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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Bread

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.

 

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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.

 


Breakfast breads are comforting but they can be unhealthy. Keep them healthy by adding whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruit. A Healthy Doughnut? Healthy doughnuts do exist. These baked ones are the way to go to reduce the fat and calories. Don’t be put off by the fact that some of the treats are made with whole wheat flour. It adds great flavor, not density. Try baking with different grains and you will be rewarded with some great tasting breads.

Apple Flavored Baked Doughnuts With Maple Glaze

Makes 10

Doughnuts

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup apple butter
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Glaze

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugars, applesauce, apple butter, orange juice, vanilla, apple pie spice, salt and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill 10 of the wells of the doughnut pans to the rim; using a scant 1/3 cup of batter in each well.

If you have a little dough left add a little to each of the doughnuts.

Bake the doughnuts for 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

After about 5 minutes, remove the donuts from the pan and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze:

Mix together all of the glaze ingredients, stirring until smooth.

Place waxed paper under the racks holding the donuts.

Spread the doughnuts with glaze (or dip tops in the glaze); return to the rack until the glaze is set.

Pecan Banana Bread

Make 1 loaf. the recipe can be doubled to make 2 loaves.

Ingredients

1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
4 medium-size very ripe bananas, mashed (2 cups)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable cooking spray

Directions

Place the pecans in a single layer in a jelly roll pan and bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.

Combine brown sugar, melted butter, bananas and egg in a small bowl; add to the flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the pecans.

Pour mixture into a 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350°F for 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the bread comes out clean.

Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan, and cool on wire rack 2 hours or until completely cool.

Serve with cream cheese, if desired.

Barley Bread

Barley flakes are similar to oats and one of the oldest whole grains. Although barley may not be as popular as other whole grains like oats, wheat, or even the current favorite, quinoa, that makes it one of the best whole grain choices. The technique used below for helping the bread retain its shape during rising, works very well. Serve with homemade jam for breakfast or use it to make a sandwich, especially turkey.

Makes 1 boule

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
½ cup barley flakes
2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast (1 package)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 – 2¼ cups bread flour
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ, plus extra for the top of the bread
1/2 cup barley flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Olive oil for the dough

Directions

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, soak the barley flakes in the buttermilk for at least 30 minutes.

Put the olive oil, honey and baking soda into the bowl with the buttermilk and barley flakes ; stir well to combine.

Stir in 2 cups of bread flour, the yeast, salt, barley flour, wheat gluten, all-purpose flour and wheat germ.

With the paddle attachment mix the ingredients until they come together around the paddle. If the dough is very sticky, add the remaining bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for five minutes, then let it rest for ten minutes.

Knead for another 5 minutes, or until the dough is supple and elastic. Drizzle the dough with a teaspoon of olive oil, roll the dough over to coat it entirely with oil.

Cover with a damp tea towel and allow it to rise until doubled, about an hour and a half.

Shape the dough into a flat ball to create a “boule”.

To keep it from spreading out as it rises, set the ball inside a 9 inch springform pan, on a piece of parchment, for the second rise.

Brush the shaped dough with some more olive oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is hot and the dough has completed its second rise, brush the dough with a bit more olive oil.

Remove the springform ring and slide a baking sheet under the parchment.

Slash the top of the loaf in diagonal cuts that are about ¼ inch deep and sprinkle the top with a little wheat germ.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped and registers 200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Allow the loaf to sit for at least an hour before slicing.


Mediterranean ingredients and flavors are abundant in this dinner. Fish, beans and bread all healthy foods prepared with olive oil and healthy cooking methods. Seasoning is important in making recipes that taste good. Fennel, rosemary, parsley, sage, garlic, preserved lemon and olives all contribute to making these foods taste so good. Don’t leave any of them out and definitely try the bean recipe – it is delicious.

Mediterranean Grilled Salmon

Prepare the bean recipe first and keep warm while you grill the salmon.

Ingredients

1/4 of a preserved lemon, pulp discarded and peel minced
1 scallion, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 center-cut salmon fillets with skin
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 large green olives, such as Cerignola

Directions

In a bowl, mix the preserved lemon with the scallion, parsley and 1 tablespoon each of the oil and lemon juice.

