Cheese Balls

cheese balls 2

Avui no tinc gaire temps d’escriure. M’ha passat el que em passa absolutament cada any per Setmana Santa: que divendres al vespre sembla que 10 dies seran unes vacances llarguíssimes i, de cop, és dilluns de Pasqua i ja se t’ha acabat tot. M’estressa molt la Setmana Santa, és potser l’època de l’any en què més sents que se t’escapa el temps de les mans. És com depriment i tot.

Per sort, un bon dinar amb amics pot fer que, almenys durant una estona, el temps es mogui a una altra velocitat.

One year ago on May the Cheese Be with You: Strawberry Cottage Cheese Cups

Cheese Balls

Prep time: 15 min + at least 2 hours refrigerator

You will need:

  • cream cheese (I used 1 tablespoon for each ball)
  • toppings (herbs, spices, nuts… almost anything will do)

cheese balls prep 1

This recipe is extremely easy and the result is really good. In fact, I think it has the best difficulty/results ratio ever. All you need is to take a spoonful of cream cheese and mix it with your favourite ingredients. I used fresh chopped chives for the first cheese ball and curry for the second one, and they both were delicious.

cheese balls prep 2

Then form a ball, wrap it in plastic film and refrigerate for at least an hour. And that’s it. Serve it with some crackers and you’ll have the perfect appetizer.

cheese balls 1

Enjoy!

Annie

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Baked Cherry Brie Bites

Cherry Brie Bites 14

As is probably the case with most of you, I am in full post-Christmas hangover mode. I’ve had about 10 large family meals in the last week, and still have a few to go. Christmas season doesn’t end until January 7 over here, so I have to save my strength. No, seriously, we take our German, American and Catalan Christmas and New Year’s traditions very seriously.

Cherry Brie Bites 8

That’s why today’s recipe is fast and easy, but no less good and cheesy. I served these on New Year’s Eve, and they were a hit. They’ll work as an appetizer, or even as dessert. They’ll save your life if you need to serve something nice, quick and with little to no fuss. You can use any type of jam, and even a different type of creamy cheese (Camembert and raspberry jam, anyone?). Personally, I’ll use more cheese and less jam next time, but, you know, whatever rocks your boat.

For more bite-sized appetiser, check out these recipes:

Veggi Mozzarella Turnovers

Feta Bites

Or if it’s Brie you crave, we have more recipes here:

Chips del Diamant

Strawberry-Almond-Brie Salad

Now let’s get straight down to business.

Cherry Brie Bites 11

Baked Cherry Brie Bites

Inspiration snatched from the wonderful Joy the Baker.

Servings: depends on size

Prep time: 10 minutes, plus another 10 minutes baking time

You will need:

  • Brie cheese
  • cherry jam
  • two sheets of puff pastry (preferably rectangular)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat your oven to medium-high.

Place one puff pastry sheet on top of the other, and cut through both to form squares or rectangles. The size is entirely up to you, although the smaller ones are usually more popular. I recommend rectangular puff pastry sheets because you will end up with less, or actually no, leftover bits and pieces.

Separate the matching squares or rectangles.

Cherry Brie Bites-side

 

Next, cut your Brie into piece that fit into the centre of your squares or rectangles, but still allow for some space around it to crimp the edges shut.

Cherry Brie Bites 9

Add a dollop of jam on top of the cheese…

Cherry Brie Bites 7

 

…and cover with the matching puff pastry square or rectangles. Crimp the edges with a fork, pressing down tightly to seal the edges.

Cherry Brie Bites 3

Here’s the process again:

Cherry Brie Bites 6

 

You’ll notice I used very small pieces of cheese.

I won’t be making that mistake again.

Finally, paint the tops of the Brie Bites with the egg.

Cherry Brie Bites 5

 

Place in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tops are nicely browned.

Cherry Brie Bites 10

Enjoy!

Clara

Cream of Zucchini Soup

Cream of Zucchini Soup 5

Allow me to tell you the tale of my kitchen.

When we first moved here with the boyfriend, it was more out of convenience than because of the apartment itself. That being said, the location is probably unbeatable. The apartment, on the other hand, is a shoe box. It is all of 40m2 (a little over 400ft2).

The kitchen is practically non-existent. We literally had to move the fridge and the pantry into the living room to even have any working surfaces to speak of.

So it all comes down to this: Working in my miniature down town, old town, rough part of town kitchen is usually a display of culinary virtuosity. Balancing, dodging, fitting things in the most unlikely places (think tetris), endlessly reorganizing the fridge, freezer and pantry, kitty cats trying to get in on the action… It’s exhausting. It also leaves the entire apartment looking as if a bomb had just gone off. Or as if a herd of rhinos had stampeded by. Or as if the biggest football hooligans ever had come here for their after party.

