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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: peaches

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.


Making a BBQ dinner for friends is a great way to entertain, especially if the weather cooperates. I enjoy having guests for dinner and I usually plan my menu with dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. That way I am able to spend time with friends rather than doing a lot of food preparations while they are visiting.

You may have noticed that more and more of your friends are following different diets. Some are only eating low carb foods, others are on a Paleo diet, some are diabetic, others vegetarian and some vegan. It is a good idea to check with your friends to see what they can eat. I am always open to planning variations of what I am making to accommodate their diets. In this case a few friends are following a vegan diet, so instead of 8 beef burgers, four are beef and four are made from oats and beans. These vegan burgers are great on the grill, hold up perfectly and do not fall apart. Just be sure your grill is well oiled.  The rest of the menu works for everyone.

Beef Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

20 oz (1 ¼ lbs grass-fed organic ground steak for burgers
Steak seasoning (I like Penzey’s Chicago seasoning)
1 large sweet onion, cut into 4 ½ inch thick slices
Olive oil cooking spray
4 wheat burger buns

Directions

Shape the meat into four equal patties, about 5 oz each.

Sprinkle the steak seasoning on both sides of the patties and spray each with olive oil cooking spray.

Coat the onion slices on both sides with cooking spray

Heat an outdoor grill on high. Oil the grill grates. Place the burgers on the grill, cover, cook turning once, for a total of 8 minutes.

Place the onion slices on the grill and cook until grill marks form on the bottom, turn them over with a wide spatula and cook the second side for a total of about 4 minutes.

Toast the rolls at the same time. Place the burgers on the bottom half of the rolls and top with a grilled onion slice.

Serve with ketchup and your favorite burger condiments.

Vegan Bean and Oat Burgers

For 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 sweet onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup dry pinto beans
1/4 cup dry red or black beans
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for grilling

For Serving
Grilled Onion slices
4 wheat burger buns
Ketchup or other condiments

Directions

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover and cook the next day for 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Place the oats in the bowl of the processor and process until finely ground.

Add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Remove the mixture from the processor and shape into four patties. Cover with plastic wrap.

Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight before grilling.

Brush the patties with olive oil and place on an oiled grill.

Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Place on toasted buns and add a grilled onion slice. Serve with ketchup or other condiments.

Whole-Wheat Burger Buns

6 buns

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flours, yeast, salt, wheat gluten and baking soda.

Add the warm water, honey and oil. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together around the paddle.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low until the dough is smooth but slightly sticky.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat all over with oil, cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside for 2 hours until the dough has risen.

Punch down the dough and divide into 6 smooth balls

Place the buns on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet, a few inches apart or in a greased burger baking pan.

Flatten the tops slightly with your fingers, and let the buns rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the buns in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove to a rack and allow the buns to cool.

Zucchini Fennel Salad

Ingredients

Salad
1 large zucchini, sliced very thin
Half red onion, sliced very thin
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
12 Italian green olives, pitted and chopped

Dressing
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon orange zest

Directions

In a large serving bowl, combine the zucchini, onion, olives and fennel.

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the dressing ingredients; shake well.

Pour over the zucchini mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate for several hours until chilled before serving.

Peach Crisp

Ingredients

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

Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 – 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 the agave nectar. 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 pan.

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

 


Fresh fruit is so plentiful now that I can’t resist baking with some of it. The question is – which fruit to use? Cherries have a short season, so I take advantage of their availability now. Peaches are so flavorful at this time of year, you will want to bring home a bag full. Here in the south figs are everywhere and there are so many things you can make with them. What is your favorite summer fruit for baking?

Louisiana Fig and Pecan Cake

Ingredients

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped fresh figs
½ cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioner’s sugar, for serving

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a standing mixer, whisk the eggs briefly in the mixer bowl. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about one minute.

Add oil and beat until just combined.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and baking soda.

Beginning with the flour, add flour and buttermilk mixture alternately and mix until combined.

Add the chopped figs, cinnamon, cloves, salt and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan, or into 2 loaf pans (8x4x2½).

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake, 60-70 minutes for the tube pan and 50-55 minutes for the loaf pans.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan. Allow the cake to cool completely.

Garnish with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Sweet Cherry Galette

Ingredients

1/2 package of refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury), at room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch or other pie thickener
3 1/2 cups pitted fresh cherries (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Coarse sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface into an 11-inch circle.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Mix the pitted cherries with the brown sugar, salt and liqueur.

Spoon the cherries over the dough and leave a 2-inch border.

Drop pieces of butter over the cherries and fold the edges of the dough over, pressing lightly.

