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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Beans

 

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. This series continues with the country of Egypt.

The Arab Republic of Egypt is located in the northeastern region of the African continent, bordering both the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The climate is arid and dry and most of the country receives less than one inch of rainfall each year. However, Egypt’s northern coastline can get up to eight inches of rainfall each year and the year-round temperatures are cooler here than inland. Egypt has no forests and only 2 percent of the land is arable (land that can be farmed).

The well-known Nile River, the longest river in the world, runs north and south through eastern Egypt and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile River Valley, which includes the capital city of Cairo, is the most fertile land in Egypt. Approximately 95 percent of the country’s population lives alongside the Nile River.

Egyptian cuisine is characterized by dishes such as stewed fava beans; lentils and pasta and okra stew. Egyptian cuisine shares similarities with other Mediterranean countries, such as rice-stuffed vegetables, grape leaves, shawarma, kebabs and kofta. The cuisine most often utilizes legumes, vegetables and fruits from Egypt’s rich Nile valley and delta. Although entrees in Alexandria and the coast of Egypt tend to use a great deal of fish and other seafood, the Egyptian cuisine is based on foods that grow in the ground. Meat has been very expensive for most Egyptians throughout history, so a great number of vegetarian dishes have been developed.

Easy access to various spices due to Egypt’s many seaports has, throughout the years, left its mark on Egyptian cuisine. Cumin is the most commonly used spice. Other common spices include coriander, cardamom, chili, aniseed, bay leaves, dill, parsley, ginger, cinnamon, mint and cloves.

Egyptians are known to use lots of garlic and onions in their everyday dishes. Fresh garlic mashed with other herbs is used in a spicy tomato salad and also in stuffed eggplant. Garlic fried with coriander is added to soup and sometimes to chicken or rabbit. Fried onions can also be a popular addition.

When meats are on the Egyptian table, they are usually rabbit, pigeon, chicken or duck. These are often boiled to make a broth for stews and soups and the meat is served separately. Lamb and beef are the most common meats used for grilling.

The local bread is a form of hearty, thick, gluten-rich pita bread called eish baladi. This bread is made from a simple recipe that forms the backbone of the Egyptian cuisine. It is consumed at almost all Egyptian meals; a working-class or rural Egyptian meal might consist of little more than bread and beans.

Although many rural people still make their own cheese, notably the fermented mish, mass-produced cheeses are becoming more common. Cheese is often served with breakfast, it is included in several traditional dishes, and even in some desserts.

Despite the country’s dry climate, Egypt grows a variety of fresh fruits. Mohz (bananas), balah (dates), burtu’aan (oranges), battiikh (melon), khukh (peaches), berkuk (plums) and ‘anub (grapes) are grown.

Tea is the national drink in Egypt, followed only distantly by coffee, prepared using the Turkish method. Egyptian tea is uniformly black and sour and is generally served in a glass, sometimes with milk. Tea packed and sold in Egypt is almost exclusively imported from Kenya and Sri Lanka. Egyptian tea comes in two varieties, kushari and sa‘idi. Vendors also sell a variety of asiir (fresh-squeezed juices) made from fruits like banana, guava, mango, pomegranate, strawberry, from sugar cane, and even hibiscus flowers.

Egyptian desserts resemble other Eastern Mediterranean desserts. Basbousa is a dessert made from semolina and soaked in syrup. It is usually topped with almonds and cut vertically into pieces, so that each piece has a diamond shape. Baqlawa is a sweet dish made from many layers of phyllo pastry with an assortment of nuts and soaked in a sweet syrup. Ghuriyiba is a sweet biscuit made with sugar, flour and liberal quantities of butter, similar to shortbread. It can be topped with roasted almonds or black cardamom pods.

Dining customs vary throughout the country and between different religions. When invited to be a guest in an Egyptian household, it is polite for guests to bring a small gift to the host, such as flowers or chocolate, to show their appreciation for the meal. Before dinner, cocktails (usually nonalcoholic) are frequently served. This is a time for socializing and becoming acquainted. Mezze (salads and dips) would also be served at this time. When dinner is ready, usually between 9 P.M. and 10 P.M. , guests seat themselves and food is placed in the middle of the table. Bread will almost always accompany meals, which may include vegetables, rice dishes, soups and meat dishes. Following dinner, guests will move into another room and enjoy coffee or mint tea. Guests should always compliment the cook.

