Category Archives: tapas

No Bake Herbed Nut & Cheese Snowballs Recipe

It is official: the fall themes are over, the wreaths are being changed to Christmas and the Black Friday specials just zoomed themselves in. Christmas prep has just stepped into our house with these cute little coconut herb cheese balls appetizer to greet our friends in a jiffy and finally celebrate the end of the Black Friday expenses. I really needed some purifying after a long day of unnecessary shopping, so combining Boursin cheese 50/50 with minced parsley (great anti-inflammatory and tonic)) and adding some minced garlic sounded like a good idea. If you can’t find Boursin, a mix of cottage and cream cheese (in a traditional Georgian way, with addition of garlic, parsley and walnuts); or any other soft cheese of your choice (goat, sheep, etc.) make great alternatives. Tasty, light and totally unwinding, these little balls are easy, fast and delectable treat for any party (specifically, tapas party, yay!).

This appetizer was inspired by the flurry of birds swooping in unison we’ve spotted today while going shopping.  We were driving by the Richelieu river, doomed to freeze within hours, when suddenly flocks of white birds (I believe they were seagulls, although they looked like white ducks) were appearing ‘en masse’ simultaneously from East and West directions. Naturally, our aerial avian obsession pushed us to find the parking right away.

The birds landed on the rocks in the middle of the river in a peaceful and undetermined magic action and were loudly discussing what to do next. How come they were so late to leave South? Were they disrupted by the I-phones and other human electronics interfering with natural birds’ migration?

Few minutes after the clouds of ducks were arriving in queues peppering the sky over the same spot, all trying to scour some mini spots left in the water to take a break.  The scenery felt like both, a great blessing and a Hitchcock thriller at the same time – certainly powerful… Ready to go into the darkness of the sky an hour later all birds, were chatting loudly about their next survival step… How do they do that? I don’t know, but for sure it’s a very inspiring act of courage…

And here we are sharing more pictures of our great spotting…

Back home we fixed these little cheese balls within 5 minutes (plus 15 minutes in a freezer to cool), and shared the stories of birds and (mostly unnecessary shopping experiences).

All you need is to add a big bunch of minced parsley, a minced clove of garlic (optional), and then roll it in any chopped nuts or seeds of your choice.

Our choice was obviously coconut flakes, although we also tried black and white sesame as well as poppy seeds. All of them tasted heavenly. Definitely, this recipe is a keeper for the holidays…

Specifically wonderful with oatmeal crackers or bagel thins, but you can have them with anything else imaginable.  
Happy Holidays Countdown to You All!
*** 
*** 
CHEESE COCONUT HERB BALLS APPETIZER
Ingredients:
1 5 oz package of Boursin cheese (or cream cheese, or cottage cheese mixed with sour cream)
1 bunch of parsley, minced
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
1 pinch of ground white pepper
1 handful of walnuts, chopped (optional)
pinch of sea or Hymalayan salt
1 cup flaked coconut (or any other crushed nut or seed of your choice), for rolling
Instructions:
Combine the cheese, parsley, garlic, white pepper and walnuts with fork in a bowl. Refrigerate for one+ hour. Roll the cheese mixture into small balls and then roll the balls into the shredded coconut or nuts or seeds of your choice (poppy, sesame, etc.). Serve on the tooth pics with the side of crackers or bagel thins.  

Shucking Oysters: Mighty Aphrodite Granita

Air chilled September has arrived to the East coast with the oyster season fanfare first in Montreal  and now in the New York City. If you’re an oyster geek or just an exploring amateur,  it’s time to learn a few new things about the little bivalve and the best ways to enjoy it. For those who can’t go to the Big Apple or line up for the new celebrity chefs’ oyster creations, there’s plenty to catch up with: dozens of fresh oyster varieties have just arrived into all major groceries and are now available for the price of a lollipop per pop. So if the shucking oyster party is your thing (which you can still enjoy outdoors as the current street temperature provides the best timing to serve and taste the oysters), it’s time to experiment with the new oyster condiments.

The New York Oyster Week founder Kevin Joseph has just declared a war on the traditional cocktail sauce from seventies (it’s about time someone bans that dreary creation out loud) and strongly encourages that people start using some freshly ground condiments like horseradish to bring the best out the fresh oyster. And here is when I pitch in with my latest granita, little icy Sicilian dessert that was first made with the snow from the Mount Etna.