I guess you get the picture.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because Christmas is rolling around faster than anticipated (takes me by surprise every time 😉 ), and Christmas means overfilled kitchens, and overfilled kitchens is not a good thing when you hardly have a kitchen to start with.

So today’s recipe is simple, and the pictures are few and terrible. I apologize. I do. There simply is no more space to take nice pictures with interesting perspectives (all those close-ups are to avoid intruding produce and dishware from making an appearance). You’ll have to bear with me until the holiday season is over (which won’t be until January 6th in Barcelona) and things have gone back to normal.

I can promise you, though, that this little unassuming soup is a thing of beauty. It’s one of the first recipes I ever came up with, and it has been tried and tested to no end. It works, and it’s good. And it’s comforting and warming and – hold on to your pants – healthy!

So go ahead and give it a try.

P.S.: If you like creamy soups, don’t miss out on our Gorgonzola Soup!

Cream of Zucchini Soup 4

Cream of Zucchini Soup

Servings: 5 to 6

Prep time: 15 minutes prep time, 20 minutes cooking time

You will need:

  • 3 medium or 2 large zucchini, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced, optional
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 12 La Vache qui rit light cheese wedges (about 200gr)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cream of Zucchini Soup 1

If using onion, start by lightly browning it in a pan with some olive oil. When it becomes translucent, add the zucchini and give it a good toss. Again, this step is optional, and the soup will taste great whether you add onion or not.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken or vegetable stock to a boil, then throw in the zucchini (and onion). Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes, but really depending on how big you made your zucchini pieces.

Cream of Zucchini Soup 2

When the zucchini is tender, stir in the cheese wedges until almost completely melted.

Purée.

Cream of Zucchini Soup 3

Stir in the herbs, then taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Herbed Sweet Potatoes 3

I prefer to make this soup ahead, as some resting time really allows the flavors to blend. The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor, but hey, it’s up to you.

Eat up as it is, or serve with crusty bread or croutons.

Enjoy! 🙂

Clara

Cream of Zucchini Soup 6

Veggi Mozzarella Turnovers

vegetables mozzarella bites

Ara sí que oficialment ha tornat a començar el curs. L’autobús és ple de nenes de 14 anys amb molt poca roba i maquillades com per anar a un casament mirant els nois de 16 anys que comencen batxillerat i només per això ja valen la pena de mirar mentre els pobres nens de 14 anys seuen al seient del davant jugant al Clash of Clans mirant de reüll les nenes que no els hi fan (ni els hi faran fins d’aquí a tres o quatre anys) cap cas. Trànsit infernal a primera hora del matí, moltes cares de son, molt d’estrès, molt poc temps lliure.

I a casa, amb el curs ha començat també el ball d’horaris extraescolars. Un entra a futbol just quan l’altra surt d’atletisme, poc després que l’altra arribi a casa i mentre una altra fa verticals a l’altra punta de la ciutat. Això requereix una organització d’anades i vingudes molt complicada, sovint acompanyada d’un excel en Din-A3 amb qui fa què, quan i on. I això també porta a un fenomen molt curiós que són els sopars per fascicles. És a dir: algú talla i pela la verdura abans de marxar, algú altre quan arriba posa l’olla al foc i just en el moment que ha de marxar arriba una altra, que l’apaga i la tritura. I apa, crema de verdures à trois feta.

Doncs bé això d’avui és el resultat d’un d’aquests vespres de poc temps, o de molt de temps però repartit entre moltes mans.

Veggi Mozzarella Turnovers

Prep time: 45 min – 1h

Servings: 32 bite-sized turnovers

You will need:

  • 3-4 carrots (depending on the size)
  • 250g mushrooms
  • 1 zucchini
  • 200g grated mozzarella
  • 1 egg
  • 32 shortcrust pastry circles
  • salt and olive oil

Wash, peal and cut your vegetables into tiny dices (the smaller the better). Cook them in a pan with some olive oil and a pinch of salt.

vegetables mozzarella bites prep 1

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 200ºC, let the dough stand at room temperature for 10 min and beat the egg in a small bowl or a cup. After this time, place the dough on a clean surface and place a teaspoon of vegetables and a teaspoon of cheese in the center of every circle.

vegetables mozzarella bites prep 2

Now carefully fold every circle in the half, making sure all the filling is still there, and close it by pressing the egde with a fork (or go for a fancy old-style seam if you’re in the mood, like I was).

vegetables mozzarella bites prep 3

Place the bites on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, paint them with beaten egg and bake them for 10-12 min.

