Guest Post: Pasteli

 

I hope you all are enjoying this series of guest posts by some of my favorite food bloggers! I know I am.

This next edition is written by a great friend of mine, and one of the few blogging friends I have been able to actually meet in person – Peter Georgakopoulos from Souvlaki for the Soul. Isn’t that the coolest blog name? Not only is the blog name so inventive, but the recipes he posts are absolutely mouthwatering. Greek is one of my favorite cuisines, and Peter, although born and raised in Sydney, Australia, is of Greek descent, and this shows in his delicious food! He uses simple, fresh and delicious ingredients to their fullest potential, and more often than not, they include the flavors of Greece, including old favorites. Not only is the food divine, but the photography and food styling really bring his recipes to life.

I just love Peter, and really can’t say enough about what he offers on his blog, so if you haven’t already been to Peter’s blog, you need to get on over there! So now, I will let Peter take it away! THANK YOU PETER!

First off, let me begin by saying that I am very honoured and proud to be a guest blogger here at the Leftover Queen. I’ve “known” Jenn and Roberto from the blogging world and have actually met them in real life too. Their food philosophies and passion for everything about it is infectious. They are truly a great example of people who believe and follow their dreams.

When Jenn asked me if I was keen to do a guest post I said “yes” straight away. My mind went to cooking up something Greek (of course) plus I wanted it to be healthy. I thought about all those hours they put in to running their farm-from herding the goats, looking after the chooks, planting vegetables and making cheese. This is serious hardcore work that requires some energy! So I came up with the idea of creating some natural “energy bars” known as pasteli.

Pasteli is Greece’s version of the sesame bar. Traditionally it is made with sesame seeds and honey and sometimes has nuts mixed through it. Once it sets, it becomes this chewy, irresistible, almost addictive snack. When I was growing up, I always looked forward to the “care packages” we got from Greece and they almost always had pasteli included in them. I must admit, I had a love/hate relationship with this all natural energy bar. I loved it’s taste (cause I adore sesame seeds) but hated the way it sort of got stuck in your teeth! Nevertheless, I still munched on them with great abandon.

For today’s recipe (which I adapted from Elly’s blog here ) I played around with this concept by adding some black sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and pistachios. If you can get hold of some Greek thyme honey it would make this recipe just about perfect, if not any honey will do. It’s as simple as toasting the seeds in a hot pan, adding in your warmed honey, letting it cook for a few minutes and voila! You have nature’s perfect marriage. Feel free to add any kind of nuts you like as well. I’ve made my pasteli a little thicker as I wanted them to look like energy bars but traditionally it is much thinner. If you want them thinner use a larger baking pan. Also, if you prefer a “crisper” i.e.”jaw breaking” pasteli you may wish to add some sugar ( I wouldn’t add more than 50 grams).

Munch on these during the day as a healthy snack between meals, pop them in your kids lunch boxes or serve them up with a cup of Greek coffee. Whatever you do just make these! Thank you Jenn-hope you guys like these.

Holiday Baking Series: Assorted Biscotti

As I mentioned in a recent post, in order to give responsible and sustainable gifts this year, I am making gifts to send to family this year. Cookies immediately came to mind, and since I know from my Italian upbringing that biscotti keep well, and are easy to ship, I went with those. Biscotti are so versatile, as they can be flavored in a variety of ways. Plus, who doesn’t love a nice crunchy biscotto dipped in hot coffee, tea or cocoa?

When making gifts for others, I always use the best ingredients, including organic flours and sugars, fair trade chocolate, organic nuts and farm fresh butter and eggs. Although I do not eat cane sugar or wheat flours, it doesn’t mean the recipients of my gifts don’t. So I found a good balance in creating these biscotti – using the best ingredients that I could, but creating cookies that my recipients would love without question. After all, these cookies are gifts to them.

If you don’t have any food allergies, you can easily use this recipe as a base and use whatever you have on hand to accent them with. I have listed some of my favorite combinations below. I also imagine these recipes would lend themselves well to gluten free flours, like oat or coconut flour and maple sugar would also be a fine substitute. I will soon share with you gluten free Venetian style biscotti, made with polenta, my personal favorite.

