Thursday 16 July 2020

Fried Green Tomatoes

Last week I got a large box of gorgeous mixed tomatoes and a small box of green ones. I’d been wanting to make fried green tomatoes for a while. I first heard of this dish watching a famous movie from the 1990’s called “Fried Green Tomatoes”. Although the story is not about food, the image that stayed with me was of those juicy and crunchy tomatoes on the big screen. I remember salivating as I watched it.

Fried green tomatoes are considered a traditional Southern dish of the United States of America. But according to food historians the dish  brought to America by Jewish immigrants to the Northeast and Midwest. They used to be served at their breakfast.

The green tomatoes I had in real life were small but still a good size for a snack before dinner. I prepared them by separating the ingredients to coat the tomatoes onto three plates – one plate for each step. Sorry I haven’t written down the recipe, but this is how I did it:

- On the first plate, I put white spelt flour and seasoned it with smoked paprika and salt.
- On the second plate, I whisked kefir (buttermilk is a more common choice but I used what I had available) with 1 egg white and tabasco sauce.
- On the third one I mixed finely ground polenta or cornmeal with some white spelt flour.
Then, I sliced the tomatoes and coated them in order (plate 1, 2, 3). I placed a cookie-cooling rack on top of another tray and put the coated tomatoes there to rest before shallow frying them, until gold, in extra-virgin olive oil.

To serve, I made a quick yoghurt sauce with lemon juice, Dijon mustard, tabasco sauce, salt and fresh chopped parsley.

I promise you, they didn’t last 5 minutes. Those tangy, crunchy, juicy and refreshing tomatoes are worth the small production.

Enjoy it!

Thursday 9 July 2020

Gardening: a new found love

The covid-19 lockdown seems to have awakened a desire in many people for learning new skills. The cooking fever has to be the one at the top. Those who never contemplated making even a humble loaf of bread from scratch before quarantine are now baking beautiful loaves of sourdough, cookies & cakes & learning to cook with Michelin star chefs on live online lessons.

Being in the kitchen is part of my routine anyway – lockdown or not – although I also embarked on learning new techniques, and have been testing an array of new recipes. But my real awakening was to get my hands literally dirty in the garden. I always admired people who have green fingers, but, despite having a nice garden, I was never really into gardening before. I’ve now started a new relationship with a fork and a spade. And I am becoming very enthusiastic about digging, weeding and turning the ground to make it a healthier space for new plants, herbs and flowers.

While I make the garden look prettier, the garden helps to make my body stronger. After my first day planting flowers and herbal beds, muscles that I had forgotten existed made their presence known.

I found this whole new love for gardening. There is something about playing with earth that makes us feel grounded (excuse the pun).

Besides the pleasure, by helping to look after a garden we are also helping the environment – by reducing air pollution and providing a habitat for animals and insects, amongst other benefits. 

The herbal corner: sage, basil, oregano and thyme.
 Here are some points on why gardening is also good for our wellbeing:

1. Being outdoors we are more exposed to the sun which increases vitamin D levels. This helps the body absorb calcium, keeping our bones stronger, and strengthens our immune system.

2. Working in the garden provides some cardiovascular benefit. According to the Harvard Medical School, spending 30 minutes outdoors doing your gardening is the equivalent to playing volleyball or practising Hatha yoga.

3. It helps to relieve stress, as we tend to focus and put our mind to work.

4. Studies have shown that getting your hands dirty in the garden can actually boost mood and reduce anxiety. This is due to a type of harmless bacteria that lives in the soil, called Mycobacterium vaccae.

5. Flowers clean the air, they are soothing to look and their scent can be a mood booster.

If you’re not already a keen gardener, or if you don’t have a garden, try and have a go with some small pots of plants on your windowsill. Who knows, it could be a new found love. 

Flowers clean the air, they are soothing to look and their scent can be a mood booster.
If you’re not already a keen gardener, or if you don’t have a garden, try and have a go with some small pots of plants on your windowsill.


Wednesday 8 July 2020

A leftover heart of palm and spinach quiche

A leftover heart of palm and spinach quiche. Tinned or jars of hearts of palm are not as delicious as the fresh ones but they are still good source of nutrient and diversity to add to your cooking. The brined jars of hearts of palm are the most commercially available type worldwide.

As a Brazilian it is a handy way for me to ignite my emotional connection with foods I grew up with. Hearts of palm (palmito in Portuguese) have a unique mild flavour and a tender texture. They have a slightly taste resemblance to asparagus and artichoke.

Hearts of palm are harvested, as the name says, from the heart (inner core) of the palm tree. Unfortunately, some species of hearts of palm (Juçara) have been endangered due to the excessive harvesting of the palm trees. Countries like Brazil, Costa Rica and Ecuador where most of their production are have switched to another palm tree species (pupunha and açai) to save Juçara from extinction.

Yesterday, I was cleaning the fridge up and had some ingredients on the cusp of going off. So, I decided to put them together and made what I called leftover quiche. Hearts of palm can be eaten by itself - as an appetizer with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil - scattered in salads and pizzas, mixed in a risotto, grilled and many other ways.

Unfortunately, I didn’t measure the filling ingredients – As for the pastry I had some homemade in the freezer. I will come back with a recipe in future.

Hearts of palm are natural sources of minerals like calcium, Iron and potassium. They contain fibre that are important for your gut health and are also rich in vitamins A, B6 and C. When using the tinned option, I recommend rinse them to get rid of the additional sodium that is used to preserve them.

The quiche was not only good for my body but it was also satisfying to my emotional health too.  Plus, there was no waste on sight as I used every single ingredient needed to be used in the fridge. That is what I call a healthy meal.

You can either use a store-bought pastry (great to have for those last-minute meals) or if you want to make your own, I suggest you to google for the Chez Panisse short crust recipe.

But here is how I made the filling:

1 shortcrust pastry
2 tbsp, extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 spring onions, chopped
2 handfuls of baby spinach
1 can of heart of palm, drained and sliced
200g ricotta
100g full fat yoghurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 eggs
A small handful parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper


Preheated oven to 200C

I first prepared the base for the quiche pressing the pastry into the edges of the quiche tin - I don’t do it very uniform., I quite like leaving the edges uneven.

I placed a piece of parchment paper over the pastry, then filled it with ceramics baking beans or lots of dried beans or rice.

If you are using a ready-made pastry just follow the method as per package instruction.
I baked the base for approximately 15 minutes. I removed the the tin out the oven, turned the temperature down to 180, removed the hot ceramic beans out.

I returned the tin back to oven for 5-10 more minutes or until the base is light golden. Remove pastry from oven and let it rest.

In a small pot I heated the extra-virgin olive oil and added the onions and garlic cloves. Fried them in olive oil until gold colour.

Added the chopped spring onions and cooked for 2 more minutes.

Turned the heat off. Added the spinach, mixed well and seasoned with salt and black pepper. The spinach will wilt but it won’t become soggy.

I drained the heart of palm, rinsed, dried, sliced and reserved them.

In a separate bowl, I mixed the ricotta, yoghurt, eggs, Dijon mustard, fresh parsley salt and pepper. Then, I added the spinach, onions and garlic and mixed gently. Finally, I added all but about 12 slices of heart of palm and once again, mixed all very gently.

The filling was ready to be poured inside the pastry base. I then returned the quiche tin to the oven and let it bake for about 40 minutes. To check if it is done, stick a sharp knife blade into the centre of the filling and if it comes out clean your quiche is ready.

I like to leave it to rest for 20 minutes. Then I serve the quiche with some seasoned salad.
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