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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Salad Dressing

Multiple varieties of peppers are abundant in my area at the Farmers’ Market and in my neighbors’ gardens. Take advantage of this great crop and make some delicious recipes. Peppers are easy to freeze. Remove the seeds and cut into sizes that you like to use. Place them in ziplock freezer bags to use in the future. That’s all it takes.

Tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, and squash are also plentiful.

Tuscan Flavored Redfish

I like to use Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset herb seasoning on fish. It is a salt-free combination of basil, oregano, red bell pepper, garlic, thyme, fennel, black pepper, and anise. However, you can use any dried Italian seasoning mix.

2 servings

Ingredients

Two thin redfish fillets, 4 oz each, or fish fillets of your choice
Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset seasoning or other dried Italian seasonings
3 small Italian frying peppers, seeded and sliced into rings
1 small red onion, sliced into rings
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
A handful of finely chopped fennel fronds

Directions

Sprinkle the fish, on both sides, with the herb mix. Season with salt to taste. Set aside while the vegetables saute.


Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet and add the prepared peppers, onions, fennel, and garlic. Saute the vegetables until tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Push the vegetable to one side, add the remaining oil and, then, the fish. Cook the fish two minutes and carefully turn the fillets over. Cook for two minutes more. Sprinkle the fish with the orange juice and fennel fronds. Serve the fish alongside the sautéed vegetables.

Mexican Flavored Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Coleslaw is a great side for this dish.

2 servings

Ingredients

2 medium green bell peppers
1 large chicken breast, about 8 oz, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup medium spice salsa
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Cut the top off the peppers and reserve the top. Clean the peppers and remove the seeds. Stand the peppers up in a deep baking dish that is just large enough to hold the two peppers.
In a mixing bowl combine the shredded, cooked chicken with the salsa and cheese. Stuff the peppers with the mixture and place the tops back on the peppers.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Add about one inch of water to the baking dish and place the dish, uncovered, in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the peppers to individual serving dishes, using a slotted spoon.

Summer Tomato Salad

Ingredients

1-pint grape tomatoes halved
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Italian vinaigrette. recipe below
Salt & pepper to taste

Ingredients

Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl. Let marinate at room temperature for several hours before serving.

Italian Vinaigrette

Ingredients

To make 1 cup of dressing:
Mix 1 tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning with 1 tablespoon of water in a mixing bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup red wine vinegar.
Whisk in 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Let stand several hours for the flavors to develop. Whisk again before adding to a salad.

French Basque Pipérade

My easy version of this dish is great to have in the refrigerator. It can be used as a side for grilled meat or fish and is especially good on top of an omelet. This recipe also makes a good pizza topping.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium sweet onions, peeled, halved and cut into ½ inch thick slices
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
1 medium dried bay leaf
6 medium green bell peppers, cleaned and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons piment d’Espelette
1 cup marinara sauce

Directions

In a large, deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil. Heat over medium, Add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft and beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Stir in the herbs and pepper slices and season well with salt. Cover and cook until the peppers are slightly softened, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the marinara sauce, piment d’Espelette and season well with salt. Cook uncovered until the mixture melds and the juices thicken about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve or store in a covered container to use during the week.

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Stir-Fried Beef with Asparagus

I had enough Pork Fried Rice leftover to serve with this dish. See the recipe.

Ingredients

1 pound lean, tender beef steak (tenderloin, top sirloin, ribeye or strip steak) sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil, divided
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 small bunch green onions, cut on diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, grated
1/2 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
1 teaspoon sugar

Directions

Combine beef and cornstarch in large bowl. Using hands, rub to coat well.
Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add beef in single layer and cook, undisturbed, until the meat begins to brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the slices over and cook until the second side browns, about 1 minute. Transfer beef to large plate.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons peanut oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, green onions, garlic and ginger; sauté until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring to boil. Return beef to the skillet and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened about 1 minute. Transfer to a platter and serve with rice or fried rice.

Asian Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut crosswise into half moons
1 teaspoon sea salt
One small red onion, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)

Garnish
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
¼ cup unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Dressing
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Mirin
1 scallion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar

Directions

Place sliced cucumbers into a fine-mesh strainer suspended inside a medium-sized bowl. Season with the 1 teaspoon sea salt. Toss thoroughly to combine. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes up to overnight to drain the cucumbers of excess moisture.

To make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar through the sugar. Whisk well and set aside.
Transfer the cucumbers to a clean kitchen towel. Pat dry. Combine the cucumbers and red onions scallions to a medium-sized bowl. Add the dressing and toss. Place the salad in the refrigerator and allow the flavors to develop, for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

When ready to serve, garnish with sesame seeds and peanuts.