Although Ramadan is a month of fasting for Muslims in Egypt, it is usually a time when Egyptians pay a lot of attention to food variety and richness, since breaking the fast is a family affair, often with the entire extended families meeting at the table just after sunset. There are several special desserts that are served almost exclusively during Ramadan, such as kunafa and atayef. during the Ramadan month, many Egyptians prepare a special table for the poor or passers-by, usually in a tent in the street, called Ma’edet Rahman which literally translates to “Table of the Merciful”.  Observant Christians in Egypt adhere to fasting periods according to the Coptic calendar; these days may extend to more than two-thirds of the year for the most observant. The more secular Coptic population fasts only for Easter and Christmas. The Coptic diet for fasting is essentially vegan. During this fasting, only vegetables and legumes are eaten and all meat and dairy products are avoided.

Egyptian Recipes To Make At Home

Gebna Makleyah (Oven-Fried Cheese)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

1 cup firm feta cheese, crumbled or traditional Egyptian cheese, such as labna or gebna
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil
Lemon wedges and pita bread cut into triangles, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the cheese, flour, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well.
Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.
If the mixture seems too loose to hold the ball shape, add a little more flour.
If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit of lemon juice, vinegar or water.
Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil onto a cookie sheet to grease.
Arrange the cheese balls on the cookie sheet, rolling them around to coat thoroughly with the oil.
Bake 5 minutes.
Wearing an oven mitt, open the oven door and shake the cookie sheet to prevent the cheese balls from sticking, then turn them over.
Bake 5 more minutes, until golden brown.
Remove with a spatula and drain on absorbent paper.
Serve warm with lemon wedges and triangles of pita bread.

Ful Mudammas (Broad Beans in Sauce)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

2 cans (15-ounces each) cooked fava beans
6 cloves garlic, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup olive oil
1½ tablespoons parsley, minced
Garnish, such as radishes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped scallions, pita bread (toasted and cut into wedges)

Directions

Press the garlic cloves through a garlic press into a medium bowl.
Mash the garlic and salt together.
Next, add the lemon juice, olive oil and parsley to the garlic mixture and combine thoroughly.
Drain the beans well, rinse and put the beans into a large pot over low heat.
Add the garlic mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine thoroughly.
Serve warm with the garnishes arranged on a platter.
Each person is served a plateful of Ful Mudammas and adds the garnishes of his or her choice.

Koushari (Lentils, Macaroni, Rice, and Chickpeas)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

1 cup lentils
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 cup rice
1 can (15-ounces) chickpeas (also called ceci beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Sauce

1 cup canned tomato puree
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions
1 garlic clove, or to taste

Directions

To prepare the lentils:
Place the lentils in a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Place them in a large saucepan with 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt.
Heat until the water begins to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the lentils are tender. Drain and set the lentils aside.

To prepare the macaroni:
Fill the same saucepan with water (add salt). Heat until the water begins to boil.
Add the macaroni and boil about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the macaroni is tender. Drain and set the macaroni aside.

To prepare the rice:
Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same saucepan. Add the rice and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, thoroughly coating the rice with oil.
Add 2 cups of water and heat until the water begins to boil. Cover the saucepan and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

To assemble the koushari:
Drain the chickpeas and rinse them in a colander. Add chickpeas, lentil, and macaroni to the cooked rice and toss very gently with a fork.

To make the sauce:
Peel the onions and cut them in half lengthwise. Slice each half crosswise into thin slices.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon until the onions are golden brown.
Add garlic clove and cook 1 or 2 more minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and heat until bubbly.
Pour the sauce over the lentil mixture and heat over very low heat for about 5 minutes, until completely warm.
Serve with pita bread.

Khoshaf

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup dried prunes
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried small figs, halved
1½ cups raisins
1 cup sugar, or to taste
2½ cups boiling water
Nuts for garnish

Directions

Place all the fruits in a bowl and mix together gently.
Sprinkle the sugar on top of the dried fruits.
Carefully pour the boiling water into the bowl, cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight if possible. ( Khoshaf is best when allowed to marinate overnight or for several hours before serving.) Garnish with nuts and serve.

