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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; 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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Grilled Beef Fajitas

6 servings

Ingredients

Marinade
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 boneless ribeye steaks, about 12-14 oz each

Fajitas
2 red sweet bell peppers, cut in half and seeded
1 whole red onion, peeled and sliced into three circles
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup prepared salsa, warmed
12 tortillas
Fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream
Guacamole and lime quarters, to serve on the side

Make the marinade:

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the garlic, salt, 2 tablespoons lime juice, jalapeno, cumin and olive oil.

Remove as much fat as possible from the steaks.

Add the steaks to the bag, seal and toss to coat well. Marinate and refrigerate early in the day.

Preheat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates. Remove the steaks from marinade; discard marinade.

Grill the steaks over medium-high heat 3 minutes per side for medium-rare; set aside on a plate and cover with foil.

Lower one side of the grill to medium-low. Spray the vegetables with olive oil cooking spray and cook bell peppers halves and onion slices about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables softened and have a few grill marks..

Wrap tortillas in foil; place on the back of the grill or the bun warmer to heat about 5 minutes before serving

Slice the steaks thinly across the grain. Slice the vegetables. Place in a serving bowl and mix with the warmed salsa. Add cilantro and mix well.

To assemble fajitas:

Spread tortillas with the steak and vegetable mixture, top with a little sour cream and serve with lime quarters and guacamole on the side.

Mexican Beans

The beans taste better if made the day before serving.

Ingredients

To cook the beans

! ½ cups orca beans (white and black colorings), washed
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

To finish the bean dish

½ cup finely diced onion
½ cup finely diced celery
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder

Directions

Place the beans in a medium-sized saucepan and cover with cold water by two inches high. Cover and soak overnight.

The next day, add the onion, garlic and salt to the soaking liquid and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 60 minutes or until tender.

Chill the beans overnight in the refrigerator in their cooking liquid.

The next day, drain the beans. Stir in the cilantro and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and chili powder. Saute until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the beans and heat. Serve as a side dish.

Creamy Coleslaw

Ingredients

1/2 of a whole cabbage (8 oz), sliced thin
2 tablespoons minced red onion
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions

In a large bowl combine the onion, sugar, salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, whipping cream, vinegar and lemon juice, using a whisk to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

Add the thinly sliced cabbage, stir gently to mix.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Mediterranean Swordfish Kabobs

6 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
½ teaspoon dried granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 1/2 lbs swordfish fillets, cut into one inch cubes
1 zucchini, cut into one inch circles
1 red bell pepper, cut into one inch squares

Directions

Zest the lemon and then juice it, reserving 2 tablespoons juice.

Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, lemon zest, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in a resealable plastic bag or a glass dish.

Add swordfish cubes, zucchini and bell pepper; toss to coat. Marinate at room temperature 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Prepare an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Thread the swordfish, zucchini and bell pepper on skewers, alternating them, with a little space between each piece. Brush the skewers with any remaining marinade.

Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes per side or until cooked to your taste. Slide the kabobs off the skewers onto a serving plate to serve.

Easy Cucumber Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

3 cucumbers, peeled
1/2 red onion, finely diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Ranch dressing

Directions

Cut the cucumbers into ½ inch thick circles and arrange in a serving dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the chopped red onion over the cucumbers. Drizzle your favorite ranch dressing over the cucumbers and onion.

Can be refrigerated for a short time or serve immediately.


 

To make really good tasting chicken soup, you need a rich tasting broth. I usually start with the remains of a whole 4 lb chicken that I have either cooked on the grill or in the oven. Remove as much meat as you can, reserve 2-3 cups for the soup and use the remainder of the chicken meat for other dishes. To make the broth even richer, roast the chicken bones in the oven.

Place an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven; preheat to 450°F. Spread the bones in a large roasting pan and place the pan in the oven on the lower rack and roast the bones until deeply brown, 45-60 minutes. Transfer the bones to a Dutch Oven or soup pot. Spoon the fat from the juices in the roasting pan and discard. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. When browned bits begin to sizzle, pour in 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour into the pot with the roasted bones.

