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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Fruit

You may have family or friends visiting for the holidays who follow special diets. If you plan ahead and with just a few ingredients changes, many of the Thanksgiving recipes can be adapted to meet the needs of vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and low carb diets. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Everyone.

Vegan Gravy (or Regular or Gluten-Free)

Kitchen Bouquet is a browning sauce that you can find in the grocery store next to the A1 and Worcestershire Sauce. It helps to add a brown color to the gravy. There are several brands of browning sauce available, but I use this one. Since 2006 this vegan sauce has been gluten-free. It is made from a base of carrots, cabbage, turnips, parsnips, celery and onion.

You can use this same recipe for everyone by make a second batch and using chicken broth in the second batch for regular diets. To make this gravy Gluten-Free, use gluten-free cornstarch to thicken the gravy. Gluten-free gravy also works for low carb dieters.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 cup low sodium vegetable stock
2 heaping tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon each salt, pepper and dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet, optional

Directions

Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cook until the mushrooms are soft and brown, and most of their liquid is evaporated.

Stir in the flour with a whisk and reduce heat to low. Cook for another minute or two.

Slowly add the vegetable broth while whisking to reduce clumps. Then add in the salt, pepper and thyme and whisk again.

Stir in the Kitchen Bouquet, if using.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to stir until it reaches the desired thickness, about 5-10 minutes.

Thanksgiving Sausage Stuffing

To make this recipe gluten-free use cornbread instead of Italian bread in the recipe. The gluten-free cornbread recipe is below.

Ingredients

8 cups Italian bread, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, diced
2 large ribs celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried poultry seasoning
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth

Directions

Place the bread cubes into a very large bowl and set aside. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil and the sausage.

Cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula, until light brown, about 5 minutes.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the bowl of cubed bread.

In the fat left in the pan, sauté the onions, celery and garlic until the onions are just beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the thyme, sage, salt and peppers, cook 1 minute and, then, add the mixture to the cubed bread.

Add the broth to the bread mixture; stir until well combined.

Place the stuffing in a large baking dish and bake in the oven for the last hour that the turkey cooks.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

This can be made several days ahead.

Ingredients

2 cups (264 g) coarsely ground yellow cornmeal (gluten-free)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
4 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square or round pan, and set it aside.

In a large bowl, place the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and whisk to combine well.

In separate bowl, mix the egg, butter, buttermilk and honey, and whisk to combine well.

Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top, golden brown around the edges, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely and cut up into cubes.

Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing

Ingredients

3 cups sourdough wheat bread (made without dairy or eggs) cut into cubes
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 leek white part only, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 large rib celery finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Add chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until all moisture has evaporated, about 8 minutes.

Add sage and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are well browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Add leek, celery, garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add parsley, and chopped pecans.

Add stock to the bread cubes and fold in the cooked vegetables until evenly mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Transfer mixture to a greased baking dish cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake with the turkey until hot throughout, about 30 minutes.

Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and crisp on top, about 10 minutes longer.

Vegan Stuffed Squash

Serve this dish instead of turkey for your vegan or vegetarian dinners.

To make this recipe for non-vegans, add a ½ cup of cooked lean ground pork to the stuffing.

Directions for preparing the squash:

Cut a thin slice off from the top & bottom of one acorn squash (just enough to leave a flat edge, so the squash can stand up on both ends).

Cut the squash in half, horizontally, so you have two bowl shapes. Scoop out the membranes and seeds and discard.

Place the squash in a baking dish cut-side up. Brush the inside with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Roast the squash for about 30 minutes.

Filling

Combine the following:

2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons diced celery
1/4 cup diced, peeled pear
1/4 cup diced, peeled apple
2 tablespoons fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup cooked brown rice

 

 

Place the filling mixture in the partially cooked squash halves. Place the filled squash in the oven and bake 20 minutes.

Easy Vegan or Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin filling can be used for either pie.

Ingredients

Pat-in-the-Pan Vegan Crust

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water

Vegan Pie Filling Directions

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Whisk together the oil and water, then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan and up the sides.

