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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: eggplant

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.

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These are the dishes my children and grandchildren love. I try to make them when they visit. No one ever seems to tire eating these traditional family favorites.

Neapolitan “Low Carb” Meatballs

Makes 12 large meatballs

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground pork
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Marinara Sauce for cooking the meatballs, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using your hands. combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and coat the foil with olive oil cooking spray. Form the meatball mixture into large meatballs. Use a ½ cup measure. You should be able to make 12 large meatballs. Place the meatballs on the prepared baking sheet and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the meatballs over. Bake for 15 minutes more. Place the meatballs in the pot of marinara sauce and simmer for one hour.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 oz can tomato paste
Two 26-28 oz containers of Italian finely chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until tender. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer the sauce for about 1 ½ hours.

Sausage and Peppers

Ingredients

2 lbs Italian pork sausage, one hot; one sweet
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
8-10 Italian frying peppers, stems and seeds removed; cut into 1-inch rings
2 medium onions, sliced
1 cup marinara sauce, recipe above

Directions

Heat an outdoor grill with direct and indirect heat. Place the sausage links on the indirect heat side and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the sausage links over and grill for 15 minutes more. Remove the links to a plate and cool. Cut the sausage into 1-inch pieces.
You may also cook the sausage in the oven or in a frying pan.
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the garlic, onions, and peppers. Turn the heat to low and cook until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 30 minutes. Add the sliced sausage and marinara sauce. Heat over low until hot.

Cheese Ravioli

My favorite frozen ravioli are made by Celentano. They are most like homemade ravioli and for busy times they are perfect.

Ingredients

One family size package cheese ravioli
2 cups Marinara sauce, heated, recipe above
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water according to the package instructions.

Tip
I like to place the package of ravioli in the refrigerator overnight. That way the ravioli do not stick together and you can drop individual ravioli into the boiling water.

Remove the ravioli with a spider utensil and place the ravioli in a serving bowl. With each layer, add sauce and Parmesan cheese. Continue until all the ravioli are in the serving bowl. Serve immediately.

Eggplant Parmesan

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

1 pound eggplant, peeled
2-3 large eggs
1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

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

Place the eggs in one shallow dish and the breadcrumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
1 recipe breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of sauce over the eggplant and add half of the cheese slices. Add the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Italian Romaine Salad

Ingredients

1 head of romaine lettuce, sliced, washed and dried
1 small red onion, cut into rings

Italian Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Place the greens and onion in a medium salad bowl. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.

Leftover Meatballs, Sausage & Peppers and Eggplant make great sandwiches.

 


Tripoli

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, and Egypt. This series continues with the country of Libya.


Food in Libya is a very important part of family life. A well-known Libyan saying is “one must eat well”. Libyan cuisine is based on the traditions of the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Berber cuisines. Tripoli is Libya’s capital, and the cuisine in this city is especially influenced by the Italian cuisine. Pasta is common, as are many seafood dishes. Fruits, most often served, include figs, dates, oranges, apricots, and olives.

The sand in Libya gets so hot in the summer that walking on it with bare feet becomes unbearable. As a result, the Tuareg way of baking bread is to bury it in the hot sand, which is as effective as baking in an oven. The technique can also be used to bake potatoes and eggs by burying them whole in the sand and leaving them there for several hours.

Olive oil is the main ingredient of nearly all Libyan dishes. Its use in North Africa goes back thousands of years, and its life-prolonging properties were well-known to the ancient Libyans and Egyptians.


There are four main ingredients in the traditional Libyan cuisine: olives (and olive oil), palm dates, grains, and milk. These are very ancient foods and they have been in the Libyan cuisine since Neolithic times when humans first began to make use of their natural surroundings. Grains are roasted, ground, sieved and used for making bread, cakes, soups, Bazin, and other dough-based dishes. Dates are harvested, dried and stored for the rest of the year. They can be eaten as they are, made into syrup, fried or eaten with milk for breakfast.

Garlic is also one of the most important Libyan foods, as it is usually added to most dishes that involve sauces or stews, especially those served with couscous and pasta.

One of the most important social occasions in Libya is getting together for tea drinking. This activity brings families together, to chat, laugh, discuss and gossip about the highlights of the day and about life in general. Talking in Libya is a very important social activity and it firmly bonds the family. Libyan tea is a very strong, thick, syrup-like black tea. After boiling water in a traditional teapot, a handful of red tea leaves are added, and the leaves are boiled for a long time (about twenty minutes).

