Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Puff Pastry

Pear & Celery Salad

Ingredients

4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons cider, pear, raspberry or other fruit vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe pears, preferably red Bartlett or Anjou, diced
Half shallot
1 cup finely diced white Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (see Tip)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
6 large leaves butterhead or other lettuce

Directions

Soak celery in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
Whisk vinegar, honey, and salt in a large bowl until blended. Add pears; gently stir to coat. Add the celery, cheese, and pecans; stir to combine. Season with pepper. Divide the lettuce leaves among 6 plates and top with a portion of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
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Make-Ahead Tip: Prepare salad without pecans up to 2 hours ahead. Stir in pecans just before serving.
Tip: To toast chopped pecans, cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

ingredients

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

Directions

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

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Fill the pumpkin wells halfway with water and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
Place in the oven and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool and then scrape out the pumpkin into a bowl. Set aside,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twice Baked Potatoes

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

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then bake in a 375°F. oven uncovered, for one hour.

Pear Tart

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

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

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

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

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

Spread the almond filling evenly over the tart shell.

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

Brush the pears with the egg white.

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

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

Garnish with frozen yogurt or whipped cream, if desired.


Eggplant are at their very best now. Take advantage of their availability and you will make some very rewarding and tasty recipes. Buying eggplant in season, picked young, means they will not be bitter, nor will they need to be salted before cooking them. Chubby purple eggplant are not the only kind of eggplant available. My CSA grew three different types this summer: regular purple globe eggplant, Rosa Bianca, an heirloom eggplant from Sicily and white eggplant. All delicious. Here are some recipes I made with my share.

Baba Ghanoush with Pita

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 agave syrup
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.

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 place. 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, agave, 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.

Eggplant Sauce Over Pasta

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 3⁄4″ cubes
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti pasta
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Fresh Burrata or ricotta cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 500º F.

Place the eggplant into a bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the eggplant to 2 baking sheets and bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to a rack; set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 9 minutes.

Drain the pasta and transfer to the pan with the tomato sauce. Stir in the roasted eggplant and basil. Toss to combine.

To serve, transfer pasta to a serving platter and garnish with the burrata cheese.

Summer Eggplant Tart

Serves 8

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight
Olive oil spray
1 small eggplant, sliced 1/8 inch thin
3 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thin
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
¼ cup fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the thawed puff pastry in a 7 x 11 inch baking dish patting the dough up the sides of the dish.

Refrigerate until ready to assemble the dish.

Bread the eggplant slices and oven bake until brown and crisp – as if making them for eggplant parmigiana. Directions are below in the eggplant parmigiana recipe.

Sprinkle the tomatoes on both sides with kosher salt. Arrange in a single layer between on paper towels to drain.

Remove the baking dish with the pastry from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the bottom of the pastry with the minced onion and garlic.

Arrange the eggplant and tomato slices in even rows on the pastry. Season with pepper and sprinkle the thyme over the vegetables.

Distribute the shredded cheese over the top. Bake until the vegetables are tender and the cheese is browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove the dish from oven and allow to cool. Serve warm.

Eggplant Parmigiana

This is a staple in my house. So happy that my CSA grows wonderful eggplant.

First Stage

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

1 pound eggplant, peeled
2 eggs, beaten with a few tablespoons of water
1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with olive oil.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise or lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker). You want them to be thin.

Lightly salt the eggplant slices.

Place the eggs and water in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture.

Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:
Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
2 ½ cups Marinara (pasta) sauce
1- 8 ounce package shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese
Breaded eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly.

Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the cheese.

Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

 


I enjoy inviting friends over and usually prepare a meal for them. It can be brunch, or a casual meal by the pool, a BBQ or a more formal meal. The menu below was for a special occasion with some special friends. I wanted to make something different for the main course and came up with Chicken “Wellington”. This turned out to be a delicious meal that my friends loved.

First Course

Italian Onion Soup

Ingredient

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 pounds of Tropea onions or red sweet onions – halved or quartered and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sea salt
6 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
Croutons
Shaved Parmesan cheese for the topping

Directions

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, add the olive oil and set on the pan over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the garlic and let sizzle for about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn.

Add the onion slices and sprinkle with the salt. Stir into the olive oil with a wooden spoon.

