Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan, as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland. True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation”.Each culture brought its cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America.

The first time most Americans heard of fried green tomatoes was when a movie by that name came out in 1991. Based on a novel by Fannie Flagg called Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

According to the Smithsonian spokesperson:

They took us to a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall that served simple Southern fare. The whole meal was delicious, as I recall, though the only dish I can remember clearly was the fried green tomatoes. Now, I know that most things that taste good taste even better when battered and deep-fried. But something about this dish was extraordinary—the combination of firm-fleshed tomato with crunchy cornmeal coating, the slight tartness of the unripe fruit balancing the oiliness of the exterior. I was smitten.

The New Orleans visit was our first stop on a road trip to Chicago. (Now, why didn’t I remember this story for Inviting Writing, instead of my sad tale of food-borne illness?) I kept looking for fried green tomatoes everywhere we went. Although I ate lots of other good things on that trip, I found my new favorite food only once more, at an upscale restaurant in Memphis. They were a disappointment—over-seasoned and overcooked.

The next time I encountered fried green tomatoes was almost a decade later at a rural county fair in, of all places, upstate New York. Served at a corn farmer’s food stand, they were not what I had come to believe was traditional Southern-style—they were more like a corn fritter with a slice of green tomato nestled inside—but I have enraptured once again.

The reason I say “ostensibly Southern” is that it turns out, fried green tomatoes may have been as unusual in the South before 1991 as they were everywhere else. In fact, according to Robert F. Moss, a food historian, and writer in South Carolina, “they entered the American culinary scene in the Northeast and Midwest, perhaps with a link to Jewish immigrants, and from there moved onto the menu of the home-economics school of cooking teachers who flourished in the United States in the early-to-mid 20th century.”

Jewish?!

Recipes in several Jewish and Midwestern cookbooks of the late-19th and early-20th centuries, but none in Southern cookbooks and hardly any in Southern newspapers. You can read the whole entertaining and informative account of how a movie changed (or distorted) culinary history at his blog.

Robert F. Moss, a food writer, and culinary historian from Charleston, South Carolina, said he doesn’t remember anyone in his Southern family who battered and fried green tomatoes. He researched the topic and found 11 fried green tomato recipes published in newspapers between 1900 and 1919. Surprisingly, all 11 newspapers were in Midwestern and northern cities. None were Southern newspapers.

During the 1920s, records indicate recipes for fried green tomatoes appeared in Frederick, Maryland, and Danville, Virginia, papers, but the Danville column came from a nationally syndicated source.

Moss found no recipes for fried green tomatoes in Southern papers in the ’30s and only one in the ’40s. There were none in the ’50s or ’60s, which intrigued him, leading him to ponder whether fried green tomatoes were a truly Southern dish.

The real-life Alabama cafe, upon which the fictional Whistle Stop Cafe was based, was owned and operated for 40 years by Flagg’s great-aunt. There is no evidence the cafe ever served fried green tomatoes. Archived menus make no mention of fried green tomatoes, although they may have been served as an occasional side item.

It wasn’t until the movie came out and fans descended upon the cafe requesting fried green tomatoes that they became popular. The new owners developed a batter mix for the more than 60 pounds of fried tomatoes they were selling every weekday. The cafe’s signature dish was invented after the movie premiered.

Based on his research, Moss concluded fried green tomatoes are not a Southern dish, but originated in the Midwest and northeast, possibly linked to the cuisine of Jewish immigrants. A recipe appears in the 1889 addition of “Aunt Babette’s Cook Book” and “The International Jewish Cookbook” from 1919. Other recipes appeared in Ohio cookbooks in the late 19th century.

The lone fried green tomato recipe Moss found in the ’40s appeared in the Dothan Eagle. I was reprinted from a U.S. Department of Agriculture leaflet advocating Americans should begin the day with something nutritious, like fried green tomatoes. The editor of the Alabama paper mocked the recipe, saying “no self-respecting Southerner would dream of eating a fried green tomato.”

Today, fried green tomato dishes can be found in many upscale restaurants. They are a popular menu item at The Greenbrier’s Draper Restaurant. According to one source, fried green tomato sandwiches have iconic status as the distinctive dish of The Greenbrier Classic Golf Tournament.

Chef Brian Halstead said he and his staff were using 500 or more green tomatoes daily during the 2017 tournament. The fried tomatoes were topped with bacon, arugula, goat cheese, and black pepper aioli.

