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

March 30, 2010

Penne all'Arrabiata (p.198)

Tonight I made a simple penne dish - it's basically just pasta with a homemade sauce.

I sauteed some garlic in olive oil until it was golden brown and then added canned tomatoes leftover from last night's fish recipe, dried hot red chilies, and, just for funsies, some anchovies and basil (neither of which were part of the recipe, but I wanted to use them up.) The sauce stayed on the heat until it thickened up.

Meanwhile, I cooked the penne according to the directions on the box in heavily salted water. Once the pasta was ready, I strained it, mixed it in with the sauce, and voila. Dinner.

penne -- $2.29 (with a little more than half the box remaining)

Total Cost of Penne all'Arrabiata: $2.29
(with one serving leftover)

March 29, 2010

Sicilian Tuna in Foil Packets (p. 361) and Garlic-Roasted Potatoes with Black Olives (p.333)

This fish dish is great because you can prepare it all in advance, put it in its foil packet, and then toss it in the fridge until you're ready to cook. I made mine a few hours ahead and the prep work only took 20 minutes or so. The fish is lightly seared on both sides and then put aside on a square of aluminum foil while the sauce is created. I sauteed onions and garlic until they were lightly browned and very soft, and then added golden raisins, chopped celery, green olives, and capers to the mix. After a couple of minutes, I threw in canned tomatoes that had been chopped. Once the sauce thickens, it is poured over the fish along with some bread crumbs and the foil is folded over the fish so that it is in an aluminum envelope.

The recipe also called for pine nuts, but there is apparently a shortage of them right now and I was unable to find any.

The foil packet is supposed to be placed on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for 15 minutes. When I took mine out after that time frame it was still pretty pink in the middle, so I popped it back in the oven for more time because in my house we're afraid of undercooking. I think I put it in for too long after that, but I'd prefer an overcooked piece of tuna to stomach trouble.

I wanted to find a side that would use up the potatoes we have leftover from all the starch-heavy sides I've made this past week. I'm definitely getting sick of potatoes, but I didn't want the last two to go to waste. The Garlic-Roasted Potatoes with Black Olives recipe calls for 2 pounds of potatoes, so I just paired down all the ingredients in it, guesstimating how much I'd need of each.

The potatoes are chopped up with their skins still on them and mixed together with garlic, rosemary, a crumbled dried red chili, salt, pepper, and olive oil. They're mixed well and then roasted in the oven for 25 minutes. Mine took closer to 35, but if I had cut them smaller it probably wouldn't have been a problem. Once they're out, you add the chopped olives and serve.

Both of these recipes were really flavorful. Matt says that this fish dish is his favorite that we've had so far and, even though I felt it was a little overdone, I agree that it was super tasty and flavorful. The potatoes were also really nice -- I never would have thought to pair potatoes with olives, but the duo worked out well.  Even with only two potatoes.


We paired the meal with a wonderful bottle of Veuve Cliquot, compliments of my father in congratulations for Matt's new job.

tuna steak -- $5.89
onion -- $1.15
golden raisins -- $2.67 (plenty left over for snacks)
celery -- $1.99 (I only used one stalk)
capers -- $3.49 (most of the jar is left)
green olives -- $1.00
canned tomatoes -- $1.29 (about half is left)
Total Cost for Sicilian Tuna in Foil Packets: $17.48

Olives -- $1.40
Total Cost of Garlic-Roasted Potatoes with Black Olives: $1.40 
(with enough leftovers of the dish for both of us to take to lunch tomorrow)

Other items I made today that have nothing to do with the Mediterranean Diet:

March 27, 2010

Arista di Maiale (p. 432)

There's a neat little story about this dish at the beginning of the recipe, about how it was served at a church council meeting in Florence in 1430 to try to mend differences between the Roman and Greek Churches. The Greek bishops, upon eating it, said "Arista!, Arista!," which means, apparently, "this is really terrific!" 

And it is. 

In English, we would call this Florentine Roast Loin of Pork, and it's roasted pork with a very basic sauce all up in it. The recipe actually calls for a pork loin that has the undercut attached so that it is two similarly sized pieces connected at one side. I couldn't find this, so I cut my piece down the middle leaving one end attached.

Also, the recipe calls for a 4 pound pork loin but two people really don't need that much pork. I bought one about half that size.

I created a rub for the inside of the meat with a lot of garlic, fresh rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil. It looked and smelled pretty amazing.

