Gin cocktail with cucumber and basil

This is a savory, refreshing summer drink made with gin, basil and cucumbers.

Serves 1 drink

Ingredients

  • 1 shotglass of gin (I used Prairy organic gin)
  • 1/2 – 1 shotglass of simple syrup (Please see recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup spritzer water
  • 5 basil leaves or more to garnish
  • 8 thin cucumber slices
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lime or more to garnish
  • pinch of salt
  • ice, optional

Methods

  • Make the simple syrup. It is very easy. Slowly cook 1 cup of water with a 1 cup of sugar in a small pot. Be careful not to boil it. When you see a nice thick syrup, it is done. Take off heat and let it cool. You can refrigerate what you don’t use for later use – if not used up in a few days.
  • Preapre the drink in a jar big enough to hold 1 cup of liquid. Add the gin, the simple syrup, spritzer water, lime juice, basil leaves, cucmber slices and salt. I also like to put in the lime peel. Put the top on and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Remove the plant material before serving.
  • Add ice if you wish.
  • If you don’t have time to put the drink in the refrigerator, you can use a muddler to gently bruise the vegetables with the simple sugar to get the juice out for a few minutes and then procede with the rest of the recipe from above.
  • You can garnish with fresh basil, cucumber slice and lime slice if you wish.

enjoy!

Shakshuka with pitta bread

This is a tasty vegetarian dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is made with simple ingredients that you most likely have in your kitchen. The eggs are poached in a delicious sauce made of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic with the warming spices of North Africa. I served this dish with home-made pita bread, Hummus and Eggplant parmesan.

Shakshuka is made thoughout Middle Eastern countries today and there are numerous recipes around; however, it originated in Northern Africa. This recipe uses the lovely spices of Northern Africa, the special trio of cumin, coriander and paprika. Enjoy!

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander powder
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • hot pepper flakes to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves

Methods

  • On medium high heat, sauté the onion in olive oil for 5 minutes.
  • Add the green peppers and continue sautéing while stirring frequently for another 5 minutes. Add the spices (cumin, coriander, paprika), stir for 1 minte and add the garlic.
  • Quicly add the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce, stir. Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes covered.
  • Uncover and let the dish cook for another 5 minutes or so until the sauce thickens.
  • Using a wooden spoon, clear some space in the sauce or make a ‘well’ and drop 1 egg in. Do this three more times with the other eggs. Cover and let the eggs poach in this lovely, well seasoned sauce until the whites are set and are not runny.
  • Uncover. Add salt, pepper, parsley, mint leaves and hot pepper flakes.
  • Serve it warm with pita bread (recipe).
  • I also served it with Hummus (recipe) and Eggplant parmesan (recipe).

Source

  • Photos: twincitiesherbs.com

Rhubarb muffins

If you are like me and just can’t get enough of rhubarb right now, try these delicious muffins. The tangy rhubarb works nicely with the whole wheat dough that will make them tasty and filling. They were gone fast in our house …

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour (you can replace 1 cup with 1 cup of white flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 2 cups of rhubarb stalks, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp fresh or 1 tsp dried ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts nuts

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • In a large bowl, combine butter and the sugar. Cream them with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. You could do this with an electric mixer.
  • Beat in 1 egg until combined, then whisk in 1 cup buttermilk.
  • With a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients until just barely combined, then add 2 cups fresh rhubarb and fold until evenly distributed.
  • Bake in the preheated oven at 375F for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick poked into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around each muffin to release from the tin and turn out onto the rack.

Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Mushroom tempeh stroganoff

This new spring energy is as vibrant as it can be. Yes, spring is here but the usual spring energy is coupled with the new awakening energy of the Earth. It is so powerful! Simple vegetarian dishes would be very nice to eat during the next weeks for sure … I would like to share my recipe that I have been cherishing for years and making in the spring. This is a vegetarian take on the classic beef stroganoff dish. I used the nutty tempeh to replace the meat and added mushrooms to create this delicious dish. Enjoy!

