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

October 31, 2010

A Compote of Turkish Dried Fruits and Nuts (p. 448)

I haven't done a dessert in a while, but we're having guests tonight for a Halloween cookout so I wanted to have something sweet to offer other than a ridiculous amount of candy.

I used dried figs and apricots to make this, but you could use any favored dried fruit if you make it. Just be sure to cover the dried fruits with boiling water to plump them up for about 15 minutes before moving onto the next step.

Meanwhile, toast the nuts -- I used a combination of walnuts and hazelnuts, both coarsely chopped. After about 15 minutes in the oven they were a nice golden brown. Process the nuts along with sugar in a food processor and then set them aside.

Arrange the now plump fruits prettily in a round oven dish.

I used a spring form pan, which was a total mistake -- use a regular oven dish. When I poured my simple syrup over the fruits a lot of it came out of the apparently not perfectly tight bottom of the spring form. I placed it on a baking dish before putting the whole thing in the oven, but it still made a total mess. I keep finding sticky spots on my floor from the syrup even though I've cleaned the area up about five times.

Anyway, after about 15 minutes in the oven pull the dish back out and scatter the nut mixture over the top. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so.

Because of my issue with the spring form, I needed to dump my compote into another dish -- so it definitely didn't hold its shape at all.

I served this warm with a little bit of sweetened greek yogurt on top. I loved the nut flavor, but wished that the dried fruits were in smaller pieces -- a little kind of goes a long way. Still, this is good, and I'll enjoy some semi-healthy desserts this week.

dried apricots -- $3.99
dried figs -- $3.99
walnuts -- $4.69 (for a giant bag, most of which is still left)
yogurt -- $1.00
Total Cost of A Compote of Turkish Dried Fruits and Nuts: $13.67

October 30, 2010

Middle Eastern Pizza (p. 180)

Better start writing down your grocery list, because you want to make this pizza. For realz. Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case you should still make it but buy some weird soy product instead of meat.

The dough is made like normal pizza dough, except that it has olive oil and plain yogurt in it. I liked the directions for making the dough because they told me to knead until it was "as soft as your earlobe." I willingly obliged. I've got pretty soft earlobes, so this took a while.

While the dough is rising (leave it alone for at least two hours), you can make the pizza topic. Sauté pine nuts in olive oil until they are golden brown.

I always always burn mine a little, but they still taste delicious.   Also sauté onions for the topping, but then you're done with using the oven top -- everything else goes in raw.

Place the pine nuts and onions in a bowl and add in chopped tomatoes, green pepper and parsley, ground beef or lamb, allspice, cumin, pepper, tomato concentrate, and fresh lemon juice (or something else that will add a little tartness to the topping). Stir everything together into a thick paste.

Roll the dough out, making the pizza crusts very thin.

Add the topping to the pizza spreading it out to almost reach the edges -- these pizzas won't have much of a crust.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes  and then serve.

This was really good, and then we added the recommended garnish -- strained yogurt -- and it was incredible. Make this pizza, and absolutely use the garnish.

ground beef --  $1.10
onion -- $.71
yogurt -- $1.89
tomatoes -- $2.49
Total Cost of Middle Eastern Pizza: $6.19

October 29, 2010

Panissa (p. 232)

Panissa is Risotto with Salami and Beans, which sounds a little gross but is actually quite delicious.

It requires a little advance planning, though, as you need to soak the beans overnight. From there on, it's super easy.

Simmer the drained beans for about 40 minutes and then set them aside, reserving the water.

As with all of these recipes, get started by sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil. I was feeling saucy, so I  used red onion. Once these are nice and soft, add in chopped salami and short-grain rice.

Let this cook for a short amount of time, just until the fat from the salami is beginning to coat the rice. Add in some white wine and turn up the heat, allowing the wine to be quickly absorbed into the dish.

By the way, do you ever purchase wine juice boxes from Target? They're amazing, and oh so classy.

Next up, stir in the beans along with their cooking water.

From here on, this is like any other risotto -- slowly add simmering chicken stock into the pan in little bursts at a time, allowing the liquid to be absorbed before pouring in any more.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and stir in grated cheese to give it a creamier texture. Add a little more cheese to the top of each serving.

