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

September 25, 2010

Souvlakia or Kebab (p. 426) and Provencal Stuffed Tomatoes (p. 338)

We've been loving the slightly cooler weather and have started getting back into grilling out. Matt made a  killer steak earlier this week and we continued the grilling tradition with some skewered lamb with grilled vegetables.

Cut your lamb into cubes and mix the pieces into a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, chopped parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Leave this in the fridge, covered, for at least an hour.

While the meat is in the fridge, prepare the veggies -- I used red and green peppers as well as red onions. Thread these on to skewers and set aside.

Do the same with the lamb, once it is done marinating.

The veggies need a little more time on the grill than the meat, so put them on 3 or 4 minutes ahead of the meat skewers. Cook the lamb until they are crisp on the outside but still a little pink inside.

These were really really yummy. I wish I had made some tzatziki or some sort of sauce to dip these in, but they were really good without as well. I warmed some pitas to go with this, and we stuffed the veggies and meats into the warm bread and ate it all up.

With this, I made Provencal Stuffed Tomatoes, which is kind of a dangerous recipe choice for two people that don't really like tomatoes. I just used one tomato to make this, so it was straight up two servings instead of the six the recipe actually calls for.

Slice the tomato in half and place the two sides onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Grind together salt, garlic, anchovies and parsley into a thick paste. Add in toasted bread crumbs and olive oil, and continue to mix together. Smear this mixture on top of each tomato half and bake them for about 20 minutes.

For a tomato, this wasn't bad. You know, for a tomato.

lamb -- $8.45
red pepper -- $2.89
green pepper -- $1.43
red onion -- $1.55
Total Cost of Souvlakia: $14.32

tomato -- $1.44
Total Cost of Provencal Stuffed Tomatoes: $1.44

September 23, 2010

Mediterranean Fish Soup (p. 111)

I finally got to use my fish stock!

This also goes by the name of Zarzuela or Bouillabaisse and is a basic Mediterranean fish soup. I enjoyed it, Matt did not.

First, prepare your clams or mussels by steaming them in a small amount of water and white wine. Once each clam opens, remove it from the covered pan and set it aside. Keep the wine/water mixture, as it will eventually be added to your fish stock.

Add olive oil to a heavy stock pot and begin to heat it up -- add chopped onions and garlic and sauté these until they're very soft. 

Add peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes as well as tomato paste and thyme, and continue cooking for about 30 minutes until the majority of the liquid has disappeared. Add salt.

Add the fish stock and the white wine and water mixture (strained) -- once the mixture begins to simmer add bite size chunks of white fish (I used flounder) and cook for about 2 minutes. 

Add shrimp and whatever else you have and simmer for 6 or 7 more minutes until the seafood is cooked. Add the clams back into the soup and cook for a minute or so longer, just to warm them back up.

Serve sprinkled with pepper.

I liked this, but Matt did not (he doesn't love seafood or soup, so there you go.) I do think I used too much olive oil -- I was trying to cut down the recipe and my math was perhaps a little off. I wouldn't make this again because it was kind of a pain to do, but I did enjoy it.

clams -- $3.12
flounder -- $5.39
shrimp -- $7.41
onion -- $.89
tomato -- $1.44
Total Cost of Mediterranean Fish Soup: $18.25

September 20, 2010

Cauliflower Penne (p. 204)

This is a fairly simple pasta dish that involves a bunch of ingredients I like (such as pine nuts and golden raisins) as well as one I don't love -- cauliflower.

Cook the cauliflower in a couple of inches of boiling water for just a few minutes, until they have started to soften. Remove them, but reserve the water they were cooked in -- you'll need it to cook the pasta.

Set golden raisins in a bowl with very hot water to plump them up.

In a sauté pan, cook chopped onion in olive oil until they are soft. Add in pine nuts and continue sautéing until they have turned golden; then add the drained golden raisins. Continue cooking for several minutes before adding the cauliflower florets back into the pan.


Add more water to the pot, enough to cook the pasta in, and bring it back to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain it, and add it to the cauliflower mixture. Continue to cook this for several minutes and then serve, topped with parmesan.