Add the following:

2 scrubbed carrots, cut in half
1 onion quartered or 1 bunch of scallions
2 celery stalks, cut in thirds
1 large garlic clove, peeled
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 peppercorns
1 large bay leaf

Directions

Add these ingredients to the stockpot with the roasted bones and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours.

Remove and discard the large bones and vegetable pieces. Strain the stock in a fine mesh colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth.

Discard the vegetables and bones. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to the souppot.

You can add more seasoning later depending on how you will use the stock. You now have a clear, flavorful stock to make some great soups.

Below are recipes for some of my favorite chicken soups:

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 medium poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup celery, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup chopped orange or yellow bell pepper
1 cup sweet onion, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
8 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
14 oz container chopped tomatoes, no sugar or salt added
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
2 cups okra, trimmed and sliced into ½ inch rounds
3 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
Toasted tortilla strips (see recipe below) and cheddar cheese for garnish

Directions

Roast the poblano peppers over a grill or under the broiler. Cool and remove the skin. Chop and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch Oven and add the garlic, celery, onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper.

Cook over low heat until tender.

Add the chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir well. Add the chicken broth and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Add the green beans,okra, plum tomatoes and diced poblano peppers.

Lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the cooked chicken and heat.

Serve with toasted tortilla strips and cheddar cheese as a topping for the soup.

Baked Tortilla Strips

8 corn tortillas (6 inch)

Heat the oven to 450°F. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray. Cut each tortilla into thin strips; place in a single layer on cookie sheets. Bake about 6 minutes or until crisp but not brown; cool and use to add to the soup.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
7 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
6 cup homemade chicken broth, recipe above
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup cooked noodles, optional
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)

Directions

Add the oil to the soup pot and heat over low heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until softened.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and parsley.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more or until the carrots and celery are almost softened.

Add the broth and chicken mixture to the vegetables in the soup pot.

Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add cooked noodles, if using and extra cooked chicken, if desired.

Italian Escarole Bean Soup

Ingredients

½ yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 cups chicken broth, recipe above
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup diced, cooked spicy Italian sausage
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender.

Add the Italian seasoning, the drained cannellini beans and the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the sausage, salt and escarole.

Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese.

Tortellini Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
1 piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Remove stems and wilted leaves on the greens. Wash well in several changes of cold water and chop.

In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the water, broth, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese rind and salt and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until al dente, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the cooked tortellini.

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.


Fall vegetables are starting to appear in the markets – lots of different types of squash, beets, cauliflower and cabbage are typical at this time. Hot Dogs or Franks say fall and hot dogs can fit into a healthy diet, if you read the label to make sure you are getting the right type. Check for high sodium and sugar levels in the nutrient list. Ideally, one hot dog should have less than 100 calories, no more than 6 grams of fat (and no more than one-third of that as saturated fat), and no more than 300-400 grams of sodium.

I like to purchase Applegate Farms Uncured Organic Beef Hot Dogs. They contain beef, spices and that’s about it. These hot dogs are free of nitrates and have only 70 calories, 6 grams of fat and 330 mg of sodium. Yes, they taste good and yes, they taste like a hot dog. So when the hot dog craving happens choose wisely. I like to skip the bun and prefer the way they taste cooked in sauerkraut.

Cauliflower fritters are a great way to use up any leftover cauliflower. This recipe makes a delicious side dish.

Franks and Sauerkraut Saute

Serve with your favorite pumpernickel or rye bread.

2 servings

Ingredients

4 uncured (nitrate free), natural/organic all beef hot dogs
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped red or white onion
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

Directions

Heat a deep skillet with a cover over medium heat.

Melt the butter, add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and paprika, cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the sauerkraut and caraway, simmer, covered, 15 minutes.

Add the hot dogs and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes more.

Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Fritters

2-3 servings

Ingredients

2 cups cooked cauliflower florets
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup green onions or shallots, minced
3 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or almond flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil
Sour cream for serving

Directions

In a shallow mixing bowl mash or finely chop the cooked cauliflower. Squeeze out any moisture. Add egg, flour, cheese and spices.

Place a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Place four 1/4 cup fritter mixture in the pan and cook 3 minutes per side.

Don’t turn the fritters until the bottoms are well cooked. Drain on paper towels.