A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help make the bottom even. Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers, and flute the top.

Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pat-in-the-Pan Gluten-Free Crust

1 1/3 cups gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil (or alternative oil)
5 tablespoons cold milk (or cold plant milk)

Gluten-Free Pie Crust Directions

Mix together the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

Blend oil and milk together in a separate bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine.

Place dough into a 9 inch pie plate and press the dough firmly onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.

Place the pie crust in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Filling Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all the pie filling ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Pour the filling into the chilled pie crust and bake for about 60 minutes.

The crust should be golden brown and the filling should still be set.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool completely before loosely covering and transferring to the refrigerator to fully set overnight.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

Crust

2¼ cups almond flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons sugar substitute (1:1 with sugar)
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 large egg at room temperature, beaten

Filling

2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup 1:1 sugar substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs at room temperature, beaten

Directions

Preheat oven at 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the crust ingredients until a dough forms.

Press the dough into 9-inch pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Whisk together the beaten eggs, pumpkin puree, vanilla, spices and sweetener. Mix well.

Add the heavy cream until fully combined.

Pour into pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick (or knife) inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely.

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Shrimp Scampi

Be sure to purchase US wild caught shrimp for this dish.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
14 -16 extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

Heat the butter and oil in a saute pan.

Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine, salt, black pepper, red pepper and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook 2–3 minutes or until lightly pink. Turn the shrimp over and cook for another minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Mushroom Risotto

(2 large side-dish portions)

Ingredients

1 cup Arborio rice
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 cup mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan over medium-low heat, to keep warm.

Drizzle the olive oil over the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot, and place it over medium heat. Add the butter and allow to melt.

Add the garlic, onion and mushrooms and sauté until all are soft.

Add the Arborio rice and mix to coat with oil, allowing to cook for about one minute.

Ladle 1 cup of chicken stock over the rice, stirring until it is absorbed by the rice.

Continue adding chicken stock and stirring until the risotto is creamy and the rice grains are al dente – soft but a bit firm on the inside.

This will take about 15-20 minutes. Before serving, stir in Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Baked Zucchini with Parmesan

2 servings

Ingredients

1 medium zucchini, washed and trimmed
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut each half in half again lengthwise. Then cut each piece in half crosswise for a total of 8 pieces.

Arrange the zucchini in an ovenproof dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Lightly brush with the olive oil.

Season with the salt and pepper. Mix the Parmesan and garlic together; then sprinkle over the zucchini.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the zucchini are tender and the cheese is browned.


For me, holiday baking doesn’t just include what would be served on the holiday itself, but it also includes breakfast breads and desserts for the days surrounding the holidays. That is because I usually have family or house guests visiting for several days over a holiday. So I plan ahead and bake several breakfast items that can be heated and served and have at least one or two desserts on hand. Here are recipes for a few favorites that are all easy to make.

Lemony Ricotta Pie

Ricotta pie or cheesecake are very popular in our family.

Crust
2 cups almond flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
4 large eggs
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish
Candied lemon and orange peel

Directions

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the crust ingredients and press into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until a light golden brown. Remove from the oven.

For the filling:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar and honey and whisk. Add the ricotta, salt and lemon flavoring.

Whisk until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the pie pan over the baked crust.

Return the pie to the oven and bake for about 60 minutes until the filling is completely set.

Remove the pie from the oven and set on a cooling rack.

Decorate the top of the pie with pieces of candied lemon and orange peel.

When cooled to room temperature, refrigerate until serving time.

Easy Pecan Sticky Buns

Ingredients

Sticky Syrup
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup large pecan halves

Dough
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup heavy cream

Cinnamon Filling
4 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Lightly grease a glass 9″ round cake pan or pie pan.

To make the syrup:

Melt the butter in the glass pan in the microwave. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup.

Stir well and spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place the pecan halves over the syrup in a single layer.

To make the dough:

Stir together the flour and cream to make a smooth dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.

Gently roll the dough into a 12″ x 8″ rectangle.