Yeah, this was okay. I'll eat it again, because it made a ton of leftovers, but it's not my favorite. Matt like it, though.

cauliflower -- $2.99
pine nuts -- $5.09 (with plenty leftover)
anchovies -- $1.49 (with plenty leftover)
onion -- $1.24
Total Cost of Cauliflower Penne: $10.81 (and we'll probably be eating it all week)

September 19, 2010

Kousbariya (p. 370) and Ligurian Spinach with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts (p. 335)

Kousbariya is Lebanese Fish Baked in a Tomato-Cilantro Sauce, and was the perfect chance for me to use the grouper fillets that I cut on Friday. I lightly dusted the fish with flour and placed them into a skillet that had been pre-heated with olive oil, so that the oil was almost steaming.  I fried the fish for a couple of minutes on each side and then removed it from the oil.

I wiped the frying oil out of the pan and added in fresh oil  to sauté the onion and garlic in. Once they were soft, I added in tomatoes that had been seeded and chopped, and continued to simmer until the sauce had thickened. Then I just stirred in cumin, cilantro, and salt and pepper.

The fish went into an oven dish and I poured the sauce on top of it to cook for about 20 minutes.

I loved that the fish was both lightly fried and baked; it was perfectly flaky and delicious. I had this for lunch yesterday and loved it.

With this, I made a spinach side. I've never cooked spinach before -- I always just eat in raw in a salad. Luckily, it's super easy to cook. Wash it thoroughly and then put it in a pan with only the water clinging to the leaves. This took 5 to 10 minutes before my spinach had cooked down, at which point I drained the spinach and chopped it coarsely.

Cover the golden raisins in very hot water to plump them up. Sauté pine nuts in olive oil until they are light brown and then remove them with a slotted spoon. Add in the garlic and onion and sauté them until they're soft. Then toss all your ingredients together into the pan -- the spinach, drained raisins, and pine nuts. Add in salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg, stir everything together, and serve. 

I still prefer raw spinach, but this was good, mostly because it just tastes like pine nuts and golden raisins, both of which I love.

onion -- $1.24
tomato -- $1.23
Total Cost of Kousbariya: $2.47 (the cost of the grouper fillets is reflected in the fish stock I made earlier this week)

spinach -- $2.99
golden raisins -- $2.99
Total Cost of Ligurian Spinach with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts: $5.98

September 17, 2010

Fish Stock (p. 109)

I've been putting off this fish stock recipe because it calls for the head and bones of "whatever is available at your local fishmonger." I don't think I have a fishmonger. I mean, I'm sure I do, I just have no idea where he is. I went to Fresh Market and asked if they happened to have any fish heads and bones laying about, but I was laughed at and told to try the Asian market. So I did.

I have somehow never been to our Asian market before,  but it's pretty much amazing. Beautiful fruits and veggies that I couldn't recognize and tons of seafood, both packed on ice and still alive.

Still, there was no way to get just the head and bones (at least that I could figure out) so I bought a cleaned fish with the head cut off. I was momentarily worried that they didn't actually give me the head, but I couldn't bring myself to go back to the counter. Luckily, when I got home and unpacked my little bag o' fish, that head was still there, looking at me.

I watched a YouTube video about filleting a grouper (which is what I had) and felt jazzed to try my hand at it.

So, I'm not great at filleting, it turns out. But this was only my first try, so I felt okay with it. There are my fillets, while I'll probably cook tonight in another recipe.

To make the stock, I threw the rest of the remaining fish (including the head) into my stock pot with onion, peppercorn, parsley, white wine, and cold water. I brought these to a simmer and let them cook for 45 minutes. 

Once the stock was done, I strained the aromatics out and poured the stock into a jar. 

I'll use this in some sort of fish stew this week.

grouper -- $11.88
parsley -- $.89
onion --  $1.08
Total Cost of Fish Stock: $13.85 (though this price includes the fillets I got out of it, which I'll use separately)

September 16, 2010

Samak Tajen (p. 371)

Samak Tajen is Lebanese Baked Fish with Tahini, and it also has pine nuts in it, which I am semi-obsessed with. As per usual, I didn't read the recipe fully before starting to cook, so I had to kind of speed through some processes, such as marinating the fish.

Place your fish fillets (I used tilapia) into a baking dish, and pour the marinade over them, a mixture of lemon juice, salt and pepper, and cumin. Make sure all sides of the fish get coated, and then set the fish aside. The recipe calls for them to marinate for a couple of hours, but mine only had about an hour. Oh well.

