Cheese, Wine and Romance

Sounds like a perfect renaissance moment to me.

Today I’m not sharing a recipe however, I want to share with you something a little more special. Something that only gets better with age. Something that any one can have, should have. I call it my Stolen Moments recipe. It does not required cooking, special tools or ingredients but it involves food. Good basic food. and love. and attention.

wine and cheese

You see – you, us, I, we, they – everyone is busy doing something and I imagine most of us work overtime just to catch up on things we’ve always planned on doing but left it for the last minute, simply because we do so much that almost everything is considered “the last minute”. Then, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves sitting in front of the screen late at night typing, posting, emailing, doing something. But. There is someone who I know very close to my heart, who truly knows how to make the world stop and enjoy a few stolen moments. Someone who makes me forget about everything and anything and simply makes me enjoy the present when and where ever it may be – My other half.

wine and cheese, lifestyle

The Mr. is an amazing tennis player, his biggest most passionate hobby. Every time when he returns from a game he freshens up then prepare just for the two of us – those special Renaissance moments – Cheese, Wine and Romance. Unless he finds me on cloud nine, my mouth is wide open and my head tilted on the sofa, I’m usually wide awake and I’m all in. But I am only only allowed to watch him.

wine and cheese, lifestyle

He takes fresh baguette, cuts it into thick slices and toasts them. So crunchy.

wine and cheese, lifestyle

He takes soft Brie, Feta and Goat cheese, then slices the Brie and crumbles the Feta and arranges them on a platter. He then spreads just a touch of Goat cheese on a toasted Pita bread and tops it with fresh sliced cucumber.

wine and cheese, lifestyle

He knows I love creativity.

wine and cheese, lifestyle

He peels, chops and slices lots of fresh vegetables. I love the chopping sound and the fresh smell of vegetables.

wine and cheese, lifestyle

He picks one or two types of fresh seasonal fruits.

wine and cheese, lifestyle

He is in full swing and knows his ways around our new kitchen.

wine and cheese, lifestyle

He moves the vase of flowers to the table.

He arranges the food on a pretty china.

He pours our favorite red wine in big wine glasses.

He dims the lights.

He opens the back door so I can hear the sound of the water in the fountains.

He lights candles.

He keeps quite.

I do too.

But that’s a little hard to do…

Ahhh….stolen moments. No one can take them away.

 

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Happy citrus summer salad with fennel and figs

When I was in Italy few weeks ago, in the heart of Tuscany (just writing about it makes my soul drool), it was humid and HOT. I refused to eat or walk faster than 2 miles per hour. We went to town’s “Centro” and sat outside a crowded Café for a break. I know its weird but I ordered a cappuccino. hello? don’t ask. While sipping my delicious drink, I looked at the menu and spotted the word Fennel (yup, it was in English). “Salad of fennel and red grapefruit in a house vinaigrette with red whole peppercorns”. Fennel and grapefruit? don’t remember having that combination before so why not.

happy summer citrus salad with fennel and figs
The salad was crisp and delicious. Small pieces red grapefruit, just a few, on top of a very thin sliced fennel, drizzled with shiny yellow dressing and whole red peppercorns add a pop of color. Loved the presentation. I added lots of fresh black pepper then totally went for it. It was delicious, refreshing and wet. The Mr. looked at my salad thinking “I should have ordered that too” (I knew it!). Slowly I moved the plate to the center and rolled my eyes. After a couple of bites he forgot that the salad was supposed to be shared. I ordered another one. This time I made sure the plate was much closer to me.

happy summer citrus salad with fennel and figs

I promised to make it back home and I did, but with some changes of my own. No whole peppercorns because they made me choke twice (really!), when I was there. I used ground mix of peppercorns instead. Juice of red grapefruit instead of cut pieces (only because I didn’t have enough for the salad, so feel free to choose), melon and this season’s star – figs. I even added sliced pear, why not.

happy summer citrus salad with fennel and figs
You can serve this salad as a meal if you like. Your taste buds and your eyes will notice everything in it. It’s big on contrast and way more interesting and festive. Dramatic in presentation, light dressing keeps business fresh with lots of subtle flavors, even the fruit flirt with the fennel. Try to say that five times 😉