Specifically, my new favorite, which I called Mighty Aphrodite Granita – a Lemon Ginger Cucumber Mint Granita. Don’t get me wrong, I still love classic Mignonette sauce  like any other person, and totally agree with Nigel Slater that ‘nothing quite takes the salty, iodine tang off a good oyster like the shallot vinegar, Tabasco and lemon.’ But there’s something I’ve discovered about granitas: they can make a really creative condiment (a little step up from just a generic lemon) that would not only complement the taste of the oyster, but would also make a perfect palate cleanser or an entremet between sampling different kind of oysters, so your palate’s capacity will be enhanced to actually catch the difference between say Malpeque from Kumamoto, or Raspberry Point, or many other varieties (check  Montreal’s La Mer for the local stock).

Granitas are very easy to make: the icy texture can be reached without any special equipment (like the one required for sorbet) – all you need is fork, tray and freezer. They make a stunning presentation. The melt fast, so your oyster will not be compromised with too much ice. And then there’s something else: there’s no particular proportion – you can customize your own granitas with your own amounts and preferred ingredients to reach the sweetness-sourness-saltiness balance according to your needs.

Julia Child mentioned in her Mastering the Art of French Cooking that the French Royal Court preferred to pair the oysters with Sauternes, the famous sweet wine of the Bordeaux region. This inspired me to make a sweet, slightly acidic granita with a splash of dessert wine, sugar, lemon juice and the refreshing touch of ginger, cucumber and mint. The result was outstanding. And guess what, if you don’t have any botrytis wine at hand, you can successfully replace wine with a dash of champagne or rice vinegar. Or just omit the alcohol completely and your granita will still taste heavenly and will make a fun and clever condiment or an entremet.  And don’t forget to use some liquid leftovers to wet the rim of the shot glasses before dipping it in a lemon, celery or your choice of salt mixture for any chilled booze you would like to serve with your oysters (from sake to tequila to Guinness).  

As much as I’m for letting the imagination go experimenting with citrus granitas, a word of a personal warning: stay away from experimenting with soya or ponzu sauce granitas – they are too overpowering and completely kill the taste of the oysters. I made some on our last Valentine and they both ended up in a trash leaving us to a humble simili-caviar condiment only, but then of course the good ol’ mignonette arrived to help in a jiffy. 

Back to our feature Lemon Ginger Cucumber Mint granita: three -five minutes work, an hour in a freezer, basically all the job is about forming ice crystals with the fork every 15-30 minutes depending on the quantity you make. You can serve as a little refreshing adult digestive or dessert as well. Believe me, I wouldn’t waste my time on writing this if it wasn’t absolutely delectable condiment, dessert re-fresher and a palate cleanser. 

One nice slurp of a briny devilish oyster followed by the tiny spoon of this pristine pure-tasting granita will pair and separate both gracefully (‘with a bite of the buttered brown bread to follow to stimulate the papilles… and then of course, a fine mouthful a white wine’, as recommended by legendary M.F.K. Fisher). You will only wish to continue tasting that dance and at some point might actually start feeling one step closer to a mighty Aphrodite (with, obviously, cucumber green hair and a piece of ginger in her hand for this recipe), the Greek goddess of love, who sprang from the sea on an oyster shell. And then the myth of the little aphrodisiac was born… Which ultimately brings me to Jay Rayner’s advice to ‘never date a man with no taste for oysters’ from The Guardian’s article ‘If You Don’t Like Oysters,You Will Never Be a Grown-Up’, but that’s another story…

