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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Soup

Every few weeks I like to try a new cuisine, This week it is French.

French Onion Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

3 large sweet onions, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
64 ounces (8 cups) beef broth
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
8 tablespoons freshly grated/shredded parmesan cheese
16 slices thin swiss cheese
1 tablespoon dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
8 (1-ounce) slices French bread,1/2-inch thick, toasted

Directions

Cut onions in half, then thinly slice.
In a large soup pot, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat and add the onions.
Saute onions for about 20 minutes, until limp and golden brown in color.


Add the beef broth and thyme and heat to boiling, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in the sherry and salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oven to broil.
Place soup crocks (the number will depend on servings) in a baking pan and ladle onion soup evenly among the soup crocks filling each ¾ quarters of the way.
Add one tablespoon of grated cheese to each crock and stir gently.
Place a slice of toasted bread and two slices of swiss cheese on top of each bread slice.
Carefully transport the baking pan with the crocks to the broiler and broil the crocks until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, anywhere from 5-10 minutes. Serve the crocks on separate plates.

Chicken with Creamy Mustard Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

8 medium bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons dry white wine
6 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

Remove the chicken skin or leave on depending on personal preference.
Place the chicken thighs on a cutting board, skin side up, and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn them over and sprinkle them with one more teaspoon of salt.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large (11 to 12-inch) skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken in the pan in one layer, skin side down. Cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes without moving, until the skin is golden brown. Turn the chicken pieces with tongs and sprinkle with the Herbs de Provence.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan,, moving some of the onions under the chicken, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes more, stirring the onions occasionally, until the thighs are cooked to 155 to 160 degrees and the onions are brown. Transfer the chicken (not the onions) to a plate and allow to rest uncovered while you make the sauce. If the onions aren’t browned, cook them for another minute.
Add the wine and Dijon mustard and stir over low heat for one minute. Add the sour cream and heavy cream and stir for one minute. Return the chicken, skin side up, and the juices to the skillet and reheat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with the braised cabbage.

White Wine Braised Savoy Cabbage

4 servings

Ingredients

1 small head of Savoy cabbage, about 1 pound
2 large shallots, sliced thin
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 slice bacon
1/2 cup white wine
4 oz unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Cut the cabbage in quarters, remove the core and cut the cabbage into thin slices
Sauté the bacon in a deep skillet.
When done, remove and drain on a paper towel.
Add the cabbage and stir-fry briefly.
Add the wine and thyme, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
Add applesauce and butter, stir and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Crumble bacon and add to the cabbage. Stir well and serve.

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No-Fuss Butternut Squash Soup

I am not a fan of peeling butternut squash but I do like the vegetable. Very happy to have found it pureed and frozen at my local market. It is a perfect time saver for soup.

6-8 servings

Ingredients

4-12 oz packages frozen pureed butternut squash
32 oz container vegetable broth
4 oz container unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
Herbs for garnish, such as sage

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a Dutch Oven except the cream. Bring to a boil, stir well, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and serve garnished with fresh herbs.

Crab Stuffed Shrimp

2 servings

Ingredients

8 large shrimp (16-20 per pound)
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 garlic, minced
2 green onions (scallions) finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup fresh crab meat
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Peel and devein the shrimp. Butterfly the shrimp by making a slit along the back side, taking care not to slice all the way through the body. Coat a baking dish with nonstick spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.
Melt the butter in a microwave dish and set aside.

Combine the garlic, green onion, celery, bell pepper, herbs and seasoning in a mixing bowl. Carefully fold in the mayonnaise and crab meat.

Spoon even portions of the crab mixture over each of the butterflied shrimp. Using your fingers, gently mold each portion of stuffing around the shrimp. Pour the melted butter evenly over the shrimp.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and opaque. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately.

Garlicky Sautéed Greens

2-3 servings

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups (packed) stemmed and roughly chopped swiss chard or other greens
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Heat the garlic and oil in large skillet over medium-low heat until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Pour the mixture into a small bowl and reserve.

Add the Swiss chard, red pepper flakes, and salt to the empty skillet. Using tongs, turn greens until wilted enough to fit in the pan.

Raise the heat to medium, cover, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, tossing a few times during the cooking process. Transfer the greens to a colander to drain.

Return to them to the pan, turn the heat to low and toss with the reserved garlic and oil mixture.when hot, transfer to a serving bowl.