RECIPE

Serves 6 people

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg tempeh (500gr)
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of shallots, finally chopped
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 4 oz mushrooms (crimini, portabello, white button)
  • 8 oz green vegetable (I used spinach, broccoli)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup wine
  • 1/3 cup stock (mushroom or meat)
  • salt
  • red hot pepper flakes, optional
  • few springs of thyme
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of cream
  • black pepper
  • parsley
  • pasta
  • cheese (Parmegane)

Method

  • Sautee the tempeh in a little oil for 10 minutes or until the sides are nice and brown.
  • Make the pasta according to its directions.
  • In a large pan, heat some oil. Sautee the shallots for 5 minutes on medium low heat.
  • Add the mushrooms and continue sauteeing for another 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stir. When wilted, sprinkle in 1 Tbsp flour, stir. Add the paprika and stir for 1 minute and add the garlic, stir.
  • Add the vine and the stock making sure there are no knots left from the flour. Add the thyme, tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes covered.
  • Take out larger thyme pieces.
  • Take off heat and add salt, pepper, parsley, red hot pepper flakes and cream to taste.
  • Add the tempeh cubes so it can soak up some of the liquid.
  • Serve over pasta with graded cheese.

enjoy!

Recipe, photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Lemon meringue cake

The lemon yellow color can bring sunshine into our homes! This delicious dessert could become the center piece of your Easter celebration instantly. The tart and tangy lemon filled cake is topped with the fluffy sweet meringue. I like using lemon in baking because it offsets the sweetness of a dessert and gives it an interesting flavor … and it is packed with the important theme of Easter, eggs of course. It is super easy to make and delicious at the same time. In our house, my daughter will be making it for Easter.

RECIPE

Ingredients

Crust

  • 12 Tbsp (165gr) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla concentrate
  • 1 1/2 all purpose flour, cut and sifted

Lemon filling

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice + the zest (2-3 fresh lemons)
  • 1/4 flour

Merengue

  • 3 egg white, room temperature
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 325F (170C). Set the rack in the middle of the oven. Grease and line a 9″ baking dish with parchment paper.

Seperate the 3 eggs for the meringue now as it is easier to do when eggs are cold. Make sure they are at room temperature when you beat them.

Make the crust. Cream the sugar, vanilla extract and the butter. Gradually add the flour with salt mixing by hand just until a crumbly ball forms.

Place the prepared dough in the pan. Using your hands press against the bottom and about 1 inch (2cm) up the sides. Poke the dough with a fork about 6-8 times. Bake for 20 minutes or until the dough has a nice golden brown color.

Make the lemon filling. In a medium sized bowl whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest and the flour together. Make sure you grade the lemons before you can them up. (It is almost impossible to zest a cut lemon).

When the crust is done baking, remove it from the oven. Pour the lemon filling over the crust and return it to the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the filling no longer jiggles and the center is mostly set.

Make the meringue in the last 5 minutes. In a clean, dry medium bowl, use an electric hand mixer to beat the egg white until stiff peaks form. Add about half of the sugar and the cream of tartar, whip for 30 seconds, then add the rest of the sugar and whip until combined. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a large tip or zip-lock bag with a corner snipped off.

I piped the meringue on the top covering the entire surface making large peaks each time. (Make sure you put the meringue on the top of the cake right away so it stays fluffy and does not deflate. You can wait until the pie is baked and then start beating the eggs once you are sure that the cake is ready).

Return to the oven for 10-12 minutes, until the meringues are lightly browned.

Let cool completely, then refrigerate for 1 hours.

Serve at room temperature.

enjoy!

Text, recipe and photos by twincitiesherbs.com.

Tofu with thai red curry sauce (vegan)

This is an amazing Thai inspired dish that uses coconut milk and Thai red curry paste as a base. I usually don’t add ready-made seasongs but this is a tasty and easy short cut, you won’t even notice. I chose bok choy and mushrooms for the vegetables, this combination is often used in traditional thai cooking and I really like how they taste together. I also threw in some bamboo shoots to balance out the dish. If you want you can add some broccoli in place of the bok choy but this is really a personal preference. Oh and it is done in 30 minutes! Enjoy!

