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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: pita

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Egyptian Recipes To Make At Home

Gebna Makleyah (Oven-Fried Cheese)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

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

Ful Mudammas (Broad Beans in Sauce)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Koushari (Lentils, Macaroni, Rice, and Chickpeas)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

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

Sauce

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Khoshaf

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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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.


Mediterranean Syria

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

Burj Safita (AKA Chastel Blanc), a landmark in the town of Safita

Think Mediterranean diet and Italian and Greek food comes to mind. But the Mediterranean coastline spans thousands more miles throughout the Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel. The Middle Eastern Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and red wine. However, it also offers delicious and different flavors not found in southern European food, such as unique spices, tangy fruits and healthy seeds, some of which include pomegranate juice, mint, sesame and yogurt.

Beach in Latakia

Syrian cuisine mainly uses eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, meat (mostly from lamb, mutton and poultry), dairy products, bulgur, sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, wheat flour, pine nuts, fava beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, grape leaves, pickled turnips or cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mint, a spice mixture called “baharat mushakkaleh” (Arabic: بهارات مشكّلة‎‎), hazelnuts, pistachios, honey and fruits.

One of the many highlights of Syrian food is mezza, the tapas of the Middle East. Mezza refers to a generous spread of small dishes, mostly eaten without cutlery, using flat bread, lettuce or grape leaves to scoop up dips or to wrap portions of salad. Baba ghanouj and hummus, both well-known in the West, are key elements of a traditional mezza. Another favorite in Syria is muhammara, a spicy pepper and walnut dip made with pomegranate molasses. Salads include tabbouleh, a parsley and bulgur mix; fattoush, a crunchy cucumber, radish, tomato and herb salad topped with toasted pita; and fateh, a salad with chickpeas, yogurt, tahini and garlic. Other finger foods include baked pastries filled with meat and spices called sambusic or spinach and baked lamb pies called sfeeha. Kibbeh is the national dish and comes in many varieties with the core element being cracked wheat and fresh ground lamb or beef that is seasoned with spices.

For Syrians, presentation is everything. Making the food look appetizing and setting the table appropriately are very important. Everything, even the simplest dishes, are garnished with fresh herbs.

Syrian Recipes To Make At Home

Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Adapted from a recipe from Mary Sanom

Ingredients

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
1 lb. long grain white rice, uncooked
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 small green pepper (finely diced)
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz of tomato paste
10 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
Grape leaves (16 oz jar hold about 60 leaves)
1 lemon

Directions

Place the rice in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover it and let soak for 1 hour.Drain well.

Mix ground meat, soaked rice, onion, green pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and tomato sauce in large bowl.

Place enough grape leaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot.

This will keep the filled grape leaves from sticking to the pot and burning.

To fill the grape leaves:

Lay out a grape leaf with the vein side up.

Place a small amount of the meat and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat and to roll up like a cigar.

Continue rolling the grape leaves and laying them in the bottom row in the prepared pot,

When the first layer of grape leaves has lined the bottom of the pot, start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves.

Keep rolling up all the leaves and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves/or no more filling/or the pot is ¾ full.

Place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the rolls from floating during cooking and coming unrolled.

Mix together the tomato paste and water. Pour the tomato/water mixture over leaves until they are just covered.

If the leaves are not covered, add additional water until they are covered.

Add a teaspoon of salt and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot

Cover the pot with a lid and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 30 – 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked and the leaves are tender.

Take out a roll from the top of the pot and test it. Place the grape leaves on a platter to serve.

Retain some of the cooking liquid to reheat the leftover rolls.

Aubergine Fetteh (Fetteh Beitinjaan)

Layering food on toasted bread with a yogurt sauce is a Syrian speciality.

Ingredients

3 aubergines(eggplant)
Olive oil, for roasting and drizzling
Salt
2 flatbreads or pitas
500g plain yogurt
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds
50g pine nuts, toasted
Salt, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Cut the eggplants into quarters lengthwise, slice them into 1 inch chunks and place in a baking pan.

