Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: yogurt

Spices are very important in Moroccan cuisine. Common spices include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander, saffron, mace, cloves, fennel, anise, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, caraway, black pepper, and sesame seeds. Twenty-seven spices are combined for the famous Moroccan spice mixture called “ras el hanout”.

Due to its location on the Mediterranean Sea, the country is rich in natural resources and meals are usually built around seafood, lamb or poultry. The Moroccan national dish is a tagine or stew named for a special pot that is used for cooking. Common ingredients include chicken or lamb, almonds, hard-boiled eggs, prunes, lemons, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The tajine, like other Moroccan dishes, is known for its distinctive flavoring, which comes from spices that may include saffron, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and ground red pepper. Give this Moroccan inspired recipe a try.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken

Ingredients

1 tablespoon chili paste (harissa or sambal oelek)
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 orange, zested, then cut into segments
2 tablespoons oil
4 bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 cup chopped preserved lemon
Couscous, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Heat a wide, deep braising pan over medium-high heat.

In a small bowl, combine the chili paste, paprika, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, cardamom, cayenne, orange zest, and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir to form a paste.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper; rub half of the spice mixture on both sides of the chicken thighs.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the heated pan. Sear the chicken skin-side down until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Add the garlic, onion and remaining spice mixture to the same pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onions are softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan along with the tomatoes, chicken stock, olives, preserved lemon, and sliced oranges. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to braise until the chicken is tender, another 15 to 20 minutes.

Couscous

Ingredients

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ¼ cups no salt added chicken broth

Directions

Bring the chicken broth and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour in the couscous and the olive oil, give a quick stir, cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork to break up any lump and serve.

Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

1 English cucumber, sliced thin
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed.

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl. Mix well, cover the dish and refrigerate several hours before serving.


If you are trying to eat more Mediterranean type meals, then this lunch will be very satisfying, indeed. It has all the flavors of the Mediterranean. along with being good for you and tasting absolutely delicious. This recipe comes together quickly and can be increased or decreased to suit your needs. This is good eating.

Greek Style Chicken Sandwiches

3 sandwiches

Ingredients

1 lb chicken tenderloins (fingers) about 6
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice.
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning
Sea salt
3 mini Pita breads, warmed
Lettuce
Tzatziki Sauce, see recipe below
1/4 cup Feta cheese
Greek Olives

Directions

In a zip-lock plastic bag combine the olive oil with the lemon juice, garlic, oregano and Greek seasoning. Shake well to combine and add the chicken.

Seal the bag and refrigerate for about 3 hours.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour the chicken and marinade into the skillet. Sprinkle the chicken lightly with sea salt.

Turn the heat down slightly and cook the chicken in the marinade for about 15 minutes, turning the chicken tenders over about half way through the cooking time.

Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the chicken to cool down.

To make each sandwich:

Place a mini pita on a sandwich plate and top with a few leaves of lettuce.

Place 2 chicken tenders on top, sprinkle the chicken with some feta cheese and then add a few tablespoons of Tzatziki Sauce.

Serve Greek olives on the side.

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

1 large cucumber
3/4 cups plain Greek yogurt (not low-fat)
2 scallions (green onions), minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Peel and seed the cucumber. Grate the cucumber on a box grater onto a paper towel, roll up and squeeze the towel to remove some of the liquid.

Place the yogurt in a mixing bowl. Add the grated cucumber to the yogurt along with the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator several hours 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.


This is a great month to take advantage of some of the early spring crops that are coming to market. Broccoli, Cauliflower, all types of greens, beets and strawberries are some of the best choices. And, if you are lucky to have a friend who likes to garden, like me, you can reap some of the harvest. See the photo below for what I was treated to from his garden.

Stuffed Peppers

This recipe goes well with sautéed cabbage. See recipe below.

Ingredients

6 bell peppers, assorted colors
1 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup jarred, mild salsa
1 cup frozen cauliflower rice, defrosted, or regular cooked rice
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Salt and pepper

Directions

Cut the tops off the peppers. Reserve the top and remove the stem. Dice the tops and set aside.

Remove the seeds and membrane from the peppers. Wash and set on a paper towel, upside down, to drain.

Heat a skillet and add the oil. Brown the ground beef until you no longer see any pink color.

Push the beef to the side of the pan and add the onion, bell pepper tops and garlic. Saute until tender.

Add the Italian seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Let cool.

