Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Apricot & Zucchini Tabbouleh

These days, I've found myself second guessing what I'm thinking before the words come out of my mouth. Not because I'm trying to be more respectful (although that should be everyone's goal at all times because there is no down side) or more mindful, I'm just worried that what I say is an American term and no one will know what I'm talking about. Much like when I made banana bread for my flatmates, I sometimes have to explain things that I never had to explain before. It's been an interesting lesson in how to describe something completely foreign to another person.

This week, the term was 'potluck'. It turns out that this is a completely American term and no one (English, French, German, Spanish) uses it outside of North America. As defined by Google:

Note the note about how it means something different in the North American region. Well, we had a potluck (and an English lesson) at work this week. The weather in London has actually been on par with east coast summers: hot. And unlike the east coast, air conditioning is not common. So this cool substitute for a pasta salad seemed like a good idea.

The majority of the time it takes to make this summer tabbouleh is spent on the chopping in assembly. Otherwise, you're simply cooking some bulgar wheat (similar to cooking rice or lentils) and roasting some zucchini (courgette, if you will). Then apricots, lemon juice, green onions, parsley, chopped walnuts, garlic and balsamic are all mixed together with the cooked ingredients and you're ready to go!

Simple, right? Tasty? Definitely. Add this to your picnic/potluck/BBQ arsenal and you'll be deemed a genius. Or just brilliant!

Recipe from Joy the Baker
  • 1 1/2 cup bulgar wheat
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced
  • Olive oil for drizzling, black pepper for sprinkling
  • 3 small apricots, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Chop the zucchini and spread on a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or foil for easier clean-up). Drizzle with olive oil and black pepper. Roast for 10 minutes until slightly shriveled and then turn over the zucchini pieces to continue roasting for another 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add bulgar wheat and water to a large pot. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered until all the water is absorbed. Then, remove from heat.
  3. While the zucchini and bulgar wheat are cooking, chop the apricots, walnuts, green onions, parsley and garlic.
  4. Once the zucchini is roasted, allow to cool slightly before mixing into the cooled and cooked bulgar wheat.
  5. Stir in the fixins (all the chopped things) and add the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Stir until juices are evenly distributed throughout. If the mixture seems sticky or dry, you can add some olive oil.
  6. Serve chilled! 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Greek Zoodle Salad

There are some differences between the US and the UK that I expected. Like driving on the other side of the road (and looking in the other direction before crossing the street as a result), temperatures reported in Celsius, measurements in metric units, spellings like 'prioritised' and 'colour'. And then there are things I didn't expect like zucchini aren't called zucchini, they're called courgette. Or cilantro is called coriander, which I thought was a completely different spice altogether.

The first time I went to the grocery store by my flat, it took me over an hour to find everything and even then, I didn't really find everything. I gave up on blueberries and limes. Crunchy healthy stuff is in an aisle called 'free from' as in 'free from gluten' or 'free from nuts' (although almond butter is in the aisle so...).

The second time I went, I was a little more patient (and a little less hungry) in finding my ingredients. With a Greek salad inspired zoodle dish in mind, I navigated the produce section for familiar vegetables. It took me awhile to find pepperoncini (my Spanish flatmates tell me the English don't have true peppers) and am now the proud owner of a very large jar of pepperoncini, from the Mediterranean section of the international aisle--logic.

I'm not a fan of olives so I skipped those but otherwise, went for a crunchy Greek 'pasta' salad. But instead of pasta, I used zoodles. With zucchini called something else over here, zoodles are also lost in translation. Coodles? Croodles? Crasta? Nothing is quite as good as zoodles, I'm afraid.

Chicken is browned in a large skillet. Once the pieces are browned on both sides, zoodles are added to the pan to cook slightly. Slowly but surely, the tomatoes, cucumber and pepperoncini are added to the pan as well. This quickly became an easy one-pan dish. I've also made this without the zoodles and added extra cucumber to keep it crunchy.

Topped with feta cheese and olive oil, we have a summer classic in the making!

  • 1 lb. chicken breast, diced (or stir-fry cuts)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 zucchini (or courgettes), spiralized
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 large cucumber, chopped 
  • 3-4 large pepperoncini, chopped
  • Feta cheese for topping
  1. In a large frying pan, heat olive or vegetable oil. Add the chicken pieces. Brown on each side, turning carefully and reducing heat as oil gets hotter. Sprinkle with ground pepper.
  2. Once the chicken has been browned, add the zoodles.
  3. Continue by adding the cherry tomatoes, cucumber and pepperoncini. Stir to incorporate with the chicken and zoodles.
  4. Cook until the vegetables are soft and the tomatoes have started to blister. 
  5. Remove from heat and top with feta cheese. You can enjoy this hot or cold, I preferred it slightly warmed. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

London Life

When I was getting ready to move to London, I knew there would be some things that were different about England. People driving on the left side of the road means I have to look in a different direction first before crossing the road (or look both directions multiple times). Plug converter was a must. And there were some things I hadn't heard about but read about in anticipation. And yet, there were still more things that caught me by surprise. All part of the adventure!