This was delicious and hearty and would have been a perfect fall dish if it weren't 80 degrees outside. We'll definitely make this one again; great flavors, interesting texture, and wonderful leftovers!

beans -- $1.79 (plenty left)
salami -- $2.38
wine -- $2.50 (price of one juice box -- a full glass was leftover)
Total Cost of Panissa: $6.67

October 25, 2010

Ratatouille (p. 66)

I've never been a huge fan of ratatouille, or eggplant for that matter, but I think I could actually have enjoyed this recipe if I had cubed the zucchini and eggplant into slightly smaller pieces. The recipe called for the eggplant to be cut into 1.5 inch cubes, which, when I ate them, allowed me to taste their unfortunate consistency.

Anyway, ratatouille is pretty simple; roast a red pepper over the stove top and, when it is done, peel it and cut it into strips.

Reserve the juices and strips and place them in a bowl.

Sauté onions in olive oil and cook them until they are soft. Add the onions to the bowl.

Soak your cubes of eggplant in salt water for a couple of hours and then pat them dry.

Add more olive oil to the pan and lightly fry the eggplant. Add them to the bowl.

Add more olive oil and lightly fry small cubes of zucchini. Add them to the bowl.

With the remaining olive oil, sauté chopped peeled tomato, along with crushed coriander seeds and a little sugar, until they have a jammy consistency. Add this to the bowl and stir to coat everything. Add in salt, pepper, and capers and serve.

The flavors in this were really good, I just didn't love the consistency of the eggplant. If you make this, cut the eggplant into much smaller cubes and you'll be golden.

eggplant -- $1.39
red pepper -- $1.90
onion -- $1.12
zucchini -- $.64
tomato -- $2.12
Total Cost of Ratatouille: $7.17

October 22, 2010

Sant'Ambrogio Yellow Pepper Soup (p. 128) with Crostini di Fegatini (p. 70)

It's fall and thus time for soups. I love soups, though my favorites are generally the cream-based kind that don't seem to exist in the Mediterranean (or at least not in my cookbook.)

Sant'Ambrogio Yellow Pepper Soup (also called Passato di Peperoni Gialli) is pretty simple to make, and other than the time that the peppers spend softening its actually a pretty quick recipe. Plus, it has red onion in it, which I adore.

Very gently sauté said red onion (chopped) in olive oil until it is just beginning to turn translucent. When this happens add in the chopped yellow peppers and chopped potato, both in large chunks.

Pour in simmering vegetable broth and ad salt and pepper and a dried chili. Leave these simmering, covered, for about an hour until the veggies are nice and soft.

Remove the chili and process the soup through a food mill until it is a soup-like consistency, then just re-heat on the pan.

I wanted to serve something a little bit hearty with the soup, so it was finally the time to use the chicken livers that had been sitting in my freezer for a month. I had a lot of trouble tracking down chicken livers -- the dude at Fresh Market laughed at me when I asked and Harris Teeter didn't know what I was talking about. But the Asian Market? Golden. And cheap! So those babies have been lying in wait for me to make Crostini di Fegatini, which I finally did.

Chicken livers are a little gross to touch, but also kind of beautiful -- all glossy and reddish. Just pick over them and cut off any spots that don't look good (the recipe said this, but my livers looked beautiful) and rinse them out in a colander.

Separately, saute minced onion (regular white onion this time, unfortunately) garlic, and parsley until very soft and then shove the vegetables aside and add in the livers (patted dry at this point.)

Cook over medium heat, chopping the livers up with a spoon as you go. When the livers have lost their pinkness, add in sherry and a little bit of water and continue cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Once the livers are thoroughly cooked, stir in capers, more parsley, and lemon juice and mix well. Then top crusty bread with the fegatini and serve.

This meal was lovely! The soup was a really nice consistency and both sweet and savory. I added a little more salt and pepper and then really enjoyed it. The leftovers were yummy, too. The crostini were also delicious -- the livers tasted pretty much like pate and were delicious. Someone in my house categorically refused to eat any chicken livers, but that just meant more for me.

potato -- $.83
red onion -- $1.75 (half left)
yellow peppers -- $5.44
vegetable broth -- $1.98
Total Cost of Sant'Ambrogio Yellow Pepper Soup: $10.00 (for about 3 servings)

bread -- $3.99 (I used Fresh Market's ciabatta, and it was delish.)
lemon -- $.89 (half left)
chicken livers -- $1.90 (for way more than I needed)
Total Cost of Crostini di Fegatini: $6.78

October 19, 2010

Carrots in Agrodolce (p. 305)

Carrots in Agrodolce is Italian Sweet and Sour Carrots and is the last of my cooked carrot recipes, thankfully. It's easy enough to cut the carrots out of other recipes, but when they're the main ingredient it's a little harder. The plus side of this recipe is that I got to use my new birthday present kitchen scale for the first time. I didn't have the amount of carrots the recipe called for (3 pounds) so I needed to scale back all the other ingredients accordingly.