With the use of high tunnels to extend the growing season and hydroponic tomato production, locally grown green tomatoes can be found year-round, but, for me, green tomatoes still signal the end of summer and a time to salvage unripened tomatoes dangling on the vines before they get nipped by frost.

Whether you believe fried green tomatoes are a quintessential Southern dish or of Midwestern origin, I hope you will agree, they are a tasty summer dish. There are three different ways to cook this dish. Use the method that appeals to you.

Ingredients

2 to 3 medium-sized green tomatoes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Cajun spice
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten

Directions

Place the flour mixed with Cajun seasoning in one shallow dish.

Add the egg to a second dish. Add a tablespoon of water and mix well.

Place the panko crumbs, cornmeal, salt, and pepper in a third shallow dish.

Cut the tomatoes into ½ inch thick slices and pat dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle the tomato slices evenly with salt and pepper.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the egg, and then in the panko mixture to coat evenly.

Place the breaded tomatoes on the prepared baking sheet.

To Deep Fry

Fry Tomatoes: heat the oil to 360º F and using a spatula or flat slotted spoon slide the coated tomato into the oil. Fry for 3 minutes on each side.

To Shallow Fry

Place a deep skillet with cooking oil about ½ inch deep; on medium-high heat. Heat the oil and place green tomato slices in hot oil and brown lightly on each side, careful not to over-brown the green tomatoes. I do mine in small batches.
Place on a paper towel-lined plate when done and serve immediately.

To Oven Bake

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a cookie sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, turning the tomatoes over with a wide spatula after 10 minutes.
Serve with your favorite sauce.


My blueberry bushes are producing lots of berries right now, so I am busy thinking up ways to use them

Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients

One 9-9nch prepared pie pastry

For the filling
3 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

For the topping
1cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°.Coat a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray. Place the pastry in the pan and crimp the edges.

Make the filling: Mix blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl. Transfer to the prepared pie pan.

Make the topping: Stir together flour, oats, baking powder, melted butter, and salt. Using your hands, squeeze topping pieces together into clumps.

Sprinkle topping evenly overfilling. Place the pie pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips.

Bake until bubbling in center and brown on top, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.


Pizza Margarita

Marinara Pizza Sauce

1 cup Italian crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 dried Italian seasoning
Salt and black pepper

Dough

1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup lukewarm water
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Topping

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
12 oz sliced fresh mozzarella
A large handful of fresh basil leaves
Olive oil

Directions

For the dough

Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the large bowl of an electric mixer and with Cthe paddle attachment mix until the ingredients come together around the paddle. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled.

For an overnight rise: Spray a large ziplock plastic bag with olive oil cooking spray. Place the dough in the bag and close the top. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to make the pizza, remove the bag from the refrigerator 30 minutes before making the pizza.

Turn the oven to 450 degrees F and let the oven heat for 30 minutes.

For the sauce

Combine the sauce ingredients in a mixing bowl

For the pizza

Prepare the crust: flour your hands lightly and pat the dough evenly into a lightly oiled 16″ pizza pan.

Brush the dough lightly with olive oil.
Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough leaving a ½-inch border. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the sauce,

Bake the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and cover the baked dough with fresh mozzarella slices and basil leaves.

Bake 8-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and the crust is lightly brown.

Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.


America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan, as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland. True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation”.Each culture brought its cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America.

Bagels

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the bagel was a staple of Polish cuisine. Its name derives from the Yiddish word beygal from the German dialect word beugel, meaning “ring” or “bracelet”.

Bagels arrived in the United States in the late 19th Century courtesy of Jewish immigrants from Poland. They were sold on New York’s Lower East Side streets, stacked up on poles or hung up from strings (which explains the holes,) making it easy for customers to buy and enjoy them on the street. Whether they’re served plain or schmeared with cream cheese and topped with lox, capers, tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onions, bagels have never strayed far from their humble roots as simple, comforting peasant food. The Yiddish word for a bagel is “beigel” and some say the bagel is a descendant of the German pretzel, a similar yeasted dough bread that is boiled then baked. This process helps bagels stay fresh longer, which for poor Jews, was very important.

Bagels with cream cheese and lox (cured salmon) are considered a traditional part of American Jewish cuisine (colloquially known as “lox and a schmear”).
Bagels were brought to the United States by immigrant Polish Jews, with a thriving business developing in New York City that was controlled for decades by Bagel Bakers Local 338. They had contracts with nearly all bagel bakeries in and around the city for its workers, who prepared all their bagels by hand.