Sprinkle the crust with coarse sugar and bake for 40-45 minutes until the cherries are bubbling and the crust is brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Big Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

My children and grandchildren visit in the summer because they like all the water activities that are available at this time of year. A favorite dessert for all are chocolate chip cookies. I prepare a big batch before they arrive and store them in the freezer. Serving dessert is so easy – don’t even have to think about it.

If you do not want to make a big batch, the recipe ingredients can easily be cut in half.

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Heat the oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. I use four baking sheets for this recipe, so I can rotate them quickly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (do not overmix). Mix in the chocolate chips by hand.

Use a cookie scoop to drop the dough onto baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Place 12 cookies on a sheet.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until golden around the edges but still soft in the center, 14 to 15 minutes.

Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then slide the parchment paper with cookies on it to the kitchen counter to cool completely.

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

I store the cookies in the freezer and when company comes, I take out a dozen or two the night before and store them in an airtight container.

You won’t have to worry about them for the next day. They will be all gone!

Peach Crisp

Ingredients

6 ripe medium peaches
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the topping by combining all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using your fingers, work the butter into the mixture until crumbs form. Set aside.

For the peaches:

Peel and slice the peaches about ¼ inch thick and place in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a spatula.

Butter an 8×8 inch baking dish and pour the peaches into the dish. Spread the peaches to make an even layer.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the peaches.

Bake for about one hour until the peaches are bubbling away and the topping is brown and crispy.

Cool the baking dish on a wire rack. Serve the peach crisp warm with a spoonful of whipped cream on top.


 

faith_willinger_20001My friend, Andy, recently gave me a cookbook titled, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger. The author’s name was familiar to me because I have been cooking from her book, Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables, for a long time. You can also check out a column she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly by visiting this site: http://www.theatlantic.com/author/faith-willinger/

In the Adventures book, Faith takes readers to country markets and busy city shops, to wineries in rural villages, to kitchens in restaurants and into private homes where her friends share their recipes – real Italian recipes.

Additionally, Willinger introduces the reader to the people of Italy: the grocers who stock homemade artisan cheeses and salumi, winemakers, Tuscan bakers, butchers and chocolatiers. Each entry is followed by a recipe. The recipes include some classic Italian dishes that will be familiar, but most are as authentic and original as the people Ms. Willinger profiles in the book. Actually these profiles are one of the best features in the book.

Even if you’re practiced in making Italian food, there’s still much to learn from Ms. Willinger.  She includes information on the most important ingredients, explaining such things as why certain dry pastas are superior to others, what goes into making Italy’s best cheeses, how to select the best olive oils and what distinguishes an artisanal ricotta from another more ordinary one.

The book can also function as a guidebook for travelers because she includes web sites, hours of operation and contact information that make arranging a personal visit easy.

Here are a few recipes from the book for you to try. The book is divided into three major areas of Italy: Northern and Central Italy; Tuscany and Southern Italy and the Islands.

From Chapter 1 – Northern and Central Italy

bellini

Bellini Cocktail

Willinger adapted this recipe from Walter Bolzonella’s recipe, a barman of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice.

Serves 2

For the peach puree:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound ripe white peaches
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the drinks:

  • A few raspberries, if desired, for color
  • 1 bottle Prosecco sparkling wine

Directions

Put the water and lemon juice in a bowl. Peel, pit and slice the peaches. Immerse them in the acidulated water, so they don’t discolor and macerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 6 hours.

Drain the peaches, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the liquid. In a food processor or blender, puree the peaches with the sugar and reserved liquid. Use more sugar if the peaches are very tart

but this is not a sweet drink. If the peaches don’t have pink veins (which lend a Bellini its rosy hue), add a few raspberries to the mixture before pureeing.

Transfer the mixture to a jar or bottle and chill thoroughly.

Pour cold peach puree into a pitcher. Add one bottle of chilled Prosecco sparkling wine and stir gently. Pour into glasses and drink at once.

wright-custard1

Zabaione

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Moscato d’Asti wine
  • Butter or hazelnut cookies or fresh fruit or berries

Directions

Place the ingredients in a 1 ½-2 quart pot (use a copper or stainless steel bowl with a rounded bottom, holding the bowl with a pot holder)

Begin beating at high-speed with a mixer until foamy. Place the pot over medium heat and continue beating.  Mixture will grow greatly in volume and thicken.  Remove the pot from the heat when the mixture feels warm and continue beating.  

Place back over the heat, beating the whole time, removing the pot from the heat when it seems to be heating up too much. Practice makes perfect.  