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Artist Pete Rumney

It has been very cold the past few weeks in most of the country, including the south. Warm casseroles and spicy dishes can warm you up but you don’t have to turn to macaroni and cheese for that to happen. Combining healthy foods with lots of flavor can do it for you. Try these recipes for a start.

Escarole and Italian Sausage Casserole

I save the ends of the parmesan cheese in a bag in the freezer and use them to flavor soups and stews.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 pound escarole, approximately 2 heads
6 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion
1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped
1 lb cheese and parsley Italian sausage (or regular Italian sausage), sliced into half-inch pieces
1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cooked cannellini beans
Parmesan cheese rind
Fresh black pepper

Directions

Remove the outer leaves of escarole if damaged or discolored. Cut off the stem ends, wash the leaves twice in abundant cold water and drain. Cut the leaves into two-inch lengths.

In a large Dutch Oven, sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil until golden but not brown. Add the escarole, salt and red pepper.

Cover and cook over moderate heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the escarole to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, onion, fennel bulb and sausage to the pan; cook until the sausage is browned, stirring frequently.

Add the broth, Parmesan rind, escarole and beans.

Cover; bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Beef Burgundy

Like other stews, Beef Burgundy, tastes best when made ahead so the flavors have time to mingle. Serve with noodles, rice, mashed potatoes or cauliflower mash.

Roasted carrots make a nice side dish.

Ingredients

1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt and black pepper
5 slices bacon, cut into thirds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour or arrowroot powder
1 (750-ml) bottle good dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 lb mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1-2 cups beef broth
2 cloves garlic head, crushed
2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

Directions

Heat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat until the bacon is lightly browned on both sides.

Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate. Break into smaller pieces.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the pan and melt.

In batches, in single layers, sear the beef in the hot pan for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.

Remove the seared cubes with a slotted spoon to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Add onions the garlic to the pan and saute for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour or arrowroot over the onions and stir until no dry flour remains. Whisk in the wine, tomato paste and anchovy paste until combined.

Add the bay leaves, mushrooms and thyme to the pan.

Add the beef and bacon and enough beef broth to come almost to the top of the beef.

Place the pan, uncovered, into the oven and cook until the meat is tender, 3 ½-4 hours, stirring occasionally and adding broth, if needed, to keep the meat half-submerged in liquid.

Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Huevos Rancheros

Just a note here that this recipe is my version and not an authentic Mexican Huevos recipe.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups jarred salsa
2 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
1 cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese
2 tortillas
1 teaspoon olive oil

Directions

Prepare the tortillas:

Heat the oven to 150° F. Place a pan large enough to fit the tortillas in the oven to heat.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high, coating the pan with the oil.

One by one heat the tortillas in the pan, a minute or two on each side, until they are heated through, softened and pockets of air bubble up inside of them.

Then, remove them to the pan in the oven to keep warm while you cook the sauce and the eggs.

Make the sauce:

Heat the oil in the same skillet and add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cook until tender. Add the salsa, tomatoes, chipotle and roasted red peppers.

Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Return the heat to medium, so that the sauce is bubbling slightly.

Crack 4 eggs into the sauce in the skillet, cover and cook for about 4 minutes until the egg are almost firm.

Uncover the pan and sprinkle each egg with 1/4 cup cheese. Cover the pan and cook for another minute to let the cheese melt and to finish cooking the eggs.

To serve:

Place a tortilla on a serving plate. With a large spoon place two eggs and half the sauce on top. Repeat with the second tortilla and eggs. Serve immediately.


 

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. This series continues with the country of Israel.

The Israeli cuisine has many influences and the traditional food, as with most parts of the Mediterranean, is based on plenty of vegetables and legumes. Tahini (chickpea- tahini dip), falafel (chickpea patties), eggplant dips and a variety of salads are always present on the table. Meat is often the main course but the servings are small and fruit is always served for dessert along with some phyllo based sweets.

Israeli cuisine has adopted, and continues to adapt, elements of various styles of Jewish cuisine, particularly the Mizrahi, Sephardic and Ashkenazi styles of cooking. It incorporates many foods traditionally eaten in the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries, such as falafel, hummus, couscous and za’atar. Other influences are the availability of foods common to the Mediterranean region, especially fruits and vegetables, dairy products and fish.

