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

July 31, 2010

Skewered Shrimp with Garlic, Lemon, and Olive Oil (p. 389) followed by a Clafoutis (p.461)

Grilled shrimp, or really any kind of shrimp, is a favorite of mine -- especially in the summer. This shrimp is just dressed in a simple marinade and then set on the grill or can be broiled in the oven (which is what I did.) I created the marinade out of olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic, which I poured over the shrimp (spread in a glass baking dish.)

The shrimp needs to marinate for at least a half an hour, but I made mine several hours in advance and set it in the fridge, stirring every once in a while to make sure that all the shrimp could absorb the tasty flavors.

Once you're about ready to cook, thread the shrimp onto skewers separated by a half a bay leaf between each.

Put on the grill or under the broiler for 3 or 4 minutes per side and then serve!

I really enjoyed these. The marinade wasn't overwhelming but it added a nice flavor. The only problem is that the recipe calls for the shrimp to be left with their peels on during the cooking process which makes for very messy eating. Still, delish, and great with fresh corn on the cob!

And I even made dessert tonight! I used to make cherry clafoutis in college to bring to my French classes, but it's been a long time since I've made one. The blackberries and raspberries at the grocery store looked great today, so I decided to use them instead, this time.

A clafoutis is pretty easy to make -- it's basically just berries covered in batter.

I chose to use a springform pan, but I'm not sure that was the right decision (or maybe it's just time for a new springform), because while in the oven some batter leaked out through the seam and got things a little smokey. Whichever pan you choose to use, butter the sides and bottom well and then spread your berries (or cherries, or plums, or apples, or whatever you fancy) in a single layer across the bottom of the pan. If you're using larger fruits, be sure to remove any seeds/pits and chop them down some. Sprinkle sliced blanched almonds over the fruit.

Next up is the batter -- beat eggs and mix in sugar. Fold flour in (I used extra, since berries are so juicy), and then whole milk. Once these are all mixed together, pour the batter over the fruit. Sprinkle sugar on top of the clafoutis as well as some pads of butter and it's ready to go in the oven for about 45 minutes until the top is golden brown.

By the time it had cooked I was happy I'd used the springform:

I loved this. The berries were juicy and delicious and the batter was light and fluffy and not too sweet. I'd definitely make this again.

Also, doesn't a dining room table just look nicer with hydrangeas on it?

shrimp -- $15.02
lemon -- $.46
garlic -- $.34
Total Cost of Skewered Shrimp with Garlic, Lemon, and Olive Oil : $15.82

blackberries -- $3.99
raspberries -- $2.99
almonds -- $1.99 (I used about half of these)
Total Cost of Clafoutis: $8.97

July 30, 2010

Chicken and Chickpea Soup from Southern Spain (p. 142)

I've been slacking on my cooking -- we've been so busy lately I haven't been home enough nights to cook dinner!

I finally got a chance this week to make some soup, and it was definitely a time intensive recipe.

The recipe calls for a whole chicken, but since I was making a half quantity I used a small cornish game hen instead.

The hen was immersed in chicken stock (both the last of my homemade stock as well as some store-bought to supplement) and some water and simmered for about an hour and a half, until the meat was completely cooked. I removed the hen from the stock and separated the bones and skins from the meat. The chicken is added back into the soup later.

Using the same stock that the hen was cooked in, add dried chickpeas that have been soaked overnight along with garlic and cook for about 20 minutes. Once the chickpeas have begun to soften, stir in chopped carrots, celery, and tomatoes and continue cooking until the chickpeas are soft (about 25 minutes.)

Stir in rice and chili pepper and cook for another 10 minutes, until the rice has been cooked. Add chopped prosciutto and sea salt and spoon the cocido (basically, the soup) over pieces of the cooked chicken set into bowls. 

Garnish the soup with chopped hard boiled eggs and mint leaves.

Even just making half of the recipe, this made a ton of soup, most of which is now in my freezer. Luckily, it's really tasty and a great alternative to a more traditional chicken noodle soup. The egg and mint garnishes add a pop to it, and it makes for a really colorful bowl.

stock -- $2.29
eggs -- $.69 (I only needed one for this)
celery -- $1.99 (just needed one stalk)
prosciutto -- $4.29
cornish game hen -- $3.81
Total Cost of Chicken and Chickpea Soup from Southern Spain: $13.07

July 23, 2010

Tilapia with a Spanish Almond Sauce* (p. 377) and Oven-Braised Carrots (p. 305)

*Really, this is supposed to be made with halibut. But $18.99 a pound?!? I don't think so.


I had two lovely vegetarian ladies over for dinner last night, so fish and a veggie side it was. I also had some almonds leftover from my basic rice pilaf the other night, so it was as good a time as any to make a fish needing an almond sauce.