I got my carrots all cleaned up -- peeled and chopped -- and put them in lightly salted boiling water for about 5 minutes before draining them.

Next up I sauteed a little bit of chopped onion in olive oil until the onion was nice and soft. In went the carrots and black pepper as well as a little bit of hot water. I let this simmer, covered, for five minutes, before adding some red wine vinegar and, once that was bubbling, a little bit of sugar. I stirred everything together thoroughly and then served with a little bit of parsley scattered on top.

So, this is still cooked carrots, but the flavors are good.

The best part of the recipe is that I had all the ingredients, so it was totally free.

That, and that we ate it along with amazing beef and chorizo tacos (not Mediterranean) based loosely on this recipe, but really mostly just based on what was available in my fridge.

So totally delicious. Hello, spicy chorizo love.

Total Cost of Carrots in Agrodolce: Free!

October 16, 2010

Roast Fish with Fennel, Potatoes, and Carrots (p. 372) and Braised Cavolo Nero with Chestnuts (p. 303)

Today was the day I discovered my dislike of the smell and taste of cooked kale. But more on that later. First, roast fish, which is always delicious.

The main vegetables in this dish -- fennel, potatoes, and carrots -- are prepared first. Peel and chop the carrots and potatoes (the recipe actually calls for fingerling or new potatoes, but I only had regular ones, so I prepared them in the same way) and put them in boiling water for about 5 minutes, just until they're starting to soften. Drain the veggies and place them in a bowl along with quartered fennel bulbs, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Mix everything together and pour the ingredients out on a baking pan to roast for about 40 minutes.

Chop the green fennel tops along with rosemary to create a topping for the fish. Rub the salmon steaks down with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Top the fish with the chopped herbs and lemon zest and place it on top of the already roasted vegetables.

Put the dish back into the oven until the salmon is cooked. The recipe quoted 10-15 minutes, but mine took closer to 30 for it to be cooked thoroughly.

Then serve!

This was quite lovely. I liked the flavors that the rosemary and fennel added, and the vegetables were delicious. The addition of the thinly sliced lemons to the roasted vegetables added a subtle citrus flavor, and the juices of the cooked salmon soaked in as well. Very, very nice.

Which was good, because I hated the side dish I made with this.

My CSA box came with chestnuts this week, and I knew I had seen a chestnut recipe somewhere in my cookbook. Sure enough, I found a recipe for Cavolo Nero, which is basically a very dark green kale. So while perhaps not the best pairing with my fish and vegetable dish, Braised Cavolo Nero with Chestnuts it was.

I roasted the chestnuts an evening in advance -- cut an X through the thick skin of each nut and place them on a cookie sheet to roast for about 15 minutes. It's incredibly difficult to cut through the husks of the shells, and some of them I had to just toss rather than kill myself trying to cut through.

When the chestnuts come out, the flesh of the nut should have puffed up through the X making it easier to pull the shell and skin away from the nut.

In a pan, saute onion in olive oil for about 10 minutes and then add chopped pancetta (it actually calls for bacon, but I had leftover pancetta from another recipe) and continue cooking until it has released its fatty juices. Add the peeled chestnuts in and coat them with the mixture. Pour in chicken stock and continue cooking for about half an hour.

Remove the hard stems from the kale and sliver and clean the leaves. Cook this in the water clinging to the leaves, occasionally adding a little more water as necessary.

Once the kale is very tender (after maybe about 20 minutes), combine it with the chestnut mixture and flavor with salt and pepper.