Here in the deep south, the beginning of August is just about the end of the growing season due to the high temperatures. Peaches, summer squash, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelon, basil, and okra are at their peak but will be difficult to get locally in the next few weeks. Here are some of my favorite recipes to make with August fruits and vegetables.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

5 pounds of fresh tomatoes, quartered and seeded retaining as much pulp as possible
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large sweet onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
1-2 teaspoons honey, if needed
Fresh Herbs

Place the following herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth closed.

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of parsley

Directions

Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.

Add the onions, celery, garlic, and carrots.

Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and sea salt.

Simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour until the tomatoes cook down.

Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, process the mixture until smooth.

Return the pot to the heat and add the herb cheesecloth package.

Taste the sauce to see if the tomatoes were too bitter. Add the honey, if needed.

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until reduced and thick, an hour to an hour and a half more. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard.

Pour the sauce into a refrigerator container and store the sauce up to 1 week, or freeze in batches.

Summertime Corn Chowder

For the corn stock ingredients

12 corn cobs (corn kernels removed and set aside for the chowder)
2 chive stalks
2 stems fresh parsley
2 stems fresh thyme
1 bay leaf

Directions

Put corn cobs, chives, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cold water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours. Strain, discard the solids and measure the broth.

If you do not have 6 cups add water to make the 6 cups. Set aside the broth.

For the chowder ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, white and light green sections, chopped
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
6 cups corn stock or vegetable broth if you don’t make the corn stock
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Grated cheddar cheese, chopped chives or crumbled bacon, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot.

Add the leeks, celery, carrots, bell pepper, jalapeno, and potatoes to the pot and saute for ten minutes until soft.

Add 3 cups of the corn, the 6 cups corn stock, chili powder and the thyme.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Remove the thyme branches.

Take the pot off the heat and puree the contents with an immersion blender.

Add the half and half, salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 3 cups of corn.

Return the pot to the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes.

Peach Crisp

Filling
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 8 medium peaches)
2-3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches

Topping
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, combine the fruit and honey. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8×8-inch baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Stir the oil into the topping mix with a fork until you get a crumbly mixture forms.

Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the fruit in the baking dish.

Bake for 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden.

Quick Broiled Tomatoes

For each 2-person serving:

Ingredients

1 large beefsteak tomato
2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Directions

Heat the broiler to high.

Cut the tomato in half and place in a baking dish, cut sides up.

Spread 1 teaspoon of pesto over each tomato.

Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs and then the grated cheese.

Drizzle each with a little olive oil.

Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the topping is nicely browned.

Baba Ghanoush

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 honey
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. Directions for an oven version below.

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 places. 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, honey, 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.

Roasted Okra

Ingredients

1 pound small okra
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Rinse the okra, drain and dry on a kitchen towel. The okra should be dry.

Trim away the stem ends and the tips and place the okra in a large bowl. Toss the okra with the olive oil until coated. Generously salt the okra.

Place the okra on a rimmed baking pan in one layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every five minutes.

The okra should be lightly browned and tender. If you don’t want them too brown, roast at 400 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the oven, toss with fresh thyme leaves and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot.


Grilled Swordfish

According to Seafood Watch.org, Swordfish caught in the Atlantic with harpoons or handlines and hand-operated pole-and-lines and Western and Central Pacific with handlines and hand-operated pole-and-lines, or by U.S. fleets in the Atlantic with buoys, is a “Best Choice.” Swordfish populations are healthy, and there are no major bycatch concerns in these fisheries. This is the type of swordfish that I purchase.

4-6 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
4 Swordfish Steaks, 1/2 inch thick, (about 1 1/2 Pounds Total Weight)
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian Flavored Panko Crumbs
Lemon Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Place the swordfish in a glass dish, scatter garlic over fish and then pour the olive oil over all.
Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to grill:
Remove the fish from the marinade and place on a plate. Pour the marinade into a measuring cup. Reserve.
Place a sheet of heavy foil on a baking sheet and poke a few holes in the foil.
Place the swordfish on the foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each lightly with panko crumb. Turn the fish over and sprinkle with panko.
Heat an outdoor grill to high. Slide the foil with the fish still on it onto the grill grates. Lower heat to medium. Cook about 15 minutes until the crumbs begin to brown the and the fish is cooked through. Do not turn fish.

Remove fish to a plate and pour the lemon sauce over the fish or serve on the side.

