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

December 30, 2010

Roasted Chicken with a Middle Eastern Stuffing (p. 406) and Spinach with Onions and Black Olives (p. 309)

It's been over a week since I've last posted -- the holidays make for a busy time! I've done very little cooking over that week, but I did make a big Christmas dinner for me, Matt, and my dad. I wanted to do something semi-traditional, so a roasted chicken seemed the perfect thing.

On  Christmas Eve my dad and I hit up the Fresh Market in Asheville to get all the necessities. The recipe calls for a 5 pound chicken but all the was left was 3.5 pounds, so I had to make do. I think the guy who helped me was just filling in at the counter, because the chicken was wrapped ridiculously.

Also, when I unwrapped it, the giblets were nowhere to be found. No giblets? What's up with that? They were supposed to be cooked down to become part of the stuffing, but I had to skip that step.

I rubbed down the bird with a mixture of garlic, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice and let it marinate in the fridge for a few hours.

While the bird was getting itself all juicy and flavorful in the fridge, I made the stuffing -- sauteed onions, toasted pine nuts, ground beef, pepper, cooked rice, currants, cinnamon, cumin, and saffron sounded like it would make for a pretty amazing combination. I filled the bird up and cooked her for about an hour and a half altogether, adjusting the oven temperature and basting as needed.

The chicken was amazingly moist and delicious.

We all really enjoyed it, especially the crispy skin that the marinade had coated. I was kind of bummed about the stuffing, though. It was good, but with all that stuff in it I had thought it was going to be the best part of the meal. Maybe it was the lack of the giblets?

With this, I prepared a simple spinach side. Just steam down the spinach until it is super tender and then chop it up. In a skillet, sauté sliced scallions in olive oil until soft and then stir in chopped olives and add the spinach back in.

Add black pepper and red wine vinegar, keep over the heat until the vinegar has mostly cooked away, and then serve.

Matt and my dad were kind of dreading this because neither loves cooked spinach, but this dish was surprisingly good -- I think olives can make pretty much anything delicious. This was actually the first part of the meal to disappear.

All in all, a very successful Christmas dinner.

chicken -- $6.59
lemon -- $.89
onion -- $1.20
ground beef -- $2.59
currants -- $2.75 (only used 2 tablespoons of a bulk container)
saffron -- $7.40 (used a large pinch, still plenty leftover)
Total Cost of Roasted Chicken with a Middle Eastern Stuffing: $21.42
($4.28 per serving)

spinach -- $2.50
scallions -- $.88
olives -- $3.30
Total Cost of Spinach with Onions and Black Olives: $6.68
($1.33 per serving)

December 22, 2010

Herb-Crusted Fish Fillets (p. 375) in Greek Domata Saltsa (p. 267)

I didn't think I'd have time to do any cooking before heading to Asheville for Christmas festivities with my dad, but we ran out of food at the house last night so I searched through my cookbook to find a recipe that wouldn't leave me with left over ingredients that would go bad while we're out of town.

I decided to cut down this fish recipe so that it would just make enough for the two of us to eat for one night, and I already had a bunch of herbs that needed to be finished up anyway, so this recipe was ideal. 

The fish calls for a basic marinara sauce, but the recipe for Greek Domata Saltsa says that it can be used "in any Greek preparation for tomato sauce." I wasn't sure if my fish recipe was Greek but decided to give it a go anyway.

The sauce came together pretty quickly; I put chopped tomatoes through the food mill and then sauteed the pulpy liquid with olive oil and chopped onion, sugar, a cinnamon stick, and a bay leaf. 

After it had simmered for a bit, I poured in red wine along with salt and black pepper and kept it over the heat until it came together in a chunky sauce.

While the sauce was simmering, I started working on the salmon, which was surprisingly simple. Cut the fish into serving size pieces and dip the pieces in flour, then beaten egg, and then a blend of chopped parsley, dill, and basil mixed with bread crumbs. 

(Side note: my coworker Cynthia's chickens starting laying eggs a few weeks back, and I got my first dozen this morning. They're beautiful, and the egg yolk is a really vibrant color that made my end product here look really pretty.)

Once the fillets were completely coated, I sauteed them in a little olive oil for about 4 minutes per side.

Then I just ladled a little of the sauce onto each fillet and served!

