Tag: pine nuts

Sicily and Stuffed Sardines

Two years ago we visited a tiny Sicilian island. It was so small that we either walked, rode our bikes or swam to get around. But most of the time we did nothing, just laid on the rocks at the beach or in the garden, staring into the sky, amazed by how beautiful the world is. We only used a car when we arrived to get to the little farm where we stayed, a sturdy stone building tucked in between fig trees, hibiscus and oleander; and to go back to the harbor at the end of our trip, speechless and sad to leave our piece of heaven on earth. The island is so secluded and so special to us that I had to promise my man that I would never write about it or tell anyone where it is.

In the past couple months I’ve been thinking a lot about our tiny island in the Mediterranean, dreaming of a place that feels safe and makes me happy. I’m not allowed to write about its location, however I can write about the food we indulged in day after day. Our house was part of an organic farm and we could pick all the fruit and veg we wanted to eat. The juiciest tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, soft figs, zucchini, eggplant … As soon as I fell out of bed I’d walk – still in my pyjamas – through the field to pick zucchini flowers and fry them for breakfast. We enjoyed the farm’s olive oil and wine basically from tap and although there wasn’t really the need to, we also made use of the island’s fantastic restaurants and bars abundantly. We ate out every day and said to ourselves if we only had to eat Sicilian food for the rest of our life we’d live a happy life.

Dinners were spectacular: the freshest grilled fish and sun showered vegetables, raw prawn carpaccio, lobster, pasta, risotto and nana’s almond cake and bay leaf schnaps for dessert. Unforgettable, there’s no doubt. But our little luncheons at the piazza, at a rustic bar where mamma herself cooked all morning and laid out her delicious work on the counter by noon, this was the food that melted my heart. Casseroles, lasagna, tarts, focaccia and stuffed vegetables, fish and saltimbocca, framed by hearty salads made with legumes. We went there almost every day, pretending to go just for an espresso before snorkeling but always ordering more plates than we could fit on our round bistro table. It was strategically placed in the shade of a large tree, close enough to mamma’s kitchen to order more food (and wine) but still in the middle of the airy piazza to follow the village’s late morning life. A scene of true beauty.

So here, at this unimposing cozy bar, I enjoyed my first Sicilian stuffed sardines. The fish filets were wrapped around a filling made of breadcrumbs, orange zest, crumbled bay leaves, pine nuts, raisins, capers, fresh oregano and thyme. The whole bold and colorful culinary orchestra that Sicily’s cuisine is famous for in one single bite. Don’t ask why but it took me two years to recreate this recipe in my own kitchen. Last Saturday I was in the mood for a Sicilian lunch, so I drove to the fishmonger. Our wine was crisp and fruity and the recipe worked out perfectly – I only should have bought more fish. It was a little feast for two. We had five stuffed sardines, just enough for a lunch nibble, for a main I’d go for ten sardines for two people (recipe below). Anyway, get your loved one(s) into the kitchen, cool your favorite white wine, start the oven, pull out the dusty Adriano Celentano records and pretend you’re in Sicily!

Meike xxx

Sicilian Stuffed Sardines

Serves 2 as a main or 3-4 as a starter

You can enjoy stuffed sardines warm from the oven or at room temperature

  • 10 whole sardines, gutted and cleaned (about 800g / 1 3/4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • Olive oil
  • 85g / 3 ounces breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated pecorino
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 6 small (or 3 large) bay leaves, finely crumbled (or ground with a mortar and pestle)
  • 2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 20 wooden tooth picks

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Grease a medium baking dish with olive oil.

Cut off and discard the heads of the sardines. To butterfly the sardines, spread and lay them cut-side (belly-side) down on a cutting board and, using your hand, push the back down gently (see 2nd picture from the top, right). Flip the sardines, gently pull out the backbone and cut the bone at the tail but don’t remove the tail; discard the backbone. Spread the sardines skin-side down on the cutting board.

In a small bowl, soak the raisins in hot water for about 5 minutes then drain.

In a medium, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat and roast the breadcrumbs, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until golden and crispy. Push the breadcrumbs to the sides, add the pine nuts and roast, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer the breadcrumbs and pine nuts to a medium bowl and add the raisins, pecorino, garlic, thyme, oregano, orange zest, orange juice, bay leaves, capers, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the salt and season to taste with pepper. Mix well with your hands, rubbing the mixture between your fingers.

Season the sardines with a little salt and pepper. Divide the filling among the sardines, pushing the filling down gently with the back side of a tablespoon. Gently roll up the sardines towards the tail and fix the roll with 2 tooth picks (see pictures below). Arrange the sardines, side by side and tail up, in the prepared baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining filling in case any is left, then season with a little salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes. Let the sardines cool for a few minutes and enjoy warm or wait a little longer and serve at room temperature. Enjoy with good bread (drizzled with good olive oil), a simple green salad and a glass of white wine.

Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini with Feta, Basil, and Pine Nuts

Zucchini stuffed with Feta, Basil, and Pine Nuts

Soon I’ll be eating stuffed vegetables in the kitchens of many Maltese mamas and I know that I’ll never want to eat anything else again once I get into the groove. This dish is a cozy classic in Malta’s Mediterranean cuisine and I love it for its simplicity just as much as for its pure taste of summer. Ripe zucchini, bell pepper, and eggplant turn into juicy shells full of flavour to wrap scrumptious fillings of cheese, meat, seafood, or even more vegetables. Brunġiel mimli (Maltese for stuffed eggplant) is the most popular of them all – and the richest, stuffed with Bolognese – but there are endless possibilities to turn this recipe into a lighter summer treat.

In mid July we’ll be off to spend a few weeks with our family in the South and this will have a huge effect on our daily routine and on our cooking and eating habits. There will be far more fruits and vegetables on the table, they will taste much better than in the North, I will complain less about quality (or not at all), and the results that I stir up in the pots and pans in my Maltese mama’s kitchen will give me deep satisfaction. I love to cook in Jenny’s kitchen (on gas), with the best produce you can possibly ask for, fresh from my favourite farmer.

There’s always a pile of round and long zucchinis in the vegetable drawer, which I either slice up and sauté until al dente or scrape out and stuff – often with ricotta, the island’s most popular dairy product. To get into the mood, I came up with a recipe that uses a fragrant composition of dried-tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, and orange zest stirred into feta – instead of ricotta (I’ll eat so much of it while I’m in Malta that I should take it easy for now). It looked and tasted like a summer holiday and it was so easy to prepare that I’ll make it soon again.

Here’s one of my posts from last year, which always makes me want to go straight back to Malta (just in case you’re not in the mood for summer yet)!

fetastuffedzucchini7

 

Zucchini stuffed with Feta, Basil, and Pine Nuts

Mediterranean Stuffed Zucchini with Feta, Basil, and Pine Nuts

Serves 2

sun-dried tomatoes (preserved in salt) 3
pine nuts, toasted until golden, 40g / 1/2 cup
medium zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise, soft pulp scraped out, 2
olive oil
fine sea salt
ground pepper
feta 200g / 7 ounces
fresh basil, chopped, about 15g / a large handful, plus a few leaves for the topping
freshly grated orange zest 1 teaspoon
flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

In a small saucepan, bring the sun-dried tomatoes and a little water to the boil and cook for about 3 minutes or until soft. Rinse and pat dry with kitchen paper and chop finely.

Chop half the pine nuts with a large knife or in a food processor.

Spread the zucchini in a large baking dish (cut side up), brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a medium bowl, mash the feta with a fork and add the chopped pine nuts, basil, dried-tomatoes, orange zest, and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix and mash until well combined and season with pepper to taste. Divide the feta mixture between the zucchini halves, drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts and a little flaky sea salt. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with a little water and bake for about 45 minutes or until the zucchini feels soft when you prick it with a metal skewer. Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve.

It makes a great lunch or easy dinner, but you can also serve it at a summer picnic.

Zucchini stuffed with Feta, Basil, and Pine Nuts

 

Zucchini stuffed with Feta, Basil, and Pine Nuts

 

Zucchini stuffed with Feta, Basil, and Pine Nuts

 

fetastuffedzucchini9

 

fetastuffedzucchini10

Radicchio and Balsamic Butter Spaghetti with Marjoram and Pine Nuts

Radicchio, Balsamic Butter and Marjoram Pasta

Bitter radicchio, sweet and sour balsamic butter and flowery marjoram is a very powerful combination, every single flavour is dominant rather than subtle. They all scream for attention, but somehow manage to merge in this comfy pasta dish to create something bigger, a new taste that’s beyond their individual qualities.

Whenever I savour a meal with spaghetti, I’m always impressed by how such an easy dish can make me feel so good, comfortable and cosy, and at the same time, caress me with its sensuality. The most simple and quickest pasta dish, be it carbonara, bolognese, pure red sauce, or just butter and parmesan, can feel like a Mediterranean feast, it makes me forget about duties and sorrows, it’s a celebration of life. I guess that’s also the reason why there’s often wine involved, at least at our dinner table. It makes me want to have the windows wide open, dreamy music in the air carried away by a soft breeze, this is one of the most sensual meals in the whole world, spaghetti! Just thinking about it, writing about it, wakes up my senses, seeing the plate in front of me, to smell the teasing aroma of radicchio, vinegar, butter and nuts, and the fresh marjoram, makes me want to sing out loud and raise the glasses! Buon appetito!