Sauté pine nuts in olive oil until they are golden brown and then remove them with a slotted spoon. Sauté a thinly sliced onion in the same olive oil until it is very soft and beginning to brown. Mix tahini with water slowly until it thickens and then mix it throughly with the onions, pine nuts, and garlic.

Pour this sauce over the fish and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly browned.

This was really good! The tahini flavors baked into the fish and were delicious, and I love that the sauce became a crust around the tilapia instead of something more liquid-y. I would definitely make this one again, and wouldn't change a thing (except I'd probably marinate it for the correct amount of time.)

lemon -- $.89
tilapia -- $9.04
onion -- $1.08
Total Cost of Samak Tajen: $11.01

September 15, 2010

Southern Italian Semolina Bread (p. 162)

I tried Moroccan Semolina Bread back in June and still had a little of the semolina leftover. I needed to buy more for this bread, but it was on sale at Fresh Market, so -- score.

This bread takes a long time to make. First, make the biga (the starter) by sprinkling yeast into hot water to let it dissolve, and then stir in all-purpose flour. Let this sit (covered) for at least a few hours if not over night. I left mine for maybe 7 or 8 hours before coming back to it.

Add warm water to the biga and mix it up with your hands. It's not dough like at all at this point, so this is a sloppy process. Add in a few cups of the semolina and mix it into the liquid. Let this rise for at least two hours, covered.

Add room temperature water and more semolina as well as salt. Knead until it's not sticky any more. This lack of stickyness didn't really happen for me, and I ran out of semolina. I had to add regular flour to eventually get the dough to the desired consistency. Place the dough into a clean bowl that has been brushed with olive oil and leave for another two hours, covered.

Finally you're ready to make the actual bread. Break the dough in half and form it into two of whatever shape you want. I made two boules.

Place the bread on a cookie sheet that has been scattered with corn meal (or semolina, if you still have any left.) Slash the tops of the bread and bake in a very hot oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature and bake for 45 minutes more.

Tada! Huge golden loaves of bread.

Next time I'll add a touch more salt to the dough, but otherwise, this is perfect. Not too dense, lovely looking, and with a mellow flavor. I had some with soup for lunch, and it was delightful.

semolina -- $2.55
Total Cost of Southern Italian Semolina Bread: $2.55

September 14, 2010

Provencal Sauce de Tomates (p. 268)

This is a super basic tomato sauce. You might have everything you need in your kitchen right now (I did.) Also, Simone Beck (Julia Child's writing parter) used to make this sauce, so you know it's going to be good.

Quarter tomatoes and put them in a sauce pan along with olive oil.

Let these cook for about 15 minutes, until they have released a lot of their juices and are nice and soft. Then spoon them into a food mill (this was my first use of mine!) and mill them. Obviously that's not the right verb, but I think you get what I mean.

Meanwhile, sauté onion (I used a combination of yellow and red, because that's what was in my fridge) and garlic in olive oil until soft.

Put this sauce back into the cleaned out sauce pan and add in the onion/garlic mixture. Stir in thyme (it calls for fresh, but I only had dried), oregano, and crushed fennel seed. The recipe also called for a piece of dried orange peel but I didn't have any, and also that sounds weird. So, no orange peel, and also no bay leaves.

Let this simmer for 20 to 30 minutes and then add salt and pepper as needed.

This is good, but not really anything super special. It's just a tomato sauce.

tomatoes -- $5.50
Total Cost of Provencal Sauce de Tomates: $5.50

September 13, 2010

Farro Salad (p. 76)

I've never made anything with farro before, and wasn't even really sure what it was. I went to Food Lion and asked for it, describing it as a sort of Mediterranean grain, and they tried to send me to the Mexican food aisle, so Trip 1 in my quest for farro was a fail. Trip 2 was to Fresh Market where I found it right away in the pasta aisle, expensive and vacuum-packed and looking like bird seed.

The farro needs to sit in water for about an hour before being cooked. Once that time has passed, drain it and put it in a sauce pan along with vegetable broth. The cooking time may vary for your farro -- mine took about 20 minutes until the grains were tender.