Bazin

Bazin is the most well-known Libyan dish. It is made by boiling barley flour in salted water to make a hard dough and then forming it into a rounded, smooth dome that is placed in the middle of a serving dish. The sauce around the dough is made by frying chopped onions with ground lamb, turmeric, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fenugreek, sweet paprika and tomato paste. Potatoes may also be added. Hard-boiled eggs are arranged around the dome. The dish is then served with lemon and fresh or pickled chili peppers, known as amsyar. Batata mubattana (filled potato) is another popular dish that consists of fried potato pieces filled with spiced ground meat and covered with egg and breadcrumbs.

Make A Libyan-style Dinner In Your Kitchen

Recipes adapted from http://libyanfood.blogspot.com/

Lentil Soup With Fried Onions

Ingredients

2 cups lentils
5 cups water
2 garlic cloves
1 medium carrot
1 onion
1 large tomato
1/2 -1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon salt

Fried Onions
2 medium onions
Oil for frying

For the Topping
Extra cumin
Toasted bread, cut into cubes or triangles

Directions

Wash and drain the lentils; wash and cut the carrot; chop the tomatoes and onion. Put the onion, tomatoes, carrot, lentils, garlic cloves, salt and cumin in a soup pot.
Add 5 cups of boiling water. Cook, until the lentils, become mushy. Let cool, puree, and add more boiling water if a thinner soup is desired, stir well.

For the topping: Cut the 2 onions into thin slices and fry in a little olive oil stirring constantly until dark brown.

To serve: Place a handful of toasted bread in the soup bowl before ladling on the soup. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of cumin to each bowl. Top with a tablespoon of fried onions.

Libyan Couscous with Fish

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Steamed Couscous
500g couscous (ready-cooked variety can also be steamed)
1 cup of hot water + 3 tablespoons olive oil

Stock
1-2 fish heads (washed, gills removed)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon black pepper, ground cumin
Salt, to taste
1 1/2-2 liter boiling water

Vegetable Sauce
1 medium onion
1 medium size potato
1 medium size aubergine (eggplant)
1 medium size squash
1 medium-size red bell pepper
1 cup cooked/canned chickpeas (or fresh/frozen peas)
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 chili peppers
3-4 garlic cloves

For the Fish and Marinade
4-6 portions of firm-fleshed fish, grouper is the Libyan favorite
4 large cloves garlic
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 chili pepper chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
Olive oil to brush the fish before grilling

Directions

In Libya, steamed dishes are cooked in a kaskas, but any pot with a steamer insert is fine. When steaming couscous you can place a square of cheese-cloth between the pot and steamer if its holes are larger than the couscous.

Put all the ingredients for the stock in the steamer pot. Bring to boil then reduce the heat and cook over medium heat.

Pour 1 cup of hot water and the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the couscous, mix well. Put the couscous in the steamer, then place it above the stock pot. Lightly rake over the top layer only with a spatula a few times during the first steaming, so it gets steamed properly.

After 45 minutes, remove the steamer and put the couscous in a deep plat; pour about 5 ladles of hot stock onto the couscous.

Mix well, then return the couscous to the steamer for another 45 minutes. Stir lightly but thoroughly 2-3 times during the second steaming to break up lumps.

Put all the ingredients for the fish marinade in the food processor, then use this paste to coat the fish on both sides. Cover the fish with cling film (plastic wrap) and set aside.

Cut the onion, eggplant, potato and bell pepper into thick slices.

Prepare the vegetable sauce by putting olive oil, chopped onion, chopped chili and whole garlic cloves in a pot, then stir until they have softened. Add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes, cover and cook on low heat. Add the peas or cooked chickpeas and about 3 ladles of strained fish stock, so the liquid is just about covering the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes more.

Brush the cut vegetables generously with olive oil and grill until almost cooked. Remove the vegetables from the grill and cut them into cubes. Add the grilled vegetables to the sauce pot.

Grill the fish and keep warm to serve with the couscous.

Remove the couscous from the steamer and place in a serving dish, arrange the vegetables from the sauce on the couscous, spoon some of the remaining sauce around the vegetables. Serve with the grilled fish and lemon wedges.

