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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts

Here in the deep south, the beginning of August is just about the end of the growing season due to the high temperatures. Peaches, summer squash, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelon, basil, and okra are at their peak but will be difficult to get locally in the next few weeks. Here are some of my favorite recipes to make with August fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

5 pounds of fresh tomatoes, quartered and seeded retaining as much pulp as possible
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large sweet onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
1-2 teaspoons honey, if needed
Fresh Herbs

Place the following herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth closed.

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of parsley

Directions

Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.

Add the onions, celery, garlic, and carrots.

Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and sea salt.

Simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour until the tomatoes cook down.

Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, process the mixture until smooth.

Return the pot to the heat and add the herb cheesecloth package.

Taste the sauce to see if the tomatoes were too bitter. Add the honey, if needed.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until reduced and thick, an hour to an hour and a half more. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard.

Pour the sauce into a refrigerator container and store the sauce up to 1 week, or freeze in batches.

Summertime Corn Chowder

For the corn stock ingredients

12 corn cobs (corn kernels removed and set aside for the chowder)
2 chive stalks
2 stems fresh parsley
2 stems fresh thyme
1 bay leaf

Directions

Put corn cobs, chives, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cold water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours. Strain, discard the solids and measure the broth.

If you do not have 6 cups add water to make the 6 cups. Set aside the broth.

For the chowder ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, white and light green sections, chopped
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
6 cups corn stock or vegetable broth if you don’t make the corn stock
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Grated cheddar cheese, chopped chives or crumbled bacon, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot.

Add the leeks, celery, carrots, bell pepper, jalapeno, and potatoes to the pot and saute for ten minutes until soft.

Add 3 cups of the corn, the 6 cups corn stock, chili powder and the thyme.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Remove the thyme branches.

Take the pot off the heat and puree the contents with an immersion blender.

Add the half and half, salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 3 cups of corn.

Return the pot to the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes.

Peach Crisp

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

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Broiled Tomatoes

For each 2-person serving:

Ingredients

1 large beefsteak tomato
2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Directions

Heat the broiler to high.

Cut the tomato in half and place in a baking dish, cut sides up.

Spread 1 teaspoon of pesto over each tomato.

Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs and then the grated cheese.

Drizzle each with a little olive oil.

Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the topping is nicely browned.

Baba Ghanoush

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat and place the eggplants directly on the grill. Directions for an oven version below.

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

The eggplants should be very tender.

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

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

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

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

To roast in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

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

Follow directions as above.

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

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

The mixture will be pale and creamy.

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

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

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

Let the eggplant dip warm to room temperature before serving.

Roasted Okra

Ingredients

1 pound small okra
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse the okra, drain and dry on a kitchen towel. The okra should be dry.

Trim away the stem ends and the tips and place the okra in a large bowl. Toss the okra with the olive oil until coated. Generously salt the okra.

Place the okra on a rimmed baking pan in one layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every five minutes.

The okra should be lightly browned and tender. If you don’t want them too brown, roast at 400 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the oven, toss with fresh thyme leaves and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot.

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Malta

Cyprus

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 and 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, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. This series concludes with the Mediterranean Island Countries (also referred to as the Mediterranean States) of Cyprus and Malta.

There are only two Island countries in the Mediterranean Sea.

Malta, officially the Republic of Malta, consists of the main island of Malta and the smaller islands of Gozo and Comino. The island nation is located east of Tunisia, and about 100 km (60 mi) south of the island of Sicily, Italy.

Malta has been inhabited since 5900 BC. Its location in the center of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having ruled the island, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Turks, French, and British. Most of these foreign influences have left a mark on the country’s ancient culture. The official languages are Maltese and English, with Maltese also recognized as the national language. Italian is also spoken by most of the population.

Cyprus is located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel, north of Egypt, and southeast of Greece. Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in the 2nd millennium BC. As a strategic location in the Middle East, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Persians.

Cyprus was placed under British administration in 1878 and was formally annexed by Britain in 1914. Currently, the Republic of Cyprus is partitioned into two main parts: the area under the control of the Republic, located in the south and west that comprises about 59% of the island’s area; and the north, administered by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, covering about 36% of the island’s area. Another 4% of the island’s area is the UN buffer zone.

Cuisine

Malta

Maltese cuisine shows strong Sicilian and English influences as well as influences of Spanish, Maghrebin and Provençal cuisines. A number of regional variations can be noted as well as seasonal variations associated with the availability of produce and Christian feasts (such as Lent, Easter, and Christmas). Food has been important historically in the development of a national identity and, in particular, the traditional fenkata (stewed or fried rabbit).

