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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Rice

Pepper Steak

Servings 6

Ingredients

Prepare the marinade 1 day ahead.

Marinade
1-1/2 pounds flank steak, skirt steak or sirloin steak, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

Sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1/2 cup low-sodium homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground coarse black pepper

Vegetables
3 green bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch squares
2 large onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch squares
2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
3 scallions finely minced
4 tablespoons vegetable, peanut or canola oil
Kosher salt to taste

Directions

For the marinade:
Combine beef, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine in a plastic ziplock bag and toss to coat. Marinate for overnight in the refrigerator.

For the sauce:
Combine the soy sauce with cornstarch and stir with a fork to form a slurry. Add remaining Shaoxing wine, chicken stock, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Set aside.

Combine peppers and onions in a bowl and set aside.

Combine garlic, ginger, and scallions in a bowl and set aside.

When ready to cook, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large deep skillet over high heat until smoking. Add half of the beef and cook without moving until well seared, about 1 minute. Continue cooking while stirring and tossing until lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and remaining beef, adding the second batch of beef to the same bowl.

Wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Heat 1 more tablespoon oil and cook half of the peppers and onions. Transfer to bowl with the beef. Repeat with remaining oil and remaining peppers and onions. Place the pan over high heat and return the peppers/onions/beef to the pan and add the garlic/ginger/scallion mixture. Cook, tossing and stirring for 30 seconds. Add sauce and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 45 seconds longer. Carefully transfer to a serving platter and serve.

Sesame Rice

You can cook the rice in a saucepan instead of the oven if you prefer.

4-6 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 low sodium chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups hot water
Sesame oil

Directions

In a large saucepan, saute sesame seeds, garlic, celery and scallions in the sesame oil; add rice and saute until the rice is lightly browned.

Spoon into an ungreased baking dish. Dissolve bouillon and salt in hot water; pour over the rice mixture.

Cover and bake at 325°F for 50-60 minutes or until the rice is tender. Drizzle with a little sesame oil and serve.

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Asian Salmon

2 servings

2 center-cut skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each
1 teaspoon Asian chili oil or vegetable oil

Glaze
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh garlic

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.
Place the salmon fillets, flesh-side down, in the skillet and cook until well browned about 1 minute. Using a fish spatula ora flat spatula, carefully turn the salmon over and cook on the skin side for 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat and spoon the glaze evenly over the salmon fillets. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the center of the thickest part of the fillets are cooked and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees F, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer fillets to individual plates and serve with Asian fried rice.

Asian Fried Rice

4 servings. Makes a great leftover for lunch,

Ingredients

4 cups leftover cooked rice or uncooked cauliflower rice
2 bacon slices, cooked and diced
2 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons Asian chili oil or peanut oil, divided
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced banana pepper or other thin-skinned pepper
1 teaspoon Asian Fish Sauce

Directions

Heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add the beaten eggs and cook, without stirring, until fully cooked on one side, about 30 seconds. Turn the omelet over and cook for 15 seconds. Transfer the omelet to a cutting board and cut into ½-inch pieces.

Add 1 tablespoon chili or peanut oil to the pan along with scallions, ginger, and garlic; cook, stirring until the scallions have softened, about 30 seconds. Add banana pepper and celery; cook, stirring, until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer everything to a large bowl.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon chili or peanut oil to the pan; add the rice and stir-fry 2 minutes.

Return the vegetable mixture, bacon and eggs to the pan; add soy sauce, fish sauce and remaining sesame oil and stir until well combined. Serve with the salmon.


Malta

Cyprus

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. This series concludes with the Mediterranean Island Countries (also referred to as the Mediterranean States) of Cyprus and Malta.

There are only two Island countries in the Mediterranean Sea.

Malta, officially the Republic of Malta, consists of the main island of Malta and the smaller islands of Gozo and Comino. The island nation is located east of Tunisia, and about 100 km (60 mi) south of the island of Sicily, Italy.

