Spring….

 

It is officially SPRING TIME!!!! I am so happy about it that I need to say it out loud.

Somehow I feel like I don’t have enough words to say how much I love spring and the  warm weather and the blue sky and the sun and the birds singing and the happy faces that you see everywhere ….and my list can continue forever.

and what is better than creme caramel to celebrate such a great season? …my answer is nothing. You would think creme caramel is sugary, has a smooth texture and it would match better the winter, but for me is smooth, it has the caramelized sugar competing with the delicate texture, is just like spring sometimes sunny but trying to fight the morning chill, full of contrast but yet so great.

To make the creme caramel I used the recipe of Julia Child (with a little twist), I am still gathering some courage to try her coq au vin or her boeuf bourguignon.

crème renversée au caramel 

serves 4-6 people

 

caramel

110 grams sugar

60 ml water

custard

480 ml  milk (I used 200 ml heavy cream and 280 ml milk)

150 grams sugar

2 eggs

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine ½ cup sugar with ¼ cup water. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the syrup turns a light caramel color. Remove the saucepan from the heat and dip the bottom into cold water to stop the cooking. Pour the caramel into a 4-cup charlotte mold, and tilt so that it covers the bottoms and sides. Let cool.

In a small saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla to a boil. In a heat-proof bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolks and cup sugar until blended. Whisking constantly, pour the hot milk into the egg mixture; let rest for a few minutes, then strain. Pour the custard into the caramel-coated mold.

Put the mold in a small but deep baking or roasting pan, and add hot water to come about two-thirds up the sides of the mold. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat, and bring the water to a simmer. Transfer the pan to the oven. (The water should stay at a low simmer at all times; do not let it boil or the custard will over cook.) Bake until a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Keep the custard in the baking pan until the water cools. Remove from the pan to finish cooling. To serve, run the tip of a knife around the top of the custard to loosen it. Invert a serving platter over the mold and quickly turn it over again. Carefully remove the mold.

Source : NY Times

Pasta alla Norma and the travel itch

 

The love to travel!!! I wonder sometimes if I was conceived while my parents were travelling.

To scratch a bit the travel itch (or to intensify it….I still can’t decide what the effect was) I started looking at pictures I took during some of my trips and a particular one brought back tasty memories – the trip to Sicily.

Sicily is one of those places where you don’t necessarily travel to visit historic places or to see natural beauties, but you go to stuff your face, you get your taste buds totally nuts.

I think I can place it next to my favourite foodies trips like Thailand, Greece in general and Crete in particular, Spain, France, Mexico or the rest of Italy. And this is not because Sicily doesn’t have to offer great natural wonders, just to mention here Mount Etna and you know that this island is simply gorgeous. The greek, roman, arab , french and spanish influences  make this island particularly interesting in terms of food, architecture or people.

One of my first encounters with food in Sicily was Pasta alla Norma.

This is one of the classic sicilian dishes, bringing together the amazing flavours of eggplants, tomatoes, basil and garlic.

The story of this dish says that it was compared by Nino Martoglio, an Italian writer and poet, which was impressed with the deep flavours of the dish, with the splendor of Bellini’s opera Norma. Bellini was sicilian himself, born in Catania, no wonder he could create such perfect sounds after eating such this kind of food.  Perhaps would I turn into a soprano if I would live in a place with such amazing flavours. Difficult to belive it as I have one of the worst voice I have heard, but its worth trying or at least dreaming :-)

The recipe is very easy and fast, getting you dinner in no time, the only down side is that you will be hooked on it for a while.

pasta alla Norma

serves 4

400 – 500 grams of casarecce or rigatoni

2 eggplants

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves of chopped garlic

chilli pepper flakes

salt, pepper

1 can tomato paste or 8 chopped medium tomatoes

6-8 leaves of basil

ricotta salata

optional : chopped pistachio

Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
Cut the eggplants into slices, salt them and let them rest for half an hour, to make sure they won’t turn bitter during cooking. Dry the eggplants with a paper towel and then cut the eggplant into small cubes.
In a pan heat olive oil, add the chopped garlic and the chilli flakes and saute for half a minute. Add the cubed eggplants and saute until golden. Add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper to taste. One of the tricks I am using to make sure the sauce is not turning sourish is to add half a teaspoon of sugar and few drops of balsamic vinegar. Cook for about 10 minutes, Midway add chopped basil to the sauce.

Once the pasta is al dente, drain and toss over the tomato sauce. Give a quick stir and pour in a serving plate. Finish by grating some ricotta salad and chopped pistachios on top of it.
P.S. Big, big THANK YOU to Caroline of Patterned Plate for the Liebster blog award, more about it in a future post.