Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: pita

Greek Salad Topped With Chrispy Chicken Fingers

4 servings

Ingredients

Chicken
1 lb chicken tenders (about 8)
2 tablespoon olive oil
Flour (any type works here)

Chicken Marinade
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
`1/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning or dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salad
1 head of romaine hearts
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled and sliced into half-moons
1/4 of a red onion sliced thin
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
Half a bell pepper, seeded and diced
20 grape tomatoes, halved
16 Kalamata olives
8 pickled pepperoncini peppers
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 mini pita breads, warmed

Dressing
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano and 1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 ½ teaspoons of Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

For the chicken


Combine the chicken tenders and the marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag. Place in the refrigerator for several hours before cooking.
When ready to cook, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Drain the chicken from the marinade and dredge the tenders very lightly in flour. Place the tenders in the skillet and cook until brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate to cool.

For the salad dressing
Add all dressing ingredients to a jar. Cover and shake for about a minute. Store salad dressing in the refrigerator. Remove the dressing from the refrigerator15 minutes prior to using it.

For the salad
Tear the romaine hearts into small pieces, wash well and spin dry. Place the washed romaine in a large serving bowl. Add the remaining salad ingredients except for the pita and add just enough salad dressing to moisten the salad. Start with about ¼ cup, mix well, taste and see if more dressing is needed. Place the salad in four serving dishes and top each with two cooked chicken tenders. Serve with pita bread.


Salmon Souvlaki with Tzatziki

For 2 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup lemon juice
2 minced garlic cloves, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, divided
12 oz skinless salmon fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes

Tzatziki Sauce

3/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped ( about ¾ cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 scallions, finely chopped
Pita Bread

Directions

Combine lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove, parsley, oregano, 1 tablespoon oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large shallow dish. Add salmon; toss gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.


Place the finely chopped cucumber and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small colander and let drain for 30 minutes. Blot dry on a paper towel.
Combine yogurt, scallions, and cucumber in a medium bowl. Stir in dill, 1 minced garlic clove, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Refrigerate the tzatziki until ready to serve.

Preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high.

Remove the salmon from the marinade and blot dry with a paper towel. Carefully thread the fish onto 2 metal or wooden skewers.

Grill the skewers until seared on the bottom, 5 minutes. Use potholders or oven mitts to turn the skewers over. Continue grilling, turning the skewers as needed, until the salmon is cooked in the center, 4-5 minutes.

Serve the salmon and tzatziki with pita bread.

Greek Salad

Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup of vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice

Salad

4 cups torn romaine lettuce
1/4 of red onion, sliced
Half cucumber, sliced
1 tomato, diced
12 kalamata olives
4 pepperoncini peppers
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Pour all the dressing ingredients into a large jar and shake well.
Place the jar in the refrigerator for a few hours to blend flavors.
Combine the Greek salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Pour half of the dressing over salad and toss. Add more dressing if desired.


Arab immigrants began coming to the U.S. in sizable numbers during the 1880s. Today, it is estimated that nearly 3.7 million Americans trace their roots to an Arab country. Arab Americans are found in every state, but more than two-thirds of them live in California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York are home to one-third of the population.

Arab Americans are as diverse as their countries of origin, with unique immigration experiences that have shaped their ethnic identity in the U.S. While the majority of Arab Americans are descended from the first wave of Christian Arab immigrants, Arab American Muslims represent the fastest growing segment of the Arab American community.

Contrary to popular assumptions, the majority of Arab Americans are native-born, and nearly 82% of Arabs in the U.S. are citizens. While the community traces its roots to every Arab country, the majority of Arab Americans have ancestral ties to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq.

Arabic-speaking immigrants arrived in the United States in three major waves. The first wave between the late 1800s and World War I consisted mainly of immigrants from Greater Syria, an Arab province of the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I. Following the breakup of the Empire, the province was partitioned into the separate political entities of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Transjordan. The vast majority of immigrants in this wave were members of Christian minorities. Although some writers claim that these immigrants left their native countries for religious or political reasons, the evidence suggests that they were drawn to the United States by economic opportunity. Like many economically motivated immigrants during this period, Arabs came to the US with the intention of earning money and returning home to live out the remainder of their lives in relative prosperity. The major exception to this pattern was a small group of Arab writers, poets, and artists who took up residence in major urban centers such as New York and Boston. The most famous of the group was Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), author of The Prophet and numerous other works.