Grilled Steak Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 pound French-cut, bone-in ribeye steak, about 2 inches thick
Olive oil

Steak Rub
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Salad
4 cups packed fresh lettuce leaves, washed, dried and torn into small pieces
1 cup cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
Half a medium red onion, thinly sliced
Half a cucumber, peeled and sliced
2 tomatoes, cut in eighths
4 large radishes, sliced thin
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced
1 medium avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon grated garlic
2 tablespoons very good balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a small mixing bowl, combine the rub ingredients. Brush the steak with olive oil. Sprinkle the seasoning over the entire steak and set aside.

To make the dressing:
Place the garlic and vinegar in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Continue whisking and slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the grilled steak:
Heat an outdoor grill or stovetop grill pan. Oil the grill grates or pan. Prepare one side of the grill for indirect heat or turn the heat under a grill pan to very low. Place the steak on the indirect side of the grill.
Plan on grilling the steaks for 10-15 minutes on each side over indirect heat. When the internal temperature measures 80-85 degrees turn the steak over. If it’s higher, decrease the amount of cook time on the second side to 5-10 minutes. Once the internal temperature of the meat is about 120 degrees move the steak to the direct heat side of the grill for 2 minutes per side for searing. For a grill pan, turn the heat to high and sear the steak for the same amount of time. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes.

For the salad:
Toss the lettuce with half the vinaigrette. Place the lettuce on a serving platter. Top the lettuce with the cheese, tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, onion, radishes, and avocado. Line each topping in its own individual row.
Slice the steaks into strips and place them on the salad platter. Drizzle the remaining balsamic vinaigrette over the salad ingredients.



Mexican Summer Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 cucumber. peeled and sliced
4 very thin slices red onion, halved
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper

Directions

Arrange the slices of tomato, cucumber, and onion in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, cilantro, and oil. Drizzle over the salad. Let sit at room temperature for one hour before serving.

Creamy Coleslaw

Servings 6-8

Ingredients

16 ounces thinly shredded cabbage
1⁄4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping)
1 1⁄2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

In a large serving bowl, combine the coleslaw, carrots and green onions. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the honey, salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, whipping cream, vinegar, and lemon juice, using a whisk.

Mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Pour over the coleslaw mix, stir gently to mix. Refrigerate, covered. for several hours before serving.

Chicken Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

3 cups diced cooked chicken breast
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup red grapes, cut in half
1 cup small pecan halves, toasted
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Directions

Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and mustard together in a serving bowl Add the celery and onion; stir,

Add the chicken and mix carefully to keep the chicken from breaking up. Fold in the pecans and grapes. Adjust salt and pepper, if needed.

Cover and chill. Serve over lettuce.


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.


Grilled Asian Chicken Thighs with Citrus Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs

Marinade

2/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon lemongrass paste
1 tablespoon Korean hot sauce (gochujang) or your favorite Asian hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Citrus Salsa

Half a navel orange
One red grapefruit
Zest of ½ a lemon
Zest of half an orange
1 large spring onion or 2 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pinch of salt

Directions

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large plastic bag and add the chicken thighs.

Coat the chicken in the marinade then seal the bag and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or up to 6-8 hours.

To make the salsa: Using a grapefruit knife, remove the fruit segments over a colander placed over a bowl. Let the fruit drain. Use the juice for another recipe.

Combine the fruit segments with the remaining salsa ingredients. Set aside while the chicken cooks.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.

Preheat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Drain the chicken and discard the marinade in the bag. Place the chicken pieces skin-side down on the hot grill, and cook them for 7-8 minutes.

Turn the chicken pieces over with tongs to avoid piercing them and letting the juices run out. Cook the thighs for another 7-8 minutes.

Place an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. Chicken thighs and drumsticks are cooked when the temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the chicken to a platter and place the Citrus Salsa on the side of the chicken.

Spring Strawberry Salad with Warm Mozzarella Cheese

2 servings

Dressing

1 green onion, roughly chopped
1/2 avocado, peeled
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup red grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 teaspoons honey, according to taste
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Salad

3 ounces leaf lettuce
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 pound cooked asparagus, cut into 2-inch lengths

Mozzarella Cheese

2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, each cut ½ inch thick
1 oz chopped pecans
1 large egg white, beaten with 1/2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon butter

Directions

Purée the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth to make a dressing. Place in a covered container and refrigerate until needed.

For the cheese: Dip each cheese slice into the egg wash and then into the chopped pecans, pressing on the nuts to help them stick to the cheese.

Place the slices on a baking rack set on a sheet pan or large plate and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

Arrange the greens, strawberries, and asparagus on Individual salad plates,

Heat the butter in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the chilled cheese slices and cook until softened but not melting, about 2 minutes.

With a wide spatula carefully turn the cheese slices over. If some of the nuts fall off, just scoop them up and place them back on the cheese

Place a cheese slice on top of each salad. If any nuts fall off into the pan, just sprinkle them on the salad. Drizzle the salad with some of the dressing and serve.

