Saturday, April 23, 2011

Whole Wheat "Basbousa" Pancakes
Panquecas-Basbousa Integrais

This is one of my first actual creations in the kitchen, after having followed so many recipes to the letter, and I must say I'm quite happy with it.

It turns out my husband requested pancakes for breakfast. I happened to have some leftover almonds that had been sitting on my fridge for over a month, which were bought for a miserably failed attempt of croissant. I kept most of the sliced almonds there, thinking about using it for an egyptian Basbousa recipe (a semolina cake), which has not come to fruition as of yet.

For said recipe, I had also bought a little bottle of orange blossom water, which had also remained unopened.

Feeling inspired, I then created these whole wheat "basbousa" pancakes, which came out incredibly good. The flavor is delicate yet remarkable, and the consistency is perfect! It's thin enough that it spreads well when poured (unlike some oatmeal pancakes I made a few days ago) but thick enough that it's easy to flip (unlike some orange-ricotta pancakes I made a while ago).

I hope you enjoy!

Whole Wheat "Basbousa" Pancackes

I used this basic pancake recipe from as a starting point, but changed it quite a bit.

- 1 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup homemade almond flour (pulse 1/3 cup sliced almonds in food processor until ground but not too fine)
- 1/8 cup whole wheat flour
- 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 1/4 cup milk at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- confectioner's sugar and a few sliced almonds for garnish

In a medium bowl, combine flours (AP, whole wheat and almond) and mix well (preferably with a large balloon whisk) until thoroughly combined. Make sure to incorporate a lot of air into the mixture. Whisk in baking powder, salt and sugar and again mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg, add butter and mix until blended. Mix in milk, being careful not to overbeat the egg.

Pour the egg/butter/milk mixture into a well in the center of the flours, mix until smooth. Add orange blossom water and lightly mix it in. Heat a pan or griddle and cook pancakes in unsalted butter with 1/4 cup of the mixture at a time. When bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake, flip it and let it cook on the second side (it will be quicker on the second side).

Garnish with sifted confectioner's sugar and sliced almonds, top it with honey or your favorite syrup. 

Makes 12-15 pancakes.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Secret Sauce
O molhinho secreto

I understand people's fascination with fancy stuff. Food-wise, it's hard not to get affected by fancy, long names (especially if  part of it it's in a different language), rare ingredients, exotic flavors, luscious combinations and intricate techniques.You may love it or you may hate it, but things like that will get your attention and make you have an opinion about it, at least.

Easy it is to disdain the simple things, the products we are used to seeing everyday in our shelves, the food we are already familiar with, the ingredients that have always been used in our homes.  But there's something very comforting and even ingenious in practical, straight-forward, plain ingredients and recipes.

In that spirit, I would like to share a very easy yet delicious salad dressing which I also learned with my grandma. I don't have too pretty a picture for it or anything, but if you try it I am sure you will not be disappointed!

Grandma's super simple salad dressing

- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 heaping teaspoon minced yellow onion
- a splash of white vinegar
- freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Mix everything in a small bowl and pour over salad. This sauce lets you really taste the greens and vegetables in your salad for what they are, just subtly and elegantly elevating their flavors.

Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fresh herbs whenever you need them
Ervas frescas a qualquer momento

The Scenario: Recipe that calls for any fresh herbs

The Character: single person or couple with no kids

The Dilemma: ignore the instructions and just use the convenient dried herbs that will be just waiting for you on your shelf whenever you need it, sacrificing a bit of the flavor, or buy a fresh bunch, use a very small portion of it and risk it end up going bad because you couldn't think of anything else to use it on.

Obviously, if you are an experienced cook, this is far from an issue, as you very likely can find a million different ways to use the fresh herbs lurking in your fridge. But if you, like my not-too-long-ago self, are not at that creative and bold point yet and just go by exactly what the recipes call for, the dilemma is very real.  

Chopped parsley

Enter a precious tip from my grandma: You can actually chop your entire bunch of herb, use whatever amount you need and freeze the rest! The flavor is definitely superior than that of store-bought dried herbs, with the bonus convenience of  prolonged storage.

There's no need to thaw the herb! Just grab what you need from the container or ziploc bag (break it with a fork if they're too hard) and use it right away in your dish.

While I was growing up, my grandma always had a container full of chopped chives, and another full of parsley for everyday dishes. I have also found out that it works for cilantro.

If any of you has had experience (good or bad) freezing other herbs, I'd love to hear!

I hope this helps!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Rice - the day after
O arroz do dia seguinte

I thought this recipe would be a good follow-up for the previous post: what to do with leftover rice.

It's a tasty alternative to simply reheating the leftover rice and it will leave you feeling like you ate something new: rice fritters.
Rice fritters is the name I came up with, because originally they are called "rice cakes" in Portuguese, but since I believe most English-speakers will think of the Japanese dish with that expression, I thought the new one would give a better idea of what it is.

You may serve this as a side or as a snack.

Rice Fritters/Bolinhos de arroz

- two cups leftover rice
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chives
- salt (optional) and pepper to taste
- enough vegetable oil to cover fritters

Pour rice in a bowl, leave it as is if you like crunchier fritters or mash it roughly with a fork if you prefer a softer texture.
Add egg, flour, cheese and chives and mix it well with a fork.
Add salt an pepper to taste.
I usually omit the salt, as the original rice was already cooked with salt and the Parmesan is also salty.

