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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pasta

Grilled Tuna Au Poivre

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 tuna steak, about 8 oz; 1/2″ thick
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns, crushed
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Sea Salt to taste
Basil Parmesan Cream Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Heat an indoor grill pan over high heat. Brush the pan with the melted butter. Thoroughly pat the tuna steaks dry with paper towels.
Season the tuna steak lightly with salt and press in the crushed peppercorns on both sides of the tuna.


Grill the tuna steak for 2 minutes per each side. Give the tuna steak a quarter turn and grill two minutes. Turn the tuna steak over. Grill two minutes more. (For a total of 6 minutes.).
Place the tuna steak on a serving dish, cut in half and pour a little basil cream sauce over the tuna. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Basil Parmesan Cream Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light (half & half) cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a food blender, combine basil, garlic, salt and olive oil. Process for about 40 seconds, or until mixture begins to emulsify. Pour the light cream into the blender and pulse for 20 seconds to incorporate. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, be careful to not let the mixture boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and grated parmesan cheese. Set aside while you cook the tuna.

Sautéed Yellow Squash Noodles

Feel free to use cooked spaghetti in place of squash noodles.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 yellow squash
1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Use the thin julienne setting on a mandoline. a spiralizer or a sharp knife to slice the yellow squash into thin strips similar to spaghetti. Next, the “noodles” need to dry out or the texture will be mushy when you saute them. Ideally, leave them on your counter on double thickness of paper towels for at least 3 hours.

If you want to prep the dish in the morning for dinner, wrap the noodles in paper towels and place them in a plastic ziplock bag. After the noodles set and lose some of their moisture, warm the olive oil and garlic in a skillet and saute the noodles just a few minutes to heat and coat with oil. Season with salt * pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve with the grilled tuna and cream sauce.

Tomato Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

1 1 /2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
14 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large ripe beefsteak or heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2″ slices
1 tablespoon rinsed capers
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh herbs to taste

Directions

Combine shallots, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil to blend.
Set vinaigrette aside.
Arrange tomatoes on a large platter. Sprinkle capers over; season with salt and pepper. Scatter herbs on top. Whisk vinaigrette again and drizzle over the tomatoes before serving.

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Chicken Parmigiana

4 servings

Marinara Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil

Chicken

2 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed, halved horizontally, and pounded 1/2 inch thick
Kosher salt
1 egg
¼ cup all-purpose flour (can be gluten-free or low carb)

Breadcrumb Mixture

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (can be gluten-free or low carb)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese

Pasta

8 oz ziti or penne pasta
Salt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

For the sauce: Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan over medium heat until just shimmering. Add garlic, salt, black pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and increase the heat to high and bring to simmer. Simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in the basil, cover the pot and keep warm.

For the chicken: Sprinkle each side of each cutlet with 1/8 teaspoon salt.
In one shallow dish place the flour. In another shallow dish, place the egg beaten with a tablespoon of water. In a third shallow dish combine the fresh breadcrumbs with the parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano and black pepper.
Working with 1 cutlet at a time, dredge cutlet in flour and shape off any loose flour. Dip the cutlet into the egg, allowing any excess to drip off. Coat all sides of the cutlets in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing gently so the crumbs adhere. Transfer cutlet to a large plate and repeat with the remaining cutlets.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the cutlets in the skillet and cook without moving them until the bottoms are crispy and golden brown, 1½ to 2 minutes. Using tongs, carefully turn the cutlets and cook on the second side until golden brown, 1½ to 2 minutes. Cover the top of each cutlet with tomato sauce and sprinkle cheese mixture evenly over the cutlets. Broil until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to a serving platter and top with a little marinara sauce.

For the pasta: Fill a pasta cooking pot with water and bring to a boil Add 1 tablespoon salt. Add pasta and cook al dente. Drain the pasta and place in a pasta serving bowl. Add the cheese, mix and then add the sauce. Mix well and serve with the chicken.

Sautéed Green Beans

Ingredients

1 lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half.
2 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs

Directions

In a large, deep skillet with a cover, melt the butter and add the garlic and herbs. Stir and add the green beans. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender, about 15 minutes.


