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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: April 2017

Not only are there seasons for fruits and vegetables but fish and shellfish have seasons also. It is good to know that you can buy locally caught seafood that is in season near where you live or close to it. My local market is located right on the Gulf and the boats come in every day with fresh, seasonal fish. It is a pleasure to shop in such a fine market.

Here is a chart to help you buy in season fish locally.

In my area, the Gulf waters warm up in April. Along with the warm water, a host of fish appear with the temperature increase, such as Cobia, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Redfish, Scallops, Flounder, Speckled Trout, Tuna, Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo, Amberjack and Hard-Shell Crabs. Here are a few of our favorite fish dinners.

Redfish Meuniere

Spinach Pesto is delicious with this fish.

2 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 fresh redfish fillets (or any white fish fillets), ounces each
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

Combine the flour, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a large shallow plate.

Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels.

Heat the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat until melted.

Dredge the fish fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides and place them in the hot butter.

Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes.

Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook for 2 minutes on the other side.

While the second side cooks, sprinkle the fish with the lemon juice and chopped parsley.

Carefully put the fish fillets on warm plates.

Serve the fish topped with Spinach Pesto, recipe below.

Spinach Pesto

Ingredients

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse.

With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy.

Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste. This sauce freezes well.

Scallops Florentine

2 servings

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fresh baby spinach
6 large sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or thyme leaves

Directions

In medium skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat.

Season the scallops with the Italian seasoning.

Sauté the scallops 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and keep warm by covering with a piece of foil.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in the skillet and add the garlic

When the garlic has softened, add the spinach.

Sauté the spinach until wilted.

Add the grated Parmesan, cream, salt and pepper, mix and heat until the cheese and cream are hot.

Divide the spinach mixture between two serving dishes and top each plate with 3 scallops.

Garnish the scallops with the chopped herbs.

Tuna Kabobs

I like to serve the kabobs over linguine dressed with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and chopped basil.

4 servings

Ingredients

4 metal, bamboo or wooden skewers
1 lb fresh tuna fillet (1 inch thick)—cut into 16 even-sized cubes
1 small zucchini—cut into diagonal slices
Onion slices—cut into 16 even-sized squares
2 bell peppers—cut into 16 even-sized squares
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus lemon wedges for serving)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic—grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Place the tuna cubes, zucchini, onion and bell pepper in a glass baking dish.

Mix together the remaining ingredients in a small measuring cup until well combined.

Pour over the tuna and vegetables in the baking dish.

Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 hour, turning the mixture halfway through marinating.

Divide the mixture evenly among 4 skewers and reserve the marinade.

Cook the skewers on a hot grill for about 10 minutes until cooked through, turning and brushing regularly with the marinade.

Serve the skewers with lemon wedges.

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Mushroom Pizza

I often see photos of pizza with salad on top and I had been wanting to try something similar. So, keeping with what is in season, my pizza is made with onions, mushrooms and arugula salad. Serve this pizza with marinated olives and sliced tomatoes. And, don’t forget dessert!

4 servings

Ingredients

1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
Half a large red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz mozzarella, sliced thin
½ cup feta cheese
1 cup arugula
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Heat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Spread the pizza dough in a greased pizza pan.

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for a minute and add the mushrooms.

Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until all the mushroom liquid is absorbed.

Spread the sliced mozzarella on top of the pizza dough. Spread the mushrooms over the cheese.

Sprinkle the feta on top of the mushrooms.

Bake the pizza until crispy and brown on the edges.

Mix the arugula with the lemon juice.

As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven, top it with the arugula salad and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut and serve.

Italian Almond Carrot Cake (Torta di Carote)

This cake is gluten-free and made with olive oil. It is not your traditional American carrot cake.

You can also buy the carrots shredded from the supermarket.

Ingredients

Carrot cake

1/2 cup regular olive oil, not extra-virgin
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups almond meal/flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced

Mascarpone cream

1 cup mascarpone
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons rum

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the base of a 9 inch springform pan with a parchment paper cut to fit the bottom. Coat with olive oil spray.

Add the pine nuts to a small dry pan and toast them over low heat.

Grate the carrots in a food processor or with a coarse grater, and put them on a double layer of paper towels. Wrap the towels around the carrots to soak up the excess liquid.

Using the whisk attachment in an electric mixer, combine the sugar and olive oil until creamy.

Whisk in the vanilla and eggs. Fold in the almond meal/flour, nutmeg, grated carrots, toasted pine nuts the lemon zest and lemon juice.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. The batter will be not be very high in the pan.

Bake the cake until the top is risen and golden and a cake tester comes almost clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest on a rack for 10 minutes before removing the sides. Let cool until ready to serve. Transfer the cake to a serving platter.

Combine the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar and rum in a small bowl. Slice the cake and serve with the mascarpone cream.

 


With family visiting for the holidays, I had plenty of leftovers to use up. Leftover vegetable dishes can become salads, such as my Green Bean Salad recipe. Leftover pork and steak can become new entrees. Leftover Tzatziki Sauce needed a new entre dish to accompany, so a middle eastern chicken dish is perfect. Leftover asparagus is always good in an omelet or a quiche. So many new meals from leftovers. Give your leftovers a makeover.

