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

February 28, 2010

Cacik/Tzatziki (p. 59)

Tzatziki is a yogurt and cucumber sauce or dip that is delicious on all kinds of things. We have the fresh bread I blogged about yesterday, so I wanted to make something tasty to dip it in.

The only thing that makes this recipe take more than 5 minutes is that you have to strain the yogurt for about a half an hour to thicken it up. While you're doing this, also strain the cucumber, since they hold a lot of water.

Then you add the yogurt to a mixture of salted, grated and peeled cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar (which I had to go to two grocery stores to find -- never again Food Lion, never again), olive oil, mint, and chili pepper, and you have yourself a side item.

It's light and cool and fresh tasting -- a perfect spring snack. Apparently you can also make it into a cucumber soup by adding ice cold water. I might try this a little later in the season.

My mom suggested that it might be helpful to keep track of how much each recipe is costing me, so I'm going to try to keep up with that from now on. I won't estimate costs of things that I already have in my pantry, because I think most people would have them.

plain yogurt -- $2.99 (enough leftover for another recipe I'll do later in the week)
English cucumber -- $1.99
white wine vinegar -- $9.39 (there's plenty of this leftover for future recipes)
mint -- $1.50

Cost of Cacik/Tzatziki: $15.87

February 27, 2010

The Raleigh Farmer's Market

is pretty awesome.

I went this morning so grab some things so that I can start tackling some vegetarian dishes this week. We're definitely in an off season right now, so there wasn't a ton of stuff, but what I got looks great.



And herbs:

Oh my!

Can't wait to try out some new recipes with these.

Sullivan Street Bread

My mom sent me the recipe for this, and it's probably the easiest bread you could possibly make. All told, it took about 5 minutes of my time and, although I haven't tasted it yet, it looks delicious.

You mix flour, salt, water, and yeast together for a couple of minutes and then let it rise overnight. Then you knead it a couple of times, let it rise for a few more hours, and throw it in the oven in a heated pot (with  a lid.)

Here it is during it's second rising period:

And fresh out of the oven:

Couldn't be easier, and my house smells all yeasty and nice.

Try it yourself!: http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com/recipes

Salt-Marinated Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Herbs (p. 403) and Little Deep-Fried Ricotta Balls (p. 62)

I've done several turkeys for Thanksgiving, but have never attempted to roast a chicken. I was flipping through the book to find something to make for earlier in the week and stumbled across page 403, which sounded delicious. I read highlights of the recipe aloud to my husband and he agreed, we had to have it that night. The part I somehow managed to gloss over was that the chicken needs to marinate for a few days, which is why we didn't actually get to try it until last night.

On Wednesday I picked up the chicken (just a small one -- a little more than three pounds) and a couple other things I needed for the recipe. This is another of those recipes where you probably have the majority of the items already in your pantry or refrigerator. I cleaned the chicken up, gave her a healthy salt rub-down, and she made my fridge her home until last night.

The prep for the chicken after all the salt was absorbed only took 10 or 15 minutes; another rub down (this time with olive oil), cutting up lemons and garlic to shove into her, and chopping some herbs to let cook underneath her skin. Then it's into the oven for about an hour and twenty minutes, but you rotate the chicken every once in a while so that both side are beautiful and crispy and delicious.

I wanted to be sure to get another recipe in last night to work toward my goal (5 per week, so I still have one left), so while at work yesterday, I hurriedly flipped through the recipes trying to find something that wouldn't be too time consuming. After deciding on the fried ricotta balls, I ran out on my lunch break to get ricotta, parmigiana, and bread crumbs.

This recipe is another pretty quick one once you have all your ingredients lined up. The cheesy interior of the balls is made up of the two cheeses I bought at the store, an egg yolk, garlic, and some herbs. Although the recipe called for fresh goat or sheep's milk ricotta, it gives alternate directions if you have cow's milk ricotta, which was all I was able to find at Fresh Market.

I've never fried anything before -- it uses a lot of oil. A disgusting amount, in fact. You get the oil really hot, dip the cheese balls into egg and then into breadcrumbs, and throw them on it. Mine kind of fell apart in the oil, I think because my ricotta was too moist and should have been given more time to drain. The balls came out sloppy and gooey looking, but they were pretty delicious anyway. I probably wouldn't do this recipe again, just because of how messy and wasteful frying seems, but if I did, I'd give plenty of time for the ricotta to drain out, and maybe find a tasty sauce to dip the balls in.