Date Filled Semolina Cookies

Ingredients

Dough
3 cups semolina
1 cup flour
1 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon orange blossom water added to a ½ liter of warm water

Filling
750g date paste
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

Syrup
4 cups boiling water
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 lemon slice
2 tablespoons orange blossom water

Topping
1/2 cup sesame seeds (lightly toasted)

Directions

Prepare the syrup by simmering all the ingredients except the orange blossom water over moderate heat for 30 minutes or until a syrupy consistency is reached. Add the 2 tablespoons of orange blossom water and set aside to cool. For a richer taste, add 1 tablespoon of honey while the syrup is still warm. Set aside.

For the dough: Mix the semolina, flour, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix. Cover and let rest for at least one hour.

For the filling: Cut the date paste into small pieces and knead. Add some olive oil if the paste is not soft enough to be kneaded. Add cinnamon, grated nutmeg, sesame seeds and knead them in. Roll out the sesame date paste with your palm into 4 long ropes or sticks.

Divide the dough into 4 portions, take one portion of the dough and add the orange blossom flavored warm water a little at a time. Knead well until the dough becomes smooth and easy to shape. The dough will also become lighter in color. Form the dough into a furrow or trench shape and place one of the date rolls in the dough. Pinch closed and smooth the dough over the date roll.

Cut the roll into small pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Place in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F/220°C until golden, for about 12 minutes. Place the cookies in a single layer in a deep dish. Pour the sugar syrup over the warm cookies.

Turn the cookies every 15 minutes, so they soak in the syrup on all sides. Remove the cookies from the syrup and place in a sieve to remove the excess syrup. Place the drained cookies on a platter and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Let rest overnight before serving.


Stuffed Zucchini

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
One large zucchini (10-12 oz)
4 oz lean ground beef
1 mini bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine
2 scallions (green onions) chopped fine
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Cut the zucchini in half. Remove most of the flesh with a serrated spoon. Do not go too deep or you will pierce the outer skin. Chop the zucchini flesh into small pieces.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet. Add the meat and brown it completely. Remove to a medium mixing bowl. Add the garlic, bell pepper, scallions and zucchini flesh to the skillet. Cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes.

Add the vegetable mixture to the browned meat along with the remaining ingredients (tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and mozzarella). Stir well and spoon the mixture into the zucchini shells. Place the stuffed zucchini in an oiled baking dish. Drizzle the top with a little oil. (Can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on top and the zucchini is tender.

Eggplant Parmigiana

First Stage

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

Salt
2 eggs, beaten with a few tablespoons of water
1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs

Directions

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

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

Lightly salt the eggplant slices.

Place the eggs and water in one shallow dish and the breadcrumbs in another.

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

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

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

This stage can be done ahead of time. The eggplant slices can be stored with foil between the slices in the refrigerator for a day or two or frozen until needed.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an 8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

2 ½ cups Marinara (pasta) sauce
8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
Breaded eggplant

Directions

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

Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and place half of the cheese slices on top.

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

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


Preparing appetizers that can be made ahead or serving quickly prepared appetizers make entertaining for the holidays much easier. Here are a few of my favorites.

Stromboli

This stuffed bread recipe can be made ahead and reheated just before serving time.

Ingredients

2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
Olive oil
1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
1/4 pound thinly sliced capicola
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup marinara sauce
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.

Spread half the marinara sauce over the dough.

Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.

Layer half the meat over the cheese on the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, brush the seams with the beaten egg mixture

Place the Stromboli on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other dough in the same manner.

Cut four small slits in the top of the log. Cover the Stromboli with kitchen towels and let rise for 45 minutes.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Mozzarella-Stuffed Arancini

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for cooking
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
16-20 small fresh mozzarella balls (about 6 ounces)
2-3 cups cold risotto
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko or traditional bread crumbs
Marinara Sauce, for serving

Directions

In a medium saute pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add in the oregano and basil and stir until the herbs are wilted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the herb mixture to the mozzarella balls and stir to mix.

Take approximately 2 tablespoons of cold risotto in your palm and flatten slightly. Add one mozzarella ball covered in the herb mix to the center. Cover the cheese with the rice and roll into a ball form. Dip the ball into flour, shaking slightly to remove any clumps, then into the beaten eggs, and finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Place the coated balls on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto until all of the risotto and/or cheese balls are used.