RECIPE

Serves 6 people

Ingredients

  • 1 block of tofu (1 lb) (500gr)
  • sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, finally chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • (26 floz) 2 cans coconut milk (1 liter)
  • 4 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • handfull (4-8oz) shitake mushrooms, cut up
  • 1 lb baby bock choy (I like half bok choy and half broccoli)
  • 1 bunch scalions, sliced
  • little fish sauce to taste (I shake the bottle a few times) (1 tsp)
  • 1 can of bamboo shoots (140g), drained
  • soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 lime
  • cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp red flakes or to taste
  • 1 pkg noodles (Thai, ramen)

INSTRUCTIONS

Boil water and prepare the noodles according to its directions.

Drain water off the tofu and pat dry. Cut the the tofu in 1 inch cubes and fry in a little oil. When done, sprinkle a little soy sauce on the cubes.

Heat a pan with oil.

Add the broccoli if used and stir fry for about 10 minutes on medium heat until tender.

Add the ginger and garlic, stir for 1 minute. Stir.

Add the 2 cans of coconut milk and the Thai red curry paste, stir. Continue adding bamboo shoots, red chilli flakes (optional) and fish sauce, bok choy and mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes. I would like also mention that if you add the bok choy and the mushrooms more at the last 5 minutes, they will keep their shape better and will not get soggy.

Serve with the noodles and the tofu preapared earlier. Add cilantro, scallions and lime juice.

enjoy!

Plum Flaugnarde (Clafoutis)

It is plum season in our neck of the woods (Midwest) right now. Whenever plums show up at the farmers’ market, I can feel the summer is about to come to an end. This is my last chance to indulge in summer fruits so please join me. Oh no not just with any dish … I’m going to say farewell to summer … with a French dish.

This is a fruity dish that is made with a thick flan like batter baked in a buttered dish. Traditionally, it is made with cherries and is called cherry clafoutis or simply clafoutis in French but when made with any other harder fruits like plums, it is called flaugnarde. So technically, this dish is called flaugnarde. It was made in France first, more exactly in Limousine, in the central region of France.

Clafoutis is a simple rustic dish. It is not meant to be beautiful, delicate looking like what you expect a French dessert to be but it is more of a peasant food. So go ahead and pack your dish with the plums, berries and the batter, don’t need to worry about the appearance that much … Also, it is like a crepe just thicker and you should have all the main ingredients in your kitchen already … milk, flour, butter, eggs, sugar … and I think it is a lot tastier than crepes …

Please also check out my plum gnocchi recipe if interested in another plum dish.

RECIPE

Serves 4-6 people

Ingredients

  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg for the plums + 1/8 tsp for the batter
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger, cut and sifted or use 1 tsp fresh chopped ginger
  • 9 pieces of smaller plums, less if bigger
  • 1/3 cup sweet berries
  • 3 Tbsp cognac or brandy (optional)
  • 1/2 sugar, divided
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup ceam (I have used kefir before too)
  • 2/3 cup of flour
  • 1 tbsp almond extract
  • handfull of almond slivers
  • pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar for serving

Preperation

Preheat oven to 350F. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.

For the batter, mix milk, cream, eggs, almond extract, salt, 2 Tbsp – 1/4 cups of sugar, 1/8 tsp nutmeg and 1 Tbsp melted butter with a mixer on high speed quickly and add the flour and continue mixing for another minute. Make sure there are no clumps left but do not overbeat. You can use a whisk, handheld mixer or blender. (Yeap kind of like a crepe mixture). Set aside for an hour if you have time.

Cut up the plums and take out the pitts. (I leave the pitts in). Put plums in a medium sized bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of sugar and the brandy (optional) on the plums. Give it a toss. Let plums macarate for about 10 minutes. Then add berries, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to the plums. Mix. Set aside.

