eat in my kitchen

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Tag: red onion

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

We spent our Christmas in the Mediterranean, a premier for me, we normally stay in the cold North. I decorate our tree and the rest of the apartment according to my annual passion for wintery kitsch, and I eat duck, German potato dumplings, and usually (always) too many cookies. 2016 was different, we decided to go to Sicily first and spend a few relaxing days in the heart of the Archaeological Park of Agrigento (I’ll share my impressions with you next week). Malta was next on our itinerary, and with it came along lots of sunshine, rough seas, long walks in the countryside, and my wonderful, crazy Maltese family. It was loud and silly, we ate and drank too much wine in front of my Maltese Mama’s gorgeous crib in Msida, and I was happy.

I learned that a proper crib is an important part of the Maltese celebration, and I’m talking about cribs of rather large dimensions, well equipped with colourful figures, various animals, a real stable setting made of rocks, and most importantly, an impressive light installation to represent the firmament. Every house leaves the main door open, so that passersby can peak through the glass door to admire the re-enacted scenes of Jesus’ birth. I’ve seen impressive installations that leave no doubt that the Maltese take Christmas very seriously.

Being under the hot Mediterranean sun in the coldest season of the year has many advantages, my vitamin D resources are definitely recharged. Everything is fine as long as you stay outside the house, inside it’s freezing cold. A country where the temperature barely drops below 16°C (60°F) doesn’t really have to think about those few days of sharp chill. But a person who’s used to central heating – me – has to get used to the fact that the bedroom (and the bathroom!) can actually feel much colder than the air outside. I coped and complained, but our sunny walks along the lush green Dingli cliffs definitely made up for it.

And I’ll never forget our New Year’s Eve in Gozo, we stayed at a beautiful farmhouse at the border of the village of Qala. We had a gorgeous room, with a large terrace and the most stunning views of the islands of Comino and Malta. We ordered 3 (!) pizzas from the local Maxokk bakery, bought a bottle of local red wine from my friends at Meridiana, and just sat on the sofa, amazed by the peace in front of our eyes.

I had never seen Malta like this, so green and in full bloom. My past travels covered everything from March to October, but I always avoided the winter months. I’d love to show you pictures, but I was on a mission, I didn’t touch my camera, I stayed offline most of the time, and I slowed down my pace drastically. So there are no pictures, but lots of beautiful memories of time spent in nature, silent, without any disturbing technical devices.

However, when we came back to Berlin, I noticed a slight feeling of dissatisfaction, I missed my Christmas. To make up for my nostalgic longings, I decided to have a Christmas week in January. In the past few days, I baked Christmas cookies and my boyfriend had to listen to me singing along to Christmas carols. My celebrations found their festive peak in a Christmas dinner for two with slow roasted duck (I used the recipe from my book), red cabbage with spices and apples, and German potato dumplings. Now I’m cured and we can move on with our lives – also in the kitchen.

My latest post-Christmas kitchen project led to a hearty yet airy focaccia, topped with thickly sliced red onions roasted on top of the dough in lots of olive oil and a generous amount of aromatic Swiss Gruyère cheese. It’s pure comfort food. I cut a thick slice off the warm bread and enjoyed it on a chair that I placed close to the heater. I doubt I ever appreciated central heating as much as I do now.

If you’re looking for some more focaccia inspiration, take a look at these recipes:

Fig, Chèvre and Honey Focaccia

Emiko Davies Florentine Grape Focaccia

Herb Focaccia with Zucchini, Aubergine and Parmesan

Focaccia with Grapes, Rosemary and Sea Salt

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Makes a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ focaccia

For the dough

plain flour 500g / 3 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons
fast-acting yeast 1 (7g / 1/4 ounce) envelope
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
granulated sugar 1 heaping teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 260ml / 1 cup and 2 tablespoons
olive oil 120ml / 1/2 cup, plus 1-2 tablespoons to oil the baking sheet

For the topping

Swiss Gruyère cheese, or any aromatic hard cheese, coarsely grated, 100g / 7 ounces
red onions, thickly sliced, 2
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

For the dough, combine the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the lukewarm water and half the olive oil (60ml / 1/4 cup) and knead on medium-high speed for a few minutes until well combined. I mix it on ‘4’ on my KitchenAid. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Transfer the dough to a table or countertop and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for about 4 minutes or until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in the mixer bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven (conventional setting), for about 60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Oil a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ baking sheet.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for 1 minute. Using your hands, stretch and spread the dough on the oiled baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (convection setting).

Using the round bottom of a wooden spoon or your finger, punch around 6 x 7 holes into the surface of the dough. Arrange the sliced onions on top of the dough, pushing the slices gently into the dough. Pour the remaining olive oil over the dough and onion and into the holes. Sprinkle with the cheese and a little flaky sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and light brown. Sprinkle with crushed pepper and enjoy warm or cold. The focaccia tastes best on the first day.