Grilled Asian Flavored Scallops

2 servings

Ingredients

½ lb medium sea scallops
2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, grated

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Allow the scallops to marinate for 15 minutes.

Skewer the scallops on soaked wooden or metal skewers and cook on a preheated indoor grill or broiler for 2-3 minutes per side.

They should be slightly firm, Serve with the Spring Vegetable Stir-fry.

Spring Vegetable Stir-fry

Stir Fry Sauce

1/3 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned (unsweetened) rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey or a low-carb sweetener
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced

Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper

Stir-fry Vegetables

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup small broccoli florets
1 small head baby bok choy, sliced into 1-inch strips
4 scallions, sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup cashews, toasted and chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the halves, with the cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until you can poke the squash easily with a fork.

Let cool until you can handle it safely. Then scrape the insides of one half of the cooked squash with a fork to shred the squash into strands and place on a plate.

Reserve the remaining squash for another recipe.

Prepare the stir-fry sauce.

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and broccoli and sauté for 8-10 minutes, until just tender.

Then stir in the bok choy and bean sprouts; cook for 3-4 minutes until wilted. Add the stir-fry sauce and then stir in the cooked spaghetti squash and red pepper flakes.

To serve: Sprinkle the vegetable stir-fry with the cashews and serve.


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

Tunisian cuisine is a combination of French, Arabic, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. Seafood is eaten in the coastal communities and features recipes like fettuccine with fresh seafood and a green harissa dressing, grilled mullet with lemon and celery salad, and fricassee salad with grilled cedar plank salmon. The spicy paste harissa is a staple side to every Tunisian meal. It’s made from chilies, garlic, lemon and a combination of caraway, cumin and coriander seeds. Tunisian sweets are also impressive. Their doughnuts, called “yo-yos”, are soaked in honey, lemon syrup and orange blossom water.

The diverse blend of flavors in Tunisian cuisine is representative of the country’s past and location. While the cuisine varies by region, Tunisian food usually combines French and African flavors with spicy seasonings. Couscous, the main staple in Tunisian dishes, is often topped with fresh seafood or hearty lamb depending on local availability. A melting pot of cultures, Tunisia doesn’t just feature local food but all types of international cuisine can be found in the country’s larger cities.

Though the country’s Mediterranean climate and rich soil make it an ideal location for wine production, it’s often overlooked as a wine region. But Tunisia has a rich wine history and a modern cultivation of numerous grape varietals. Tunisians first began producing wine over 2,000 years ago, but Arab control in the eighth century nearly eliminated the practice. French colonization brought winemaking back to Tunisia in the late 1800s.

The Foods of Tunisia

Couscous

Couscous is derived from semolina and is present on nearly every dinner table in Tunisia. Couscous is prepared in endless ways across the country. In coastal regions, cooks prefer to serve it with fish, while interior regions opt for lamb and dried fruit. A local favorite, Sfax Couscous, is named for Tunisia’s second largest city, which is filled with freshly caught seafood.

Briks

Briks are another staple and can be found in little shops throughout the country. Similar to a samosa, a brik is made from wrapping pastry dough around a variety of fillings, including potatoes, eggs, or tuna. The packets are then fried in grapeseed oil and served piping hot with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Harissa

A thick, spicy paste made from hot chili peppers and garlic, harissa is a condiment for grilled meats and fish or stirred into soups and stews for added flavor. It is often served as a dipping sauce alongside bread. Harissa’s heat level varies depending on the number and type of chili peppers used. The peppers are typically smoked to add a complex, deep flavor.

Ojja

While typically a breakfast dish, ojja is often considered fast-food by Tunisian standards. Traditional ojja combine eggs and merguez, a spicy lamb sausage, in a savory tomato sauce for a hearty, filling meal. Ojja is served with a side of grilled bread in place of a spoon or fork.

YoYos

Tunisians take dessert seriously and they are routinely served after a large evening meal and accompanied with mint tea. Some local desserts include sweet cakes, fried almond pastries, and ice cream. But the Tunisian doughnuts, YoYos, are the favorite.

Mint tea

The melding of many cultures and flavors is apparent in Tunisia’s most popular drink, sweet mint tea. Served hot or over ice, this beverage is topped with pine nuts, a twist of flavor and texture, especially for those not accustomed to nuts in their tea.

Wine Regions

Muscat

Tunisia has seven distinct controlled designation-of-origin regions known locally as AOCs (for their French name, appellation d’origine controlee). The naming of wine regions is modeled after the French, with whom Tunisia shares many of the same grape varietals, such as Muscat.

Sidi Saad

Sidi Saad is a wine blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Produced using traditional methods in the Gran Cru Mornag region, Sidi Saad is corked in a distinctively shaped bottle.