Stir in defrosted cauliflower rice, salsa and ½ cup cheese. Fill the peppers to the top and place them in a baking dish just large enough to hold the peppers upright.

I used some foil to support them and keep them from falling out.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 -40 minutes or until the peppers are tender.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and top each pepper with some of the remaining cheese. Return to the oven for five minutes to melt the cheese topping.

Sautéed Cabbage In Brown Butter

Ingredients

One head of savoy cabbage
1/2 onion, sliced thin
3 tablespoons butter
1 small garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper

Directions

Remove the large leaves from the cabbage for stuffing, Cut the rest of the cabbage head in half. Set aside one half for coleslaw or another recipe.

Thinly slice the remaining half of the cabbage.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet and cook until the butter turns a light brown, Add the onion and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes to tenderize the onions.

Add the sliced cabbage and cook until very soft and tender, about ten minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with the stuffed peppers.

Oven BBQ Pork Roast and Vegetables

 

 

Ingredients

1 top loin pork roast, bone-in, about 3 pounds
8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a diagonal
8 oz carrots, thinly sliced
Half a sweet onion, cubed
1 ½ cups bottled or homemade BBQ sauce, see recipe below
Half a head of cauliflower cut into large florets

Directions

Heat the oven to 325 F.

Oil a roasting pan with foil and place the mushrooms, carrots, celery and onion on the bottom of the pan.

Place the roast on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the cauliflower florets on two sides of the roast.

Pour the BBQ sauce over the pork.

Roast the pork for 30 minutes per pound, or until it registers at least 140 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.

Baste the pork roast with the barbecue sauce several times during the roasting time.

Let the roast rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup water
Two 6 oz cans tomato paste
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried minced onion or powder
3/4 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer on low, uncovered, for about an hour.

Make sure to stir frequently, about once every 10 to 15 minutes, while the BBQ sauce is cooking.

This will help better incorporate the flavors and ensure that the sauce is evenly cooked throughout.

Let the sauce cool before transferring to a storage container.

Oven Roasted Salmon and Broccoli

2 servings

Ingredients

1/4 lb broccoli florets (about 2 floret tops)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Two 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rings, seeds removed if desired
1 small garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped green onion (scallions)
1 mini red bell pepper, minced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix broccoli florets with 1 tablespoon oil in a baking dish; season with salt and pepper.

Roast broccoli, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, 10 minutes.

Combine the jalapeño slices, vinegar, scallions, bell pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt in small bowl.

Rub salmon with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Push broccoli to the edges of the baking dish and place salmon in the center.

Evenly distribute the jalapeno mixture over the salmon and broccoli.

Roast until salmon is cooked throughout and the broccoli is tender, 15 minutes. Serve with Cucumber Salad

Cucumbers In Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
Half of a large cucumber
3/4 cups plain Greek yogurt (not low-fat)
2 scallions (green onion), minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Peel and seed the half cucumber. Grate the half cucumber on a box grater onto a paper towel, roll up and squeeze the towel to remove some of the liquid.

Peel the large cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and cut into thin half-moon slices.

Place the yogurt in a medium bowl.Add grated cucumber to the yogurt along with the remaining ingredients, except the sliced cucumber and stir well.

Fold in the cucumber slices.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator before serving.


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, Turkey and Syria. This series continues with the country of Lebanon.

Stretching along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon’s length is almost three times its width. As it stretches from north to south, the width of its terrain becomes narrower. Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate characterized by a long, semi-hot, and dry summer, and a cold, rainy and snowy winter.

The country’s role in the region was shaped by trade. Lebanon is named “the pearl of the middle east.” It serves as a link between the Mediterranean world and India and East Asia. The merchants of the region exported oil, grain, textiles, metalwork, and pottery through the port cities to Western markets.

Lebanon was heavily forested in ancient and medieval times, and its timber, especially cedar, was exported for building and shipbuilding. Although Lebanon’s diverse and abundant plant and animal life suffered a heavy toll during the country’s lengthy civil war, the post-civil war period was marked by the rise of fledgling environmental groups and movements that worked toward the creation of protected areas and parks in Lebanon’s ecological areas.

Lebanon has a heterogeneous society composed of numerous ethnic and religious groups. Ethnically, the Lebanese compose a mixture Phoenicians, Greeks, Armenians and Arabs.