Lemon Sauce

Add more olive oil to the oil in the measuring cup that was used for the swordfish marinade to equal 1/2 cup.
Add
1/4 hot water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
Whisk and warm in the microwave when ready to serve.

Linguine with Pesto Cream Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

1 lb linguine
1 cup pistachio basil pesto sauce, see recipe
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Directions

Cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. Drain the pasta in a colander.
In the same pot add the pesto, cream, and Parmesan cheese. Warm over low heat and then add the cooked linguine. Cook for a minute or two. Pour into a serving bowl and top with freshly ground black pepper.

Cucumber Orange Salad

Ingredients

2 celery stalks, sliced
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded & sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1 orange, cut into segments
1 jalapeno; ribs & seeds removed, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup Italian Vinaigrette

Directions

Combine the salad ingredients in a serving bowl. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Add the vinaigrette and toss. 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, Israel, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
This series continues with the country of Algeria.

Algeria is located in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea and this fertile northern region is home to the olive and cork trees. Fig, agave, and various palm trees grow in the warmer areas. Central Algeria consists of the High Plateaus that contain salt marshes and shallow salt lakes. The land becomes more arid the farther south one travels, eventually becoming the Sahara Desert. Roughly 80 percent of the country is desert and camels are widely used for transportation. The coastal region has a typical Mediterranean climate—pleasant nearly year round, with winter temperatures rarely falling below freezing (32°F). Rainfall is also abundant along the coast. Farther inland, higher altitudes receive considerable frost and occasional snow. Little or no rainfall occurs throughout the summer months in this region. In the Sahara Desert, rainfall is unpredictable and unevenly distributed.

Algerian food is a mix of various influences, from Berber to Arabic to French to Jewish. Most cooking is centered around spicy couscous which is served with long-simmered meats and stews. Algerian meals are often finished with dates and fresh fruit. Algerian ingredients are essentially Mediterranean, including lamb, chicken, tomatoes, olives, peppers, eggplant, lentils, oranges and lemons. Spicy Algerian merguez sausage is famous around the world.

Algerian cuisine traces its roots to various countries and ancient cultures that once ruled, visited, or traded with the country. Berber tribesmen were one of the country’s earliest inhabitants. Their arrival, which extends as far back as 30,000 B.C., marked the beginning of wheat cultivation, smen (aged, cooked butter), and fruit consumption, such as dates. The introduction of semolina wheat by the Carthaginians (who occupied much of northern Africa) led the Algeria Berbers to first create couscous, Algeria’s national dish. The Romans, who eventually took over Algeria, also grew various grains. Muslim Arabs invaded Algeria in the 600s, bringing exotic spices such as saffron, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon from the Spice Islands of eastern Indonesia. They also introduced the Islamic religion to the Berbers. Islam continues to influence almost every aspect of an Algerian life, including the diet.

Olives (and olive oil) and fruits such as oranges, plums, and peaches were brought across the Mediterranean from Spain during an invasion in the 1500s. Sweet pastries from the Turkish Ottomans and tea from European traders also made their way into Algerian cuisine.

In the early 1800s, Algerians were forced to surrender their farmland to the French. The French introduced their diet and culture to the Algerians, including bread and sidewalk cafés. This French legacy remains evident in Algerian with the French language being the country’s second language.

Tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, and chilies were brought over from the New World.

Sources: WHATS4EATS INTERNATIONAL RECIPES AND COOKING AROUND THE WORLD and Food in Every Country

Chakchouka is a traditional Algerian dish that’s mainly eaten for breakfast. Traditionally, the main ingredients in Chakchouka include sautéed onions, tomatoes and various spices topped with a few eggs. This meal is served with a side of bread, pita or rice.

NORTH AFRICAN EGGS POACHED IN A PEPPER RAGOUT

4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil — 3 tablespoons
Paprika — 1 to 2 tablespoons
Onion, thinly sliced — 1
Garlic, minced — 2 to 3 cloves
Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced — 3
Green and red bell peppers, diced — 2 to 3
Water — 1 cup
Salt and pepper — to taste
Eggs (optional) — 4

METHOD
Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Stir in the paprika and cook slightly to color the oil, about 10 to 15 seconds. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent and wilted but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes to reduce down a little bit. Add the peppers, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more water as needed to keep it from drying out.
Using a spoon, form four small indentations in the simmering peppers to hold the eggs. One by one, crack the eggs into a small bowl and slip each from the bowl into an indentation. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or so until eggs are cooked through.
Serve with crusty bread, pita or rice.