Pour over a generous helping of olive oil and a sprinkle with salt.

Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.

Brush the bread with olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until crispy. Then break it up into pieces.

In a bowl combine the yogurt, garlic and lemon juice.

Take the eggplant out of the oven and allow to cool. Place them in a shallow bowl then pour the yogurt mix on top.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with the crispy bread, parsley, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts.

Spiced Fish (Samaka Harra)

Serves 2

Ingredients

6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup/40g walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole fish, such as sea bream or snapper
1 bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, including the stems
1 lemon, plus ½ lemon, sliced

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, chilies, cumin, walnuts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Stuff the fish with this mixture, reserving two tablespoons for later, then add a handful of coriander, saving some to garnish.

Squeeze the whole lemon over both fish, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the fish in a large baking pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of stuffing on top and a couple of slices of lemon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Milk Pudding (Muhallabiyeh)

This is a very light dessert that is simple and can be prepared far in advance. Syrians say the name of this pudding comes from the Umayyad Prince of Damascus, Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra. One day, the bored potentate ordered his servants to make him something different, a special pudding, and this is what they came up with using the only ingredients they had available – milk, sugar, starch and mastic. The pudding then became known as the ‘milk of the princes’, but commoners soon caught onto how simple it was to prepare and it became known amongst them as the ‘milk of the commons’. Today, people flavor the milk with a variety of spices, depending on each individual’s taste. This pudding has a smooth texture, with the nuts on top adding a crunch, which Syrians love.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 quart/litre milk
1 cup/​200g sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch/cornflour, mixed with water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rose-water or orange blossom water
2 tablespoons/20g pistachios, crushed
Rose petals, to decorate (optional)

Directions
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and sugar over low heat, stirring regularly.

Just before it boils, add the cornstarch mix and stir constantly until it thickens, then add the vanilla and rose or orange blossom water.

Once it reaches a thick consistency, pour the mix into individual bowls or trifle glasses and let cool.

Once cool, put them in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the tops of the pudding with the crushed pistachios and for extra color, rose petals.

Source: Syria: Recipes From Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi. Published by Trapeze.


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.

 


July’s dinner recipes take full advantage of all the wonderful, seasonal produce available at this time of year. Where I live, this month is just about the end of the local growing season, too hot, while many of you are just reaping the benefits of gardens begun just a few months ago. And, for me, it is also too hot to grill. What you say! Since I am fortunate to be able to grill 12 months a year, the thrill is not seasonal. Some days I do not want to deal with the heat and the hot grill. So. many of my meals on these very hot days are prepared in an air-conditioned house.

Dinner One

Garden Fresh Meatloaf

Serve with a green bean salad and fried Italian peppers, recipes below.

Ingredients

2 lbs. grass-fed, organic, lean ground beef
2 carrots, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
Half of a large green bell pepper, finely diced
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Half pint grape tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup of your favorite fresh herbs, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup ketchup
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup water

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add all the diced vegetables and garlic to the skillet and cook until tender.

Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the beef in a mixing bowl. Add the cooked vegetables, beaten eggs, ketchup, water and bread crumbs.

Combine thoroughly and place in a greased 9×5 loaf pan.

Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, about 60-75 minutes.

Let rest a few minutes and then unmold, slice and serve.

Green Bean Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

To make the vinaigrette:

Whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a serving bowl; set aside.

For the green beans:

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil; add the beans and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water. Drain well and toss with the vinaigrette, oregano, feta and onion.

Chill before serving.

Italian Fried Peppers

Ingredients

10-12 long Italian frying peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, sliced thin
½ teaspoon crushed fennel seed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Directions

Wash and dry the peppers.

Heat a large saute pan over medium to high heat and add just enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds

Add the peppers and season with salt and pepper. Turn the peppers over a few times to coat in oil.

Add the fennel and oregano and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Can be served at room temperature.

