I've cooked my way through all 264 recipes
in The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook!

May 31, 2010

Roots, Shoots, and Squash (p. 344)

This is a roasted winter vegetables dish, but a lot of the ingredients came in my CSA box this week, so, happy Memorial Day! Enjoy some winter veggies.

The nice thing about this dish is that you can pretty much throw in whatever you have and it'll come out delicious, so I made a few changes from the original recipe based on what was in my refrigerator.

The beets are cooked separately and are started before everything else, both to make sure the entire dish isn't pink and also to ensure that the beets are cooked thoroughly. Peel and chop them into small chunks and place them in a baking dish with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.

 In a small bowl, combine minced herbs (I used parsley, but you could use most anything) with chili powder (I used harissa, since I have some and it'll give the same sort of spicy kick) and stir together. The recipe calls for a pinch of this to be added to the beets before they are put in a very hot oven, but I mis-read and mixed the whole spicy herb recipe with the beets. Whoops. I didn't even notice until it was time for me to use the remainder of the mixture.

Anyway. Once the beets have begun roasting (they're supposed to take a little over an hour), begin prepping the rest of the veggies. Peel and quarter the onions and combine in a large bowl with chopped carrots and other somewhat hard veggies -- the recipe called for turnips and celery root, which I didn't have, so I used red potatoes instead. Whatever you use, be sure to wash it, remove any skins, and chop into somewhat bite-size chunks.

These are poured into a large oiled baking dish and then mixed with more olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and the rest of the herb/harissa mixture. I just made a second batch of the mixture and added it all to the potato/onion/carrots.

After about twenty minutes, add squash chunks (and in my case, zucchini chunks) to the dish. Stir well and put back in the oven.

Twenty minutes later, add leeks and garlic and stir again. Check on the beets as well.

Once the carrots are cooked all the way (about 15 minutes later) the dish is ready to come out. Top with the beets, and you have yourself a meal.

This pretty much created a feast -- it's a ton of roasted veggies. Luckily, they're pretty delicious, which I think is thanks to using harissa (and doubling the amount of it.) The veggies have a subtle heat to them, the kind that slowly invades your mouth (in a good way.) Unfortunately, my beets look a little crazy since they were covered in the parsley mixture and were in the oven for such a long time -- they definitely got a little crispy.

beets -- $2.44
squash -- $2.44
zucchini -- $2.44
onions -- $1.63
lemon -- $.42
carrots -- $.89
potatoes -- $2.44
leeks -- $2.49 (2 left)
Total Cost of Roots, Shoots, and Squash: $15.19 (this will definitely be in my lunch all week long -- it makes a whole lot.)

May 27, 2010

Tart and Spicy Roasted Eggplant Salad (p. 56)

Today we're having our Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon at work, and the menu theme is salad. I wanted to think outside of the box a little bit, so I decided to make an eggplant salad. 

The recipe says that the eggplant would be best roasted over a charcoal grill, but can also be done in the oven, which is what I did. Before beginning to roast it, the eggplant needs to be pricked with a fork about a dozen times so that it doesn't explode. I followed this advice very carefully.

The process is much quicker on a grill, but in the oven it needs to be roasted for about forty minutes. I rotated it every five minutes or so.

When it comes out, its all withered and gross looking. Peel the dark skin away from the fruit and toss it (the fruit, not the discarded withering skins) in a bowl to be smooshed up with a potato masher. 

Slowly add plain yogurt, olive oil, and lemon juice to the bowl.

While the eggplant is roasting, roast two chili peppers (poblanos if you can find them, though I used serranos) over the gas stove and, once blackened, peel the skins away. Pour any juices from the chilies into the bowl with the eggplant.

Coarsely chop one of the chilies to be mixed with salt and garlic. The second is cut into narrow strips to be placed on top of the salad, once it is ready.

Once the garlic/chili mixture is ground together, add it into the eggplant salad. Mix together thoroughly and adorn with the remaining chili.