Unlike the earlier influx, the second wave included many more Muslims. It also included refugees who had been displaced by the 1948 Palestine War that culminated in the establishment of Israel. This period also witnessed the arrival of many Arabic-speaking professionals and university students who often chose to remain in the United States after completion of their training. Immigrants of the second wave tended to settle where jobs were available. Those with few skills drifted to the established Arab communities in the industrial towns of the East coast and Midwest, while those with professional skills headed to the suburbs around the major industrial cities or to rural towns.

A mural inside the lobby of ACCESS that depicts the story of many Arab-Americans making their way to build a community in Detroit.

In the mid-1960s, the third wave of Arab immigration began which continues to the present. More than 75 percent of foreign-born Arab Americans identified in the 1990 census immigrated after 1964, while 44 percent immigrated between 1975 and 1980. This influx resulted in part from the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 which abolished the quota system and its bias against non-European immigration. The third wave included many professionals, entrepreneurs, and unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. These immigrants often fled political instability and wars engulfing their home countries. They included Lebanese Shiites from southern Lebanon, Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and Iraqis of all political persuasions. But many professionals from these and other countries like Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, and unskilled workers from Yemen also emigrated in search of better economic opportunities. Had conditions been more hospitable in their home countries, it is doubtful that many of these immigrants would have left their native countries.

Arab Americans have a distinctive cuisine centered on lamb, rice, bread, and highly seasoned dishes. The Middle Eastern diet consists of many ingredients not found in the average American kitchen, such as chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, ground sesame seed oil, feta cheese, dates, and figs. Many Arab dishes, like stuffed zucchini or green peppers and stuffed grape or cabbage leaves, are labor-intensive but delicious and healthy.

Arab Americans are probably most known for their restaurants and cuisines found across the country. Many classic dishes coming from the Arab World have become popular dishes for Americans. The dish most famous, of course, is hummus. This simple puree of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic is served as an appetizer or as a side to grilled meats and vegetables. Sometimes called “street meat” in the U.S., shawarma is another national hit thanks to Arab Americans. Wrapped with garlic and pickles in Arabic bread (pita bread), shawarma has become a great alternative sandwich. Tabbouli, falafel, grape leaves, and kebabs are part of the American cuisine today.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Ingredients

1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup fresh minced dill
1/4 cup fresh minced mint
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
50 large jarred grape leaves
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Fresh mint leaves, lemon slices, and olives (for garnish)

Directions

Place the pine nuts into a skillet and lightly toast them over medium heat until golden brown. Set aside.

Pour ¼ cup of olive oil into a medium pot and heat it. Add the minced onion and sauté until soft. Add the rice to the pot and stir to combine. Sauté for another minute. Pour in ¾ cup of vegetable broth and lower the heat; simmer the rice uncovered for about 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is half cooked. Remove the pot from heat.

Add the minced dill, mint, toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and lemon zest to the pot of rice. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. As the water is heating, trim the grape leaves by cutting the stems off flush with the leaves. Trim any large, hard veins from the leaves. Place the leaves in the boiling water and let them soften for 3-5 minutes until they become pliable. Drain, then cover the leaves with cold water. Drain the leaves again and pat them dry.

Place a grape leaf shiny (smooth) side down, vein (bumpy) side up, on a flat surface like a cutting board. Place 2 tablespoons of rice filling at the base end of the leaf, near where the stem was. Fold the stem end up over the filling. Fold the edges of the leaf inward. Continue rolling the leaf till it forms a neat rolled package. Squeeze the roll gently to seal.

Repeat the process with the remaining leaves until all of the rice filling is used.

Place the stuffed leaves in the bottom of a deep saute pan. Pack the leaves snugly; as this will help keep the leaves intact as they cook. Make a single layer on the bottom of the pan. When the bottom of the pan is full, make a second layer on top.

Pour 1 cup of broth, ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, and ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice over the stuffed grape leaves. Heat the pan over medium until it begins to simmer (don’t boil, or the leaves will start to fall apart). Cover the pot. Let the grape leaves cook for 30-40 minutes. The leaves are finished cooking when they are fork-tender.

Hummus

Ingredients

3 cups (200 grams) cooked chickpeas, drained
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
3 to 4 ice cubes
1/3 cup (79 grams) tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Hot water (if needed)
Extra virgin olive oil
Sumac

Directions

Add chickpeas and minced garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until a smooth. While the processor is running, add the ice cubes, tahini, salt, and lemon juice. Blend for about 4 minutes. Check, and if the consistency is still too thick add a little hot water. Blend until the mixture is a silky smooth consistency. Spread in a serving bowl and add a generous drizzle of olive of and a sprinkling of sumac.