Use a 10″ inch baking dish (like a quiche dish). You need a dish that has a larger surface area and will hold 6 cups of food. Pour in the melted butter and spread it evenly on the surface of the dish making sure that you coat the sides too.

Evenly spread the plum mixture from earlier on the buttered surface. (I added the marinate liquid, too).

Pour batter (from earlier) over the plum mixture and sprinkle the top with the shaved almonds.

Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until cake is puffy and has a nice light brown color. An inserted tooth pick should come out clean but the middle should be soft. The texture of the baked clafoutis should be like a study custard.

Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving.

When ready to serve, sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Serve warm.

It can be stored in the refrigerator covered for 24 hours but best eaten the same day.

enjoy! Bon appetite!

Recipe, photos, text by twincitiesherbs.com.

Middle Eastern hummus recipe with pita bread

Why blog about a dish that so many people already know how to make? I wasn’t really planning on posting this recipe actually but people have been commenting that this is the best hummus they have ever had. I do have a few secrets that make this hummus so good. So here they go …

If you have been following my blog you can proably guess easily … the most important one is … to cook the chickpeas for 3 hours or less for pressure cookers, of course. This is a must IMO if you are looking for that special flavor. You can use canned beans but will not get the same results. My other secret is to use lots of tahini. Recipes usually call for a few tablespoosns … no I use a 1/2 cup and you get this wonderfully nutty sesame flavor. Oh and of course the seasoning is important too. I use cumin, garlic .. So that is the recipe secrets … enjoy!

For those of you who are not familiar with hummus, it is a delicious chickpea based paste from the Middle East. It is made with mashing the chickpeas and adding tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and spices. It can be served as an appetizer, a dip or to accompany other dishes.

… so since I am talking about my hummus recipe … I would like to introduce you to my new gadget, a manual food chopper by Briefton. My 20 year old Krupps food processor just broke and I was trying to find a replacemnt. I couldn’t find anything that I liked on the market right now and then came the idea … why not get a manual one? … so I did. And yes, you can make hummus with it too. I’m not trying to advertise this product, just would like to talk about a nice alternative to the electric one if anybody is interested. I should mention that the hummus will not be as smooth as when you use a food processor but we think that it is still tasty and definatelly bit chunkier …

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of uncooked chickpeas or 2 1/4 cooked (14oz can)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 larger onion
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil + more for serving
  • 1-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 5 Tbsp liquid from the beans or more
  • smoked paprika powder for serving
  • sumac for serving
  • olive oil for serving

Directions

Clean and soak the chickpeas overnight but at least for 8 hours. Drain liquid and cook in fresh cold water with baking soda for 3 hours, less if using a pressure cooker, of course. Take off foam at the end.

Chop onions by hand or in a food processor of your choice.

Add the beans and puree.

Add all the rest of the ingredients: tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cumin, liquid from the beans, olive oil and continue mixing.

Continue until all ingredients are well blended. Hummus should be a nice paste in consistancy.

Add more salt, garlic and liquid from the beans if needed. If your tahini was dried out, you will need to add a few tablespoon of the cooking liquid for sure.

Serve with pita bread. (On a side note, these are very tasty. I made them smaller and cooked them at 475 F instead 500F ). Drizzle generous amount of olive oil on the top. Sprinkle the smoked paprika and chopped sumac (optional) on the top.

enjoy!

Text, recipe, photo by twincitiesherbs.com.

Source for the pitta bread: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/143045564/posts/4728

Chinese bitter melon soup

Bitter melon is not called bitter melon for nothing … yes it is very bitter … but if you take out the seeds, it won’t be bothersome. Besides life needs a little bitternes so you can better appreciate the good things – right?!? Big smiley face. It is also very healthy and makes delicious dishes. This interesting plant is hugely popular all over Asia particularly in India and China. My recipe this week is from China. No worries no exotic ingredients … you just need garlic and ginger for seasoning. The recipe is from the following source.

