Ham and cheese panini with homemade veggie sauce: Cook less, enjoy summer more

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Summer just isn’t summer if you don’t spend it away from the computer once in awhile – I came to this simple realization earlier this week, when my husband and I took a couple of days off and ventured out of  Chicago. It was not a long break by any means, but it did allow us to relax and to recharge our batteries. Plus, it also made me remember how much I loved walking in the countryside, feeling light and invigorated, enjoying every breath of fresh air and admiring the colorful fields and the pensive forests.

We got back home late in the evening after a long drive, and I wanted to make something quick to eat as a light dinner. I still had a batch of homemade vegetable sauce in the fridge, so I decided to use it to make ham and cheese panini. Keep Reading

Homemade vegetable sauce: My unsung culinary hero

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Remember those  ingredients that elevate a dish without taking center stage?  Ingredients that you add to foods out of habit, and sometimes without even thinking about it? I like to think of them as the unsung heroes of the culinary world. These are the ingredients you constantly rely on, which can always be found in your pantry/fridge – very much present, yet grossly underrated.

I have given this topic some thought recently, and I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to acknowledge my unsung culinary hero: homemade vegetable sauce. Keep Reading

Blueberry syrup: a very easy summer recipe

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As a child I never had much of a relationship with blueberries. My aunt was great at canning, and she would spend summers at her house in the countryside, picking various fruits and canning them with a vengeance. She did not have blueberry bushes in her garden though, and she hardly ever used blueberries. I also remember my parents buying blueberries for me during the summer from farmers selling them by the cup on the side of the road. I loved the deep blue color of the blueberries, but as a child I didn’t know much about them. Keep Reading

Roast pepper and garlic chicken: going the extra mile of flavor

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This is a dish which takes some time to prepare, but the end result is so worth it!  The sweetness of the red bell peppers and the pungency of the garlic come together beautifully and elevate the humble chicken, rendering it moist and flavorful. The meat is so tender it falls off the bone, and the sauce is amazingly wholesome. I need to exercise a great deal of self-restraint whenever I make this dish, especially with regard to the sauce. This is one of my favorite sauces to dip French bread into, and to savor for minutes on end. Keep Reading

My aunt’s strawberry mousse: The perfect mousse of summers past

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Last week I came across a great sale on strawberries at the local grocery store. I bought several packs with the intention to make a quick dessert out of this gorgeous ruby summer fruit. A couple of days passed though, and I was out of ideas. I wanted to make something quick yet also meaningful – a dessert which told a story about me and my culinary experiences, but also celebrated summer and one of its best fruit offerings. Finally, my memories came to the rescue: I was going to recreate the strawberry mousse I used to eat as a child. Keep Reading

Eggplant salad: A restrained baba ghanoush

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This is a dish I grew up with as a child, and I absolutely love it. I remember my mother and my aunt making this regularly during the summer months, and freezing lots of eggplants in plastic bags for the winter. Back then, we did not have a food processor or a blender, and my mom used to spend a lot of time mincing the roasted and peeled eggplants with a knife, in an attempt to turn them into a puree. The process was time-consuming and the result was far from perfect: despite my mom’s best efforts, the salad usually had lumps in it. Thankfully, modern kitchen gadgets make this dish a breeze to prepare. Keep Reading

Artichoke and smoked ham panini: conquering one of my culinary fears

When I lived in the UK I used to be an avid watcher of cooking shows – Ready Steady Cook, MasterChef, Nigella Express, Saturday Kitchen, and many others. It was one of these shows that introduced me to a strangely looking vegetable I’d never seen before: the artichoke. I read more about this veggie and was not sure it was worth the bother, so for years I steered clear of artichokes, intimidated by their appearance and by the supposedly complicated preparation techniques involved. Fortunately, in time I have learned to control my “fear” of artichokes, and nowadays I often use marinated artichoke hearts to make panini. Keep Reading