Repeat with the remaining fritters and add more oil if needed. Serve with a little sour cream on top of each fritter.

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

I make a big pot of these beans and freeze them in 1 to 2 cup containers, so they are handy for a quick meal. Of course, you can use canned beans but homemade tastes so much better.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

1 pound navy beans
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3 pieces thick bacon
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup Dijon country mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Rinse beans in a colander under water to remove any stones or impurities.

Place the rinsed beans in a large pot or bowl and fill with water to completely cover the beans.

Set aside, loosely covered, on the kitchen counter, overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Cook the bacon in an ovenproof Dutch Oven. When crisp, remove to a paper towel to cool and, then, cut into small pieces.

Drain the beans and place in the Dutch Oven with the onions and the garlic. Mix well.

Add all the remaining ingredients, including the chopped bacon and stir until all contents are well mixed.

Add enough water to cover the beans, about 3 cups, depending on the size of your pot.

Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook for 4-5 hours – stirring several times during the baking period.

Remove the lid after 3 hours and continue baking for the next hour – to allow the liquid to evaporate into a thick sauce.

Add the kosher salt. Taste the beans and add more salt, if needed.


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 and Greece. This series continues with the country of Turkey.

Turkish cuisine varies across the country. The cooking of Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir and the rest of the Aegean region inherits many elements of the Ottoman court cuisine, with a lighter use of spices, a preference for rice over bulgur, koftas and a wider availability of vegetable stews (türlü), eggplant, stuffed dolmas and fish. The cuisine of the Black Sea Region uses fish extensively, especially the Black Sea anchovy (hamsi) and includes maize dishes. The cuisine of the southeast (e.g. Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana) is famous for its variety of kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, şöbiyet, kadayıf and künefe. In the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees grow abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking.

The cuisine of Turkey’s Mediterranean regions are rich in vegetables, herbs and fish. Although meat-based foods such as kebabs are the mainstay in Turkish cuisine as presented in restaurants and literature, native Turkish daily meals, however, largely center around rice, vegetables and bread. Dolma, rice and meat stuffed vegetables, are frequently prepared throughout the country, most often with peppers, grape leaves or tomatoes. The eggplant is the country’s most beloved vegetable, with zucchini a popular second and then beans, artichokes, cabbage, usually prepared in olive oil. Pilav (pilaf), Turkish rice, is a common filling for dolmas, as well as a common side dish. Various grains are used to make pide (flat bread), simit (sesame rings) and börek, a flaky, layered pastry filled with meat or cheese that is often eaten for breakfast.

Frequently used ingredients in Turkish specialties include: lamb, beef, rice, fish, eggplant, green peppers, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, zucchini and tomatoes. Nuts, especially pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts, together with spices, have a special place in Turkish cuisine, and are used extensively in desserts or eaten separately. Semolina flour is used to make a cake called revani and irmik helvasi. Preferred spices and herbs include parsley, cumin, black pepper, paprika, mint, oregano, pul biber (red pepper), allspice, urfa biber and thyme. Olives are also common on various breakfast and meze tables. In Turkey ‘iftars’ (the breaking of fasts) are generally opened with date palms. “Beyaz peynir” and yogurt are part of many dishes at that meal, including börek, manti, kebab and cacik.

Turks enjoy three meals a day. Kahvalti (kah-vall-tuh), or breakfast, is generally a light meal consisting of fresh tomatoes, beyaz (salty cheese), black olives, bread with jam and honey and an occasional soft-boiled egg. Freshly baked bread and tea are almost always present. Sucuk (a spicy sausage) and pastirma (seasoned beef) are frequently prepared in the wintertime. Those in a hurry often stop at a street cart or büfe (food stand) to grab a quick börek , a flaky, mince or cheese filled pastry, or simit, a bread ring topped with sesame seeds. Muslims do not consume pork products, making bacon absent from most menus.

Öyle yemek (oy-leh yem-eck), or lunch, is traditionally a heartier (and warmer) meal than breakfast. Çorbalar, or soups, are served in a variety of ways, and most commonly include lentils and vegetables and meats. Larger lunch items include baked lamb or chicken served with peppers and eggplant, and fresh grilled fish with a side of lemon. Rice and bulgar pilaf dishes are also popular. Lahmacun (lah-mah-jun), Turkish pizza, is popular among children. It consists of a thin crust and a layer of spicy ground lamb and tomato sauce. Tost, a grilled cheese sandwich, is also popular.