***
***
‘Mighty Aphrodite’ Lemon Ginger Mint Cucumber Granita
Ingredients:
½ cup (125 ml) water
1 juice & few peels of a lemon
1 inch fresh ginger, sliced
3 tbsp (45 ml) granulated sugar (put more if desired)
1 small splash of dessert white wine (Sauternes at best, but cheaper dessert wines, or champagne, or rice vinegar can sub) (optional)
2 spring fresh mint
1 small cucumber, grated or liquefied
24 freshly shucked raw oysters on the half shell
Pinch of salt
Instructions:
Place water in a small pan with granulated sugar, ginger and lemon peel /juice. Heat gently to medium-high and lower the temperature. Mix until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 3 minutes, remove from heat, add a splash of wine mint leaves, mix and set aside to cool down. Strain the liquid through a sieve. Grate cucumber with skin on the zester or liquefy it in the blender with a bit of syrup. Sieve if desired and pour into the rest of the syrup.
Freeze for one hour or until mixture is frozen around the edges in a shallow container or plate.
Draw the ice from the edges towards the center with a fork. Return to freezer. Repeat this process about 3-4 times, every 15-20 minutes, or until all mixture is formed of ice crystals. Serve immediately as condiment or entremet, or keep in the air tight container in the freezer until ready to use for up to one week.  When ready to serve, spoon the granita into wine goblets, shot or martini glasses.

A-Maize-N Corn Sandwiches (Arepas) with Guasacaca Sauce

First there was a cracker. Then nachos came from South of the Texan border some 50 years ago and the North American snack was re-defined forever. One of the perks of living in multicultural society is that today you can discover endless variety of comforting ethnic foods almost on a daily basis in any given big city. Take arepa, for example, the crispy corn flat bread originating from Venezuela and Colombia. Delicious and highly versatile in stuffing it makes a great gluten-free bread/sandwich alternative, a vegetarian trouvaille (catch) and nice and fresh step away from the usual boring food. You can make arepas in minutes during busy weeknights and kids just adore them. They are perfect to combine with any sandwich ingredients and most of the warm recipes of the fall and can be served as an appetizer, side, school lunch, main dish or a snack. Arepas also make wonderful party or potluck food on a budget with some pulled meats you can prepare ahead separately. Few years ago though I didn’t even know this food existed.

One sunny end-of-summer day, in a happy turn of events, we hopped sideways of the bustling St-Denis street of Montreal and discovered a tiny hole-in-the-wall Venezuelan eatery Arepera The place offered plethora of tasty corn flour cakes with all kinds of fillings at more than affordable prices. Ten minutes of waiting time (this place is actually quite popular in the neighbourhood) and we stepped into the little arepas heaven filled with the smell of the freshly pan-fried corn cakes and garlicky guasacaca (famous avocado & herb sauce to go with arepas). The Spanish-speaking buzz and background percussion of maracas instantly teleported us to some hot place in Venezuela. The hearty ambiance along with friendly and fast service made us fully enjoy the charred and crispy on top, fluffy and soft inside corn cakes stuffed with authentic vegetarian (black beans, avocado and fresh queso) and pulled chicken (pollo guisado) arepas with some fried plantain slices (tajadas), extra queso on a side.  We made a mental note to come back and try more things (not-surprisingly, this Arepera is consistently well-rated on the Tripadvisor). 

As you know already, I have a proclivity to test my kitchen skills every time I try some new exciting dish, so, naturally, upon few more visits to Arepera I was ready to make them a home. I googled the recipe of arepas and found the Areparinaspecial pre-cooked corn flour (P.A.N. corn flour in the US) used to make arepas in the nearest Walmart ($2.69 per 2 lbs). Fresh queso blanco cheese was harder to find, so I used the squeaky curd cheese in place of traditional queso (cottage and ricotta cheeses would be other close alternatives) and later even regular cheddar or mozzarella. Easy, fast and as delicious as any best street food can be. And they came out perfect from the first time! Even the ones I took a minimal effort to put a piece of cheese inside turned into super-savory patties with irresistible pan-fried crisp crust (the reason these little babies will always be a hit with diners).

Keep cooked arepas warm in a 300F oven as you prepare the next batch. Double or triple the amount of ingredients accordingly if you need to feed more people.  Serve with traditional avocado sauce or guacamole or just the dollop of sour cream.  For a more spicy adornment, feel free to use the lentil avocado spread, or salsa verde, or buttermilk sauce, or lime avocado mayo which I posted previously – all of them go very well with the neutral arepas taste.

