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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: eggs

The term “Spanish-American” is used to refer to Americans whose ancestry originates directly from Spain. Spanish Americans are the longest-established European-American group with a continuous presence in Florida since 1565 and are the eighth-largest Hispanic group in the United States of America. The emigration of great numbers of Spaniards from Spain during the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century was significant enough to place Spain among the most active migratory peoples of Europe, ranking behind the United Kingdom and Italy and ranking closely with Austria-Hungary and Germany.

Throughout the colonial times, there were a number of settlements of Spanish populations in the present-day United States of America with governments answerable to Madrid. The first settlement was at St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565, followed by others in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. In 1598, San Juan de Los Caballeros was established near present-day Santa Fe, New Mexico by Juan de Oñate with about 1,000 other Spaniards. Spanish immigrants also established settlements in San Diego, California (1602), San Antonio, Texas (1691) and Tucson, Arizona (1699). By the mid-1600s the Spanish in America numbered more than 400,000. After the establishment of the American colonies, an additional 250,000 immigrants arrived either directly from Spain, the Canary Islands or from present-day central Mexico. These Spanish settlers expanded European influence in the New World. The Canary Islanders settled in bayou areas surrounding New Orleans in Louisiana from 1778 to 1783 and in San Antonio de Bejar, San Antonio, Texas, in 1731.

Like those aboard the Mayflower, most Spaniards came to the New World seeking land to farm, or occasionally, as historians have recently established, freedom from religious persecution. A smaller percentage of the new Spanish settlers were descendants of Spanish Jews and Spanish Muslims. Also coming to the Americas were the Basques (an ethnic group from north-central Spain and south-western France) who excelled as explorers and soldiers. A second reason for their emigration was their region’s devastation from the Napoleonic Wars in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the 1930s and 1940s, Spanish immigration mostly consisted of refugees fleeing from the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and from the Franco military regime in Spain, which lasted until his death in 1975.

Many Spanish Americans still retain aspects of their culture. This includes Spanish food, drink, art, and annual fiestas. The influence of Spanish cuisine is seen in the cuisine of the United States throughout the country. A study published in 2010 by La Caixa found that in Spain, there’s an average of 1 bar for every 129 Spaniards, thus eating and drinking are a very important part of Spanish culture. In Spain most bars are restaurants. These establishments are social meeting places where people can just have fun. A typical bar will always have a variety of tapas that vary from region to region and are usually included in the price of the drink or offered at a discount. Many bars offer a ”menú del día” (a three-course meal offered at a fixed price), “platos combinados”(one plate with different types of food), and “raciones” (large plates of food to share with the entire group). Another popular option, especially for Spanish dinner, is “irse de tapas/pinchos”, which means to hop from one bar to the next, enjoying a tapa at each place until you’re stuffed.

According to The Joy of Cooking, the original tapas were thin slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses with between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used to cover the sherry was normally ham or chorizo, which are both very salty and activate thirst. Because of this, bartenders and restaurant owners created a variety of snacks to serve with sherry, thus increasing their alcohol sales. The tapas eventually became as important as the sherry.

Enjoying food served as tapas at home or in restaurants has become popular in the U.S. A tapa is a small portion of Spanish food. Tapas may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or hot (such as battered, fried baby squid). Tapas can also be combined to make a full meal. Here are a few recipes for tapas that you can easily make at home. The recipes make large portions, so I cut the amounts in half for our small family.

Stuffed Dates

Ingredients

24 Medjool dates
1/2 cup cream cheese
12 strips bacon, cut in half (not thick-cut bacon)
Sturdy toothpicks

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.
With a small sharp knife, make a slit in one side of each date and remove the pit.
Stuff about 1 teaspoon of cheese into the cavity.
Wrap 1/2 slice of bacon around each date. Secure with a toothpick.


Place on a rimmed baking tray lined with foil and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, turn each date over and bake for 8 minutes. Repeat this step one more time, or until all the bacon is cooked. Cook longer if you prefer crispier bacon.
Drain on paper towels. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Refrigerate leftovers.

Tortilla (Spanish Egg and Potato Omelette)

Ingredients

2 pounds of potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
8 large eggs
1 onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with some salt and pepper.

Slice the onion as thin as possible and fry in a large skillet with a tablespoon or two of olive oil for about 10 minutes until they begin to caramelize (stir often).
When the onions are caramelized, drain off any excess oil and add to the egg mixture.