Eat fresh from the oven. Enjoy!

vegetables mozzarella bites 2

Annie

Parmesan Lollipops

Parmesan Lollipops

No, jo encara no estic de vacances. Molt maques les vostres fotos en bikini a llocs súper guais tots ultramorenos i tal, però jo segueixo tan blanca com sempre amb encara una setmana per endavant tancada al laboratori. I a l’agost, que tinc vacances, passaré d’estar tancada al laboratori a estar tancada a casa redactant la tesi de màster. Genial. Per això he decidit que aquest estiu, ja que jo no viatjo, us organitzo viatges a vosaltres. Seran els “viatges gastronòmics virtuals de l’Annie” (evidentment, gastronòmic en el meu cas serà sinònim de formatge, però això de viatges formatjosos, formatgils o formàtgics no quedava tan bé…).

La nostra primera destinació serà el bressol d’un dels formatges més coneguts (i sovint maltractats i falsificats) del món: sa majestat el Parmesà.

Parmigiano_reggiano_piece

Diu la llegenda (en forma de vikipedia, en aquest cas) que el parmesà va néixer durant l’Edat Mitjana a Bibbiano, un municipi que pertany a la província de Reggio Emilia però que formava part de la diocesi de Parma, i d’aquí li ve el nom. Es veu que sobre el 1200-1300 ja es produïa, i que la recepta era molt semblant a la del formatge Lodi de l’època romana (la propera vegada que el malgasteu sobre una vulgar salsa de tomàquet de pot, penseu que esteu tirant per la finestra milers d’anys d’història).

Actualment es produeix a Parma (en vermell al mapa), evidentment, i també a les províncies veïnes de Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, Mantova i Placenza (en blau). Tot i que pugui semblar que això de menjar-se un parmesà que no ve de Parma és una mica una estafa, en realitat la DOP Parmigiano-Reggiano és molt estricta, per tant no patiu, vingui o no de Parma si té DOP és Parmesà autèntic.

mapa italia

Però alerta! Sovint ens venen formatges tipus parmesà com si ho fossin i no ho són! La falsificació més coneguda és el Grana Padano, que moltes vegades en comprem i li diem parmesà i no ho és, o també hi ha els típics sobrets de “Parmesan Cheese”, sobretot a Estats Units, que de parmesà no en tenen absolutament res.

Aquest formatge es fa amb llet de vaca crua (crua la llet, no la vaca, la vaca normalment és viva quan fa llet), i es deixa madurar entre 1 i 4 anys. En teoria els del Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspeccionen amb molt de carinyo cada un dels formatges passats el primers 12 mesos de maduració i si compleixen els requisits els marquen amb el segell de la DOP i llavors ja pot ser venut com a autèntic formatge parmesà, que és el protagonista de la recepta d’avui.

Parmesan Lollipops 2

Parmesan Lollipops

Servings: about 20 lollipops

Prep time: 10 min

You will need:

  • About 150g grated parmesan
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Thyme, black pepper, sesame seeds or any spice you like (optional)

This recipe is really really easy. Like 5-year-old level of difficulty.

First of all, preheat your oven to 200ºC and line a baking sheet with baking paper. If you want fancy lollipops, take a round cookie cutter and place it on the baking paper. Now place a spoonful of parmesan inside the ring making sure the cheese covers the whole surface. Carefully remove the mold, put a bamboo skewer in the center of the cheese-circle and cover it with some cheese to prevent the lollipop from falling apart when cooked. Finally sprinkle each lollipop with the spices you want (I did some with paprika, some with black pepper and some with oregano).

Parmesan Lollipops Prep 1

Only 6 minutes in the oven and that’s all, deliciously crunchy parmesan lollipops ready to go.

Parmesan Lollipops Prep 2

Enjoy!

Annie

Parmesan Lollipops 3

Pistachio Mozzarella Salad

Mozzarella Pistachio Salad 6

I will keep today’s post short and sweet. Summer is hurtling our way, temperatures are rising and no amount of open windows can coax a breeze into my apartment. To me, summer also signifies a natural aversion towards all things hot. Namely, hair dries, toasters, ovens, and stoves. Oh, and computers.

And since I figured that none of you harbors the wish to sit in front of a toasty PC when the sun is baking the pavement outside, I will cut my post short, and let you dive into this refreshing, no-heat-source-requiring salad which you come together in a flash. I guarantee even the most obstinate salad haters will fall to their knees before this little green gem. Honestly, who doesn’t like pesto? Who doesn’t like pistachios? Who doesn’t like mozzarella?

I know I do.