Around 1900, the “bagel brunch” became popular in New York CityThe bagel brunch consists of a bagel topped with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomato, and red onion. This and similar combinations of toppings have remained associated with bagels into the 21st century in the US.

At its most basic, traditional bagel dough contains wheat flour (without germ or bran), salt, water, and yeast leavening. Bread flour or other high gluten flours are preferred to create a firm, dense but spongy bagel shape and chewy texture.

The bagel came into more general use throughout North America in the last quarter of the 20th century with automation. Daniel Thompson started work on the first commercially viable bagel machine in 1958; bagel baker Harry Lender, his son, Murray Lender, and Florence Sender leased this technology and pioneered automated production and distribution of frozen bagels in the 1960s.[Murray also invented pre-slicing the bagel.

Most bagel recipes call for the addition of a sweetener to the dough, often barley malt (syrup or crystals), honey, high fructose corn syrup, or sugar, with or without eggs, milk, or butter. Leavening can be accomplished using a sourdough technique or a commercially produced yeast.

Homemade Bagels

If you do not live near a bagel shop you can make them at home, just as I do. Here is my recipe.

Dough
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder, brown sugar, or barley malt syrup
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water, lukewarm

Water Bath
2 quarts (64 ounces) water
2 tablespoons non-diastatic malt powder, brown sugar, or barley malt syrup
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

To make this dough in a mixer, combine all of the dough ingredients and knead vigorously, with the dough hook for 10 minutes. The dough will be quite stiff but hold its shape. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise until puffy and almost doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll it into a smooth, round ball. Cover the balls with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 30 minutes. They’ll puff up just a little.

While the dough is resting, prepare the water bath by heating the water, malt, and sugar to a very gentle boil in a large, wide-diameter pan.

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Place parchment on each of the two baking sheets.

Use your index finger to poke a hole through the center of one ball, then twirl the dough on your finger to stretch the hole until it’s about 2 inches in diameter (the entire bagel will be about 4 inches across). Place the bagel in the simmering water. Repeat the process with two more balls.

Increase the heat under the pan to bring the water back up to a gently simmering boil, if necessary.

Cook the bagels for 2 minutes, flip them over, and cook 1 minute more. Using a skimmer or strainer, remove the bagels from the water and place them on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining bagels.

Bake the bagels for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they’re as deep brown, turning them over about 12 minutes into the baking time. Switch the pans on the oven racks.

Remove the bagels from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 8 bagels.


Tacos

I served these tacos with corn and tomato saute.

For 2 servings

Ingredients

4-6 inch flour tortillas
8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon olive oil
⅓ cup jarred salsa
1 tablespoon canned diced green chilies
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup prepared coleslaw {My Recipe}
Jarred jalapeño pepper slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. You will need a taco holder.
Place the four tortillas in the holder. Set aside while you prepare the shrimp.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil and then add the shrimp. Cook until just beginning to turn pink. Tuen the shrimp over. Add the salsa and green chilies. Mix well and tune the heat to low. Let the shrimp simmer until completely pink.

Place the tortillas in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the holder and fill the tacos.
In each shell place 2 shrimp, several tablespoons of cheese, coleslaw, and jalapeno slices. Serve in the holder.

Note
I like using a taco holder because it makes it so much easier to bring the food to the table and each person can take their taco without it all falling out.


 

When yellow squash is abundant in your area, you can make this delicious bread with the squash. The bread is great for toast or serves with your favorite soup.

Cheesy Squash Yeast Bread

Ingredients

1 cup shredded yellow summer squash
3/4 cup lukewarm (90 to 95 degrees F) water
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 1/4 cups (13 3/4 to 14 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine the flour, shredded squash, yeast honey, oil, and water.

Add the salt and cheese. Switch to the dough hook and mix for 8 minutes.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap. l

Let rise until doubled, approximately two hours.

Oil a 9-inch inch loaf pan. Shape the dough into a log, and place it in the pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F,

Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.

The bread should be browned and reach an internal temperature of about 190 to 200 degrees F.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, De-pan the loaf, and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.


Sesame Ginger Tuna Fillets And Green Beans

Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic pressed
1 tablespoon ginger freshly grated

Tuna
1 teaspoon store-bought Asian Spice rub mixture, see below
2 Yellowfin Tuna fillets, wild-caught, (about 6 oz each)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup cooked green beans

Directions

In a bowl mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, minced garlic, and ginger. Set to the side.