Geography has a large influence on the Israeli cuisine and foods common in the Mediterranean region, such as olives, wheat, chickpeas, dairy products, fish, fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini are prominent in Israeli cuisine. There are various climatic areas in Israel. Citrus trees such as orange, lemon and grapefruit thrive on the coastal plain. Figs, pomegranates and olives grow in the cooler hill areas. The subtropical climate near the Sea of Galilee and in the Jordan River Valley is suitable for mangoes, kiwis and bananas, while the temperate climate of the mountains of the Galilee and the Golan is suitable for grapes, apples and cherries.

Israeli eating customs also conform to the wider Mediterranean region, with lunch, rather than dinner, being the focal meal of a regular workday. “Kibbutz foods” have been adopted by many Israelis for their light evening meals as well as breakfasts, and may consist of various types of cheeses, both soft and hard, yogurt, labneh and sour cream, vegetables and salads, olives, hard-boiled eggs, omelets, pickled and smoked herring, a variety of breads and fresh orange juice and coffee.

In addition, Jewish holidays influence the cuisine, with the preparation of traditional foods at holiday times, such as various types of challah (braided bread) for Shabbat and Festivals, jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot) for Hanukkah, the hamantaschen pastry (oznei haman) for Purim, charoset, a type of fruit paste, for Passover and dairy foods for Shavuot. The Shabbat dinner, eaten on Friday, and to a lesser extent the Shabbat lunch, is a significant meal in Israeli homes, together with holiday meals.

Vegetable salads are eaten with most meals, including breakfast, which will usually include eggs, bread and dairy products such as yogurt or cottage cheese. For lunch and dinner, salad may be served as a side dish. Israeli salad is typically made with finely chopped tomatoes and cucumbers dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Variations include the addition of diced red or green bell peppers, grated carrot, finely shredded cabbage or lettuce, sliced radish, fennel, spring onions and chives, chopped parsley, or other herbs and spices such as mint, za’atar and sumac. Tabbouleh (sometimes considered a salad) is traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur and onion and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Some Israeli variations of the salad use pomegranate seeds instead of tomatoes.
Sabich salad may include eggplant, boiled eggs, tahini, potato and parsley.

Chili-based hot sauces are prominent in Israeli food and are made from green or red chili peppers. They are served with appetizers, falafel, casseroles and grilled meats and are often blended with hummus and tahini. Although originating primarily from North Africa and Yemenite immigrants, these hot sauces are now widely consumed in Israel.

Couscous, a type of pasta, was brought to Israel by Jews from North Africa. Couscous is used in salads, main courses and even some desserts. As a main course, chicken or lamb are served over couscous and braised vegetables flavored with saffron or turmeric are served on steamed couscous.

Fresh fish is readily available, caught off Israel’s coastal areas of the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Sea of Galilee or raised in ponds on fish farms in Israel. Fresh fish is served whole, in the Mediterranean style, grilled or fried, dressed only with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Chicken is the most widely eaten meat in Israel, followed by turkey. Chicken is prepared in a multitude of ways, from simple oven-roasted chicken to elaborate casseroles with rich sauces, such as date syrup, tomato sauce, etc. Examples include chicken casserole with couscous, inspired by Moroccan Jewish cooking, chicken with olives, a Mediterranean classic and chicken albondigas (meatballs) in tomato sauce, from Jerusalem Sephardic cuisine.

Israel is one of the world’s leading fresh citrus producers and exporters and more than forty types of fruit are grown in Israel, including oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and pomelit, a hybrid of a grapefruit and a pomelo, developed in Israel. Additional fruits grown in Israel include avocados, bananas, apples, cherries, plums, lychees, nectarines, grapes, dates, strawberries, prickly pear (tzabbar), persimmon, loquat (shesek) and pomegranates.

Pita bread is a double-layered flat or pocket bread traditional in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. It is baked plain, or with a topping of sesame or nigella seeds or za’atar, and is used in multiple ways. They are often stuffed with falafel, salads or various meats as a snack or fast food meal. Baklava is a nut-filled phyllo pastry sweetened with syrup and served at celebrations in Jewish communities. It is also often served in restaurants as dessert, along with small cups of Turkish coffee. Kadaif is a pastry made from long thin noodle threads filled with walnuts or pistachios and sweetened with syrup; it is served alongside baklava. Halva is a sweet, made from tahini and sugar, and is popular in Israel.