It’s pretty sexy salad too don’t you think?

ingredients

1 large fennel head, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 pear, thinly sliced
1 cup of cantaloupe, cut to pieces
2 figs, cut to wedges

vinaigrette:

Juice of half red grapefruit
Kosher salt and ground mixed peppercorns to taste
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp honey mustard
1/4 olive oil

Place fennel and pear in a large bowl. Make the vinaigrette: in a bowl combine all the ingredients except for the oil. Using a whisk and a quick motion drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, whisking constantly until emulsion is formed. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette but leave some for later. Serve the salad on a platter. Garnish with figs. Drizzle a little of the vinaigrette on the salad. Sprinkle ground mix pepper (optional).

Crunchy apples and grilled artichoke salad

I’m a sucker for anything crunchy in my salad, especially apples. tart green apples and I love them in any size and shape. So does my over-size lion pooch – who will gladly eat firm green apples full time over his dry cereal, if i only let him. I’m not a night eater but if I go to bed on an empty stomach I know the growling sound will wake me up around midnight, demanding a fair share the others had before – food. I’d get up and go downstairs, grab a nice firm green apple, peel it, slice it (very quietly so not to wake up anyone) and eat it with satisfaction. While calming my hungry stomach I’d look down with my mouth full and notice two huge round eyes staring at me, begging in the dark, and a happy wagging little tail. My pooch. He’s a sucker for green apples as much as I am.

I remember as a child I went to family weddings with my parents, we would sit around a beautiful table setting and the first thing I noticed was the variety of salads, but one in particular was apples and celery in a mayonnaise dressing. The dressing was too heavy for my taste so I fished out the apple slices, wipe them clean with paper napkins and ate. I did it every time.

Apples are satisfying and delicious, a first fruit choice in my list to incorporate into my cooking. Inspired by my childhood I made this apple salad with a twist – instead of celery and the usual ingredients, I used grilled artichokes instead, nuts, fresh parsley in a light lemon/mayonnaise dressing. I’m not a big fan of creamy dressing so this salad is textured and gets extra punch with nut crunch and lemon. Beautiful.

delicious apple and grilled artichoke saladAmong the ingredients I used of course:

delicious apples & grilled artichoke salad

crunchy apples and pecans

delicious apple & artichoke salad in lemon/mayo dressing

Lemon from my lemon tree. You don’t have to have a tree really. But to me having a lemon tree is a luxury 😉grilled artichoke hearts and apple salad

So friends, shall we?

Ingredients:

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2 tart apples (peeled & cored)
1 cup sliced artichoke hearts (sold frozen in almost any supermarket) (thawed, unless you use fresh)
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans
3 whooping tbsp light mayonnaise
handful parsley
1 tsp crushed caraway seeds
3 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil

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Rinse the thawed artichoke hearts, dry them well with paper towel and sautee in olive oil, low/medium heat until edges are crispy. Shake the pan every once in a while. If the artichokes are dry to begin with they will brown nicely. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl combine the spices, mayonnaise, 2 tbsp lemon juice and zest. Whisk well to combine. Adjust taste to your liking. Set aside. In the meantime, chop the parsley and add it to the dressing bowl, slice the apples (I like medium/thick slices) and add to the bowl as well along with chopped nuts and the cooled artichokes. Gently fold and toss everything until well coated. Chill for at least half an hour before serving to intensify flavors. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

While I prepared this salad to go with my Moroccan chicken, the conversation with my hungry 10 yr old who was watching me went something like this:

my lovely: “..mom what are you making?”
me: “salad.”
my lovely: “mom. what kind? wait!! are these apples?!!” (pointing, like she didn’t know)
me: “yes”
my lovely: “mom! are you gonna put that in the food??” (she gave me the look like i just gave birth to an elephant)
me: “yes”.
my lovely: (in a clear voice) “well I am not eating!!”.
me:  “good. more for us”.

Bon appetite