Meat kebab, falafel, baba ghanoush, muhammara, hummus, sambusak, rice, tahini, kibbeh ,pita. Halal food. Lebanese cuisine.

The cuisine of Lebanon is the epitome of the Mediterranean diet. It includes an abundance of grains, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten, it is usually lamb.

Many dishes in the Lebanese cuisine can be traced back thousands of years to eras of Roman and Phoenician rule. More recently, Lebanese cuisine was influenced by the different foreign civilizations that held power. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staples in the Lebanese diet, such as cooking with lamb. After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (1914–1918), France took control of Lebanon until 1943, when the country achieved its independence. The French introduced foods such as flan, a caramel custard dessert dating back to the 16th century AD, and croissants.

Most often foods are grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil and vegetables are often eaten raw, pickled, or cooked. Herbs and spices are used in large quantities. Like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons and what is available. In Lebanon, very rarely are drinks served without being accompanied by food. Similar to the tapas of Spain and aperitivo of Italy, mezze is an array of small dishes placed before the guests. Mezze may be as simple as raw or pickled vegetables, hummus, baba ghanouj and bread, or it may become an entire meal consisting of grilled marinated seafood, skewered meats, a variety of cooked and raw salads and an arrangement of desserts.

Salads may include tabbouleh, fattoush and kebbeh. Patties such as the Sambusac and stuffed grape leaves are often included. Family cuisine offers also a range of dishes, such as stews, which can be cooked in many forms depending on the ingredients used and are usually served with meat and rice vermicelli. Lebanese flat bread, called pita, is a staple at every Lebanese meal and can be used in place of a fork. Although simple fresh fruits are often served towards the end of a Lebanese meal, there are also desserts, such as baklava. Although baklava is the most internationally known dessert, there is a great variety of Lebanese desserts.

Lebanese Dishes To Make At Home

Pita Bread

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading/forming
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 cup and 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1⁄2 cup of warm water. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve the salt in 1 cup of warm water. Add the flour and turn the mixer on.

Slowly add the yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix until the dough combines (it will be sticky), about 2 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball and place on a lightly greased sheet pan. Coat lightly with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and knead for 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 6 (5 oz.) pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Cover the balls with plastic wrap, being careful not to let the plastic wrap stick to the balls (you can do this by placing coffee mugs or short glasses on the sheet pan). Let the balls proof for 15 minutes.

Lightly dust one piece of dough at a time on both sides with flour.

Push the dough out with your fingers in a circular motion to create a disk that is approximately 5″ in diameter and 1⁄2″ thick.

Using a lightly floured rolling-pin, roll the dough in a clockwise motion to get it to 7″ in diameter and 1⁄8″ thick.

Transfer the dough to an inverted lightly floured sheet pan. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 3 minutes.

Flip the bread over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven, transfer to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the bread and cover with a damp towel. Let the bread sit for 10 minutes, or until cooled.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

When ready to serve, lightly brush the pitas with the remaining olive oil and grill for 1-1 1⁄2 minutes on each side.

It should be warm but still pliable. Cut the bread into wedges and serve.

Labaneh

Thick, tart, and creamy yogurt-like cheese, is eaten with olive oil, pita bread and za’atar.

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 cups whole milk
1 cup plain yogurt
Kosher salt, to taste
Olive oil, for serving

Directions

Bring milk to a boil in a 4-quart nonreactive saucepan fitted with a deep-fry thermometer.

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool until the thermometer reads 118°F.

Transfer 1 cup of the milk to a bowl; whisk in yogurt until combined.

Add yogurt mixture to the saucepan and whisk until smooth; cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (ideally 70°F-75°F) until thickened, 6-8 hours.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth; set over a bowl. Transfer yogurt to the strainer; let drain at least 8 hours or overnight.

Transfer to a serving dish. Season with salt and drizzle with oil. Add olives and za’atar, if desired.

Spiced Chicken And Tomato Kebabs

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup plain yogurt
1⁄2 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons crushed saffron
1 teaspoon ground coriander
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
4 plum tomatoes, cored
Ground sumac, to garnish
2 limes, halved
Pita, for serving

Directions

Stir together the yogurt, juice, oil, zest, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron, coriander, garlic and onions in a large bowl; add chicken and toss to coat.

Chill for 4 hours.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, heat a gas grill to medium-high or a heat broiler to high.

Skewer chicken on 4 metal skewers and skewer tomatoes lengthwise on another skewer.