To make the cinnamon filling:

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped pecans in a small mixing bowl.

Spread the softened butter over the entire surface of the dough.

Roll the dough into a log. Position it so the seam is facing down.

Slice the log into 10 pieces, and place them in the prepared pan.

Bake the buns for about 20 minutes, until they’re bubbly and lightly browned on top.

Remove the buns from the oven, and immediately turn them out onto a serving plate.

Scrape any leftover syrup from the pan onto the buns.

To serve later, cool completely, then wrap well and store at room temperature for up to a couple of days.

Reheat in a 325 degree oven. Freeze for longer storage.

Adapted from a King Arthur recipe.

Jumbo Blueberry Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour (lightly scoop, don’t pack down)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Chopped walnuts and coarse sugar for sprinkling on top

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Spray a jumbo 6-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined. Add the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and whisk.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix together with a spatula. Avoid over mixing. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Top with a sprinkle of walnuts and coarse sugar.

Bake at 425 F degrees for 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F degrees and continue to bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are lightly golden and a cake tester comes out clean when placed into the center of the muffins.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool.

Store muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 3 months.


Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

1 medium cooking pumpkin, about 3 ½ – 4 cups roasted pumpkin flesh
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped leeks
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 ½ cups whole milk
1-2 teaspoons honey
Chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet with sides.

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Fill the pumpkin wells half way with water and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Place in the oven and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool and then scrape out the pumpkin into a bowl. Set aside,

Pour the olive oil into a Dutch Oven and heat over medium-high heat.

Add leeks, celery and garlic; cook and stir until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the pumpkin, broth, pepper, salt and spices. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Process with a hand immersion blender in the saucepan or transfer half of the pumpkin mixture to a blender or food processor; cover and blend or process until smooth. Repeat with the remaining half of the pumpkin mixture. Return all of the pureed mixture to saucepan.

Stir in the milk and heat through, but do not boil. Stir in enough of the honey to sweeten the mixture to taste.

Serve warm garnished with chopped chives. Makes 6 (3/4-cup) servings.

Glazed Ham

Don’t forget to save the bone for soup.

Ingredients

6 lb ready-to-eat, cooked ham, bone-in, uncut (NOT spiral cut), shank end or butt end
1/2 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon country whole seed mustard

Directions

Heat the oven to 325° F.

Place the ham, fat side up, in a roasting pan.

Bake the ham for about 20 minutes per pound, about 2 hours for a 6 lb ham, or until an instant read meat thermometer registers at least 140° F (60° C), the safe minimum temperature for a fully cooked ham.

In a medium bowl whisk together the apricot preserves, brown sugar, apple cider, mustard and thyme.

About 30 minutes before the ham is done, spoon the glaze over the entire ham.

Cover the ham loosely with foil and let it stand for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

Rutabaga Gratin

You can also put this dish in the oven with the ham at the lower temperature to cook the two dishes at the same time. Put the gratin in the oven when the ham has an hour and a half of cooking time remaining.

Servings: 6-8

ingredients

2 pound rutabaga (peeled, thinly sliced)
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Coat a 7×11 or an 8×12 baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the sliced rutabaga in a saucepan and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil.

Cook for 3 minutes in the boiling water, drain and set aside.

Combine the cream, garlic powder, thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper with a whisk.

Pour one-third of the cream into the bottom of the baking dish.

Place a layer of rutabaga slices on top, followed by one-third of the cheese. Dot with one-third of the butter.

Continue to layer ending with a layer of cheese.

Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven until bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top, about 30-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cover loosely with foil to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Sautéed Green Cabbage Steaks

Ingredients

1 small head green cabbage
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
Celery seed for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Immerse the whole head of cabbage in the boiling water until the outer leaves begin to loosen.

Remove the cabbage from the water and drain. Cut the stem end off and carefully peel away as many outer leaves as will come off easily, usually 8 to 12 leaves will be large enough for stuffing. Reserve those leaves for another use.

Cut the remaining cabbage in half and cut two half-inch thick slices from the cabbage halves.

Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage steaks, sprinkle with half the salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.