 

Kofta

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground lamb or beef
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing the grill
Flatbread or pita, for serving

Tzatziki sauce:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup grated cucumber squeezed dry
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh mint or dill (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

To make the tzatziki sauce, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the kofta: Mix the beef, onion, garlic, parsley, coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Divide the mixture into 6 roughly even balls. Mold each ball around the pointed end of a skewer, making an oval kebab that comes to a point just covering the tip of the skewer. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 15 minutes before threading them.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare an outdoor grill. Brush the pan or grill grates lightly with olive oil. Grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until brown all over and cooked through about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki sauce and flatbread.

Fattoush Salad

Fattoush is a salad of crisp lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, toasted pita bread, and a sumac dressing. Since I was serving pita with the kofta, I did not include it in my salad.

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

Pita
2 large pitas
1/4 cup olive oil
Kosher salt to taste

Dressing
1 clove garlic minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad
1 head romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
1-pint cherry tomatoes halved
1 English cucumber halved and thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced and separated into 1/2 circles
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves torn into small pieces

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut pitas in half. Separate the top from the bottom and tear into bite-size pieces. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat. Spread on a baking sheet and season with kosher salt. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once, until crisp and golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a bowl to keep from over browning. Set aside.
To make the dressing. In a small bowl combine the first 6 dressing ingredients (garlic through black pepper); whisk until combined and honey has dissolved. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine.
Drizzle dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle pita over the top and serve.

 


Grilled Lamb Chops

2 servings

Ingredients

4 loin lamb chops, about 1 ¼ lb total
Lemon wedges

Marinade
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning store-bought (or combine equal parts of coarse salt, Turkish oregano, garlic, dried lemon zest, black pepper, and marjoram and use 1 teaspoon in this recipe)

Directions

Place the lamb chops in a medium ziplock bag with the marinade ingredients. Seal the bag, shake and store the bag in the refrigerator for several hours before grilling.

To grill the lamb chops:

Preheat an outdoor or stovetop grill. Oil the grill.
Remove the chops from the marinade and grill them over medium-high heat, turning once, until medium-rare, about 3 minutes on each side.

Transfer the chops to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges, the Greek Salad, Tzatziki, and grilled pita.

Greek Vegetable Salad

2 servings

Ingredients

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in large dice
1 large tomato, seeded and cut in large dice
4 -5 pepperoncini, seeded and cut in large dice
1/4 of a red onion, cut in large dice
12 Greek olives
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano or Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon honey

Directions

In a serving bowl, combine the cucumber, tomato, pepperoncini, onions, olives, and feta cheese. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Tzatziki Sauce

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 scallion, minced
1/2 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cloves garlic grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh dill finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon za’atar or dried oregano

Directions

Place the grated cucumber in a fine-mesh sieve and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and drain for about 30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, black pepper, ¼ teaspoon salt, parsley, and oregano or za’atar and stir to combine.
Add the cucumber to the yogurt mixture and stir to combine.
Cover and refrigerate for about an hour before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

 

Grilled Pita Bread

A very good tasting low carb mini pita (4g net carbs) is made by Joseph’s Middle East Bakery

2 servings

Ingredients

2 small (mini) pita bread
Olive oil
Za’atar

Directions

Lightly brush both sides of each pita with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little za’atar. Place on the grill for 1 minute, turn them over and grill for 1 minute more. Serve with the Tzatziki Sauce.


Grilled Chicken Tenders

Ingredients

1 lb chicken tenders
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic minced
2 teaspoons Greek seasoning (or use 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried thyme,
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.)
1 tablespoon water

Directions

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, Greek seasoning and water in a plastic ziplock bag.
Place the chicken tenders in the bag. Seal the bag and shake to coat the meat really well, Place the bag in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
Preheat a stovetop grill pan to medium-high heat. You may also use a broiler.
Grill the tenders, turning them every 2-3 minutes until the meat is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Spoon some of the Greek salad onto serving dishes and top each serving with some of the grilled chicken tenders.

Greek Salad

Serve with warmed pita bread.

Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice

Salad

4 cups torn romaine lettuce
1 small bell pepper, diced
1/4 of a red onion, sliced
Half English cucumber, sliced
1 medium tomato, diced
12 kalamata olives,
4 pepperoncini peppers
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Pour all the dressing ingredients into a large jar and shake well.
Place the jar in the refrigerator for a few hours to blend the flavors.
Combine the Greek salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss. Add more dressing if desired.


