Fire Roasted Salsa

You can make this salsa anytime! It is a simple salsa made with canned fire roasted tomatoes and a few other ingredients. Get out the food processor and in a few minutes you are done!

You will need:

  • 1/2 -1 fresh jalapeno pepper (ha- la payn-yo! pepper)
  • 1/4 -1/2 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • a handful of fresh cilantro/coriander
  • 1/2 tsp canned chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1 fresh lime juiced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste – it needs more salt than you think- so taste!
  • 1 8 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • tortilla chips

Step 1: I add the jalapenos, onion, garlic and cilantro to the food processor first. I do chop most things at least a bit before adding it to the machine. Chop.

Step 2: add the salt and chipotles (you can buy them in a can or a jar typically) they are very hot so start with less and add more if you like.

Step 3: add the lime juice, olive oil, and finally the tomatoes.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as necessary. I also like mine with lots of lime.

Serve in a pretty bowl and get the Tequila baby!!

Chicken Pasta Primavera

The other day “The Boy” also called “Big Pete” says “You are not bringing your best game to the kitchen”. He says “You need to create some different dishes, like you used to”. Now, my first reaction is to give him a karate chop to the neck but, with great restraint, I held back. I did remind him that the average family in Dallas eats out 5 days a week. I was about to give him my “do you know how good you’ve got it man speech when I realized he was right. So, I made something different today! This is a medley of vegetables and a bit of chicken if you like. This is my version of Pasta Primavera.

Of course, you can quite easily substitute any of your favorite veggies. I like to cook everything separate and then toss it all back at the last minute.  Make this with or without meat.

You will need:

  • 3 slices bacon -chopped into small pieces
  • 4 slices of good quality Italian salami -sliced
  • 1 chicken breast – sliced into strips
  • salt/pepper (at every stage)
  • 1/2 small onion diced fine
  • 1 1/2 cups or so of broccoli florets
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes slice in half
  • 1 large handful of spinach – sliced into strips
  • 4-5 basil leaves – sliced into ribbons
  • 3-4 green onions – sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic- minced finely
  • 1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chili flake
  • more great quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – mine was a medium from the Riva Garda region of Italy for drizzling
  • 1 tbsp or so of great quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 -1 lb box of dry penne pasta
  • more salt and pepper to finish with some fresh grated Parmensano Reggiano cheese.

  Step 1: put on some Andrea Boccelli and pour yourself a glass of wine and just slice, dice and chop everything  before cooking. Once this is done you can start cooking things in batches. If you prefer the tomatoes uncooked just toss everything as you cook it into a giant bowl. Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil.

Step 2: on a medium low heat cook the bacon until approximately half cooked, then add the salami and once both are crispy remove from pan.

Step 3: in the same pan add the onion  plus salt and pepper and cook until slightly browned approx 5-7 minutes

Step 4: cook chicken with 1-2 tbsp olive oil and some salt and pepper, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning and chili flakes, remove from pan once browned.

Step 5: with more olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper (it really is important to season at each stage) cook zucchini until nicely browned and remove from pan.

Step 6: add a bot more oil and the broccoli cooking for 2-3 minutes with more salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute more. The water in the tomatoes cooks the small broccoli pieces perfectly al dente.

Add chicken and all the other cooked components back in to toss for 1 final minute.

 Add the spinach and green onions and garlic and anything else you may have chopped up!

Pour into a giant bowl add another drizzle of raw olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and some Parmesan cheese. Taste it! if it needs more seasoning add it.

Eat it !

Shaved Street Meat on the Rotisserie – Kebab

Flavours of Greece!…lemon, oregano, garlic, mint, basil.

OR

Spicy Middle Eastern Flavours of garlic, chilies, cumin, coriander, horseradish.

You can make this big kebab with Greek flavours or Middle Eastern flavours and spices or Italian etc…The goal is to take meats pound them thin, spice and season them generously, place some vegetables in between and slowly roast them to perfection. Shave the meats, add some fresh vegetables, pickles or spreads and roll it up in a pita or wrap for the perfect fun dinner that can feed a big crowd!