Make small rounds by scooping one tablespoon of the mixture and pressing another tablespoon on top of it to shape it.

Heat any vegetable oil in a pan in medium heat and add the dough, frying on both sides until golden. Remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in in a plate line with paper towel to remove excess oil.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Simple Brazilian-style rice
Arroz soltinho

I decided to start my first recipe with something very basic and simple, but that many people have difficulties achieving: a nice fluffy rice.
Rice with chicken strogonoff
Here in the US it's not the case, but in Brazil rice is a staple of every meal (lunch and dinner), practically every day of the week. The typical menu is rice, beans, some salad or veggies and some meat.
But not everyone prepares it the same way.
The method used in my family has always received praise (it's not exclusive, but it always works!). To me it comes out with the perfect texture, soft and fluffy, not greasy, no parts burned and not sticky (there is space in my palate and heart for Asian-style sticky rice as well, obviously, but it's not my everyday choice). You can pair it with beans, meat, or anything else you'd like.

So here's the step-by-step of the preparation for any amount of rice:

Simple Brazilian-style rice/Arroz soltinho
Rice with corn, flounder and spinach
- Use a regular aluminum pan rather than non-stick ones (it does make a difference in my experience)
- Rinse the rice and let it dry completely in a colander
- While it dries, bring water to a boil
- Add vegetable oil to the pan, enough to coat the bottom, and heat in medium-high heat
- Add rice and quickly stir it so that all grains are coated with oil, then add salt and garlic to taste, and finely chopped onions if you like. If you have access to Brazilian products in your area, you can also look for the "alho e sal" prepared seasoning sold by several brands (it looks like this).
- Cook it until grains just start to get golden, then add the boiling water to cover about 1/12-2 inches of the rice It's not the same to use cold water!
- Reduce heat to low and let it cook uncovered for 10 mins
- Cover and cook until all the water is absorbed.
- When done cooking, fluff the rice with a fork
- Cover pan again and wait at least a few minutes to serve. This further prevents it to getting any sticky.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pretzel philosophies
Filosofias pretzelianas

I practice yoga. And one of the interesting things about it is that it teaches you not to be competitive with others and with yourself. That means that it's ok, for example, not be able to get into a pose in a certain class, even though you may have done it countless times before. You shouldn't feel frustrated or ashamed, just be present with what's going on with your body and mind at that particular moment.

And what's that got to do with cooking?

Well, it is a fact that somethings that you try to make will simply not come out good, or will not come out at all. This just happened to me now. I had made wonderful bagels that came out even better than expected the very first time I tried, then again the second time. By the third, I was pretty sure I had totally mastered it. And the fourth time, well...I got this:

Obviously, these pitiful little hard gum-like rings weren't going anywhere except the trash can. When things like this happen, my first thought is "why do I even bother?". But then the teachings of that other pretzel-making science kick in and I realize this was just an opportunity for me to learn what works and what doesn't and refine my path in kitchen skills. Hooray!

I had a whole other post planned for today, with an actual recipe, but thought it was important to share these thoughts. The recipe for this really amazing bagels will be posted soon too!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Hi, I'm Dea.
Let's be quick and to-the-point.

I created this blog to:

1) Encourage anyone too cook/bake delicious things - especially those of you who, like I used to, think you simply can't.

2) Document my own development and adventures in the kitchen

3) Serve as a repository of answers/explanations and useful links to address some basic questions that I usually have while working through some recipes - and I'm sure many other people do to.

As for me, I always loved to eat all kinds of things but have practically never even fried an egg until age 23. The most elaborate thing I would make was packaged ramen, at best.

When I left my family's home and got married, obviously I needed to start doing my own cooking, to my chagrin. Most of what I used to make were simple day-to-day meals, and if given the opportunity I'd rather pay to get something really good than to make my own. And so it went for 4 years.

Cue to February 2011, Valentine's Day. I decided to make a very special dinner for my very special Valentine. I challenged myself to make something "fancy". I will not bother you with the details, but the luscious 3-course meal was victoriously finished with a decadent white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, which was a big hit! It was also the first time I ever used a springform pan.

From then on, I realized that it does not take an "advanced" cook to make "advanced" recipes. Actually, the only way you can become "advanced" is if you are a beginner willing to make those things other people have you believe you need to be totally experienced before you can make it. Guess what? You only get experienced by experiencing it. 

And that's exactly what I have been doing, and the outcomes have surprised everyone around me and myself. It's a fun adventure that keeps you going every time you take a bite of the tasty things you make with your own hands (and hear the ooohs and aaahs from those who come across it!) 

Last things, just so you know: I live in a tiny apartment with a combined kitchen/living room area, with no range hood, practically no counter space, and have almost none of those fancy and highly-specialized tools/appliances that people use. So don't be intimidated if you are under the same conditions. I will be specifically chronicling how I work around this to give people more encouragement. 

Ok, this ended up being not so quick, but I at least hope it was to the point.
Happy reading - and eating!