Foodiva's Kitchen: July 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

5 Star Makeover: Inside Out Melitzanes Imam Baildi – Eggplant, Sesame and Fig Stuffed in Tomato

This month’s theme of the 5 Star Makeover Challenge hosted by our talented friends, Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks and Natasha of Five Star Foodie is Greek Meze. We were supposed to put our own spin on a classic Greek meze dish or create something new altogether to bring to the table.

Greek food is something that’s fairly unfamiliar to me, as I’ve never been to Greece and there aren’t any Greek restaurants out here in Brunei. My meze experience has therefore been limited to Turkish and Middle Eastern ones, and luckily there are many similarities between these and the Greek meze. So this is my take on an originally Turkish dish that’s become a Greek classic, Imam Baildi, literally meaning “the imam fainted”.

Traditionally, Imam Baildi are boatshaped, hollowed out eggplants stuffed with vegetables and herbs, and topped with tomatoes and/or cheese. In my version,  I decided to turn the Imam Baildi inside out and stuff the eggplants inside tomatoes instead. I could easily have used red tomatoes, but I quite fancied the idea of pairing tart green tomatoes against a sweet, savory and nutty filling. As it happened, there was an abundance of green tomatoes in my mother’s garden so I used those and they were perfectly bite-sized.

What I did was to scoop out and chop up the insides of the 6 small tomatoes and 2 eggplants, sauté all that in 2 tablespoons olive oil for about 10 minutes along with chopped dried figs, fresh oregano, ground cinnamon and cumin, garlic, onion until softened. That filling was then seasoned with salt and pepper and stuffed into the hollowed tomatoes, topped with black sesame seeds and these were roasted for 15-20 minutes in a hot oven, not too long so the tomatoes still retained their shape and had a bit of a crunch. 

I had read somewhere that during the Great Lent, about 40 days before the Greek Holy Easter, most Greeks would fast and avoid eating meat and dairy products. So this would be a suitable, quick and tasty vegan dish that could complement any meze spread in a Greek kitchen during that time.

Lazaro will be doing a round-up of all the participants’ meze offerings on Friday, and because I’ve already seen some fantastic and creative ideas from the others, let me assure that you won’t want to miss that post. You can recreate some of these dishes for munchies for when you watch the opening of the London Olympics that very same day. Better still, gather some friends and family round that day for a proper meze party to celebrate the Games!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rosemary Garlic Flaxseed Kringel Bread

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.
~ M.F.K. Fisher

I only just realized that this blog had surpassed its 2 year anniversary last May, but with with everything that was happening in my life around that time, it had completely slipped my mind. So yay, happy belated 2nd blogoversary to my baby, Foodiva's Kitchen! What better to commemorate the occasion than with a bread post? Now those of you who have been following this blog know that I am ever so slightly obsessed with beautiful breads, especially the baked, yeasty kinds. I blame it all on my time in Europe, when I found it quite impossible to walk past a bakery everyday without being drawn in by the waft of the freshly baked loaves. Oh, and walking out with at least one each time! 

So a while ago, I came across several posts featuring a traditional Estonian festive bread called Kringel Bread. Originating in Germany, it's a sweet bread often flavored with cinnamon and almonds and it's usually baked in Estonia for special occasions such as holidays and birthdays. Kringel just means 'circle' or 'ring' so the bread is basically one that's been twisted into the shape of a pretzel or a simple ring. 

I actually made this bread quite a while ago and the draft post had been lying dormant in my posting schedule  all this time, waiting for the day when I will have the desire to fine-tune it and finally press the 'Publish' button. I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to get this out because it really is a pretty and scrumptious tasting bread. Instead of a sweet-bread, however, I opted to make a savory one using a filling of fresh rosemary, garlic and flaxseed. And just because I was on a healthy streak the day I made this, I exchanged the plain flour with whole wheat made me feel better about scoffing down almost all of the Kringel on my own afterwards :).

It's an impressive-looking bread once it's baked, but don't be scared off thinking you can't make it as it's really quite simple to shape. Once you sprinkle the flattened dough with the filling, you just have to roll it up into a cylinder, slice it in the middle leaving one end intact, twist the two ropes around each other and finally join the ends together to make a circle. That's all there is to it.
Enjoy making this bread for your loved ones and friends and don't forget to be adventurous with the filling!

Off to Yeastspotting this goes!

Rosemary Garlic Flaxseed Kringel Bread
300 g all-purpose or wholewheat flour (2 cups)
1/2 tsp salt
125 ml lukewarm milk (1/2 cup)
20 g fresh yeast (0.6 oz fresh yeast or 1 envelope active dry yeast)
30 g melted butter (1/8 cup)
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp sugar

50 g softened butter (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons flaxmeal/ground flaxseed

1. Mix the yeast and sugar with the lukewarm milk and let it sit a few minutes while the yeast bubbles and foams up.
2. Add the egg yolk, the melted butter, the flour and the salt, then knead the dough and shape into a ball.
3. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, then cover and place in a warm space and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
4. Preheat oven to 200°C (about 400°F). Dust your work surface with flour, and roll the dough out to a rectangle with a thickness of 1cm.
5. Spread the melted butter across all of the dough, then sprinkle the rosemary, garlic and flaxmeal on top.
6. Roll up the dough into a cylinder and using a knife, cut the log in half length-wise but leave one end still joined up.
7. Twist the two halves together, keeping the open layers exposed as shown in the photo tutorial. Form into a wreath shape, weave the ends together and pinch to seal. Transfer to a baking tray (buttered or lined with a cookie sheet or silpat).
8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Cover with a foil halfway to prevent excessive browning of the dough.
9. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) after 5-10 minutes to stop it burning. Remove from oven and leave to cool on a rack for about 5 minutes before eating.

Friday, July 6, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Crunchy Ginger Pickled Cucumbers

Earth laughs in flowers.
~ Henry David Thoreau

A friend once told me that the way someone prepares food is an innate expression of their soul. I'm too scared to even ponder what my food says about me, nevertheless I couldn't resist turning this week's French Fridays with Dorie cooking group assignment into something that Dorie had probably never envisaged - visually, anyway - when she was writing up her award-winning cookbook, Around My French Table.

It's an easy recipe with no cooking involved, Crunchy Ginger Pickled Cucumbers. Dorie suggested that we cut the cucumber into chunks and add minced ginger and red pepper flakes to the pickling liquid. So what did I do? I sliced the cucumbers across into rounds and punched out holes in the middle using a round cutter I use for making donuts. And instead of mincing the ginger, I decided how lovely it would be if the ginger was turned into teeny flowers. My flower shaped fondant cutter proved handy for this task and I was glad it got some usage because having never ever worked with fondant, my exotic cutters were lying in my baking cabinet doing, well not very much. Please don't ask me why I even have so many of them in the first place....that's like asking why I have more pairs of shoes than I'll ever need. It's just one of those unresolvable mysteries of the universe!

In place of the red pepper flakes, I thought fresh sliced red pepper would complement the green of the cucumber and still give off some heat. For an extra dimension of flavor, you could sprinkle some minced herbs, either cilantro, parsley or chives on top of the cucumbers just before serving but I chose not too, because after cutting out all those miniature ginger flowers, why would I want to hide them? These pickles are quick to prepare and make such pretty picnic food, I will definitely be thinking up new ways of serving this up in future. Oh, and there will always be a more interesting way just around the corner!

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