Um. I don't love this. I also wouldn't call it salad. It's more a weird, eggplant-y dip. Our poor volunteers will probably think I don't appreciate them in the least bit.

eggplant -- $2.21
chilies -- $.34
yogurt -- $2.99 (with the majority left for breakfasts)
Total Cost of Tart and Spicy Roasted Eggplant Salad: $5.54

May 26, 2010

Green Gazpacho (p. 131)

I desperately need to start working through the soup section of The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. I hadn't done a single one so far, three months into the project. It's weird, because I love soups and love eating them out, I just haven't made a lot on my own and am slightly concerned about a freezer full of leftover soups.

That said, I made Green Gazpacho tonight because it's getting hot here and because gazpacho is a great summer soup. This recipe is a totally different version of gazpacho than I've ever had before because it has avocado as a base instead of tomato.

To make, fill a small bowl with water and put in chunks of country-style bread, without the crust. Leave these in the water until they have absorbed most of it, and then pour into a colander. Press the now soggy bread into the colander to release the water and set aside.

In a food processor, combine avocado, cucumber, green pepper. yellow onion (though I used white, because I already had some in the fridge), and garlic until they are fairly smooth. Spoon this mixture into a bowl.

Next, add the bread into the food processor along with parsley, cilantro, and lemon juice. Once these are combined, pour in olive oil and add cumin and crushed red pepper flakes. 

Pour this mixture into the bowl with the avocado and stir together. The recipe says that if the consistency is too thick you can add ice water, but mine felt just right.

Serve immediately, or store in the fridge until the meal.

This was a ridiculously quick and easy dish, and also delicious. It felt light and refreshing, and the three of us who had it for dinner tonight found it to be surprisingly filling. I'll definitely make this again, though I'd like to try it with a red onion to add a little kick.

parsley -- $.99 (most of the bunch is left over)
bread -- $1.99 (only needed two slices)
avocados -- $1.98
cilantro -- $3.99 (there wasn't any fresh available and I had to buy that weird refrigerated tube)
pepper -- $1.00
cucumber -- $1.00 (only used half)
lemon -- $.42
Total Cost for Green Gazpacho: $11.37

May 25, 2010

Pellegrino Artusi's Lentils with Aromatics (p. 258)

I love it when I find a recipe that I already have almost all of the ingredients for in my cupboard. I'll admit I left a few things out, such as a bay leaf (which I'm no longer buying because so many come in a package and I can never use them all) and a carrot (which I'm sick of eating cooked.)

Rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with water. Add a small onion (whole), a garlic clove, and salt and pepper. Also add a bay leaf if you haven't taken a moral stand against them. Cook the lentils until they are tender -- mine took about 25 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, chop onion, parsley (I used flakes) and celery, and sauté them in olive oil. Once the veggies have softened pour in chicken stock (I used veggie stock because I had some in my fridge) and continue simmering.

When the lentils are ready, drain them and mix with the vegetables. Continue simmering for about five minutes and then serve.

I think I preferred the flavors of the  Cumin-Scented Lentils that I did in April, but Matt liked this one better. The celery added a nice mellow taste to the dish, and I liked how the whole onion fell apart into small pieces throughout the lentils.

celery -- $1.09
Total Cost of Pellegrino Artusi's Lentils with Aromatics: $1.09

May 23, 2010

Mechouia (p. 63)

Mechouia is Tunisian Grilled Vegetable Salsa which is supposed to be good as either a first course on its own or as a side salad (in our case paired with hot dogs.)

I roasted green and red peppers as well as several chili peppers over my gas stove. Once they were cool enough to handle, they were peeled, diced, and placed in a bowl.

While the peppers were roasting, I put whole tomatoes and halved onions in the oven to roast. The tomatoes came out when the skins were beginning to peel off.

The skins were peeled completely off and the tomatoes diced and put in with the peppers and chilies.

The onions continued cooking for about 10 more minutes and were then diced and added to the salsa.

In a small bowl, I combined garlic, salt, and crushed coriander seed. Once these were well mixed and formed a sort of paste, I stirred it in with the vegetables. I left the mixture in the fridge for several hours -- once we were ready to eat I added olive oil and lemon juice, mixed, and served.

