Thursday, May 10, 2018

Seskoulorizo - Greek rainbow chard with rice

I came back from the market the other day with a bagful of rainbow chard and when I was done staring at it, admiring its gorgeous colors and photographing it, I started contemplating what to do with it and couldn’t wait to taste it in a dish. I’m sure you know that these greens are not all show; they are delicious too.

I didn’t want to make a Greek pie, which is a common way to use chard in my country, but wanted something a bit different. And then it hit me; I would make a riff on the classic, traditional spanakorizo (Greek spinach rice) using my beautiful, multicolored chard instead of spinach.

That’s what I did, and the result was amazing. There’s so much creaminess, flavor and warmth in this dish. Tasty, smooth and comforting, with fresh flavors from the chard and the herbs, richness from the olive oil and rice, and of course plenty of lemon squeezed over the whole dish to bring it to life and add a much welcomed acidity.

With some good, tangy Greek feta on the side and a few slices of dark, crusty bread, it’s one of the simplest, healthiest and quickest dishes to make.

Hope you enjoy, and don’t forget to tag me on instagram if you make any of the recipes from my blog so I can see them!

Seskoulorizo - Greek rainbow chard with rice

The rice used in this dish is Karolina rice, a very typical kind of white, starchy, medium-grain rice used a lot in Greek cooking, but the Italian Arborio would work perfectly as well.

Yield: 2 main course servings

500 g fresh rainbow chard (or regular swiss chard)
6 Tbsp (90 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
4-5 spring onions, white and pale green parts only, sliced thinly
A big handful of fresh dill, divided into stems and leaves, finely chopped
A big handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided into stems and leaves, finely chopped
⅓ heaped cup Greek Karolina rice or Arborio rice
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Special equipment: large, heavy-bottomed pan with lid, colander

Using a large knife, slice the leaves and stalks of the chard as shown in the photo below. Rinse well under cold running water and drain in a colander.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat and when it starts to shimmer, add the red onion, green onions, dill and parsley stems and sauté, stirring constantly, until they soften but don’t color.

Add the chopped chard, the rice, salt and pepper and stir until the chard settles. It will take 4-5 minutes as there’s a lot of it. Add 1 cup of hot water to the pan together with the chopped dill and parsley leaves, put the lid on the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes, making sure to check after 10 minutes to see if it needs more water.

Note: If you are used to making spanakorizo (Greek spinach rice), then you’d think that the greens will release a lot of water but chard isn’t the same as spinach. Chard releases less water, that’s why you need to keep checking while cooking so the dish doesn’t dry out, and add more water if it does.

Keep simmering until the chard stalks are tender and the rice is cooked. It will need about 25 minutes in total. Cooking time is dependent on the kind of rice you use and the thickness and toughness of the chard.
In the end, the rice must be a little al dente and not mushy or broken, and the chard must be soft but not mushy. Also, the dish should be wet but not soupy, and, again, it shouldn’t be dry.

When ready, check the seasoning, adding more if needed, and give 4-5 squeezes of a lemon to start. Stir and take the pan off the heat. Allow to stand for 10 minutes with the lid on.

Serve warm or at room temperature with extra lemon juice.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Broccolini with wild garlic and miso dressing

I’ve been obsessed with wild garlic this spring and I’ve been cooking with it every chance I get. This time, I made a wild garlic and miso dressing that was so addictive I couldn’t stop eating it by the spoonful; I was getting dangerously close to finishing the whole lot before my boyfriend caught a glimpse of me and reminded me that we needed it for our dinner. Yes, it is that addictive.

It is bright, zingy, pungent and salty, acidic and lemony, garlicky but not overpoweringly so, with a fresh, herby quality from the wild garlic leaves and full of umami flavor from the white miso paste. It wakes up your taste buds and brings to life whatever you choose to pair it with. This time, it was broccolini and it complemented their bittersweet flavor perfectly.

This dressing is an emulsion that resembles freshly made mayonnaise in texture and thickness, but is even more luscious and light, and has a vivid green color to boot. The garlic is in the background, giving a soft garlic flavor and the umaminess of the miso which to me is pure kryptonite, transforms it.