Akam yemek (ak-sham yem-eck), or dinner, is the largest meal of the day. Mezeler (or mezze, singular), are “appetizers” served before the main meal. Most mezeler dishes are large enough to comprise an entire meal by themselves. Salads, soups, pilaf-stuffed fish and köfte (fried minced meatballs) can leave diners quite full. A meat dish accompanied by starchy vegetables (such as potatoes) typically follows. Seasonal fresh fruits or milky puddings are most often enjoyed for dessert.

Turks are extremely hospitable and enjoy company. They will welcome even unexpected guests with Turkish coffee. Meals are traditionally served on a large tray, placed on a low table or on the floor. The family and guests sit on cushions on the floor around the prepared foods. To avoid accidentally insulting the host, it is best to not refuse second or third helpings. It is also customary to remove one’s shoes at the door and offer a small gift to the host for their generosity.

Source: Food In Every Country

Make Some Turkish Recipes At Home

There is a metric conversion tool in the right hand column of this blog page, should you need it.

Εggplant Spread

This eggplant dish is usually served as a dip or spread with pita bread or vegetable sticks but can also be served as a side dish to any barbecue cookout.

Ingredients

3 large, round eggplants-aubergines
100 gr of olive oil
1 lemon
1 onion
Salt & white pepper
Parsley

Directions

Chop the onion and place in 1 cup of water.

Rinse and dry the aubergines and prick them with a fork.

Bake the aubergines in the oven (375 degrees F) or on a charcoal grill for about an hour.

Remove from the heat and cool

Peel off the skin, remove the seeds, cut them in long slices and lay on a cutting board.

Mash them with a wooden spoon or a pestle.

Drain the onion well. Put the aubergines in a bowl add the onion, the salt, pepper and blend by hand or in a processor.

Add lemon and oil and whisk the mixture well.

Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley.

Turkish Grandma’s Wheat Soup

(Buğday Çorbasi)

Ingredients

1 ½ cups shelled whole wheat kernels
4 cups of yogurt
6 cups of chicken broth or stock
1 egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
Mint leaves
Aleppo pepper
Salt

Directions

Soak the wheat overnight in water. Drain well.

Place the yogurt in a sieve lined with cheesecloth and let the excess liquid drain out for a minimum of 5 to 6 hours, or overnight if possible.

Place the wheat in a large pot with the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and strain the soup. If desired, puree in food processor.

Place the strained yogurt in a small pan with the egg and flour over medium heat, constantly mixing well. This will help prevent curdling.

If the mixture is too thick you can add ¼ cup of water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture bubbles.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk it into the wheat mixture, cooking over low heat and adding more chicken broth or water if the soup is too thick.

Stir in salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

In a small skillet melt the butter and when it is hot and sizzles turn the heat off and quickly add a handful of mint leaves and Aleppo pepper to taste, mixing well. Pour in circles on top of the soup.

Mini Kebabs

Ingredients

For the kebabs
½ kg lean ground beef or lamb, minced
2 thick slices of day old bread
2 tablespoons tahini
½ clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
12 wooden skewers, soaked in water
Olive oil

For the yogurt dip
250 ml. Greek yogurt, 2% fat
1 tablespoon mint, fresh (chopped) or dried
½ teaspoon cumin
Salt, pepper

For serving
Chopped parsley
Chopped tomatoes
Mini pita breads

Directions

Soak the bread in water until completely soft.

Drain well and knead in the beef together with all the remaining kebab ingredients until you have a homogeneous mix.

Season well according to taste.

Take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and form oblong sausage-shaped kebabs. Thread these onto the soaked wooden skewers.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to firm up.

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grates.

Brush the kebabs with olive oil, place them on the grill for 20 minutes turning frequently, until golden.

To make the yogurt dip, combine all the ingredients and season well.

Serve 2 kebabs per person, on warm pita bread topped with parsley and chopped tomatoes with the dip on the side.