Dinner Two

Shrimp Tacos For Two

Serve this entrée with a cucumber salad. Recipe below.

Ingredients

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 small clove garlic grated
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, tails removed and deveined
4 corn tortillas
Homemade Tomato Salsa, recipe link
Shredded Garden Leaf lettuce
Shredded cheddar or Mexican cheese

Directions

Combine olive oil, lime juice, cumin, paprika, garlic and red pepper in a zip-top plastic bag, add the shrimp and seal. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Remove shrimp from the bag; discard marinade. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Arrange the shrimp on the pan and grill 2 minutes on each side.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat 4 corn tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and place them in a metal taco holder.

Place the holder in the oven and heat the tortillas until just beginning to get crispy, about 10 minutes.

Remove the holder from the oven and fill each shell with shrimp, tomato salsa, cheese and shredded lettuce.

Cucumber Salad with Ranch Dressing

Ingredients

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, sliced into 1/4″-thick half-moons
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small sweet onion sliced into thin rounds and halved
¼ cup ranch dressing (recipe link here)

Chopped fresh dill, optional for garnish

Directions

Place cucumber slices in a colander; sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Alternate the cucumber and onion slices on a serving plate. Drizzle with the ranch dressing, garnish with dill, if using, and serve.

Dinner Three

Mediterranean Chicken

This is a great one pot meal. If you do not have access to fresh cherry peppers, you can use the jarred version instead.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb potatoes, peeled and quartered
All-Purpose flour, Kosher salt and black pepper
4 cloves garlic
4 chicken thighs, skin removed
½ cup dry white wine
A dozen fresh sweet red cherry peppers, halved and seeded
1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes, optional

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the potatoes and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove the potatoes to a bowl and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat.

Season the chicken with a 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.

Cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side.

Return the potatoes to the skillet.

Add the wine, artichoke hearts, red chile flakes, if using, and cherry peppers.

Simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender, about 25-30 minutes. Stir in the oregano and serve.

Dinner Four

Grilled Greek Salmon

Serve with a Tabbouleh Salad (click here for recipe link), Tzatziki Sauce and Pita Bread or Chips.

Sumac is a middle eastern spice that’s tangy and a little tart. If you don’t have it, use more lemon zest instead.

4 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs fresh salmon fillets, cut into 4 equal pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon sumac
Tzatziki Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, dill, dried oregano, crushed red pepper and sumac in a plastic ziplock bag.

Place the salmon fillets in the bag and close the bag.

Gently massage the marinade into the fish to coat it evenly, refrigerate and allow the fish to marinade for about 30 minutes.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium high.

Place the fish on a foil lined baking sheet skin-side down, turn the foil edges up and pour the marinade over the fish.

Slide the foil onto the grill, close the lid and cook the salmon for about 8-10 minutes.

Remove the foil from the grill by sliding the foil back on the baking sheet.

You can also cook the salmon in the oven.

Bake in a 400 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Spoon some Tzatziki Sauce over the top and serve with Tabbouleh Salad and pita chips or bread.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

This sauce is delicious on top of grilled salmon.

2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 1/4 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Place the yogurt in a medium bowl.

Grate the cucumber on a box grater onto a paper towel, roll up and squeeze the towel to remove some of the liquid.

Add it to the yogurt along with the remaining ingredients and stir.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator before serving.

 


This is the perfect time of year to go creative with your salad making recipes.  So many fresh ingredients are available in summer that you will not get bored with the variety of salads to you can make. Below are a few I have made and you might like to give them a try.

Shrimp Cobb Salad

Mini corn muffins (see recipe) go well with this salad.

For 2 servings

For the shrimp
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, tails removed and deveined
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the ranch dressing
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon dried dill

For the salad
1 slice cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup shredded carrots
8 grape tomatoes, halved
Half a cucumber, peeled and diced
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce, sliced
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (or any other cheese)

Directions

To prepare the shrimp:

Early in the day.

