Believe me or not, the last time I had macaroni and cheese or (UK: Macaroni cheese) that I can recall was when I was a teenager. I learn the basic macaroni and cheese during my domestic science class in secondary school. I made once at home and my mom really liked it but since this is a rather heavy dish and the way that I learnt to make the sauce did not seem that easy to make it to a smooth sauce therefore I have not made it ever again until tonight. After going through some recipes, I realized that the method of making the cheese sauce I learnt at that time was not quite accurate. I added in the milk all in one go instead of bit by bit which indeed made it easier to form lumps and took much longer to make a smooth sauce.
I did not realise that there can be so many variations of Mac n’ Cheese until I read the Macaroni ‘n’ Cheese Roundup by one of my favorite food blogs- 5 Star Foodie Culinary Adventure. And all of a sudden I was inspired to make my own one. By using crab, spinach, mushrooms and a bit of bacon, it did not feel heavy at all. I would definitely make this from time to time with the basic sauce below and to try with other types of cheese and ingredients.
Meanwhile, after reading the information from wikipedia, I still cannot tell which country is Macaroni cheese originated from, US, UK or Italy? Anyone knows? I have always thought it’s originated in the UK as my first encounter was using English cheddar cheese.
Sardines are easily accessible in Switzerland. They are not expensive and yet very nutritious, full of great vitamins, minerals, omega-3′s, and lean protein. The mercury levels are considered to be the lowest in this seafood. The easiest way to cook them is by grilling method but this time I wanted to try something different. I have combined two blog posts from two of my favorite Greek food blogs and came up to my own dish: Maria’s of Kali Orexi’s baked sardines recipe and Peter Minaki of Kalofagas’ clear directions of how to butterfly the sardines (i.e with scales and bones removed).
So if you have followed my travels, I still have some Tuscan recipes I learnt which I promised to post. Here is one for you today. It is extremely easy to make and great for your dinner party.
When we were in Tuscany, crostini together with Panzanella, a refreshing Tuscan summer bread salad are always served as antipasti.
Following my Tuscany Part 1: I am afraid I am not writing in a chronological order. This was actually our last evening in Tuscany. Upon our arrival, I have written to Peter & Ann to see if they could offer me a cooking class but this is not something they officially or normally would offer. Peter was actually a chef when he was in Basel. In fact what I was hoping was not a formal cooking class but a casual learn and dine together evening.
After discussing, we had agreed to cook something that I can also repeat when I return to Switzerland.
Weather was rather hot already for early July, we ate outside and Peter told me because of the hot weather, they do not serve dishes immediately but at room temperature.
That evening we had:
It was a very special evening to us, so glad that Peter and Ann shared so much their cooking tips to me. I am afraid I cannot reveal everything here in one single post. I will reveal the recipes when I cook them shortly in the future.
Tonight, I have made Baked zucchini blossoms & zucchini. I am actually going to grow some zucchini myself in our vegetable garden, bought some seeds but have to wait until next year to plant them. Nevertheless, my neighbour is very generous and let me pick her zucchini flowers and zucchini. So I did today, picked in the afternoon kept them in some water so they can stay fresh. Once picked, the zucchini blossoms need to be used as soon as possible.
So tonight with a bit of inspiration, I have a meatlessfree dinner, I have used a bit more olive oil than Peter but surprisingly it was completely fine and did not feel greasy at all, a good quality olive oil does pay off!!! I felt I have transformed a Tuscan dish to Spanish tapas, hahaha!
Baked zucchini blossoms & zucchini
- 10 or more zucchini blossoms, freshly bought or picked from your own garden, keep in some water if not used immediately
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced, about 0.5 cm thick
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese)
- 2 tbsp breadcrumbs (paniermehl)
- 2 tbsp ground unblanched almond (blanced is fine too)
- 2 tbsp dried parsley
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- best quality of extra olive oil
- Preheat oven at 200ºC (400ºF)
- Trim the sides of zucchini blossoms and emove the pistils, wash and pat dry them gently.
- Drizzle olive oil onto 2 oven proved ceramic trays.
- Mix the grated Parmigiano, breadcrumbs, minced garlic and parsley together in a bowl.
- Spread the mixture thinly over the zucchini and flowers
- Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over them
- Bake them for about 10 minutes in the middle rack
- When the oil is sizzling and the crust is lightly browned they’re done.