Simply put, you can stuff arepas with almost any kind of sandwich layers or leftovers, from omelet to pulled meats, to bacon, to ham, to cheese, to shrimp, to fish and of course all their vegetarian equivalents.  Here is a nice and quirky graphic poster by Sorelis Liendo I found on Pinterest on the most popular kinds of arepas in Venezula with their names and ingredients in Spanish (funny, the one without stuffing is called a widow).  

Top Left: Infografía de “La Arepa” (vía @Sorelys Liendo)
Over time my experiments with arepas stuffing have stretched to umami fusion twists like the ones with roasted (pulled) duck, lobster or anchovies.

The party favorites are of course pulled meat arepas. Try the ones with the pulled pork recipeor the veal/beef pulled blade roast turned into Cuban Ropa Vieja, all of which I posted last year, and the famous Guasacaca avocado sauce (below).

Oh my, I think I’ve exaggerated my writing quota today (to compensate for my temporary absence). Are you still there or have I long lost you to the Facebook gossips? Anyways, if you are a nachos lover and like to have something different from time to time, I’m sure you will be positively surprised to discover how they can soothe you with the simple joy of street comfort food. 

***
***
VENEZUELAN CORN SANDWICHES (AREPAS) with GUASACACA SAUCE
Yields: 12 to 18 arepas (3 to 4 inch sizes)
Ingredients:
For Arepas:
2 cups pre-cooked cornmeal mazarepa (such as Areparina, or P.A.N. varieties)
2 ½ cups very hot (but not boiling) water
3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing and cooking
¾ tsp sea salt
For Guasacaca Sauce
2 small or 1 big avocado, peeled and seeded
1 small onion or shallot, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, shelled
2 serrano or jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup red or white wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
½ bunch fresh parsley leaves
½ bunch fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
Mix the pre-cooked corn meal with salt, add water and oil and stir for a minute until the mixture comes together. Cover with plastic or wet towel and set aside for 10-20 minutes. Note: you can make this mix up to two days ahead of cooking and keep it in the fridge till ready to cook.
Scoop around 1/3 cup of the mix and use your hands to form a ball and then flatten it into the round disc. If using cheese, insert a square (1×1 inch) slice of cheese inside the disc closing well on the sides. Pre-heat the cast iron (or equivalent non-stick frying pan) skillet to medium high. Brush each corn disc with oil on both sides and once skillet cook the arepas for 7 to 10 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Keep cooked arepas warm in 300F oven while you make another batch.
For the guasacaca sauce, place the avocado, onion, garlic, pepper, vinegar and lime juice in the blender and pulse few times until the mixture is smooth. Add cilantro, parsley, oil, salt and pepper and give it a few other pulses. Scoop the sauce into a non-reactive bowl and check the seasoning. Cover and keep in the fridge till ready to use.
Open the warm arepas with a paring knife on the side to make sliders and fill them with the stuffing of your choice (pulled meats, eggs, beans, cheese, grilled veggies, etc.). Top with generous drizzle of guasacaca sauce and a sprinkle of crumbled cotija cheese (or Parmesan or Greek feta).

In Search for Umami: Salt Cod & Tuna Fish Cakes


I made these savory crispy fish cakes during holidays and served them as tapas on Quebec National Day along with three sauces. Later, on Canada day, I made another batch from frozen leftovers and toted them as fish tacos to the ‘Potluck with Style’ party along with tortillas, assortment of fresh garden veggies, Aioli sauce and lime avocado mayo. They were a huge hit on both occasions and everyone kept asking me for the recipe. Bring a box of these babies to your next potluck party and you can easily come off as a promising young chef from l’Academie, because, I can guarantee, they WILL upstage any food party. 

Salt cod is one the most under appreciated and underused foods in our country.  Despite its magical flavor powers that can bring most of the dishes with this ingredient to a whole new level, and its availability in almost every grocery; a dirty looking piece of something-dried, covered with gray salt is not very visually appealing.  That, plus a very little knowledge of how handle it and/or lack of publicity, keep this valuable commodity in the ‘underdog’ category of foods reserved for the limited consumption by Natives and/or just a few high-end French, Portuguese or Spanish restaurants. Nobody is serving accrass de morue or pasteis de bacalhau in the fast food joints, like they do it in Carribean or in Portugal although, technically, Canada has been one of the major producers of salt cod for the last 500 years. The Old World, however, has been enjoying salt cod for centuries. The famous epicureans like Claude Monet or Paul Cezanne, for example, used to stash the recipes with this precious ingredient in their diaries as their best kept culinary secrets to impress each other.