This was really tasty. The chili peppers added a surprising spice (not to me, since I knew they were in there, but to other people eating them), and the flavors were very fresh. I could eat this as a sauce on fish or just as a salad.

onion -- $1.98
tomatoes -- $1.80
chili peppers -- $.08
peppers -- $3.48
Total Cost of Mechouia: $7.34

May 21, 2010

Tunisian Beet Salad with Harissa (p.81)

Oh, beets. You're so pretty. Let's combine you with harissa, which I love.

The beets this recipe calls for are huge -- 4 to 5 inches in diameter. I don't feel like I've ever seen beets that big, so I just bought regular ones.

After cleaning and drying the beets really well, they are oiled down and put in the oven for a seriously long time -- about two and a half hours. They come out when they're nice and tender.

Once the beets are somewhat cool, peel the skins off and dice them. Mix the diced beets with scallion, parsley, garlic, and harissa that has been diluted in red wine vinegar. Add olive oil and some salt and you have yourself a delicious little salad. Take it to Taco Night if you're feeling sassy.


beets -- $2.59
scallions -- $.69
Total Cost of Tunisian Beet Salad with Harissa: $3.28

May 19, 2010

Carrots in a Chermoula Sauce (p. 306)

Tonight I just needed to make a side to bring to my friend Meg's for dinner, so I chose Carrots in a Chermoula Sauce because I already had everything for the chermoula sauce, having made it earlier this week to go on squash.

So, yeah, this is the exact same sauce, this time on carrots (and I also threw in some zucchini, because I had one in my fridge.) The carrots are peeled and cut into two inch chunks and then put into boiling water that just covers them for about 15 minutes, until they are tender. For the zucchini, I cut it into about the same size and sauteed it in olive oil for about 8 minutes. The carrots and zucchini are then drained and mixed with the chermoula sauce, and left to marinate for about a half an hour before eating.

Cooked carrots are still not my favorite, and at this point probably never will be, but the chermoula sauce can make me forget that. And the zucchini was also a nice distraction.

carrots -- $.99
zucchini -- $2.20
Total Cost of Carrots in a Chermoula Sauce: $3.19

May 18, 2010

Lebanese Garlic-Marinated Chicken on the Grill (p. 414) and Anissa's Garlic Sauce (p. 415)

We were so into the grilling that we decided to do it for a third night, except that tonight a deluge hit Raleigh and the grill was drenched. Matt reminded me that we have a griddle for the stove top, and we decided to give it a go.

I had already started marinating the chicken yesterday morning -- it's just garlic, salt, lemon juice, olive oil, paprika, and black pepper. I mixed these all together into a paste and then poured them over the chicken breasts and left them covered and in the fridge all day.

Last night, once the griddle was nice and hot (my ultimate test is getting my fingers wet and flicking water on the griddle -- if it sizzles it's ready to go) I tossed the chicken on and let it go for about 8 minutes a side.

I flipped each piece over a few times and basted it with the remaining marinade to keep it juicy.

While the chicken was "grilling," I also started working on Anissa's Garlic Sauce, or Toum bi Zeit. A warning: only make this if you seriously love garlic. Like, want to marry it love it. Luckily, Matt and I are ready to take that next life step with garlic, so we were all about it. To make, combine garlic, salt, EVOO, and strained yogurt (we just used Fage.)

Both of these were awesome. The chicken was really tender and flavorful on its own thanks to the marinade, but great with the garlic sauce as well. In fact, we finished off all the garlic sauce because we loved it so much. (Though I only made a third of the recipe, so this isn't the craziest feat.)

The sauce looks a little gross in this picture, but I promise you its lovely. We paired the meal with Crash Hot Potatoes, which are always delightful. Make this.

chicken -- $8.99 (with three breasts left in the freezer)
lemon -- $.69
Total Cost of Lebanese Garlic-Marinated Chicken on the Grill: $ 9.68

garlic -- $.50
greek yogurt -- $4.59 (though I bought the large pack so I could have it for breakfasts)
Total Cost of Anissa's Garlic Sauce: $5.09

May 17, 2010

Grilled Fish (p. 355) with Salsa Verde (p. 271) and Sautéed Squash with a Chermoula Sauce (p. 337)

We grilled (burgers) on Friday night for the first time in ages, and got the grilling bug. So, even though we just had tuna for dinner last night, I decided to make a grilled tuna dish tonight for a cookout with some of our faves, Sarah and Blair.

