All recipes paired with wine, Healthy and tasty condiments

Make your own Ghee

If you are into healthy eating, I’m sure you heard of ghee. I got used to this delicious golden goodness as I’m cooking more and more Indian cuisine.  Ghee is a fantastic replacement for oil or butter when you need to cook or fry on higher temperature – it’s smoke point is more than double of the typical cooking temperatures (which is about 200°F). Yes, so is coconut oil, but some people don’t care for the added flavor of coconut in their dishes that some of the oils provide. Ghee really is a clarified butter – when the fat is separated from milk solids.

I was told by a rabbi that ghee is naturally kosher (when you make it yourself, ), acceptable for people with dairy allergies because with removed milk solids, there is a minimum trace of dairy in the ghee (although I’m not a doctor so please take this as my opinion based on experience, with a dollop of skepticism).  Ghee is naturally easier to digest, have a longer shelf life than regular butter and doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Mine sits on the counter because I cook with it a lot, but also as an SOS solution to use instead of butter that I forgot to take out from the fridge, and it’s too hard to spread on the bread.

When you leave ghee out, it stays either liquid or soft, ready to be added to my Bulletproof coffee or to accommodate my morning omelet.

But don’t make the same genius mistake I made when I first attempted to make ghee! I did what everyone does these days – and searched the Google for an answer. And I found one recipe that I tried. It was made well, (I guess), but the recipe didn’t say which part of the separated liquids and solids is supposed to be strained into the jar. I’m afraid I threw out the ghee and kept the solids which were, of course, a disaster.  Yeah, the milk solids to throw out are white, and the beautiful golden liquid is what you want :).

These days the popularity of ghee grew and you can get it anywhere – but why not make your own? It’s really easy and you know exactly it’s clean and clear with only ingredients you want to add to it.

I know two ways how to make it – but usually go for the second, much easier way. If you have time and patience though, you can try the traditional Indian way how to make ghee (we will skip the part where they make a yogurt from the milk, then make a butter from the yogurt and then make a ghee.) That’s too much trouble. Let’s buy a good, organic butter from grass-fed cows. Or, Kerrygold Irish Butter (that I swear on) which is not organic, but the quality, in my opinion, is much better than available organic butter. Trust me on this. Just open them side by side, and compare the color. High-quality milk doesn’t create white butter.

So, in this case, you heat up a butter in the stainless steel pot, stirring on medium-low heat, until the butter starts to separate and create foam (which you remove), and you will keep going and doing the same until all the milk solids are gone and all you’re left with is a golden ghee. It takes 15-30 minutes, depends on how high your heat is. This way creates a lovely, nutty flavor of ghee – but there are few negatives to it. You have to stand by it and attend it the entire time. It’s quite easy to burn it and ruin the whole thing. But, some people swear that this is the proper and only way to do it.

Well, I make my ghee usually while I’m cooking other, multiple dishes, and can’t stand above the stove, watching ghee. So here is my super simple way: preheat the oven to 250°F. Place two whole Kerrygold Irish Butters (I use unsalted but it’s up to you) into an ovenproof dish that is big enough for the butter but also good to hold when the hot ghee is ready to be strained and poured into a jar. From 2 bars of butter (or 4 American split ones) you will get 16 oz of liquid ghee.

Place the dish with butter into the oven, turn the timer for 2 hours and go do other things. No need to check on it, or attend it in any way, until the timer beeps and you take it out of the oven. Strain the ghee into a designated glass jar (it’s going to be hot, don’t even think about plastic), and you’re done! Whatever stays in the strainer – I use a strainer lined with a piece of white cloth I only use for ghee, so all the milk solids stay in there – then gets thrown away.

I also started gently seasoning my ghee – by adding 3-4 cloves, 1-2 bay leaves and enjoy the very mild, gentle flavor. Just imagine how great your next Chicken Tikka Masala will taste!!! And please, let me know how it went!

 

 

 

 

All recipes paired with wine, Healthy and tasty condiments, Salads, Veggies based & Vegetarian

Guacamole and salsa, or let’s call it Gualsa!