Malta has been inhabited since 5900 BC. Its location in the center of the Mediterranean has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having ruled the island, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Turks, French, and British. Most of these foreign influences have left a mark on the country’s ancient culture. The official languages are Maltese and English, with Maltese also recognized as the national language. Italian is also spoken by most of the population.

Cyprus is located south of Turkey, west of Syria and Lebanon, northwest of Israel, north of Egypt, and southeast of Greece. Cyprus was settled by Mycenaean Greeks in the 2nd millennium BC. As a strategic location in the Middle East, it was subsequently occupied by several major powers, including the empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Persians.

Cyprus was placed under British administration in 1878 and was formally annexed by Britain in 1914. Currently, the Republic of Cyprus is partitioned into two main parts: the area under the control of the Republic, located in the south and west that comprises about 59% of the island’s area; and the north, administered by the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, covering about 36% of the island’s area. Another 4% of the island’s area is the UN buffer zone.

Cuisine

Malta

Maltese cuisine shows strong Sicilian and English influences as well as influences of Spanish, Maghrebin and Provençal cuisines. A number of regional variations can be noted as well as seasonal variations associated with the availability of produce and Christian feasts (such as Lent, Easter, and Christmas). Food has been important historically in the development of a national identity and, in particular, the traditional fenkata (stewed or fried rabbit).

Traditional Maltese food is rustic and based on the seasons. On most food shop counters, you’ll see Bigilla, a thick pate of broad beans with garlic. Snacks include a round of bread dipped in olive oil, rubbed with ripe tomatoes and filled with a mix of tuna, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and capers. Also popular are pastizzi (flaky pastry filled with ricotta or mushy peas). Depending on the season, you’ll see spnotta (bass), dott (stone fish), cerna (grouper), dentici (dentex), sargu (white bream) and trill( red mullet) in the spring. Swordfish and tuna follow later, around early to late autumn, followed by the famed lampuka, or dolphin fish. Octopus and squid are very often used to make rich stews and pasta sauces.

The popularity of pork and its presence in various dishes can be attributed to Malta being on the edge of the Christian world. Consuming food which is taboo in the Muslim culinary culture could have been a way of self-identification by distinguishing oneself from the other. In addition to pork dishes, the cuisine includes Maltese sausages, kawlata (a vegetable soup) and baked rice.

Despite Malta’s small size, there are some regional variations. This is especially the case in the area of Gozo. Gozitan cheeselet and ftira Għawdxija, a flatbread topped or filled with potatoes or eggs, grated cheese, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, ricotta and Maltese sausage as other possible ingredients. Gozitan cheeselets are used as filling for ravioli instead of the usual ricotta.


Because Catholic fasting during Lent involved mostly meats and dairy products, fish such as Lampuki became a popular dish during this period as were stewed snails, stuffed artichokes, and fritters.

Cyprus

Cypriot cuisine is closely related to Greek and Turkish cuisine; it has also been influenced by Byzantine, French, Italian, Catalan, Ottoman and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Meze is a large selection of dishes with small helpings of varied foods, brought to the table as different courses. The meal begins with black and green olives, tahini, skordalia (potato and garlic dip), hummus, taramasalata (fish roe dip), and tzatziki, all served with chunks of fresh bread and a bowl of mixed salad.

Some of the more unusual meze dishes include octopus in red wine, snails in tomato sauce, brains with pickled capers, samarella (salted dried meat), quails, pickled quail eggs, tongue, kappari pickles (capers), and moungra (pickled cauliflower). Bunches of greens, some raw, some dressed with lemon juice and salt, are basic on the meze table. Fish, grilled halloumi cheese, lountza (smoked pork tenderloin), keftedes (minced meatballs), sheftalia (pork rissoles), and loukaniko (pork sausages) can follow. Hot grilled meats – kebabs, lamb chops, chicken – may be served toward the end. The dessert is usually fresh fruit or glyka – traditional sugar-preserved fruits and nuts.