Chickpea and Couscous Croquettes

Ingredients

300 gr boiled chickpeas
125 gr couscous, soaked for 20 minutes in hot water, squeezed
3 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
3 onions, cut into thick slices
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mustard
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch parsley
4 tablespoons olive oil
Rosemary, thyme

Directions

Put the couscous, chickpeas, onion, tomato, wine, soy sauce, mustard, garlic, parsley and olive oil into the food processor.

Add rosemary, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Blend the mixture. Leave in the refrigerator for at least one hour to thicken.

Shape the mixture into medium-sized round croquettes and fry them in hot oil until golden brown. Drain.

Serve with a yogurt sauce:

Mix 1 cup strained yogurt with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 finely chopped tomato, 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, 1 grated garlic clove and 1 pinch each cumin and coriander powder.

Seker Pare

These traditional Turkish cookies are called seker pare which means sweet bits in Turkish.

Ingredients

300 gr flour
180 gr semolina
240 gr butter, melted
170 gr icing sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
45-50 almonds, blanched
750 gr sugar
600 ml water
½ tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 347F/175C.

Prepare the syrup. Boil the water, sugar and lemon juice for 10 minutes; allow to cool.

Break the eggs into a glass bowl, add the icing sugar and blend with a hand-held mixer for 3 – 5 minutes.

Add the melted butter, baking powder and salt and continue to mix for a further 5 minutes.

Finally, add the flour and semolina and knead until the dough becomes smooth and uniform.

Break off a piece of dough (walnut sized), roll into a ball, press the top lightly between the palms of the hands and place on a greased baking pan. Do the same with the rest of the dough.

Insert an almond into the center of each ball. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes.

When ready, remove the cookies from the oven and pour the cold syrup over.

Leave them in the syrup for 1 hour before serving.


Making a BBQ dinner for friends is a great way to entertain, especially if the weather cooperates. I enjoy having guests for dinner and I usually plan my menu with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. That way I am able to spend time with friends rather than doing a lot of food preparations while they are visiting.

You may have noticed that more and more of your friends are following different diets. Some are only eating low carb foods, others are on a Paleo diet, some are diabetic, others vegetarian and some vegan. It is a good idea to check with your friends to see what they can eat. I am always open to planning variations of what I am making to accommodate their diets. In this case a few friends are following a vegan diet, so instead of 8 beef burgers, four are beef and four are made from oats and beans. These vegan burgers are great on the grill, hold up perfectly and do not fall apart. Just be sure your grill is well oiled.  The rest of the menu works for everyone.

Beef Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

20 oz (1 ¼ lbs grass-fed organic ground steak for burgers
Steak seasoning (I like Penzey’s Chicago seasoning)
1 large sweet onion, cut into 4 ½ inch thick slices
Olive oil cooking spray
4 wheat burger buns

Directions

Shape the meat into four equal patties, about 5 oz each.

Sprinkle the steak seasoning on both sides of the patties and spray each with olive oil cooking spray.

Coat the onion slices on both sides with cooking spray

Heat an outdoor grill on high. Oil the grill grates. Place the burgers on the grill, cover, cook turning once, for a total of 8 minutes.

Place the onion slices on the grill and cook until grill marks form on the bottom, turn them over with a wide spatula and cook the second side for a total of about 4 minutes.

Toast the rolls at the same time. Place the burgers on the bottom half of the rolls and top with a grilled onion slice.

Serve with ketchup and your favorite burger condiments.

Vegan Bean and Oat Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 sweet onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup dry pinto beans
1/4 cup dry red or black beans
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for grilling

For Serving
Grilled Onion slices
4 wheat burger buns
Ketchup or other condiments

Directions

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover and cook the next day for 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place the oats in the bowl of the processor and process until finely ground.

Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Remove the mixture from the processor and shape into four patties. Cover with plastic wrap.

Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before grilling.

Brush the patties with olive oil and place on an oiled grill.

Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place on toasted buns and add a grilled onion slice. Serve with ketchup or other condiments.

Whole-Wheat Burger Buns

6 buns

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flours, yeast, salt, wheat gluten and baking soda.

Add the warm water, honey and oil. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together around the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low until the dough is smooth but slightly sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat all over with oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has risen.