This recipe I adapted from my favorite cookbook for a sweet tooth – Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina De Palma, of Babbo fame. This book is fantastic, covering everything from cookies to cakes, budini (custards) and fruit. Gina has such a wonderful way with Italian inspired ingredients and this book has many wonderful surprises and flavor combinations to tempt your palate. I recommend getting yourself a copy or put it on your wish list this year! I hear Santa is very obliging when it comes to cookies and sweets. He is an expert and I know for a fact that he likes biscotti dunked in his milk.

Anyway, these biscotti are simple to make, and make a lot – about 4 dozen a batch. So whip up a few batches for some of your favorite people this holiday season!

I have a few more cookie recipes to share with you this year like Limoncello-Lavender La Befana Stars, gluten free Venetian Biscotti and gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free fruit and nut drops with rum!

For more Holiday cookie ideas, from years past check out these posts:

Cuccidata, Sicilian Fig Cookies

Pizzelle, Italian Waffle Cookies

Yule Log Cookies

No Bake Apricot-Coconut Balls (gluten free, dairy free and egg free) + Egg Nog Cookies

Night Before Christmas Mice

Not Cookies, But Certainly Festive:

Yule Log Cake

Limoncello Cupcakes filled w/ Lemon Curd
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Basic Biscotti

INGREDIENTS:

3 ½ cups organic all purpose or spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
4 large farm fresh eggs
2 large ff eggs, plus 1 ff egg white for glaze
½ cups pure granulated cane sugar, plus 1 ½ TBS for glaze
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Optional:

12 oz. (or about 1 ½ cup) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped or coconut, or dried fruit
2 TBS pure, fair trade cocoa powder
4 cups nuts, coarsely chopped – pistachio, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamia – mix and match

Some combinations I made were: Chocolate-Pistachio-Hazelnut, Maple-Walnut-Cranberry, Coconut-Macadamia

METHOD:

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt – set aside.

Using an electric mixer beat together eggs, egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until pale and thick – about 2 mins. Beat in the vanilla, followed by the dry ingredients (about ½ cup at a time). Then fold in the optional ingredients, until dough is thoroughly mixed.

Preheat oven to 325 F and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using floured hands divide the dough into 5 equal portions. On a floured surface shape each portion of dough into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter and about 10 inches long. Place logs on baking sheet a few inches apart.

In a small bowl beat egg white until frothy. With a pastry brush, brush each log with egg white and sprinkle with cane sugar, maple sugar, coconut, crushed nuts, etc.

Bake the logs until lightly golden and firm to the touch – about 20 – 25 minutes. Rotate the sheets 180 degrees halfway through baking, to ensure even baking. Allow logs to cool on baking sheets on a wire rack until they are cool to the touch – about 45 minutes.

With a sharp, serrated knife, slice the biscotti slightly on a bias into ¼ inch wide slices. Lay the slices on the baking sheets in a single layer. Return to the oven and bake about 20 minutes more. Gina suggests reducing the heat to 200 F for this second toasting, but I found it took much longer than 20 minutes at 200 for the biscotti to firm up and become crispy and dry.

Cool biscotti completely. Can be stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place for 2 weeks.

Makes about 4 dozen biscotti.

If you would like to join a fun cookie exchange this holiday season, please check out Cynthia over at Cupcake Provocateur!

Sea Salt/ Vinegar Potato Chip and Pistachio Crusted Haddock

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When we were at Whole Foods the last time we stocked up on meat and fish. It is pretty expensive, so I usually just get whatever is on sale or the cheapest. This is a way for me to ensure I am getting quality and “happy” meats and fishes, while at the same time, try new things since I am not always familiar with preparing what is on sale. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find good local sources, as of yet…hard to believe, I know…

When it comes to fish, I always look for “Wild” and “Fished in the USA”. So this time that meant we bought haddock and flounder. Not the most exciting visually or taste wise, (I prefer more fatty fishes like salmon and tuna, but Roberto is allergic), but I decided this would be a great exercise in expanding my horizon. I have never cooked with haddock before, so I decided to give it a whirl. I needed some inspiration, so I went on Twitter and asked around to all my buddies what to do with Halibut (since I misread what I actually had, halibut, haddock, same diff right?) and I got some great suggestions, like frying it, or making fish tacos. But this was a martial arts night and so I knew when I got home I would be exhausted and I am trying to watch weight right now, so frying was out of the question for right now (although in the future – definitely!). But my buddy Peter from Kalofagas suggested his recipe for Pistachio Crusted Halibut, using dijon mustard and panko.