Using a sharp knife, make several 1-inch-deep slits in the salmon skin. Rub the preserved lemon mixture on all sides of the salmon. Place in a covered dish and allow to marinate several hours.

Remove the fish from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before grilling. Rub the remaining oil all over the salmon, then drizzle the fish with the remaining lemon juice; season with salt and white pepper.

Light an outdoor grill and oil the grates very well so the fish does not stick.

Grill the salmon, skin side down, over moderate heat until the skin is lightly charred and crisp, 5 minutes.

Turn the salmon and grill until just cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

Place the fish over the prepared cannellini beans and garnish with chopped parsley. Scatter the olives over the fish.

Cannellini Beans

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
8 fresh sage leaves
1 small bulb fennel, halved, cored and thinly sliced, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted cut in half if large
2 cups cooked cannellini beans, canned or homemade and drained
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes

Directions

Combine the onion, garlic, sage, fennel, celery and oil in a deep, wide skillet.

Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the onion and fennel start to soften.

Add the artichoke hearts, the beans, broth and salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper chili flakes. Keep warm.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

Ingredients

Dough

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey

Topping

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1 large garlic clove minced
2 tablespoons large crystal cut sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients in an electric mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together in a ball around the paddle.

Knead with the dough the hook attachment for 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and coat the exterior with a bit of olive oil and place in a large bowl, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel. The dough should rest for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Use a non-stick vegetable oil spray to lightly grease a large baking dish 10″ x 15″. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on top of the spray. The olive oil is used for flavor in focaccia.

Gently pull and shape the dough to fit into the bottom of the pan. Don’t pat all the way to the edges of the pan; leave a little room around the perimeter for the dough to expand.

Cover the pan and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Using your fingers poke dimples into the dough, pressing down firmly; your fingers should reach the bottom of the pan without actually breaking through the dough.

Re-cover the dough, and let it rise until it’s noticeably puffy, about 1 hour. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Drizzle the top of the dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, garlic, black pepper and coarse sea salt.

Place the pan of focaccia onto a middle oven rack and spritz lightly with water. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 degrees F.

Bake the focaccia until it’s light golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the focaccia from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a rack.

Focaccia is delicious hot from the oven or warm and it is best the same day it’s made. But leftovers can be successfully reheated, either as slices in the toaster or in a 350°F oven, just until warmed through.

 


Growing up in an Italian American family, every Sunday meant pasta was on the menu. My grandmother and mother could come up with an infinite amount of pasta recipes to keep us from getting bored. The smells were incredible. It is easy to keep the tradition alive, if you can keep the process simple. Which is what I have done with my Sunday dinner recipe for pasta. I hope you enjoy it.

Tomato Sausage Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

1/2 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 (26-oz) container Pomi chopped tomatoes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed hot red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 fresh basil leaves, torn into bits

Pasta

1 lb spaghetti twists or other short pasta
1 cup ricotta cheese, warmed in the microwave
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Brown the sausage on all sides and remove to a plate to cool. Then cut into ¼ inch slices.

Add the garlic and red-pepper flakes to the skillet, stir for a minute. Add tomatoes, sliced sausage and salt and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil leaves.

For the pasta:

Cook the pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of well salted boiling water, uncovered, until al dente, then drain in a colander.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the sausage sauce. Cook for a minute.

Pour pasta into a large serving bowl, dollop with tablespoons of the warmed ricotta with and serve with the grated cheese.

Notes:

The sauce can be made ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered, up to 5 days or frozen in an airtight container for 2 months.

You can also turn this dish into a baked pasta casserole:

Add 8 oz cubed mozzarella cheese to the ricotta.

Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add 1 cup of the sausage sauce and toss to coat with the pasta.

Spoon the pasta into an oiled 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the pasta and dollop large spoonfuls of the ricotta-mozzarella mixture on top.

Gently fold some of the ricotta mixture into the pasta; don’t overmix—you should still have pockets of ricotta.

Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the pasta for about 45 minutes, or until bubbling and golden on top.

Let rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Italian Garden Salad

Ingredients

1 head of Romaine Lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup Italian Olives

Italian Salad Dressing

Seasoning mix:

1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt

Dressing

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oi
2 tablespoons seasoning mix

Directions

For the salad dressing:

Combine the ingredients for the seasoning mix in a small jar.