When you cook steak and chicken, make extra. The leftovers easily make quick weeknight meals.

Steak & Bean Tacos

I like to serve this dish with a green mixed salad and ranch dressing.

2 servings

Ingredients

Half of a leftover grilled flank steak, sliced thin
Original recipe for the grilled steak
2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup medium spicy salsa
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 flour tortillas

Directions

Any leftover steak will work in this recipe, just slice it very thin. Reheat the steak in the microwave or in foil in a moderate oven temperature until warm. Heat the beans and warm the tortillas. Assemble the tacos with beef, beans, salsa, and cheddar cheese.

Greek Salad With Leftover Grilled Chicken

2 servings

Ingredients

8 oz leftover grilled chicken that had been marinated in 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 sliced garlic clove, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.
Grilled chicken directions
2 Pita breads, warmed
Greek Salad Ingredients
Romaine lettuce, torn into small pieces
Bell peppers, seeded and cut into one-inch squares
Red onions, sliced thin
Cucumbers, peeled and sliced into half moons
Tomatoes, cut into one-inch pieces
Kalamata olives
Pepperoncini
Crumbled Feta cheese
Greek Salad Dressing, recipe below

Directions

I always grill more chicken than I need for dinner because there are so many dishes you can make with the leftovers. Like this one – a family favorite.
Assemble the salad ingredients in individual bowls. (I use pasta bowls.) Mix with some of the dressing. Slice the leftover chicken and place on top of the salad. Serve additional dressing on the side along with the warm pita bread.

Greek Salad Dressing
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Pour all the dressing ingredients into a large jar and shake well.
Place the jar in the refrigerator for a few hours to blend the flavors.
Pour the Greek dressing over the salad ingredients as directed above.


Serve with tzatziki (recipe below) and pita bread. A Greek salad rounds out the meal.

Pork Souvlaki

I used pork for this dinner. Prepare the meat 1 day ahead.

Servings 6

Ingredients

1-1/2 lbs boneless pork loin or boneless chicken or lamb loin, cut into 1″ cubes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic minced
2 teaspoons Greek seasoning (or use 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried thyme,
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.)
1 tablespoon water

Directions

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, Greek seasoning and water in a plastic ziplock bag.
Place the pieces of pork in the bag. Seal the bag and shake to coat the meat really well, Place the bag in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.’

Place wooden skewers to soak in cold water for about 30 minutes before placing the meat on the skewers or use metal skewers.
Preheat an outdoor grill or a stovetop grill pan to medium-high heat. You may also use a broiler.
Thread the pieces of pork onto the skewers; discard unused marinade.
Grill the kebabs, turning them every 2-3 minutes until the meat is cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Serve immediately with tzatziki sauce and a small pita bread.

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3/4 cups plain Greek yogurt (not low-fat)
2 scallions (green onions), minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Peel and seed the cucumber. Grate the cucumber on a box grater or finely chop. Place in a colander and add the salt. Let drain for 10-15 minutes. Turn out onto a paper towel, roll up and squeeze the towel to remove some of the liquid.

Place the yogurt in a mixing bowl. Add the grated cucumber to the yogurt along with the remaining ingredients and stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator several hours before serving.

Greek Salad

Dressing
1/2 cup red wine vinegar,
2 garlic cloves, crushed,
1/2 teaspoon dried basil,
1 teaspoon dried oregano,
1 tablespoon sugar,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice.

Directions

Pour all the ingredients into a large jar and shake well..
Place the jar in the refrigerator for a few hours to blend the flavors.
Use the Greek dressing with your favorite Greek salad ingredients: romaine lettuce, green peppers, red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, pepperoncini and crumbled feta.


Smoky Eggplant Dip with Pita Chips

Ingredients

One Italian eggplant (about 1 pound)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon tahini paste
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Za’atar dry spice, for garnish

Pita Chips
8 large pita rounds, cut into triangles
2 tablespoons za’atar dry spice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Directions

Split the eggplant in half through the stem and score the flesh. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Grill the eggplant on a very hot grill pan or outdoor grill until the skins are wrinkled and black and the flesh side is charred.
When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, cut off the tops and scoop the flesh from the skin into a processor bowl.
Add the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, salt and cayenne pepper and puree until smooth. Add the olive oil and pulse again to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of .za’atar.

To make pita chips.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the pita triangles on two rimmed cookie sheets. Combine the za’atar spice mix and extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl or jar and drizzle over the pita. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until crispy.