Halloumi cheese originated in Cyprus and was initially made during the Medieval Byzantine period. Halloumi (Hellim) is commonly served sliced, either fresh or grilled, as an appetizer.

Seafood and fish dishes include squid, octopus, red mullet, and sea bass. Cucumber and tomato are used widely in salads. Common vegetable preparations include potatoes in olive oil and parsley, pickled cauliflower and beets, asparagus and taro. Other traditional delicacies are meat marinated in dried coriander seeds and wine, dried and smoked lountza (smoked pork loin), charcoal-grilled lamb, souvlaki (pork and chicken cooked over charcoal), and sheftalia (minced meat skewers). Pourgouri (bulgur, cracked wheat) is the traditional source of carbohydrate other than bread.

Fresh vegetables and fruits are common ingredients. Frequently used vegetables include courgettes, green peppers, okra, green beans, artichokes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and grape leaves, beans, broad beans, peas, black-eyed beans, chickpeas, and lentils. The most common fruits and nuts are pears, apples, grapes, oranges, mandarins, nectarines, medlar, blackberries, cherry, strawberries, figs, watermelon, melon, avocado, lemon, pistachio, almond, chestnut, walnut, and hazelnut.

Spices play an important role in the cuisine. The best-known spices and herbs include pepper, parsley, arugula, celery, fresh coriander (cilantro), thyme, and oregano. Traditionally, cumin and coriander seeds make up the main cooking aromas of the island. Mint is a very important herb in Cyprus. It grows abundantly, and locals use it for everything, particularly in dishes containing ground meat. For example, the Cypriot version of pastitsio contains very little tomato and generous amounts of mint. The same is true of keftedes (meatballs). Fresh coriander or cilantro are often used in salads, olive breads, spinach pies (spanakopita) and other pastries.

Cyprus is also well known for its desserts, including lokum (also known as Turkish Delight) and Soutzoukos. Loukoumades (fried dough balls in syrup), loukoum, ravani, tulumba, and baklava are well-known local desserts. There are also pastiș, cookies made of ground almonds, that are offered to guests at weddings.

Flaounes are savory Easter pastries that contain goat cheese (or a variety of cheeses), eggs, spices and herbs all wrapped in a yeast pastry, then brushed with egg yolk and dipped into sesame seeds.

Sources: https://www.visitmalta.com and https://www.cyprusisland.net/cyprus-cuisine

Maltese Rabbit Stew

Ingredients

1 rabbit, cut into 8 pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Plain flour, for dusting
100 ml vegetable oil
3 onions, finely diced
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced
280 g tomato paste
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
1.5 liters of chicken stock
4 potatoes, peeled cut into 2cm dice
300 g peas
1 cup parsley leaves

Marinade
100 ml olive oil
1 head garlic, peeled
350 ml red wine
5 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks
4-star anise
3 whole cloves

Directions

To make the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a non-metallic bowl. Add the rabbit pieces, combine well, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Drain the rabbit pieces, reserving the marinade. Pat the rabbit dry, season to taste and dust with flour. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rabbit and cook until golden on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the tomato paste and spices and stir for a few minutes or until fragrant.

Add the reserved marinade and simmer for 15 minutes. Return the rabbit pieces to the pan. Add the stock and simmer for 20 minutes or until reduced by one-third. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 40 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for another 30 minutes or until tender. A few minutes before serving, stir in the peas. Scatter with parsley and serve.

Maltese Baked Rice

Ingredients

2½ cups long grain rice
500g beef or pork mince (or a combination of the two)
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 courgette diced
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 350 gram jar passata
1½ cups water
1½ cups grated cheddar cheese (1/2 cup is to be left aside to place on top of the dish before baking)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
4 eggs lightly beaten
Olive oil for frying