I hated this. It tasted and smelled like cabbage and even the yummy chestnuts and pancetta couldn't redeem it. Epic fail.

salmon -- $10.33
fennel -- $2.48
carrots -- $1.29 (half left)
lemon -- $.89
potatoes -- $3.14 (CSA price)
Total Cost of Roast Fish with Fennel, Potatoes, and Carrots: $18.33

kale -- $1.99
onion -- $1.37 (half left)
chestnuts -- $3.14 (CSA price)
Total Cost of Braised Cavolo Nero with Chestnuts: $6.50

October 14, 2010

Chakchouka (p. 85)

Chakchouka is a Moroccan Salad of Tomatoes and Green Peppers, which I decided to use more as a salsa than a salad. I had some beautiful tomatoes -- the last of the summer's, probably -- from my CSA, so I was hoping for a really fresh tasting summery dish.

Peel and seed the tomatoes and then chop them into chunks to be simmered in olive oil with garlic.

Meanwhile, roast sweet pepper and a spicy chili over your stove until the skin is crinkly and black. Peel away the skin from the two roasted veggies, de-seed them, and dice them coarsely.

Once the tomatoes are jammy (I love it when they become jammy) ((actually, I really just love saying jammy)), add in the peppers as well as paprika and stir everything together.

This dish is generally served at room temperature and is normally eaten with pieces of bread to scoop it up. I went with my salsa concept and used chips instead. Hint of Lime chips, to be precise, which are my most favorite chips ever.

I prefer regular salsa, but this isn't bad. It has a strong roasted pepper flavor and is pretty sweet from the tomatoes.

tomatoes -- $1.57
green pepper -- $.99
Total Cost of Chakchouka: $2.56

October 13, 2010

Spanish Cassola with Pasta and Pork (p. 216)

This is also called Fideus a la Cassola and kind of reminds me of Bertolli's Skillet Sensations, but in a good way.

Dice the pork and sauté it in olive oil until lightly browned, then add in chopped onions and a thinly sliced red pepper.

Continue cooking until the pepper has softened  and then add in peeled and seeded chopped tomatoes. Cook these down until they have become a thick sauce and then add in peas (I used frozen because I knew I wouldn't have time to shell any.)

Next up is making the picada, which is a sort of coarse paste that adds a lot of flavor to the dish. Roast hazelnuts in the oven until golden -- I used the pre-chopped nuts sold in the cooking section, so I didn't bother chopping them down further after that. Fry a slice of country-style bread (crusts removed) in olive oil until it is golden on both sides.

Add the bread, nuts, and chopped garlic and parsley to a food processor and mix until the ingredients are well combined to a thick paste.

Pour dry, uncooked pasta into the tomato and pork mixture. The recipe calls for noodles -- something long and thin -- but I used a combination of penne and shells because that's what was in my pantry. This part of the recipe is similar to how you make risotto; slowly add simmering chicken stock in stages to the pan. As the pasta absorbs the stock add more in. I used more stock than the recipe called for to make sure the pasta was thoroughly cooked. After the last of the stock has been added, stir in the picada.

Let the dish sit for about five minutes and then serve topped with grated cheese.

This was delicious and we'll totally make it again. The pork absorbs the flavors of the sauce and the picada added a really unexpected nutty flavor. This was a win for both of us.

pork -- $2.38
onion -- $.76
tomatoes -- $1.57
frozen peas -- $3.99 (used 1/2 a cup)
hazelnuts -- $1.99 (used about 1/2 the package)
bread -- $2.19 (used 1 of the four rolls -- we ate the others with dinner and leftovers)
chicken stock -- $2.69 (used about 3/4)
Total Cost of Spanish Cassola with Pasta and Pork: $15.57

October 9, 2010

Mushroom Lasagna (p. 211)

We had a vegetarian (Julia, my bestie from childhood) visiting from out of town this weekend, so it was time to make some Lasagna ai Funghi.

The recipe calls for both dried and fresh mushrooms, so start soaking the dried mushrooms in very hot water while preparing the rest of the vegetables. Once they have soaked for half an hour, strain them from their liquid but reserve the mushroomy water. Put these mushrooms, as well as the chopped fresh mushrooms (I used portabella), chopped yellow onion, and minced garlic in a pan with olive oil. Add in some of the reserved water that the mushrooms had soaked in as well.

Keep the veggies over the heat until the mushrooms have released most of their juices and the vegetables are soft. Add in white wine and continue cooking until the majority of the liquid has concentrated.

Cook your lasagna in batches for several minutes each and remove them to a dishtowel, making sure they don't stick together.

Make pesto, following the same recipe from the Linguini al Pesto recipe.