This whole meal was great for having company, because there's a lot of prep work that can be taken care of in advance. Although the recipe for the fish only calls for marinading it for about a half an hour, I made it much earlier in the day and let it marinade for about five hours. The marinade is a combination of garlic, EVOO, fresh lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, cumin, parsley, thyme, and black pepper, all mixed together. This is painted on the tuna steaks (or whatever fish you want) with the rest reserved for later. I stuck the marinated fish on a plate covered in aluminum foil in the fridge until about half an hour before we were ready to grill it.

This goes on the grill for about three minutes per side, or more if you want it to be well done.

We had leftover Mhammara from a couple of days ago, which is supposed to go well with fish, but I wanted to make another side for tuna as well. Salsa Verde is an Italian Green Sauce for Fish or Meat, and is another super quick preparation. 

Like Mhammara, this has a walnut base, but this time the walnuts need to toasted in the oven for about seven minutes. While these were in the oven, I put parsley, basil, garlic, cornichons and the yolk of a hard-boiled egg into the food processor. Once the walnuts were toasted, I rolled them in a dishtowel to remove some of the tannic skins and then threw them in as well. The ingredients are processed together until everything is finely chopped. While they were still being mixed, I slowly added olive oil and then red wine vinegar. A little salt and pepper later, and the sauce is ready to be set aside for the fish. (Actually, we didn't set it aside. We dipped cucumbers and carrots into it, and finished off a ton of it before the fish was even ready.)

Lastly, I prepared Sautéed Squash with a Chermoula Sauce. I made the chermoula first, by stirring together garlic, minced cilantro and parsley, salt, paprika, cumin, olive oil, and lemon juice.

The squash itself is sliced lengthwise with the seeds and fibers removed, then peeled and sliced into segments and added to olive oil to sauté.

Once these are browned (this takes a while), remove them from the heat and mix with the chermoula. This dish is served at room temperature after marinating for about half an hour.

Pretty much everything we ate tonight was awesome. Matt did a great job of grilling the fish, and it turned out beautifully.

It was simply prepared, but really delicious. It was also really great with the sauces that we had on the table, including the leftovers of the marinade that it had been cooked in, heated over the stove. 

Lastly, the squash was great. I'm not a huge squash fan, but I liked that this was served at room temperature and had a lot of flavor from the chermoula. 

So, yum to the entire meal. So good. And, since they're so good at them, Matt, Sarah, and Blair posed for another awkward family picture.

tuna -- $20.55 (the fish dude talked me into getting more than I needed, and I don't want to talk about it)
lemon -- $.69
garlic -- $1.00
Total Cost for Grilled Fish: $22.24

cornichons: 4.99 (with tons and tons left)
Total Cost for Salsa Verde: 4.99

cilantro -- $1.99
squash -- $2.20 (CSA cost)
lemon -- $.42
Total Cost for Sautéed Squash with a Chermoula Sauce: $4.61

May 16, 2010

Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Onion (p. 91)

A Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Onion does not contain tortilla in any way -- I was expecting something with mexican-style tortillas (preferably flour, we don't like the corn kind.) I was wrong. In this case, a tortilla is an egg dish, and we had one for breakfast this morning.

Super simple prep -- just sauté onion and potatoes in olive oil until the potatoes are soft.

Then remove them from the heat into a bowl, but leave the oil in the bottom of the pan. Let the potato/onion mixture cool for several minutes until it isn't in danger of cooking the egg. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs together, and then mix in with the potatoes. Pour all of it into the pan.

You need to continually move the pan to make sure that the egg doesn't stick. Once it is cooked on the bottom, turn it over (either by inverting onto a plate, or just with big spatulas) and continue cooking.

Tada! Tortilla.