Peel the potatoes and rinse them under cold water. Slice the potatoes into thin slices.
Pat the potato slices dry and put them into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt, and mix well.

Heat a ½ inch of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan at medium-low heat.
When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and add more oil if necessary until all are covered by the oil.
Cook the potatoes for 20 minutes over low heat. When the potatoes have been frying 20 minutes, remove them with a slotted spoon into a strainer and allow to cool off while any excess oil drips away. Save the oil to use for cooking.

After a few minutes, add the potatoes to the egg mixture and stir well. Let the egg mixture sit for about 20 minutes.
Reheat the pan where you fried potatoes over medium-low heat and add the egg mixture.


Over low heat, cook the eggs for about 6-8 minutes per side.
When you are sure that the bottom is cooked and you want to flip the tortilla, take a large plate and put it over the pan and flip it over quickly! When the second side is cooked, slide the omelet out of the pan onto a serving plate and let cool before serving.

Pan con Tomate (Spanish-Style Grilled Bread With Tomato)

Ingredients

2 large, ripe beefsteak tomatoes
Kosher salt
1 loaf ciabatta, split in half horizontally lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch slice
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, split in half
Flaky sea salts, such as Maldon or fleur de sel

Directions

Split tomatoes in half horizontally. Place a box grater into a large bowl. Rub the cut faces of the tomatoes over the large holes of the box grater, using the flattened palm of your hand to move the tomatoes back and forth. The flesh should be grated off, while the skin remains intact in your hand. Discard the skin and season the tomato pulp with kosher salt to taste.

.Adjust rack to 4 inches below the broiler and preheat the broiler to high. Place bread, cut side up, on a cutting board and drizzle with olive oil. Season with kosher salt. Place bread, cut side up, on a rack set in a tray or directly on the broiler rack and broil until crisp and starting to char around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.

.Remove the bread from the oven and rub with the split garlic cloves. Spoon tomato mixture over bread. Drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil and season with large flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.

Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)

Ingredients

12 cloves garlic
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch red pepper flakes or a 1-inch piece dried guajillo chili
1 1/2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Finely mince 4 garlic cloves and place in a large bowl. Smash 4 cloves under the flat side of a knife and place in a large skillet. Thinly slice remaining four garlic cloves and set aside.

Add shrimp to the bowl with the minced garlic. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and baking soda. Toss to combine thoroughly and set aside at room temperature.

Add shrimp shells to the skillet with smashed garlic and add remaining olive oil and pepper flakes. Set over medium-low to low heat and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until shells are deep ruby red and the garlic is pale golden brown about 10 minutes. Oil should be gently bubbling the whole time. When ready, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, tossing and pressing the shrimp shells to extract as much oil as possible. Discard shells and garlic.

Return flavored oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Add reserved shrimp and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until shrimp are barely cooked through about 2 minutes. Add sherry vinegar and parsley and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately.

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While many readers are experiencing spring at this time of year, here in the deep south it is summer – hot -90’s already! Here are some ideas for supper when it gets hot in your region.

Sliced Smoked Salmon

Ingredients

2 large slices of smoked salmon per person. Place the slices of salmon on a serving plate.
Sprinkle the salmon slices lightly with fresh lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and chopped fresh dill.

Cantaloupe

Slice or cube a ripe cantaloupe and place in a serving bowl.

Pasta Salad

Ingredients

Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus additional leaves for garnish
½ teaspoon black pepper

Salad

Salt
8 oz whole wheat penne pasta
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
½ cup shredded carrot
3 scallions, finely diced
½ cup finely chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded

Directions

Cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
In a large casserole dish with a cover, mix together the dressing ingredients. Add the hot pasta and mix well. Stir in the vegetables. Cover the dish and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Just before serving, mix the salad again and garnish with parsley.

Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

4 large eggs
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 scallion, finely diced
1 tablespoon of finely diced celery
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Paprika, for garnish

Directions

Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan and cover with 1 1/2 inches of water above the eggs. Heat on high until the water begins to boil, then cover and turn off the heat. Let the eggs rest in the covered pan for 14 minutes, then place in a pan of ice water. under cold water
When cool carefully peel the eggs and gently dry them with paper towels. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise, remove the yolks to a medium bowl, and place the whites on a serving platter. Mash the yolks into a fine crumble using a fork. Add mayonnaise (only enough to bind the mixture), mustard, scallion, celery, and pepper, and mix well.
Evenly spoon heaping teaspoons of the yolk mixture into the egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.