CHAKCHOUKA VARIATIONS
Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seed to the hot oil for about 15 seconds before you add the paprika. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground coriander along with the onions.
For a little spice, sauté 1 tablespoon of harissa paste or a minced chile pepper with the onions.
Sometimes fresh shrimp or a spicy lamb sausage called merguez is added to the simmering peppers along with the eggs.
Add 1 small, diced eggplant along with the peppers.
Add 1 potato, cut in a small dice, along with the peppers.
Sprinkle the top of the cooked dish with chopped parsley or cilantro.
Add a few olives and capers and eliminate the eggs. Chill and serve garnished with hard-boiled eggs or tuna.

Couscous is considered the national dish of Algeria, This dish is composed of small pellets of steamed semolina pasta topped with meat, vegetables, and various spices. In Algeria, the most popular meat and vegetable accompaniments for this meal include chicken, carrots, and chickpeas. Although a rather simple dish, Couscous offers considerable freedom in its selection of ingredients.

NORTH AFRICAN STEAMED PASTA GRAINS

4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

Couscous — 2 cups
Salt — 1/2 teaspoon
Boiling water or stock — 2 cups

METHOD
Mix the couscous and salt together in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water or stock over into the bowl all at once and stir in well.
Cover the bowl with a tight-fitting lid or with plastic wrap and set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes to steam.
Remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil if you like.

Harira is a traditional North African soup and recipes for this dish vary from region to region but in Algeria, Harira is often composed of lamb simmered with vegetables, spices, and herbs.

NORTH AFRICAN LAMB AND CHICKPEA STEW

6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil or butter — 1/4 cup
Lamb, cubed for stews — 1 pound
Onion, chopped — 1 large
Celery, chopped — 2 stalks
Turmeric — 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon — 1 teaspoon
Ground ginger — 1/2 teaspoon
Nutmeg — 1/4 teaspoon
Saffron — big pinch
Tomatoes, chopped — 2 cups
Water or stock — 2 quarts
Chickpeas, cooked and drained — 2 cups
Lentils — 1/2 cup
Salt and pepper — to taste
Cilantro, chopped — 1/2 cup
Parsley, chopped — 1/2 cup
Lemons, cut into wedges — 2

METHOD
Heat the oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the lamb and brown on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and celery. Sauté until the onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the spices and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the stock and return the meat to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, lentils, salt, and pepper and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the lentils cooked through and tender.
Adjust seasoning, stir in the cilantro and parsley and serve with lemon wedges for each diner to squeeze into their stew as desired.

HARIRA VARIATIONS
Meats: Substitute cubed chicken or beef for the lamb. Or eliminate the meat altogether for a vegetarian version.
Sometimes 2 or 3 beaten eggs are stirred into the stew at the end to make ribbons of egg in the broth.
Add 1 cup soup pasta toward the end. Or add 1 cup of rice along with the lentils. You may need to add a little more water.

 

Mechoui comes from an Arabic word meaning “roast on a fire,” and like its namesake, the meal is prepared in much the same way. This dish is composed of meat spiced and roasted over a fire that is usually served at large gatherings. In the Algerian variation, the meat is roasted on a spit giving the meat a crispy, grilled flavor.

NORTH AFRICAN SPIT-ROASTED LAMB

6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

Leg of lamb — 1 whole
Olive oil — 1/3 cup
Garlic, minced — 8 cloves
Paprika — 2 tablespoons
Coriander — 2 tablespoons
Cumin — 1 tablespoon
Salt and pepper — to season
Unsalted butter, melted — 6 tablespoons

METHOD
Trim any excess fat from the lamb, but leave enough to protect and moisten the meat. Mix the olive oil with the garlic, cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper and rub this mixture all over the meat. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Set up the rotisserie (in front of the fire, not over it) and rotate the spit slowly for 4 to 5 hours, or until all the meat is cooked through, moist and tender. Salt the meat from time to time and baste it periodically with melted butter to encourage a crispy skin. Remove the spit from the fire and let the meat rest. Then use clean hands to remove the meat from the bones and onto serving platters.
Or
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the leg of lamb on a rack in a roasting pan big enough to fit it. Add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Set the pan in the oven and roast for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat is cooked through and starting to fall off the bone.
Increase oven temperature to 450°F. Remove foil and return pan to oven. Roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, basting every 5 minutes or so with the melted butter until the surface of the lamb is browned and crisp. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for around 30 minutes.
Remove the lamb to a serving platter. Strain any pan juices into a bowl or gravy boat and serve on the side. Serve with bread or couscous and a simple salad. Diners can help themselves to the meat by pinching off portions from the platter.