You will need:

(this recipe is great for 4 people but you can easily double it)

Spicy Middle Eastern Flavours

  • you need a grill that has a rotisserie or a spit to roast the meats
  • 2 chicken breasts (or 8 chicken thighs if you prefer the dark meat or both!)
  • 2 pork loin chops or 1 pork tenderloin
  • 2 green onions-minced fine
  • 3 cloves garlic-minced fine
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme – leaves removed
  • 3-4 fresh sage leaves-minced fine
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro (or basil if you prefer)
  • 2 tsp grated fresh horseradish
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1 tbsp oregano (I prefer dry but, fresh is fine too)
  • 1 tbsp Greek mixed spices or Mediterranean spice blend
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh chili (or you can roast it in pieces on the kebab you are making)
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 lemon – sliced in half (this is to go in between slices of meat)
  • 1 onion – sliced in half (this is to go in between slices of meats)
  • 1 red pepper (this is to go in between slices of meats)
  • 1 hot chili pepper (this is to go in between slices -any left over can be a topping)
  • 1 green pepper (this is to go in between slices or as a topping)
  • 3 tbsp rum and 3 tbsp olive oil for brushing while roasting the meat.
  • pita breads(thin are best) or wraps
  • your favourite sauces or schmears!! like hummus, tzatziki or baba ganouche
  • some fresh lettuces or tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers or pickles

Greek Flavours

  • add same meat amounts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic – minced fine
  • 2 lemons – 1 zested finely , then sliced into 3 portions
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 green onions – chopped finely (or you can place all these aromatics into a food processor)
  • 1 small white one – minced finely
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 5-6 basil leaves – minced fine
  • 20 fresh mint leaves – minced fine
  • a handful of fresh parsley – minced finely
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 onion – chopped in half (for roasting in between meats)
  • 1 green pepper (for roasting in between meats)
  • take 1/2 of one of the lemons and squeeze over meat while turning
  • pita breads – warmed to make soft and pliable -I put them in a small dry pan and flip a few times
  • tzatziki or baba ganouche (you can use good quality store bought)
  • tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, hot pickles or hot chilies for an assortment of toppings

or

Step 1: take lots of aromatics, chop fine or throw them all in a food processor and create a paste. In the above recipes these are all ingredients in the top portion of the recipes (the bottom portion is for topping details)

Step 2: take your choice of meat and gently pound thin to make the meat uniform. The chicken is very tender you don’t need to pound hard but the pork chops can take a bit more since they tend to be a more tough meat. I have only used 2 chicken breasts and 2 pork chops and you can see how small you can make the pieces. My pieces were about 3-4 inches when flattened.

Step 3: add all your aromatics and spies to the meat and coat well. Cover and leave in fridge at least 1 hour to marinate. Chop the veggies you want to add in between every few slices of meat to add more layers of flavour.

Step 4: here is the messy part! Add a lemon or onion on the end, then a few slices of meat, add a pepper, more slices of meat, a ring of lemon, more, meat etc…. end with another end of lemon and squish it together to get it nice and compacted.

Step 5: grill on medium low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check it often and squeeze on some lemon juice or baste with a bit of rum and olive oil on the spicy version.

Step 6: gather all your toppings, slide meat off rotisserie or slice it down if you are brave enough! At this point you can serve it as is or if you want the meat crispier. Take your slices and quickly fry in a pan!

pile on the toppings and devour!!

Chocolate Babka and Jalapeno Garlic Cheese Babka

Chocolate Babka

Jalapeno Garlic Cheese Babka – its like the best spicy garlic cheese bread!

This is a tale of two Babkas, one sweet and one savoury. You can  easily swap out filling to make it your own version. Add chopped nuts and cinnamon sugar, pesto and Parmesan or what about adding olive tapenade to create your delicious speciality. With this one receipt you can divide the dough in half to create 2 small babkas or one large.

You will need:

Dough

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pkg yeast (instant or regular)
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 stick butter room temperature =soft
  • 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

Chocolate filling

  • 2 tbsp best extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 oz semi sweet chocolate chips or milk if you prefer
  • 4 oz of best quality dark chocolate chopped finely
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter room temperature =soft

If you want to make a savoury version

leave out the vanilla and sugar in the dough

Jalapeno Garlic Cheese Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 1 finely chopped fresh jalapenos
  • 1/2 can sliced canned jalapenos
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 green onions

Step 1: in the bowl of a stand mixer add warm milk, 1 tbsp of the sugar (I heat in the microwave for 20 seconds)and vanilla paste. (this is an exceptional product and worth the effort to find in any gourmet speciality shop) Sprinkle the yeast on top and mix for 5 seconds. Let yeast bloom to make sure it’s active -wait 5 minutes.