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) originated in India and became popular in China in the 14th century. It is now used all over Asia. It is a bitter plant that is also sour. According to Chinese Medicine, its bitterness makes it great for the Fire element in the summer (cooling) and detoxifies the liver and its sourness supports the liver ( Wood element). It also improves digestion. In Ayurveda, it is considered a great pitta pacifying remedy that is immensely valuable for the hot months. Western research has found it to be beneficial for the prevention/treatment of many problems including diabetes, cancer, infections, skin problems, dysmenorrhea, immune system, autoimmune diseases, and colds/flus. (If you have any of these problems, please see a practitioner first though.)

Today, we often don’t get enough bitter flavor in our diet but it is important for good overall health. Chefs use sweet flavored foods to balance out the bitter flavor. In this recipe, mainly the carrots, chayote squash and potatoes do this job. If you don’t like or don’t have all these vegetables, feel free to use any sweet vegetables you have on hand and/or think would work well together. For instance, we don’t have winter squashes yet so I used zucchini instead. Of course, the pungent ginger and garlic are essential to balance out the bitter flavor as well and the bitter flavor will be barely noticable. Honestly this is a nice tasting soup.

Where can we get bitter melon in the United States? They are easily available at Asian grocery stores and are sold by Asian farmers at the farmers’ markets. You might be able to get them at smaller grocery stores too.

Please note that the soup on the picture does not have chicken. I also added lemon grass because I have it in my garden and has a nice flavor.

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • .25-.0.5 lb of chicken thighs or breasts (skinless)
  • 1 bitter melon
  • 1 chayote squash or zucchini or any squash
  • 4 regular carrots, cut into small chunks
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, quadered
  • 2 small potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • 2 stalks celery , sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small chunk ginger, about 2 tablespoons chopped
  • chicken broth
  • salt to taste

Directions

  • Make the chicken stock. Omit if using store bought.
  • Cut bitter melon in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Discard seeds. (They come out easily).
  • Meanwhile peel and chop the ginger and the garlic. Peel the potatoes if you wish. Cube the tomatoes and the potatoes. Clean and slice the squash, carrots, celery. When ready slice the bitter melon.
  • Cut the chicken up into small pieces.
  • Put all ingredients in a medium sized pot, cover well with chicken stock and cook covered for about 45 minutes or untill vegetables are soft. I added the zucchini in the last 20 minutes.
  • Serve hot.

enjoy!

Photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com

Sources

Fluffy red currant meringue cake

This delicious German dessert quickly became a favorite in my family. The tasty base is topped with the delicate meringue and the red currants. Red currants are available right now. They are bursting with sweetness and acidity and are perfect in sweets in the summer. Of course, you can add as much sugar as you like or as little as you like … that is the beauty of making your own cake. Please feel free to experiement.

RECIPE

Ingredients

base

  • 2 cups (30dkg) flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 sticks (25 dkg) butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4- 1 cup of sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 5 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup of almond flour, optional
  • pinch of salt

topping

  • 2 1/4 cups of red currants without stems
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/4-1 cup of sugar ( I used 1/4 cup)
  • handfull of breadcrubs
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Add baking soda and vanilla to the flour. Cut the butter into the flour.
  • Add the yolks one by one. Mix well.
  • Add the almond flour, mix.
  • Butter a deep baking dish. I used a 9″ round deep dish (2 1/2″ deep). Sprinkle some flour on the bottom.
  • Spread the dough evenly on the bottom of the form.
  • Let it rest for 1 hour if you can.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Turn the oven down to 340 F.
  • Beat the egg whites untill hard. Mix in the sugar, and the salt. Gently mix in the currants and the breadcrubs.
  • Pour on top of the baked cake base.
  • Bake for 15 more minutes ar 340F and then turn heat down to 300F. Bake for 15 more minutes.
  • Let the cake sit for a few hours before serving.
  • Decorate the top with fresh currants, optional.
  • Serve at room temperature maybe with a little vanilla ice cream.

enjoy!

Text, recipe and photo by twincitiesherbs.com.