We ate this for breakfast with a little hot sauce on the side. It doesn't seem flavorful enough for a lunch or dinner, but was great as a first meal.

onion -- $1.01
potatoes -- $1.10
Total Cost of Spanish Tortilla with Potatoes and Onion: $2.11

May 15, 2010

Provencal Braised Tuna (p. 358) and Tunisian Carrot Salad with Harissa and Feta Cheese (p. 82)

I feel like I've been doing a lot of veggie dishes lately. A lot of that is because we're now getting fresh local produce to our doorstep once a week, but I'm ready to get back on the meat-eating train. So, although I previously claimed that fish is a vegetable, I'm starting there.

The tuna I picked up at our brand new swanky two-story Harris Teeter earlier this week looked beautiful, and most of the veggies in this dish are from our CSA. The entire meal is prepared inside of one dish, which I love, as does Matt (my dishwasher and sometime sous-chef.)

In the bottom of a casserole dish or kettle, scatter half of a chopped onion (or, if you're making the full recipe, a whole onion -- I halved everything.) On top of this layer, put a layer of chopped tomatoes and one of thinly sliced lemons. Add salt, pepper, and rosemary.

Next comes the fish -- I used about a pound of tuna steaks, but swordfish would also be appropriate, if your husband isn't afraid of the parasites in it (mine is, and when he talks about it I am, too.)

Salt and pepper the tops of the fish and then continue adding more layers or rosemary, lemons, tomatoes, onions, and more salt and pepper. Toss some chopped black olives across the top and tuck some rosemary into the side for flavor. Pour white wine over the whole thing and it's ready to be popped in the oven (with a tight aluminum foil cover as well as the lid) for about an hour and a half.

With this, I made Tunisian Carrot Salad with Harissa and Feta Cheese, since I still had plenty of leftover harissa from an earlier recipe. Put peeled and cut carrots into boiling water for about five minutes, toss them in cold water to halt the cooking, and then chop them coarsely.

Combine garlic, salt, and cumin into a paste, and dilute the harissa with cold water. Combine the harissa and garlic paste with the carrots, and mix them all together well. Add olive oil and red wine vinegar, mixing again. Over the top of the carrots, sprinkle feta cheese and black olives. Set aside at room temperature for about half an hour before serving.

This was a really lovely meal. I took the tuna out about 15 minutes early since I had halved the recipe, and that seemed to work out well. The fish had really absorbed the flavors of the lemon which was nicely balanced by the tomatoes, onions, and olives.

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I don't love cooked carrots. That said, this was really good. I wish the flavors of the harissa stood out more, and if I were to make it again, I might not dilute that at all. Still, good salad. The feta and olives make it pretty salty, and the red wine vinegar gives a nice punch. We would make this one again.

tuna -- $8.99
olives -- $1.44
tomato -- $2.20 (CSA pro-rated amount) -- $2.20
onion -- $2.20 (CSA pro-rated amount) -- $2.20
white wine -- $5.99 (with most of it leftover)
Total Cost of Provencal Braised Tuna: $20.82 (two servings leftover)

olives -- $1.44
carrots -- $.99
Total Cost of Tunisian Carrot Salad with Harissa and Feta Cheese: $2.43 (about 3 servings leftover)

May 14, 2010

Mhammara (p. 58)

Mhammara is Red Pepper and Walnut Sauce, and is pretty much those ingredients pestled (is that a word?) together with a few other things. My mortar and pestle is pretty tiny and couldn't hold near the amount of ingredients, so I actually did mine in the food processor instead.

Roast red peppers so that they are blackened on the outside, and then place them in a paper bag to steam themselves for another 20 minutes. Once they are all set, peel away the skins and chop the peppers (discarding seeds/membranes/etc.)

In a bowl (or in your food processor), combine garlic, salt, toasted bread crumbs, and walnuts.

Once these have become paste-like, add in the red peppers and continue pounding or processing until the mixture is again paste-like. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and mix in chili pepper, cumin,  lemon juice, olive oil, and, if you have it, pomegranate syrup. I couldn't find the syrup at my Harris Teeter, but the recipe says to add extra lemon juice if the syrup is left out, so I did.