Pour enough olive oil in a deep skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil and add the arancini. Cook on all sides until lightly brown all over. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I usually make them in advance and then reheat before serving in a 375 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.

Sautéed Calamari

Ingredients

For the bread crumb topping:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

For the calamari:

1/2 pound cleaned squid cut into rings, dry on paper towels, air dry and then move to a plate
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Make the bread crumb topping:

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until lightly brown. Set aside

For the calamari:

Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. Then garlic, butter and chili flakes. Add calamari, salt and pepper and parsley and cook 1-2 minutes Squeeze lemon over the fish and sprinkle lightly with the toasted bread crumbs.

Note: It is important not to overcook calamari or it will become tough. A minute or two is all it needs to cook.

Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and serve with your favorite Italian bread.

Greetings From The South

 


Cod Pomodoro

2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Half of a small fennel bulb, thinly sliced, plus a few fennel fronds
Half of a small onion, sliced thin
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup homemade or store-bought marinara sauce
Two 4-ounce skinless cod fillets
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium-low heat.

Add minced garlic, sliced fennel, onion and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add spices and cook, stirring, until spices are absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add marinara sauce to the skillet; bring to a simmer and cook to meld the flavors, about 5 minutes.

Season fish with salt and pepper and place the fillets in the sauce. Spoon some of the sauce over the fish.

Place the pan in the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the fish is firm when touched with a fork.

Remove the pan from the oven and top the fish with the mozzarella cheese. Return the pan to the oven until the cheese melts.

Serve the fish with the sauce.

Baked Eggplant Slices

Place the eggplant into the oven about ten minutes before you place the fish in the oven.

2 or more servings

1 small eggplant, peeled
1 large egg
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil, for the baking pan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a baking pan with oil. Set aside.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the egg with 1 tablespoons water. In another shallow dish mix the Parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs.

Cut the eggplant into thin slices. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off.

Dredge the slices in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing down gently to coat well. Transfer the breaded slices to the baking pan.

Bake until golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.

Turn the slices over and continue to bake until lightly browned on other side, about 10 minutes more.

Remove from the oven, serve plain or drizzle with a little marinara sauce, if desired.

Swiss Chard Sautéed with Garlic and Lemon

4 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large bunches Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 2” pieces (about 12 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Wash Swiss chard well and place in a colander.

With some water clinging to the leaves, immediately transfer the washed chard to a large, deep skillet.

Cook the chard over low heat until almost wilted, 3-4 minutes. Drain the chard in a colander.

In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the Swiss chard, season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing often, until completely softened, about 4-5 minutes.

Add lemon juice and cook, tossing, about 1 minute; adjust seasoning if needed. Serve.


Mediterranean Syria

The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same 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 countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. This series continues with the country of Syria.

Burj Safita (AKA Chastel Blanc), a landmark in the town of Safita

Think Mediterranean diet and Italian and Greek food comes to mind. But the Mediterranean coastline spans thousands more miles throughout the Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel. The Middle Eastern Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and red wine. However, it also offers delicious and different flavors not found in southern European food, such as unique spices, tangy fruits and healthy seeds, some of which include pomegranate juice, mint, sesame and yogurt.

Beach in Latakia

Syrian cuisine mainly uses eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, meat (mostly from lamb, mutton and poultry), dairy products, bulgur, sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, wheat flour, pine nuts, fava beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, grape leaves, pickled turnips or cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mint, a spice mixture called “baharat mushakkaleh” (Arabic: بهارات مشكّلة‎‎), hazelnuts, pistachios, honey and fruits.

One of the many highlights of Syrian food is mezza, the tapas of the Middle East. Mezza refers to a generous spread of small dishes, mostly eaten without cutlery, using flat bread, lettuce or grape leaves to scoop up dips or to wrap portions of salad. Baba ghanouj and hummus, both well-known in the West, are key elements of a traditional mezza. Another favorite in Syria is muhammara, a spicy pepper and walnut dip made with pomegranate molasses. Salads include tabbouleh, a parsley and bulgur mix; fattoush, a crunchy cucumber, radish, tomato and herb salad topped with toasted pita; and fateh, a salad with chickpeas, yogurt, tahini and garlic. Other finger foods include baked pastries filled with meat and spices called sambusic or spinach and baked lamb pies called sfeeha. Kibbeh is the national dish and comes in many varieties with the core element being cracked wheat and fresh ground lamb or beef that is seasoned with spices.