Israeli Cuisine

Israeli Falafel Balls

Makes about 40 falafel balls

Ingredients

1 lb chickpeas (dried, not cooked)
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
2 bunches of cilantro
1-2 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
Canola or corn oil for frying

Directions

Soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Drain.

Grind the chickpeas, onions, garlic and cilantro in a meat grinder. Add the chili, cumin, paprika, coriander, ginger, salt, flour and baking soda and mix well.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a frying pan to a medium heat.

Form 1” round balls using a special falafel tool (or simply using a spoon or wet hands) and fry until the falafel are golden brown and are cooked through.

Serve in a pita bread with tahini sauce and Israeli salad.

Israeli Salad

Ingredients

2 Kirby or 3 Persian cucumbers, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, veins removed, diced
10 grape tomatoes, quartered, or 1 beefsteak tomato, diced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh cilantro or additional parsley, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Combine cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, lemon juice, oil, parsley, salt and pepper in medium-sized salad bowl and mix well.

Chill for 1 hour.

Just before serving, garnish salad with fresh cilantro or parsley.

Braised Chicken and Vegetables

Ingredients

3 carrots
½ butternut squash
2 zucchini
1 large onion
2 celery stalks
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken drumsticks
2-3 tablespoons paprika
4 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt
Pepper
Water

Directions

Peel and roughly chop the vegetables.

Sauté the vegetables in the oil for a few minutes and then add the chicken, tomato paste and spices.

Add water until the chicken and vegetables are just covered.

Cover the pan and simmer for 1½ hours. Serve over couscous.

Israeli Tahini Cookies

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup tahini

Directions

Preheat oven to 355 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder together in a large bowl; add butter and tahini and mix until dough is crumbly.

Roll dough into small balls and press each ball into a flattened cookie shape using your palms. Arrange cookies in the prepared baking sheet and press with a fork.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake until cookies are golden, about 10 minutes.

Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


It is cold this week in the South- really cold. Here are a few of my warming recipes for the week.

Spicy Olive Tapenade

This recipe is a delicious side to a bowl of soup.

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons orange zest
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups kalamata olives, pitted
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
Crostini or crackers for serving

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor combine the tapenade ingredients and pulse until well combined. Place in a serving bowl.

Serve at room temperature over crostini or crackers.

Pasta Fagioli

Ingredients

6 oz small pasta
2 tablespoons olive Oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 28-oz container chopped or diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth or water
Two 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil herbs, cut into ribbons
Crushed red pepper and grated Parmesan for garnish

Directions

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain well, and set aside.

In a large Dutch Oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the onions, celery and carrots over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender.

Add the garlic, bay leaf and oregano. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth and cannellini beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Cover the pot with a lid but leave on a slant. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in the pasta and heat until warmed through. Stir in the fresh basil and remove from the heat.

Transfer to serving bowls and top with crushed red pepper and grated Parmesan cheese.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp

Ingredients

Shrimp

6 thin slices prosciutto
18 large shrimp (16-20 size), peeled and deveined (tail on or off)
Salt and pepper

Garlic Butter Sauce

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Pinch of salt and pepper
Whisk all ingredients together until combined.

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F.

On a cutting board, cut each slice of prosciutto into three long strips. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around the body of a piece of shrimp, and lay it seam-side-down on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining shrimp and prosciutto.

Brush with garlic butter sauce over onto all the sides of each shrimp. Season with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque and the prosciutto is slightly crispy. Brush with more garlic butter and serve.

Tuscan Kale and Rutabaga Mash

Tuscan kale goes by many names: lacinato kale, dinosaur kale, black-leaf kale and Tuscan kale. It is common in Tuscany, and in Italian it’s called cavolo nero (literally: “black cabbage”). It’s leaves are more tender and flavorful than other types, sweeter and less bitter.and easier to cook than curly leaf kale.
In Italy, rutabagas are often roasted with other vegetables and served with a balsamic dressing.