Pork Marsala with Mushrooms

3 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup all-purpose or gluten-free or low carb flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound boneless pork loin chops, about 3/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 minced garlic clove
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup Marsala wine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Directions

Cut the pork chops in half lengthwise. Mix flour, salt, garlic powder, and oregano together in a medium bowl. Add pork and toss until well coated. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture and set aside.


Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place the pork cutlets in the skillet in a single layer, and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on both sides. Place the pork on a plate.


Add the mushrooms, shallot and minced garlic to the pan; cook and stir briefly.


Stir in wine, scraping the skillet to loosen any brown bits. Add the broth and the 2 tablespoons of reserved flour. Stir well. Return the pork to the skillet.

Cover and simmer over medium heat until the pork is tender and the sauce is thickened for about 15 minutes. Add the cream, stir and simmer for a few minutes. Serve.

Zoodles or Pasta with Herbs

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs
4 oz thin spaghetti, cooked or zoodles (2 zucchini)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the garlic. Cook for one minute, add the cooked spaghetti or zucchini noodles and herbs.

Toss until hot. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Mini San Marzano Tomato Salad

Ingredients

2 cartons mini San Marzano tomatoes
3 tablespoons Italian vinaigrette
Salt & pepper to taste
Your favorite herbs to taste ( I use a dried herb blend called Sunny Paris from Penzey’s that includes: shallots, chives, green peppercorn, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil, and bay leaf.) Tastes so good on tomatoes.

Directions

Several hours before serving time.cut the tomatoes in half and place them in a serving bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Leave the salad at room temperature to marinate until serving time.


Cacciatore means “hunter’s style.” This dish developed in central Italy and is considered a country-style dish in which chicken pieces are simmered together with tomatoes. The dish originated in the Renaissance period (1450-1600) when the only people who could afford to enjoy poultry and the sport of hunting. Tomatoes were added after the explorers brought them to Europe from the Americas and the original dish was made with pheasant or rabbit. This dish became a staple in Italian-American homes and there are many ways to make this dish. My grandmother and my mother made it often and I continue the tradition a bit differently. Hope you like my version.

Chicken Cacciatore

Serve with a mixed green salad.

Ingredients

One 4 lb organic chicken
2 teaspoons kosher salt (divided)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (divided)
1/3 cup all-purpose, low carb or gluten-free flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 (26-oz.) container Pomi brand finely chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb cooked thin spaghetti or zucchini noodles

Directions

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces (cut breasts in half). Save the wings and backbone for soup.
Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer on a large plate. Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Place the flour in a ziplock bag. Place a few pieces of chicken in the bag with the flour, seal and shake the bag until the chicken is coated. Remove the coated chicken pieces to the plate. Continue until all the chicken pieces are floured.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat for several minutes. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until shimmering. Add a layer of chicken and brown on both sides. Remove the browned chicken to the plate. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and brown the remainder of the chicken. Remove to the plate.
Add the vegetables to the pot; reduce the heat to low and sauté until the vegetables are softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, remaining salt and pepper and the browned chicken pieces to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for about 1 ½ hours or until the chicken is very tender. Serve with thin spaghetti.

Italian Country Bread

Ingredients

2 teaspoons SAF (instant) yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Place the warm water in an electric mixing bowl. Add honey. Mix until the honey is dissolved.
Add the 4 cups of flour and salt and mix. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the flour.

Using the paddle attachment on number 2 speed, mix the dough until a dough forms that holds together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Switch to the dough hook and continue kneading for 7-8 minutes, until the dough is soft but supple.

Shape the dough into a ball. Spray the mixer bowl with olive oil cooking spray and place the ball of dough back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 60 minutes.

Place a sheet of parchment paper in a 9 or 10-inch pan or shallow dish. Turn the dough out onto the parchment pan or dish. Gently shape the dough into a round and cover with greased plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes or more.

At the same time put a covered Cloche pan or Dutch Oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Do not grease or spray the Cloche pan or Dutch Oven. Baking in a cloche pan is similar to a mini hearth oven.

After the dough has risen for 30 minutes and the oven temperature is at 500 degrees F, open the oven and take the lid off the cloche pan.