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On Sunday, I posted this  picture on Facebook ans asked my friends to guess what I was making. And yes, it totally looked like guacamole – and/or salsa. I lately decided to save some time and combined the two  – because what’s better than getting all the guacamole and tomato salsa on the chip at the same time, right? Ever since, that’s the only way I am making it. Who has time to make guacamole, and then tomato salsa to go with it?

I call it my “Gualsa”. If you want to try it, here is the recipe (the amounts of each ingredient are flexible, it all depends on your personal taste, and how many people you want to serve). Down side: just like guacamole or salsa, it doesn’t keep well, so it’s better to make less and make a fresh one again soon!

Vera’s Gualsa

Ingredients:

4 ripe tomatoes (I like campari tomatoes, they seem to have the most flavor)
1/4 red onion
1 lime
1 green bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper (or, when you don’t have one when you feel like Gualsa, you can use Sriracha for heat, instead)
1-2 avocados
salt and freshly grated pepper
2-3 tablespoon of high quality olive oil
bunch of chopped cilantro

Start with tomatoes and cut them into small dices (personal preference here, if you like bigger chunks, that’s fine). But smaller are better to get on the tortilla chips. Place into larger bowl.

Seed the pepper and cut  into strips first, then small dices. I like to use green pepper for the color, but any peppers are fine. Add to the tomatoes. Do not mix yet. Next, finely chop red onion and jalapeno pepper. If you like spicy, leave the seeds in jalapeno, otherwise take the seeds out and chop just outer pepper. It’s still going to add heat to your Gualsa.

Wash and chop cilantro (I like plenty, again make it to your personal taste and preference), and let cilantro join the party. Season with salt and pepper. Do not mix just yet.

Last, halve the avocados. Take out the pit with your knife, and with small pairing knife, carefully cut stripes into the avocado, all the way to the skin, while holding the half in the palm of your hand. Be careful not to cut through the skin and not to cut yourself. Then repeat crosswise, so you’ll end up with dices of avocado. Repeat with the other avocado. For my own taste, I like to leave avocado in bigger chunks – since they are soft and will be inevitably little broken when mixed anyway.

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With table spoon, carefully run it against the skin, and take the avocado flesh out, straight above the bowl with the rest of the vegetables. Sprinkle all over with the lime juice. I use juice of whole lime for that. You can squeeze the juice ahead of time, and then just pour it all over. Make sure to cover the avocado evenly; the lime juice is not added just for the taste, it also prevents avocado to oxidize and turn dark. When everything is in the bowl, sprinkle with olive oil and mix carefully together. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
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Cover with plastic foil, and let cool in the fridge for 1/2 hour. That is, if you can wait – or dig in right away, and enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips! I also use this as super bright salad on its own.Oh – and as for wine pairing – when I go this road, although devoted wine lover, in this case I reach for nicely chilled bottle of Corona with a slice of lime. What would be your choice of drink? How about some great margarita?!!!

Enjoy!

Healthy and tasty condiments, Summer Grilling

Not so ordinary condiments for your Memorial Day’s picnic

If you are like me, on the mission to find a healthier, tasty alternatives to the same-old mayonnaise, ketchup and relishes for your Memorial Day picnic, you came to the right place! Why not spice it up with some of these freshly made, super tasty alternatives, inspired by international cuisine? You might be surprised how satisfying these condiments are – with you controlling the amount of salt, heat, and mostly – everything made from fresh produce with no preservatives and other hidden “gems” !!!

 

 

Romesco Sauce (Spain)

Romesco sauce blogThis versatile sauce is to Spain what pesto is to Italy. Romesco sauce originated in Tarragona, Catalonia. It is a delicious addition to fish, any grilled chicken, turkey, grilled beef, pork and even can be spread on sandwiches.