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place them in a skillet with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss together.

Spread the shrimp in one layer and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, just until pink. Refrigerate until time to make the salad.

To prepare the dressing:

In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk and mayonnaise until fully mixed. Add in the other ingredients, adjusting for taste.

Refrigerate until serving time.

To assemble the salad:

Arrange the lettuce in the bottom of two salad plates. In rows across the lettuce arrange the shrimp, carrots, tomatoes, egg and cucumber.

Crumble the blue cheese and bacon over the salad ingredients. Serve with the dressing.

Mini Corn Muffins

Makes 24 mini muffins

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (coarse or regular)
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 scallion, minced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 24 mini muffin tin with cooking spray or use paper liners.

Sift together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Combine the buttermilk, egg and oil in a big measuring cup. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full.

Bake until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Mexican Corn Salad

Serve with fresh tomato salsa and homemade tortilla chips, recipes below.

Ingredients

8 ears corn, kernels stripped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
Half of a large green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 grape tomatoes, halved, optional garnish

Directions

In a serving bowl, place chopped celery, onion and peppers. Add the corn, salt, cumin and chili powder. Mix well. Stir in the mayonnaise.

Arrange the cut tomatoes around the top of the salad to garnish, if desired. Chill the salad until serving time.

Fresh Homemade Salsa

About 3 cups

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion
2 medium chile peppers, such as poblano, New Mexico or Anaheim, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder or chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 tablespoons lime juice

Directions

Be very careful while handling chile peppers. You can, avoid touching the cut peppers with your hands if you use disposable gloves or hold the peppers with a plastic sandwich bag.) Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours.

You can make the salsa in one of two ways: finely chop the ingredients by hand or use a processor. I prefer to finely chop all the ingredients because I like a chunky, more rustic salsa that is easy to scoop on tortilla chips.

For the processor method:

Roughly chop the tomatoes, chilies and onions.

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse only a few times-just enough to finely dice the ingredients but not enough to purée them.

Place the mixture in a serving bowl. Taste the salsa. If the chilies made the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. Adjust for salt.

Let sit for an hour at room temperature for the flavors to combine. Serve with homemade tortilla chips.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Olive oil

One package (8-10) large (12 inch) flour tortilla

Taco seasoning mix, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil two rimmed baking sheets.

Brush the tortillas with olive oil and sprinkle each evenly with taco seasoning.

Cut the tortillas into 6-8 triangles and arrange them on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until golden brown and crisp, rotating the baking sheets once, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Taco Seasoning Mix

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

In a small bowl, mix all together. Store in an airtight container.

Tabbouleh

Serve with pita chips and hummus.

Ingredients

1 cup bulgur wheat
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup (about 1 pound) chopped very ripe tomatoes
1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped fresh mint, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kalamata olives and Feta cheese for garnish
Romaine lettuce leaves for serving
Warm Pita bread or Pita chips, for serving

Directions

Rinse the bulgur in a fine-mesh sieve under cool running water until the water runs clear, then transfer the bulgur to a bowl.

In a heatproof bowl, mix the bulgur with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 cup boiling water.

Cover, and let stand until tender but slightly chewy, about 30 minutes.

Drain the bulgur to remove any liquid not absorbed.

In a large bowl, combine the scallions, parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, mint, remaining salt, pepper and cumin.

Add the soaked bulgur to the bowl and gently toss.

Add the olive oil and the lemon juice and lightly toss, adding more seasoning if necessary.

Set the tabbouleh aside for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Cover and chill overnight.

When ready to serve, garnish the salad with kalamata olives and feta cheese. Serve with romaine lettuce leaves and pita bread.

Baked Pita Chips

If you do not have access to Za’atar seasoning, you can make your own. See recipe below.

2 packages of whole wheat pita breads
Olive oil
Za’atar seasoning

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each pita on both sides with olive oil.