Dishes with salt cod are in the category of an acquired taste and people usually love or hate them. Here’s the thing: if you like Parmesan, cured meats, anchovies, oysters, soya sauce asparagus, tomatoes, etc. chances are you are going to like these fish cakes big time because of the umami factor apparent in all these foods. The naturally occurring amino acid in salt cod (called umami) is what makes it so tasty and unique. And if you have a hard time with umami, you can always swap the salt cod for canned tuna or salmon and still have very palatable cakes, although with not much umami in them.

A quick, but useful trivia: about a century ago Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda discovered chemical root behind the fifth sensory taste (in addition to salty, sweet, bitter, sour) and called it umami (which translates from Japanese into ‘deliciousness’). The common component producing the flavor of meat, seaweed and tomatoes was glutamate, which gives the sensation of umami. Not surprisingly, Ikeda further patented the manufacture of an arguably infamous Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) food flavor enhancer.

Back to our fish cakes. Once you’ve tripped over the initial shock of actually buying this ‘thing’ (salt cod) and had it rinsed from salt and soaked for 24-48 hours, you are just a few steps away from making this mouth-watering treat. Mashed potatoes, milk, egg, chives, garlic, thyme, cornmeal and frying oil are basically all you need to add to prestidigitate the ‘thing’ into something amazing. It’s completely optional, but this time I added a can of tuna to the mix to make it exactly one pound in fish ingredient without altering the taste. Feel free to make it half & half (salt cod & canned tuna or salmon) and it will still be equally delicious. I also added 1/3 teaspoon of smoked paprika to deepen the flavor depth even further with the touch of heat and smokiness. Finally, I figured that umamiwith umami can only work out for good, so I added 2 tablespoons of fresh Parmesan crumbs to the mix.

Voila, now you can savor the best thing that can ever happen to salt cod. Enjoy them as tapas with variety of sauces like:  classic Aioli sauce, zesty Tkemali plum sauce, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise, Buttermilk sauce, even Herb Lentil Avocado Spread.

My latest favorite is to dress them in tacos, laced with one of the above sauces and garnished with a mountain of thinly sliced summer bounty, including: cabbage, radishes, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, shallots, onion, lettuce, fine herbs, etc. Just have a bunch of corn (for gluten-free) or whole wheat flour tortillas, warm up wrapped in foil for 15 minutes at 375F and serve immediately with some refreshing drinks. Fish tacos allow the cakes to shine with their intriguing umami taste combined with textures and captivating colors of artfully embedded crunchy veggies and tangy sauce. Simply out of this world!

And if you want something absolutely lean and/or diet-healthy (from Paleo to Gluten-free to Carb, Sugar or Elimination diet) go for the lettuce wrap option and the dish will never trigger any guilt alarms – just pure joy and pleasure.

All good to the last bite, hot or cold!