In a mixing bowl whisk the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix together. Whisk in the olive oil.

Combine the green salad ingredients together in a salad bowl Add some of the dressing and mix well.

Taste the salad to see if if needs more dressing or salt and pepper. Reserve any leftover seasoning mix and dressing for another salad.

Sourdough Ciabatta

2 large loaves

Ingredients

2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour

Directions

Mix the yeast with the flour.

In an electric mixer bowl combine the milk, olive oil and salt with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour, a cup at a time, until you have a dough the consistency of drop-cookie batter.

Switch to the dough hook and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and satiny.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise, undisturbed, about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and turn it onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough gently and divide it into two pieces.

Form the loaves into torpedo shapes, and place each loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet. With a serrated knife, make three slashes in the tops of the loaves, each 1/2-inch deep.

Cover with a damp towel.

Let the loaves rise until they look puffy. This should take approximately 30 minutes. While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Brush or spray the loaves with water; a plant mister is good for this job. Bake for 10 minutes, spraying the loaves with water two more times.
Lower the oven to 375°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes.


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

Plagia, Ikaria Island, North-Eastern Aegean Islands

Before it became known as a “Blue Zone”—a region of the world where people tend to live unusually long and healthy lives—the island of Ikaria, Greece, was unknown to most Americans. Ikaria is where the majority of the people live to be well into their 90’s.

In the past few years, Ikaria has received considerable attention from scientists and journalists who want to learn the secrets of its long-living residents. Food clearly plays a large role in the Ikarians’ longevity: The Mediterranean diet they follow has been linked to lower rates of cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and—most recently—heart disease. Although, we, Americans, can’t adopt all aspects of the Greek-island lifestyle, we can incorporate some of the eating patterns and dietary traditions practiced there. And, the best part of “eating like a Greek” is  that the food is delicious.

Ikarians regularly dine on potatoes, greens, olives and seasonal vegetables. Vegetables are a big part of every meal and they are prepared in a healthy way—served raw in a salad or roasted with olive oil, rather than fried.

The majority of people in Greece eat a salad as an appetizer before the main course. This way, their appetite is significantly reduced by healthy ingredients.

Shellfish and fish are abundant in their cuisine, all of which tastes great over pasta with lemon and olive oil or in a souvlaki-style flatbread wrap with vegetables. Ikarians also eat smarter snacks—like raw vegetables and protein-rich dips made from Greek yogurt, beans or lentils.

Ikarians typically have a late morning breakfast comprised of goat’s milk, yogurt and or cheese, fruit, herbal tea or coffee, whole grain bread and local honey. At lunch, salads made of beans, legumes and potatoes, along with cooked fresh garden vegetables are standard fare and prepared with generous amounts of olive oil. Locally-caught fish may also be served and Ikarian red wine typically accompanies the meal. Meat is eaten just a few times per month. Ikarians eat a late lunch and it is usually followed by an afternoon nap, a practice that many Ikarians still follow and which results in a restful and stress free rest of the day. Quiet leisurely late afternoons and a heart-healthy routine greatly reduces the risk for heart disease. A light dinner of bread, olives, vegetables and wine is followed by evening visits with neighbors before bedtime.

Ikaria is the Mediterranean Diet in all its aspects, including the ways in which locally produced fresh, seasonal, home-cooked food and community are all integrated in ways that support physical, emotional/ mental health, relationships and the environment.

“Eat Like a Greek”

Greek Lentil Soup

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Servings: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 large red onions, coarsely chopped, about 2 cups (500 mL)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound (500 g) small brown lentils
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped or pureed tomatoes
  • 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 fresh or dried whole chile pepper or crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) red wine vinegar
  • Raw red or white onion for serving

Directions

Coarsely chop one of the onions. Place in a large, heavy pot, sprinkle with a little salt and cook, covered, over very low heat until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir.

Rinse the lentils in a colander. Add the lentils, tomatoes, sage, oregano, bay leaf and chile pepper to the pot, and toss all together for a few minutes over low heat.

Pour in enough water to cover the contents of the pot by 3 inches. Raise heat to medium, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for one hour, or until very tender.

Season to taste with salt. Pour in the olive oil and vinegar just before serving.