Tuscan Kale

1 bunch Tuscan kale, stems removed, washed and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt

Rutabaga

1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

To prepare the kale:

Place the chopped kale leaves in a deep skillet and heat, using just the water that remains on the leaves to provide moisture.

Cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain the leaves in a colander and add the garlic, salt and olive oil to the skillet. Toss the kale in the oil for 1-2 minutes and remove from the heat.

To prepare the rutabaga:

Put the rutabaga chunks in a large saucepan and cover with water.

Add 1 teaspoon of salt.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes or until very tender.

Drain and let them dry in a colander. Place them back in the pot and mash the rutabagas with the butter, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper.

Stir in the cooked kale.

Tender Meatloaf

Ingredients

1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb lean ground pork
2 cups prepared pasta sauce
2 tablespoons regular soy sauce
1 small onion, minced
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large eggs
1/2 cup very finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
2 slices partially cooked bacon, minced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

Put the mixture into a greased loaf pan. Smooth the top. (I use a meatloaf pan and the fat drips into the lower pan.)

Bake uncovered for 1 hour 30 minutes. Check the center with a meat thermometer. Cooked meatloaf temperature should be 160+.

Take the pan out of the oven and let the meatloaf rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.


 

Around the world, people eat certain foods thought to symbolize good fortune when the new year arrives. Here are a few recipes guaranteed to make you feel lucky.

Happy New Year.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Pork, thanks to its rich fat content, symbolizes wealth and prosperity.

12 servings

Dry Rub:

3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 (5 to 7 pound) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt

Mustard Barbecue Sauce:

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Mix the paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, dry mustard and salt together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 6 hours. An instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the pork should register at least 170 degrees F, but basically, what you want to do is to roast it until it falls apart.

While the pork is roasting, make the mustard sauce. Combine the vinegar, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, salt, cayenne and black pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring, for 30 minutes until the sauce is thickened slightly. Take it off the heat and let it sit until you’re ready for it.

When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and put it on a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 20 minutes. While the pork is still warm, you want to “pull” the meat. Use 2 forks: 1 to steady the meat and the other to “pull” shreds of meat off the roast. Put the shredded pork in a bowl and pour half of the sauce over. Stir well so that the pork is coated with the sauce.

To serve, spoon pulled pork mixture onto the bottom half of a hamburger bun and top with some of the mustard sauce.

Black-Eyed Peas

Legumes including beans, peas and lentils are symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked. In Italy, it is customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight. In the Southern United States, it is traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john.

Ingredients

4 cups shelled black-eyed peas
2 ounces bacon
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chicken broth, plus extra if needed
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions

Cook the bacon in a large saucepan. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel plate and reserve for later.

Add the onion and celery to the hot bacon fat and cook until tender. Add the peas and saute for a minute or two.

Add the thyme and 2 cups of chicken broth or just enough to cover the peas by about 1 inch. Add more if the peas are not covered.

Bring to a low boil and add the sugar and stir well.

Scoop off any foam that forms and discard it.

Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, let simmer for about 25 minutes.

Add the pepper and salt, stir well and continue to cook for 10 more minutes.

Taste the peas for tenderness, they should be tender after this amount of time but not mushy. Drain.

Top with the crumbled bacon and serve.

Southern Winter Greens 

Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money and are symbolic of an economic fortune.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens such as collards, mustard greens or kale
6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch sticks
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste
Salt and pepper

Directions

Discard stems and center ribs from the greens, then coarsely chop leaves.

Cook bacon in a wide 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off the fat from the pot and wipe clean.

Heat the butter in the pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in the greens, 1 handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding more. Add garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, uncovered, stirring, until the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in bacon, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Stuffed Flounder

The Chinese word for “fish” sounds like the word for “abundance,” one of the many reasons fish has become a go-to good luck food. In Germany, Poland and Scandinavia, it’s believed that eating herring at the stroke of midnight will ensure a year of bounty—as herring are in abundance throughout Western Europe. Also, their silvery color resembles that of coins, a good omen for future fortune.

Ingredients

1 lb flounder fillets
1 pkg (10 oz) fresh spinach or a 10 oz package frozen, thawed and drained
1/4 cup Feta cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
1/4 cup diced scallions
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season

Directions

Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and scallions and saute for a minute or two.

