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
5 slices bacon
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
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
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
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.
Every few weeks I like to try a new cuisine, This week it is French.
French Onion Soup
3 large sweet onions, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
64 ounces (8 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
8 tablespoons freshly grated/shredded parmesan cheese
16 slices thin swiss cheese
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
8 (1-ounce) slices French bread,1/2-inch thick, toasted
Cut onions in half, then thinly slice.
In a large soup pot, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat and add the onions.
Saute onions for about 20 minutes, until limp and golden brown in color.
Add the beef broth and thyme and heat to boiling, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in the sherry and salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oven to broil.
Place soup crocks (the number will depend on servings) in a baking pan and ladle onion soup evenly among the soup crocks filling each ¾ quarters of the way.
Add one tablespoon of grated cheese to each crock and stir gently.
Place a slice of toasted bread and two slices of swiss cheese on top of each bread slice.
Carefully transport the baking pan with the crocks to the broiler and broil the crocks until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Serve the crocks on separate plates.
Chicken with Creamy Mustard Sauce
8 medium bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons dry white wine
6 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Remove the chicken skin or leave on depending on personal preference.
Place the chicken thighs on a cutting board, skin side up, and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn them over and sprinkle them with one more teaspoon of salt.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large (11 to 12-inch) skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken in the pan in one layer, skin side down. Cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes without moving, until the skin is golden brown. Turn the chicken pieces with tongs and sprinkle with the Herbs de Provence.
Add the onions and garlic to the pan,, moving some of the onions under the chicken, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes more, stirring the onions occasionally, until the thighs are cooked to 155 to 160 degrees and the onions are brown. Transfer the chicken (not the onions) to a plate and allow to rest uncovered while you make the sauce. If the onions aren’t browned, cook them for another minute.
Add the wine and Dijon mustard and stir over low heat for one minute. Add the sour cream and heavy cream and stir for one minute. Return the chicken, skin side up, and the juices to the skillet and reheat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with the braised cabbage.
White Wine Braised Savoy Cabbage
1 small head of Savoy cabbage, about 1 pound
2 large shallots, sliced thin
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 slice bacon
1/2 cup white wine
4 oz unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons butter
Cut the cabbage in quarters, remove the core and cut the cabbage into thin slices
Sauté the bacon in a deep skillet.
When done, remove and drain on a paper towel.
Add the cabbage and stir-fry briefly.
Add the wine and thyme, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
Add applesauce and butter, stir and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Crumble bacon and add to the cabbage. Stir well and serve.
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
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
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
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
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.
Cauliflower Antipasto Salad
For the salad
1 medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
8 ounces fresh small mozzarella balls
1-16 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into small cubes
4 ounces salami slices
4 ounces pepperoni slices
1 small red onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
8 oz pepperoncini, drained and sliced into rings
4-5 oz oil cured olives
For the dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 clove garlic minced
Place the cauliflower florets in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 3-4 minutes or until as tender as you’d like. Drain and dry on paper towels.
Cut the pepperoni and salami slices into quarters.
Add the remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the cauliflower.
To make the dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, oregano, basil, rosemary, and garlic until well combined. Taste and add additional lemon, herbs, or salt as desired.
Pour the dressing over the cauliflower salad and toss to coat.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to develop before serving.
Pesto & Fresh Tomato Pizza
Make the dough one day ahead.
2 1’2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup good quality store-bought or homemade pesto (Link to my recipe)
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
2 vine-ripened tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
Place all the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients until they come to a ball around the paddle. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5 minutes. Coat the inside of a plastic ziplock bag with olive oil cooking spray. Place the dough in the bag, seal, and place in the refrigerator until the next day.
Remove the bag from the refrigerator an hour before you want to make the pizza.
Cut the tomatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain the juices. Sprinkle lightly with the salt and cover with more paper towels.
Cut the mozzarella into thin slices and place on paper towels to drain, This will prevent a soggy crust.
Set an oven rack in the bottom position and preheat the oven to 500°F.
Oil a large pizza pan and spread the dough in the pan so that it touches the edges of the pan. Spread the pesto evenly over the pizza dough
Bake on the bottom rack for 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven; and then top the pizzas with the mozzarella cheese, followed by the tomato slices and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with a few grinds fresh black pepper. Place the pizzas back in the oven and bake until the crust is crisp and golden, about 10 minutes more. Cut into slices and serve immediately.
Makes 12 mini cheesecakes
1 cup almond flour
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar or brown sugar substitute (I use monk fruit)
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup granular sugar or granular sugar substitute (monk fruit)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sugar-free fruit jelly or jam (I used cherry)
Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a standard muffin pan with cupcake liners.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the almond flour and the brown sugar. Add the melted butter to the bowl and mix until the almond flour is coated and the mixture is the texture of wet sand. Place about 1 tablespoon of the crust mixture in the bottom of each muffin cup,. Use a spoon to press the mixture down into the bottom of each muffin liner.
Bake the crusts for 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy.
Add eggs, lemon extract, vanilla extract and sweetener and mix until all ingredients are well combined and smooth. Divide the cheesecake mixture evenly between all 12 wells in the muffin pan. I use an ice cream scoop to measure equally. If using a silicone muffin pan, place it on top of a baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheesecakes are set. They will still be a little jiggly in the center.
Allow the cakes to cool in the pan on the counter for 20 minutes. Place a teaspoon of jam on top of each mini cake.
Chill for up to 24 hours before serving.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 8 medium peaches)
2-3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches
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
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:
1 large beefsteak tomato
2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
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.
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
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.
1 pound small okra
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground pepper
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maltese Rabbit Stew
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
100 ml olive oil
1 head garlic, peeled
350 ml red wine
5 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 whole cloves
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
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
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
1 kg octopus
½ tsp dry oregano
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
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
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
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.
Grilled Pork Chops
This recipe makes 6 servings but the recipe can easily be cut down to 2 or 3 servings.
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
2 teaspoons minced garlic
6 boneless pork loin chops, about 2 lbs total and cut 1-inch thick
Mix water, soy sauce, vegetable oil, lemon pepper seasoning, and minced garlic in a wide glass dish; add pork chops and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.
Preheat an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.
Remove pork chops from the marinade and shake off excess. Discard the remaining marinade.
Cook the pork chops on the preheated grill until no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
12 ounces dried tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, finely chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper, or more to taste
2 cups yellow summer squash, diced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
In a large, deep skillet, combine the olive oil, garlic, red onion and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium heat about 3 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Stir in the yellow squash, tomatoes and torn basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to low and simmer until the squash is tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the cream and lemon zest; stir.
Stir in the drained pasta. Mix and add the Parmesan. Transfer to a large serving bowl.
Citrus Green Beans With Toasted Pecans
1 shallot, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
Salt & pepper
Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover in a large, deep skillet with a cover, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes; drain.
Heat the oil in the skillet and add the shallot. Cook until tender. Add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Add the three zests and three tablespoons of juice. Stir. Adjust seasoning.
Sprinkle with pecans and serve.