Let-tuce Be Happy! by L

Me gusta una ensalada contenta!” were the words Tia Tere, my husband’s aunt, said one evening at a dinner in her home. As soon as she set the dish on the table, she turned and grabbed the bottle of olive oil. As she began to drizzle the oil back and forth, over the entire salad, she looked up at me and excitedly said “Una ensalada contenta!” (A happy salad!) and continued to layer the salad in a thick stream of oil.

Una Ensalada Contenta

An ensalada contenta for my aunt-in-law, is a salad swimming in olive oil and a few dashes of salt, here and there. According to Tia Tere, if you skimp on the olive oil, then you would have one unhappy salad. One would think that a salad coated in olive oil would lose its crisp and have a soggy appearance, such as some salads served in restaurants. Call me strange, but I really dislike eating a salad that is limp and soggy because it was drowned in salad dressing. However, the generous amount of olive oil only enhanced the flavors of our “happy salad,” and the texture of the ingredients were still intact.

These past few weeks, the weather has been uncomfortably hot and humid in our city. With the temperatures boiling and the air static, the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot stove. A simple salad was all I craved to satisfy my hunger. I found all but, three of the ingredients I needed for Tia Tere’s salad at the Farmarsky Trh on the riverside.

This is my favorite farmers market in Prague. You can’t have a prettier location for a market. It’s situated on the bank of the Vltava river and very easy to get to by tram or metro. But I’m quite spoiled, we live just a 5 minute walk away. Not only can you get good quality vegetables, fruits, bread, pastries and other home-made goods, but in the past two years, a variety of food stalls have also arrived. So, when you are done with your grocery shopping, you can also enjoy a beer or a coffee on the riverside with your choice of a fish sandwich, plate of pasta, kolac, burger, spinach pie or good ol’ klobasa.

Back to the salad… The only cooking involved is boiling some eggs and potatoes. I happen to have a thing for boiled potatoes in my salad. I think they are delicious, but of course you need the right blend of ingredients. I could definitely supply you with them. In fact, I believe I could even dedicate a whole month of blog posts to salads with boiled potatoes. In Tia Tere’s salad, the soft and tender potatoes are layered at the bottom of the dish. The rest of the other ingredients of the salad are clearly exposed, so the potatoes can be a pleasant surprise to the unsuspecting eater. (My husband happens to think that the potatoes absorb the oil and this is what keeps the salad from wilting) The most important thing to remember about serving this dish is to make sure you douse it with olive oil. Don’t hold back. Don’t think twice. Just oil it and let-tuce be happy!

Ensalada Contenta (Happy Salad)

Ingredients:

1 head of lettuce, chopped

2 carrots, grated

1 large tomato, sliced

2 hard boiled eggs, sliced into fours

3 peeled and boiled potatoes, sliced

a handful or more of green or black olives

1 tin of tuna, preferably with olive oil

plenty of good quality olive oil

salt for taste

Pour some oil on me!

Arrange salad in the following order:

Cover the bottom of your dish with your sliced potatoes.

Top with lettuce.

Arrange tomatoes along the side.

Spread tuna all around the dish.

Add the eggs.

Then sprinkle on the carrots.

Add the olives.

Then pour generous amounts of olive oil over the salad.

Sprinkle some salt.

Enjoy with some bread on the side!

First Day of School Jam and Bread by Nikki

apricots- delicate and sweet

In the Spring, I purchased a couple of canning books from amazon.com. I intended to use part of my summer to make my own jam. Somehow I only found time to make Apricot Honey Jam. Mid July, I bought these lovely, sweet apricots at the farmers market and used a new recipe from the book Tart and Sweet I love this jam because its taste really is both tart and sweet!

Homemade Apricot Jam

Today was the first day of school, and it was a really great day. There is something special about walking into the classroom at the beginning of the year and knowing that new adventures, inspirations, and relationships are about to transpire… but the first day is also exhausting. Tonight, I needed something simple for dinner. It has been too hot to turn on the oven and after being on my feet all day, I decided I didn’t even have the energy to stand over the stove- that is how easy I needed my dinner to be. So, on my way home I thought about what I really wanted- carbs, bread to be exact! So I stopped at my local PAUL’s Bakery and bought a couple mini, pumpkin seed bread sticks.