Spicy Shrimp and Fettuccine

Serve this pasta with a Green Bean Salad.

4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces uncooked fettuccine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound large (16-20) shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chopped plum tomato
4 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook pasta al dente according to the package directions. Drain.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute.

Add shrimp; sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, basil and salt. Turn the shrimp over once and cook until pink on all sides.

Stir in pasta and Parmesan cheese; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.

Place pasta mixture in individual heated pasta bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese.

Serve immediately.

Green Bean Radish Salad

You can also use leftover cooked green beans for this salad.

Ingredients

1 pound green beans, trimmed
15 large red radishes, trimmed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Place the radishes and the cooled beans in a serving bowl .

Combine the olive oil, shallots, vinegar and lemon juice in a large measuring cup.

Pour over the radishes and green beans and toss to coat.

Let marinate 1 hour at room temperature, tossing occasionally.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Chicken Shawarma Pitas

Serve with a Greek Salad.

2 servings

Ingredients

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup finely diced peeled and seeded cucumber
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

Chicken

1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon za’atar spice mix
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pita breads or lavash
1 small tomato, chopped
Thinly sliced romaine lettuce

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium.

Stir cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Combine garlic, za’atar, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in another medium bowl.

Slice chicken breast crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; toss with the spice mixture to coat.

Add 1 tablespoon oil and toss to combine.

Grill the chicken on a stove top grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.

To serve:

Spread 1/4 cup of the cucumber-yogurt sauce on a pita (or lavash) and top with one-half of the chicken, tomato and lettuce.

Fold like a taco (or roll closed, if using lavash). Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Cuban Sandwich

Serve with Homemade Tomato Soup

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 cup leftover grilled pork tenderloin; thinly sliced
1 loaf Cuban or Italian bread or rolls
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 oz ham; thinly sliced
Yellow ballpark mustard
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices Provolone cheese
Dill pickle rounds
1/4 cup diced jarred banana peppers

Directions

Slice bread in half lengthwise and then in half horizontally. Butter the outside of the bread.

Spread mustard on the insides of the bread and layer each sandwich with 1/2 of remaining ingredients. Set tops of rolls in place and press down to flatten sandwiches.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat for 4 minutes.

Brush the tops of the sandwiches with melted butter and place them in the skillet buttered side down.

Brush the bottoms of the rolls with butter and use the preheated pot to compress the sandwiches for 15 to 20 seconds.

Cook (keeping the pot on the sandwiches but no longer pressing down) until the first side is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove the pot, turn the sandwiches over, replace the pot on top of the sandwiches, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Tart

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large leek, light green and white portions
1 large shallot, sliced thin
1/2 lb leftover cooked asparagus, cut into one inch lengths
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 8-ounce tube refrigerated reduced fat crescent rolls
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin and drained on paper towels
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften,4- 5 minutes.

Add the shallots and saute for another 3 minutes.

Add the Italian seasoning, asparagus, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Stir and remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When the mixture is cool, add the beaten eggs.

Pat the crescent roll dough into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange the sliced, drained tomatoes over the dough.

Spread the asparagus mixture over the tomatoes. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Steak Quesadilla with Homemade Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

4 (10 inch) flour tortillas
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ cup diced pickled jalapeno peppers
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 ounces cooked steak, sliced thin
Homemade salsa, recipe below
Sour cream, optional

Directions

Brush a large frying pan with olive oil and heat the pan. Lay a tortilla on the bottom of the pan.

Cover evenly with one half of the steak, onion, jalapenos and cheese. Top with another tortilla shell.

Cook for about 4-5 minutes or until the bottom tortilla begins to lightly brown and then use a wide spatula to turn the quesadilla over and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

Repeat with the remaining quesadillas. Cut the quesadillas into quarters and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Homemade Salsa

Ingredients

One 26 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agave
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lime juice
A few dashes chipotle Tabasco sauce

Directions

Mix together and chill.


Fig Tree

 

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for education about environmental issues. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

In honor of this idea, our family likes to add a new plant or tree in our garden every year. In the past, we have added a redbud tree, a palm tree, a star magnolia tree, a cypress tree, a lemon tree, a maple tree and, this year, a fig tree.

Cypress

Redbud

Star Magnolia

Palm

Meyer Lemon Tree

Maple

Figs are self-fruiting, so you need only one plant to produce fruit. Mature fig trees can grow be 15 to 30 feet tall. I don’t think I will see this in my lifetime, though. Figs can vary in size, shape, flavor, texture and time of harvest and can be black, green, brown, violet, yellow or purple in color.

Fig trees thrive in the heat of the southern US and Europe. Plant near a wall with southern exposure in the Middle South so they can benefit from reflected heat. In the areas with colder temperatures, plant cold-hardy selections, such as Brown Turkey and Celeste. You can grow figs in big pots and protect them during the winter by storing them in a cool garage or basement. During the first year, as the plants become established, water regularly and mulch. Once established, figs can be very drought tolerant. Fertilize with Espoma Citrus-tone (5-2-6) in late winter and early spring.

