1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
10 oz pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced red onion or scallions
1/4 cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped seeded tomato
A few Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
Dried or fresh dill for garnish
Chop spinach and mix well with minced dill and crumbled feta. Set aside.
Place diced tomatoes on paper towels to dry. Set aside.
Crack the eggs into a bowl with the black pepper and oregano. Whisk with a fork. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add garlic, onion and bell pepper and saute until tender. Add the spinach mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Move the outer edges of the eggs inward and cook until set and none of the mixture looks uncooked. Slide the omelet onto a serving plate. Sprinkle the top of the omelet with remaining feta, chopped tomatoes, sliced olives, and dill. Cut into serving pieces.
Cranberry Orange Muffins
Nonstick cooking spray
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon. ground cinnamon or apple pie spice
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 teaspoon. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with nonstick spray or line with paper baking cups; set aside.
In a large bowl combine all-purpose, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a medium bowl combine egg, milk, sugar, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture; stir just until combined. Fold in the cranberries and toasted walnuts. Spoon into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until tops are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool muffins in pans for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pans. Serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.
Low Carb/Gluten-free Recipe
Makes 9 muffins
2 cups Low-Carb Baking Mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill) or Gluten-free Baking Mix
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup Low Carb Sweetener ( I use Lakanto Monk Fruit Sweetener)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat 9 muffin cups with baking spray.
In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients (Low Carb Baking Mix, baking powder, cinnamon, and sweetener). Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add the eggs, water, oil and orange extract. Whisk until just blended. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Take care not to overmix.
Using a scoop divide the batter into the 9 muffin cups filling them to the top. Bake 25 minutes. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Remove the muffins to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Grilled Pork Chops
This recipe makes 6 servings but the recipe can easily be cut down to 2 or 3 servings.
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
2 teaspoons minced garlic
6 boneless pork loin chops, about 2 lbs total and cut 1-inch thick
Mix water, soy sauce, vegetable oil, lemon pepper seasoning, and minced garlic in a wide glass dish; add pork chops and marinate in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.
Preheat an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.
Remove pork chops from the marinade and shake off excess. Discard the remaining marinade.
Cook the pork chops on the preheated grill until no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
12 ounces dried tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, finely chopped
Pinch crushed red pepper, or more to taste
2 cups yellow summer squash, diced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to boiling. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
In a large, deep skillet, combine the olive oil, garlic, red onion and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium heat about 3 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Stir in the yellow squash, tomatoes and torn basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to low and simmer until the squash is tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the cream and lemon zest; stir.
Stir in the drained pasta. Mix and add the Parmesan. Transfer to a large serving bowl.
Citrus Green Beans With Toasted Pecans
1 shallot, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
1/2 cup pecan halves, toasted
Salt & pepper
Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover in a large, deep skillet with a cover, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes; drain.
Heat the oil in the skillet and add the shallot. Cook until tender. Add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Add the three zests and three tablespoons of juice. Stir. Adjust seasoning.
Sprinkle with pecans and serve.
Stir-Fried Beef with Asparagus
I had enough Pork Fried Rice leftover to serve with this dish. See the recipe.
1 pound lean, tender beef steak (tenderloin, top sirloin, ribeye or strip steak) sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 small bunch green onions, cut on diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 teaspoon sugar
Combine beef and cornstarch in large bowl. Using hands, rub to coat well.
Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add beef in single layer and cook, undisturbed, until the meat begins to brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the slices over and cook until the second side browns, about 1 minute. Transfer beef to large plate.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons peanut oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, green onions, garlic and ginger; sauté until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring to boil. Return beef to the skillet and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter and serve with rice or fried rice.
Asian Cucumber Salad
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut crosswise into half moons
1 teaspoon sea salt
One small red onion, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
¼ cup unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Mirin
1 scallion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
Place sliced cucumbers into a fine-mesh strainer suspended inside a medium-sized bowl. Season with the 1 teaspoon sea salt. Toss thoroughly to combine. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes up to overnight to drain the cucumbers of excess moisture.
To make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar through the sugar. Whisk well and set aside.
Transfer the cucumbers to a clean kitchen towel. Pat dry. Combine the cucumbers and red onions scallions to a medium-sized bowl. Add the dressing and toss. Place the salad in the refrigerator and allow the flavors to develop, for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
When ready to serve, garnish with sesame seeds and peanuts.
The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. This series continues with the country of Morocco.
Morocco is located in the northwestern corner of Africa and is slightly larger in area than California. The country has three different regions: the northern coast along the Mediterranean Sea is made up of fertile land that rises to elevations of about 8,000 feet (2,400 meters), the Atlas Mountains run between the Atlantic coast in the southwest to the Mediterranean Sea in the northeast and the semiarid area in the south and east known as the Western Sahara .