Grill chicken and tomatoes, turning often, until the tomatoes are soft and charred, about 7 minutes, and the chicken is cooked through and slightly charred, about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle skewers with sumac; serve with limes and pita.

Garlicky Lentil Salad

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

1 cup green lentils, rinsed
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring lentils and 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan.

Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in an 8” skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until soft, 7–8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining oil, lemon juice, cumin and allspice. Pour the garlic mixture over the lentils.

Add parsley. mint and season the lentils with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve lentils at room temperature.


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.



You most likely have some favorite recipes that you like to cook with June’s wonderful produce. I certainly do but I also like to try out new ideas. My weekly CSA share began on Memorial Day weekend and so I have plenty of June produce to experiment with at this time. Here are a few of my ideas. Give them a try.

Green Peppers

Shrimp and Bell Peppers in Orange Sauce

Ingredients

1 pound Gulf shrimp (wild caught), peeled and deveined
2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large sweet onion, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the peppers and onions to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until tender. Remove the vegetables to a bowl.

Add the shrimp to the pan. Cook about 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp over when one side turns pink. Cook the second side. Push the shrimp to one side of the pan.

Whisk the cornstarch and orange juice together. Add the honey.

Pour the mixture into the pan. Turn the heat up slightly. Bring the liquid ingredients up to a boil. Turn the heat back down to medium-high and push the shrimp into the sauce.

Add the peppers and onions. The sauce should have thickened and the shrimp should be completely cooked.

Corn on the Cob

Fresh Corn and Ricotta Cakes

Makes 8 cakes

Ingredients

2 cups fresh corn kernels
½ cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/3 cup self-rising unbleached flour
Olive oil
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

In a medium bowl combine the corn, chives, ricotta, eggs, flour and a pinch of black pepper.

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with a thin layer of olive oil. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop the corn mixture into the skillet. Do not crowd the cakes in the pan.

Cook the cakes on both sides until golden brown. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve with sour cream or a tomato salsa, if desired.

Basil

Pizza With Basil Pesto and Ricotta

Ingredients

1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 plum tomatoes, sliced thin
7 oz fresh mozzarella balls, sliced

Directions

Place the sliced tomatoes on paper towels to remove some of their moisture.

Oil a large pizza pan and stretch out the dough to fit the pan.

Spread the basil pesto over the dough.

Spread the ricotta over the pesto and layer the sliced tomatoes over the ricotta.

Place the pizza in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and top with slices of fresh mozzarella. Return the pizza to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more or until the cheese melts and the crust is cooked.

Remove the pizza from the oven and let rest about 5 minutes before cutting into slices.

Blueberries


Blueberry Cheesecake Pie

8 servings

Topping Ingredients

1 pint blueberries, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water

Crust Ingredients

1 1/2 cups amaretto cookie crumbs or crush your favorite cookies
1/3 cup butter, melted

Filling Ingredients

2 cups (Two 8 oz packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

To make the topping:

In a small sauce pan combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and water. Place the pan over medium high heat. Stir until the mixture comes to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the blueberry mixture for 20 minutes or until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Let the blueberry sauce cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator until the cheese pie is ready.

To make the crust:

Select a pie pan whose inside top dimension is at least 9 inches and whose height is at least 11/4 inches. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the crust by stirring together the butter and cookie crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan, making a thicker layer on the bottom than on the sides.

To make the filling:

Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Set the pie pan on a baking sheet and pour the filling into the crumb crust.

Place the cheesecake in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the crust 1 inch from the edge reads between 165°F and 170°F. The filling won’t look entirely set in the center.

Remove the cheesecake from the oven and set it on a rack to cool. Once the cake is cool, refrigerate it, covered, until completely chilled.

Just before serving, spoon a little of the blueberry topping over the cheesecake and cut into slices.

Zucchini

Yogurt-Zucchini Bread 

Ingredients

1 cup walnuts (4 ounces), chopped and toasted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Place the grated zucchini on a paper towel to drain while you prepare the other ingredients.

Butter and flour a 9 x 4 1/2-inch metal loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, mix the 3/4 cup sugar with the eggs, vegetable oil and yogurt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients along with the grated zucchini and toasted walnuts and stir until the batter is evenly moistened.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the loaf is risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool on a rack for 30 minutes before unmolding and serving.

The zucchini loaf can be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen in plastic and foil for up to 1 month.



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