“I’m-too-tired-to-cook-dinner

When I arrived home, I quickly changed into comfy clothes then made my way into the kitchen. I sliced one of the breadsticks then slathered it with soft cheese and apricot jam. Tart and sweet food always tastes good to me- especially in an extreme heat wave! Maybe it is not the best or most balanced dinner, but it sure did hit-the-spot. And tomorrow morning, I am looking forward to enjoying the same thing for breakfast before the second day of school… enjoy!

tart and sweet

Roasted Cumin Lime Carrots by Allison

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I had been looking forward to doing my weekly Saturday morning shopping at the Holesivice market since I returned to Prague. Carrots were piled up high at several vendors. I had to take advantage of several bunches of these carrots and wanted to try out something new. New and improved. A little spicy perhaps. As I perused through many recipes online, I came across this one for Roasted Cumin Lime Carrots. The recipe link can be found at the bottom of the page. Very tasty, go on and enjoy a little spice on your carrots. A perfect healthy accompaniment on a summer’s evening to anything really!

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Recipe can be found here at Family Style Food Recipes

Ready. Set? Chaaaard! by L

Happy 1st Birthday !

We are back in Prague and trying to get my 1-year-old daughters back into their old routine is slightly challenging. Mainly because they are no longer those two little ten month-olds who were busy crawling around, and happily pulling themselves up on sofas and chairs. Now, they are independently standing on their own two feet and taking baby steps towards walking. There is a lot of falling down, nursing bumps, and chasing around going on in our home. Therefore, I didn’t have my act together to make it to the farmers market, which is just one block away from my home!

However, we did manage to visit our friend K’s home in the village of Tuchomerice, which is just a 20 minute drive from the center of Prague. K has been developing a garden in her yard. Raising a garden in Prague where a variety of fruits and vegetables will grow, can be a challenge due to the country’s climate, but K had a lot of produce thriving in her yard such as tomatoes, corn, squash of all sorts, green beans, rhubarb, mint, lemon balm, sage and chard. All this gave me a case of garden envy.

A garden grows in Tuchomerice

K gifted me with a lovely bouquet of chard, the red and yellow kind, as well as some stalks of rhubarb and stems of sage. I really like chard and so do my girls, but I often have a hard time getting my hands on it. Sometimes, my local bio shop sells a bunch for 25 crowns and on a few occasions I have seen some at the farmer’s markets, but it hasn’t been a reliable source. When K gave me some to take home, I was especially pleased and I knew exactly what it was going to be used for. You can find out more about K’s garden through her blog: http://sittingonpumpkins.wordpress.com/

Chard! (Thank you K, for the pics!)

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks: The New Laurel’s Kitchen. If you can’t find chard, it can easily be substituted with spinach.


Chard Cheese Pie

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 onion, chopped

6 cups of steamed or boiled chard, well- drained and chopped

2 cups of cottage cheese (or half ricotta and half cottage)

3/4 cup of shredded swiss cheese or something similar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup of bread crumbs (whole wheat for a healthier version) or ground almonds or pecans (for our gluten-free friends)

paprika

 

Preheat oven to 350/180 degrees.

Heat oil, when warm add garlic.

When garlic turns slightly golden, add onions and cook until transparent.

In a large bowl beat together the cheese, eggs and salt.

Mix the chard and grated cheese together.

Spread the mixture into a well-greased 8″X8″ pan.

Blend one cup of the cheese mixture into the chard.

Then press it down firmly into the pan.

Spread the remaining cheese mix evenly over the chard.

Then sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving with a small plate of chopped ripe tomatoes.