Traditional Maltese food is rustic and based on the seasons. On most food shop counters, you’ll see Bigilla, a thick pate of broad beans with garlic. Snacks include a round of bread dipped in olive oil, rubbed with ripe tomatoes and filled with a mix of tuna, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and capers. Also popular are pastizzi (flaky pastry filled with ricotta or mushy peas). Depending on the season, you’ll see spnotta (bass), dott (stone fish), cerna (grouper), dentici (dentex), sargu (white bream) and trill( red mullet) in the spring. Swordfish and tuna follow later, around early to late autumn, followed by the famed lampuka, or dolphin fish. Octopus and squid are very often used to make rich stews and pasta sauces.

The popularity of pork and its presence in various dishes can be attributed to Malta being on the edge of the Christian world. Consuming food which is taboo in the Muslim culinary culture could have been a way of self-identification by distinguishing oneself from the other. In addition to pork dishes, the cuisine includes Maltese sausages, kawlata (a vegetable soup) and baked rice.

Despite Malta’s small size, there are some regional variations. This is especially the case in the area of Gozo. Gozitan cheeselet and ftira Għawdxija, a flatbread topped or filled with potatoes or eggs, grated cheese, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, ricotta and Maltese sausage as other possible ingredients. Gozitan cheeselets are used as filling for ravioli instead of the usual ricotta.


Because Catholic fasting during Lent involved mostly meats and dairy products, fish such as Lampuki became a popular dish during this period as were stewed snails, stuffed artichokes, and fritters.

Cyprus

Cypriot cuisine is closely related to Greek and Turkish cuisine; it has also been influenced by Byzantine, French, Italian, Catalan, Ottoman and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Meze is a large selection of dishes with small helpings of varied foods, brought to the table as different courses. The meal begins with black and green olives, tahini, skordalia (potato and garlic dip), hummus, taramasalata (fish roe dip), and tzatziki, all served with chunks of fresh bread and a bowl of mixed salad.

Some of the more unusual meze dishes include octopus in red wine, snails in tomato sauce, brains with pickled capers, samarella (salted dried meat), quails, pickled quail eggs, tongue, kappari pickles (capers), and moungra (pickled cauliflower). Bunches of greens, some raw, some dressed with lemon juice and salt, are basic on the meze table. Fish, grilled halloumi cheese, lountza (smoked pork tenderloin), keftedes (minced meatballs), sheftalia (pork rissoles), and loukaniko (pork sausages) can follow. Hot grilled meats – kebabs, lamb chops, chicken – may be served toward the end. The dessert is usually fresh fruit or glyka – traditional sugar-preserved fruits and nuts.

Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and was initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period. Halloumi (Hellim) is commonly served sliced, either fresh or grilled, as an appetizer.

Seafood and fish dishes include squid, octopus, red mullet, and sea bass. Cucumber and tomato are used widely in salads. Common vegetable preparations include potatoes in olive oil and parsley, pickled cauliflower and beets, asparagus and taro. Other traditional delicacies are meat marinated in dried coriander seeds and wine, dried and smoked lountza (smoked pork loin), charcoal-grilled lamb, souvlaki (pork and chicken cooked over charcoal), and sheftalia (minced meat skewers). Pourgouri (bulgur, cracked wheat) is the traditional source of carbohydrate other than bread.

Fresh vegetables and fruits are common ingredients. Frequently used vegetables include courgettes, green peppers, okra, green beans, artichokes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and grape leaves, beans, broad beans, peas, black-eyed beans, chickpeas, and lentils. The most common fruits and nuts are pears, apples, grapes, oranges, mandarins, nectarines, medlar, blackberries, cherry, strawberries, figs, watermelon, melon, avocado, lemon, pistachio, almond, chestnut, walnut, and hazelnut.

Spices play an important role in the cuisine. The best-known spices and herbs include pepper, parsley, arugula, celery, fresh coriander (cilantro), thyme, and oregano. Traditionally, cumin and coriander seeds make up the main cooking aromas of the island. Mint is a very important herb in Cyprus. It grows abundantly, and locals use it for everything, particularly in dishes containing ground meat. For example, the Cypriot version of pastitsio contains very little tomato and generous amounts of mint. The same is true of keftedes (meatballs). Fresh coriander or cilantro are often used in salads, olive breads, spinach pies (spanakopita) and other pastries.

Cyprus is also well known for its desserts, including lokum (also known as Turkish Delight) and Soutzoukos. Loukoumades (fried dough balls in syrup), loukoum, ravani, tulumba, and baklava are well-known local desserts. There are also pastiș, cookies made of ground almonds, that are offered to guests at weddings.

Flaounes are savory Easter pastries that contain goat cheese (or a variety of cheeses), eggs, spices and herbs all wrapped in a yeast pastry, then brushed with egg yolk and dipped into sesame seeds.

