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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mushroom Meatballs (Greece)

This recipe comes from the island of Lesbos. The original name is Μανιταροκεφτέδες which consists of two words: manitaro, which is the Greek name for mushrooms and keftedes, which means meatball. It is very easy to make and very healthy since all the protein comes from the mushrooms, not meat or dairy products.


  14 oz of mushrooms
1 large onion
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable broth
6 slices of french bread (about 3.5 oz of bread)
Ground black pepper
Cumin (optional but recommended because it makes meatball taste very "Eastern")
Extra virgin olive oil
Wheat flour
Fried tomato sauce (optional)
Bread flour (optional)
Wash well and chop very fine the mushrooms. Then dry mushrooms using a centrifuge or by placing them on absorbent paper towels. Meanwhile soak the bread in the vegetable broth to soften. The best thing is to fill half of a soup bowl and place the bread to soak. The bread should be wet, not "drunk". Now put the mushrooms in a bowl with the bread, chopped onion, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of cumin, pepper and the three eggs. Knead with hands until everything is well mixed. The result is a rather loose dough so we can do two things: the first is to  "dry" gradually adding bread flour so that we can work smoothly or (recommended) form a ball with a spoon to quickly cover it with wheat flour and then throw in plenty of olive oil until is well fried.
It is usually served covered with tomato sauce. It is curious to try them with different types of mushrooms. Is like to eat a different recipe with each type.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The magpie, the pregnant, vampires and the buffet restaurant

Through this blog I contacted a little over a year with a guy who is dedicated to the restoration business for many years. In particular his specialty, if you can call it in this way, was to open buffet restaurants.
Of all the possible restoration business, the one based on the buffet has always seemed to me the most risky. The ambition of the client is usually larger than its stomach and much of the food they put on their plate is never going to go through their mouth. It's like cooking directly for the trash can.  I explained him  my doubts about this kind of restaurant and to my surprise he was very surprised in turn at my misgivings. 

He had opened a total of seven free buffets during last  thirty years and they all worked in relative prosperity. It was true that a percentage of the food was wasted but not so much as it seems. Then I commented that it seemed to me extremely difficult to arrange the purchase and choose the recipes without knowing exactly how much food would be choosen by the clientes. Once again he surprised me. He said that the free buffets regular customer, in the long run, use to tend to eat a balanced diet. Maybe in the first visits they abused of meat and fat,  but gradually client consumes many more vegetables, salads and fruits. Never mind that the buffet would serve truckers or students of a school, cause in decreasing order, the products most consumed were carbohydrates, legumes, vegetables, dairy, fruits and meats. Indeed it was relatively easy to organize supplies and recipes. There was no need to make any educational effort to convince anyone. Healthy meals were more common than we use to think. My friend had a surprising theory about it: our body knows what foods to eat to get the necessary nutrients. Expressed in a more blunt: the body needs a certain nutrient and our brain "orders" that we get a particular food because it knows that contains that nutrient. To assert such a strange theory the man asked me if I had not felt at some point in my life the urgent need to consume a food that might not be regular in my diet. It was true. Such a thing had happened. Sometimes I need red meat or nuts - both I do not like -  which, according to this man, would respond to a very specific need in my body. Probably if I had done an analysis of "before" and "after" would have found the lack of a nutrient and how it was corrected by eating an specific food.
The truth is that I did not think about this theory  for a long time, probably because it seemed too strong to say that our body is able to determine that lacks zinc, selenium, vitamin, b6, whatever and then transmit the alarm to the brain that result in us the desire to eat a particular food.
Until one day, watching "Rosemary's Baby" by Roman Polanski, I was struck by a scene in which Mia Farrow, pregnant with the Prince of Darkness, assaulted the fridge to devour raw meat. The intent of the scene was to highlight the monstruous character of the fruit of her womb that was necessary to give raw meat to relieve anxiety. Well, a "craving" as is manifested by the character is perfectly possible in pregnant women. The real reason lies behind the so-called pregnant cravings are still unclear. For most gynecologists is to increase the amount of calories and thus "respond" to the needs of the mother and fetus. This does not explain why pregnant women often want little calorie meals. And do not explain neither why pregnants need particular foods, often undesirable or even unusual in their diet, which once again are hated once the body seems satisfied. In certain cases some doctors admit the possibility that the intake concerned to alleviate vitamin deficiencies or minerals in the body of the pregnant woman and fetus. If a pregnant woman expresses a clear desire to eat red meat or sausages made with blood  is likely to have iron deficiency. If instead they want some fruit or vegetables is almost certainly to solve a problem about vitamin or mineral. All this taken carefully because as I said many experts see no clear cause and effect.
Of course things get complicated when the pregnant wants to eat dirt, suck chalk or swallow. Things are not really edible.
The magpie is a bird of black and white feather, very common in Europe, Asia and West North America. Its Latin name is Pica pica, which refers to its interest in stones, golden and silver things and indeed in swallowing inedible objects used in situations of courtship and mating. Well, if a person swallows inedible substances this is a syndrome of Pica. It can occur to anyone but is most common among pregnant women and young children. The variety of non-foods you can eat is long. I will omit most of them not to hurt sensibilities. The ingestion of soil, for example, can occur when the individual has a zinc deficiency. In fact some have been fixed Pica syndrom  providing doses of zinc or other minerals. Other cases, like individuals who swallow coins or washing machine detergent, are harder to understand. It's hard to know why the brain sends the order to compulsive eating nonfood substances, even knowing that you can not extract from them the nutrient that the body lacks. This behavior is not unique to the human species: many animals do in the same way, although it is true that no one goes to the extremes of the human being, capable of filling the stomach with hair pins until cause death.
The need to take seemingly strange substances is also related to certain diseases. Vampires are believed to represent the myth of patients with porphyria. Sufferers of porphyria have some characteristics that we associate with vampires (pallor, sensitivity to light). It seems that some porphyria patients resorted to drink the blood of other animals or humans to try in vain to cure their disease. This is particularly interesting when one considers that the treatment today is through venous infusions.
Although there is a potential field of research on the brain's ability to control what we eat wisely, the truth is that I find little literature on it. Find the next article about Pica in Wikipedia:

but little or nothing about a comprehensive study done on the selection of buffet food restaurants (although I think there is a study in England which unfortunately I could find). If this were true it would open new possibilities for the potential of our brain to diagnose the needs of our body and why not, on the diseases that plague us.

Indeed, I say disease because it is not the first time that a dream - a product of our brains - have been alerted about an individual suffering from a disease without knowing it.
David Janssen was a popular actor of television, especially for interpreting Dr. Kimble in the series "The Fugitive". While filming a movie he had a strange dream. He dreamt he was in a coffin and around it developed its own funeral. He could hear the conversation between two of those present. One of them explained to someone that he had died of a heart attack. When waking up Janssen suspected that the dream was a warning sent by his mind about a heart problem that so far had not been revealed. He went to the hospital and did a check.  Doctors did not detect anything. Twenty-four hours later the actor died of a heart attack.
So if your "body" asks you meat with cream and strawberries, pay it attention ...

Agua de Valencia

This is a really popular drink in the South East of Spain. If you like Sangria, probably you will love Agua de Valencia (Water of Valencia) as well. No need to say that its name "water" is a funny sarcasm...

2 pt of orange juice
1 bottle of champagne (brut or medium dry)
3 tablespoons Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
3 teaspoons of sugar

Mix all ingredients in a jar or pot. Serve cold or very cold.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why do spaniards eat so late?

The meal times of the spaniards are viewed with incredulity, if not clear misunderstanding by the rest of Europeans. When a German is going to eat at 12 noon, a Spanish can do it at two or three in the afternoon. Contrary to what many think, this is not an ancestral custom. It's actually a fairly recent practice. Traditionally lunch took place in Spain around one o'clock. However after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the economic situation of families heavily worsened and forced to householders to take a minimum of two jobs. Usually the base or main job was an 8 to 10 hours last. Since the salary earned was not enough to sustain family,   men  were forced - cause women was rarely allowed to work outside home - to take a second job, usually shorter. Also saturday was a working day.  Because the issue was to maximize the morning, workers  had a solid block of at least eight hours non-stop that shifted the timing of the meal a couple of hours laters. As an example, a worker X worked in a factory from 6 am to 2 pm,  took luch at 3 pm, and at four in the afternoon incorporated to a small machine shop where spent four more hours. If you look closely at the prevailing meal times for the last twenty or thirty years, showed a clear tendency towards early times for lunch. For example, in 1975 it was normal to eat at 3 pm and take dinner at 10 pm. Currently the luch is around two in the afternoon and dinner use to be before 9 pm, as latest. Probably in next years the meal times in Spain and the rest of western countries will match a lot more.
The meal times are not really a major issue. The important thing is to make five meals a day of decreasing importance. If we sleep 8 hours - that's what we should sleep - we have 16 hours of "activity". If we divide the 16 hours between five meals we find that we should eat every 3 hours and 12 minutes. All this of course is up to hours of business, school, etc. If breakfast is at 7 am, we should eat something around 10 h, take luch at 1 pm, lighter snack at 16 pm and dinner at 7 pm, as light as possible. 