Emptying the Fridge Again – Garden Lasagna by Nikki

Garden Lasagna

This summer has been busy- very relaxing, but busy! In between traveling adventures, I visited the River Market again with my Czech basket, filling it up with fresh yellow and red tomatoes, basil, Swiss chard, and of course, fresh lasagne noodles. I get so excited when I visit the market and find a new vendor or variety of fresh, seasonal vegetables and fruit! On this particular sunny Saturday, I found red, Swiss chard. Knowing I would soon be traveling and needing to keep the fridge sort of empty, I still couldn’t resist purchasing the ingredients to make a summer version of lasagne.

summertime foods

The best part about this particular lasagne was sharing it with two friends who appreciated a hot meal before we all traveled to Croatia. As I have said before, I love cooking, and as a cook, I believe there is nothing more satisfying than sharing a meal with friends and loved ones.

mmm… fresh and tasty

Garden Lasagne

I modified a recipe by The Pioneer Woman

Note: I substituted the zucchini for red, Swiss chard, a yellow pepper for the red pepper, used a green onion instead of a yellow and also added fresh basil and parmesan cheese.

ingredients chopped and ready to go..

Saute the veggies in olive oil just until tender…

Simmer veggies with 1 can of whole, Italian tomatoes

Layer fresh noodles, ricotta mixture, and veggie mixture- top with parmesan cheese and fresh basil!

Curry-licious Coleslaw by Allison

Cabbage is a Czech staple in many households just as  this curry coleslaw has been a staple in our family for years. So much so in fact, we have two rows in our garden dedicated to this recipe alone! This dish is excellent paired with sweet and spicy pork, hamburgers, smoked pork knee – well you name it!

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I did the honors and chose the cabbage to be harvested, isn’t it beautiful? Almost too beautiful to pull from the earth, but not quite!

Ingredients

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 head of cabbage

5 pieces of cooked bacon sliced into chunks (optional)

paprika for garnish

Mix first five ingredients in a medium sized bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour over chopped cabbage just before serving. Add bacon if you’d like and top with paprika for color! Enjoy!!

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Green Bean Gossip by L

Montserrat

July 15th marks the huge exodus when Valencians leave the sweltering city and head off to the beaches or mountainous regions to cool off. For our family, our refuge is my father-in-law’s hometown of Montserrat, just 40 kilometers from Valencia’s city center. Although the region is quite dry, many people in our town have farms just ten minutes outside of the city and are able to grow a variety of vegetables and fruits.

When you take a walk around Montserrat, you can easily spot the farm owners by the baskets of produce displayed outside their front doors. The summer is the time for grapes, melons, watermelons, peaches, plums, pears … and a big variety of greens. One day, we came back with a huge bag of green beans and I discovered something new about our family!

As we were paying for the beans, the senyora asked my husband who his parents were. Our town is so small, that usually you can’t walk down the street without seeing someone you know and having a quick chat. The senyora didn’t recognize our faces. She quickly became curious about our whereabouts. My husband told her who his father was by giving her his first and last name, but it didn’t seem to ring a bell. Then he told her which street we lived on and the color of our house. These details began to click and soon she recalled a face. She described the color of my father-in-law’s hair and the roundness of his face and then she immediately said “Aha! Tomateta!”

My husband nodded as soon as she said the word tomateta. She smiled and nodded back and then started naming all of his relatives. As we left her doorstep, she told us to make sure to give her regards to Tomateta.

Our little Tomatetes..

..the next generation

Tomateta in Valencian, stands for little tomato and I had no idea why this woman was calling my beloved father-in-law a tomato. When we returned home, I told my in-laws what happened with the green beans lady and they chuckled. I quickly found out that in our town and like most other small towns in Spain,  every family is known by their nickname and these nicknames are inherited and passed down from generation to generation. It seems that some generations ago, someone in my father-in-law’s family had a very round face, so round that it resembled the shape of a tomato, and that is how the nickname of Tomateta was born. Now I know that when I walk down the street, I am the daughter-in-law of Tomateta and my daughters are Tomateta’s granddaughters. It’s good to know your place.

Green Bean Salad

 (I have seen some Farmer’s Markets in Prague selling green beans more often, hopefully you’ll get lucky and find some!)

1 bag of green beans

½ red onion, chopped

juice of 1 lemon

1 can of tuna

¼-1/2 cup of olive oil

Wash beans and cut in half.

Boil in lightly salted water for 25 minutes or until tender.

Drain and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, tuna and onions.

Mix well.

In a small bowl, add the lemon juice and olive oil.

With a fork, blend the liquids together.

Add some salt if needed.

Pour the dressing over the beans and gently mix together.

Serve at room temperature and enjoy!