Reduce the heat to low and slowly cook the onions for about 15 minutes – stirring frequently.

The onions will reduce in size and begin to develop a light browned color.

Add the wine to the pot and cook until the liquid reduces. Add the beef broth and bring the liquid to a boil.

Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes.

Uncover and cook for another 15 minutes, letting the soup thicken a bit.

When ready to serve, pour soup into individual soup bowls, top with croutons and shaved cheese.

Second Course

Stuffed Chicken Breasts In Pastry

Ingredients

One 17.3-ounce package Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts halves
6 heaping tablespoons chive/onion cream cheese, divided
3/4 cup spinach pesto, divided, Recipe Link

Directions

Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness between sheets of plastic wrap.

Place one heaping tablespoon of cream cheese on one end of each breast and flatten the cheese to make an even layer.

Fold the opposite end of the breast over the cheese and press down. Do the same with the rest of the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Unfold one pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 16-inch square.

Cut into 4 squares. Do the same with the second sheet of pastry and set 2 squares aside.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of spinach pesto on each square.

Top each with a folded chicken breast. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg mixture.

Fold the corners of the pastries up over the chicken and press to seal. Place the pastries on an oiled baking sheet.

Use a small decorative cookie cutter to cut out 6 flowers or other shapes.

Place a cutout on top of each pastry.Brush with the egg mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes. Pastry should be golden brown and flaky and the chicken should register 165 on an instant read meat thermometer.

While the chicken is baking make the wine sauce.

Mushroom Wine Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1 shallot, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a medium skillet heat the butter over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms, shallot and garlic for 5 minutes.

Add the freshly chopped parsley, salt and pepper and continue to saute for about 8-10 minutes.

Add the wine, bring to a boil and reduce by about 1/2 over medium heat.

Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the cream. Heat over low and serve with the cooked chicken breasts.

Rapini with Garlic and Oregano

4 Servings

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), ends trimmed and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 large garlic cloves minced
1/2 dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper, crushed
Salt to taste

Directions

Cook broccoli in boiling, salted water in a large saucepan 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender; drain.

Rinse with cold water; coarsely chop and drain again.

Heat oil in the same saucepan. Add broccoli, garlic, crushed red pepper and oregano; cook stirring 3 to 4 minutes.

Season with salt, to taste.

Corn Custard

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter
5 cups fresh yellow corn kernels cut off the cob (6 to 8 ears)
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
4 eggs
2 cups prepared Bechamel sauce, see recipe below
1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal flour (Masa Harina)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the inside of a 2 quart baking dish.

Melt the butter in a large saute pan and saute the corn and onion over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs and Bechamel sauce in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and then the ricotta.

Add the honey, salt, pepper and the cooked corn mixture. Process until smooth with a stick blender.

Stir in the chopped chives and the grated cheddar cheese. Pour into the baking dish.

Place the dish in a larger pan and fill the pan 1/2 way up the sides of the dish with hot tap water.

Bake the pudding for 40 to 45 minutes until the top begins to brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

This dish can be prepared one day ahead and refrigerated. Remove from the refrigerator one hour before baking.

Béchamel Sauce

Ingredients

3 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt

To make the béchamel:

Melt the butter over medium heat. When foaming, add the flour and stir briskly with a whisk.

Cook for about 2 minutes, then slowly add the milk, whisking continuously.

Cook for about 3-4 minutes more, until it is of medium-thick consistency, similar to a runny pudding or yogurt.

Remove from the heat and set aside. Makes about 3 cups.

Dessert Course

Vanilla Ice Cream with Berry Sauce and Shortbread Cookies

Slice-and-Bake Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

1 cup salted butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

Beat 1 cup softened butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract and almond extract until blended.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low-speed until blended.

Shape the shortbread dough into 2 (7-inch) logs.

Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill 4 hours, or freeze logs in zip-top plastic freezer bags up to 1 month.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

If frozen, let logs stand at room temperature 10 minutes.

Cut each log into 1/4 inch t slices. Place shortbread slices 1 inch apart on lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake the shortbread slices for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges of slices are golden.

Remove shortbread from the baking sheets and place on wire racks; let cool completely (about 20 minutes).

Store in airtight containers or in the freezer.



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