Step 2: add the rest of the sugar, flour, eggs, butter, olive oil and lastly the salt. Mix with the dough hook attachment for 5 minutes until the dough pulls away from the bowl and is a smooth dough. If you find it is too wet you can always a 1/4 cup more flour at a time. Humidity can affect how much flour is necessary so you may need a bit more. The perfect dough should be smooth and not sticky to the touch once it has absorbed as much flour as necessary.

Step 3: remove the paddle and I for some reason always knead the dough a few turns on the counter to feel it in my hands and know that it has enough flour or not. Place the ball back into the bowl and cover to let rise at least 2 hours or overnight in the fridge if you prefer.

Step 4: once the dough has risen, remove from bowl and on a lightly floured surface roll out a large rectangle roughly 10 inches wide facing you (this doesn’t have to be exact)

Step 5: the butter should be very soft and I just spread it evenly over the dough leaving a half inch border around the edges. Sprinkle a few tsps of cinnamon over the butter, then add the brown sugar and two types of chocolate.

Step 6: then roll up the dough into a long log.

Step 7: with a sharp knife slice the dough lengthwise. Join the two ends together and create a criss cross pattern with the exposed layers on top.

Step 8: carefully place into a parchment lined loaf pan. If you are making 2 loaves you can slice the long log in half. If you are making one loaf I suggest baking on a cookie to ensure the bread cooks properly in the middle.

Step 9: let bread rise for a further 30 minutes in the pan as the oven heats up to 350 degrees

Bake approximately 35- 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Let cool….that’s the hard part!

Savoury Cheese Babka filling: I take all ingredients (except cheese) and mince finely in a food processor, add cheese and mix all ingredients together then spread onto dough the same as above roll up the dough the same way.

Slice lenghtwise

Criss Cross

Let rise

Devour!

Nice, France, Imperia, Italy and Olive Oil School Part 3

This is my 3rd year in a row (lucky me!) attending Olive Oil Taster’s school at ONAOO in Imperia, Italy. This is my second year of a 3 year Professional Olive Oil Tasters Course.

Imperia, Italy is located in the northern part of Italy about an hour and a half south of Nice, France. A group of us have been attending together since the first year and have become friends and a support team on this surprisingly difficult journey. I have flown in to Florence, Milan and this year Nice to get to Imperia. I had never been to Nice and was looking forward to enjoying our short stop on the way home.

First stop is London Heathrow where I meet friends from Toronto and Hong Kong…of course there is time for a glass of Champagne at Prunier it doesn’t matter that it is 7:25 am! this is how we roll baby!!

There are some great shops and restaurants and I really love to stop by Fortnum and Mason because you can enjoy a perfect cuppa and you can browse their pretty shop. I want to buy everything but, settle for a box of Princess Grey

We land in Nice to meet our last travel buddy from Vilnus, Lituania. The pastries in the airport are stunning. Oh wait! a stop before we get on the train for…you guessed it Champagne. Even on the train we celebrate the glory of being here!!

While everyone else gets settled in their rooms I must say hello to this pretty little town!

“Buonasera Imperia!”

The old olive tree by the port

Ok, now that we have arrived we either need a nap from the “red eye” flight or wait…coffee and something dolce!! Yes, but remember if you are in Italy you can have a macchiato which is a coffee with just a spoon of crema but, don’t order a cappucino after breakfast. They will give it to you but, they will be shaking their heads the whole time. Italians only drink cappucino at breakfast.

This is such a cute little seaside town. You arrive in Porto Maurizio which is glorious town on the water but, we take a taxi to it’s sister city on the other side of the river called Imperia Oneglia.

After we check in to the Hotel Rossini which is a great little hotel that has comfortable accommodations and a nice breakfast bar. Everyone who goes to to ONAOO stays here because you can walk to school everyday.

An apperitivo at Gusto and of course when you have a drink they bring you something to nibble on.