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Sicilian Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad

Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad

The past mornings have been rather cloudy and grey and to make it even worse, they pulled my beloved wild vine off the wall opposite my kitchen window, which I used to call my vertical garden – the poor thing damaged the bricks. My little garden is gone. So the mood hasn’t been very uplifting. And as I sat at the table in my kitchen, chewing over a new exciting meet in your kitchen feature that I’ve been working on over the past few days and that I’m eager to share with you, I had to decide to postpone it. The feature was supposed to be up on the blog this week, but unfortunately, my guest from afar – Australia – is opening his second restaurant and so busy that we couldn’t finish the interview yet. I felt a bit sad, or rather frustrated, because I adore his work and I’m so curious to read his answers and to get to know him a bit better. In these moments, I can be like a little child, impatient and not willing to accept reality – in this case: having to wait.

Food is the best cure for disappointment, at least in my case, so I looked around my kitchen to see what I could use to throw together for a quick and uplifting lunch. As I spotted a bunch of ripe blood oranges, I remembered a Sicilian salad made with the sweet citrus fruits, olives, and red onions. I added some rucola, olive oil, flaky sea salt, and crushed peppercorns and enjoyed the colourful plate in front of me just as much as the fresh taste of this delicious composition. Needless to say, my mood was much better after the first bite. The sweetness of the oranges merges perfectly with the spicy rucola and onions and the dark and oily depth of the olives. And it’s put together in just a few minutes – it’s a keeper!

Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad

 

Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad

Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad with Rucola

Serves 2-4

fresh rucola leaves, 2 handfuls
small blood oranges, peeled (outer skin and white pith), cut into rounds, 4
small red onion, cut into slim rings, 1-2
black olives with pit 12-16
olive oil
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

Divide the rucola between plates. Lay the blood oranges, onion, and olives on top. Drizzle with some olive oil and season with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper to taste. Serve immediately, preferably with soft ciabatta.

Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad

 

Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad

 

Blood Orange, Olive, and Red Onion Salad

 

bloodorangeoliverucolaonion7

 

bloodorangeoliverucolaonion10

 

bloodorangeoliverucolaonion8

Bruschetta with Avocado, Tomato and Red Onions

Bruschetta with Avocado, Tomato and Red Onions

Whenever I have some bread leftovers, bruschetta is my solution! White bread doesn’t stay fresh for so long, after 1-2 days it becomes a bit hard and dry but some olive oil drizzled on top and a few seconds under the grill will bring it back to life. A fruity dip, dripping and a little oily is the fine finish. I put the topping on just before we eat the bread so that it only soaks a little of the juices and the thin crust stays crisp.

Bruschetta can be the base for all kinds of dips, spreads and vegetables. In late summer I fancy one made with sautéed mushrooms, liver and thyme but luckily we aren’t there yet. There’s still lots of food in between now and then, lots of vegetables waiting to be chopped and mixed with some olive oil, garlic and herbs to end up on this crunchy bread. I’ll start with a mix of velvety avocado, fresh tomatoes and a little spicy red onion.

For the 2 of us, I chopped up a ripe avocado with a fork, roughly, I didn’t want to turn it into a mousse. I diced 2 medium sized tomatoes, sweet and ripe, chopped a clove of garlic finely and 1/4 red onion into small cubes. 8 fleshy basil leaves, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper stirred in made this chunky spread complete. I used a 2 day old baguette for this recipe, sliced and drizzled with a little olive oil, roast under the grill for a minute until it turned golden brown.

bruschetta1-2

 

Bruschetta with Avocado, Tomato and Red Onions

Octopus Stifado, a Greek Stew with Octopus, Onions and Mint

Octopus Stifado

A spontaneous decision took me to the island of Naxos in the Aegean sea on a warm early autumn evening a few years ago. My summer holidays had been cancelled due to my work and in late September I felt an urgent need for a break. I had never been to Greece before and when I saw the photos of this dry, quiet island and it’s long and lonely beaches I knew that this was exactly what I had been looking for! Only a handful of the typical Greek houses in white and blue lined the coast, a picture of peace and seclusion. I’m a friend of quick decisions so in mid October I found myself on a ferry crossing the Aegean sea, passing all its beautiful small islands, Santorini, Ios, Irakleia and Paros before I reached the tiny harbour of Naxos in a golden sunset. I fell in love with this island there and then!

A bumpy path through a green valley dense with bamboo led me to my tiny hotel which turned out to be one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to. It was run by a lovely and caring couple from Athens who made me feel like I was part of the family. Most of the rooms were vacant at the time as it was well past the high season. My room was so close to the sea that I could here the soft waves reaching the shore all night, no city noise, no other hotels, no cars,  just the sea and a lonely beach! In the morning I found out that I wasn’t the only one enjoying this peaceful place on earth, as the sun rose on the horizon a sea turtle took her morning swim right in front of my hotel!

