself in the company of the most blue-cheese-loving and appreciative audience to my cooking, so it seemed like the perfect time. So I cooked. We ate. It was delicious.

    The recipe is so incredibly simple—just a few ingredients and a short cooking time—but it’s not the kind of thing you can make every day because it’s extremely rich. The recipe specifies gorgonzola, but I’ve made it with all kinds of blue cheeses. You just want to make sure you have a cheese with decent flavor, since it is the main ingredient in the sauce. It goes well with small, textured pasta (penne, farfalle, orrechiette), but I like it best with potato gnocchi.


    Blue cheese sauce for pasta (adapted from a book called The Food of Italy; I don’t know the author)

    For four servings, melt 15 g (1/2 oz) butter in a saucepan, add 250 g (8 oz) gorgonzola or other blue cheese and crush with a fork. Add 200 ml (7 fl oz) cream or milk and stir until well blended, adding pepper and a touch of nutmeg. Serve mixed well with pasta.

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