Time for dinner I chose not to have a nap and hold out as long as possible and now I am hungry as a bear (un orso! in Italian) we are disappointed because our favorite little pizzeria is closed for renovations. It is the middle of Feb and a good time since there are not many tourists but, we are bummed none the less. We head over to a great little pizzeria and pasta place. I recommend the pasta over the pizza but, all of it is good and cheap. The pasta is made and brought to your table in giant fry pans! The wine is good and we meet more friends.

The first day of The Professional Olive Oil Tasters course and there are people from Norway, France, China, Lituania, Canada, US, Taiwan, Switzerland and Italy. We start with a few tastings. I am constantly amazed at how complicated and difficult this is for me. I never come to the table thinking I am good, I have nailed this. Why? well because you are smelling for defects and fruitiness of the oil to begin with. If you smell something you need to taste it to assess the oil. You swish it all over your mouth and smile wide and suck air to the back of your throat. You sometimes need to do this a few times and make sure the sample gets right to the back of your tongue where you taste bitterness (a positive attribute of good oils) and also to get the sensation of pungency or the peppery kick that can make you cough (this is also a positive attribute and when it makes you cough this is a good thing!)

I am tasting for perhaps a subtle defect or even multiple defects which I need to define as a number to give it a strength value. I need to determine which defect it prevalent and then which others are present. If the oil has no defects I am tasting to see if I can determine if the olives are ripe or were they green (usually this part is detected in the smell )  what do I think the oil tastes like? cut grass, tomato leaf, artichokes, green almonds etc… this is not easy I have to define the level of fruitiness on a scale, I have to define the bitterness and pungency on the scale and if there are defects they also need to be defined. There are over 2000 cultivars of olives and they taste different. In Italy what makes them so special is not that they make the best oils in the world BUT they are the only country that has over 500 cultivars within it and this diversity can make some remarkable oils.

Professor Servili spoke with passion and excitement about the chemistry of olive oil and why is is just simply unique in the world of oils – there is no other oil in the world that has sensory analysis, none! and it is truly remarkable in its powers . I cannot believe how interesting I find even the chemistry and milling aspects of this glorious product.

Yay! Lunch at Gusto a few minutes from school. We always enjoy the local specialties like Trophie “tro-fee ay” which is a typical pasta served in Liguria made with pesto (this is where Pesto is from!) green beans and potatoes, or lasagna bolognese or lasagna with pesto.

Day 2 – we tasted 37 different oils some with defects, some great and let me tell you if you are always looking for and describing defects at the point of identifying good oils you really will struggle to find the good characteristics that define spectacular balanced oils. Then we have a mini test with 6 oils to identify which are the pairs. Once again not as easy as it seems you start basically by smell and only taste after you think you have it correct.

Once again I am sad it is over so soon!

We have another year of 4 Skype tasting classes and then next year is the scary part. We are tested to see if we pass and it is a low proportion of people that pass. I am freaking out already because I really want to pass.

We always have a beautiful dinner at the nicest restaurant in Imperia Oneglia at Salvo Cacciatore.

The Procuitto is sliced so thin it dissolves on your tongue like salty candy floss!

A salt cod and potato croquette

Truly one of the best pasta dishes I have ever had! Anchovies, pepperoncino, olive oil, breadcrumbs lemon juice and zest!

Fresh ravioli with herbs and a drizzle of their own olive oil. A lovely mild Taggiasca typical varietal of this area.

You must stop into Crema di Gelato at least once if only to look at how spectacular their desserts are!

who am I kidding! I can’t just look.

We check in to the West End Hotel at night and start walking to find a restaurant for dinner. We are lucky and find a wonderful one.

For now back to Nice for dinner and tomorrow a full day of exploring and eating. Valentines Day!

A cute little restaurant we just stumble upon!

Hot brie cheese with honey.

The most beautiful tiny baguette, they really do understand great bread in France!

Arugula, chicken breast and potato puree with TRUFFLES!!!

Steak and frites!

Steak tartare and a fresh salad. It is an enormous portion!

On the way home we stumble across  the Nice Carnival parade at 11 pm at night!! crazy but wonderful!

Bonjour!

Our last day and it is a glorious morning! the hotel is located on the Promenade des Anglaise and wow what a view of the Cote d’azur (you will see later why they call it the blue coast!)