Punch down the dough and divide into 6 smooth balls

Place the buns on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet, a few inches apart or in a greased burger baking pan.

Flatten the tops slightly with your fingers, and let the buns rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the buns in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove to a rack and allow the buns to cool.

Zucchini Fennel Salad

Ingredients

Salad
1 large zucchini, sliced very thin
Half red onion, sliced very thin
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
12 Italian green olives, pitted and chopped

Dressing
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

In a large serving bowl, combine the zucchini, onion, olives and fennel.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well.

Pour over the zucchini mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours until chilled before serving.

Peach Crisp

Ingredients

Filling
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 8 medium peaches)
2-3 tablespoons agave nectar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches

Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 – 1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the fruit and the agave nectar. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8×8-inch baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Stir the oil into the topping mix with a fork until you get a crumbly mixture forms.

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the fruit in the baking pan.

Bake for 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden.

 


Eating a healthy lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources. Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters, if you leave out the processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.
When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. When you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.

Falafel Sandwich with Tomato Gazpacho

Patties
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, low-sodium, drained and rinsed or 2 cups homemade dried beans
1/4 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup parsley leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
Olive oil for the pan
Olive oil cooking spray

Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup pure tahini paste (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons warm water, plus more if necessary
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Large pinch cumin
Large pinch cayenne pepper

Sandwich
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
4 whole-wheat pita pocket breads, sliced open

Directions

Combine all falafel patty ingredients, except the parsley, in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 10 seconds.

Stop motor and scrape down sides of bowl, then pulse for another 10 seconds, until all ingredients are well incorporated but the mixture is slightly coarse. Stir in the chopped parsley

Refrigerate the mixture in a covered bowl for a few hours before making the patties.

For the tahini sauce:

Whisk all of the tahini sauce ingredients together until smooth in a serving bowl. Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Pour a little olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and spread it to cover the pan. Place the pan in the oven while the oven is preheating.

Form mixture into 8 or 9 balls and flatten into patties.

Place the patties on the hot pan and spray the tops with a little olive oil cooking spray.

Bake the patties for 10 minutes, turn the patties over and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until they are crisp and browned.

Wrap the pita breads in foil and heat them in the oven for 5 minutes while the patties are baking.

Fill each pita with some of the lettuce, falafel patties and tahini sauce.

Tomato Gazpacho

2 servings

Ingredients

3 large ripe plum tomatoes, seeds removed
2 scallions, trimmed
1 celery stalk, trimmed
Half a green bell pepper, seeds removed
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon agave syrup
Celery and cucumber sticks for garnish

Directions

Chop all the vegetables and place in a processor or blender and process until smooth.

Pour into a covered container and chill. Serve in 8 oz glasses and garnish with stalks of celery and cucumber.

Asparagus Quiche with Heirloom Tomato Salad

8 servings

Ingredients

1 refrigerated pie crust for a 9 inch pie, at room temperature
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 bunch scallions (green onions). trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 eggs
1/2 cup half & half (milk/cream)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Line a baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spread the asparagus and scallions on the baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Roast until the vegetables until tender, about 12 minutes. Cool and cut into one-inch pieces.

Lower the oven temperature to 350°F.

Place the pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Place the pie pan on a clean baking sheet.

Arrange the roasted asparagus and scallions over the bottom of the crust.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chives, Dijon mustard, eggs, half & half, a large pinch salt and a large pinch black pepper.

Whisk together until well combined.

Pour over the vegetables and top with the cheese.

Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Heirloom Tomato Salad 

Ingredients

1 pint miniature heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, grated
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
2-3 tablespoons Italian Vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, vinaigrette, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Mix and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Serve over butter lettuce, if desired.

Mediterranean Style Pasta Salad

Ingredients

1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and very thinly sliced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
6 scallions, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 cup finely diced feta cheese
½ lb small cooked shrimp, optional
Salt and pepper
1 lb short pasta

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the shrimp, pasta and the salt in a large bowl. Toss and let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Carefully scoop the pasta out of the pot with a large spider or slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the vegetables.

Add the shrimp, if using, salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

If made ahead, refrigerate covered overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

 



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