Cut each in quarters and place on baking sheets. Sprinkle with Za’atar seasoning,

Bake until crispy and brown about 15 minutes.

Homemade Za’atar Seasoning

Makes 1/4 cup

Combine 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon sumac, 1 tablespoon ground cumin and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight jar.


 

Planning what to cook based on what is in season can bring out the creative cook in you. Bell Peppers, Spinach, Potatoes, Sweet Corn, Cabbage, Tangerines, Radishes, Mangoes, Mushrooms, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Squash, Blueberries and Carrots are all in season this month. With so many choices, it is difficult to decide what to buy.

What I do is think about what kind of recipe and what type of meals I want this week. Then, I look for the ingredients to match. For example, a soup would be good for dinner and the leftovers are good for lunch. Greens was beautiful in the market now, so a soup with greens added would be good to make. Also we will need is some delicious bread to go with it.

This thinking can apply to salads, light dinners and special entrees. Also, I like to take advantage of sales. For example, packages of pita bread were “buy one package and get one free” this week. Pita is a versatile bread to have on hand and they also make delicious and healthy chips.

Tortellini Soup

When I finish grating a piece of Parmesan cheese, I save the rind in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. I add one to the soup pot for added flavor.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh escarole, spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling

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 just done, 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 tortellini.

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

Spring Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

2 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
2 anchovy fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad

1 carrot, peeled
2 cups lightly packed torn Boston or Bibb lettuce

Directions

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon, anchovies, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor; puree until smooth. Chill to allow the flavors to blend.

Using a vegetable peeler, strip long ribbons from the carrot. Toss together the carrots and lettuce in a bowl. Add some of the dressing to greens and gently toss. (Reserve remaining dressing for another use.)

Stuffed Roasted Salmon Rolls

For 2 servings – this recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

12 oz center-cut boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cut lengthwise into 2 strips
4 cups fresh raw spinach leaves, stems removed, cooked and squeezed dry
1/4 cup cream cheese with onion and chives, if available, or regular cream cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking dish with olive oil.

Mix together the cream cheese, garlic and spinach until well blended then season with salt and pepper.

The mixture will be firm.

Season the salmon strips with salt and pepper and spread each fillet strip with the spinach filling.

Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go.

Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the pinwheel from unrolling. Place the rolls in the prepared dish.

Repeat with the remaining salmon strip. Sprinkle the rolls with the lemon juice.

Bake the salmon rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.

Grilled Chicken Pita Salad (Chicken Fattoush)

2 servings

Ingredients

8 oz boned, skinned chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoons za’atar (Middle Eastern spice)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 of a red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 cup sliced tomatoes
1 cup pita chips, recipe below
1 cup sliced romaine lettuce
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 ounces block feta cheese, broken into chunks

Directions

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high heat. Oil the grill grates.

Coat chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with za’atar.

Cook turning once, until no longer pink in the center and grill marks appear, about 7 minutes total.

Let rest 10 minutes, then slice.

In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, remaining oil, oregano, garlic and pepper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the grilled chicken, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, romaine and pita chips.

Pour the reserved dressing over the salad mixture, add cheese and toss gently to coat.

Homemade Pita Chips

Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that contains ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac.

Ingredients

1 package of pita pocket breads (6 pitas in a package)
Olive oil
Za’atar seasoning

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two large rimmed baking pans.

Separate each pita into two rounds. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning mix.

Cut each pita circle into 6 triangles.

Arrange the triangles on the baking sheets and bake until crispy and brown, about 20 minutes.

Rotate the pans after ten minutes, Cool and store in a large zip-lock bag until needed.

Warm Blackberry Sauce

This sauce is great to have on hand as a topping for ice cream, pancakes or plain pound cake.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, washed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a medium non-stick sauce pan, combine the sugar and cornstarch.

Add the water, maple syrup,lemon juice and berries.

Cook on medium high, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to break down and the sauce thickens.

Transfer the sauce to a serving dish. Store any remaining sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.



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