***
***
SALT COD & CANNED TUNA FISH CAKES
Serves: 8 to 10 people.
Ingredients:
1 lb skinned & boned salt cod (or half & half of 1 lb of salt cod and canned tuna)
1 cup of milk
1 bay leaf
3 big Idaho or Russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
½ cup 10% cream for mashing potatoes
4 tbsp butter at room temperature for mashing potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch of fresh chives or scallions, minced
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced (optional)
1/3 tsp smoked hot paprika (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
oil for frying (sunflower, canola, peanut or grape seed oil)
4 tbsp butter or ghee for frying (optional)
2 cups corn meal for coating
Lemon or lime wedges for serving
Instructions:
Soak the salt cod in cold water to cover in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours changing the water occasionally.
Drain the salt cod and place it in a saucepan, cover with milk, add bay leaf. Add water if necessary to cover the fish. Bring to boil and simmer over the low heat for 12-15 minutes or until the fish flakes with fork easily. Do not overcook. Transfer the fish to a plate and let cool.
In a separate saucepan bring potatoes to boil and simmer until tender for 20 minutes. Drain potatoes, mash them with cream and butter. Let cool.
Using your fingers or a fork flake the cod (check for the occasional bones, although most of the time it’s bones-free).
Combine the cod, drained tuna, mashed potato, garlic, chives, egg, Parmesan, thyme, smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix it with masher or hands.
Use 1 full tablespoon of the mixture to form a ball, press and coat well with corn meal. Set aside while making remaining cakes. Refrigerate fish cakes until chilled for 10-30 minutes*.  
Preheat the skillet to medium high. Add 2 tablespoons of frying oil and 1 tablespoon of butter for each batch. Pan-fry in batches for about 2-3 minutes each side or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Check the seasoning. Serve with lemon or lime wedges, classic Aioli sauce, zesty Tkemali plum sauce, Lime & Avocado Mayonnaise, Buttermilk sauce, Herb Lentil Avocado Spread or other sauce of your choice. You can also serve them in fish tacos wrapped in warmed up corn/whole wheat tortillas, laced with one of the above sauces and dressed with thinly sliced vegetables, such as:cabbage, radishes, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, shallots, onion, lettuce, fine herbs, etc.
*Freeze them on the cutting board if making the dish in advance. When frozen, transfer cakes to Ziploc bag or plastic container and keep in a freezer for up to 1 month. Let thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before frying. Re-coat in cornmeal if necessary for the crispy crust.

Go Wild and Try Some Violets

Today is special: my best college friend happens to have her anniversary. We never collected violets together, but we did have some crazy-wild, beautiful times that I will never forget. Happy Birthday, dear Ira! Here’s to our friendship: make a dive back into the 90s with this good old school gem from our past. You’re probably too busy now to do anything with violets, but I hope one day you will return from wherever in the world you are now celebrating, and check your e-mail, and find this message, and will be set adrift on memory bliss like me today. And then, eventually, maybe you will even try some of my recipes. Cheers!
My other best friend from Toronto will have her birthday around Victoria’s Day and what can be more Victorian than violets on that day? Happy upcoming B-Day to you, my friend AB, I love you dearly and think about you very often! Another Cheers!  
Back to our food business. Blissfully, our (not chemically treated) lawn is currently invaded by wild violets this spring which I’ve been previously collecting for flower arrangements, but this year I put my hands on developing recipes with them. I always knew that wild violets are highly medicinal: anti-inflammatory, anti-cancerous, high in vitamin C and A, great to relief coughs and sore throats. Never before though I tried them on my palate, but following the Nordic cuisine focus on the native produce, and René Redzepi’s inspiration credo that ‘there’s no conflict between better meal and better world’ I decided to go foraging  and experiment with this new ingredient.  It took no time to figure out that freshly picked edible wild violets (please make sure you are dealing with wild violets, not the decorative ones) are mostly used to garnish dishes, but the vinegar based on them can be applied to an array of foods. I’ve made some research and here are the dishes I came up with using violets and/or violet vinegar:  Cucumber Almond Violet Cold Soup for a hot day; Green Pistachio Violet Salad for a light healthy lunch; Bacon Asparagus with Violet Vinegar Reduction Appetizer for a decadent treat and, finally, Violet Dressed Cupcakes for celebrations. I’ll begin with the violet infused vinegar.
Violet Infused Vinegar:
I used rice vinegar, but you can use any kind of basic vinegar as a base, depending what kind of result you’re looking for – delicate (based on a rice, apple cider or champagne vinegar) or more acidic (white, red or white wine vinegar). Collect violets from clean and pesticide-free areas, preferably where cats or dogs do not make their breaks. Fill the glass bottle/jar about half full of violets and pour vinegar of your choice over them to fill up. Use a non-metallic cork to close and let the vinegar sit for a week in a cool dark place. It will become between a pink and magenta color hues depending on the flowers-stems ratio and the hue of the violets. Strain the vinegar and store for a year or longer in a glass container. You can use only flowers for a darker color, or flowers with stems for a lighter one. Here are the steps:

Cucumber Almond Violet Cold Soup inspired by classic Spanish Cucumber Almond Gazpacho and a lovely Spanish girl (Hola, Ana!). When freshly picked, the violets faintly smell like a cucumber or a grape candy, so I had the idea to use them along with violet vinegar in a cold gazpacho-style soup with almonds, grapes and cucumbers. An absolute must try on a hot spring-summer day, with or without the violet garnish. Killer app: add some red grapes to the soup mix to enhance the color-coordinated violet look.