MÉCHOUI VARIATIONS
North African Spice Blend: For a more complex flavor, add a spoonful of ras el hanout spice blend to the paprika, coriander, and cumin listed above.

Makroud is a traditional Algerian dessert. This pastry is composed of a date or almond stuffing and dipped in a sugar syrup or honey. Makroud are also eaten with coffee for breakfast. They will keep for over a month stored in a well-sealed container.

ALGERIAN ALMOND COOKIES

Makes 20 to 24 cookies

INGREDIENTS

Almonds, whole, blanched — 1 1/4 pound
Sugar — 1 cup
Eggs, beaten lightly — 2
Water — 2 cups
Sugar — 1/2 cup
Orange flower water — 1 tablespoon
Powdered (confectioners) sugar — 3 cups

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the almonds and sugar in a food processor and process until the almonds are finely pulverized. Remove to a bowl.
Make a well in the center of the almonds and stir in the eggs with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. Then knead the dough with clean hands until smooth.
Cut the dough into 4 equal portions and remove to a floured work surface. Roll one portion out into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter. Press down with your palm to flatten the rope to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the rope on a diagonal into 1-inch pieces and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake cookies for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on top. Remove to racks and cool completely.
While the cookies bake, bring the water and 1/2 cup sugar to a rapid boil in a saucepan over high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and let boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature. Stir in the orange flower water.
Put powdered sugar in a large bowl. To finish, dip each cookie first in the sugar syrup to moisten. Then toss each cookie in the confectioner’s sugar to coat well. Shake off the extra sugar, place on a rack to dry and repeat with the rest of the cookies.

MAKROUD VARIATIONS
Add 1 tablespoon lemon zest to the almond dough.
If you are unable to find orange flower water to flavor the syrup, try using 1 teaspoon of lemon extract.


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.


Have lots of leftovers from the holiday? I do. So I thought I would share with you how I used some them in some new dishes.

Ham Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

2 cups finely diced baked ham
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Half medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
Half a bell pepper, finely diced
Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and pickle relish in a large bowl. Add the ham, vegetables, salt and black pepper to taste. Stir well and refrigerate until serving time.

This salad is also tasty mixed into cooked elbow macaroni for a ham and macaroni salad or as a sandwich filling.

Deviled Eggs

Good for leftover Easter eggs.

Ingredients

6 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Paprika for garnish

Directions

Place the eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold the six eggs. Cover with cold water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.

Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and add some ice cubes and cold water to cover the cooked eggs.

Let them cool until you can handle the eggs without burning your fingers.

Gently tap the eggs in several places and remove the shells. Place the peeled eggs on paper towels to dry.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.

With a spoon fill each egg where the yolk had been with some of the mixture.

Place the eggs on a serving platter and sprinkle the tops with paprika. Chill until serving time.

Coleslaw

I never use an entire cabbage at once, so I am able to get several meals from a head of cabbage.

Servings 4

Ingredients

Half a medium cabbage, sliced thin
2 scallions sliced
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup heavy cream (whipping)
1⁄2 tablespoon white vinegar
1⁄2 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the honey, salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, cream, vinegar and lemon juice, using a whisk. Add the cabbage and scallions, stir gently to mix.

Refrigerate until serving time.

Mock “Split Pea” Soup

12 cups

I had green beans and cauliflower leftover from the holidays and decided to use them in a soup along with the ham bone. I was so surprised that soup tasted just like split pea soup but without all the carbs. Amazing taste.

Ingredients

1 baked ham bone with some meat attached
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 onion or 1 leeks, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 stalks celery with leaves, diced
2 cups cooked cauliflower
2 cups cooked green beans
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Put the ham bone in a large soup pot. Add the broth and water; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the meat is starting to fall off the bones, about an hour.

Remove the ham bone from the broth and set aside to cool.

Add the vegetables to the broth in the pot. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender about 30 minutes.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Remove the meat from the bones, cut into bite-size pieces and add to the soup.

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.Heat on low for about 20 minutes.



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