Entertaining at lunchtime can be relaxing and informal for the host. If you have friends that are on special diets, a lunchtime menu can be an easy way to meet their needs and guests, not on a special diet will be happy with your menu, Here are two recipes that work well for everyone.

Bacon Swiss Quiche (Gluten-Free and Low Carb)

Press in the Pie Pan Crust
1 ½ cups almond flour
1 teaspoon sweetener (sugar substitute such as monk fruit)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, melted
Filling
5 slices bacon
2 scallions, finely chopped
6 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese, divided

Directions

For the pie crust:
In a medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, sweetener, and salt. Stir in melted butter until dough comes together and resembles coarse crumbs.
Turn out into a glass or ceramic 9-inch pie plate. Press firmly with fingers into the bottom and up the side of the pie pan. Use a flat-bottomed glass or measuring cup to even out the bottom.

To prebake the unfilled crust: 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. and bake the crust 10 minutes. Cool slightly before filling.

To prepare the filling:
Turn the oven up to 375 degrees F.
Cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy and remove to a paper towel to drain. Break into small pieces.
Drain all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the skillet. Add the chopped scallions to the skillet and cook until softened about 2 minutes.

Beat the eggs and cream together in a large measuring cup or a bowl.
Place 1 cup of the shredded cheese on the prebaked pie crust. Top with the crumbled bacon and cooked scallions. Place the pie dish on a baking sheet.


Add the egg mixture and top with the remaining shredded cheese.
Place the baking sheet on the middle shelf in the oven and bake the quiche for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes before cutting.

No-Fuss Butternut Squash Soup

6-8 servings

Ingredients

4-12 oz packages frozen pureed butternut squash or 4-15 oz cans organic butternut squash
32 oz container vegetable broth
4 oz container unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
Herbs for garnish, such as sage

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a Dutch Oven except the cream. Bring to a boil, stir well, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and serve garnished with fresh herbs.


Leftovers in my house always get reinvented into new dishes. In these recipes, they also change from breakfast meals to dinner meals.

Corned Beef Hash

Serve with Roasted Asparagus, recipe below.

3-4 Servings

Ingredients

2 cups leftover corned beef, cubed (recipe on how to make the corned beef)
1 cup diced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups cooked Yukon gold potatoes (or rutabaga for a lower carb option)
3-4 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Heat the butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion and cook a few minutes, until soft.

Mix in the chopped corned beef and potatoes. Spread out evenly over the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and press down on the mixture with a metal spatula.

Cook until browned, then turn the mixture over. Do not stir the potatoes and corned beef but let them brown. If you hear them sizzling, this is good. (Use a metal spatula to peek underneath and see if they are browning. If nicely browned, use the spatula to turn sections over in the pan so that they brown on the other side. Press down again with the spatula.)

If there is too much sticking, you can add a little more butter to the pan. Continue to cook in this manner until the potatoes and the corned beef are crispy and brown.

Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper and remove the pan from the heat.

Fry the eggs in a separate skillet and top each portion of hash with an egg.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Place the asparagus into a mixing bowl, and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to coat the spears, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper. Arrange the asparagus onto a baking sheet covered with foil in a single layer.

Bake in the preheated oven until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes depending on thickness. Sprinkle with lemon juice just before serving.

Spinach Cheddar Omelet

2 servings

Ingredients

(spinach recipe)

Ingredients

2 cups leftover cooked spinach
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Minced fresh parsley, for garnish
Additional black pepper, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a large skillet and add the mushrooms and onions; cook until and soft and tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the leftover spinach and heat until hot.

Beat the eggs in a small mixing bowl and pour over the vegetable mixture. Stir the eggs around the pan with a rubber spatula, pulling the sides in towards the middle, swirling the pan slightly so the runny egg mixture on top hits the pan and cooks. Cook about 2 minutes, until the eggs are just slightly shiny on top. Sprinkle the cheddar over the top.

Carefully lift up the edge of the omelet and check to see if the eggs are lightly golden on the bottom. Once they are, gently fold it over the filling and let cook another minute over low heat.

Slide omelet out of skillet and divide in half. Serve garnished with minced parsley and extra black pepper.

Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

2 servings

Ingredients

2 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Cut a thin slice off the top and the bottom of each tomato. Cut them in half, horizontally.


Place tomatoes on a baking sheet. Top with Parmesan, oregano, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with oil. Bake until the tomatoes until warm, about 10 minutes. Serve alongside the spinach omelet.

 


Greek Omelet

Ingredients

8 eggs
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
10 oz pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced red onion or scallions
1/4 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
A few Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
Dried or fresh dill for garnish

Directions

Chop spinach and mix well with minced dill and crumbled feta. Set aside.
Place diced tomatoes on paper towels to dry. Set aside.
Crack the eggs into a bowl with the black pepper and oregano. Whisk with a fork. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add garlic, onion and bell pepper and saute until tender. Add the spinach mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Move the outer edges of the eggs inward and cook until set and none of the mixture looks uncooked. Slide the omelet onto a serving plate. Sprinkle the top of the omelet with remaining feta, chopped tomatoes, sliced olives, and dill. Cut into serving pieces.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

12 muffins

ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon. ground cinnamon or apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 teaspoon. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with paper baking cups; set aside.
In a large bowl combine all-purpose, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a medium bowl combine egg, milk, sugar, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture; stir just until combined. Fold in the cranberries and toasted walnuts. Spoon into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool muffins in pans for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pans. Serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.

Low Carb/Gluten-free Recipe

Makes 9 muffins

2 cups Low-Carb Baking Mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill) or Gluten-free Baking Mix
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup Low Carb Sweetener ( I use Lakanto Monk Fruit Sweetener)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat 9 muffin cups with baking spray.
In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (Low Carb Baking Mix, baking powder, cinnamon, and sweetener). Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add the eggs, water, oil and orange extract. Whisk until just blended. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Take care not to overmix.
Using a scoop divide the batter into the 9 muffin cups filling them to the top. Bake 25 minutes. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove the muffins to a wire rack to finish cooling.


Asian Salmon

2 servings

2 center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each
1 teaspoon Asian chili oil or vegetable oil

Glaze
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh garlic

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.
Place the salmon fillets, flesh-side down, in the skillet and cook until well browned about 1 minute. Using a fish spatula ora flat spatula, carefully turn the salmon over and cook on the skin side for 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat and spoon the glaze evenly over the salmon fillets. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the center of the thickest part of the fillets are cooked and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees F, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer fillets to individual plates and serve with Asian fried rice.

Asian Fried Rice

4 servings. Makes a great leftover for lunch,

Ingredients

4 cups leftover cooked rice or uncooked cauliflower rice
2 bacon slices, cooked and diced
2 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons Asian chili oil or peanut oil, divided
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced banana pepper or other thin-skinned pepper
1 teaspoon Asian Fish Sauce

Directions

Heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add the beaten eggs and cook, without stirring, until fully cooked on one side, about 30 seconds. Turn the omelet over and cook for 15 seconds. Transfer the omelet to a cutting board and cut into ½-inch pieces.

Add 1 tablespoon chili or peanut oil to the pan along with scallions, ginger, and garlic; cook, stirring until the scallions have softened, about 30 seconds. Add banana pepper and celery; cook, stirring, until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer everything to a large bowl.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon chili or peanut oil to the pan; add the rice and stir-fry 2 minutes.

Return the vegetable mixture, bacon and eggs to the pan; add soy sauce, fish sauce and remaining sesame oil and stir until well combined. Serve with the salmon.


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, Israel, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
This series continues with the country of Algeria.

Algeria is located in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea and this fertile northern region is home to the olive and cork trees. Fig, agave, and various palm trees grow in the warmer areas. Central Algeria consists of the High Plateaus that contain salt marshes and shallow salt lakes. The land becomes more arid the farther south one travels, eventually becoming the Sahara Desert. Roughly 80 percent of the country is desert and camels are widely used for transportation. The coastal region has a typical Mediterranean climate—pleasant nearly year round, with winter temperatures rarely falling below freezing (32°F). Rainfall is also abundant along the coast. Farther inland, higher altitudes receive considerable frost and occasional snow. Little or no rainfall occurs throughout the summer months in this region. In the Sahara Desert, rainfall is unpredictable and unevenly distributed.