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So I decided to do a version of that. I didn’t have all the ingredients in his recipe on hand, so I went through the fridge and pantry to see what I could sub in. We really enjoy Salt and Vinegar flavored natural Kettle Chips, and in the back of the pantry I found an almost empty bag. So I decided I could use that in lieu of breadcrumbs – plus vinegar goes great with fish. I spread dijon mustard and Greek yogurt on the fish and then smooshed my potato chip and pistachio mixture on top. Then I put it in the fridge until we got home. I also sliced up some carrots rounds and fresh fennel bulb strips that we had left over from the farmers market, drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper and roasted them at 350 for about 20 minutes.

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When we got home. I put the fish on top of the fennel and carrots, and baked everything at 350 for another 20 minutes. It turned out really delicious. All the flavors really complimented each other and it really brought to like otherwise boring haddock!
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Pistachio-Pomegranate Chicken with Mint and The POM Wonderful Featured Blogger Contest ($5000)

Hello Everyone!

I just wanted to post this lovely dish I made last year to celebrate the Winter Solstice. It was so good, I decided it was worth entering in the POM Wonderful Featured Blogger Contest going on this month. If you have not heard about it, food bloggers can submit an original recipe featuring pomegranates and have a chance to win $5000 from Pom Wonderful!

Now that is what I call wonderful! :)

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As an incentive to Foodie Blogroll members, in conjunction with the lovely POM folks, we are giving away cases of POM Wonderful products for the next 2 weeks, while the contest is going on. For more details on how you can enter to win either of these contests, please check out the Foodie Blogroll/ Leftover Queen Forum!

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Now onto my recipe! This chicken dish was prepared in a cast iron skillet, first browned over high heat and then finished off in the oven. The chicken breasts were so juicy and tender coupled with the tartness of the pomegranates that explode in your mouth after being heated up, mixed with the salty pistachios and green mint was a wonderful unexpected flavor combination! This dish is simple to prepare, yet so elegant. This is also a great dish for the season, that is sure to impress at any holiday gathering.

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Ice Cream From Leftovers: Very Pistachio Cherry Ice Cream and Baileys Hazelnut-Gateau Ice Cream

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I have really so enjoyed my ice cream maker since we got it back in March as an early wedding present from my mom. Ice cream is a big passion of mine, it is something we eat almost everyday, in small amounts (sometimes!) and I find that it has been a really fun and creative outlet for me! But…we have been making so much ice cream since we got the maker, that I literally have a backlog of recipes to share with you all. So consider the next few days, the ice cream chronicles, as I share with your our creations!

I am always looking out for new and great recipes for ice cream, gelato (although you can’t really make true gelato without the proper equipment), sorbetto and slushies. I hoard little bits of this and that away in the freezer for future ice cream endeavors, especially from Daring Bakers Challenges.

This is the inspiration for today’s two recipes!

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For the Pistachio-Cherry, I broke down and went with an egg base, something I have been avoiding. However, I had 6 leftover egg yolks in the freezer from a Daring Bakers challenge that needed using. So I decided to finally do an egg based ice cream to remember what the difference in texture is. Texture has been the most difficult thing for me to perfect in past attempts. I was really frustrated to see that there really is a difference. This ice cream was so creamy, its nuts! And this ice cream TRULY was nuts because we went a little nuts with the pistachios! But I was really struggling with the consistency issue and not using eggs. I was determined to find something that will work besides eggs, and I believe I found my answer …in BOOZE (see more on this farther down)…

Roberto loves Pistachio gelato, or ice cream. It is his absolute favorite. Second runner up, Amarena, otherwise known as black cherry. So we decided that this ice cream should incorporate these two flavors making the Ultimate Roberto Ice Cream. Unfortunately, we did overdo it with the pistachios, which means that flavor really overwhelmed the sweet cherry flavor. But it was still good, just not very cherry.

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I had a lot of fun getting the cherries ready for this endeavor. I really enjoy cutting into rich red fruits, like pomegranates and cherries and watching their juices stain everything from the cutting board to my fingers. I can’t explain it, but it makes it fun. I guess it is the kid in me.