Next up is making the bechamel sauce, which I'd never done before. Heat olive oil in a small sauce pan and add flour, stirring constantly. Pour in milk slowly and continue beating the sauce with a whisk until it has thickened into a creamy texture. This can't be made too far in advance because it will create a skim on the top if not used right away.

Now for the assembly of the lasagna -- layer the sheets of lasagna, then bechamel sauce, pesto, half the mushroom mixture, and then dabs of ricotta cheese topped with grated pecorino cheese. Make a second layer in the exact same order, and then finish the lasagna up with a final layer of lasagna, bechemel, pesto, and grated cheese. Sprinkle bread crumbs and dribble olive oil over the top of the lasagna.

Bake for about 20 minutes and then serve hot and delicious.

Despite our wariness about mushrooms, this was really good! Let's be honest, cheese and pesto can probably make anything good. I'd totally make this again.

basil -- $3.99
lasagna -- $1.99
portabello -- $2.00
ricotta -- $1.99 (still about half left)
onion -- $.53
Total Cost of Mushroom Lasagna: $10.50

October 5, 2010

Afelia (p. 434)

Afelia is Cypriote Braised Pork with Wine, Cinnamon, and Coriander, and it is a tasty thing.

The pork needs to marinate for at least 8 hours, so this is one that requires a little advance planning. Cut it into 1 to 2 -inch pieces and toss all the pieces with red wine (a California Cabernet Sauvignon is recommended), crushed coriander seeds, and a cinnamon stick. Place this covered in the fridge to marinate.

When you're ready to cook the dish drain the pork from the marinade, but reserve the liquid for later use. 

Pat the meat dry and toss it in a pot along with olive oil, cooking it until the pork is browned on all sides. This is a little difficult to tell, since the pork is purple from the red wine. I just guesstimated when it was finished and then pulled the pork pieces out and set them aside.

Next up, put peeled small white onions into the oil and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the meat back into the pot along with the marinade that had been set aside, and salt and pepper. Cover the pot tightly and set at a low simmer for about 2 hours, until the pork is tender and the sauce is syrupy.

I made polenta to serve the pork on top of, and it was lovely.

I realize that this picture makes the meal look a little gross, but it really wasn't. The pork in its sauce is almost like a stew, and very rich. We needed to add a little extra salt and pepper, so don't feel afraid to really add some spices to stew in the pot.

wine -- $7.99 (about 2 cups were used in the recipe and we drank the rest with dinner)
pork -- $11.69
onions -- $2.99
Total Cost of Afelia: $22.67

October 3, 2010

Pan-Fried Shrimp with Little Green Lentils and a Bright Green Sauce (p. 383)

Supper Club was this past week and the theme was "Classy" so I wanted to do a delicious and filling main dish that was also a little fancy. I had a lot of trouble finding something to make that fit all these requirements and that could be completed in the hour and 20 minutes I had between work and supper club. This recipe actually called for haddock, but I couldn't find any, so I supplemented with the shrimp instead.

So, here we go. Combine olive oil and chopped pancetta in a very large saucepan and cook until the fat begins to run from the meat. Add chopped yellow onion and celery and continue cooking until the veggies are very soft but not brown.

Once the vegetables have softened completely, add rinsed lentils along with rosemary and a dried chili pepper. Mix these ingredients together with the olive oil-y vegetable-y mix and then add water, covering the lentils by about an inch.

Bring the dish to a low simmer and cover the pan until the lentils are tender, around 30 minutes.

The "Bright Green Sauce" mentioned in the title of the recipe is similar to a pesto -- just add parsley, basil, and olive oil to a food processor and process until the sauce is a uniform smooth consistency.

Lastly, prepare the shrimp by tossing them lightly in flour that has been combined with some salt and pepper, shaking off the loose flour, and sautéing the shrimp quickly in olive oil on each side, so that they are lightly browned all over.

To serve, arrange the lentils on a platter, top with the shrimp, and then spoon the lovely green sauce over the top of everything.

Yum! This was super delicious and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. The shrimp was so lightly fried that it was still really tender, and the basil sauce added a great flavor to the whole dish.

basil -- $2.99
parsley -- $1.69
rosemary -- $2.99
pancetta -- $3.99
onion -- $.71
celery -- $1.69
shrimp -- $21.82
Total Cost of Pan-Fried Shrimp with Little Green Lentils and a Bright Green Sauce: $35.88
(This was by far and away my most expensive dish to date, but I was cooking for 12 and we still had leftovers.)