This is rubbed all over the inside of the pork roast, and then I closed the two sides back together, tying them with butcher's twine (which I own, incredibly.) Sprigs of rosemary are stuffed underneath the twine, and then the whole of it is brushed down with olive oil and salt. 

Here it is prepped and ready to go into the oven.

The recipe said it would take one and a half to two hours to cook, but since my piece of pork was half the size of what the recipe called for I wanted to be very careful about not overcooking. Instead of going by time, I used a meat thermometer to wait for the internal temperature to reach 160 degrees. Every twenty minutes or so, I basted the meat with dry white wine and its own juices.

It ended up taking about an hour and 20 minutes to reach the correct temperature, and smelled wonderful. The meat was really tender and flavorful, and the skin was nice and crispy around the edges. Matt said this is one of his favorite dishes so far, and that I'll have to make it again.

We have plenty leftover for several days worth of sandwiches, and according to the cookbook the pork is even better the next day. We already have ours cut up in thin slices to take for lunch tomorrow along with homemade bread. Yum.

dry white wine -- $6.99 (only needed a 1/2 cup for basting)
pork roast -- $10.06

Total Cost of Arista di Maiale: $ 17.05

March 26, 2010

Patatas a la Riojana (p. 331)

Last night was Supper Club, and the theme this time around was root vegetables. People kept recommending I do a beet dish, but sadly, my cookbook only has one, and I have already made it. Flipping through the cookbook, I was looking for something that wouldn't need too much cooking time and I wouldn't have to buy a ton of ingredients for.

Patatas a la Riojano, or Potatoes Simmered in a Spicy Stew, became the clear winner. Once I got home from work last night, I started the onions sautéing in olive oil, leaving time to begin peeling and chopping the potatoes. The potatoes are cut into pretty thick slices and added to the onions (which at this point are smelling pretty divine) until they began to brown around the edges.

While the potatoes were browning, I removed the casing from the chorizo and cut it into chunks to add to the pot. After throwing a couple of cups of water in to the mixture, the potatoes began to soften up and slowly absorb all of the liquid. The flavors were rounded out with green pepper, parsley, paprika, and the pulp of several dried red New Mexico chilies.

I brought the steaming pot over to Supper Club where I heated it up for another 10 or so minutes before serving. I really enjoyed this dish; the spices seem very different from other items that I've prepared from the cookbook so far, and the chorizo was flavorful and delicious.

(And yes, I once again forgot to take a picture until it didn't look as yummy as it could have.)

Everything that we ate last night was great -- my supper club mates brought a beet salad, a potato and onion dish, pasta salad with veggies, ribs with a ginger root sauce, a delicious corn salad, and sweet potato dumplings for dessert.

potatoes -- $1.65 (with 3 left for some other dish)
chiles -- $1.99 (with about 6 chilies left)
green pepper -- $1.29
chorizo -- $9.99 (I'm sure I could have found this cheaper somewhere else, and I'll need to look in the future for a better option)

Total Cost of Patatas a la Riojana: $14.92

March 24, 2010

Braised Artichokes and Potatoes (p. 291) and Roasted Fish with a Citrus Sauce (p. 366)

We had long promised to have our dear friends Blair (the guy who gave me the anchovies) and Sarah to dinner, and last night we finally made good on it. On the menu; braised artichokes and potatoes and a citrusy fish dish.

My problems started when I went grocery shopping for our dinner ingredients. The Braised Artichokes and Potatoes recipe calls for 8 small, firm artichokes and 8 small potatoes, but I had an issue with the word "small" in both cases. At Kroger, I had the option to pick between either giant artichokes at $2.99 a pop, or a carton of baby artichokes that was much more reasonable. Are baby artichokes and small artichokes the same thing? Probably not. Ditto on the potatoes -- the recipe didn't call for new potatoes, it just called for small ones. I purchased a bag of potatoes that were on the smaller side, but when I started actually making the dish it seemed evident that the potatoes should have been much, much smaller.

The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook has a chapter at the beginning on how to prepare certain vegetables before using them in a recipe, and artichokes were no exception. They need to have their stalks trimmed back, the hard outer leaves removed, and are then placed in a bowl full of lemony water to prevent discoloration.  The potatoes were to be peeled and then placed whole in a skillet but I chose to cut mine down some as they suddenly seemed way too big.

The veggies are simmered, along with onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, water and lemon in a small amount of olive oil. They stay on the stove for about 45 minutes at varying heats, and then are served immediately.

