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Appetizers

Super Bowl, vegetarian style: my quinoa, sweetcorn and spinach patties

Up until these past few months, I never actually thought much about the versatility and healthfulness of grains. As a child, my exposure to them in their unprocessed state was minimal. We used to eat a lot of carbs – mostly white, refined bread – but never wheat, oats or other grains per se. Since then, my diet has changed tremendously, and for the better. Still, it was only lately that I have decided to give the much-lauded grains a try, and I couldn’t be happier with my find. We have become “grains aficionados” – and we love it! 🙂

I made these quinoa patties earlier in the week, and I will make them again today, on Super Bowl Sunday. My husband likes to eat them for lunch at work. He says they are light yet satisfying, and they make them feel good about himself and his eating habits. As for me, I really enjoy the crunchy texture of the quinoa, and I think the pairing of the sweetcorn with the mighty red pepper flakes makes these patties stand out and deliver a truly rewarding flavor experience. I like sweetcorn – and I love sweetcorn and red pepper flakes!

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Just in time for Cinco de Mayo: I made guacamole!

I made many “culinary discoveries” since coming to Chicago, and guacamole is one of them. Some friends of ours introduced us to this deliciously creamy dish, and we just fell in love with it! I wanted to learn to make it myself, so I did some research and watched various cooking shows. Learning to make guacamole has been an ongoing process – and my husband, a true “guacamole aficionado,” can testify to my many failures along the way 🙂

At first I stuck to the basics, but then my confidence grew and I started to experiment with flavors and textures. This is how I arrived at jicama, an underrated vegetable with a mellow taste and a crunchy bite, which I had never heard of while living in Europe. Keep Reading

It’s time to make zucchini cakes!

This is my mom’s recipe and it’s a big hit in our house. My husband loves these savory cakes and eats them “bathed” in plenty of sour cream. Meanwhile, I eat them on their own and quite a few at a time, sometimes late at night, when the pregnancy cravings kick in. I think this is a great comfort food: served hot, straight from the pan, the cakes are fresh, light and moist and exhibit simplicity and earthiness. I have found that simple is in many case better, and this is why I like to let the flavors shine through and to talk for themselves in this dish. No strange names or artificial additions – just a few well-known ingredients, true to themselves and carefully selected 🙂 Keep Reading

The roasted red pepper and eggplant dip of my childhood: So pure, so rustic, so flavorful

I used this dip the other day in a panino and absolutely loved it! It is the perfect dish to make now, when summer is on its way out and lets fall take over, and when the local markets are starting to sell plenty of produce at a reasonable price. This roasted pepper and eggplant dip is one of my favorite foods ever, and it gets better the more you let it “marinate” in the fridge – this gives its ingredients enough time to infuse with each other’s flavor and to create a multifaceted harmony of various tastes and aromas.

This is a dish my mom and aunt used to make very often when I was growing up. They would prepare large batches, which they would can for the winter ahead. The canned dip would last us the entire winter: nutritious, flavorful and light, it would remind us of the beauty and warmth of seasons past. To us, this was both a flavorful and a functional dish: it satisfied a need, and told a story.
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Chicken liver paté: Less waste, more deliciousness

I’ve always been a big fan of using chicken liver, hearts and gizzards in cooking. I like their unembellished appearance and enduring humbleness, and I am in love with what they represent to me. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: I grew up in a time when every bit of meat was much appreciated, and getting hold of a small pack of chicken liver was a reason for celebration. I remember my mom and my aunt chopping them finely and using them to make a “diluted” meat dish, made up of a small amount of meat, a whole lot of bread, some water to bind it all together, and very few spices. I grew up with the idea that chicken liver was an expensive delicacy, and that you could only eat it on special occasions. Keep Reading

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