We are taking a walking food tour and I am excited and hungry.

The tour begins in the old flower market.

Look at the amazing variety of glace fruit in this beautiful shop window.

Bottles of olive oil….it is lovely to see the beautiful oils however, clear bottles and light are the enemy of olive oil.

Citrus fruit trees!

Olive trees

glace fruit- they are super sweet, too sweet for me (except I love the chestnuts)

These were some pretty chestnuts from in Imperia!! YUM

candied flowers – perfect on a cupcake!

giant artichokes!

saucisson with cognac and wine!

Hazelnuts and clementines …reminds me of childhood Christmas table.

Breads

pizzelle

Gorgeous cakes and perfect macaron!

Cheese and truffles! heaven.

so many salts to choose from!

we shop at the market and stop for breakfast. An orange beignet (donuts!)

orange fougasette bread. I loved it.

une noisette cafe! a typical coffee – with just a splash of milk.

A local speciality is a sweet cake make from swiss chard, pine nuts and raisins called Tourte aux Blettes. Very good!

A few moments on a Sunday morning to stop in this  pretty little church. I say a blessing and send good thoughts for a friend who has recently lost her Mother not far from here.

Our last stop is a cute little shop created by the owner of L’Occitane. There are many local olive oils and other food products.

We set up a small table at the back of the shop and enjoy the best goat cheese I have ever had, some tapenade, pizzelles, glasses of perfect rose and fig syrup and water. It has been a perfect tour and our guide Dorothy has been wonderful!

This is their selection of medium oils (which we all think is MILD…we are hard core!)

Tapenades!

chocolate covered olives….I don’t know!

Of course Lavender!! we are in the south of France.

A pretty olive tree in the middle of the city!

Climbing many steps to get to the view  of the city.

We hike up to the remaining part of the castle and are rewarded with a phenomenal view!! I absolutely have fallen in love with Nice!

An aperitif on the beach after a spectacular day.

A fancy Valentine’s dinner at Jan.

Love potion!

Warm bread can you smell it?

A perfect mouthful of crab and mozzarella foam.

Salmon

One perfect ravioli

A perfect fillet mignon.

candied cucumber and pomegranate ice

cheese, nuts, grapes and dried meat

a gorgeous panna cotta  with chocolate and fruit to dip in shaved chocolate sand.

Dinner at Jan a Michelin star restaurant for a special Valentine’s meal. I am sorry my sweetheart is not here with me however, I am grateful my olive oil dream team and I are enjoying a wonderful evening.

Life is filled with wonder and excitement. How lucky am I to learn new things meet new people and experience the joy of discovery and travel!

I count my blessings as I fall asleep… very very full!

Socca or Farinata -Chickpea pancakes

In the Ligurian region of Italy Farinata is a typical snack and Socca is a street food snack found near the Italian border in Nice. There are slight variations all over and you can make these plain with the basic ingredients or I like them with the addition of lots of pepper, some garlic and even a sprinkle of fresh Parmesano Reggiano on top. They are often made in a wood fired oven and in order to add a bit of smokiness to these homemade versions I have added a bit of cumin.

Perfect with a glass of sparking Prosecco or Rose as they do in France. They are typically served in paper cones to soak up any excess oil.

You will need:

  • 1 cup Chickpea flour (also called garbanzo bean flour)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp good sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tbsp best quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used Viragi from Italy. (lots more to fry with)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic -minced very finely

To finish

  • more salt and pepper
  • a bit of finely zested lemon
  • a few gratings of freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano

Step 1: In a large measuring cup (which makes it easy to pour) add chickpea flour, water, lemon juice, salt, cumin, olive oil, pepper and garlic. Whisk and leave at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Step 2: Heat oven to broil and make sure rack is close to the top element. I make these in a small regular fry pan (not a non-stick pan or any pan that cannot safely go into the oven) Many people use a large pan or even a round pizza pan. I use the small pan because I want to easily flip the pancake over to get it browned on both sides and the small pan is just easier to control. Heat your pan in the oven or on the stove to get it very hot. Once the pan is very hot I pour 1-2 tbsp best EVOO in the pan and swirl. Pour in an even layer of batter and swirl as if you are making a crepe. The batter should immediately start to sizzle around the edges like when you make Yorkshire Puddings or Popovers.