Add toasted pine nuts to the top of the sauce, and you're all ready to go.

Yum! Matt and I both liked the flavors of this, as well as the texture -- it's a little crunchy from the walnuts and bread crumbs, and has a sweetness from the peppers. I'd definitely make this again for a party. We're serving ours with veggies as an appetizer before a little cookout this evening, but it would also work with pitas triangles or on the side of a plainly cooked fish or chicken dish.

peppers -- $5.58
lemon -- $.50
Total Cost for Mhammara: $6.08 (I halved the recipe)

May 11, 2010

Tunisian Aijjah with Spicy Potatoes (p. 94) and Harissa (p. 279)

You should be making these recipes right now, as you read them. Seriously -- delicious.

Tunisian aijjah is the North African version of a frittata, though it's really more like scrambled eggs. It's generally served with a traditional North African spicy sauce called harissa, which I also made.

I made the harissa first, because it's used in the aijjah recipe. To make, you need a ton of different kinds of chilies with different levels of spiciness. I used New Mexico, ancho, and arbol chilies. These have their stems and seeds removed and are left to soak in hot water for at least a half an hour. When you return to them, open the chillies and remove their softened pulp with a spoon. It's a messy process, and if you have a paper cut, as I did, it will sting like crazy. You then might put your cut finger in your mouth to quell the pain only to have your mouth on fire. Such is working with chilies.

While the chilies were softening, I roasted coriander seeds and cumin (the actual recipe calls for cumin seeds, but I didn't have them) and then put them in a mortar to combine with salt and garlic. Once these were all pounded together, I added the chili pulp and olive oil. Ta da! Harissa.

To make the aijjah, sauté diced new potatoes in olive oil until they have softened.

Grind together salt and garlic (and caraway seeds if you have them, which I didn't) to make a gritty paste. Combine tomato puree (there was zero explanation about how to arrive at said puree, so I just food processed a tomato and assumed that would do the trick) with warm water, and combine this with some harissa and the garlic mixture.

Stir this in with the potatoes and continue cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed or reduced to a red sauce covering the veggies.

In a large bowl, beat eggs together and then stir in the potatoes. Put this all back on the stove and cook in pretty much the same way you would make scrambled eggs.

According to the cook book, Tunisians will add another spoonful of harissa to their aijjah, so we did too. We also gave ourselves a spoonful of sour cream, because we're not Tunisian, we're American. Southern, even.

So, make both of these. We definitely will again. Also, the harissa keeps well in the fridge, and is good on meats, veggies, and even just on bread.

ancho chillies -- $4.99 (2 left)
New Mexico chillies -- $4.99
arbol chillies -- $4.99 (lots and lots left)
Total Cost for Harissa: $14.97 (with plenty left for other recipes)

potatoes -- $1.83
eggs --$1.68 (I got a 12 pack but only used 4)
Total Cost of Tunisian Aijjah with Spicy Potatoes: $3.51 (one serving left)

May 10, 2010

Mediterranean Summer Stew of Vegetables (p. 346)

I chose this recipe after receiving some lovely looking new potatoes and some great peas in my CSA box this week. It's basically just a billion different types of veggies simmered down together with some thyme.

The recipe says that this is best made in a terra cotta braising dish, which I happened to own, so I was pretty excited. I put olive oil in the bottom of the dish and added garlic and a chopped Texas onion (also from my CSA, also delicious) and began sautéing them. Almost immediately I heard a loud crack, and I no longer own a terra cotta braising dish. Fail.

Anyway, onward and upward. I threw everything into my stock pot and added more olive oil since some had escaped through the crack.

From there, the recipe is basically just layering veggies in. I put in a layer of new potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks, the peas, thyme, zucchini chunks, tomatoes, and salt and pepper. Then the lid went on and it did it's own work for about 45 minutes.