USE A THICK POTHOLDER BECAUSE THE LID IS VERY HOT!

Transfer the dough while on the parchment to the bottom of the hot cloche pan. Cover with the cloche lid.

Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and remove the cloche lid.

Bake 15 minutes more, or until bread is crusty and brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place the bread on a wire cooling rack.


There are many styles of cooking in China. Each style has a distinct taste and flavor. As a general rule, rice is a main staple food in southern China, as the warmer and wetter south makes it more ideal for its growth. On the other hand, dumplings and noodles are more commonly consumed in the drier, colder north.

Sichuan and Hunan cuisines are hot and spicy.
Anhui and Fujian cuisines include wild plants and animals from the mountains.
Guangdong (Cantonese), Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu feature sweet and light flavors with ingredients such as sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, vinegar, scallions and sesame oil.
Shandong Cuisine is salty with a lot of seafood.

The recipe I created below is based on several Cantonese Chinese recipes that I like. I wanted to keep it on the healthy side and feature lots of vegetables in the stir-fry. I did not make it spicy so that the vegetables would be the star. Feel free to add more spice if you prefer hot and spicy Asian foods.

Coconut aminos is a sauce made from coconut sap. It is a dark, rich, slightly sweet, slightly salty sauce. It resembles a light soy sauce or tamari, but it is soy free and gluten-free – making it a perfect replacement ingredient. Arrowroot powder has less carbs than cornstarch and is a good substitute for thickening a sauce.

Egg Drop Soup

In Chinese cuisine, egg drop soups have a thinner consistency than most common Western versions. Depending on the region, they may be garnished with ingredients such as tofu, scallions, bean sprouts and corn.

Serves: 4 (1 cup servings)

Ingredients

4 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 clove garlic, finely grated
½ tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tablespoons tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
3 eggs, beaten
2 green onions, thinly sliced (for garnish)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt, to taste

Directions

In a medium pot, whisk together the chicken broth, cornstarch, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. When the soup reaches a boil, turn off the heat.
Slowly whisk the beaten eggs into the soup. Let the soup sit 2 minutes for the eggs to finish cooking. Return the soup to the stove and heat over very low heat. Do not boil. Taste the broth and add salt, if desired. Stir in the sesame oil and green onions and serve.

Chinese Noodle Stir-Fry

I used a combination of spiralized vegetables to decrease the amount of carbs in this recipe. You may use 8 oz of fresh Chinese noodles if you do not want to add the spiralized zucchini and carrot noodles. I used leftover pork roast in this recipe.
.
2 servings. This recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

Stir-Fry Sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch powder

Stir-Fry

2 tablespoons peanut oil or cooking oil, divided
1 medium zucchini
1 large carrot
4 oz fresh Chinese noodles
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper, thin sliced
1 cup sliced cabbage
4 whole scallions cut diagonally into ½-inch segments
½ lb cooked pork, chicken or beef, sliced into matchstick pieces
Kosher salt

Directions

Bring about 3 cups of water to a boil and pour over the fresh Chinese noodles. Set aside while you cook the other ingredients.
Combine the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce and set aside.
Cut the zucchini and carrot into noodles with a spiralizer. Set aside.


Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the zucchini and carrot noodles. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt. Stir fry 2-3 minutes and remove them to a bowl.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and add the ginger and garlic, cook until for 30 seconds.
Add the bell pepper, scallions and cabbage. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 2 minutes.


Add the pork and the stir-fry sauce. Cook until thickened. Drain the fresh noodles and add them to the skillet along with the zucchini and carrot noodles. Stir-fry for a minute or until all the ingredients are hot. Serve in bowls.


So many more options become possible in March. Here, on the Gulf Coast, strawberries are in season and they are beautiful. They taste wonderful in a smoothie. I look forward to this time of year, so I can purchase artichokes because we love them stuffed. Asparagus make delicious salads and so does fennel. And, broccoli rabe is at its best in the spring, so look for it at your market.

Stuffed Artichokes

Italian Seasoned Fresh Bread Crumbs

Ingredients

2 cups fresh bread crumbs (about 8 slices of regular, low carb or gluten-free bread), crusts removed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Tear the bread slices into pieces. Process into crumbs and place in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.