- Remove from oven, rest for a few minutes before serve. Great with some fresh bread & some white wine.
- Serve this with bread for a light meal or as a side dish or one of your party dishes.
- You can use less olive oil if you like. Despite I have used a little more olive oil than Peter, it did not feel greasy at all, I like both versions. The critical thing is to really use the best olive oil you can get.
- Baking this way is a little like shallow frying and the beauty is effortless!!!!
Thanks Peter & Ann for the lovely evening, hope to see you soon again!
For Tuscany Part 1 : Garfagnana & Tuscan risotto recipe, click here.
I have been trying hard to eat light the last days, not an easy task for a food lover as there are so many things I want to try out. Not really doing in a strict manner, I proposed to my hubby to eat less carbo, and it seems to work quite well. Peter has just left for his business trip in Boston and I chose not to go with him because I would want to have some quiet time to limit myself from eating out and get ready for the summer. As the weather is much warmer than before, I do not crave for starchy food so much. In general, I find following diet menus or sticking to a strict diet is a torture, so instead I am just trying to eat ‘smart’, and still be able to enjoy the food I like. I have also picked up swimming again, it seems it’s going in the right direction when I step on the scale, hope to keep this up!
Tonight, feeling rather lazy, I baked salmon with thyme from our garden, drizzled with some lime juice and served with some sweet corns, that is. So tasty, healthy and the beauty is no pans to wash!
I have adapted the recipe from about.com
- 2 salmon fillets or other fish fillets you like (does not matter if skin is still there), about 250g per person
- fresh garden thyme, soak in some salted water for a while and then rinse in tap water
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh ground pepper & salt
- lime or lemon wedges
- 1 can sweet corn kernels, discard the liquid
- Preheat the oven at 120ºC
- Wash the salmon and pat dry with kitchen paper
- Line aluminum foil on a baking tray (big enough to wrap the salmon later), drizzle some extra virgin oil on the foil, place the salmon on the foil, add some ground pepper & salt on both sides and smear the olive oil on the fish fillets.
- Put the stalks of fresh thyme under and on top of the fish
- Add the sweet corn kernels next to the fish
- Wrap up the foil and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 30 minutes thereabout.
- Serve the fish and sweet corn kernels on warm serving plates, drizzle some lime or lemon juice.
I like this a lot, the fish stays moist and will not be overcooked. Also since it is baked at relatively low oven temperature, I do not need to worry about my skin. Somehow, my skin condition seems to get worse when I cook to often with the oven, I do try to drink more water to compensate from being dehydated but still, maybe just me.
I have another Baked salmon recipe which you may like too:
I have always wanted to bake fish in sea salt but when I see the amount of salt I will need, it seems wasteful but if you think about it, it does not cost much for 1kg of salt, it’s just an illusion.
I have found three recipes, one in my recipe book “Cook with Jamie” , the other two versions from the internet: bon appetit.com and bbc.com
Two of the recipes said you have to mix the salt with egg white which I personally do not like the idea as I believe by covering the fish with salt, the fish should not be dry out anyway. I do not mean to challenge the chefs but when I do really feel it’s a bit wasteful this time with the egg whites. Not only because we are now in economy downturn but also I will the egg whites are rather precious. I am also a bit lazy and like to be a minimalist. The recipe from bbc.com is extremely easy and proved that it is possible to omit the egg whites.
Nevertheless, the usual me does not like to follow one recipe completely, I like to combine them or make a little tweak to get the best out it. I love the idea of using herbs and spices stuffed to the fish belly, as they can make the fish belly not fishy anymore. Most recipes call for fresh rosemary and/or fresh thyme but by chance I have lots of chinese coriander in the fridge and since those spices are all asian spices, I speculate that the chinese coriander will match also extremely well. Chinese coriander smells much stronger than the normal coriander/ cilantro.
I really like this cooking method, it’s so simple and quick to prepare, retains the freshness and juices of the fish. It is also a fabulous fitness meal !!!
- 1kg coarse sea salt
- 400g-500g sea bass (or any whole fish you desire),
- Bunch of Chinese Coriander
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns
- 4 slices of lemon (for stuffing in fish cavity)
- 4 lemon wedges (for serving)
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC/ 400ºF.