Algerian food is a mix of various influences, from Berber to Arabic to French to Jewish. Most cooking is centered around spicy couscous which is served with long-simmered meats and stews. Algerian meals are often finished with dates and fresh fruit. Algerian ingredients are essentially Mediterranean, including lamb, chicken, tomatoes, olives, peppers, eggplant, lentils, oranges and lemons. Spicy Algerian merguez sausage is famous around the world.

Algerian cuisine traces its roots to various countries and ancient cultures that once ruled, visited, or traded with the country. Berber tribesmen were one of the country’s earliest inhabitants. Their arrival, which extends as far back as 30,000 B.C., marked the beginning of wheat cultivation, smen (aged, cooked butter), and fruit consumption, such as dates. The introduction of semolina wheat by the Carthaginians (who occupied much of northern Africa) led the Algeria Berbers to first create couscous, Algeria’s national dish. The Romans, who eventually took over Algeria, also grew various grains. Muslim Arabs invaded Algeria in the 600s, bringing exotic spices such as saffron, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon from the Spice Islands of eastern Indonesia. They also introduced the Islamic religion to the Berbers. Islam continues to influence almost every aspect of an Algerian life, including the diet.

Olives (and olive oil) and fruits such as oranges, plums, and peaches were brought across the Mediterranean from Spain during an invasion in the 1500s. Sweet pastries from the Turkish Ottomans and tea from European traders also made their way into Algerian cuisine.

In the early 1800s, Algerians were forced to surrender their farmland to the French. The French introduced their diet and culture to the Algerians, including bread and sidewalk cafés. This French legacy remains evident in Algerian with the French language being the country’s second language.

Tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, and chilies were brought over from the New World.

Sources: WHATS4EATS INTERNATIONAL RECIPES AND COOKING AROUND THE WORLD and Food in Every Country

Chakchouka is a traditional Algerian dish that’s mainly eaten for breakfast. Traditionally, the main ingredients in Chakchouka include sautéed onions, tomatoes and various spices topped with a few eggs. This meal is served with a side of bread, pita or rice.

NORTH AFRICAN EGGS POACHED IN A PEPPER RAGOUT

4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil — 3 tablespoons
Paprika — 1 to 2 tablespoons
Onion, thinly sliced — 1
Garlic, minced — 2 to 3 cloves
Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced — 3
Green and red bell peppers, diced — 2 to 3
Water — 1 cup
Salt and pepper — to taste
Eggs (optional) — 4

METHOD
Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Stir in the paprika and cook slightly to color the oil, about 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent and wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to reduce down a little bit. Add the peppers, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep it from drying out.
Using a spoon, form four small indentations in the simmering peppers to hold the eggs. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and slip each from the bowl into an indentation. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.
Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.

CHAKCHOUKA VARIATIONS
Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed to the hot oil for about 15 seconds before you add the paprika. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground coriander along with the onions.
For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of harissa paste or a minced chile pepper with the onions.
Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.
Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.
Add 1 potato, cut in a small dice, along with the peppers.
Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.
Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs. Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.

Couscous is considered the national dish of Algeria, This dish is composed of small pellets of steamed semolina pasta topped with meat, vegetables, and various spices. In Algeria, the most popular meat and vegetable accompaniments for this meal include chicken, carrots, and chickpeas. Although a rather simple dish, Couscous offers considerable freedom in its selection of ingredients.

NORTH AFRICAN STEAMED PASTA GRAINS

4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

Couscous — 2 cups
Salt — 1/2 teaspoon
Boiling water or stock — 2 cups

METHOD
Mix the couscous and salt together in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water or stock over into the bowl all at once and stir in well.
Cover the bowl with a tight-fitting lid or with plastic wrap and set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes to steam.
Remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil if you like.

Harira is a traditional North African soup and recipes for this dish vary from region to region but in Algeria, Harira is often composed of lamb simmered with vegetables, spices, and herbs.

NORTH AFRICAN LAMB AND CHICKPEA STEW

6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil or butter — 1/4 cup
Lamb, cubed for stews — 1 pound
Onion, chopped — 1 large
Celery, chopped — 2 stalks
Turmeric — 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon — 1 teaspoon
Ground ginger — 1/2 teaspoon
Nutmeg — 1/4 teaspoon
Saffron — big pinch
Tomatoes, chopped — 2 cups
Water or stock — 2 quarts
Chickpeas, cooked and drained — 2 cups
Lentils — 1/2 cup
Salt and pepper — to taste
Cilantro, chopped — 1/2 cup
Parsley, chopped — 1/2 cup
Lemons, cut into wedges — 2

METHOD
Heat the oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the lamb and brown on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and celery. Sauté until the onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the spices and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the stock and return the meat to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, lentils, salt, and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the lentils cooked through and tender.
Adjust seasoning, stir in the cilantro and parsley and serve with lemon wedges for each diner to squeeze into their stew as desired.

