Saturday, August 27, 2011

Zucchini & Black Bean Tostadas {with Homemade "Cheats" Salsa}

End of Summer. It can be hot. Need I say more?

Let's say someone feels I do need to. To elaborate, in Brno it's been icky-sticky hot all week. I'm starting to get a bit saladed-out, and looking for something a bit more toothsome.

This is where tostadas come in. You can throw on all kinds of veg you got rolling around in the fridge...even the ones that may be past their salad prime. Whip up a fresh batch of salsa, turn on the oven broiler for a wee five minutes (and maybe the stovetop for a few too if you're doing zucchini) and bam - there you go. A satisfying dinner that fills a gal up but doesn't weigh her down. Corn tortillas always leave me feeling a bit springier than wheat ones...and since they are tostadas, you're not wrapping everything in a big massive wheat blanket like a burrito. Moc zdravý.

The only caveat found here is that I was stuck-in-bed sick for a few days this week, so I used only what I had in the kitchen - which inclued only one tomato. The salsa compensates by using a can of peeled diced tomatoes, which, when properly doctored up, makes a very nice salsa-like consistency without the boiling/peeling/puréeing tomatoes business.

I know it's so wrong on so many levels, what with it being tomato season, but it was just so easy! I promise, I'm going to the market right now to support my local tomato-growers!

When I made these, I threw the salsa on before heating up the tostadas on only half of them. The other half I added the salsa just before eating...I preferred this latter approach, as the salsa seemed more flavourful when cold (the cilantro flavour dies down a bit when heated) and the tortilla bottoms stayed a bit crispier.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Dreamy Creamy Almond Pudding

Last week I discovered the fabulous Halal butcher/foodstuffs shop in my neighbourhood moved away. For other Brnáks reading this - they are now on Vídeňská street...number 37 I think. Corner of Vojtova.

While it was definitely great having them nearby (for that Easter leg of lamb, especially) the new location is fairly central, so I stopped by last week. The dry goods are more prominently displayed here, so not even in my usual rushing-to-class mode could I possibly miss the bottle of rosewater.

It had to come with me.

Just a smidge of rosewater to any honey or almond based dessert is absolute heaven. I even remember a restaurant where the drinking water was flavoured with just a hint of the stuff.

Don't be scared off, thinking 'well, I'm certainly not the flowery-food type.' There is nothing more summery than a gentle barely-there hint of rose in your dessert.

Seeing that I had some milk about to go off, pudding was in order. I admit that I made the mistake of not wanting to run to the store, so I just threw some almonds in the food processor to get the 'ground almond' effect. Next time I'll definitely get the right stuff. Powder-fine ground almonds would make the pudding extra smooth. But if you dig texture, the DIY approach would do you just fine.

The result is a not-overly-sweet pudding that is full of protein. I suggest any decadent meal end with this almond pudding for a tasty finish devoid of any guilt that a dessert can tend to instill.

And if you are in Brno, get yourself to the fabulous Halal Maso!

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Minty Lentil Lunch Salad - To Go!

Monday mornings. Ugh. I don't know about the rest you, but mine always start out a bit haphazardly. Monday is like a dress rehearsal, and the real week actually starts on Tuesday for me.

Not last week though. You see, I am finally so bored with business park lunch restaurants to motivate myself to plan and prepare a lunch to-go. Ah, my American readers might think me a bit lazy, and there is some truth to that, I'm sure. But it's also a cultural thing. In the Czech Republic, worker bees tend not to take lunch with them. Restaurants serve hot, cheap meals daily, which are (mostly) palatable. And what's more, they can be ordered and digested within a 30 minute time frame. Brekkie and snacks might be toted to work, but lunch - why bother?

Even in large international companies with modern kitchen facilities, few people eat in them. People pop in and out for bevvies and to grab their snacks to be eaten deskside. But I rarely see people sitting at a table with some microwaved leftovers, or a sandwich. Baguettes from the petrol station, maybe while standing by the espresso machine, but a slapped-together turkey and swiss...never. Sure, I understand sandwich-making is an art perfected on the other side of the Atlantic, but even the classic Czech řízek (schnitzel) on rye sandwich cannot be found in the lunch fridge. Only yogurt. Rows and rows of tub after sad tub of yogurt.

So last Monday, I got up 15 minutes earlier to throw together my first of (hopefully) many more lunch boxes. It was brilliant. So healthy. And cheap. Why didn't I discover this lentil salad ages ago? It stays crisp until lunch, with just a light dressing. It's best eaten closer to room temperature than fridge freezing take it out a bit before you eat, and you'll be glad you did.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Lemongrass-Coconut Soup with Shrimp and Veg

Take someone who hasn't been able to get to a Thai restaurant for a very, very long time (me) and give them a freshly discovered source of lemongrass (and a few youtube videos on preparing this stuff) and the most fragrant and delicately infused coconut broth might just emerge.

This soup is an absolutely lovely way to use up some summer veg hanging out in the crisper. The rest of the ingredients I usually have in stock (when the cupboards are full that is) - save for the trip to the Vietnamese market for the lemongrass. I am told lemongrass freezes well, like ginger, so I may soon (theoretically) be making this on a whim.

 Coconut-based soups always sound a bit cloying to me, to be perfectly honest. This one, however, is one part coconut milk and two parts vegetable broth (plus all those spice goodies.) The result is a smooth oh-so-light-as-a-feather texture and flavours that go POW. Can you handle that?

The beauty of this recipe is that the broth bit is absolutely killer. The spice mix infuses its heady aroma for half and hour, and is then strained out to get a divinely silky-smooth broth. Any seafood/tofu/veg could be included in this soup. It really is that flexible...and good!

Disclaimer: this dish is a bit time consuming, so I would double the recipe if you've got room in the fridge or freezer. It also seems to use a minimum of three pots, so be nice to your dishwasher (aka dining companions) in advance.

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