For Syrians, presentation is everything. Making the food look appetizing and setting the table appropriately are very important. Everything, even the simplest dishes, are garnished with fresh herbs.

Syrian Recipes To Make At Home

Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves

Adapted from a recipe from Mary Sanom

Ingredients

2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
1 lb. long grain white rice, uncooked
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 small green pepper (finely diced)
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz of tomato paste
10 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
Grape leaves (16 oz jar hold about 60 leaves)
1 lemon

Directions

Place the rice in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover it and let soak for 1 hour.Drain well.

Mix ground meat, soaked rice, onion, green pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and tomato sauce in large bowl.

Place enough grape leaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot.

This will keep the filled grape leaves from sticking to the pot and burning.

To fill the grape leaves:

Lay out a grape leaf with the vein side up.

Place a small amount of the meat and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat and to roll up like a cigar.

Continue rolling the grape leaves and laying them in the bottom row in the prepared pot,

When the first layer of grape leaves has lined the bottom of the pot, start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves.

Keep rolling up all the leaves and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves/or no more filling/or the pot is ¾ full.

Place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the rolls from floating during cooking and coming unrolled.

Mix together the tomato paste and water. Pour the tomato/water mixture over leaves until they are just covered.

If the leaves are not covered, add additional water until they are covered.

Add a teaspoon of salt and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot

Cover the pot with a lid and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 30 – 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked and the leaves are tender.

Take out a roll from the top of the pot and test it. Place the grape leaves on a platter to serve.

Retain some of the cooking liquid to reheat the leftover rolls.

Aubergine Fetteh (Fetteh Beitinjaan)

Layering food on toasted bread with a yogurt sauce is a Syrian speciality.

Ingredients

3 aubergines(eggplant)
Olive oil, for roasting and drizzling
Salt
2 flatbreads or pitas
500g plain yogurt
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds
50g pine nuts, toasted
Salt, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Cut the eggplants into quarters lengthwise, slice them into 1 inch chunks and place in a baking pan.

Pour over a generous helping of olive oil and a sprinkle with salt.

Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.

Brush the bread with olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until crispy. Then break it up into pieces.

In a bowl combine the yogurt, garlic and lemon juice.

Take the eggplant out of the oven and allow to cool. Place them in a shallow bowl then pour the yogurt mix on top.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with the crispy bread, parsley, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts.

Spiced Fish (Samaka Harra)

Serves 2

Ingredients

6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup/40g walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole fish, such as sea bream or snapper
1 bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, including the stems
1 lemon, plus ½ lemon, sliced

Directions

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, chilies, cumin, walnuts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Stuff the fish with this mixture, reserving two tablespoons for later, then add a handful of coriander, saving some to garnish.

Squeeze the whole lemon over both fish, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Place the fish in a large baking pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of stuffing on top and a couple of slices of lemon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Milk Pudding (Muhallabiyeh)

This is a very light dessert that is simple and can be prepared far in advance. Syrians say the name of this pudding comes from the Umayyad Prince of Damascus, Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra. One day, the bored potentate ordered his servants to make him something different, a special pudding, and this is what they came up with using the only ingredients they had available – milk, sugar, starch and mastic. The pudding then became known as the ‘milk of the princes’, but commoners soon caught onto how simple it was to prepare and it became known amongst them as the ‘milk of the commons’. Today, people flavor the milk with a variety of spices, depending on each individual’s taste. This pudding has a smooth texture, with the nuts on top adding a crunch, which Syrians love.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1 quart/litre milk
1 cup/​200g sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch/cornflour, mixed with water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rose-water or orange blossom water
2 tablespoons/20g pistachios, crushed
Rose petals, to decorate (optional)

Directions
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and sugar over low heat, stirring regularly.

Just before it boils, add the cornstarch mix and stir constantly until it thickens, then add the vanilla and rose or orange blossom water.

Once it reaches a thick consistency, pour the mix into individual bowls or trifle glasses and let cool.

Once cool, put them in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the tops of the pudding with the crushed pistachios and for extra color, rose petals.

Source: Syria: Recipes From Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi. Published by Trapeze.



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