This was really tasty. I was surprised by how flavorful it was with only thyme, salt, and pepper, but it was. Also, it makes a ridiculous amount. The recipe says this will serve 6 - 8, but 6 of us ate it last night and there's still a ton. We'll be eating it all week.

onion -- $1.83
new potatoes -- $1.83
peppers -- $5.93
tomatoes -- $7.06
parsley -- $1.69
zucchini -- $4.22
peas -- $3.66
Total Cost of Mediterranean Summer Stew of Vegetables: $26.22 (makes a billion servings)

May 9, 2010

Crescia or Ciaccia di Pasqua (p.169)

This is Italian Cheese and Pancetta Easter Bread, which sounds like everything I love. 

Warm milk in a small pan on the stove, and then pour it into a bowl to be mixed with yeast. Set this mixture aside while you create the rest of the dough. Combine butter (!) and olive oil to be heated together as well (I just used the same pan as I had used for the milk.) Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat -- you don't want the ingredients to cook.

In a really big bowl, combine flour and salt. The recipe calls for cake flour, but a) I don't need another type of flour in my house and b) Food Lion didn't have any, so I just used bread flour. It is bread, after all. Add sheep's milk cheese -- half grated, half cut into chunks -- as well as diced pancetta and parmigiano. Mix everything together with your hands. 

Make a well in the flour (have I mentioned how much I enjoy making wells? It's one of my favorite things about bread making) and pour in the milk mixture as well as a beaten egg and saffron threads, and some salt and pepper for good measure.

Slowly start combining the liquid center with the flour mixture, while at the same time adding the butter/olive oil (this requires three hands.) Eventually you'll need to start kneading with your hands. Mine needed water added to it to actually create dough -- it was very crumbly before that.

Once it resembles lumpy dough (the lumps are cheese and pancetta), set it aside in a bowl for an hour and a half, and then press it into a spring form pan to sit for another half hour. Brush the dough with an egg white and bake until the top is golden.

So, I wanted to completely adore this bread, but sadly, I didn't. It tasted way too flour-y, which was maybe my fault for using the wrong kind of flour, but it was just really dense and didn't have the strong cheese and/or pancetta taste that I was hoping for. Sigh. It was really pretty, at least.

sheep's milk cheese -- $6.99
Total Cost of Crescia or Ciaccia di Pasqua: $6.99

May 8, 2010

Eggplant Stuffed with Ricotta and Herbs (p. 313)

I really enjoy eggplants, but Matt isn't so into them, so I waited until he was out of town to do an eggplant dish. This one has lots of delicious ingredients (garlic, onions, ricotta, etc.) and was a pretty quick fix. I was supposed to be at my friend Meg's house for dinner at 6:00ish and I got home from work around 5:15, so there was a definite time crunch involved in making the dish.

I quickly sliced three small eggplants in half lengthwise and cut the middles out of them to leave a space to stuff with the delicious ricotta filling. I chopped up the fleshy eggplant that was cut from its shell and tossed it into a pan with garlic and onion to sautee in some olive oil for about 15 minutes. I salted the insides of the eggplant shells and set them aside while I prepped the rest of the stuffing.

Rice also needs to be prepared for the stuffing -- the recipe calls for long grain rice to be parboiled (I had to call my mom to find out this just means boiled for a short amount of time to soften them some) for about 8 minutes.

Once the rice and veggies are all done, they are mixed together with ricotta and chopped herbs (I used thyme) and stuffed into the eggplant. Top these with toasted breadcrumbs and parmigiana cheese, and they're ready to go in the oven.

I arrived at Meg's house only about 15 minutes late, so the prep for this recipe was definitely quick. Once there, I popped the dish into the oven for about 40 minutes, until the tops were lightly browned.

We waited 15 minutes or so after these came out of the oven before eating them, but if I were to make it again I would eat them immediately. The eggplant cools down pretty quickly and would have been better super hot. Still, I really enjoyed this dish, especially the stuffing. It's creamy and herby, but still feels like a fresh vegetable dish and is pretty filling.

eggplants -- $10.00
onion -- $1.83
thyme -- $2.99 (plenty left over)
ricotta -- $3.79 (about half left)
Total Cost of Eggplant Stuffed with Ricotta and Herbs: $18.61 (which made 6 servings)