Shortly after I finished up with the frying escapade, the chicken was ready to come out of the oven. It was beautiful. The skin was all crackly and delicious, and the meat was lovely and tender. I used the leftover juices from the bird, mixed with a little white wine and boiled down together to create a tasty semi-sweet sauce to dribble over the chicken. Voila. We have dinner.

We also have leftovers, yum.

The other thing I started last night is Sullivan Street Bread. The dough is currently rising, and will go into the oven this afternoon. More on that later!

February 26, 2010

Supper Club!

Supper Clubs are the best thing ever. If you're not in one, I feel sad for you, because it's that much fun. For those of you not in the know, a Supper Club is basically just a group that meets and everyone brings a dish. In the club that my husband and I belong to, we have about 12 people (and some extras who are substitutes) that meet once a month at someone's house. We have a very detailed schemata (it's even color-coded) that we follow so that each participant knows what to bring and where to go. So fun.

Last night my husband and I hosted, which meant we chose the theme (brunch!) and supplied the drinks (Bloody Marys and Mimosas!) and everyone else provided food. So, I have no update for you about Mediterranean recipes that I've done (though I will after tonight -- I'm doing a roasted chicken and some sort of crazily-delicious sounding fried ricotta balls) but I do have a tummy very full of quiche, breakfast pizza, biscuits, crescent rolls stuffed with fake sausage and feta, and last but certainly not least, S'mores Pop Tarts (dessert.)

February 25, 2010

Thank You, Amazon Prime.

I was hoping to do this project just using the cookbook from the library, but I have since realized that I need to be able to write on the pages and keep track of which recipes I've done (a big no-no in library-owned copies, thank you very much), so I've caved and purchased the book.

Thanks to a lovely trial membership that my husband has with Amazon Prime, I got my copy yesterday. It's nice and shiny and I love it. And now I can keep track of my recipes!


Also, I'm considering joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, for those of you not in the lingo) called The Produce Box which would bring fresh fruits and veggies to my doorstep weekly. Has anyone done anything like this before? I'd love to be able to use it to make some of the veggie recipes that are coming up, but I'm worried I'll get box after box of sweet potatoes, or something else that I wouldn't be able to do much Mediterranean-style cooking with. 

I've emailed them for a list of the contents of this week's box, hoping that'll give me a better idea of what I'd be getting into. In the mean time, if you've had experience with these types of programs, let me know!

February 23, 2010

Pollo al Chilindron (p. 408) and Feta Salad with Vegetables (p. 61)

Or, in English, Spanish Chicken with Sweet Peppers and well, still Feta Salad with Vegetables.

Yum. We just finished dinner and it was super good. The chicken was moist and tender and covered in delicious and flavorful sauce, and the salad was a great blend of sweet and salty. So good, and also really good together.

So, despite that this took me about an hour and a half to make, neither of these is a very difficult recipe, they're just chopping intensive. And, as evidenced by yesterday's grocery list, I needed to buy a bunch of stuff to make them.

I always have a problem buying peppers that aren't your average red/green/orange ones. This recipe calls for "8 flavorful red and green peppers, preferably both sweet and slightly hot," which means nothing to me. I know regular peppers and I know hot-hot peppers, but pretty much nothing in between. Luckily, they specified a little more in the actual recipe that Anaheim or New Mexico peppers would do the trick. So, of course, my grocery store had neither. But what it did have was a handy little chart that showed you how mild or hot each pepper was. I chose a few from the in-between areas of the chart, grabbed some tiny sweet peppers that I could also use in the salad, and threw in a Jalapeno for good measure. This might not have been exactly what the recipe was calling for, but the end result was delicious.

I ran into my first problem pitting the "12 fat green Italian or Greek olives." How does one pit an olive? Really, I need to know. I have a feeling I'm going to have to pit a lot more of these during this project. I own a pitter, but my olives were way too fat for it. I ended up just cutting the olive off from the pit and chopping them up, but there has to be an easier way.

Anyway, after  chopping a ridiculous amount of onions, peppers, and garlic, and simmering these in olive oil (my new best friend), I added my poorly pitted olives and dumped the whole mess on top of some lightly pan-fried chicken breasts. Add a little sherry/OJ/water mixture that was all boiled together, and pop the dish into the oven for half an hour.

A note about this strange boiled mixture that gets poured over everything else -- you might have noticed that my grocery list last night did not call for orange juice. That's because OJ is listed on the second page of the recipe, where I did not look for ingredients. Luckily, we're hosting supper club at our house this week (theme: brunch), and are responsible for the adult beverages, including mimosas. So I very luckily had juice. Another note, you can buy sherry at the grocery store, which made me incredibly happy.