Drain the farro again and put it in a bowl along with olive oil and lemon juice. Stir in the rest of the chopped ingredients: cucumber, scallions, radishes, red onion, and celery.

Add salt and pepper and set aside for at least 30 minutes so the farro can absorb the flavors of the veggies.

I really enjoyed this, but if I made it again I would add some form of vinegar along with the olive oil and lemon juice. I just wanted it to have a little more of a punch to it.

radishes -- $1.19
vegetable broth -- $2.99 (half left)
scallions -- $.59
celery -- $1.39 (only used 1 stalk)
red onion -- $.96 (used half)
farro -- $8.99 (I feel like I got ripped off, but where else can I get it?)
Total Cost of Farro Salad: $16.11 (this makes a lot -- it'll probably be part of my lunch all week)

September 12, 2010

Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp

Last weekend I was in Asheville visiting my dad and saw some library school friends who recently moved there, Sarah and Edwin. They invited me for brunch and Sarah made a delicious Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp (which she blogged about as well.)

I'm a sucker for apple crisp. It all started in my elementary school cafeteria, where once every few weeks they would slop some apple crisp into one of the sections of my tray. I adored the stuff, and so did my sister. My mom (who was a gourmet chef) would sometimes make us apple crisp, but it never compared to what they made at school. Actually, I've never found anything to live up to that. But I still try from time to time.

This past Thursday my CSA box was filled with beautiful North Carolina apples -- both Gala and Macintosh -- so I decided to try the recipe out for myself. I followed it exactly, except for the shredded coconut -- I left that out.

I love that the sweetness from this recipe comes mostly from honey, and that it's not too sweet for breakfast. The almonds are my favorite part of the recipe, they add a wonderful crunch to each bite. I warmed mine up this morning and topped it with Greek yogurt, and it was the perfect start to a perfect Sunday. (Though still doesn't compare to cafeteria apple crisp.)

Thanks for the recipe, Sarah!

September 9, 2010

Fennel and Sesame Bread from Cyprus (p. 160)

I haven't made bread in forever, mostly because I lent my My Bread cookbook to someone and haven't seen it in a few months. However, there are Mediterranean bread recipes, so I really don't have any excuses.

Enter Fennel and Sesame Bread from Cyprus, which is a fairly quick recipe -- the dough only needs to rise for a couple of hours.

Dissolve yeast in warm water and then mix in flour (both white and whole wheat) and salt, and knead together along with olive oil for about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth for two hours.

Once the dough has had a chance to rise, punch it down and knead in the fennel seeds, making sure to distribute it evenly. Form two separate loaves by rolling the dough into long skinny shapes. Set these aside for another half hour while the oven is heating.

Just before the bread goes into the oven (on a pre-heated baking sheet scattered with corn meal) paint the loaves with egg whites beaten with water and scatter the tops of the loaves with sesame seeds. Slice the tops of the dough with a sharp knife and then bake the bread for about 25 minutes.

This has a pretty strong fennel flavor which isn't my favorite, but the bread is a nice consistency and I enjoyed dipping it in soup during my lunch today.

sesame -- $2.40 (with about half the bag left)
Total Cost of Fennel and Sesame from Cyprus: $2.40

September 8, 2010

Lamb Meatballs with Pine Nuts in a Lemony Tomato Sauce (p. 100) and Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Toasted Almonds (p. 256)

I was in Asheville for the long weekend where I ate lots of tasty foods, including a delicious breakfast apple granola crisp made my fellow food blogger (and friend.) Yum! So, it had been a few days since I'd made anything and my fridge was almost completely empty.

I did a quick grocery run on my lunch yesterday, and was surprised and happy that I didn't need to buy too many things to make these lamb meatballs.

First, toast your pine nuts in olive oil until they are golden brown. Remove them from the pan using a slotted spoon -- you'll still use the rest of the olive oil later in the recipe.

In a bowl, combine the pine nuts, ground lamb (the recipe specifies that the lamb be ground twice, but I couldn't bring myself to ask the Fresh Market guy how many times it had been ground), minced onion, chopped parsley, allspice, cumin, and salt and pepper. It took a little while to mix them all together so that they stuck -- in the past when I've made meatballs there has generally been an egg involved that kind of held everything in.

Form your meatballs and set them aside for half an hour to dry.