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The second “leftover ice cream” was made from the cake remnants from the last DB challenge – the Hazelnut Gateau which was kind of a disaster for me. So I had a LOT of remnants. I had it stuffed in the freezer and had pretty much forgotten about it until I asked Roberto what kind of ice cream he wanted next. We had recently gotten a bottle of Bailey’s to experiment with making cocktails and so we decided to make a Bailey’s ice cream. That night, I DREAMT about adding the gateau pieces to it (this is how obsessed I am about ice cream!) and I am telling you guys, it is worth making the gateau, to put in this ice cream! I feel so validated now! Ben and Jerry’s really needs to buy this recipe from me to mass produce! LOL! The Bailey’s, since it is alcohol, doesn’t freeze so it made this ice cream so soft and scoopable and creamy!

Click through to see how we made them.
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You Say Filbert, I say Hazelnut…A Schitzoid Daring Baker’s Gateau…with some serious issues…

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Let me just start this off by saying that I love the word Gateau, and the more times I can use the word Gateau in a post, the happier I feel. Why? Because I just love the sound of the word rolling off my tongue. There is a sophistication to the word, something refined, that “cake” just doesn’t quite measure up. I mean just look at it. A Gateau is something posh people eat, at an upscale bakery, after a nice dinner out that a super talented pastry genius prepared. Gateau gets washed down with a nice strong cup of quality coffee or espresso if you will, and it is meant to be savored. Cake is something that comes out of a cardboard box or even worse a plastic container already baked and smothered in plastic icing. Unfortunately my particular monstrosity, or Franken-cake really has no place being called a gateau, now does it?

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That first photo? The only salvageable piece of gateau-ness I could muster. The rest, mushy disaster.

This DB challenge started off with issues. There is the whole Filbert vs. Hazelnut deal. Lemme give it to you straight, they are not the same nut. First of all, Filbert sounds like the the guy in that comic about the world of cubicles- Dilbert. Ever since they started with this Filbert thing, I have been against it. Its like the checkers at the grocery store who look at my cilantro and ring it up as parsley. Or call a honeydew, cantaloupe. I was lulled into the lies too- thinking Filberts and Hazelnuts were the same. Unfortunately my mouth and tongue did not agree, when I bought a very expensive Filbert cake at Whole Foods years ago for my birthday (back when I didn’t bake) and my mouth itched the whole night immediately after taking one bite. Something that never happens when I eat something with “hazelnuts” in the ingredients. So what gives? I have had this discussion many times with different people and my conclusion is that Filbert is American and Hazelnut is European and that there must be a genetic variation somewhere!

That wasn’t the last time I was lulled into a false sense of security regarding these nuts as we will soon see….I was really excited about this gateau challenge because I just love anything with hazelnuts. I am a real sucker for them – I love them in chocolate, just plain as a nut, and my favorite way in gelato. I also love apricot so things were looking up. The only way I significantly changed the recipe was instead of using hazelnuts for the praline paste, I used pistachios. Roberto’s favorite nut – so it was a marriage between the favorite nuts in the family (pun totally intended!). I also had to add some white chocolate to the ganache, because I didn’t have enough regular. I was feeling pretty smug, not only was the cake coming along but, I also had a little leftover apricot preserves after making the glaze, so I made a simple syrup with that as a base for a fabulous cocktail -

Apricot – Hazelnut Gateau in a Glass (you’ll have to read through the rest of this, to get to that) ;)

I was feeling pretty good about things. All until last night when it came time to put the gateau together.

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Independence Day Celebration

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Independence Day in the US is all about BBQs and fireworks. I guess it is a fitting way to celebrate a birthday. I mean, we all usually celebrate our personal birthdays with great food,cake and fanfare .
I think next year, on my birthday, I should ask for the fireworks, too. ;)

But really there is no better way to celebrate a holiday or event than with delicious food. We all know that well. This weekend we were celebrating with my family. My mom and my aunt and uncle came up to Saint Augustine to celebrate the birth of the USA in the oldest town in the USA. We spent Friday afternoon sightseeing and so I decided on a simple menu, that I could do ahead of time, so that I could not only enjoy my guests, but so that we could have a delicious, but quick meal in between all of the festivities.