Gris de Tunisie

Gris de Tunisie, or grey Tunisian wine, is the country’s most famous and unique wine. The wine is a dusky rose in color and tastes like a fruity rosé. It is best served on hot days paired with a spicy seafood dish.

Chateau Mornag Rosé

Chateau Mornag Rosé is the country’s most popular. Produced in the Mornag area in Northern Tunisia, it is light, crisp and tastes best with the region’s Mediterranean-influenced cuisine.

Make Some Tunisian Recipes At Home

Tunisian Harissa

Ingredients

100 g dried long red chilies, seeded
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Directions

Soaking time 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Place chilies in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Place a small plate directly on top of chilies to keep them submerged then set aside for 1½ hours or until very soft. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan over medium-low heat, add the spices and fry, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Finely grind spices in an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Combine the drained chilies, spices, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and the remaining ingredients in a small food processor. Process to a smooth paste, occasionally scraping down the sides. Push mixture through a food mill, extracting as much purée as possible; the solids should be dry. Transfer mixture to a sterilized jar and seal. Harissa will keep for up to 1 year stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tunisian Chickpea Soup (Lablabi)

Tunisian breakfast. Capers, chopped almonds, chopped olives, yogurt and some mint can all be added at the end, and the soup is commonly served ladled over cubes of day old bread. Tuna is often added also.

Ingredients

100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Large pinch saffron
1 tablespoon harissa
2 liters (8 cups) chicken stock
4 (400g) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tomatoes, cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4-6 eggs (depending on the number of servings)

To serve

Large handful coriander leaves
Slices of baguette, extra harissa, and lemon wedges, to serve
2 tbsp baby capers, drained
2 tbsp chopped blanched almonds

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes or until softened. Add the cumin and coriander and saffron and cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes. Stir in the harissa then add the stock and chickpeas and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan then cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a simmer and add the vinegar. Crack each egg into a saucer then add them, one at a time, to the simmering water. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Carefully remove each using a slotted spoon to a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain excess water.

Divide the hot soup among large bowls. Place an egg in each bowl. Scatter over the coriander, capers, and almonds. Serve with the baguette, extra harissa, and lemon wedges to the side.

Broiled Red Mullet with Celery Salad

Ingredients

4 red mullets, cleaned (each 340 g net)
12 g mixed fresh bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed using a mortar and pestle
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoon salt

Lemon and Celery Salad

4 long, thin green capsicum (peppers), or 1 regular green capsicum (pepper) (140 g gross)
50 ml olive oil
1 lemon, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 cm dice (35 g net)
3 tender celery stalks, cut into 1 cm dice (120 g net)
10 g tender celery leaves, finely chopped
15 g parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
30 g black olives, pitted
½ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sumac

Directions

To make the salad, place the capsicum in a baking dish. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the oil and roast in a 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes ( or longer for regular capsicum), or until the skin is blistered and the flesh is soft. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Once cool enough to handle, peel, cut into 1 cm dice and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining olive oil, the lemon, celery, and leaves, parsley, garlic, olives, chili flakes, and salt. Stir well and set aside.

Score the red mullet 2–3 times on each side in parallel lines at a 45-degree angle to the fish. Slice the bay leaves into fine strips and stuff into the incisions, followed by each of the other herbs. Place the fish on a baking tray lined with foil. In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, olive oil and salt. Drizzle or brush this over the fish.

Preheat a broiler on high. Once hot, place the fish underneath and cook for about 6 minutes on each side, or until the flesh is firm and cooked through. Serve the fish with the salad on the side, garnished with sumac.

Tunisian Doughnuts (yo-yos)

Ingredients

7 g sachet dried yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
60 ml (¼ cup) orange juice
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra, to deep-fry
300 g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted

Honey syrup

2 tablespoons lemon juice
110 g (½ cup) white sugar
360 g (1 cup) honey
2 teaspoons orange blossom water, optional

Directions

Place yeast, sugar and 125 ml (½ cup) lukewarm water in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture bubbles. Add orange juice, zest, and 2 tablespoons oil, and stir to combine. Place flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour yeast mixture into the well and stir until combined.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.) Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.

To make the honey syrup, place the lemon juice, sugar and 250 ml (1 cup) water in a pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil. Add honey and orange blossom water, if using, then reduce the heat to low–medium and cook the mixture for 35 minutes or until the consistency of a runny honey; watch syrup to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Transfer to a large bowl and cool.

Fill a deep-fryer or large pan one-third full with oil and heat over medium heat to 180°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 15 seconds). Working in batches, tear off a piece of dough about the size of a plum and flatten slightly with your hand. Tear a hole in the middle and stretch the dough to make a 12–15cm ring. Gently drop the dough into the oil and deep-fry, turning halfway, for 4 minutes or until crisp, golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Using a skewer, pierce yo-yos on both sides, then soak in honey syrup for 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.



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