Step 3: cook under the broiler until the pancake starts to get brown spots – you need to watch these or they will easily burn.

Step 4: Carefully remove your pan from the oven and flip the pancake. Return to the oven and cook until it is as browned as you like. Remove to a cutting board and sprinkle with more salt and pepper, lemon zest and some grated Parm! Cut into pieces and eat while hot!

Step 5: continue making the rest of the batter in the same way.

PS I have also made them in a hot non-stick pan on the stove and although they do taste better in the oven they are much easier to make on the stove. It is like cooking crepes. Always remember to add lots of oil and make sure the pan is very hot before you start to add the oil and batter. 

Honey Wheat Chocolate Cinnamon Buns

These are not too sweet and are perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon! Don’t even think that one will be enough!!

You will need:

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water -I heat in micro 40 seconds
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp of mild extra virgin olive oil – I used Uliva from the Garda region in Italy
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 2 pkgs – 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4-5 cups all purpose flour
  • 6-8 tbsp very soft unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped milk chocolate *always buy best quality chocolate
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup powdered/icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk

Step 1: In a large measuring cup heat the water. Add butter, lovely olive oil and honey. Whisk to combine.

Step 2: add the 2 packages of yeast, mix and leave 5 minutes to get foamy and activate.

Step 3: Whisk in eggs and salt. Pour liquid into a large bowl and add the whole wheat flour and 4 cups of the all purpose flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes too stiff to continue mixing in the bowl.

Step 4: Turn out contents onto a clean counter and knead with your hands adding the last cup and even a bit more flour as necessary. Once the dough turns into a soft dough and your hands are no longer sticky you have added enough flour. It is a nice soft dough when done.

Step 5: place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover to seal with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to double in size for approximately 1 1/2 hours.

Step 6: punch down dough and remove from the bowl onto a floured surface to role out into a rectangle approx 15 x 20 inches -with the longer edge face you.

Step 7: Spread very soft butter evenly all over the surface of the dough. I take the cinnamon, finely chopped chocolates and brown sugar and mix together in a small bowl. Sprinkle the chocolate, cinnamon sugar and sprinkle over the layer of butter leaving a bit of a clean edge to seal the dough.

Step 8: With the long edge facing you, roll up the dough. Slice the dough into even slices. I always cut in half, then keep cutting those in half to get the size of bun you like. Approximately 1 1/2 inches is good but, you can make them as large as you like!

Step 9: place 1/2 inch apart in a pan so they have room to rise once more before baking. I also freeze them at this point. I froze half this batch for later.

Step 10: heat oven to 350 degrees F. Let rise another 30-40 minutes. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

Step 11: let cool then make simple glaze by mixing a bit of milk with icing sugar. Drizzle over buns and eat soft and slightly warm with a big mug of coffee!! Don’t even think you can just eat one!

Chocolate Almond Olive Oil Biscotti

I always try to replace butter with Olive Oil when I can and most times the swap works out quite well. These rich, deep chocolate, almond biscotti are not too sweet but, the addition of the chocolate drizzle on top made them perfectly decadent. They can be sliced thin for a very dry, hard biscotti, which is perfect for dipping into steaming mugs of hot coffee or make a thicker slice wrapped in pretty cellophane for a special treat.

These are Big Pete approved which is saying something since he is pretty picky.

You will need:

 
  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder -best quality
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt – I used a chocolate sea salt but you can use plain as well
  • 1/2 cup Mild Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used a Oltremonti from Corsica, France
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or pure vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (the best quality you can get)
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • an additional 1/2 cup chocolate chips for melting drizzle topping
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

 Step 1: in a large bowl combine all dry ingredients. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Sift the cocoa powder into bowl to remove any lumps. Combine all dry ingredients with a whisk.

Step 2: in another bowl add olive oil and sugar and mix until it resembles wet sand. Add 2 eggs and  vanilla paste if you can find it (regular real vanilla extract if you can’t find the paste) Whisk hard for a full minute. You can of course use a hand mixer but, I like to make it an arm workout!

Step 3: add the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until it gets too stiff then turn out the whole mess and incorporate on the counter.

Step 4: when the flour is added add the chocolate chips and almonds. I basically roll them and press them into a dense paste. Form a log and press top to make a long log. You can make this thicker or thinner depending on whether you want thin slices or think logs.