To serve: Remove the bay leaf, oregano and sage leaves and discard. Slice the remaining onion. Sprinkle a few onion slices over the top of each soup portion. Drizzle in additional olive oil and vinegar if desired.

Briam – Baked Vegetables in Olive Oil (Island of Ikaria-Greece)

FOODS OF CRETE COOKBOOK, recipe and photo by Chef Bill Bradley, R.D.

Briam is an oven baked dish of fresh vegetables, herbs, olive oil, and an optional feta cheese. It is one of the most classic dishes of Greece.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 small or 1 large eggplant, cut into large, thick strips
  • 4 small or 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 3-4 small zucchini, ends cut off and cut into large pieces
  • 2 onions, cut in half
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces
  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into large pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch dill, stems removed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large Dutch oven or baking dish, mix together all the ingredients except the feta cheese. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for 1 hour and stir. Re-cover and bake for another hour. Remove the baking dish from the oven, stir in the feta cheese and serve immediately.

Rosemary and Olive Focaccia

FOODS OF CRETE COOKBOOK, recipe and photo by Koula Barydakis

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2/3 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh rosemary, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix flour, yeast, oregano, sugar, salt, olive oil and water in a bowl. Knead until the dough is soft (at least 5 minutes).

Cover with a warm, moist towel and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour).

Spread dough on a baking (cookie) tray, pressing lightly so that it is flat and even.

Oil the dough. Make little cavities throughout the top of the dough by pressing down with your fingers.

Place olives and rosemary in the cavities.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. Serve hot.

Chicken Salad Greek Style

Recipe and photo from GAEA.

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bite-sized broccoli florets
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 1 orange, segmented
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives

Directions

Using a rolling pin, glass jar or mallet, pound and flatten the chicken breasts to an even thickness. Season all sides with salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once heated, sauté the chicken breasts until golden brown, about 1 minute each side.

Reduce heat to low and cover for 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the chicken rest, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

Slice thinly.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and cook until slightly softened, about 1 minute.

Place the fennel, oranges, cherry tomatoes and avocado to a large salad bowl.

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken slices to the salad bowl. Drizzle dressing on top and gently toss all of the ingredients together. Serve.

Baked Seafood Orzo with Kalamata Olives

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Serves 6

Orzo is one of the most popular Greek pasta shapes. In Greek, it’s called kritharaki.

Directions

  • Salt
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes (good quality canned are also fine)
  • Pinch of hot sauce or hot pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine, plus one cup if using whole, unshelled mussels
  • 2/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 pounds mussels in their shell, or 2 ½ cups shelled, frozen mussels, defrosted
  • 2 cups cleaned, shelled small fresh or frozen and defrosted shrimp
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 chop chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F / 175C.

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. Add the orzo and simmer until al dente. It should be a little underdone.

Drain, transfer back to the hot pot and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

While the orzo is boiling start the sauce:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, wide pot or deep skillet and cook the onion over medium heat until wilted and translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add 3 of the 4 chopped garlic cloves and stir.

Pour in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add the wine. Simmer until the alcohol has cooked off.

Add 1 cup of hot water, the star anise and hot sauce or hot pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the sauce over medium heat for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add the olives to the sauce five minutes before removing the pan from the heat.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the seafood:

If using mussels in the shell, make sure they are cleaned and well-washed.

Steam them in two inches of wine in a wide pot with the lid closed, over high heat, until they open.

You can add herbs or garlic if you want to the steaming liquid, before adding the mussels.

Remove and strain in a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pot and add the shrimp and remaining garlic.

If you are using shelled mussels that have been defrosted, drain them and add them to the shrimp.

Stir over medium heat until the shrimp start to turn pink. Remove.

Toss the mussels and shrimp, the reserved steaming liquid, and the pan juices from lightly sautéeing the shrimp into the tomato sauce.

Stir in the oregano and parsley. Remove the star anise.

Oil a large baking dish, preferably ovenproof glass or ceramic. Place the orzo in the baking dish and mix in the sauce thoroughly.

Pour in any remaining olive oil.

Bake, covered, for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the orzo is fully cooked. Remove, cool slightly and serve.