One night, the lady of the house asked me if I would like to join their dinner, she had made her traditional octopus stifado, a dark, rich stew with octopus and lots of red onions, garlic, tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves and vinegar. The octopus was unbelievably tender, the sauce thick and aromatic, I had to ask for the recipe! We had already enjoyed our dinner and sat together over a few glasses of wine when I wrote down a few notes as she didn’t have a written recipe. It was a beautiful night, unforgettable, under the dark Aegean sky, nearly as black as my stifado!

Octopus Stifado

Octopus Stifado

The octopus has to simmer softly on low temperature for 1 hour 45 minutes.

For 4 people you need

octopus, skinned and cleaned, 1.2kg / 2.5 pounds (around 2 octopus)
medium sized red onions, roughly chopped, 5
tinned tomatoes, 400g / 14 ounces
red wine 300ml / 10 ounces
garlic, peeled and quartered, 5 cloves
bay leaves 4
fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped, a small handful
salt and pepper
Balsamico vinegar to taste
olive oil for frying

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the the onions on a medium heat for 5 minutes till soft. Add a little more oil and the whole octopus, turn the temperature down and fry for a few minutes. Add the other ingredients, close the lid and simmer on a low heat for 1 hour. After an hour, take off the lid and let the stew simmer for another 45 minutes on low temperature. Season with Balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and add the mint. Cut the head and tentacles into bite sized pieces and serve with either white bread or spaghetti.

This recipe makes a lot of sauce, we usually eat the octopus with bread on the side on the first day and the next day we enjoy the leftovers with pasta.

Octopus Stifado

 

Octopus Stifado

 

Octopus Stifado

Fusilli with sweet Bell Pepper and Red Onions

Fusilli with Bell Pepper + Red Onions

This pasta dish is one for those nights when I just want to get cosy on the sofa with a plate of hot pasta on my lap and relax! It’s quick to prepare, it’s hearty but still light and all it requires is usually to be found in my kitchen anyway, pasta (for this meal I prefer fusilli as it mixes well with the long strips of the vegetables), red bell pepper, red onions or shallots, garlic and parmesan. This time I added finely chopped spring onions, it’s not necessary but the added spiciness was a nice contrast to the sweet flavours. When I fry the bell pepper and onions and they start to brown I deglaze them with white wine or vermouth or I just use the water from the pasta. The liquid helps the juices and roasted bits and pieces to combine to a thick sauce, perfect to glaze the spiral pasta.

For 2, I cooked 200g / 7 ounces of fusilli in lots of salted water al dente and kept 75ml / 2.5 ounces of the water used to cook the pasta. I always start frying the onions and cooking the pasta at the same time which allows me to take out the water when I need it. I cut 1 big red onion in half and sliced it finely, likewise the bell pepper (about 3mm / 0.1 “). In a large heavy pan, I fried the onions in a splash of olive oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes till golden and soft and added the slices of bell pepper. After a few minutes of frying and tossing I deglazed the vegetables with a splash of vermouth which you could replace with white wine, preferably a sweeter one, and poured the water I kept from the pasta on top. I immediately covered it with a big lid, let it simmer for a few minutes until soft and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Mixed with the pasta I filled everything in big plates and sprinkled it with thinly sliced spring onions and freshly grated parmesan, time to get cosy!

Fusilli with Bell Pepper + Red Onions

 

Fusilli with Bell Pepper + Red Onions

 

Fusilli with Bell Pepper + Red Onions

The taste of Summer in my Mediterranean Sandwich

Maltese Sandwich

Maltese sausage, tomatoes, capers, olives, basil, red onions, garlic and olive oil on Maltese Ftira bread – as soon as I started to make this sandwich the sun came out, literally! You can’t really put more of the taste of summer into a sandwich than in this one. In Malta, this is a local hero, the famous Ftira, enjoyed by everyone on this island. It’s a celebration of their specialities combining quite a few different tastes, all strong and honest, and creating one of the best sandwiches you can imagine.

I made it last weekend when I had all the ingredients at hand, freshly delivered from Malta by Emma. I fried the coarse Maltese sausage with its strong coriander flavour until golden brown, without its skin and cut in half. It looked a bit like a burger stuffed with herbs. You can also use Salsiccia as it’s made with similar spices and herbs as well. I recommend a white bread with a nice crust but soft on the inside to soak the  juices and olive oil like the Maltese bread I used. I cut a few cherry tomatoes, half a red onion, 4 green olives, 1 dried tomato and a few basil leaves into slices and piled everything carefully onto a slice of bread drizzled with olive oil. I finished it off with 1 crushed clove of garlic and a few capers and closed it with another slice of bread. When I took a bite, I was on my favourite island in the Mediterranean again!

Maltese Sandwich

 

Maltese Sandwich

 

Maltese Sandwich

 

Maltese Sandwich

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