So, with the main course in the oven (as well as another serving of Crash Hot Potatoes, just because I needed to get rid of the rest of them), it was time to turn to the salad. Again, this is basically just a lot of chopping; pepper, red onion, tomatoes (which I normally hate), cucumber, and parsley. Then you mix it all together with a lot of feta cheese, olive oil, red pepper, and sea salt.

Dinner was delicious. And we have a ton of leftovers. Luckily, I don't have plans to do another recipe until Friday, so by then we'll probably have gotten through all of this meal. Enjoy!

February 22, 2010

Grocery List

So the problem with cooking with fresh produce is apparently needing to go to the store -- a lot.

I work until 9:00 tonight, but then I'll be off to my friendly local grocer for the following items to create delicious feasts this week:
  • olive oil (one recipe in, I've already run out -- anyone have any great cheap deals on EVOO that they've found?)
  • dry white wine
  • lots of chicken (I'm planning two different chicken recipes this week, get excited)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 flavorful red and green peppers, that are both sweet and hot
  • 1 onion
  • 12 fat green olives
  • Amontillado sherry (this will require a separate run to the liquor store, unfortunately)
And for a salad tomorrow night to accompany on of this dishes:
  • 1 sweet red pepper
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 very ripe medium tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber (have I mentioned yet that cukes are my all time favorite fruit?)
YUM. My mouth is already watering.

February 21, 2010

North African Spiced Marinated Fish (pg. 362)

I don't know about you, but I have a lot of friends that are vegetarians. This is frustrating, not because I enjoy touching raw dead things to cook (I don't) but because I never really know what to prepare for guests that doesn't include meat. Luckily, I've found a loop hole, and it's called fish.

"Fish is a meat!," you might be thinking, but you are wrong. For the purposes of many vegetarian-minded, fish is, in fact a vegetable. So, when my lovely friends Sarah and Meg were coming for dinner to celebrate Sarah's birthday last week, it was the perfect chance for me to debut a recipe from my new favorite cookbook -- North African Spiced Marinated Fish. Underneath that name, in my cookbook, it says Chermoula, just like that, in italics. I have no idea what that means, but enjoyed repeating it to myself as a mantra whilst I cooked.

I had leafed through most of the fish section and decided on this recipe because I already had most of the necessary ingredients. I love recipes that don't make me purchase $40 worth of spices and food stuffs that I'll probably never use again, so this was right up my alley. Other than parsley (which I hate, by the way) and cilantro (which I love) and the actual fish, I was good to go. The other bonus for this recipe is that the cookbook promised it would be delicious with whatever fish I chose. So I got tilapia, because it's cheap.

Basically to make this, you chop up a bunch of fresh herbs, mix with spices, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, and marinate your fish in it for an hour or so. Then you pop it in a hot oven for twenty minutes, and you're good to go. It was ridiculously easy to make.

I wasn't quite ready to tackle a second recipe from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, and had been wanting to try out a potato recipe that I'd seen on a friend's blog a few days before, so I also made Crash Hot Potatoes. Thanks to my (other) friend Sarah for leading me to these, because they're awesome, and easy, and a total crowd-pleaser.

Both of these recipes could be prepared in advance, and they both called for the same temperature and time in the oven, so I was just able to pop them both in once my buds arrived. Twenty minutes later, paired with some white wine and warm bread, we were ready to go. Dinner was delicious, if I may be so bold. The fish was flaky and wonderful, and I couldn't even taste the parsley. If I made this recipe again (which I'll probably never have time to do now that I have a goal) I wouldn't change a thing. Try it, it's totally delicious.

February 20, 2010

The End of Butter (Kinda)

I love butter. Love it. Always have. I cook with it, I flavor with it, and I put it on my bread. It's not just me, either -- my whole family is obsessed. Once, when we were little and a babysitter wouldn't give us a snack, my sister sneaked outside with a pad of butter sprinkled with sugar atop her bare toe. Disgusting? Yes. But I'm just trying to illustrate that I was born into a butter loving family.

So, the thing about butter is that it's not the healthiest ever. My husband and I are in our late 20s, and its time to get on top of cooking great meals that are also good for us. So here goes. I'm not trying to make my own Julia/Julia project (and let's be honest, without butter, that couldn't have worked), but I do love the idea of taking a cook book and working the whole way through it.

And if that cookbook uses something other than butter as it's base like, let's say, olive oil, I think it's a plan. I picked up The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook : A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health by Nancy Harmon Jenkins from my local library (side tangent : support public libraries) and it's pretty awesome. I think I can do this. Do you?