Artichokes

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 large artichokes, trimmed
Lemon juice
2 cups Italian seasoned “bread” crumbs (see recipe above)
8 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat of your blade and minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Boiling water

Directions

Cut off the stems so the artichokes will stand upright. Slice off the top third of the artichokes and pull off some of the tough outermost leaves.

Trim off the pointed tips of the remaining leaves with kitchen shears. Wash the artichokes and turn them cut side-down to drain.

Rub the cut parts with a little lemon juice. Use your thumbs to open the leaves the rest to make room for stuffing and set aside.

Heat the oven to 425° F and place a small stock pot or tea kettle with water on the stove to boil.

Combine the bread crumbs, garlic, cheese and red pepper flakes.

Stuff one artichoke at a time by scooping out 1/2 cup of stuffing, placing the artichoke in the bottom of the bowl and sprinkling with the 1/2 cup of stuffing.

Use your fingers to work the stuffing in between the leaves. Be sure to get a bit of the stuffing between each of the outer leaves and in the top.

Transfer the stuffed artichokes to a baking dish just large enough to hold the artichokes upright.. Continue until all artichokes are stuffed and placed in the baking dish.

Drizzle each artichoke with lemon juice and olive oil. Pour boiling water from the kettle or pot to fill the dish about an inch high.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake about 45 minutes. Check for tenderness by sliding a knife easily through the base of the artichokes.

Once tender, uncover and bake for 15 minutes, or until the artichokes turn golden brown.

Place each artichoke in an individual bowl and pour some of the broth in the baking dish over the artichokes before serving.

Spring Asparagus Salad

Serves 2

Variations: add cooked beets or crispy bacon to the salad.

Ingredients

Kosher salt
1 bunch fresh, thin asparagus
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon whole-grain or Dijon-style mustard
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
3 scallions (green onions), sliced thin
Bibb Lettuce cups

Directions

Bring a large pot or deep skillet of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of salt.

Trim and discard the tough woody asparagus ends.

Carefully place the asparagus spears in the boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes, or just until the vegetable is bright green and tender but not soft.

Drain and place the asparagus in a large dish filled with ice water.Let the asparagus cool in the ice bath for about 5 minutes.

Transfer the asparagus to a kitchen towel to dry. Cut the asparagus into two-inch pieces and then place them on a platter or individual salad plates lined with lettuce.

Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, mustard and a pinch of salt in a liquid measuring cup, until well blended, to form a vinaigrette.

Sprinkle the sliced scallions over the asparagus and then sprinkle the chopped egg on top.

Spoon the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently to coat.

Easy Strawberry Smoothie

Serves: 2

Ingredients

2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup regular milk or unsweetened almond or coconut milk
Sweetener of choice to taste

Directions

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into glasses to serve.

Fennel Walnut Chicken Salad

Ingredients

1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast or 2 halves, cooked and diced
1/2 of a fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon roasted garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Salt

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the chicken cubes with the lemon juice, garlic powder, fennel, fennel seeds, black pepper and walnuts until combined.

Add the mayonnaise to the chicken mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Taste the salad and see if you would like to add salt.

Cover the salad and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Broccoli Rabe Parmigiano

Serves 3

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
2 lbs Broccoli Rabe
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz cooked pasta, optional

Directions

Cut off about one inch from the bottom of the broccoli rabe stalks. Wash the broccoli very well. Cut into two-inch lengths.

In a large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes; sauté 30 seconds.

Add broccoli rabe, broth, lemon juice and lemon zest; mix well. Cover skillet and cook over medium heat 8 minutes or until the broccoli rabe is crisp-tender.

Add the salt, black pepper and grated cheese. Mix well and cover the pan. Let the mixture sit for five minutes before serving. This sauce is delicious served over pasta.


 

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 and Israel. This series continues with the country of Egypt.

The Arab Republic of Egypt is located in the northeastern region of the African continent, bordering both the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The climate is arid and dry and most of the country receives less than one inch of rainfall each year. However, Egypt’s northern coastline can get up to eight inches of rainfall each year and the year-round temperatures are cooler here than inland. Egypt has no forests and only 2 percent of the land is arable (land that can be farmed).