Ingredients:

1 bag of small colored sweet peppers or 3-5 large peppers of different colors
1 red onion
8 cloves of garlic
8 Campari tomatoes
1 day old small Portuguese roll
Handful of walnuts and almonds
1 table spoon of Sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
½ smoked Spanish paprika (I use hot one)
½ cup of fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Tomatoes prepped for oven roasting
Tomatoes prepped for oven roasting

How to:

Preheat oven to 375°F and clean the vegetables. I use the small sweet peppers whole, and just wash them in the sink. If you’re using large peppers, remove the seeds and cut them in quarters. Spread the peppers on the sheet and sprinkle with olive oil. No salt needed at this point. As they roast in the oven they caramelized and become extremely tasty.

Cut tomatoes in half, and place alongside with peppers, cut side up, sprinkled with salt, freshly grated pepper and 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic. Sprinkle with olive oil.

Peel red onion, and slice into thick slices (almost an inch), and spread on the baking sheet. You may have to use two sheets to fit everything in. All veggies should be in single layer. Sprinkle the red onion slices with olive oil too. Let’s bake for about 20 minutes or until the veggies are soft. Add remaining garlic cloves for the last 5 minutes of baking.

Take the sheet(s) from the oven and cover it with foil to cool a little. At this point you can carefully remove the skin from peppers and tomatoes, but I usually blend it in. I believe that’s what’s the most nutritious. Skin is tender at this point and puree with the sauce easily. Spoon everything but bread roll into a food processor and pulse until nice and smooth. Add more high quality extra virgin olive oil if needed. If the sauce is too thin, brake down the Portuguese roll by hand and add pieces to food processor to thicken the sauce. I don’t usually do that, but the original recipe calls for it. Taste for the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

 

 

 

Chimichuri Sauce (Argentina)

Lamb chops dressed w chimichuri Blog
Lamb chops dressed with Chimichuri sauce

This sauce is so simple, but its amazing how it elevates the taste of steak, lamb or any other meats to the entirely new levels. Try it on beef or burgers….

Ingredients:
3-5 cloves roughly chopped garlic
1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 tsp. fresh oregano or thyme (optional)
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

chimichuri sauce
How to:
Combine the above ingredients in mixer and pulse until smooth. Store in a glass container and refrigerate until ready to serve; the sauce will keep up to one week in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

Eggplant Hash (my own recipe, inspired by Greece)

Eggplant hash and Tzatziki sauce with Shish kebab
Eggplant hash and Tzatziki sauce with Shish kebab

Ingredients:
1/2 finely chopped red onion
1 garlic clove diced
1 can of whole tomatoes
4 small bay leaves
4-5 whole allspice
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup of white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

How to:

Slice your eggplant into thick slices, skin attached. Spread slices over paper towel and season with salt. Let it sweat for few minutes, than pat dry with paper towel. Chop into similar size cubes.

In large heavy skillet heat the oil and stir in chopped onion on medium heat. Cook for a minute and add garlic and red pepper flakes, stir and let cook for few seconds (be careful, garlic can quickly turn brown and bitter). Bring up the heat and add all eggplant cubes. Season with salt and pepper and mix to coat all eggplant pieces with oil.

Add white wine and stir. Let wine almost evaporate on high heat and add whole tomatoes with a juice, crushing them carefully with your hand or spatula. Add bay leaves and allspice and stir into mixture. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft, on low heat. Finish with generous amount of chopped parsley.

Delicious to serve with grilled meats, especially with beef as an unusual side dish. A great alternative to processed relishes, full of corn syrup!

 

 

 

Tzatziki sauce (Greece)

Ingredients:
1 Greek yogurt
3 scallions finely chopped
2/3 English cucumber
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tablespoon of champagne vinegar
2-3 garlic cloves finely diced or pressed
Salt and pepper
dill or fresh oregano, finely chopped (optional)

How to:

Peel, seed and finely dice or grate the cucumber (you must squeeze most of the excess liquid in hand, otherwise it will water down your sauce). Mix yoghurt with lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, herbs and seasoning, and add cucumber into the mix. Stir well and let chill in the fridge until ready to use.

Tzatziki is a great addition to lamb, beef, chicken – or a tasty (and much healthier) alternative to mayo on your sandwiches.