Dulce de Leche, argentinian typical sweet

Dulce de leche is originally from Argentina but very popular in almost all of South America. Its preparation is very simple but its high sugar content is not recommended for people with weight or health related problems.
1.06 pt of milk
4.41 oz of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in half a glass of water
Add the milk and sugar in a saucepan over low heat stirring to mix well. Add while stirring the water with sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate serves to accelerate the process of caramelization. Continue stirring until thicken. Optionally you can add vanilla essence.
Let it cool but do not put in refrigerator. Just keep in room temperature.
Dulce de Leche can be served as is or as a crepe filling, spread on bread or toast and so on. It's delicious !

Cold Tuna Cake

Tuna pie requires a short  preparation time but you have to eat the result 24 hours after its preparation to allow bread get perfectly the shape of the mold.

1 large loaf of bread without crust
1 can of tuna in olive oil
5 ripe tomatoes
1 lettuce
1 can of red pepper
1 pot of mayonnaise
Pitted olives

You also need a disposable baking pan, round or rectangular.

We take the mold and fill the bottom with sliced ​​bread. We try to cut small pieces of bread to fill the entire bottom, leaving not empty space and thus making  round or rectangular form as accurate as possible.
We peel the tomatoes, remove seeds and  then pass through the blender. The resulting juice mix with flaked tuna and with the aid of a spoon we will extend over the first layer of bread. Add a little salt (canned tuna usually has a lot of salt so be careful when adding).

Then mount the second layer of bread over the first one once again taking care to do not leave empty spaces. Spread over the surface with the mixture of tomato and tuna. Proceed on until the last layer of bread reaches the edge of the mold. When this happens place someting heavy over it (a dish, for example) and put in the refrigerator protected  a transparent film overnight.
Unmold the cake carefully one hour before to eat. Cover the entire surface with mayonnaise and extend with the help of a spatula or broad knife.
Adorn the cake with olives, pickles and red pepper strips. Finally cut the lettuce into small pieces that we will be spreading across the surface of the cake or just around. Thel ways to decorate the pie and even the ingredients depend on individual taste.
This recipe is very simple to prepare and the result is a very tender cake with awesome taste. Kids use to love it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fillet of beef with caramelized onions

Red meats are not too healthy but they provide proteins, vitamins and minerals that are not negligible and should therefore be included very occasionally in our diets. Of all the red meats beef tenderloin is the one has less fat and is also very rich in protein.


About 3.5 oz of tenderloin per guest  (or more)
2 large onions
1 cup red or white wine (optional)
Sugar (optional)
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

First we are going to caramelize the onions. It can be done in the traditional way, which is undoubtedly the best, or take a shortcut to significantly reduce the cooking time. If we do the traditional method we will take the onion and cut it into strips. We'll put in a small clay pot with olive oil to cover it and we'll put the low heat stirring every ten minutes. With the slow heat the sugar of the  same onion goes out and turns its color to a very dark purple almost black. Only near the end of the process add a pinch of salt. The problem is that to get a complete browning can take as long as we want as it depends on firepower, but 4, 6 and 12 hours could be gastronomically logical. As we do not usually have as much time there is another way that produces acceptable results. Cut the onion into strips also and we cover just with virgin olive oil. Incorporate a couple of lumps of brown sugar to dissolve in half a glass of red wine or white wine. Stir constantly over medium heat and in half an hour the onions are caramelized.

If we did a good caramelized onion is compact whole, only very obscured. For this particular recipe is our interest that does not get too brown, so remove it when it is still a bit white. This may mean something less than twenty minutes of the rapid method.

Meanwhile cut the tenderloin into medallions and season, sprinkle with chopped parsley. Then fry slowly in a clay pot until only the heart is pink. Pour onions to be baked with the meat juices. Therefore we do not incorporate all the oil, just the half. Preheat oven to 356 F and cook until the onion becomes dark tone desired. 20 minutes should be enough.

The dish is visually very strong, and the contrast between sweet onion and sirloin provides a very pleasant feeling. You have to constantly watch the final stage of baking as it is very easy to burn the onion before reaching the desired point. Do not suffer about the meat, cause tenderloin is very soft, just watch the onion. Too much oven can spoil the recipe.