Step 5: place log onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. You can form the log directly on the paper if you do not wish to move it. If it sticks you can use a spatula to loosen it for moving onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes and remove from oven for 5 minutes. (this is what is looks like after 30 minutes)

Step 6: with a very sharp serrated knife saw the logs into individual biscotti. If you do not have a good sharp knife you may want to use sliced almonds in the recipe.

Place the slices on their sides and bake another 10 minutes, then flip over and bake an additional 10 minutes.

In a small bowl over boiling water melt final 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Place melted chocolate in a bag, slice off end and drizzle over tops.

Coffee optional but definately recommended!

Habanero Chili Oil and Fire Paste – Honduras

I just came back from Honduras recently where I learned how to make this Habanero oil and Fire Paste from my friends Cathy and Randy. This is seriously hot stuff but, if you have a taste for heat this is the oil or paste you can add to your favorite hot dishes. Randy calls the paste Peanut Butter!! Ya, just a bit different!….I added 1 tsp to a  pot of tomato sauce and it was hot enough for me. You could do this with any chilies you like or you can use a variety for a medley of flavors.

Step 1:Freezing the Habaneros, also called Scotch Bonnets makes them easier to handle. Cathy just cuts off the tops and slices them in half. If you want to remove the seeds and membranes it will reduce the heat a wee bit (we are talking Habaneros!)

Step 2: spread out evenly on an un-greased tray and bake for 12-15 hours on 170 degrees F. It must be a low, slow drying out or you can burn them. Turn them every 6 hours or so just so they do not burn.

Step 3: once they are dry, use a wooden spoon to crush into flakes.

Step 4: add the flakes to a Mason jar and top with olive oil to cover. Let sit for a few weeks to months (Randy leaves his for a few months to get really hot!) Strain for the oil and use the “peanut butter” sparingly for a different level of heat in foods. Use cautiously!!

A few food shots from Trujillo, Honduras. If you find yourself in Trujillo you must go to Mermaids Restaurant at Campo Del Mar!! awesome Fish and Chips and Chicken Sandwiches. Nautico , Luisa’s and Caravida Club Cafe all on the beach road!! and Hotel Casa Alemania in town.

Mermaid’s is a gorgeous spot right on the beach at Campo Del Mar Beach Club. You can spend the day playing at the beach and enjoying a great meal, swimming in the pool or visiting the animals in the rescue sanctuary or see the botanical gardens!

Here are some lobsters fried in a batter at Nautico Restaurant on the beach road.

fried chicken won tons

Nachos

Fried  Tostones (plantains)

My favorite beer is an ice cold Port Royal!

 

Potato and Pesto Chicken Soup

I can’t believe how simple and delicious this soup is. You can make your own pesto (I have a really excellent pesto recipe on this blog!) or you can just buy a good quality one from the store. By the way it’s absolutely delicious with or without the chicken. You decide.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp great extra virgin olive oil -I used Solla Stella from Texas Hill Country
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 small onion -finely minced
  • 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large baking potato -peeled and cubed into dice that fits on a spoon size
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced finely
  • 4 oz cannellini beans- rinsed
  • 1 litre chicken broth
  • 1 chicken breast – sliced finely and tossed in 1 tbsp pesto.
  • 1/2 cup small pasta
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp pesto
  • fresh grated Parmesan to serve with another drizzle of good oil.

Step 1: I like to assemble everything so I don’t forget things. I chop and have things ready to go when I start.

Step 2: cook bacon in some olive oil until crispy. Drain and set aside. I drain oil and then start with fresh olive oil for the next step.

Step 3: add a bit more olive oil and butter to saute your onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes and then add potatoes.  Toss and cook another 3 minutes until all potatoes are coated .

Step 4: add lots of salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding broth.

Step 5: add your box of chicken broth -if you have homemade even better! and add beans.

Step 6: saute a chicken breast sliced and tossed in a bit of pesto. Add to soup.

Step 7: cook approximately 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Add pasta shells and  chili flakes – cook another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add pesto to taste. Adjust salt and pepper if you want more.

If you don’t want the chicken just add the bacon back in at the last minute, a drizzle of good oil and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

If you like add the cooked chicken along with everything else!