Figs are high in fiber and a good source of several essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium (which promotes bone density), copper and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), as well as vitamins K and B6.

Figs must be allowed to ripen completely on the tree before picking. They can be enjoyed fresh or dried.

Figs can be eaten whole without any seasonings. They are an excellent addition to salads, cakes and ice-cream. Dried figs can be added to soups, stews or to enrich poultry, venison, lamb dishes.

I am looking forward to making my favorite fig recipes with my own home grown figs in the future.

Fresh Fig Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
1/4 cup apple jelly, heated
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan.

Place the figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.

Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.

Arrange the figs in a circular pattern on the jam covered pastry. Sprinkle with pecans.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit juices bubble and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.

Fig Scones

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
10 ounces dried figs, diced small
2 cups heavy cream, cold
¼ cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the diced figs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and honey.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the heavy cream mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the ingredients are moistened.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms, sprinkling more flour in if needed. Divide the dough into two equal balls.

Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Small-Batch Fig Jam

Makes about 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 lemon
1 orange
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 whole thyme sprigs
2 pounds ripe fresh figs, stemmed and quartered

Directions

Remove the strips of rind from the lemon and the orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith.

Combine the rind strips and the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan or large Dutch oven.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium; and cook 50 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

To test for jam stage, place a small amount on a chilled plate. Tilt the plate and the preserves should move sluggishly.

(If testing with a candy thermometer, it should read 220°F.) Discard the thyme and citrus strips.

Pour into refrigerator or freezer storage jars. Store in the refrigerator for several months or the freezer for up to six months.


Sourdough Potato Bread

Adding potato to a bread recipe can make it softer and more moist, which is what you want for a great tasting sandwich bread. This recipe makes excellent sandwich bread, as well as, toast. Make an egg salad sandwich on this bread-so good.

Ingredients

2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
6 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 large russet (baking) potato, cooked
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sourdough starter, room temperature

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove the skin from the baked potato and mash. Set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast, bread flour and sugar.

In a large measuring cup or medium mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, melted butter, milk, eggs, sourdough starter and salt. Pour into the flour mixture in the mixer bowl.

Using the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients until a dough forms. Switch to the a dough hook and knead the dough until smooth and elastic (10 minutes).

Place the dough in greased bowl, turning over to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled ( 2 hours)

Punch dough down. Knead briefly and divide in half.

Shape each half into a smooth ball and then into a loaf. Place the shaped dough in 9 x 5 inch greased loaf pans.

Cover loaves and let rise until almost doubled (1 hour)

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35 min. or until loaves are richly browned. Let cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 large loaves.


Growing up in the New York metropolitan area, we often had crumb buns on Sunday morning. These crumb buns had a distinctive taste and plenty of crumbs – the best part. When I moved away from the area, I realized the rest of the US did not know what a really good crumb bun was all about. At least not in my view. So for many years, I kept trying different recipes until I came up with the right proportions and the right ingredients to make what I remember as the best tasting crumb bun. I am sharing my recipe with you.

New York Style Crumb Cake

TOPPING

8 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/4 cups unbleached self-rising flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for for sprinkling on the finished cake
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

CAKE

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached self-rising flour
1 cup buttermilk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan.

To make the topping:

Mix all of the topping ingredients until medium crumbs form. I use my hands. Set aside.

To make the cake:

In an electric mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl between additions.

Add the flour alternately with the buttermilk, mixing gently to combine and scraping the bowl after each addition.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Squeeze the topping together in small clumps and sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cake batter.

Cover the entire top of the cake.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

When the cake is completely cool, dust it with confectioners’ sugar. To serve cut into squares.


We must give credit to Sicily for giving us some delicious desserts made with ricotta cheese. Ricotta is not a cheese but a creamy curd. The curd is cooked twice, so the name “ricotta means” re-cooked. The leftover hot whey of milk used for cheese making has milk solids and a protein called albumin, which solidifies under high heat. When the whey is reheated (re-cooked) the solid milk parts are skimmed off to drain, and this is called ricotta cheese.The foam of the whey when it is being recooked is called zabbina in Sicilian.

According to the food historian, Clifford Wright, Professor Santi Correnti, chairman of the history department of the University of Catania and a preeminent historian of Sicily, wrote that during the reign of the Sicilian King Frederick II, in the early thirteenth century, the king and his hunting party came across the hut of a dairy farmer making ricotta and, being ravenous, asked for some. The first depiction of the making of ricotta is found in an illustration in the medical treatise known as the Tacuinum sanitatis, from the eleventh century. (Pictured above.)

Ricotta is used in many Italian desserts, especially for the holidays. Here is one that we like quite a bit.

Amaretto Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust

1 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Filling

2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 eggs
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Set a rack in the middle of the oven.

Combine the crust ingredients. Press evenly over the bottom and 1-1/2-inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl and stir it as smooth as possible with a rubber spatula.

Stir the sugar and flour together and then add to the ricotta. Mix thoroughly into the ricotta.

Stir in the eggs 1 at a time. Blend in the amaretto and salt. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 1/2 hours tor 1 3/4 hours, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is fairly firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack. It will sink slightly as it cools. Cover, and chill until serving time.



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