We both really enjoyed this and I would totally make it again, or at least the fish part. I liked the lightly fried texture and the flavors of all the herbs. Next time I might serve it with a little green sauce on the side instead.  Or I might even just serve the fish on top of some mixed greens and have a light but filling meal!

canned tomatoes -- $.95
wine -- $2.99 (a small container, with enough left for two glasses of wine -- perfect!)
onion -- $.28
salmon -- 6.08
Total Cost of Herb-Crusted Fish Fillets in Greek Domata Saltsa: $10.30
($5.15 per serving)

December 20, 2010

Bean and Farro Soup (p. 136)

I've been eyeing this recipe for a few weeks because I had pretty much all the ingredients for it at home -- all I need to purchase was a tomato.

Since I don't work until noon on Mondays, I whipped this up this morning to be able to take for dinner tonight.

In a stockpot, cover your pre-soaked and drained beans (I used navy, but any light-colored bean would do) in an inch of water and add in chopped onion, celery, and garlic as well as a bay leaf, a few fennel seeds, and black pepper. Let this simmer until the beans are tender, about 40 minutes.

Separately, put pre-soaked and drained farro in a pot with boiling water and cook until not-quite-tender.

Remove most of the beans to a food processor and puree them, then pour them back in with the whole beans remaining in the pot.

Add in chopped tomato and cook until the tomatoes have basically melted into the soup, then pour in the drained cooked farro.

Add salt and pepper and serve with bread and a little bit of parmesan on the side.

This was good, but definitely not my favorite of the soups I've been making lately. I think this would have better flavor in the summertime, when the tomatoes are at their peak.

tomato -- $1.64
Total Cost of Bean and Farro Soup: $1.64
($.55 per serving)

December 19, 2010

Spicy Greens and Sweet Cheese in a Greek Savory Pie (p. 185)

Or, as you know it, Spanakopita. A coworker of mine brought some for our holiday potluck last week and it made me excited to try my own hand at it. I've always loved the flaky filo crust and the spinach and feta filling, so I figured this recipe couldn't go wrong.

First, steam the spinach (as well as other greens, if you like) in their own water. Mine took about 15 minutes for the spinach to get super tender, and then I put it in a colander and squeezed all the excess water out.

Next, sauté minced onions and scallions until soft and add them to the bowl of spinach.

Add in minced dill and parsley, eggs, feta, ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, and dry bread crumbs, stirring thoroughly between each ingredient.

The assembly of the individual pies was the hardest part. I read the directions twice, but still managed to assemble them incorrectly for my first batch. They were a little funny looking.

The second time around I got it pretty much right -- lightly oil the sheet of filo, fold it in half lengthwise, and then add a blob of the mixture into one corner and fold it up like a flag. Paint each triangle down with a little more olive oil.


Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly brown, and then enjoy!

These were perfect. I'll make them again, for you.

spinach -- $2.50
scallions -- $.88
onion -- $1.21 (only used half)
frozen filo dough package -- $3.69 (only used half)
ricotta -- $2.59
dill -- $1.99
Total Cost of Spicy Greens and Sweet Cheese in a Greek Savory Pie: $12.86
($.86 per serving with 1 per serving)

December 18, 2010

Middle Eastern Savory Tarts (p. 188) with Catalan Seafood and Pasta Paella (p. 213) and Nicholas's Favorite Braised Pears in Red Wine (p. 447)

We had our friends Mike and Jenna over for dinner last night so I wanted to make a few different recipes  -- savory tarts as a starter, a seafood paella for the main course, and braised pears for dessert. Luckily, some things could be made in advance (like the pears) and I didn't actually start the paella until our friends arrived because Jenna had offered to help me cook.

I started the Middle Eastern Savory Tarts early in the day (I just had a half day at work) because the dough/pastry part of it needed to rise. For the dough, I used the same one that I had used to make Middle Eastern Pizza back in October. It's got a little extra flavor to it because it's made with yogurt and olive oil.

Once we were about an hour from our guests arriving, I started pre-heating the oven and assembling the tarts. The stuffing for these tarts is mostly spinach that has been cooked down until tender.

The spinach is combined with chopped onion, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, allspice, and pepper. The recipe also uses either feta or pine nuts, but not both. I really wanted both, so I split the spinach mixture in two and put feta in half and pine nuts in the other half.

The dough needs to be rolled out and cut into circles -- I used a drinking glass to cut the pieces out. Put a little bit of the stuffing into the center of the circle and close the dough up around it like a little purse. I had a lot of trouble with this step -- the amount of olive oil in the stuffing made the dough not want to stick and they kept re-opening on the baking dish. I eventually stopped worrying about it and baked them anyway, until they were golden brown.

These were pretty amazing. I liked both flavors equally, and we scarfed down a ton of them. I would totally make these again for a party, they're perfect finger food. And I just re-heated some for my lunch and they were still delicious.