Turn the cabbage steaks over with a wide spatula, sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes more.

Sprinkle lightly with celery seed and serve.


Inviting friends over for dinner does not have to be a scary experience. With a little planning and the right kinds of recipes, it can be very manageable. On a recent evening, I entertained six of my friends for dinner and a relaxing evening. Here is my game plan.
Choose recipes that you can cook or do most of the preparation for in advance.
The main dish I served can be done the day before, refrigerated overnight and reheated while you and your guests enjoy an easy appetizer and cocktails. I have included my make ahead tips in the recipes below.

Mixed Olives, Sliced Havarti Cheese and Breadsticks. Chilled Prosecco

Italian Mixed Green Salad with Pistachios, Dried Raspberries and Gorgonzola Cheese

6 servings

Make Ahead Tip: The greens can be washed a day ahead or early in the morning, dried in a spinner and placed in a salad serving bowl. Place a paper towel on top of the greens, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Slice the tomatoes and onions, place in a storage container, drizzle a little dressing over them, cover and refrigerate.

Ingredients

1 heart of romaine lettuce
1 head red/green leaf lettuce
10 radicchio leaves, torn into small pieces
¼ of a red onion, diced
1 pint sliced miniature colored tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup pistachio nuts
¼ cup dried raspberries
Italian vinaigrette

Directions

To the washed greens in the salad bowl, add the nuts and raspberries. Pour some dressing over the ingredients and mix well.

Place some of the greens on 6 individual salad dishes, top with some of the marinated tomatoes and onions and top the tomatoes with a one inch square of cheese. Serve immediately.

Swiss Steak

Swiss steak is meat, usually beef, prepared by braising in a cooking pot of stewed tomatoes, mushroom sauce, or some other sauce, either on a stove or in an oven. In England and in some parts of the United States, especially the South, it is also called smothered steak. The dish does not come from Switzerland, as the name suggests, but from the technique of tenderizing by pounding called “swissing”.

6 or more servings

Make Ahead Tip: This dish benefits from being prepared a day or two in advance. Once it has finished cooking, pour into a shallow, ovenproof casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate. Take the casserole out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve it. Let the casserole come to room temperature for one hour. Then, reheat in a 325 degree oven for one hour. (The dish can reheat while you and your guests are enjoying appetizers and cocktails.)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
16 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
All-purpose flour
3 pounds boneless round steak, 3/4-1/2 inch thick
4 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (brown gravy coloring)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the round steak into serving size pieces and place between pieces of plastic wrap. Pound lightly to about 1/4 inch thick.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour.

In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add some of the meat and brown on both sides. Remove to a plate.

Repeat with remaining oil, butter and meat.

Add the garlic, onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook until the onion is softened and the mushrooms have released their liquid.

Add the Worcestershire sauce and Kitchen Bouquet. Stir in ¼ cup all-purpose flour and mix until the flour dissolves. Add the beef broth.

If the broth doesn’t cover the meat, add a little water. Stir until all the ingredients are mixed into the broth and bring to a boil.

Add the browned meat back to the pot,

Cover the pot and bake for 3 hours or until tender. Remove the meat to a shallow ovenproof casserole. Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate.

Take the casserole out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve it. Let the casserole come to room temperature for one hour.

Then, reheat, covered, in a 325 degree F oven for one hour.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Make Ahead Tip: The potatoes can be baked a day before or early in the morning of the day of your dinner party. They can be filled, covered and refrigerated until close to serving time. Take them out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve them. Let the stuffed potatoes come to room temperature for one hour. Then reheat in the oven with the casserole, uncovered, for one hour.

6 servings

Ingredients

2 large russet potatoes about 14 -16 oz each, scrubbed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Paprika and chopped chives for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F. Gently scrub potatoes, but do not peel. Pierce potatoes several times with a fork to allow steam to escape while the potatoes bake. Wrap in heavy-duty foil.

Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when lightly squeezed.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut lengthwise in half; scoop out the inside, leaving a thin shell.