It’s a strong, sharp and lively dressing with a creamy, fluffy and light texture, perfectly smooth and plump, and apart from broccolini, it would also go great with fresh green asparagus or plain broccoli. It would also be the ideal sauce to dollop over a piece of pan-fried salmon as the sharpness of the sauce offsets the sweetness and fattiness of the fish.

It would also be wonderful in a fish sandwich, with fried fish or seafood, or with bakaliaro (the Greek salt cod fritters) as a skordalia substitute.


P.S. If you too are wild garlic fiends, try these wild garlic flaky flatbreads and of course this tzatziki.

Broccolini with wild garlic and miso dressing

Serve this dish as a light lunch with some good bread, or serve it alongside a grilled piece of fish or chicken for your main meal of the day.

Broccolini are a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli. They are among my favorite vegetables because they are versatile and can be used in many dishes like this ultra Spring-y dish of tortiglioni pasta with ricotta and lemon zest, and in these bruschette. Their flavor is similar to that of broccoli but sweeter, milder and more tender, and they remind me a bit of green asparagus as well in flavor.

And if you like miso, here is another dressing I have used it in.

Yield: 2 servings as salad / 1 cup dressing

200 g broccolini

for the dressing
30 g (1½ Tbsp) white miso paste (shiro miso)
10 g wild garlic, leaves picked and rinsed well (about 15 small leaves)
4 tsp (20 ml) water
5 Tbsp (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1½ Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper, 5-6 turns of the pepper mill

Special equipment: colander, small food processor

Rinse the broccolini under cold running water and trim the ends if needed.
Add them to a pot of boiling water and boil with the lid off so they retain the bright green color, and boil them until soft but not mushy or disintegrating as you want them to have some texture. How long this will take depends on the thickness of the broccolini. It may take anywhere from 5-10 minutes.
Drain them in a colander and leave them to cool.

make the dressing
In the bowl of your food processor, add the miso, water and wild garlic leaves and process until smooth. Add 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and process to emulsify. Then add another tablespoon of the oil and process again to emulsify. Add a third tablespoon of oil and 1 Tbsp of the lemon juice and process again. Add the rest 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, the rest ½ Tbsp of lemon and the black pepper, and process again. This is done, gradually, in order for the dressing to emulsify properly and have a smooth and fluffy mayonnaise-like sauce. Give it a taste and add more lemon if you wish.

Arrange the broccolini in a platter. Don’t season them as the saltiness of the dressing is adequate. Add 1 Τbsp of dressing and toss gently. Add more sauce depending on your personal taste.

The remaining dressing can be stored in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge. The second day it still has a fluffy texture, but not as much as the first day, yet the flavor is even better!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Homemade peanut butter and chocolate brownies

Before I start talking about these brownies, let me toot my own horn for a bit, because if I don’t do it, who will?? If you’re not following me on social media you probably won’t know this; I was the featured instagrammer on the first issue of National Geographic Traveller Food magazine (UK edition), with a small interview and a few of my photographs. I am so honored, thrilled and excited to be included in such an iconic publication, that I really can’t describe it with words. I should probably attach a photo of my huge smile here instead, but I won’t.

Now let’s talk brownies and the flavor combination of chocolate and peanut butter, which once upon a time I really disliked. I was never a snickers bar person, I always went for the mars, bounty or twix instead. A couple of years ago though, I made chocolate brownies with homemade peanut butter and suddenly I was hooked. I don’t know what it was. Perhaps the real flavor of the homemade peanut butter, the pure, dark chocolate, the flaked sea salt I added to them, the whole peanuts in the batter? Possibly. Or maybe it was just the fact that growing older means your tastes change and I’m good with that. Whichever was the reason I changed my mind about this combination, I’ll take it, because now I get to thoroughly enjoy one of my favorite kind of brownie.

As I have mentioned to you before, I make my own peanut butter, the recipe for which I shared with you a little while ago, hinting that I was going to share these brownies too. Well, the time is now and at the risk of sounding too confident, I have to say, they are in-cre-di-ble! These are for me the best peanut butter and chocolate brownies you can make and they are chocolaty and peanut-y in the purest sense.