I waited to start the Catalan Seafood and Pasta Paella until Jenna and Mike arrived so that Jenna and I could cook together. Jenna lightly fried shrimp and flounder pieces after dipping them in flour and I cooked the mussels in a little bit of white wine until they opened up.

We cooked onions and garlic as well as our dry spaghetti pieces until the veggies were soft, and then poured in a little more white wine, chopped tomatoes (that were peeled and seeded), and a bay leaf.

Once the tomatoes had created a thick sauce we poured in simmering veggie stock (Fresh Market doesn't carry fish stock, for some reason) and cooked until the liquid had been absorbed by the pasta. We stirred back in all the seafood and put the dish into a very hot oven for about five minutes to crisp it up a little bit before serving.

This was delicious, and also makes a ton of food. We each had seconds and still have a lots leftover. I loved the texture of the skinny pasta with the seafood, and the lightly fried shrimp was amazing. We just ate this with some toasty french bread, and it was perfect.

For dessert, I made Nicholas's Favorite Braised Pears in Red Wine, Nicholas being author Nancy Harmon Jenkins' son. The recipe calls for 6 pears, but since there were just four of us for dinner I paired it down a little (hah! paired down the pears! right?!)

I peeled the pears and placed them in a deep oven proof dish.

Then I put in lemon zest and slices of lemon and poured in a boiling mixture of red wine, water, and sugar.

This cooks in the oven for about 90 minutes, until the pears are very soft.

The red wine needed to be reduced to a syrup, so I put it back on the stovetop with some more sugar and boiled it down until it became a syrup and then spooned it back over the pears.

These were tasty -- we had them with a little vanilla ice cream and the flavor of the wine with the pear was really lovely.

All in all, this was a great meal, and we had a fabulous night with our buds.

yogurt (for the dough) -- $1.89
onion -- $.65
spinach -- $3.99
Total Cost of Middle Eastern Savory Tarts: $6.53
($.54 per serving of two tarts)

onions -- $1.52
tomatoes -- $4.19
pasta -- $2.33 (a quarter of the box is left)
shrimp -- $7.01
flounder -- $7.79
veggie broth -- $3.50
mussels -- $2.23
Total Cost of Catalan Seafood and Pasta Paella: $28.57
($3.57 per serving)

pears -- $3.97
red wine -- $8.49 (about half a bottle left)
lemon -- $.79
Total Cost of Nicholas's Favorite Braised Pears in Red Wine: $13.25
($3.31 per serving)

A filling and delicious three course meal for $7.42 per person!

December 17, 2010

Stifado of Lamb (p. 425)

Stifado refers to way of preparing meats by braising or stewing them in red wine and red wine vinegar.

This is time consuming but not all that difficult, plus it used mini onions, which I pretty much never use. They're also a total pain to peel -- any tips for making it easier? I spent almost 40 minutes peeling those babies.

Sauté the whole onions and crushed garlic until starting to brown, then shove them aside and add the lamb (cut into stewing pieces) into the middle.

Cook until thoroughly browned.

I messed up on my lamb selection by purchasing lamb chops instead of the pre-cut stewing pieces, which means I definitely paid too much, and got less meat than I should have. Oh well.

Anyway, once the meat is browned, add in all of the flavorings -- chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaves, a cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice, ground cumin, and a little salt and pepper.

Pour in red wine and red wine vinegar, as well as enough water to just cover the meats and veggies.

And now for the part I didn't read before starting -- simmer this slowly on the stove for at least 2 hours. I read this at around 6:30 last night, just as Matt was walking in the door from work. So for dinner, we actually had General Tso's chicken, courtesy of Peking China, not lamb. Which was delicious, but a letdown from what I had been hoping for.

I did have this for lunch, however. It was good and the lamb was very tender and flavorful, but not worth the wait time.

lamb -- $14.69 (again, should have used the less expensive stewing lamb)
onions -- $3.49
tomato -- $.97
Total Cost of Stifado of Lamb: $19.15
($9.58 per serving)

December 15, 2010

Salade Nicoise Royale (p. 359)

We had our holiday potluck at the library today, and I wanted to bring something that I could make a night in advance and that I could serve cold. Salade Nicoise Royale has a beautiful presentation and, although the recipe calls for the tuna hot, straight off the grill, can also translate into a cold dish.

This recipe requires pretty minimal cooking -- potatoes and green beans are each cooked in boiling water until tender and the fish itself (tuna steak) is put under the broiler (or on a grill) for 8 minutes per side.