Grilled Stuffed Yellow Squash

4 servings

Ingredients

2 large yellow squash
1 garlic clove, grated
2 scallions, minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato oil (from the jar)
5 sage leaves, minced
1/4 cup jarred deli pepper rings, minced

Directions

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. With a grapefruit spoon, scoop out the squash flesh, leaving about a ¼ inch thick shell. Chop the squash flesh.

In a small skillet heat the sun-dried tomato oil over low heat. Add the garlic, scallions, and celery and cook until tender, 2-3 minutes. Add the squash flesh and saute until the squash is completely cooked and soft. Add the sage, sun-dried tomatoes and pepper rings, Stir and remove the pan from the heat. Cool to room temperature.
Fill the squash boats evenly with the stuffing.

Heat an outdoor grill to high and oil the grill grates. Turn the heat down to medium and place the squash boats on the grill, close the lid and grill for about 15 minutes until the shells are softened and the top of the stuffing is beginning to brown.

Swiss Chard Quiche

6-8 servings

You will need a 10-inch glass pie pan that is 2 inches deep.

Ingredients for Press in the Pan Pie Crust
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour or For Low Carb or Gluten-free Crust: 1 ½ cups blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar or low carb sugar substitute
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons cold water

Ingredients for the Filling
One large bunch of Swiss Chard
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 whole scallions (green onions) diced
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
6 large egg
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Wash the chard and remove the stems. Save the stems for soup. Cut the leaves into smaller pieces. Heat the one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and add the chard leaves. Cook just until wilted. Season with salt & pepper. Set the pan aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Coat a deep dish 10-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Place the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in the pie pan. Mix with a fork. Combine the vegetable oil and water in a measuring cup. Pour over the flour mixture in the pie plate. With the fork incorporate all oil mixture into the flour until it is completely moit=st. With your hands, press the mixture across the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.

Prebake the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and add the cream.

Remove the pie pan from the oven and place the scallions on the bottom crust. Top with 1 cup of the cheddar followed by the wilted chard. Pour the egg mixture over the chard and sprinkle the top with the remaining one cup of shredded cheddar.

Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Cool 15 minutes before cutting.

Noodles with Grilled Italian Sausage

2 servings

Ingredients

1/2 lb spicy Italian Sausage
Olive oil spray
2 oz thin spaghetti
1 zucchini, about 8 oz
1 yellow squash, about 8 oz
2 cups homemade marinara sauce
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Prepare an outdoor grill with an area for indirect heat. Coat the sausage with olive oil cooking spray. Place the sausage over indirect heat and cook until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes. Remove to a plate and cut into two-inch pieces

Using a spiralizer to make noodles with the zucchini and squash. Place on paper towels to remove the moisture.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti al dente. Drain.

Combine the marinara sauce and grilled sausage in a saucepan and heat.

To assemble: In the pot that the spaghetti was cooked, place half of the hot marinara sauce. Add the vegetable noodles and spaghetti. Stir gently and heat.
Divide the noodles into two pasta bowls, top with sausage and remaining sauce. Garnish with cheese and serve immediately


If you are trying to eat more Mediterranean type meals, then this lunch will be very satisfying, indeed. It has all the flavors of the Mediterranean. along with being good for you and tasting absolutely delicious. This recipe comes together quickly and can be increased or decreased to suit your needs. This is good eating.

Greek Style Chicken Sandwiches

3 sandwiches

Ingredients

1 lb chicken tenderloins (fingers) about 6
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice.
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning
Sea salt
3 mini Pita breads, warmed
Lettuce
Tzatziki Sauce, see recipe below
1/4 cup Feta cheese
Greek Olives

Directions

In a zip-lock plastic bag combine the olive oil with the lemon juice, garlic, oregano and Greek seasoning. Shake well to combine and add the chicken.

Seal the bag and refrigerate for about 3 hours.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour the chicken and marinade into the skillet. Sprinkle the chicken lightly with sea salt.

Turn the heat down slightly and cook the chicken in the marinade for about 15 minutes, turning the chicken tenders over about half way through the cooking time.

Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the chicken to cool down.

To make each sandwich:

Place a mini pita on a sandwich plate and top with a few leaves of lettuce.

Place 2 chicken tenders on top, sprinkle the chicken with some feta cheese and then add a few tablespoons of Tzatziki Sauce.

Serve Greek olives on the side.

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

1 large cucumber
3/4 cups plain Greek yogurt (not low-fat)
2 scallions (green onions), minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

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

Place the yogurt in a mixing bowl. Add the grated cucumber to the yogurt along with the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator several hours before serving.


 

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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