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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: okra

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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To make really good tasting chicken soup, you need a rich tasting broth. I usually start with the remains of a whole 4 lb chicken that I have either cooked on the grill or in the oven. Remove as much meat as you can, reserve 2-3 cups for the soup and use the remainder of the chicken meat for other dishes. To make the broth even richer, roast the chicken bones in the oven.

Place an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven; preheat to 450°F. Spread the bones in a large roasting pan and place the pan in the oven on the lower rack and roast the bones until deeply brown, 45-60 minutes. Transfer the bones to a Dutch Oven or soup pot. Spoon the fat from the juices in the roasting pan and discard. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. When browned bits begin to sizzle, pour in 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour into the pot with the roasted bones.

Add the following:

2 scrubbed carrots, cut in half
1 onion quartered or 1 bunch of scallions
2 celery stalks, cut in thirds
1 large garlic clove, peeled
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 peppercorns
1 large bay leaf

Directions

Add these ingredients to the stockpot with the roasted bones and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 4 hours.

Remove and discard the large bones and vegetable pieces. Strain the stock in a fine mesh colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth.

Discard the vegetables and bones. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper to the souppot.

You can add more seasoning later depending on how you will use the stock. You now have a clear, flavorful stock to make some great soups.

Below are recipes for some of my favorite chicken soups:

Mexican Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 medium poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup celery, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup chopped orange or yellow bell pepper
1 cup sweet onion, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
8 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
14 oz container chopped tomatoes, no sugar or salt added
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch lengths
2 cups okra, trimmed and sliced into ½ inch rounds
3 seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
Toasted tortilla strips (see recipe below) and cheddar cheese for garnish

Directions

Roast the poblano peppers over a grill or under the broiler. Cool and remove the skin. Chop and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch Oven and add the garlic, celery, onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper.

Cook over low heat until tender.

Add the chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir well. Add the chicken broth and canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Add the green beans,okra, plum tomatoes and diced poblano peppers.

Lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the cooked chicken and heat.

Serve with toasted tortilla strips and cheddar cheese as a topping for the soup.

Baked Tortilla Strips

8 corn tortillas (6 inch)

Heat the oven to 450°F. Spray 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray. Cut each tortilla into thin strips; place in a single layer on cookie sheets. Bake about 6 minutes or until crisp but not brown; cool and use to add to the soup.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
7 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch diagonal slices
4 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch diagonal slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
6 cup homemade chicken broth, recipe above
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup cooked noodles, optional
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (for serving)

Directions

Add the oil to the soup pot and heat over low heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until softened.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Add the salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper and parsley.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more or until the carrots and celery are almost softened.

Add the broth and chicken mixture to the vegetables in the soup pot.

Taste for seasoning and bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add cooked noodles, if using and extra cooked chicken, if desired.

Italian Escarole Bean Soup

Ingredients

½ yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups dried white beans (cannellini), soaked overnight in water to cover and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 cups chicken broth, recipe above
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 heads of escarole, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup diced, cooked spicy Italian sausage
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven and add the onions, celery and garlic. Cook until tender.

Add the Italian seasoning, the drained cannellini beans and the chicken broth.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cooked the beans for 30 minutes. Add the sausage, salt and escarole.

Let simmer until the escarole wilts. Ladle into soup bowls and top with Parmesan cheese.

Tortellini Soup

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade chicken broth, recipe above
1 piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Remove stems and wilted leaves on the greens. Wash well in several changes of cold water and chop.

In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the water, broth, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese rind and salt and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until al dente, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the cooked tortellini.

Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.


July is a  month when everything seems to be in season. Even our young fig tree that we planted in April is producing some figs. Here is a photo of our very first fig. You will have to wait a bit until I can show you what I can make with them,

My CSA share and the farmers’ markets are filled with wonderful produce to choose from and turn into some delicious meals.  I like to try new ideas for recipes with some of the vegetables that are not plentiful during the cooler months. So this month is a good time to cook with poblano peppers, fresh tomatoes, yellow squash, eggplant and okra. Looking for something different, give one of these recipes a try.

Eggplant Caponata

Ingredients

1 1/2 pound eggplant (1 large)
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
Half a medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
11/2 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 oil cured olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Basil leaves for garnish
Crostini

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

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

Roast face down on a foil lined baking sheet that has been brushed with olive 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 over medium heat in a medium, heavy saucepan.

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 eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook until thickened and all visible liquid has evaporated.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with toasted Italian bread slices.

Summer Squash and Potato Pie

Ingredients

Vegetable cooking spray
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 small sweet onions
4 medium red potatoes
2 medium zucchini
3 (yellow) summer squash
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water until barely tender. Drain, cool and peel.

Very thinly slice the onions, zucchini, squash and potatoes.

Preheat oven to 375°F

Coat a 10-inch quiche dish or pie pan with cooking spray.

Alternate, overlapping slightly, slices of onion, potato, zucchini and yellow squash in a single circular layer all around the dish (see photo),

Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.

Drizzle with the melted butter. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 45 minutes more or until golden brown.

Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Return the pie to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Pasta with Tomato and Zucchini Sauce

Ingredients

3 oz Prosciutto, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon
1 lb short pasta (such as penne)
2 zucchini, diced
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Cook the prosciutto in the 1 tablespoon olive oil until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

In a large bowl, toss together the tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley, garlic, salt, chili flakes and remaining olive oil.

Add this mixture to the skill and cook for 2-3 minutes, just enough time to heat the ingredients.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain well.

Add the pasta to the skillet vegetables along with the grated cheese and the crispy prosciutto, toss again and serve in individual pasta bowls.

Creamy Corn Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Ingredients

8 small poblano peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced scallions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground chili powder, divided
1 cup fresh corn kernels cut from cobs (about 2)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of a 1/2 lime, plus the juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salsa, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Put the poblano peppers on a baking sheet and toss them with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Roast until they begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

Using a paring knife cut the top off each pepper—be careful not to puncture or rip the peppers.

Remove and discard any seeds and membranes from the opening in the top; set the peppers aside.

Remove the corn kernels from the cobs; add to a bowl along with the scallions.

Stir in the cream cheese, cilantro, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon salt, cheddar cheese, the lime zest and lime juice.

Divide the stuffing mixture into 8 equal portions.

Stuff each pepper with the filling using your fingers to push the stuffing down into the peppers and place them in an oiled baking dish.

Reduce the oven temperature to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven.

Bake the peppers until the filling is heated through, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with salsa, if desired.

Oven Roasted Okra

I had never tried okra until this year, when my CSA farm included a bunch in my share. I did some research and found a way to make it tasty from the New York Times cooking section. The secret to good tasting, non-slimy okra is oven roasting. Use small, thin okra for the best taste.

Ingredients

1 pound small okra
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves to taste optional
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. Generously salt the okra and toss with the olive oil until coated.

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 it too brown, roast at 400 degrees F.

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



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