Directions

Parboil rice by filling a medium pot with water ¾ of the way and boil. Add rice and reduce water to simmer for 15 minutes.
Drain rice and set aside.
Fry 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan and add mince. Fry for 5 minutes and then add tomato paste and curry powder. Fry for a further five minutes or until meat is browned. Remove fried meat and set aside.
In the same pan add 1 tablespoon olive oil and fry onion and garlic on medium heat for five minutes.
Add the courgette and fry for a further five minutes.
Add back the meat and add the chopped tomatoes, and passata.
Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for fifteen minutes.
Once completed; preheat oven to 220 C.
Add rice, cheese (leave some cheddar cheese aside to place on top) and eggs to the meat and tomato sauce mixture.
Add the mixture in a medium-sized baking dish plus the 1½ cups water too.
Place the remaining ½ cup of cheddar on top.
Reduce the oven to 180 C and place the dish in the oven.
Cook for 30 minutes or until crispy around the edges.

Cyprus Octopus with Oregano

Ingredients:

1 kg octopus
½ tsp dry oregano
Black Pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice

Directions

Clean the octopus thoroughly under cold running water.
Place the octopus in a pot with hot olive oil (1 tablespoon), cover and cook.
Simmer to bring out all the juices and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced and the octopus is tender. Add some water if needed.
Remove from the heat and drain.
Serve hot or cold, seasoned with oregano and olive oil/vinegar dressing or olive oil/lemon juice dressing.
Note: You can also cook the octopus on the grill. If the octopus is thick, cut it into small pieces before serving.

Cyprus Warm Halloumi and Peach Salad

Ingredients

3 ripe but firm peaches, halved and stoned
250g Halloumi cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
3 red chicory, root intact, quartered lengthwise
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed, cut into 2cm lengths
For the dressing
1 red chili, deseeded, finely chopped
½ large bunch fresh coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
5 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp clear honey

Directions

Make the dressing by mixing everything together in a small bowl. Cover and set aside.

Cut each peach half into wedges.
Cut Halloumi into 1cm thick slices.
Heat half the oil in a large frying pan. Fry the cheese for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and almost crusty. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
Add the chicory and onions to the hot pan, stir-fry until slightly wilted and colored. Transfer onto an absorbent kitchen towel.
Heat the remaining oil. Add the peach wedges and fry for a minute or two, until softened, lightly colored but still retaining their shape.
Combine all the ingredients together then pour on the dressing.
Spoon onto individual plates.


Grilled Lemongrass Chicken

I made half the recipe to yield 2 servings.

4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Zest from 1 lime
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
8 chicken thighs, bone-in, and skin-on or off according to preference (3½ pounds)

 

Directions

Make the marinade.

Mince the shallots and combine them with the lemongrass paste in a large bowl or ziplock bag. Add the minced garlic, ginger, black pepper, lime zest, salt, oil, fish sauce, and honey. Stir the marinade to combine all the ingredients.
Place the chicken thighs in the marinade. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Cover the bowl or seal the bag and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 24 hours.

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grilling grates. If using a stovetop grill, heat on medium-high and oil the pan.
Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and shake to remove excess marinade. Discard the remaining marinade.
Grill the chicken until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 10 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F.

Rainy Day Oven Method
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the chicken skin-side down on a wire rack placed on top of a foil-lined baking sheet.
Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the chicken skin-side up and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until the skin is evenly browned and the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Pork Fried Rice

I always save one BBQ pork chop, when I make them, to use in this dish. If you want to add some spice to this dish use Asian chili oil instead of peanut oil. For a low carb version substitute four cups of cauliflower rice.

 

Ingredients

4 cups leftover cooked rice
1 cup cooked pork, finely diced
2 tablespoons Asian chili oil or peanut oil, divided
2 large eggs, beaten
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced banana pepper or other thin-skinned pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided

Directions

Heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add the beaten eggs and cook, without stirring, until fully cooked on one side, about 30 seconds. Flip and cook until just cooked through, about 15 seconds. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into ½-inch pieces.

Add 1 tablespoon chili or peanut oil to the pan along with scallions, ginger, and garlic; cook, stirring until the scallions have softened, about 30 seconds. Add banana pepper and celery; cook, stirring, until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the diced pork and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer everything to a large plate.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon chili or peanut oil to the pan; add the rice and stir-fry 2 minutes.