The roasted fish calls for a meaty sort of white fish -- I was originally going to use halibut until I realized it's ridiculously expensive ($19.95/lb!) so I picked up some cod instead. This turned out to be another really simple fish recipe. The fish is dusted with flour and lightly browned on each side in a little olive oil before being put into an oven safe dish. Using the same pan, you cook chopped onion, garlic, and parsley until it is soft but not brown, and then mix this with a few spices and a citrus mixture. The recipe calls for seville oranges, but says that you could also use blood or juice oranges, if necessary, along with a lemon. Seville oranges were nowhere to be found in Raleigh (or at least not in the two places I checked), so I used the combination of a lemon and a blood orange.

Once the whole mixture has been heated up on the stove, it is poured over the fish and put in the oven for about twenty minutes.

I forgot to take any pictures of food until we'd actually started eating.

I also made whole wheat rolls from the Sullivan Street cookbook. They were delicious, for realz. (And we did eat them with butter, defying the name of this blog.)

Overall, I liked both of these recipes. The artichokes seemed a little bitter, though, and I'm not sure what about them caused that; it's possible that baby artichokes are just more bitter than their larger counterparts. The citrus sauce on the fish was delicious, and I would definitely make it again. We sopped it up in our bread rolls long after the cod had disappeared.

Here's a totally awkward picture of us eating dinner. How beautiful are my fish plates?

potatoes -- $3.49
bay leaf -- $1.99 (I only used 2 leaves and have about 10 left)
artichokes -- $3.99 (with about 6 baby artichokes left for something else)
lemon -- $.21
onion -- $.93
Total Cost of Braised Artichokes and Potatoes: $10.61
(with leftovers of the dish for lunches today)

lemon -- $.21
onion -- $1.12
blood orange -- $1.62
cod -- $10.52
Total Cost of Roasted Fish with a Citrus Sauce: $13.47 
(no leftovers)

bread flour -- $2.99 (lots left over for other breads)
Total Cost of Whole Wheat Rolls: $2.99
(1 leftover roll for lunch today)

March 19, 2010

Catalan Pizza (p. 183)

Catalonia is in Northern Spain and has it's own specific style of pizza, which I made last night. Why, you ask, did I make so many pizzas last night? Pretty much because they're easy, and because I'm going out of town for the weekend, and leftover pizza will be lovely to leave for my husband.

So, Catalan Pizza. This uses a different dough than the basic kind I've used for other pizzas, and it has a base of cornmeal. The dough still uses flour and yeast, but the yeast is dissolved in water, and olive oil is also used to add both flavor and elasticity to the dough. It takes about 10 minutes to knead the ingredients together to the point where it actually starts to resemble dough, at which point it's placed in a bowl to rise for a couple of hours.

While the dough is rising, the vegetables (onions, peppers, and peeled/de-seeded tomatoes) need to be chopped to create the "sauce" of the pizza. Catalan Pizza doesn't have sauce in the traditional sense, just very finely chopped vegetables that are mixed with a little bit of sweet paprika and salt. The mixture smells delicious and fresh and promises for a pizza with wonderful flavor.

Once the dough is ready, you quarter it and make a four thin crusts with slightly upturned edges to hold in all the veggies. Then just load them high and bake. Mine took a little longer than the recipe called for -- maybe about 40 or so minutes.

I didn't actually get to try these until lunchtime today, and I think they probably would have been better soon after coming out of the oven. Still tasty, mind you, but the juices of the veggies had soaked into some of the crust, so it wasn't quite as firm as it could have been. Next time I might use a little more salt, pepper, and paprika as well to give it more of a punch in terms of flavor. 

onion -- $.84
2 red peppers -- $4.58
2 ripe tomatoes -- $3.24

Total Cost of Catalan Pizza: $8.66

March 18, 2010

Pizza Margherita (p. 175)

Pizza Margherita is very similar to Pizza alla Marinara, and I was able to use the leftover sauce that I had made (and frozen) two weeks ago.

This time, when I made the Basic Pizza Dough (p. 171), I let it rise overnight and spent a little more time kneading it after the first rise. I also used a little more olive oil during the second rise (you coat the bowl with olive oil and then place the ball of dough inside), which I think added something to the dough when it came time to form it into the pizza crust. The olive oil made it a little bit easier to toss the dough, and it seemed to create a larger crust this time around.

To make the Pizza Margherita, you spread the tomato sauce over the crust and add mozzarella, salt and pepper, basil, and parmigiano cheese -- it's a very simple recipe. Unfortunately, my grocery store didn't have fresh basil (honestly, what is that about?) so I had to use dried. It would definitely be better with fresh, but the flavors were still great, and the salt and pepper added a lot to it.