Green Pistachio Violet Salad inspired by Watercress Pistachio and Orange-Blossom Salad by Chef Yotam Otolenghi: 
I replaced the watercress with spring mix, skipped the herbs and swapped the lemon juice for the mix of the violet vinegar mixed with ½ teaspoon of rose water in otherwise similar dressing, and of course, added some fresh violets. Light, slightly flowery, pistachio crunchy and well-balanced dish to go with toasted bread or the next dish (bacon!).

Inspired by Pork Neck and Bulrushes with Violets and Malt by Chef Redzepi:

Most of us have experienced the power of pork and vinegar combination in cooking or marinating. Most of us also love bacon (and some are ready to kill for it). Inspired by Chef René Redzepi’s recipe of Pork Neck and Bulrushes with Violets and Malt from his cookbook NOMA, I cooked the bacon, made a reduction of bacon cooking juice (½ cup) with a mix of apple cider (1 tbsp), violet (1 tsp) and balsamic vinegar (1 tsp) and laced the mix of crisp bacon and crunchy steamed asparagus with it. To die for: 
Inspired by Poulet let au Vinaigre de Vin (Chicken With Wine Vinegar) by Chef Bocuse:
The low-acid violet flavoured vinegar suggested a take on a classic French country dish, which celebrity Chef Paul Bocuse is famous for. I baked it instead of pan frying and replaced tomatoes with scallions for a spring touch. And, of course, I garnished it with some fresh violets – stunner of a great tasty dish! 
Finally, edible violet flowers make glamorous dessert topping on the cakes, muffins, cupcakes, parfait, yogurt, sorbet, ice cream, salted caramel, you name it, as well as the violet essence that can give totally different taste. Check how to make candied violets to use in desserts here. 

I had a wonderful time experimenting with violets and I do hope you will try some of them or that some of them will be an inspiration to you.

Enjoy!
***
***
CUCUMBER ALMOND VIOLET GAZPACHO
Yields: 2 servings
Ingredients:
200 g blanched almonds
200 g white bread, crust removed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cucumber
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp violet vinegar (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
10 ice cubes
Salt & pepper
Garnish:
100 g white grapes
50 g blanched almonds
few slivered slices of cucumber
5 fresh violet flowers (optional)
Instructions:
Mix garlic, bread, almonds, cucumber, ice cubes, vinegar, salt and pepper in a food processor. Start adding olive oil gradually to reach the right consistency. Taste for the seasoning, ad a bit of extra salt. Put in a fridge for a few hours. Wash the grapes and cut them and almonds in half. Slice the cucumbers very thinly. Garnish the soup with grapes, almonds, strips of cucumber and fresh violets right before serving.
***
CHICKEN IN APPLE CIDER AND VIOLET VINEGAR
Yields: 4-6 servings
Ingredients:
1.5 to 1.8 kg chicken parts (preferably free-range)
Coarse salt & freshly ground pepper, to rub the chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter
6-8 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup violet vinegar (or champagne, or rice vinegar)
1 bunch (6-8) scallions, chopped
¾ cup chicken stock
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
20 fresh violet flowers for garnish (optional)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, rub salt and pepper in and set aside to air dry for at least 30 minutes. Pat dry chicken pieces with paper towels, rub with olive oil. Place (do not crowd) the chicken in a deep baking pan (2-3 inches) greased with 1 tablespoon of butter, skin side down and cook in the oven uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Turn once for another 10 minutes to brown the chicken on all sides.  Add garlic, return to the oven for 5-7 minutes. Gradually add vinegar mix and scallions and return to the oven uncovered for 10 minutes. Lower the oven to 350F, cover with aluminum foil and finish roasting in the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and to your taste. Remove the chicken and transfer to warmed platter. Collect the cooking juices, bring them to boil and simmer in a small saucepan to reduce by 1/3. Add remaining butter and adjust the seasoning adding salt, pepper and parsley. Pour over the chicken. Garnish with fresh violets (if available). Serve with roasted or steamed veggies of your choice, a green salad and crusty bread.