This fish preparation takes a kind of long time, but it's not particularly difficult. The first few steps just involve sautéing and browning a few things in olive oil, individually. First, soften garlic slivers and remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

In the same pan, toast the almonds until golden brown. Remove them to a separate bowl with the slotted spoon.

Next, add bread cubes to the oil until each piece of bread is golden brown. Add this to the same bowl as the almonds.

Chop parsley and put it in a food processor with the garlic -- puree them together. Add the almonds and the bread and then a mixture of saffron, lemon juice, black pepper, and cinnamon, all pounded together. Process these ingredients together for only a short time so that the sauce is still fairly crunchy.

Add a bit more olive oil to the skillet and sauté chopped onions and leeks until soft. Set these aside in a bowl and put fish steaks that have been coated in salt, pepper and flour into the skillet. Quickly brown both sides of the fish and remove them to an oven-safe dish. Pour the onion/leek mixture over the top of the fish and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, add a combination of white wine and sherry to the skillet and allow the alcohol to reduce along with any residue left in the skillet. When it has mostly reduced, add it the sauce that has been prepared in the food processor, called a pepitoria sauce. Pour this sauce over the fish and cook for another 20 minutes.

This was light and lovely. My friend Sarah likened the pepitoria sauce to Thanksgiving stuffing, except with a Mediterranean twist. And it is -- it's fluffy and delicious and adds a really nice flavor to the fish.

With this, I served a carrot dish. I'm sure y'all are tired of me saying I hate cooked carrots, but I do. Sorry.

For this dish, make sure you use a pot that is oven-safe, because the same pan needs to be used both on the burner and in the stove. To start, sauté onions in olive oil until they are soft. Add carrots that have been cut in half lengthwise and then chopped into two inch segments. Pour in chicken stock (I still have some homemade left!) and leave the pot over medium heat until the stock comes to a boil.

Put the lid on the pan and put it into the oven for about 40 minutes.

Eh. These are fine, cooked carrots are just way too sweet for me.

tilapia -- $13.99
bread -- $2.19 (most is left)
leek -- $1.14
parsley -- $1.69 (with plenty left)
onion -- $1.37 (half left)
lemon -- $.89
Total Cost of Tilapia with a Spanish Sauce : $21.27 (which made about 6 servings)

carrots -- $2.49 (half left)
onion -- $1.01
Total Cost of Oven-Braised Carrots : $3.50

July 22, 2010

Braised Salmon Steaks (p. 363) with Basic Rice Pilaf (p. 225)

It's nice to get out of the world of soups and pastas and back to meat dishes for a little while -- last night's choice was Braised Salmon Steaks using Alaskan wild salmon.

Dredge the steaks in flour and shake off any excess. Fry the steaks for a couple of minutes per side just to brown them a little and then remove the fish to an oven safe dish.

They look really pretty after being fried:

Using the same skillet that the fish was fried in, sauté thinly sliced onion with garlic, a bay leaf, and salt until the onions are very soft. Add paprika and lemon juice to the onions and mix together well. Leave the pan on the heat only until the lemon juice has had the chance to warm up, then pour the mixture evenly over the fish steaks.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the steaks are thoroughly cooked.

This was really nice (although the Harris Teeter salmon wasn't the best we've ever had -- Fresh Market has spoiled us.) The fish was a little sweet from the paprika, and the onions were delicious.

I paired the fish with a basic rice pilaf, which ended up going really well with the salmon. It's also pretty easy to make and I got to use more of my homemade chicken stock.

Keep the chicken stock at a low simmer while gently sautéing pine nuts and chopped almonds in olive oil over low heat.

When the nuts begin to brown and smell delicious, set them aside with a slotted spoon.

Using the same pan and olive oil that the nuts were in, sauté onions until they are very soft. Add dry rice to the onions and stir for a few minutes, until the rice has darkened slightly, and then add the hot chicken stock, a cinnamon stick, and salt and pepper.

Stir the ingredients together and then let cook, covered, over a low heat until the liquid has been absorbed. Mine only took about 15 minutes.

Once the pilaf is ready remove it from the heat and set it aside for five minutes. Add the toasted nuts as well as golden raisins that have been plumped in hot water and stir together. Ta da!

This was surprisingly sweet (because of the raisins) and the taste of the toasted nuts added a lot. Matt thought the rice went so well with the fish because the pilaf was pretty filling and the fish pretty light.

All in all, another delicious meal!

salmon -- $8.09
onion -- $1.11
lemon -- $.50
Total Cost of Braised Salmon Steaks: $9.70

almonds -- $1.99
raisins -- $3.19
onion -- $1.11
Total Cost of Basic Rice Pilaf: $6.29

July 21, 2010

Turkish Yogurt Soup with Mint (p. 149)

I got to use some of my chicken stock in this soup! That's pretty much the only thing I really enjoyed about it. Otherwise -- eh.