Add spinach to the pan and saute for about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the feta and Parmesan cheese. Season with black pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of each piece of fish.

Roll fish around stuffing. Place fish seam side down into an oiled baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil Sprinkle fish with oregano and paprika.

Bake at 400 degrees F uncovered for 30 minutes.

Fettuccine in Lemon Sauce

In China, Japan and other Asian countries, it’s customary to eat long noodles on New Year’s Day.because they signify. The noodles must not be broken or shortened during the cooking process.

Ingredients

1 pound fettuccine
1 clove garlic, grated
2 lemons (zest of 1 lemon, juice of 2 lemons)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Directions

Place the spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water and cook the spaghetti al dente.

Place the grated garlic in a warm pasta serving bowl. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil while whisking.

Whisk until the ingredients have emulsified and add the cheese. Drain the spaghetti and add to the serving bowl. Mix the pasta with the lemon sauce to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the pasta dish with fresh parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.


Sautéed Cabbage and Onions

I had half a head of savoy cabbage leftover from making the Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Leftover cabbage makes a great side dish. Cabbage sautéed this way is quite delicious.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
Half of a medium onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups shredded savoy cabbage
½ teaspoon paprika
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic to the pan.

Sauté until the cabbage is soft and somewhat creamy, stirring often while it cooks.

Add the paprika, salt and pepper. Toss to mix all ingredients together and coat the cabbage with seasonings. Serve.

Broccoli in Cheese Sauce

I had half a head of broccoli and about 1 cup of the cheese sauce left over from the Chicken Divan recipe. The recipe made a generous amount of sauce and I only uses half of the broccoli when I made that dish.

2 serving

Ingredients

Half a head of broccoli florets
1 cup leftover cheese sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the broccoli into a medium pot with salted water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, 5–6 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Pour the cheese sauce into the empty pot and heat on low. Add the drained broccoli and toss to coat, Serve when the broccoli is hot.

Texas Chili Stuffed Burritos

Instead of reheating the Texas Chili, I decide to use some of it in burritos for our dinner. The original recipe made quite a lot, so there was plenty leftover for the burritos.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 cup of leftover Texas Chili
½ cup cooked black beans
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 flour tortillas

Directions

Heat the chili and beans together. Lay a tortilla on a flat surface. Arrange half of the chili mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Top with 1/4 cup cheese.

Fold two sides of the burrito in, then fold the remaining two sides over to form a small packet. Please seam-side down on a plate.

Repeat with the remaining tortilla and filling. Place on a microwave plate and heat until warm. Serve with Guacamole and Sour Cream.


The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Syria. This series continues with the country of Lebanon.

Stretching along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon’s length is almost three times its width. As it stretches from north to south, the width of its terrain becomes narrower. Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate characterized by a long, semi-hot, and dry summer, and a cold, rainy and snowy winter.

The country’s role in the region was shaped by trade. Lebanon is named “the pearl of the middle east.” It serves as a link between the Mediterranean world and India and East Asia. The merchants of the region exported oil, grain, textiles, metalwork, and pottery through the port cities to Western markets.

Lebanon was heavily forested in ancient and medieval times, and its timber, especially cedar, was exported for building and shipbuilding. Although Lebanon’s diverse and abundant plant and animal life suffered a heavy toll during the country’s lengthy civil war, the post-civil war period was marked by the rise of fledgling environmental groups and movements that worked toward the creation of protected areas and parks in Lebanon’s ecological areas.

Lebanon has a heterogeneous society composed of numerous ethnic and religious groups. Ethnically, the Lebanese compose a mixture Phoenicians, Greeks, Armenians and Arabs.

Meat kebab, falafel, baba ghanoush, muhammara, hummus, sambusak, rice, tahini, kibbeh ,pita. Halal food. Lebanese cuisine.

The cuisine of Lebanon is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. It includes an abundance of grains, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten, it is usually lamb.

Many dishes in the Lebanese cuisine can be traced back thousands of years to eras of Roman and Phoenician rule. More recently, Lebanese cuisine was influenced by the different foreign civilizations that held power. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staples in the Lebanese diet, such as cooking with lamb. After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (1914–1918), France took control of Lebanon until 1943, when the country achieved its independence. The French introduced foods such as flan, a caramel custard dessert dating back to the 16th century AD, and croissants.