In a mixing bowl, mash the potatoes. Add the butter, salt and pepper; mix until the potatoes are light and fluffy.

Stir in the cream and cheddar cheese. Fill the potato shells and place them in a baking dish.

Sprinkle with paprika and chives. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Take them out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve them. Let the stuffed potatoes come to room temperature for one hour.

Then reheat in the oven, along with the Swiss Steak casserole, uncovered, for one hour.

To serve: cut each potato boat in half (to make 8 pieces). Serve one half to each guest. There will be 2 second helpings.

These are very filling. I have found that half of a large potato is sufficient for most guests.

Green Beans with Ginger and Lemon Zest

Make Ahead Tip: Blanch the beans in boiling water the day before or early in the morning on the day you are serving them. Place them in a storage container and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover and refrigerate.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, grated
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
3 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Directions

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for two minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.

Add the lemon zest, cover the pan and steam the beans until they are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

Add the salt and pepper and pour into a serving dish.

Pear Frangipane Tart

This pastry should be made early in the day of your dinner party. It cannot be made a day ahead because it will lose its crispness.

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup almond flour (finely ground blanched almonds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 sheet frozen Puff Pastry
3 firm-ripe Bosc or Anjou pears
Egg white

Directions

Thaw the puff pastry according to package directions. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 12×12 inch rectangle.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (I use an attractive baking pan that can also be used for serving.) Prick pastry with a fork.

Build up the sides slightly by folding in about 1/2 inch of the pastry on the edges. Brush edges with egg white.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine 1/4 cup sugar with the almond flour and all-purpose flour. Set aside.

Beat together the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer at moderately high-speed until pale and fluffy.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the flavored extracts.

Reduce the speed to low and mix in the flour mixture just until combined.

Spread frangipane filling evenly over the tart shell.

Peel, halve and core pears, then cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange pears decoratively on filling.

Brush the pears with the egg white.

Bake until the pears are golden and frangipane is puffed up around the pears and golden brown, about 45 minutes.

Cool tart completely in the baking pan on a rack, then slide parchment out from under the tart. Leave at room temperature until serving time.

Garnish with frozen yogurt or whipped cream, if desired.

 

 


Mediterranean Syria

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

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

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

Beach in Latakia

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

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

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

Syrian Recipes To Make At Home

Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Adapted from a recipe from Mary Sanom

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

To fill the grape leaves:

Lay out a grape leaf with the vein side up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aubergine Fetteh (Fetteh Beitinjaan)

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiced Fish (Samaka Harra)

Serves 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

Milk Pudding (Muhallabiyeh)

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

Serves 12

Ingredients

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scallops In A Leek And Lemon Butter Sauce

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large leek (white and pale green part only), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon water
1 cup dry white wine
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 fresh thyme sprig
6 large sea fresh scallops
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter for the sauce, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

For the spinach

10 oz package of frozen spinach, defrosted
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

For the leeks:

Wash the leeks well to rid them of sand. Drain.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet with a cover over medium low heat. Add the sliced leeks and water.

Cover and simmer until the leeks are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the leeks to a bowl and cover while the other ingredients are being prepared.

For the sauce:

In a small saucepan boil the white wine, shallots, lemon juice and fresh thyme sprig until the mixture is reduced to half.

Strain the sauce into a measuring cup. Reserve the pot.

For the scallops:

Remove the side muscle from the scallops and dry the scallops well on a paper towel. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet that the leeks were cooked in over medium-high heat.

Add the scallops and saute until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Place the scallops on a plate and cover with foil.

Pour the wine sauce into the skillet and bring to simmer. Gradually add the cold butter cubes to the sauce, whisking just until melted.

Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the leeks and warm the mixture.

For the spinach:

Heat the olive oil and garlic in the small saucepan that the sauce was made in and add the spinach. Cook just until the spinach is hot.

Remove the pan from the heat.

To assemble the dish:

Divide the leek sauce in half and pour into the center of two round individual pasta bowls.

Place 3 scallops over the leek sauce in each dish.

Arrange the cooked spinach around the scallops in each dish and serve.



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