Begin to simmer your chicken stock while preparing the rest of this meal. 

Whisk together an egg yolk and very cold water, then add some flour and continue whisking. Add more cold water and mix this into yogurt (I used Greek) and continue to whisk.  

Once the stock is simmering, beat the yogurt mixture into the stock and continue simmering. Don't let the mixture come to a boil because it will curdle the egg (gross.) 

The mixture will thicken into a creamy consistency -- add cooked chicken and cooked rice.  Once they are both warm, add salt and pepper and serve with mint leaves on top.

This wasn't disgusting, but it also isn't something I really want to eat. I love yogurt, but not so much soup that tastes like yogurt. I'm probably going to throw the rest of it away. Sigh.

chicken -- $2.69
yogurt -- $3.99
mint -- $2.99
Total Cost of Turkish Yogurt Soup with Mint : $9.67

July 19, 2010

Pasta alla Checca (p. 200)

This is a very simple pasta dish. So simple, in fact, that the sauce isn't even cooked -- it's just a raw tomato sauce. To make it, combine red tomatoes (cut into small pieces), minced garlic, thinly sliced red onion, basil leaves, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and mix them all together. Put the bowl of "sauce" in the fridge until the pasta is ready.

Cook the pasta as you normally would, and as soon as it is done and has been drained, mix it with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Yum! This is light and fresh-tasting, but still fills you up. We'll definitely make this one again.

tomatoes -- 5.45
onion -- $1.45
Total Cost of Pasta all Checca : $6.90

July 18, 2010

Moroccan Preserved Lemons (p. 281)

A lot of Mediterranean recipes call for preserved lemons, and I've so far been avoiding them. The lemons need to preserve for three weeks, though, so it's time to get going on these lemons.

The lemons all need to be cut from one end almost all the way to the other, rotated, and cut again. Basically, the lemon has been quartered but the ends are still connected. Stuff the inside of each lemon with salt.

The part of the lemon preservation process that you need to be the most careful with is sterilizing the jars. Fill each jar with boiling water and leave them for ten minutes.

After that time, pour the water out and immediately fill the jars with the lemons. Force them down all the way, allowing them to release as much juice as possible. Once the jar is almost filled with lemons and their juice pour salt on top. If the juice from the lemons doesn't completely cover the lemons (mine didn't), squeeze fresh lemon juice into the jar until they are covered. Add more salt to the top and close the jar.

These will need to be rotated every few days so that the salty liquid is always rotating over the lemons, but in three weeks I'll be able to start using these in my Mediterranean recipes!

lemons -- $6.00
Total Cost of Moroccan Preserved Lemons : $6.00

July 17, 2010

Chicken Stock (p. 108)

I always cheat when the recipe calls for chicken stock and use store bought. Yesterday I made my own. Huzzah!

Making stock isn't difficult, but it's a long process. Luckily, it was my day off. You'll need a large stock pot for this, since you use a whole chicken. Place your chicken in the bottom of the pot and throw in all of your aromatics. I used a quartered onion, celery, garlic cloves, parsley, dried thyme, and a cinnamon stick. Fill the pot with cold water until the bird is covered and then set over medium-low heat.

For the first 20 or 30 minutes the water will heat up and begin to simmer, and foam will start to rise to the top of the water. Skim off all the foam and discard. Once the foam stops forming, cover the pot and set it to a low simmer for at least an hour and a half.

The stock is done when the meat is falling off the bones of the bird. Then the stock needs to be separated from the meat and aromatics, which is by far the hardest part of the process. I'd recommend having a second person on hand for this, which I didn't have. First, I poured the contents of the pot through my colander, just to separate out the large pieces from the liquid. Next, the stock needed to pass through cheese cloth to separate out any other smaller pieces.

I created this contraption to be able to strain the liquid without a helper:

Basically, it's a cheese cloth sleeve with two bamboo grilling sticks poked through it to hold it up. This left me able to pour the strained stock through and then just lift out the cheese cloth. Which was disgusting, by the way:

Gross, right?

Anyway, at that point the stock was pretty much done, so I just poured it into mason jars and put it in the fridge. When the fat rises to the top of the jars I'll skim it off, but otherwise, it's ready to use!

I'll let you all know once I get to use it in a recipe!

chicken -- $6.13
Total Cost of Chicken Stock : $6.13

July 16, 2010

Egyptian Lentil Soup (p. 140) and Red Peppers with Garlic, Sausage, and Olives (p. 330)

Once again, I'm feeling overwhelmed by the number of soups I have left to make. I keep telling myself that once winter comes I'll  want to make and eat all the soups, but I know that's not really true. I'm going to try to start making at least one soup a week so that I can work through them.

Last night's choice was Egyptian Lentil Soup, which can be made either as a vegetarian soup or not. It's also all made in the same pot, which I love.