Most often foods are grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil and vegetables are often eaten raw, pickled, or cooked. Herbs and spices are used in large quantities. Like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons and what is available. In Lebanon, very rarely are drinks served without being accompanied by food. Similar to the tapas of Spain and aperitivo of Italy, mezze is an array of small dishes placed before the guests. Mezze may be as simple as raw or pickled vegetables, hummus, baba ghanouj and bread, or it may become an entire meal consisting of grilled marinated seafood, skewered meats, a variety of cooked and raw salads and an arrangement of desserts.

Salads may include tabbouleh, fattoush and kebbeh. Patties such as the Sambusac and stuffed grape leaves are often included. Family cuisine offers also a range of dishes, such as stews, which can be cooked in many forms depending on the ingredients used and are usually served with meat and rice vermicelli. Lebanese flat bread, called pita, is a staple at every Lebanese meal and can be used in place of a fork. Although simple fresh fruits are often served towards the end of a Lebanese meal, there are also desserts, such as baklava. Although baklava is the most internationally known dessert, there is a great variety of Lebanese desserts.

Lebanese Dishes To Make At Home

Pita Bread

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading/forming
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 cup and 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1⁄2 cup of warm water. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve the salt in 1 cup of warm water. Add the flour and turn the mixer on.

Slowly add the yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix until the dough combines (it will be sticky), about 2 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball and place on a lightly greased sheet pan. Coat lightly with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and knead for 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 (5 oz.) pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Cover the balls with plastic wrap, being careful not to let the plastic wrap stick to the balls (you can do this by placing coffee mugs or short glasses on the sheet pan). Let the balls proof for 15 minutes.

Lightly dust one piece of dough at a time on both sides with flour.

Push the dough out with your fingers in a circular motion to create a disk that is approximately 5″ in diameter and 1⁄2″ thick.

Using a lightly floured rolling-pin, roll the dough in a clockwise motion to get it to 7″ in diameter and 1⁄8″ thick.

Transfer the dough to an inverted lightly floured sheet pan. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 3 minutes.

Flip the bread over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven, transfer to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the bread and cover with a damp towel. Let the bread sit for 10 minutes, or until cooled.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

When ready to serve, lightly brush the pitas with the remaining olive oil and grill for 1-1 1⁄2 minutes on each side.

It should be warm but still pliable. Cut the bread into wedges and serve.

Labaneh

Thick, tart, and creamy yogurt-like cheese, is eaten with olive oil, pita bread and za’atar.

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 cups whole milk
1 cup plain yogurt
Kosher salt, to taste
Olive oil, for serving

Directions

Bring milk to a boil in a 4-quart nonreactive saucepan fitted with a deep-fry thermometer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool until the thermometer reads 118°F.

Transfer 1 cup of the milk to a bowl; whisk in yogurt until combined.

Add yogurt mixture to the saucepan and whisk until smooth; cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (ideally 70°F-75°F) until thickened, 6-8 hours.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth; set over a bowl. Transfer yogurt to the strainer; let drain at least 8 hours or overnight.

Transfer to a serving dish. Season with salt and drizzle with oil. Add olives and za’atar, if desired.

Spiced Chicken And Tomato Kebabs

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup plain yogurt
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons crushed saffron
1 teaspoon ground coriander
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 plum tomatoes, cored
Ground sumac, to garnish
2 limes, halved
Pita, for serving

Directions

Stir together the yogurt, juice, oil, zest, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron, coriander, garlic and onions in a large bowl; add chicken and toss to coat.

Chill for 4 hours.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, heat a gas grill to medium-high or a heat broiler to high.

Skewer chicken on 4 metal skewers and skewer tomatoes lengthwise on another skewer.

Grill chicken and tomatoes, turning often, until the tomatoes are soft and charred, about 7 minutes, and the chicken is cooked through and slightly charred, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle skewers with sumac; serve with limes and pita.

Garlicky Lentil Salad

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

1 cup green lentils, rinsed
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring lentils and 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan.

Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in an 8” skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until soft, 7–8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining oil, lemon juice, cumin and allspice. Pour the garlic mixture over the lentils.

Add parsley. mint and season the lentils with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve lentils at room temperature.



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