- Line the baking tray with aluminium foil, layer the bottom of the baking tray with sea salt, about 1cm thick.
- Toast the spices: fennel seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns in a small pan for a few minutes until you can smell the fragrance coming out from the spices. Shake the pan to avoid burning.
- Let the spices to cool down and then crush them using a pestle and mortar.
- Rinse the fish and pat dry and set aside.
- Spoon the spices into the fish cavities and then stuff the chinese coriander and lemon slices.
- Lay the sea bass on the salt layered baking tray and then cover the fish with sea salt. It is fine if the head and tail are not completely covered.
- Bake for 25 minutes. When done, take the baking tray out of the oven, take the tray to the table and let it rest for a few minutes.
- To serve, brush as much salt away from the fish and then transfer the fish to a long serving plate. Remove the herbs and spices from the fish belly, discard the skin and bone and serve the flesh on separate plates.
- Drizzle a little extra virgin oil and squeeze some lemon juice on the fish.
- Suggestion: Serve with a crisp mixed salad and some boiled new potatoes.
I was so excited the other day that I found these mixed mushrooms in the Swiss COOP supermarket, they are like the Japanese Enoki mushrooms. In the pack they have white and brown ones, plus some shiitake. On the pack they just labelled as Mixed mushrooms, anyway who cares as long as they are edible.
I immediately put a pack in my trolley. How to cook them? All of a sudden I recalled this baked mushrooms I had a long time ago in a Japanese Yakitori restaurant. I love Yakitori restaurants, those Japanese skewers are my favorites. Order some skewers and a sake, it’s perfect to go with a small group of friends. I always feel these Yakitori Sake places are similar to the Spanish Tapas Bar.
Anyway, based on my memory and some guesstimation, I made this baked mushrooms at home. This is so easy and clean to make. After finished, I just threw away the aluminium foil.
- a pack of mixed mushrooms (you can use enoki and shiitake mushrooms)
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp butter
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
- Cut a big piece of aluminium foil about 80cm x 30cm. Fold both sides into middle to make a double layer. And fold it into an aluminium wrap with an opening.
- Line the mushrooms in the wrap and add in the seasonings.
- Put the aluminium wrap into a baking tray, cover the opening with another piece of aluminium foil (as a lid)
- Place the baking tray in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15 mins.
- Check if the mushrooms are cooked and serve immediately as one of the vegetable side dishes.
Serving suggestion: best to go with other small dishes such as grilled chicken wings with Asian spices which is also extremely easy to make.
The beauty is that you could serve as it is with the wrap and it really did not leak!
We are staying in an apartment in UK this week and good thing is that we can cook dinner ourselves which is much healthier, but the downside is I am not able to cook everything from scratch, I would not want to buy all these bottles of herbs and sauces and not able to finish them but have to throw them away.
Initially I wanted to make salmon teriyaki but the supermarket here does not have the teriyaki sauce and it’s not practical to make my own one from scratch so I had to come up with a Plan B:
Salmon & portabello mushrooms with Sainsbury’s green curry cooking sauce with a little tweak. I use portabello mushrooms because hardly find them in Switzerland.
The package said it was produced from South East Asia so I chose this and not the other brands. I have seared the salmon briefly and baked them together with the curry sauce. I wanted to do something different than to panfrying the salmon and pour the sauce on top.
- 2 fresh salmon filets (without skin)
- 2 portabella mushrooms
- 1 pack of Sainsbury’s Green Curry Sauce
- 1 lime, cut into half
- a small bunch of fresh coriander
- salt & black pepper
- Grapeseed oil (or other cooking oil)
- Preheat the oven to 230ºC.
- Wash the coriander and separate the stalks and leaves. Finely chopped the stalks.
- Cut the portabella mushrooms in thick slices.
- Wash the salmon briefly, pat dry with kitchen towels and season both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.
- Empty the green curry sauce into a saucepan, warm it up slowly and as it begins to boil, add in the coriander stalks and squeeze in the lime juice.
- Transfer the sauce into an oven proofed casserole container, cover and put in the oven for about 10 mins. The sauce will be boiling and evaporating a little bit to give a thicker sauce.
- In the meantime, cook the rice you like, I have chosen wild and brown rice here which it takes slightly longer to cook.