Morocco has to deal with desertification. Desertification is the process where fertile land becomes barren and desert-like over time. It may be caused by a lack of rainfall or drought, the clearing away of trees for farming or allowing livestock to graze too long in an area. These practices leave no plants to hold the soil in place so wind and rain can carry away the fertile topsoil. Morocco also has a problem with water pollution from oil spills, poor sewage treatment practices, and the use of strong pesticides.
Nomads called Berbers were the first inhabitants of Morocco over two thousand years ago. They used local ingredients to prepare lamb and poultry stews. Over time, traders and conquering nations introduced new food customs. Among them were the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans. However, the strongest influence on native cooking was the Arab invasion in the seventh century A.D.
They introduced spices including cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cumin, and caraway. They also introduced sweet-and-sour cooking, which they had learned from the Persians. Moors from Andalusia in southern Spain also influenced Moroccan cooking. The pastilla, or bisteeya, a popular pigeon pie in Morocco, was originally a Moorish dish. In modern times, the French and the British made contributions to Moroccan cuisine.
Morocco, unlike most other African countries, produces all the food it needs to feed its people. Its many home-grown fruits and vegetables include oranges, melons, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, and potatoes. Five more native products that are especially important in Moroccan cooking are lemons, olives, figs, dates, and almonds. Due to its location on the Mediterranean Sea, the country is rich in fish and seafood. Beef is not plentiful, so meals are usually built around seafood, lamb or poultry. The Moroccan national dish is the tagine or stew. Common ingredients may include chicken or lamb, almonds, hard-boiled eggs, prunes, lemons, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The tagine, like other Moroccan dishes, is known for its distinctive flavoring, which comes from spices including saffron, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and ground red pepper. The tagine’s name is taken from the earthenware dish with a cone-shaped top in which it is cooked and served. Another Moroccan dietary staple is couscous, made from fine grains of a wheat product called semolina. It is served in many different ways, with vegetables, meat, or seafood.
Flat, round Moroccan bread is eaten at every meal. Moroccans eat their meals at low round tables, sitting on cushions on the floor. They eat with their hands instead of silverware, using the thumb and first two fingers of their right hands. They also use pieces of bread to soak up sauces and carry food to the mouth. Small warmed, damp towels are passed around before the meal to make sure everyone’s hands are clean.
Most meals consist of a single main dish, often a stew, a couscous dish, or a hearty soup. It is served with bread, salad, cold vegetables, and couscous or rice on the side. A typical breakfast might include bessara (dried fava beans stewed with cumin and paprika), baghrir (pancakes), and bread. Two breakfast favorites that may sound exotic to Westerners are lambs’ heads and calves’ feet. Although Moroccans love sweets, they are usually saved for special occasions. With everyday meals, the most common dessert is fresh fruit.
The sweetened mint tea that comes with every meal is served a special way. It is brewed in a silver teapot and served in small glasses. When the tea is poured, the pot is held high above the glasses to let air mix with the tea. Tea is served not only at home but also in public places. In stores, merchants often offer tea to their customers.
Morocco is famous for its street food that includes shish kebab, roasted chickpeas, and salads. Both full meals and light snacks are sold.
A favorite purchase is sugared doughnuts tied together on a string to carry home.
Moroccan Mint Tea
1½ Tablespoons green tea (or 2 teabags of green tea)
3 Tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
2 Tablespoons of fresh or dried spearmint leaves
Put the tea in a 2-pint teapot and fill it with boiling water.
Let the tea steep (soak) for 2 minutes.
Add mint leaves and sugar to taste.
Chicken Tagine with Almonds and Prunes
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon powdered saffron
3 short cinnamon sticks
4 ounces butter
2 large onions
½ cup sugar
1 strip lemon peel
1 pound dried prunes
Combine the oil and ground spices in a large bowl.
Cut the chicken into cubes and chop the onion finely. Put the chicken and onion into the bowl with the oil and spices. Combine well and let stand for 30 minutes.
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the chicken, searing (browning) them lightly on all sides.
Add any remaining marinade and enough water to cover. Simmer until chicken is tender (about 30 minutes).
While the chicken is cooking, put the prunes in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring the water to a bowl. Remove the pan from the heat and let them stand for 20 minutes.
Drain the prunes, return them to the pan, and ladle a little liquid from the meat pan over the prunes. Simmer the prunes for 5 minutes.
Add the lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, saffron and half the sugar to the prunes.
Stir the remaining sugar into the meat.
Arrange the meat on a serving platter. Add the prunes to the meat, and pour the sauce from the prunes over the meat and prunes.
Boil the remaining liquid from the meat rapidly to reduce it by half and pour over the meat and prunes.
Melt a small amount of butter in a saucepan and brown the almonds lightly. Garnish the tajine with the almonds and mint.