Return the pork mixture and eggs to the pan; add soy sauce and sesame oil and stir until well combined. Serve with the Lemongrass Chicken.


Look for compact heads of cabbage that are heavy for their size. Whether red or green, the leaves should be crisp and deeply colored. Check the stem to make sure it has no cracks around its base. Avoid discolored heads with wilted outer leaves.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients

1 lb cooked Italian hot (rope) sausage
8 savoy cabbage leaves
2 cups Marinara Sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Oil an 8×12 baking dish.

Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water or, as I do, freeze the leaves and then defrost them overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the bottom part of the stem on each leaf. Place the leaves on a kitchen towel.

Cut the sausage into 8 equal pieces. Place one piece of sausage on each cabbage leaf. Roll up the leave into little packages. Spread some Marinara Sauce in the bottom of the baking dish and arrange the cabbage rolls in the dish. Cover the rolls with Marinara Sauce. Cover the dish with foil and bake the cabbage rolls for 1 ½ hours.

Garlic and Herb Rice

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, chives, cilantro, mint, or tarragon, or a combination of many
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Bring broth to a simmer in medium saucepan.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté until tender, about 1 minute. Add rice; stir 2 minutes. Add hot broth and 3/4 teaspoon salt and bring to boil.

Reduce heat to low; cover. Cook until the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Turn off the heat; let stand, covered, 10 minutes. Add herbs to the rice; fluff with a fork and serve with the cabbage rolls.

Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Dressing
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Adjust oven rack to uppermost position and heat broiler.
Mix the asparagus with the 1 tablespoon of oil and salt and pepper to taste, then lay the spears in a single layer on a heavy rimmed baking sheet. Broil about 4 inches from the heat, shaking pan halfway through to turn spears, until the asparagus are tender and lightly browned 8 to 10 minutes.

Cool the asparagus for 5 minutes and arrange them on a serving dish.
Whisk the shallot, lemon juice, lemon zest, thyme, mustard, and 2 ½ tablespoons of olive oil in small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the asparagus and serve.

 


Most major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adopt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases. Why? Because the Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — along with the addition of olive oil and a glass of red wine — and other components that characterize the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.  Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. Fatty fish — such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon — are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is eaten on a regular basis in the Mediterranean region. Be sure to add it to your diet on a regular basis.

Oven Baked Fish

 2 Servings

Ingredients

2 cod, haddock or salmon fillets, about 6 oz. each
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove finely grated
2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and chopped
8 green olives, sliced
2 sprigs fresh oregano sprigs
Sea salt and black pepper
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Make the fresh bread crumbs from several slices of bread by processing in a food processor

Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Coat the bottom of a small baking dish large enough to hold the fish in a single layer with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Place the cod in the dish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper.

Place the tomatoes, olives, garlic and oregano leaves on top of the fish.

Combine the crumbs with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and use a spoon to sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the fish and vegetables.

Bake until the topping is golden brown and the fish is cooked about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Lemon Rice Pilaf

Servings:3- 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice (uncooked)
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
1 large lemon to yield 1 teaspoon zest + 3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Black pepper

Directions

Heat oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add garlic and onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until tender.

Add rice, stir and cook about 2 minutes. Add broth, salt, and water. Place lid on, bring to a simmer then turn the heat down to low.

Cook for 12 minutes or until the water is evaporated. Remove the saucepan from stove and rest for 10 minutes with the lid on.

Remove the lid. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and black pepper to taste. Stir well and serve.

Creamy Spinach

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
1 small shallot. finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained or equivalent fresh
1-ounce cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Directions

Saute the garlic and shallot in the butter in a medium saucepan. Mix in the spinach and cook on low heat, covered about 5 minutes. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.

Add the cream cheese, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese to the saucepan. Cook on medium heat until the cream cheese is melted. Whisk until smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the spinach mixture and mix well. Reheat over low until the spinach is hot. Serve immediately.


 

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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