Radicchio, Balsamic Butter and Marjoram Pasta

 

Radicchio, Balsamic Butter and Marjoram Pasta

Radicchio and Balsamic Butter Spaghetti with Marjoram and Pine Nuts

For 3-4 people you need

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
radicchio, quartered, stalk removed, cut into 1cm / 1/2″ thick slices, 430g / 15 ounces
fresh marjoram, a small handful
pine nuts, roasted, 20g / 3/4 ounce
Balsamico vinegar 30ml / 1 ounce
butter 50g / 1 3/4 ounces
a pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
olive oil

Cook the pasta in salted water al dente.

In a sauce pan, bring the vinegar to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. Take the pot off the heat and add the butter in 2-3 batches, let it melt in between and whisk well. Season with a pinch of sugar.

In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the slices of radicchio on medium-high for 1 minute on each side (it will fall apart, that’s fine). Take the pan off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Gently mix in the warm pasta and balsamic butter and serve with pine seeds and marjoram leaves. On the plates, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Radicchio, Balsamic Butter and Marjoram Pasta

 

Radicchio, Balsamic Butter and Marjoram Pasta

Sicilian Rainbow Chard with Pine Nuts and Brandy Raisins

Sicilian Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Bright as a rainbow in yellow, orange and pink! When I saw the pop coloured chard at the market I had to buy it in all of its shades although I didn’t have any plans to use them. On my way home, driving through the streets lined with golden trees at the peak of their autumn beauty, I had to think of Sicliy. We were there a couple years ago in July and the soft Mediterranean hills were covered in golden wheat, glowing in the sunlight like the leaves in the sky over Berlin.

So that was my inspiration, Sicily! Sicilian recipes often combine the sweetness of raisins with the nuttiness of pine and both flavours go very well with chard. I sautéed the stalks first as they need a bit longer than the soft leaves which are done in a few minutes. The vegetable is refined with Balsamic vinegar, orange juice and raisins cooked in brandy. You could also add some cinnamon and orange zest, or a pinch of cumin.

In spring, I wrote about my calamaretti in vermouth sauce which works with another Sicilian duo that’s just as good, raisins and salty capers!

Sicilian Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins

 

Sicilian Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Sicilian Rainbow Chard with Pine Nuts and Brandy Raisins

For 4-6 people you need

rainbow or green chard, stems thinly sliced, leaves roughly chopped, 1.4kg / 3 pounds
medium sized onions, finely chopped, 2
freshly squeezed orange juice 50ml / 2 ounces
Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons
olive oil
salt and pepper
pine nuts 100g / 3.5 ounces
raisins 150g / 5 ounces
brandy 75ml / 2.5 ounces
water 50ml / 2 ounces

optionally:
orange zest to taste
cinnamon to taste
cumin to taste

Roast the pine nuts in a pan until golden brown.

In  a sauce pan, bring the water, brandy and raisins to a boil, close with a lid and take off the heat.

In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onions until golden and soft. Add the sliced stems of the chard and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat or until al dente. Add the chopped leaves of the chard, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the vinegar and orange juice and the raisins in brandy. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook for 2 minutes, sprinkle with the roasted pine nuts.

If you like you could also add some orange zest and cinnamon.

Sicilian Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins

 

Sicilian Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins

Serrano, Mozzarella di Bufala and Pesto Focaccia

Serrano Mozzarella Pesto Focaccia

When my brother in law stayed with us 2 weeks ago I asked him about his favourite sandwich. I often ask friends as it’s a great inspiration for my Sandwich Wednesday but it’s also interesting to find out about different sandwich preferences. It may sound silly, but a favourite sandwich says a lot about a person! He answered quick and with a smile on his face, Serrano, mozzarella and pesto sandwich with toasted pine nuts on top. He is a true gourmet, I know and appreciate his sense for fine food, so I didn’t wait too long to get all the ingredients, I was curious!

I chose an Italian Focaccia bun from my bakery for this sandwich, juicy and baked with lots of olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. I bought 8 thin slices of Serrano and one Mozzarella di Bufala of 125g / 4.5 ounces which I cut into thick slices. I made a quick pesto, a handful of basil leaves chopped finely with a big knife, mixed with a tablespoon of good olive oil and some salt. While I cut the 2 buns open and filled them with the prosciutto and mozzarella, I toasted the pine nuts in a sauce pan without oil on medium heat for a couple minutes until golden. I drizzled the pesto and pine nuts on top, took the first bite and smiled like my brother in law did when he told me about this absolutely delicious sandwich! It’s great!

If you would like to share your favourite sandwich with me, just get in touch! I would love to try different sandwiches from all over the world, quick ones, complicated ones, exotic, puristic or sumptuous, whatever your taste buds like! Just get in touch here,

Meike xx

Serrano Mozzarella Pesto Focaccia

 

Serrano Mozzarella Pesto Focaccia

 

Serrano Mozzarella Pesto Focaccia