Serve with rice or couscous.
Fried Baby Carrots
1 pound baby carrots
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
Sprigs of mint, to garnish
Heat the oil in a skillet large enough to hold the carrots in a single layer.
Add the carrots and cook gently 15 minutes, shaking frequently.
Add the garlic and cook 10 minutes more until the carrots are tender and spotted with brown.
Add the sugar and cook 2 minutes.
Stir in the lemon rind and juice and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the chopped mint and transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with sprigs of mint.
Ingredients for salad
2 cans (15-ounces each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
5 ounces feta cheese, cut into cubes
8 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
2 ounces pitted black olives
4 Tablespoons flat leaf parsley
Lettuce or other salad greens
Ingredients for dressing
5 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt, to taste
Place the chickpeas in a bowl and add the feta cheese cubes.
Cut the tomatoes in half if necessary, to make them bite-sized.
Add tomatoes to the chickpeas and feta cheese mixture. Add the black olives, parsley, and lettuce.
Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Pour over chickpea mixture, toss gently, and chill. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Sautéed Grouper In Shrimp Cream Sauce
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup white wine
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 cup diced shrimp (about 6 large) (peeled and deveined)
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 teaspoon each of white pepper and salt
5 or 6 leaves of fresh basil, torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil for sautéing
1 grouper fillet or other white fish fillets, about 8 oz
Salt and pepper for seasoning
In a saucepan, sauté the diced shallot in 1 tablespoon butter until tender. Add the wine, tomato, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a boil and let the broth simmer until reduced to about half. Add the shrimp and cream. Cook for about one minute or until the shrimp are barely done.
Set aside while you prepare the fish.
Put the butter and oil in a skillet large enough to cook the grouper. Season the fish with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour.
When the butter sizzles, add the fish and cook on each side until cooked through and golden. Pour the shrimp cream sauce over the fish and garnish with basil.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups broccoli florets
Zest and juice of one orange
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
2 tablespoons toasted, slivered almonds
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the broccoli, salt, pepper, orange zest, orange juice and sauté with the olive oil and garlic mixture until the broccoli turns bright green and becomes tender.
Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.
Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but its culinary use is very much like a fruit. Traditional rhubarb has thick, green stalks while hothouse rhubarb has thinner stalks with bright red and pink colors. The brighter the color, the more tart the flavor seems to be. If you’ve ever wondered why rhubarb seems to be paired with strawberries all the time, it’s because the sweetness of the strawberries helps to balance out rhubarb’s tart flavor.
Rhubarb comes into season in April, peaks in April and May, and is available through summer. When choosing rhubarb, look for firm, crisp stalks, and shiny skins. Avoid stalks that are limp with blemishes and split ends. Look for small leaves, which indicate a younger plant, but don’t eat them — the leaves contain oxalic acid, which is toxic.
Remove the leaves from the rhubarb stalks before you store them. Don’t cut the stalks until you are ready to use them, or the rhubarb will dry out. Uncut stalks can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week when sealed in a plastic bag. If you want to cut the stalks in advance, you can freeze them in an airtight bag or container.
Cut the stalks into whatever size pieces you need for a recipe. For desserts, this is usually between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch. Avoid cooking rhubarb in aluminum, iron, or copper pans because the acidity of the rhubarb will react with these metals, leading to discoloration of your cookware. Instead, choose pans that are made of enameled cast iron, anodized aluminum, non-stick coated aluminum, or glass.
Rhubarb is good in pies, crisps, and cobblers. We also like it mixed with strawberries.
Strawberry Rhubarb Bars
Makes 16 servings
I like baking bar recipes in a 7×11 glass baking dish because bars seem to cook more evenly. You may also use a 9-inch or an 8-inch baking pan and adjust the baking time. This recipe is easy to adapt to special diets.
2 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups chopped strawberries
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut sugar, a sugar substitute for baking or regular granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, cornstarch or 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
2 cups finely ground almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut sugar, a sugar substitute for baking or regular granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced
Make the filling first by combining the rhubarb, strawberries, water, lemon juice, sugar and ginger in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the mixture boils. Cook until the fruit is very soft. Remove the pot from the heat and sprinkle with the xanthan gum and whisk quickly to combine. Cool the mixture in the refrigerator while you make the crust.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and coat a 7×11 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Make the filling by combining the almond flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is cut into tiny pieces. Press half of the mixture (about 1 ½ cups) onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish and bake 15 minutes, or until the edges turn crispy and golden.
Spread the cooled filling over the baked bottom crust and sprinkle with the remaining almond flour mixture.
Press down lightly with the bottom of a measuring cup.
Bake 45 minutes, or until the topping is crispy and the filling is bubbly. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled before cutting into bars.