The well-known Nile River, the longest river in the world, runs north and south through eastern Egypt and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile River Valley, which includes the capital city of Cairo, is the most fertile land in Egypt. Approximately 95 percent of the country’s population lives alongside the Nile River.

Egyptian cuisine is characterized by dishes such as stewed fava beans; lentils and pasta and okra stew. Egyptian cuisine shares similarities with other Mediterranean countries, such as rice-stuffed vegetables, grape leaves, shawarma, kebabs and kofta. The cuisine most often utilizes legumes, vegetables and fruits from Egypt’s rich Nile valley and delta. Although entrees in Alexandria and the coast of Egypt tend to use a great deal of fish and other seafood, the Egyptian cuisine is based on foods that grow in the ground. Meat has been very expensive for most Egyptians throughout history, so a great number of vegetarian dishes have been developed.

Easy access to various spices due to Egypt’s many seaports has, throughout the years, left its mark on Egyptian cuisine. Cumin is the most commonly used spice. Other common spices include coriander, cardamom, chili, aniseed, bay leaves, dill, parsley, ginger, cinnamon, mint and cloves.

Egyptians are known to use lots of garlic and onions in their everyday dishes. Fresh garlic mashed with other herbs is used in a spicy tomato salad and also in stuffed eggplant. Garlic fried with coriander is added to soup and sometimes to chicken or rabbit. Fried onions can also be a popular addition.

When meats are on the Egyptian table, they are usually rabbit, pigeon, chicken or duck. These are often boiled to make a broth for stews and soups and the meat is served separately. Lamb and beef are the most common meats used for grilling.

The local bread is a form of hearty, thick, gluten-rich pita bread called eish baladi. This bread is made from a simple recipe that forms the backbone of the Egyptian cuisine. It is consumed at almost all Egyptian meals; a working-class or rural Egyptian meal might consist of little more than bread and beans.

Although many rural people still make their own cheese, notably the fermented mish, mass-produced cheeses are becoming more common. Cheese is often served with breakfast, it is included in several traditional dishes, and even in some desserts.

Despite the country’s dry climate, Egypt grows a variety of fresh fruits. Mohz (bananas), balah (dates), burtu’aan (oranges), battiikh (melon), khukh (peaches), berkuk (plums) and ‘anub (grapes) are grown.

Tea is the national drink in Egypt, followed only distantly by coffee, prepared using the Turkish method. Egyptian tea is uniformly black and sour and is generally served in a glass, sometimes with milk. Tea packed and sold in Egypt is almost exclusively imported from Kenya and Sri Lanka. Egyptian tea comes in two varieties, kushari and sa‘idi. Vendors also sell a variety of asiir (fresh-squeezed juices) made from fruits like banana, guava, mango, pomegranate, strawberry, from sugar cane, and even hibiscus flowers.

Egyptian desserts resemble other Eastern Mediterranean desserts. Basbousa is a dessert made from semolina and soaked in syrup. It is usually topped with almonds and cut vertically into pieces, so that each piece has a diamond shape. Baqlawa is a sweet dish made from many layers of phyllo pastry with an assortment of nuts and soaked in a sweet syrup. Ghuriyiba is a sweet biscuit made with sugar, flour and liberal quantities of butter, similar to shortbread. It can be topped with roasted almonds or black cardamom pods.

Dining customs vary throughout the country and between different religions. When invited to be a guest in an Egyptian household, it is polite for guests to bring a small gift to the host, such as flowers or chocolate, to show their appreciation for the meal. Before dinner, cocktails (usually nonalcoholic) are frequently served. This is a time for socializing and becoming acquainted. Mezze (salads and dips) would also be served at this time. When dinner is ready, usually between 9 P.M. and 10 P.M. , guests seat themselves and food is placed in the middle of the table. Bread will almost always accompany meals, which may include vegetables, rice dishes, soups and meat dishes. Following dinner, guests will move into another room and enjoy coffee or mint tea. Guests should always compliment the cook.

