Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Guest Blogger: Nina

Kicking off my Guest Blogger September is Nina, who will be launching her own blog which will be focused on recipes that can be modified to meet one's optimal tasting and dietary restrictions. Sounds interesting! Let us know when it launches, Nina!

On Saturday I dined with friends at the Dali Restaurant and Tapas Bar in Cambridge, MA to celebrate a dear friend's birthday and a very special visit from her Mom from Belarus. This Dali inspired restaurant was a real treat, not just for its delicious menu but also for it's eccentric ambience. The decor ranged from awe-inspiring portraits and collectibles to antiques and floral prints of every kind. Think sombrero mixed with frog statues. Baked goat cheese, which was served in a sweet tomato sauce, was among my favorite menu items. The tang of the goat cheese was punctuated with fresh herbs and softened by the sweetness of the sauce. It was the texture of the dish that was most remarkable and allowed the taste to linger in my mouth after each bite.

All of the tapas dishes at Dali, small in portion and bursting with flavor, were so memorable and inspiring that I came up with lots of "cooking for one" and "summer cooking" ideas. I endeavored to adapt the baked goat cheese dish to my budget and time constraints since it already met my dietary restrictions. I wanted to make a small protein side dish out of ingredients I already had at home to eat with my usually large lunch salad. Craving pizza for weeks, the mix of goat cheese and tomato with garlic and basil was particularly appealing. Thus the concept of tapas, a small serving of something simply delicious usually eaten with some kind of bread, lent itself well to meet my needs.

The recipe :
Dice 1 small tomato* and mix it with 5 - 6 chopped basil leaves, 1/2 clove crushed garlic and a thick slice of goat cheese. Place the ingredients on top of one another in a small dish in the order listed here, beginning with the tomatoes on the bottom.

Bake at broiler heat until the cheese starts to brown and crust slightly on top, approximately 15 minutes.

Tortilla Strips instead of using the tortilla as a substitute roti-like dipping bread because I over toasted them in the toaster oven. While they were still piping hot, I brushed one side of each of the two tortillas with 1 tbsp olive oil and then sliced them into strips, layering them on top of one another to coat both sides of each strip with olive oil. I like using whole foods organic whole wheat tortillas as they have no added yeast or crazily processed chemical ingredients.

Serve as a dip with whole wheat tortilla strips lightly brushed with olive oil (for details see below), as a salad addition or as a side dish.

*Note that a tomato sauce or tomatoes blended into a thicker paste create a less watery dish. Too hungry to let the cheese brown all over, I took it out before all of the cheese browned but I loved it this way!

Modifications: Great for summer, this recipe involves little cooking and adds protein to a fresh salad. I chose one fresh tomato instead of a slow cooked tomato sauce which I find too heating for this season. The tang of the goat cheese, fiery quality of tomatoes and the pungent garlic are already heating in quality and so I used no additional salt or spices. If you have a food allergy to gluten, this recipe can be used as a bruschetta like topping on a suitable grain or simply mixed right on top of a green salad. Goat cheese, my choice ingredient to experiment with these days, carries a heavier flavor than Mozzerella, and doesn't induce my asthma symptoms like cow's milk does (yay!). So, if you also have a sensitivity to cow dairy products, try goat products! I unknowingly tried it for the first time with a Cappellini dish I ordered at a restaurant last year. Though I liked it, I was too afraid to try to cook with it. This summer though it re-entered my life when my energy healer Jill added goat's milk yogurt to the overspiced (eek) Chicken Tikka Masala that I made for her. Feel free to try this recipe with other cheeses or cheese substitutes as well.

Keep these posts coming, readers! I'd love to hear what you're eating.


  1. Dali is a great restaurant - sister restaurant to Tapeo (one of my personal faves). Another unique and awesome Tapas place worth trying in the Boston area is Toro in the South End - their corn is mouthwatering!!! Great post Nina!

  2. Scrumptious recipes! I love it! Damn I so wanna be a home gourmet chef now. These posts are well-written and inspiring to all foodies alike. I admire your work girls.

  3. Well written Nina! I particularly like the idea of this recipe as a bruschetta topping. Definite Saturday dinner potential!

  4. Thank you Nina, inspiring, got to try it out....Rouse