Tahini-Walnut Phyllo Flutes

Recipe and photo by Chef Diane Kochilas

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 2 cups tahini
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups water
  • 3 cups finely ground walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 pound phyllo dough, thawed and at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • Greek honey for serving

Directions

Whip together the tahini and sugar at high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until creamy, about 5 minutes.

As you whip the mixture, drizzle in the water. It should end up being the consistency of peanut butter.

Using a wooden spoon or whisk, stir in the cinnamon and walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 350F/170C. Lightly oil two sheet pans.

Open the phyllo and place horizontally in front of you.

Cut three stacks of three-inch strips and keep them covered with a kitchen towel and a damp towel on top.

Take the first strip, oil lightly. Place a second strip on top and oil that, too.

Place a tablespoon of the filling on the bottom center of the strip, fold in the sides, and then roll up to form a tight cylinder.

Place seam-side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until everything is used up.

Bake the flutes for 8 – 12 minutes, until golden. Remove and cool slightly.

To serve: Drizzle with honey.

You can store the cooled pastries in tins in a cool dry place for up to 5 days.


Eggplant are at their very best now. Take advantage of their availability and you will make some very rewarding and tasty recipes. Buying eggplant in season, picked young, means they will not be bitter, nor will they need to be salted before cooking them. Chubby purple eggplant are not the only kind of eggplant available. My CSA grew three different types this summer: regular purple globe eggplant, Rosa Bianca, an heirloom eggplant from Sicily and white eggplant. All delicious. Here are some recipes I made with my share.

Baba Ghanoush with Pita

Ingredients

2-3 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup lemon juice, more if desired
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Kosher salt

Directions

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat and place the eggplants directly on the grill.

Cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until tender and charred on all sides, about 15-20 minutes.

The eggplants should be very tender.

Test the eggplants by sticking a skewer near the stem and bottom ends. If the skewer meets resistance, continue cooking.

When they are done, wrap the eggplants in foil and crimp the top to seal. Let the eggplants rest for 15 minutes.

Open the foil package, using a sharp knife slit open the eggplants and with a large spoon scoop out the soft flesh.

Transfer to a strainer set in a large bowl. Pick out any bits of skin and blackened flesh.

To roast in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Pierce the eggplants with a fork in several place. Place on an oiled baking pan and roast until soft all over, about 20 minutes.

Follow directions as above.

Put the eggplant in a food processor, add the garlic, lemon juice and pulse until it is smooth and creamy.

Add the tahini and pulse again until it’s combined. With the processor turned-on, slowly add the olive oil in a thin steady stream.

The mixture will be pale and creamy.

By hand, stir in the parsley, agave, smoked paprika and salt. Taste to see if you’d like additional salt or lemon juice.

Put the baba ghanoush into a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and serve with warm flatbread or vegetables.

Baba ghanoush can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Let the eggplant dip warm to room temperature before serving.

Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or ricotta cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 500º F.

Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.

To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the burrata cheese.

Summer Eggplant Tart

Serves 8

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
Olive oil spray
1 small eggplant, sliced 1/8 inch thin
3 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thin
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
¼ cup fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the thawed puff pastry in a 7 x 11 inch baking dish patting the dough up the sides of the dish.

Refrigerate until ready to assemble the dish.

Bread the eggplant slices and oven bake until brown and crisp – as if making them for eggplant parmigiana. Directions are below in the eggplant parmigiana recipe.

Sprinkle the tomatoes on both sides with kosher salt. Arrange in a single layer between on paper towels to drain.

Remove the baking dish with the pastry from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry with the minced onion and garlic.

Arrange the eggplant and tomato slices in even rows on the pastry. Season with pepper and sprinkle the thyme over the vegetables.

Distribute the shredded cheese over the top. Bake until the vegetables are tender and the cheese is browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the dish from oven and allow to cool. Serve warm.

Eggplant Parmigiana

This is a staple in my house. So happy that my CSA grows wonderful eggplant.

First Stage

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

1 pound eggplant, peeled
2 eggs, beaten with a few tablespoons of water
1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with olive oil.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise or lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Lightly salt the eggplant slices.

Place the eggs and water in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:
Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
2 ½ cups Marinara (pasta) sauce
1- 8 ounce package shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese
Breaded eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly.

Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the cheese.

Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

 



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