HARIRA VARIATIONS
Meats: Substitute cubed chicken or beef for the lamb. Or eliminate the meat altogether for a vegetarian version.
Sometimes 2 or 3 beaten eggs are stirred into the stew at the end to make ribbons of egg in the broth.
Add 1 cup soup pasta toward the end. Or add 1 cup of rice along with the lentils. You may need to add a little more water.

 

Mechoui comes from an Arabic word meaning “roast on a fire,” and like its namesake, the meal is prepared in much the same way. This dish is composed of meat spiced and roasted over a fire that is usually served at large gatherings. In the Algerian variation, the meat is roasted on a spit giving the meat a crispy, grilled flavor.

NORTH AFRICAN SPIT-ROASTED LAMB

6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

Leg of lamb — 1 whole
Olive oil — 1/3 cup
Garlic, minced — 8 cloves
Paprika — 2 tablespoons
Coriander — 2 tablespoons
Cumin — 1 tablespoon
Salt and pepper — to season
Unsalted butter, melted — 6 tablespoons

METHOD
Trim any excess fat from the lamb, but leave enough to protect and moisten the meat. Mix the olive oil with the garlic, cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper and rub this mixture all over the meat. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Set up the rotisserie (in front of the fire, not over it) and rotate the spit slowly for 4 to 5 hours, or until all the meat is cooked through, moist and tender. Salt the meat from time to time and baste it periodically with melted butter to encourage a crispy skin. Remove the spit from the fire and let the meat rest. Then use clean hands to remove the meat from the bones and onto serving platters.
Or
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the leg of lamb on a rack in a roasting pan big enough to fit it. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Set the pan in the oven and roast for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat is cooked through and starting to fall off the bone.
Increase oven temperature to 450°F. Remove foil and return pan to oven. Roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, basting every 5 minutes or so with the melted butter until the surface of the lamb is browned and crisp. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for around 30 minutes.
Remove the lamb to a serving platter. Strain any pan juices into a bowl or gravy boat and serve on the side. Serve with bread or couscous and a simple salad. Diners can help themselves to the meat by pinching off portions from the platter.

MÉCHOUI VARIATIONS
North African Spice Blend: For a more complex flavor, add a spoonful of ras el hanout spice blend to the paprika, coriander, and cumin listed above.

Makroud is a traditional Algerian dessert. This pastry is composed of a date or almond stuffing and dipped in a sugar syrup or honey. Makroud are also eaten with coffee for breakfast. They will keep for over a month stored in a well-sealed container.

ALGERIAN ALMOND COOKIES

Makes 20 to 24 cookies

INGREDIENTS

Almonds, whole, blanched — 1 1/4 pound
Sugar — 1 cup
Eggs, beaten lightly — 2
Water — 2 cups
Sugar — 1/2 cup
Orange flower water — 1 tablespoon
Powdered (confectioners) sugar — 3 cups

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the almonds and sugar in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely pulverized. Remove to a bowl.
Make a well in the center of the almonds and stir in the eggs with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. Then knead the dough with clean hands until smooth.
Cut the dough into 4 equal portions and remove to a floured work surface. Roll one portion out into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter. Press down with your palm to flatten the rope to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the rope on a diagonal into 1-inch pieces and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake cookies for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on top. Remove to racks and cool completely.
While the cookies bake, bring the water and 1/2 cup sugar to a rapid boil in a saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and let boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature. Stir in the orange flower water.
Put powdered sugar in a large bowl. To finish, dip each cookie first in the sugar syrup to moisten. Then toss each cookie in the confectioner’s sugar to coat well. Shake off the extra sugar, place on a rack to dry and repeat with the rest of the cookies.

MAKROUD VARIATIONS
Add 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the almond dough.
If you are unable to find orange flower water to flavor the syrup, try using 1 teaspoon of lemon extract.



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