There’s two mixtures in these brownies that marry wonderfully together. One is the dark chocolate brownie mixture in which I added chopped peanuts, and the other is the peanut butter mixture to which I added chopped dark chocolate.

They’re dense and fudgy, moist and a little chewy, with a crispy top and a crunchy texture coming from the chopped peanuts inside, and an intense peanut and deep chocolate flavor. They’re like the best snickers bar, but without the cloying sweetness as they’re not too sweet. When warm, they’re soft, melty and moist, and these are the only brownies I prefer eating warm rather than cold. I don’t know exactly why that is and, don’t get me wrong, I would never turn down a cold brownie, but the flavors and textures are so much better and more distinct to me when warm.

Their nuttiness, fudginess and sweetness is perfectly balanced and they are fantastic dipped into coffee or a glass of cold milk, or simply enjoyed on their own as the best cure for all sweet cravings.

Homemade peanut butter and chocolate brownies

The homemade peanut butter with the pure flavor of the nut without being too sweet or salty or having an overly oily texture, is possibly the best part of the brownie. If you don’t want to make your own peanut butter (which, incidentally, is ridiculously easy to make), make sure to use natural peanut butter, not the highly processed one. It’s not about being healthy, I’m neither a nutritionist nor a doctor and I believe that everyone is and should feel free to eat whatever they find is good for them, it’s just that the texture and flavor is different and, having tried them with the highly processed kind of peanut butter as well, the result is not what I want it to be.

Yield: 25 small brownies


for the chocolate brownie mixture
115 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
85 g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
230 g granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp sea salt flakes (I use Maldon)
85 g all-purpose flour
50 g raw, unsalted peanuts (you can toast them if you wish), roughly chopped

for the peanut butter mixture
190 g homemade peanut butter (or store-bought natural peanut butter - see note above)
130 g granulated white sugar
1 large egg
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
⅛ tsp sea salt flakes (I use Maldon)
50 g good quality dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), finely chopped

Special equipment: 20 x 20 cm baking pan, baking paper, wire whisk, stiff rubber spatula

Butter the bottom and sides of the pan and line with a piece of baking paper.
Preheat your oven to 175°C.

for the chocolate brownie mixture
Place the butter and the chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bain marie) and melt, stirring often. The bottom of the bowl must not come in contact with the simmering water. Once the mixture is smooth and melted, remove bowl from the top of the pan and set aside to cool slightly. Then add the sugar and using a wire whisk, whisk well to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition to incorporate them fully. Then add the vanilla and salt, and whisk to combine. Add the flour and stir it in with a spatula until the mixture is smooth and there are no white streaks from the flour visible. Finally, add the chopped peanuts and mix them through the batter with the spatula.

for the peanut butter mixture
Add all the ingredients for the peanut butter mixture, except for the chocolate, in a medium bowl and beat vigorously with a stiff spatula to combine. Fold in the chopped chocolate.

Empty ⅓ of the chocolate brownie mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Add ½ of the peanut butter mixture on top and spread it. This mixture will be somewhat stiff so it’s okay if it doesn’t spread smoothly or evenly. Add another ⅓ of the chocolate brownie mixture on top and spread evenly. Then add the rest of the peanut butter mixture and spread. Top with the remaining chocolate brownie mixture and spread evenly.

Bake on the low rack of the preheated oven for 25 minutes, then transfer to the middle rack and bake for approximately 10 minutes more, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with crumbs attached. Be careful not to overbake as you don’t want to end up with dry brownies, but moist and fudgy. You can start checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark to be on the safe side, since not all ovens are the same.

Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then using the overhanging baking paper take the brownies out of the pan and leave on the wire rack until completely cool. (Or, if you are like me, eat while still warm). Then slice into 25 small squares using a long and thin knife.

They keep excellently for 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container, or for a week in the fridge. I prefer eating them warm. You can reheat a square in the microwave before you eat it or if you’re the cold-brownie type, keep them in the fridge.

• Adapted from smitten kitchen