Otherwise this is all about layering. First, place romaine lettuce around the edge of a large platter.

Prepare the potatoes by tossing them in olive oil and red wine vinegar (which I misread and used white wine vinegar instead) and salt and pepper. Cut the potatoes and place them on the lettuce on one end of the platter, with sliced, salted tomatoes at the other end. The cooked green beans are put on both sides of the platter and then all the veggies are scattered with sliced red peppers, green peppers, and red onion. Strew basil leaves over everything.

Place the cooked fish right in the middle of the platter and, just before serving, dress the veggies with a mixture of olive oil, more red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, scallions, and capers.

Everyone thought the presentation was gorgeous, and I really enjoyed this salad.  The only issue is that it's sort of difficult to serve as a real salad since the lettuce is weighed down under everything. I served myself a little of each area except the romaine since I couldn't reach that. I would definitely make this again for a party -- it makes a huge amount -- you can't really tell from this picture how much food this made.

Luckily, I'm heading to another party this evening, so I'll bring all the tasty leftovers there!

red pepper -- $2.35
green pepper -- $1.00
tomato -- $1.53
red onion -- $1.35
romaine lettuce -- $1.99
scallions -- $.99
green beans -- $1.71
potatoes -- $1.62
basil -- $2.99
tuna -- $15.35
Total Cost of Salade Nicoise Royale: $30.88
($3.09 per serving -- though this it's a little hard to gage how many servings this would have been for a real meal, since at a potluck people generally eat less of each item)

December 12, 2010

Roasted Breaded Mussels (p. 98)

This was just a quickie recipe that I tossed together last night before we headed out to a party, and it was super easy and pretty light. This is meant to be served as an appetizer, but since Matt didn't want any I just ate it as my dinner.

Clean the mussels and remove their beards, discarding any mussels that won't close. Place them in a pan with a little wine and cook until the shells have started to open.

Remove the mussels from their shells, but reserve one half of each shell. Place the half shells on a baking sheet and put one mussel back into each one.

Combine garlic, parsley, oregano, parmigiana, and bread crumbs and sprinkle these over each mussel.

Dribble with olive oil and a little white wine and bake for 10 minutes.

Serve, hot and golden.

Yum. These were a great fast dinner. I'd do them again (in greater quantity) for a fancy pants cocktail party.

parsley -- $1.99
mussels -- $2.23
Total Cost of Roasted Breaded Mussels: $4.22
($4.22 per serving as a meal, $2.11 per serving as an appetizer)

December 11, 2010

Greek Seafood Stew with Vegetables (p. 114) with Aioli (p. 274)

Okay, it's starting to warm up a little bit here, but I still have soup on the brain. Matt had to work late last night so I was flying solo for dinner -- the perfect chance to make a seafood stew that I knew Matt wouldn't love. (I quartered the recipe so that I wouldn't have leftovers forever.)

Full disclosure: I did leave a couple of potentially "key" ingredients out. Saffron, because it's ridiculously expensive, and anise-flavored liqueur because I've always disliked the flavor of licorice.

Sauté onion in olive oil until soft and then add in carrots, celery, garlic, dried red chili pepper, dried thyme, and a bay leaf.

Throw in a peeled chopped tomato and let everything cook for about 10 more minutes.

Add in water and orange zest and simmer for 20 minutes before adding the fish pieces. I used haddock cut into four nice-sized chunks as well as shrimp. Put in the white fish first and allow it to cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the shrimp and cook until it has become pink and is fully cooked.

Remove the seafood from the dish and pour a mixture or orange and lemon juice into the liquid base of the stew. Simmer briefly before pouring back over the seafood.

The recipe recommended serving this stew with aioli, which is just garlic mayonnaise. It's also a super quick and easy recipe; just blend together one whole egg, an egg white, and salt. Slowly add olive oil and lemon juice to the mix.

Combine garlic and salt into a paste.

Gently stir the garlic mixture into the mayonnaise until it is well combined.

Then just spoon some on to your stew!

Yum. This stew was lovely. I really enjoyed the large chunks of fish and the delicious shrimp, which made it feel very hearty and filling. There is just a hint of citrus from the zest and juices, and the dollop of aioli gave a tiny bit of creaminess to the dish. I'm glad Matt wasn't here because I didn't have to share.

onion -- $1.29
orange -- $.60
lemon -- $.69
haddock -- $4.14
shrimp -- $3.77
tomato -- $1.17
Total Cost of Greek Seafood Stew with Vegetables: $11.66
($5.83 per serving)

Total Cost of Aioli: Free
(I had everything I needed at home.)