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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spinach Pizza with Crème Fraiche

While getting ready for vacation and having a million things to remember to pack, I didn't want to worry about food very much so we have been eating a lot of pizza, pasta, rice and salads.  It is a great opportunity to use the left over stuff in the fridge and in the pantry.  I enjoy trying to cook meals with what you have as it enforces creativity but the result can turn out to be a disaster sometimes or something "not so tasty".
This is a pizza I've learned from a very good friend, who lives very far away now.  I know she used to call this "Spanish pizza".  I'm not sure if it's the real name or only because she learned it from her Spanish friend.  I never forgot this pizza and I have been making it regularly.  It's so easy especially if you have a ready pizza dough or pastry.  I didn't have any so I made the dough this time.  This is a special pizza with no cheese and I recommend that you eat it cold or even the next day.  It tastes much better when it is colder, because you can feel the taste of the olives, olive oil, tomato and spinach more when cold.  The original version doesn't have any crème fraiche, but I have added it to make it a little bit softer and it made a great combination with spinach.  If you don't have any crème fraiche, then don't use it as it still tastes great without it.

(Makes about 2 round pizzas or one big square one - 2-3 portions)

Pizza dough:

1 1/2 cups of warm water
3 spoons of dry yeast
4 cups of flour (you can also use 2 cups of white flour and 2 cups of spelt or whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pizza topping:
2-3 tablespoons of crème fraiche
200-300 gram of fresh or frozen spinach
2-3 medium tomatoes diced
1 small onion chopped
1 clove of garlic crushed
A handful of olives with no seeds, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
freshly milled black pepper

Preparing the dough:
You need to prepare the dough 2 hours in advance.  If you have a ready made dough then skip to the next part for topping. 
Mix all the ingredients of the dough in a pan and kneed very well for about 10 minutes.  Cover it with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise for about 1 1/5 - 2 hours.  Eventually the dough should be doubled in size.  When it is ready, flatten the dough with a rolling pin on a flat surface.  You may need to dust the dough with a little bit of flour for this, but you can also roll it out directly on a baking paper to save time.  

First make the tomato sauce by sauteing the onions and garlic for few minutes in a pan with a table spoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Then add the tomatoes in and take it off the heat after few minutes.  The tomatoes shouldn't be too cooked.  Leave the tomato sauce to cool down for a while.
Next prepare the spinach by cooking them in a pan.  After they are cooked, make sure to drain the water from the spinach and leave it to cool.
When you have your pizza base ready and the ingredients are cooled down enough, start with spreading the crème fraiche over the pizza base with a spoon.  Then spread the spinach over and next, spread the tomato sauce over the spinach.  Last thing to put on top is the olives.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper over and put it in a preheated oven at 220° C(425° F) for about 15 minutes.  After you take it out of the oven, drizzle the 1 tablespoon of olive oil you have left over the pizza.
Eat it warm or cold but if you have some left overs, keep it in your fridge for the next day.  Believe me, you won't regret.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fava Beans with Artichoke Hearts

You know those type of dishes that your mother makes but you don't really like, then you still have to eat it because you have to.  Fava beans (or broad beans) were one of those things I didn't enjoy as a child.  Lucky for me that the season for fava beans were very short.  I came to appreciate them long after I left home. Maybe, because there was nobody to cook them for me and they turned into something that reminds me home.  I also probably realized that they are actually very tasty.  This is a slightly modified recipe from my mother's one, because she actually fills the artichokes with the fava beans.  I bought some already prepared and cooked artichokes at the market.  Alternatively you can use tinned ones, but if you do then pick the ones without olive oil.  This dish is served cold and it's originally a meze, but can be served as a salad or starter as well. 

Fava Beans with Artichoke Hearts
 (Makes 4 portions as a starter)
900 g fava bean pods - shelled (beans makes about 300 g when shelled)
1 medium size onion - finely chopped
20 small artichoke hearts - prepared and cooked (or about 2 cans of artichoke hearts)
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
a handful of fresh dill to garnish
If you have shelled your beans and ready to go, first you need to boil the beans in water for about 5 minutes.  This is apparently to get rid of the slightly bitter taste.  After boiling is finished, drain the water and set the beans aside.  Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a non-stick pan and saute the onions for about 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.  Next add the fava beans and a cup of water.  Cover the pan with a lid and let the beans cook over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until they are tender but not too soft.  Keep checking regularly if there is still a bit water in the pan to prevent the beans sticking to the bottom. If necessary add in some hot water, but not too much as you don't want it to look like a soup in the end.  Next, add in the artichoke hearts and let it simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. When it's done, set it aside and let it cool.  When it is cold enough, add in the rest of the olive oil, as this will bring out the flavors of the beans and artichokes.  Garnish with dill leaves before serving. 
It's vacation time for me soon, therefore, the posts will be a little less for a while, but I'll keep you all posted with my culinary adventures from Turkey (and mainly my mom's food).