Sources: https://www.visitmalta.com and https://www.cyprusisland.net/cyprus-cuisine

Maltese Rabbit Stew

Ingredients

1 rabbit, cut into 8 pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Plain flour, for dusting
100 ml vegetable oil
3 onions, finely diced
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
280 g tomato paste
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
1.5 liters of chicken stock
4 potatoes, peeled cut into 2cm dice
300 g peas
1 cup parsley leaves

Marinade
100 ml olive oil
1 head garlic, peeled
350 ml red wine
5 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks
4-star anise
3 whole cloves

Directions

To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a non-metallic bowl. Add the rabbit pieces, combine well, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Drain the rabbit pieces, reserving the marinade. Pat the rabbit dry, season to taste and dust with flour. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rabbit and cook until golden on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the tomato paste and spices and stir for a few minutes or until fragrant.

Add the reserved marinade and simmer for 15 minutes. Return the rabbit pieces to the pan. Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes or until reduced by one-third. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 40 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes or until tender. A few minutes before serving, stir in the peas. Scatter with parsley and serve.

Maltese Baked Rice

Ingredients

2½ cups long grain rice
500g beef or pork mince (or a combination of the two)
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 courgette diced
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 350 gram jar passata
1½ cups water
1½ cups grated cheddar cheese (1/2 cup is to be left aside to place on top of the dish before baking)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
4 eggs lightly beaten
Olive oil for frying

Directions

Parboil rice by filling a medium pot with water ¾ of the way and boil. Add rice and reduce water to simmer for 15 minutes.
Drain rice and set aside.
Fry 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan and add mince. Fry for 5 minutes and then add tomato paste and curry powder. Fry for a further five minutes or until meat is browned. Remove fried meat and set aside.
In the same pan add 1 tablespoon olive oil and fry onion and garlic on medium heat for five minutes.
Add the courgette and fry for a further five minutes.
Add back the meat and add the chopped tomatoes, and passata.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for fifteen minutes.
Once completed; preheat oven to 220 C.
Add rice, cheese (leave some cheddar cheese aside to place on top) and eggs to the meat and tomato sauce mixture.
Add the mixture in a medium-sized baking dish plus the 1½ cups water too.
Place the remaining ½ cup of cheddar on top.
Reduce the oven to 180 C and place the dish in the oven.
Cook for 30 minutes or until crispy around the edges.

Cyprus Octopus with Oregano

Ingredients:

1 kg octopus
½ tsp dry oregano
Black Pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice

Directions

Clean the octopus thoroughly under cold running water.
Place the octopus in a pot with hot olive oil (1 tablespoon), cover and cook.
Simmer to bring out all the juices and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced and the octopus is tender. Add some water if needed.
Remove from the heat and drain.
Serve hot or cold, seasoned with oregano and olive oil/vinegar dressing or olive oil/lemon juice dressing.
Note: You can also cook the octopus on the grill. If the octopus is thick, cut it into small pieces before serving.

Cyprus Warm Halloumi and Peach Salad

Ingredients

3 ripe but firm peaches, halved and stoned
250g Halloumi cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
3 red chicory, root intact, quartered lengthwise
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed, cut into 2cm lengths
For the dressing
1 red chili, deseeded, finely chopped
½ large bunch fresh coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
5 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp clear honey

Directions

Make the dressing by mixing everything together in a small bowl. Cover and set aside.

Cut each peach half into wedges.
Cut Halloumi into 1cm thick slices.
Heat half the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the cheese for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and almost crusty. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
Add the chicory and onions to the hot pan, stir-fry until slightly wilted and colored. Transfer onto an absorbent kitchen towel.
Heat the remaining oil. Add the peach wedges and fry for a minute or two, until softened, lightly colored but still retaining their shape.
Combine all the ingredients together then pour on the dressing.
Spoon onto individual plates.


Makes 12 Cakes

Ingredients

For the crust
1 cup finely ground pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar or brown sugar substitute for baking
3 tablespoons butter melted

For the cheesecake
8 oz mascarpone cheese softened to room temperature
15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar or sugar substitute for baking
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the strawberry topping
1 cup sliced strawberries
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons granulated sugar or sugar substitute for baking

For the blueberry topping
1 cup blueberries
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons granulated sugar or sugar substitute for baking

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place paper cupcake liners into 12 muffin cups. In a small bowl, stir together the crust ingredients. Evenly divide the mixture among the 12 muffin cups, about 1 tablespoon in each. Press the crust mixture firmly into the bottom of each muffin cup. Set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the softened mascarpone cheese, ricotta cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Using a muffin scoop fill the muffin cups to the top.

Bake for 40 minutes until the cakes are slightly puffed and the mixture looks set.

Allow the mini cakes to cool in the muffin tin completely. As they cool, a small indentation will form in the top of each little cake.

Place the pan with the cakes still in the pan in the refrigerator to chill.
Arrange the mini cakes on a serving platter. Fill the indentations on each little cake with the fruit topping. Fill half of the mini cakes with strawberry topping and the other half with the blueberry topping.