This was really delicious. I think that this crust with pretty much anything on it would be awesome, it's really all about the basic dough recipe.

Since the recipe makes enough crust for two pizzas I threw another one together with goat cheese that I picked up at the farmer's market last week. I always love goat cheese, but I think the mozzarella pizza was the winner for the night.

mozzarella -- $3.99

Total Cost of Pizza Margherita: $3.99

March 14, 2010

Greek Salad (p. 88)

This recipe is a classic Greek salad, also called the horiatiki, which means "country style." It's just a combination of fresh ingredients mixed together, so it's delicious, healthy, and easy.

Chop up all the ingredients (but not too finely, like you might for other salads) and combine them all in a bowl. This salad is huge and the recipe actually calls for a large deep platter to put it on, which I don't have. I divided mine between two bowls, which worked fine.

The recipe calls for anchovies, but says you can also substitute with drained tuna. I used the anchovies and am glad I did, because a lot of people commented on how much they liked them. Also, the co-host Blair was so excited about anchovies that he sent me home with a tin of a brand he's been enjoying.

I was bringing this salad (as well as the tapenade and bread) to a Mediterranean-themed cookout, so I brought the dressing along separately to toss with it later. The dressing is just olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and some oregano.

We had quite a feast. It was all delicious. All cookouts should be Mediterranean-themed. And now I have wonderful leftovers in my fridge.

romaine lettuce -- $1.79
green pepper -- $1.59
red pepper -- $1.23
anchovies -- $4.59 (about half the jar is left)
tomatoes -- $3.69
cucumber -- $1.99

Total Cost of Greek Salad: $14.88

March 13, 2010

Baked Fish with Capers and Olives (p. 366) and Castelvetro's Grilled Asparagus (p. 294)

This is a quick and easy baked fish recipe. I used salmon, but you could certainly choose a different (and perhaps cheaper) fish as well. The fish goes into a baking dish, and is topped with a sort of tomato sauce that includes tomatoes (I used canned), a little sugar, capers, olives, and lemon juice. Over the top of that, you put a layer of breadcrumbs, and then bake the dish for about 40 minutes.

As you can see, the bread crumbs didn't really fully integrate with the salmon and the sauce -- next time I would probably do a little more of the tomato sauce and a little less of the breadcrumbs. Still, it had a really nice flavor and we both enjoyed it.

Also, it turned out that the ridiculous amount I spent on olives for the tapenade actually included the olives for this recipe -- I had thought they'd be separate on my receipt, but they bundled them all together.

I also made an asparagus dish as a side. The asparagus are mixed with olive oil and then rolled in a salt and pepper mix. They go under the broiler for about 10 minutes, and are crisp and a little browned when they come out. Then they're quickly mixed with a few teaspoons of orange juice which adds a little bit of a sweet citrusy flavor to the asparagus. It's very mellow, but is a nice combination of sweet and salt.

A loaf of plain stecca rounded out the meal. I'd definitely do a few changes if I were to make the salmon again, but all in all, another tasty Mediterranean meal!

We also have lots of leftovers, so this will probably feed us through the weekend, and maybe even through lunch on Monday!

salmon - $19.08
canned tomatoes -- $1.19
lemon -- $.89

Total Cost of Baked Fish with Capers and Olives: $21.16

asparagus -- $6.65

Total Cost of Castelvetro's Grilled Asparagus: $ 6.65

March 12, 2010

Stecca! (More Sullivan Street Bread)

As you know, my mom gave me the My Bread cookbook earlier this week, which is by the founder of the Sullivan Street Bakery, the ones who do the super simple bread recipes that practically make themselves.

And the cookbook itself is awesome, because before each recipe it shows a photograph of the main steps of the bread-making process, so you can see if what's in front of you looks like it's supposed to.

Today I made Stecca (p. 77 of My Bread), which are baguette-like sticks of bread that could be used for making sandwiches. This dough recipe was again really simple -- just a few minutes of mixing the ingredients, and then the dough rises for a little less than a day. After that, it takes just a little more kneading, a couple hours more rising, and it's ready to be formed into bread.

The basic recipe makes four steccas (stecci?) that are brushed with olive oil and salt, but you can also press ingredients into the stecca before baking it to make it flavorful (and colorful, too.) The recommendations the cookbook gives are olives, tomatoes, and garlic, so I made one of each, as well as one plain stecca to go with dinner tonight.

