cinnamon & raisin bread

cinnamon & raisin bread - gluten free

Cinnamon & raisin bread will forever remind me of my grandmother, May.

Now there was a woman who gave in to my every food craving… more often than not I craved crap like those fake chocolate croissants that come in plastic, foil packaging. Or cookies. Or fast-food from a Greek chain called Goodies. (my mum didn’t let me eat any junk at all, so my summers with May I really went overboard)

Actually, thinking about it, the woman couldn’t cook worth a damn. And for the most part, she fed me a lot of junk food… or force fed me the gross concoctions she called meals. Man, I really appreciated my great grandmother Nania & my great aunt Lila back then. They lived in the apartment above May & they used to bring me down home cooked food. Soutzoukakia & pastitsio were my favorite.

cinnamon & raisin bread - gluten free

In fact, one summer May sent me home so fat, my mum called her up & threatened that if I ever returned home that porky again, she’d never be allowed to see me unsupervised.

Still, not all my memories of food with her are bad.

Case in point, raisin bread.

On the weekends, May would take me on a long drive through the mountains so that we could go to the amazing beaches in Sounio. Every time we took that journey, we’d stop at the same bakery along the way where she would buy us a loaf of freshly baked raisin bread… and by the time we’d made it to the beach, the whole loaf had been polished off.

I loved & hated going to the beach with May. The woman used to make me wear floaties until I was at least 6, even though I’d clearly been a water baby since the day I was born. I was mortified every time.

It’s funny the things we remember.

She was a peculiar woman, but I loved her very much, and I know she loved me, that much I never doubted.

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Champagne Thursdays: chili, peach & brown sugar martini

Did you notice it was Thursday? More importantly, did you notice that we’re finally back up & running?

This is a very big moment. You see, being as it’s Thursday & we’re back, that also means that Champagne Thursdays are officially reinstated.

Ooooooh YEAH!

I did it again though, I’ve made a combination that needs time for the flavors to meld. It’s not that I want to torture you, it’s just I prefer infusing my vodkas (or any other booze) with the flavor rather than making a sugary syrup like most cocktails use. Personally it’s because you end up using half the sugar & get double the flavor. But that’s just my two cents worth.

You see, right about the time that Whatever’s Left went offline, I started looking for things around the house that I could make to keep myself occupied. This is what happens when Lauren gets bored…. a shelf full of flavored vodkas. I’ve even got a lavender one up there.

Here’s what I suggest, seeing as it’s Thursday & we’re supposed to be having a drink together, I think it’s time you strain the zest out of your limoncello that we made a little while back because it ought to be good & ready by now. Pour it over some ice & put your feet up with me.

I know, I make things so complicated. I’m sorry. Really though, I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t worth the wait. & if you really just don’t feel like waiting, stick a whole chili & a tablespoon of brown sugar in the blender along with your peaches & vodka & you should get the same effect. Well, not the same exactly, but it will do whilst your chili infusion is taking its time to become marvelous.

Marvelous, what a lovely word.

Cheers!

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miso glazed aubergine

A few years ago I would never had guessed that sushi would become one of my favorite foods for weekend nights out. I used to write it off as being too simple and blunt. It’s anything but. It’s very healthy and surprisingly easy to make after you buy some simple and cheap equipment. We keep going to one specific restaurant that seems to have the best quality of fish, and mostly we order the same things each time. So, one night I decided to order none of the usual, and try all the items that sounded weird. Most of them were exactly that… weird, but one surprised me with its simple combination. Aubergine and miso paste. Here is my interpretation of the dish….

-mel

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French onion soup…overanalyzed

I first ate this soup in a town called Avignon in France and was amazed by its simplicity and deep flavour. Since then, whenever a restaurant has it on its menu, I always order it. Searching in vain to relive that first experience. Now that the cold weather calls for something like that, I decided to make it myself. This soup has very few and simple ingredients but relies on quality and patience in three key areas.

One is the slow low-heat caramelization of the onions… any hasty attempts to skip this will ruin the result. Second is a good quality beef stock, (again requiring time but not much effort.) Third is off course, the amazing bread & cheese topping finished under the grill right before serving.

Unfortunately I didn’t document my stock process which I left cooking overnight, so I promise to include a post later on. There are however, many virtually identical recipes out there. You can pick whichever you like, but here also there are a few simple procecess that must be followed. Good quality big bones with lots of marrow, a good caramelization of both meat and vegetables, and a low-heat simmering for at least 5 hours. Plan ahead and enjoy.

– Mel

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Burger 3 ways

Today I am really excited cause we are going to talk about burgers… one of my favorite meals. Let me begin by saying that we are not going to pretend to be experts in burger making… there are many sites out there that detail the science of using 1,000 different types of beef cuts and their advantages. Personally I believe a burger should be a simple affair with a complex and satisfying flavor. Here I will try to outline the basic goals you should aim to accomplish when making one, and from then on you can experiment with different combinations in order to achieve them. If you are already bored skip to the recipe and try it directly then come and comment. Otherwise keep reading the points below:

If you think about it, burgers are made from very simple ingredients, so the first thing you should be concerned about is their quality. Nice sweet onions, juicy plum tomatoes, but the king here is the meat. No pre-ground stuff please. Invest some time with a knowledgable butcher talk about the different cuts and above all be sure of its quality. What you are looking for is a way to make a patty as juicy as possible. To achieve that you want fat…which as it cooks melts. Around 20% of your ground meat should be fat and the rest, flavorful cuts of meat that give texture and body. (Some burger fanatics grind the fat separately with a finer plate and then mix it all together). The most important thing is to get the fat that is tender enough to melt in the short cooking process. Generally cuts that are used for burgers are brisket, chuck, sirloin and boneless rib. The more marbling the better… avoid big chunks of unchewable bits of fat that I’ve seen people discreetly spit out in restaurants that didn’t get it right. The second most important thing is to not grind the heck out of your meat. We want a coarse grind, passed no more that two times to achieve a good texture but still be able to cook it without crumbling. If you can’t find the balance, add an egg yolk to help it bind better. On the same note when shaping your patty, you don’t want to manhandle it for hours turning it into mush. Work it into a ball until it holds its shape and then just flatten it and work the edges a bit… but not to perfection we all love that nicely browned irregular texture.

Since we are talking of browning make sure to preheat your pan well, it makes a big difference in the flavor and texture (more or less like a stake). And that’s exactly how I like my patty to taste like… an amazing browned, juicy steak so I don’t really add any flavoring to the minced meat. You can experiment with anything from herbs (thyme, marjoram) and spices, to sauces like BBQ sauce, your call. One thing you should avoid for sure is seasoning with salt in advance… the more the salt interacts with the meat there the more it draws out juices and water that you normally want in. So either season at the last moment or season like a steak on both sides prior to cooking. Last but not least we have the toppings and the hundred different combinations you can try, and here you can really improvise depending on your tastes. For this post we try some tried and tested ones that I love and order most of the times when eating out. Also for this recipe we are gonna cook the burger on a skillet since some people don’t have a bbq. However the bbq-ed burger always tastes better, but in any case make sure your patties are at room temperature before you cook them otherwise the interior will remain raw. This is something you should always do when cooking a stake too.

So that’s all I think… ahh make sure to use a spatula for the cooking and transfer, it helps keep the patty in one piece.

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