In your stock or soup pot, sauté onion and ground lamb (though just a small amount) until the onion is softened and the meat is very brown.

Stir in cumin and fennel and a dried red chili to add a little spice, and then mix in brown lentils, which make up the bulk of the soup.

Let the soup cook for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper and serve.

Um, so, this broth is basically just water, and not interesting at all. The actual content of the soup, however, is really good. When we packed up the leftovers, I strained the water out and just packed the lentil/meat combination for lunches, which I think will be lovely. Still, I wouldn't make this soup again.

Luckily, I made a slightly more substantial dish to go with this -- a mixture of sweet red peppers, garlic, olives, and spicy Italian sausage.

This was my first time opening sausage skins and removing the meat, which is a kind of gross process. Once the sausage is removed, the recipe calls for it to be crumbled and combined with olive oil to be sauteed. Have you ever crumbled a wet meat? It's not really possible. I smooshed it up as best I could, but really I just continued to break it up as it heated.

Once the sausage was thoroughly browned, I set the meat aside and discarded the fat.

Meanwhile, roast red peppers over the stove. Between the sausage, the soup, and the red peppers, I had a very full stove top!

When the peppers are thoroughly roasted, let them cool for a few minutes and then peel the peppers and slice them into thick strips.

Using the same skillet the meat was cooked in, add more olive oil and stir in thin onion slices and garlic. Once the onion is throughly cooked, stir in dry sherry and let it cook for a few minutes until it begins to bubble. Then add the pepper strips, black olives, and slivered orange zest.

Cook briefly and stir in the sausage meat.

Serve and eat! This was lovely, and we both really enjoyed it. 

The sweet red peppers with the spicy sausage were a great blend, and the olives added a salty punch. This will also be great cold for leftovers.

onion -- $.98 (half is left)
lemon -- $.79 (half is left)
lamb -- $1.96
lentils -- $1.79 (tons left)
Total Cost of Egyptian Lentil Soup : $5.52 (with leftovers for several days)

orange -- $1.58 (only the zest was used)
red peppers -- $6.09
sausage -- $2.79
olives -- $4.10 (plenty left for eating)
onion -- $.97 (half is left)
Total Cost of Red Peppers with Garlic, Sausage, and Olives : $15.53 (with leftovers for several days)

July 14, 2010

Sicilian Tomato Bruschette (p. 71) and Linguine al Pesto (p. 206) with Mixed Greens in a Vinaigrette (p. 263)

We had a fancy little dinner party last night (well, not really fancy, but a dinner party nonetheless.) I had three delicious CSA tomatoes waiting to be consumed, so I decided to whip them up into a delicious bruschetta to serve before dinner. The recipe really calls for the tomatoes to be cooked over a charcoal fire but gives alternate directions for cooking them in an oven, which is what I did.

Put the tomatoes into a gratin dish with olive oil at the bottom, and turn the tomatoes so they are completely covered in the oil. Cook these in a very hot oven for about 20 minutes, or until they are soft and the skins are splitting.

Once they're done, place the tomatoes in a bowl and, using a fork, mash them all up. In a separate bowl, combine garlic, basil and salt along with dried oregano and dried red pepper. Make a paste from these and then stir well with olive oil. This sauce can now be mixed in with the pulpy tomatoes.

The topping is then poured on toasted bread slices (I used ciabatta.) 

This was delicious! I originally only made about 6 of them, figuring no one would want a lot, but I had to make up some more pretty quickly. We all really enjoyed this.
This was my first time making pesto, and it turns out to be incredibly easy! Put basil, pine nuts, and salt in a food processor and slowly add olive oil until it has reached a grainy consistency. Add in some garlic and process a tiny bit more, and then fold in grated parmesan.

Separately, bring a stock pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add slices of peeled potatoes that are no more than 1/4 inch thick.

Boil these for five minutes and then add linguine. Once the water is boiling again, cook the potatoes and pasta for 10-12 minutes, until both are done to taste.

When the pasta is done, drain it and combine it with the pesto.

This was absolutely delicious, and one that we will definitely try again. Both of us were a little wary about the potatoes (potatoes with pasta?! weird!) but it was pretty awesome. The pesto was light, a tiny bit salty, and very flavorful. We mopped it up with pieces of bread leftover from the bruschetta.

I served a salad of mixed greens on the side of the pasta dish, and made a Vinaigrette to go with it. It's basically just mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper all mixed together. Very tasty!

tomatoes -- $2.20
bread -- $2.99
Total Cost of Sicilian Tomato Bruschette: $5.19

basil -- $5.98 (I actually bought two basil plants instead)
parmesan -- $2.50
potatoes -- $1.90
linguine -- $1.29
Total Cost of Linguine al Pesto: $11.67

Total Cost of Vinaigrette: Free