Rinse and pat dry the tuna steaks. Season with the rub mixture and let rest for 15 minutes.

Heat a skillet to high heat with the oil.

Place tuna in the skillet and cook, uncovered, 4 to 6 minutes per ½-inch thickness (6 to 9 minutes for the ¾-inch-thick steaks) or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork but is still pink in the center, turning once during cooking. Adjust the heat as needed if the skillet gets too hot.

Arrange the cooked green beans on two plates and top each with a tuna fillet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the sauce over each serving of fish..
Serve the remaining sauce as a dipping sauce

Note: The Asian spice rub I use contains equal amounts of
salt, brown sugar, red chili flakes, sesame seeds, ginger, and garlic.

Cucumber And Radish Salad

Ingredients

2 cucumbers
Half a white onion, sliced
6 large radishes
Kosher salt

Dressing
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon dried dill

Directions

Peel the cucumbers and slice into rounds. Place them in a colander. Add the sliced onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let it drain for 30 minutes.
In a serving dish combine the ingredients for the dressing. Slice the radishes thin and add to the dressing along with the cucumber slices and onion. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.


This frittata works for breakfast with fruit and toast. It is also good for lunch with a side salad or for dinner with vegetable side dishes and baked ham. The frittata also keeps several days in the refrigerator. Reheat for 2-3 minutes in the microwave.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 spears of fresh asparagus, cooked and diced
½ cup jarred roasted red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup cherry tomatoes halved
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt to taste
8 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat; cook and stir asparagus and roasted red bell pepper until the vegetables are hot.. Stir in cherry tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, and salt, and continue cooking until the tomatoes are soft for another 3 minutes. Sprinkle mixture lightly t with salt.

Whisk eggs and milk in a bowl and pour into the skillet to cover the vegetables with egg mixture. Pull up an edge of the frittata with a spatula and tilt the pan to allow the unset egg to run underneath and continue around the pan, lifting the frittata edge, tilting the an, until all the egg mixture is set.

Sprinkle with feta and Cheddar cheese. Place the pan under the broiler. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until the cheese melts. Cut in slices to serve.


Scallops & Cherry Tomato Pasta

Servings:2

Ingredients

½ pound dry sea scallops, tough side muscle removed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-pint cherry tomatoes
1/4cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
2 oz thin spaghetti
Chopped fresh basil for garnish

Directions

Cook the pasta al dente and drain.
Pat scallops dry. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and cook, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add tomatoes to the pan and cook, stirring once, until wilted 2 to 3 minutes. Add wine and capers; cook, stirring, and scraping up any browned bits until the wine is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in butter and pepper. Return the pan to low heat, add the cooked pasta. Stir gently. Divide the mixture between two pasta bowls and top with the scallops. Garnished with basil.

Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 bunch thin asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Table salt and ground black pepper

Dressing
1 large shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Adjust oven rack to uppermost position and heat broiler.
Toss asparagus with oil and salt and pepper, then lay spears in a single layer on a heavy-rimmed baking sheet. Broil about 4 inches from the heating element, shaking the pan halfway through to turn spears, until asparagus is tender and lightly browned 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool the asparagus for 5 minutes and arrange them in a  serving dish.
Whisk shallot, lemon juice and zest, thyme, mustard, and olive oil in a small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle over asparagus and serve immediately.

 


Shrimp Kabobs

Ingredients

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 chopped scallions
2 tablespoons feta cheese, mashed
1 teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 bell pepper, cut into 8 pieces
Half a red onion, cut into quarters
½ of a 10-ounce package coleslaw mix (with carrots and red cabbage)
½  cup pita thins broken into small pieces

4 to 6-inch skewers

Directions

Preheat an outdoor grill broiler or stovetop grill to medium-high.

Combine the parsley, scallions, feta, honey sal, pepper, t.vinegar, and oil in a mixing bowl and blend. Set aside.

Thread 5 shrimp and 4pepper pieces on each of two skewers. Place the red onion quarters on another skewer. Brush them with some of the dressing.

Grill the kabobs until the shrimp turn pink and the peppers are lightly charred, about 3 minutes per side. Grill the onion wedges until slightly softened and charred, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from the grill.

Combine the slaw mix and the pita chips with the dressing. Place on a serving pl; atter and serve the kabobs over the salad.

 

 

 



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