Although Ramadan is a month of fasting for Muslims in Egypt, it is usually a time when Egyptians pay a lot of attention to food variety and richness, since breaking the fast is a family affair, often with the entire extended families meeting at the table just after sunset. There are several special desserts that are served almost exclusively during Ramadan, such as kunafa and atayef. during the Ramadan month, many Egyptians prepare a special table for the poor or passers-by, usually in a tent in the street, called Ma’edet Rahman which literally translates to “Table of the Merciful”.  Observant Christians in Egypt adhere to fasting periods according to the Coptic calendar; these days may extend to more than two-thirds of the year for the most observant. The more secular Coptic population fasts only for Easter and Christmas. The Coptic diet for fasting is essentially vegan. During this fasting, only vegetables and legumes are eaten and all meat and dairy products are avoided.

Egyptian Recipes To Make At Home

Gebna Makleyah (Oven-Fried Cheese)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

1 cup firm feta cheese, crumbled or traditional Egyptian cheese, such as labna or gebna
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil
Lemon wedges and pita bread cut into triangles, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the cheese, flour, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well.
Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.
If the mixture seems too loose to hold the ball shape, add a little more flour.
If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit of lemon juice, vinegar or water.
Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil onto a cookie sheet to grease.
Arrange the cheese balls on the cookie sheet, rolling them around to coat thoroughly with the oil.
Bake 5 minutes.
Wearing an oven mitt, open the oven door and shake the cookie sheet to prevent the cheese balls from sticking, then turn them over.
Bake 5 more minutes, until golden brown.
Remove with a spatula and drain on absorbent paper.
Serve warm with lemon wedges and triangles of pita bread.

Ful Mudammas (Broad Beans in Sauce)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

2 cans (15-ounces each) cooked fava beans
6 cloves garlic, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup olive oil
1½ tablespoons parsley, minced
Garnish, such as radishes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped scallions, pita bread (toasted and cut into wedges)

Directions

Press the garlic cloves through a garlic press into a medium bowl.
Mash the garlic and salt together.
Next, add the lemon juice, olive oil and parsley to the garlic mixture and combine thoroughly.
Drain the beans well, rinse and put the beans into a large pot over low heat.
Add the garlic mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine thoroughly.
Serve warm with the garnishes arranged on a platter.
Each person is served a plateful of Ful Mudammas and adds the garnishes of his or her choice.

Koushari (Lentils, Macaroni, Rice, and Chickpeas)

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

1 cup lentils
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 cup rice
1 can (15-ounces) chickpeas (also called ceci beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Sauce

1 cup canned tomato puree
¼ cup olive oil
2 onions
1 garlic clove, or to taste

Directions

To prepare the lentils:
Place the lentils in a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Place them in a large saucepan with 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt.
Heat until the water begins to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the lentils are tender. Drain and set the lentils aside.

To prepare the macaroni:
Fill the same saucepan with water (add salt). Heat until the water begins to boil.
Add the macaroni and boil about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the macaroni is tender. Drain and set the macaroni aside.

To prepare the rice:
Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same saucepan. Add the rice and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, thoroughly coating the rice with oil.
Add 2 cups of water and heat until the water begins to boil. Cover the saucepan and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

To assemble the koushari:
Drain the chickpeas and rinse them in a colander. Add chickpeas, lentil, and macaroni to the cooked rice and toss very gently with a fork.

To make the sauce:
Peel the onions and cut them in half lengthwise. Slice each half crosswise into thin slices.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon until the onions are golden brown.
Add garlic clove and cook 1 or 2 more minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and heat until bubbly.
Pour the sauce over the lentil mixture and heat over very low heat for about 5 minutes, until completely warm.
Serve with pita bread.

Khoshaf

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup dried prunes
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried small figs, halved
1½ cups raisins
1 cup sugar, or to taste
2½ cups boiling water
Nuts for garnish

Directions

Place all the fruits in a bowl and mix together gently.
Sprinkle the sugar on top of the dried fruits.
Carefully pour the boiling water into the bowl, cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight if possible. ( Khoshaf is best when allowed to marinate overnight or for several hours before serving.) Garnish with nuts and serve.



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