Cook the meatballs in the same skillet as before until they are browned on all sides. Remove them from the skillet again and add in chopped tomatoes, tomato concentrate, and some water. Cook these down to a thick sauce and then add in lemon zest and juice. Cook for several more minutes and then add the meatballs back into the sauce to finish cooking.

Side note: after months of searching, I found tomato concentrate in a tube.

These had a lovely sweet-tart flavor and would be nice either as a main course (as we ate them) or as mezze for a party. They fell apart a little bit on the plate, but not so much that it was a problem. I liked the flavors of everything in them, and they had a great texture from the pine nuts and onions. Overall, this recipe was a win.

With the meatballs, I served Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Toasted Almonds.  I had everything I needed for it except for saffron, but I decided to do without -- it makes for an expensive meal!

This recipe takes a little bit of planning because the chickpeas need to be soaked overnight. I forgot until yesterday morning and then started soaking them before work, to no obviously detrimental effects.

Drain the chickpeas and put them in a pot covered in about an inch of boiling water. Cook the peas for 30 minutes to an hour, until they are tender.

While they are cooking, sauté onion (I used red because that's what I had) in olive oil until it is very soft. Add peeled and finely chopped tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Toast the almonds in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Once they are ready, make a paste using the almonds, chopped parsley and garlic cloves, and salt. Pound all these ingredients together (or use your food processor) adding a little of the water from the cooking chickpeas. This mixture will smell amazing.

As soon as the chickpeas are tender, add in the tomato onion sauce as well as the almond paste. Stir well and serve topped with crumbled hard boiled egg.

This was totally delicious and I would definitely make it again. The toasted almonds added a great crunch, and the egg was a nice addition. I'm looking forward to having leftovers for lunch.

lamb -- $2.80
CSA tomato -- $1.05
tomato paste -- $2.99 (lots left)
lemon -- $.89 (used half)
onion -- $.94 (used half)
Total Cost of Lamb Meatballs with Pine Nuts in a Lemony Tomato Sauce: $8.67

almonds -- 1.28
CSA tomato -- $1.05
Total Cost of Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Toasted Almonds: $2.33

September 3, 2010

Grilled Shrimp with Almonds (p. 393) and Cauliflower with a Veil of Grated Cheese (p. 307)

Matt was out of town tonight, and he doesn't always love shrimp so it was my chance to try out this shrimp recipe for two of my lady friends.

Sauté almonds in olive oil until golden brown and then transfer them to the bowl of a food processor.

Add in garlic, sauteed in the same oil, as well as parsley, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Process these together and slowly add chopped tomatoes that have been peeled and seeded. Don't over process the mixture -- it should still hold some of the texture from the almonds.

Pour the sauce into a bowl and stir in lemon juice and red wine vinegar as well as some olive oil. The sauce is now ready to go!

The actual shrimp has a super simple preparation -- just toss it in some olive oil and then sauté for a couple of minutes per side until it is cooked through. (Really the recipe calls for them to be grilled, but I figured it would be easier to just cook them on the stove top.)

Serve with the sauce.

The sauce was a little sweet for me, so next time I might doctor it up with a few more spices, but overall it was lovely. I just like shrimp, really.

For tonight's veggie I chose another one I thought the husband wouldn't enjoy; cauliflower. It's not really a favorite of mine either, but how can you turn down something that is covered with a "veil of grated cheese?" I can't.

Break the cauliflower into small florets. Bring chicken stock to a boil and add in the florets; cover with a lid and steam for about 10 minutes.

Once the cauliflower is tender, remove the pieces from the stock, placing them in an oiled gratin dish.

Boil down the remaining stock for about 10 minutes and pour it, as well as some olive oil, over the top of the cauliflower. Top with grated choose (I used parmesan, but any aged hard cheese would work) and place the dish into a pre-heated oven. Cook until the cheese has melted and slightly browned and serve immediately.

I surprised myself by enjoying the cauliflower. Maybe anything that has a veil of cheese is automatically delicious? Probably.

lemon -- $.89
tomato -- $.83
shrimp -- $10.91
Total Cost of Grilled Shrimp with Almonds: $12.63

cauliflower -- $2.50
Total Cost of Cauliflower with a Veil of Grated Cheese: $2.50