The zabaione will be thick and foamy, warm but not hot to the touch.  Serve in individual glass serving bowls with butter or hazelnut cookies on the side.  Or over berries or sliced fresh soft ripe fruit like peaches or mango.

Chapter 2 – Tuscany

39260f3404aafec4f3b94cef4e7a1470

Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta, fresh, if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 12-16 fresh zucchini flowers
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Directions

If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then gently spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.

Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag — I use a disposable one and simply cut the tip off the end. Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.

Drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and the place pan over the highest heat.

When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for four to six minutes or until the flowers are hot, steamed by the moisture of the ricotta.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper and salt, minced basil, and the remaining extra virgin olive oil.

2black-grape-schiacciata

Etruscan Grape Tart

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
  • ¾ cups warm water
  • 3 tablespoons Chianti — drink the rest with dinner
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ½ – 2 ¾ cups soft wheat flour (Italian “00” or White Lily flour)
  • ¼ cup Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Around 1 ¾ pounds wine, Concord, or red Grace grapes
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, wine and honey in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until bubbles form. Stir in ¾ cup flour — it doesn’t have to be smooth because lumps will dissolve. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

Add the olive oil, salt and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary so it isn’t sticky. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece out to a rough 10 by 16-inch rectangle. Place one rectangle on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (or use a nonstick cookie sheet), scatter the dough with half the grapes and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar.

Use the second rectangle of dough to cover the bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining grapes on the dough, gently press the grapes into the dough, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until dark brown. Remove from the pan while still warm and spoon excess juice over the tart. Serve at room temperature.

From Chapter 3 – Southern Italy

4316

Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 whole salt-cured anchovies, filleted, or 4–6 canned anchovy fillets
  • 3–4 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
  • Chili pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 14–16 ounces spaghetti

Directions

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic over low heat until it barely begins to color. Add the anchovy fillets and, with a wooden spoon, mash them until they dissolve into the oil. Add the walnuts, chili pepper and parsley; stir to combine and remove from heat.

Bring 5 to 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add about 3 tablespoons of sea salt, then add the spaghetti and cook until it offers considerable resistance to the tooth, approximately three-quarters of the package-recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking water.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce in the skillet along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta-cooking water, and cook over high heat, stirring with a wooden fork, until the pasta is cooked al dente, adding a little more pasta water as the sauce dries.

8626e78b21adb8b7c4677f18e87d1da1

Sweet & Sour Lemon Sauce

Use as a sauce for fish.

For the candied zest:

  • 2 Meyer lemons
  • 1 orange
  • 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup wildflower honey
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions

Peel the zest from the lemons in strips, leaving 1/4-inch pulp attached to the zest. Peel the orange the same way.

Put the zests in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons salt; add 1 cup water and weight down with a small plate to keep zests submerged for 1 to 2 hours. Rinse and drain.

Bring 10 cups of water to a rolling boil, Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of salt and the zests and when the water returns to a rolling boil, remove from heat and let zests cool completely in the salted water. Drain zests.

Combine the honey, sugar and 2 1/4 cups of fresh water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Add the drained zest and cook over lowest heat, less than a simmer, for 40 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let zest cool in the syrup overnight. The next day, bring the syrup back to a simmer, lower the heat and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Repeat the process one more time, cooking zest on the lowest heat for 30 minutes. Store zest in its syrup in a jar.

For the sauce:

  • 3 1/2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • Fine sea salt
  • White pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped candied lemon zest

Directions

Trim three lemons with a knife, cutting the rind away down to the pulp. Section the lemon into wedges, cutting between the white connective membranes.

Squeeze the juice from the remains of the lemons into a measuring cup and add the wedges. You should have about 1/2 cup.

Squeeze the juice from the remaining 1/2 lemon and add it to the wedges. In a small saucepan, add the oil and saute the garlic and celery over medium heat until the celery barely begins to color.

Add the lemon wedges and juice and cook, mashing the mixture with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is pulpy. Remove the garlic. Season the lemon mixture with salt and white pepper.

If the sauce is too tart, add a spoonful or two of syrup from the candied zest. Transfer lemon mixture to a blender and add candied zest. Blend until smooth.

images


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The desserts below are perfect for summer. They are refreshing and keep well in the freezer. I like to make these types of desserts to have on hand in the freezer for family and company. They can be made on cooler days and they taste so good on a hot day. Of course, what could be better than a cookies and ice cream combination.

Watermelon Basil Sorbet

IMG_0012 (2)

3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 cups yellow watermelon cut into small cubes (outer skin and seeds removed)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large sprig of fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons meringue powder plus 2 tablespoons water

Directions

Cut up the melon and place in a big ziplock bag. Freeze overnight.