You know what they say though about the best intentions…

Menu:

Pork Kebabs with my special Middle Eastern inspired meat rub with cippolini, orange bell pepper and cherry tomatoes with Tzatziki

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Since I don’t have a grill, and can’t grill where I live (2nd story condo in a downtown area) I did my kebabs under the broiler!

Tangy Potato Salad: loosely based on Nana’s Potato Salad but with lots of sweet Hungarian paprika and some cider vinegar thrown in

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Green Beans Vinaigrette: Just green beans tossed with garlic, cilantro, sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil
(sorry no pics)

To Drink? White Sangria with strawberries and stone fruit (bottle of Riesling, bottle of bubbly and chopped fruits)

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For Dessert? Cardamom and Pistachio Brownies from Mallika’s blog with homemade Pomegranate Sorbet (recipe to follow)

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So I gave myself Thursday afternoon and evening to boil the potatoes and blanch the green beans, prep the meat with the rub, make the tzatziki, the brownies and the sorbet. No big, do it all the time. I prepped the veggies and the meat in no time, with no difficulty. Then I made the brownies. It was a bit of a challenge because I have never made brownies from scratch (oh the horrors!) before (we are not big brownie people, so that is why), plus the recipe I was following on Mallika’s blog were in metric. So I sat down to quickly do the calculations and it just wasn’t making sense – so honestly I scrapped the directions and just winged it. They turned out a little on the cake-y side, as opposed to squidgy, but we actually prefer them this way, so they were fine.

Then it was time for the sorbet, my pièce de résistance. So I made the simple syrup in this tiny saucepan I have with a broken handle (meaning all that was there was the screw and a little piece of the handle). After it was all set, I went to pour it in a small pyrex bowl, to cool. But as I was pouring, the handle finally broke all the way off, and as this happened the pot fell onto the pyrex bowl, knocking it to the floor, shattering the bowl and spraying my freshly cleaned kitchen and newly bought kitchen carpet with super sticky gooey simple syrup. The first thing that came to my mind after, “thank goodness I miraculously avoided being burned” was: “oh crap, Roberto is going to kill me!” (he has been trying to get me to throw this pan away for ages), followed by “Damn it! I am out of sugarrrrrrrrrrrr!” also dammit, my pyrex bowl is broken and dammit I no longer have a small saucepan. Followed by “I can’t believe I have to go back to the store!”

From there it was just a downward spiral. My kitchen was covered in gooey glass, and I needed to go get more sugar. So I zipped out to the store, while Roberto kindly volunteered to do cleanup duty (thank the Universe for good and helpful husbands!).
As I was driving to the store, the light for gas came on, so I had to stop and pay a gazillion dollars for a tank of gas. Then when I finally got the the store, I stepped out of the car and dropped my cell phone onto the pavement, which then promptly fell apart. I had had it, and expletives were flying from my mouth when I look up and see a mother with her little daughter walking towards me. As I mouthed “so sorry” to her, I picked up my cell phone pieces, put it back together and braced myself for the insanity that is the day before a holiday shopping frenzy at the grocery! Luckily I made it out alive and without any problems, and back home with no other detours. I managed to finish making the sorbet before completely crashing. We ate some leftovers, drank a mojito to dull the pain and torture of earlier events, and watched a few episodes of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer on DVD. Normalcy returned and all ended well.

The next day our guests arrived and we all enjoyed a nice and relaxing weekend. I hope you all in the US enjoyed your long weekend too!
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Royal Foodie Joust: Pistachio-Pomegranate Chicken

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December is drawing to a close, which means we are almost at Royal Foodie Joust time! Be sure to get your entry in by January 1, 2008!

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This month our ingredients were chosen by Emiline of Sugar Plum, who was the winner of last month’s joust. She picked these ingredients Pomegranate, Pistachios and Mint, to showcase the colors of the season. I love the flavors that all of these components bring as they are all featured heavily in the foods of the Mediterranean. I created this dish to celebrate Yule, or Winter Solstice which was on December 21st.

You too can create your own pomegranate, pistachio and mint recipe for your chance to WIN A PERSONALIZED APRON! For details – check out The LeftoverQueen Forum.

Also, I have been featured on GlamNest and wrote an article about how to use those holiday leftovers! So please check out this article too!

Best wishes to everyone for a healthy and food-filled New Year!
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