- Heat some cooking oil in a pan and pan seared the salmon, depending the thickness of your salmon, no longer than 30 secs on each other. Remove the salmon from the pan and lay on some kitchen towels to absorb the excess oil.
- Take the curry sauce out of the oven, and place the salmon into the sauce carefully, also put the mushrooms into the sauce.
- Place half of the coriander leaves on top of the sauce, put the cover back and put this in the oven for another 15 mins or so.
- When it is cooked, garnish the salmon curry with the rest of the coriander leaves.
- Serve immediately with rice and vegetables (suggestion: simply boil some spinach).
The reason why I cooked the salmon in the oven with the sauce but not on the stove was because I find the curry can immerse into the curry sauce even more evenly without over cooked the salmon. My hubby was very impressed with the results that the salmon filets tasted very smooth and moist inside.
It was an extremely healthy, delicious and budget meal, total cost not exceeding 8 quit for the two of us. If you need a quick fix dinner, do think about this option!
After knowing the background of Paidol, I was curious to follow one of its recipes-Paidol Brot, i.e. Paidol Bread. In fact, I would rather call it Yogurt Bread as the dough is made of plain yogurt rather than water or milk.
- 200g Paidol
- 225g Ruchmehl* (I believe you can replace with other bread flour)
- 90g Oatmeal
- 1/2 tbsp Salt
- 360g plain or natural yogurt
- 40g fresh yeast (or 14g instant yeast)
- 1 tbsp of milk
*Ruchmehl is made up entirely of wheat produced flour. In contrast to the white flour, mainly from the inner part of the Getreidekornes produced, the Ruchmehl after the withdrawal of white flour won, which is still a part of the outer skin layer. It contains more protein, minerals and vitamins from the edge of the grain. Ruchmehl is therefore in its biological nutrient the white and half white flour superior. It is similar to the German Type 1050 or the Austrian Type W 1600. Source from Wikipedia
- Sieve Paidol and the flour in a large bowl and mix in 75g of oatmeal and salt
- Warm up the yogurt to become lukewarm (~30°C). If you use fresh yeast, dissolve it in some lukewarm yogurt. If use instant yeast, just mix the yeast to the above mixture.
- Use a wooden spoon to draw the yogurt mixture into the flour to form a moist dough.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 mins until it becomes a smooth and elastic dough.
- Place the dough in a clean dusted bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave for 1 hour to let it rise until its size is double.
- Knock back and shape the dough into a long loaf. Dust the remaining oatmeal onto the loaf. Cut a few diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf. Brush the milk on the surface of the loaf. Leave for 20 minutes (Proving).
- Bake the loaf in the preheated oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath.
- Leave the baked bread to cool on a wire rack.
I like going to supermarkets to discover all kinds of things. Since baking bread is my new hobby, I have tried to understand different types of flour here in Switzerland as the flour types and grading varies from country to country. One day I found a pack called PAIDOL in the flour column, I asked my Swiss friend and even she does not know what it is. There is not much information too in the internet so I thought this may be interesting to those who loves cooking or baking and you may find it in food specialty shop in your own country?
From its own website, I found some background and attempted to translate to English.
- Paidol has more than 100 years, a traditional, proven Aids for shrewd cooks and chefs.
- Paidol is a kind of durum wheat semolina very fine allowing the dough to better lift.
- Paidol is not only a kitchen classics, but also high nutritional. It is, as in ancient times, with success in the small children’s nutrition as well as diet and Light foods. Paidol is also an ideal food as basis for small babies.
- Thanks to the special composition, Paidol is a kitchen helper, it can bind to all kinds of loose dough loosely. Paidol binds soups and sauces, creams, puddings and desserts and loosens Knöpfli, homemade noodles, Soufflés, Purées, omelets.
- Paidol consists mainly of Swiss-wheat semolina, the strength also consists valuable addition to protein and fatty substances. Beigemischt is Hirsegriess, an important building material for bone and hair growth, and wheat germ with valuable vitamins and trace elements.
I found a vintage version of Paidol’s recipe book dated in 1924 written in German.
Here is the current pdf version of the paidol-recipes found in its website but only in French or German.
Here is my yogurt bread with oatmeal & Paidol, please follow link.