Whisk together the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium/high heat until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat, add the basil and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Remove the basil and chill the syrup.

In a small bowl, whisk together the meringue powder and water. Whisk until you create a lot of foam.

This is an egg white substitute. You could use egg whites if you prefer, but since they are not cooked in this recipe, it is safer to use the substitute. This adds a creamy texture to the sorbet.

IMG_0001

In a food processor, combine the frozen fruit, chilled syrup and egg white mixture. Blend just until smooth.

Sorbet is ready to serve right out of the food processor. If you don’t plan to consume it right away, be sure to store it in the freezer.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Rounds

IMG_0013

32 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup finely ground pecans (pecan meal)

Directions

Heat to oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar.

Add the remaining ingredients. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Place a large piece of plastic wrap on the kitchen counter. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap. Form the mixture into a log on the plastic wrap.

Wrap the dough in plastic and roll the dough a few times to make an even log. Refrigerate for an hour.

Cut the log into ¼ inch slices and place on the prepared baking pans an inch apart.

Bake the cookies 20 minutes, switching the pans on the racks after 10 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the pans ten minutes and then remove them to a cooling rack.

Easy Oatmeal Cookies

IMG_0012

Makes 18 large cookies

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries)

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour through fruit) in a large bowl.

Combine the wet ingredients (butter through egg) in a measuring cup.

IMG_0010

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until combined using a wooden spoon or spatula.

Using a small muffin scoop or 3 tablespoons for each cookie, form into a ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly.

IMG_0011

Bake 10 minutes, switch the pans on the racks and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Peach Almond Sundae

IMG_0008

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vanilla frozen yogurt, softened
  • 2 cups chopped peaches, peeled 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 8 amaretti cookies, crushed
  • 1 cup whipped cream

Directions

 Cut the peaches into 1/2-inch-thick slices and cut the slices in half.

In a mixing bowl, combine the peaches, brown sugar and amaretto. Cover and chill until serving time.

In each of four dessert dishes, layer the ingredients in the following way: 1 cup frozen yogurt, ¼ of the peach mixture and 1/4 cup whipped cream. Sprinkle a crushed amaretti cookie on top. 

IMG_0014


IMG_0005

Every once in a while, it is nice to just have dinner with your partner.

First Course

IMG_0004 (1)

Southern Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons drained chopped pimientos
  • 1 teaspoon grated onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • Celery stalks, cut into 4 inch lengths

Directions

Process cream cheese in a food processor until smooth. Add Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mayonnaise, pimientos, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Scrape into a serving  bowl, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

Use the spread to fill celery stalks and serve immediately.

Second Course

IMG_0001 (2)

Grilled Crab Stuffed Salmon Rolls

  • 1 Salmon Fillet, about 8 oz, skin removed

Crab Stuffing

  • ½ cup shelled, fresh  lump crab meat
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • ¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

For the stuffing

Mix the crab meat with the vegetables and seasoning.

For the salmon rolls

IMG_0002

Cut the salmon fillet in half lengthwise. Divide the stuffing in half and spread on the skinned side of the salmon fillet. Roll up tight and secure with metal skewers or Butcher’s string.

IMG_0003 (1)

Refrigerate until time to grill.

Preheat the grill to medium hot.

Place pinwheels on a sheet of heavy-duty foil that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Poke a few holes into the foil.

Slide the foil onto the hot grill and grill with the lid closed for about 10 minutes.

To cook indoors

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Place pinwheels the pan. Brush pinwheels with butter, cover loosely with foil and bake 15-20 minutes..

Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce

IMG_0003

Ingredients

  • 4 oz spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.

Add the pasta cooking water, the basil pesto and the Parmesan cheese to the empty pasta pot and stir until combined. Add the drained pasta, toss and serve.

Tomato Cucumber Arugula Salad

IMG_0007

Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato cut in half and sliced
  • 1/4 of a cucumber, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 scallions, finely diced
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Italian vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add enough salad dressing to just moisten the ingredients and toss, Serve immediately

Peach Frozen Yogurt

IMG_0001

Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peaches, peeled
  • 2 cups nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Garnish with chopped mint leaves

Directions

Combine peaches, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Transfer to a freezer-safe bowl, cover and freeze, whisking mixture vigorously every 30 minutes until just frozen throughout, 2 to 3 hours.

(Whisking helps to break up the ice that forms when freezing.) Frozen yogurt is ready when it is too thick to whisk.

Stir with a spatula, transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer. Serve garnished with chopped mint.

IMG_0004



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