  • Outlet Switches- Different plugs? Yes. But outlets have switches on them so if you forget to turn on the outlet, your phone will not charge. My guess is it's to save electricity and/or prevent fire.
  • Fire Safety- Speaking of fire prevention, they take it very seriously here. Weekly fire alarm tests in public buildings, fire doors at every turn, I think the Great Fire really set the standard here.
  • Measurements- You've read my laments (hopefully you've read them!!) about converting cups to grams but there's also Fahrenheit to Celcius. People get really shocked if you say it's 70 degrees in Boston...

  • Dryers- I had read that most flats don't have dryers. But they have washers so it's a step up from most apartments in the States. But you know that lint screen in your dryer? What happens to all that lint if there's no dryer to fluff it out of your towels? It ends up on you and your floor. More vacuuming (sorry, "hoovering") required.
  • Alright?- Even though I have since learned this slang term to mean "how are you doing?", whenever my flatmates ask me "alright?", I immediately grow concerned that I've done something or walked in a certain way to make them think I'm not alright. Nope, they're just being friendly. Chill out, American. 
  • Rings- So this is more of a European thing but apparently, one doesn't always wear wedding rings on the left hand but sometimes on the right hand instead. This is a bit difficult because London is very international so I have noticed a fair number of people wearing rings on their right hand but my rings pretty much only fit on ring fingers. So now I play the game of do I let you try and figure out if I'm married or do I stuff a ring on my middle finger instead...
  • Gum- There aren't sticks of gum here or individually wrapped pieces. It seems that it's all the chicklet pieces. My guess is it has to do with reducing litter 
  • Iced Coffee- Oh my goodness. Iced coffee is not iced coffee here at all. So far, I've received a shot of espresso over ice, topped off with milk and a blended ice, milk and coffee beverage when I've asked for iced coffee. What I wouldn't give for a Dunkin' iced coffee to make this really feel like summer. But Starbucks does have cold brew here so there's a step in the right direction.
I have yet to solve what's a lorry versus a bus versus a truck (are they the same thing?) and I still bust out the calculator when determining baking measurements but, I'm getting there!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Squidgy Chocolate Torte

Remember all the struggles with metric conversions in baking? Well, no more! Bring on the grams of butter, we're making chocolate cake. A friend convinced me to sign up for a 10k shortly after moving to London, with the intention that signing up for a race would inspire us to run in preparation. It didn't but we still crushed it! It was a challenge for sure but I was proud of us for getting out there and being able to just decide to run a 10k.

The run was through a park that doubled as a deer preserve. People here are very excited to see deer but coming from Pennsylvania, back in the day, deer are no big deal. But this was a legit herd of deer just chilling in the middle of the park and when they started to run, it was almost like a safari.

To balance that out, we made chocolate cake. My friend was hosting a lunch the next day so we were looking for something chocolatey with berries and potentially whipped cream. This was the simpler of the recipes we found so we headed out to Waitrose and picked up our ingredients.

Unlike when I attempted snickerdoodles and divvying up a recipe, we made this cake in harmony. Butter and chocolate are melted together and I must say, one of the most satisfying baking experiences. Eggs and sugar are whisked together (we didn't have an electric mixer) with this nifty whisk. I recently read all about different whisks but this was a new one and quite fun.

Chocolate and butter go into eggs and sugar. Flour is folded in until we get a glossy, shiny batter. The batter is then poured into a torte pan. You could also use a spring-form pan or cake pan in a pinch. This torte will rise a little bit but not as much as a regular cake. It's dense and fudgy. Squidgy, I dare say.

Once cooled, we garnished with cocoa powder, blueberries and mint. Served with whipped cream, I'm sure it was the star of the lunch! I wasn't in attendance but I still enjoyed baking and running, detox to retox, people.

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped/broken
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • Pinch of salt
  • Cocoa powder for dusting
  • Berries for decorating
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter or grease your pan liberally.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate. Once smooth, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Mix together the sugar and eggs using an electric mixer or a lot of whisking power. Blend until the mixture thickens, like custard.
  4. Slowly pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, stirring to combine.
  5. Fold in the flour, almonds and pinch of salt until no white streaks remain.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the center is cooked through.
  8. Allow to cool completely before removing from the tin or decorating. 
  9. Serve with whipped cream or plain!