To make the fruit topping:
In one small saucepan place the strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar. Simmer on low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and allow to cool. Pour into a storage container and chill.
Repeat the same process for the blueberry topping.


Blueberry Cobbler

For low carb or gluten-free use almond flour

Filling
4 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch or 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (to thicken)
3 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Topping
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, thickener, sugar, and lemon juice and mix well until the blueberries are coated.
Pour the blueberry mixture into a greased 9-inch pie pan.
Melt the butter in the microwave in a glass bowl. Stir in the almond flour, sugar, and lemon zest until a crumbly dough forms.
Using your hands, crumble the dough over the blueberries in pea-sized clumps.
Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling. Serve warm or cold.

Small-Batch Fresh Blueberry Jam

Two cups of berries will make a half cup of jam.

With this recipe, I was able to fill two pint-sized freezer jelly jars three-fourths of the way to the top. This recipe can be doubled but you will need a longer cooking time.

Ingredients
4 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar or sugar substitute
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Mix blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a large saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened and reduced by about half, about 30 minutes.

Using a potato masher crush the berries several times during the cooking process.

Pour the jam into clean freezer jars. Store the jam in the freezer.

Blueberry Muffins

Makes 12 – 15 muffins depending on the size of your muffin pan.

Ingredients

Batter
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar or sugar substitute for baking
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) fresh blueberries

Topping
2/3 cup packed brown sugar or brown sugar substitute for baking
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and either butter a 12-15 muffin cup pan or use paper liners.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand-held or stand mixer, until light and fluffy and almost white in color.

Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until the batter is smooth. Fold in the berries by hand.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using 1/4-cup for each muffin.

To make the topping:

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle the topping over the muffins.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center, comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.

 


Fresh Fruit Ice Cream

The vodka helps to keep the ice cream from getting icy.

I used strawberries for these recipes.

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh in-season fruit (strawberries, peaches, etc), chopped
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 can (13.5 ounces) full fat coconut cream
½ cup powdered sugar or sugar substitute
2 tablespoons vodka
1 teaspoon orange extract

Directions

Pour the heavy cream, coconut cream, sugar, vodka, and orange extract into a deep mixing bowl.
Process the mixture with an immersion blender until thoroughly combined and the mixture thickens. Stir in the sliced fruit.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the mixture for 3 hours to overnight to let the flavors develop.
Whisk the mixture and pour into a large loaf pan, cover and place into the freezer.

After about an hour, stir the mixture.
Return it to the freezer until frozen solid.
Let the ice cream sit on the kitchen counter for 15 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Creamsicles

6 popsicles

Ingredients

4 oz cream cheese softened
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar or sugar substitute
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup (8-9 oz) fresh strawberries finely chopped

Directions

Place cream cheese, cream, sugar and lemon juice in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the chopped strawberries. and process
until the berries are incorporated.

Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze at least 4 hours. To unmold, run under hot tap water for 20 to 30 seconds, and then twist the stick to gently to release.


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.


Chocolate Covered Maple Cookies

Makes 18 cookies

Ingredients

2 cups finely ground almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 ounces dark chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line two cookie sheets or rimmed baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Be sure all the clumps are gone from the almond flour. Switch to a silicone spatula and stir in the maple syrup and vanilla. Mix until a sticky dough forms and holds together.

With a cookie scoop or tablespoon, scoop up the dough and form it into a ball. Form the ball into a small rectangle about 2 inches long and a ¼ inch thick. Place the cookie on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough, placing each cookie about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.

Place the cookies in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, switching the cookie sheets on the oven racks at the halfway point. The cookies are ready when the edges are golden brown.
Transfer the cookies on the parchment paper onto a wire rack, and let them cool completely.

Place the chocolate in a small deep glass mixing bowl and place the bowl in the microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir, and place back in the microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir until the chocolate is completely dissolved.

Place another piece of parchment paper on a kitchen counter. When the cookies are completely cooled, dip one half of each cookie onto the chocolate. Place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheet. Repeat until finished. Leave at room temperature until the chocolate hardens. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature or in the refrigerator or place in a freezer container for up to 6 weeks.

Maple Walnut Biscotti

Makes

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon water
2 oz. dark chocolate chips
1 oz finely chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, arrowroot powder, baking soda, and salt. Be sure all the clumps are gone in the almond flour.
Add the maple syrup, the vanilla and orange extracts, and water.
Stir well to combine.
Fold the chocolate chips and nuts into the batter. On a cutting board, form the batter into a rectangular log, 2 inches wide by 8 inches long and place on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.
Reheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Cut the log into thin slices with a very sharp knife and place them cut side down on the same parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them over and bake 10 minutes more, watching carefully to make sure they do not burn.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely before serving.



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