If you don’t, we have two more lovely salads that will make your summer a breeze:

Provolone Salad

Strawberry-Almond-Brie Salad

 

Mozzarella Pistachio Salad 7

Pistachio Mozzarella Salad

Serving: as many as you like/need/can eat on your own

Prep time: 10 minutes

You will need:

  • mixed baby greens
  • mozzarella balls, halved
  • pistachios, shelled
  • pesto

Mozzarella Pistachio Salad 1 Mozzarella Pistachio Salad 2 Mozzarella Pistachio Salad 3

Place your salad greens in a large bowl. Gently toss in the halved mozzarella balls and pistachios, making sure they don’t end up at the bottom of the bowl. You can mix in the pesto at this point, or serve it in a pretty bowl so everyone can add it to their own taste.

Mozzarella Pistachio Salad 8

And that’s it. No, seriously. That’s it.

Mozzarella Pistachio Salad 5

Chips del Diamant

Chips del Diamant 20

There is one ingredient we have sadly neglected to feature in this blog, and I believe it is high time we did. Like, way beyond time. Queen of her kind, mistress of versatility (versatileness? Am I making these up?), and, let’s face it, deserving of a whole food category all to herself. I am talking, of course, of the potato chip. And in case you were wondering, yes, she is a girl. Nay, not a girl, a goddess. An ancient fertility goddess. Those would be the chubby, stone age ones. I was totally born in the wrong age.

Chips del Diamant 3

Also, I am completely, utterly, undeniably, incontestably, irrefutably, redundantly addicted to them.

Which is why I never buy any. You see, when I do, I quite forcibly tear open the bag, bury my head in it, and keep munching until it comes out the other end. I then proceed to wear the empty bag around my neck like a hunting trophy. Eating potato chips brings out my inner caveman. My primitive, hairy inner caveman. For all these reasons, I don’t often eat potato chips, but when I do, I do so in a horrifyingly violent manner.

Consequently, only one thing remains to be done: create the mystical bridge between worlds, unleashing a magic of unspeakable power. This is what alchemists hunter after for centuries on end. This is what they were really doing on Atlantis. This is the missing link in the evolutionary theory of cooking. What am I saying? This is the crowining glory of culinary evolution.

I give you, potato chips and cheese.

Let me rephrase that.

Airy, crispy, salty potato chips, and creamy, melty brie. And just in case this isn’t enough to have ya’ll drooling all over your keyboard as you read, we’ve added a finishing flourish of olive tapenade.

Chips del Diamant 9

One last confession before we delve into the depths of this magnificent appetizer: I am not, sadly, the inventor of this brilliant combination. This is a copycat version of a dish they serve at a lovely little place at the heart of my favourite ‘hood in town. They have no webpage, but you can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caf%C3%A8-Restaurant-Diamant/135003486558228.

Now get yourself in the kitchen and start cooking. I promise you won’t regret it.

Chips del Diamant 18

Chips del Diamant

Servings: 4

Prep time: 30 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 bag of your favourite neutral potato chips
  • 200 gr Brie, sliced, and cut into large squares (it is best to slice the cheese when just out of the fridge, as it tends to get sticky)
  • 1 jar olive tapenade
  • pepper, optional

We’ll start with the chips.

Chips del Diamant 1

Wait, wait, here is another picture. They’re just so pretty.

Chips del Diamant 2

Olive tapenade, on the other hand, does not photohraph well. Not at all. It looks disgusting, no matter what you do. But it isn’t. Do not be fooled. It looks like a little bird regurgitated it onto the spoon, but it tastes like the very essence of the Mediterranean, blended to perfection.

Chips del Diamant 6-vert

And then there’s Brie. Brie is a total babe. Brie is ridiculously photogenic.

Chips del Diamant 7-horz

Now, to the actual recipe.

First, you place a layer of potato chips on an oven-safe platter. Then you top that with a layer of cheese.

Chips del Diamant 12

Now sprinkle some olive tapenade over the cheese, then repeat the procedure: Potatoes, cheese…

Chips del Diamant 11

…and tapenade. Here you can see the first and second layers:

Chips del Diamant 14-horz

Now, you can repeat this as often as you like, but I found that two layers did just fine.

If you’d like to add a little extra kick, you can sprinkle some freshly ground pepper over the whole creation at this point.

Chips del Diamant 16

Finally, place the platter in a preheated oven (on high) and leave in until the cheese is nice and melty and the chips begin to brown just a little bit around the edges.

Chips del Diamant 17

I am toying with the thought of turning this whole dish into a dip for potato chips… I’ll get back to you on that. Pinky promise.

These taste best when still warm, but not too hot.

Enjoy!

Chips del Diamant 19