The house smells incredible now -- not just of bread but of garlic, tomatoes, and olives. The loaves are beautifully browned, and are now cooling on my wire racks, waiting patiently to be gobbled down.

And don't make fun of the little plain one in the back. It looks completely deformed, but I'm sure it will be just as nice as it's more delicious looking siblings.

grape tomatoes -- $3.29 (with, like, a billion left)
garlic -- $.69
bread flour -- $2.97 (plenty left for future bread)

Total Cost of Stecca: $6.95

Tapenade (p. 52)

Tapenade, or black olive paste, is one of those examples of how you can hate the texture of something (like I do with olives) but still love the flavor. You'll never catch me tossing back olives, but grind them up with some other salty and delicious flavors and I am so there.

Tomorrow my friends are having a cook out, and I am forcing it to become a Mediterranean feast by bringing tapenade, delicious home-made bread (which I'll probably post about later today), and a big Greek salad, which I won't make until tomorrow.

The tapenade can be made up to a week in advance, and is super easy to make. Plus, it gives me a chance to use the beautiful food processor I got for my wedding, which I love. Combine a pound of black olives, capers, canned tuna, olive oil, garlic, and brandy (!) in the food processor, and voila, tapenade. Too easy, really. You don't want to process it for too long, because it should have a texture to it when served. Mine's in the fridge now, waiting to be accompanied by delicious bread. I can't wait for tomorrow!

Actually, this picture makes it look a little bit gross, but it's not -- it's delicious.

black olives -- $15.98 (I need to stop shopping the olive bar at Fresh Market, though this also leaves some for another recipe) 
tuna -- $3.49 (with two tins leftover)
brandy -- $7.95 (Obviously, there's a lot of this leftover. I only used 2 tablespoons. I'm sure my husband can figure out something to do with the remainder.)

Total Cost for Tapenade: $27.42

March 9, 2010

Thanks, Mom!

Yesterday I got a package in the mail, and it's a new cookbook from the dude who was responsible for that super easy Sullivan Street bread that I made a couple of weeks ago! The cookbook is filled with tons of easy bread recipes (including Coconut Chocolate Bread, p. 85, or Peanut Bread, p. 101) but also has recipes for meats, pizzas, and other delicious-ness, which are hopefully all equally easy to make. I'm excited. I have a feeling our house will smell like yeast for the next year.

Thanks, Mom! I can't wait to try some recipes out.

March 8, 2010

Turkish Grated Carrot Salad with Yogurt (p. 82)

This was supposed to be our vegetable side dish last night, but it wasn't quite ready when the pizza came out, and we were so enamored by the pizza that we decided to just eat all of it and not eat any vegetables at all. So I just finished it up last night and threw it in the fridge. Which brings us to today, when we will eat it with dinner. 

This is a pretty simple recipe to make, and can be served either as a side, alone, or on a bed of lettuce as a more substantial salad. To make it, boil water and cook the carrots for a short amount of time, so that they are somewhat soft but not completely cooked through. Halt the cooking by running them in cool water, and then grate them into a bowl. In a separate bowl, you make a sauce of yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Then you just gently mix the sauce with the carrots and serve. 

Easy, tasty, etc.

carrots -- $.99
lemon -- $.69
yogurt -- $.67 (with some left for tomorrow's breakfast!)

Total Cost for Turkish Grated Carrot Salad with Yogurt : $ 2.35

March 7, 2010

Pizza alla Marinara (p.174)

Yum. This is delicious. Also, it counts as three recipes -- Basic Pizza Dough (p. 171), Plain Tomato Sauce (p. 266), and then the pizza itself.

When I got home from work today, I immediately started on the dough, since its the most time consuming part of the recipe. To start, you combine yeast, flour, and some hot water and then leave it alone for about half an hour while the yeast does its magic. After that time is up, add more flour and salt water and it starts to resemble a very wet, sticky dough. Kneading it for another ten minutes with more flour does the trick, and it becomes elastic-y without sticking to your fingers. It's very very messy until you get to that point -- I was about elbow deep in gooey dough for a while there, and was pretty worried it wasn't going to come together. After it's at a dough-like stage, it just sits and rises for about an hour, and then you can form your pizza crusts.

During the time that the dough took to rise I worked on the tomato sauce, which is just tomatoes, garlic, and some olive oil. I think my main problem with the recipe is that I don't own a food mill, and I don't even really know what one is. After the ingredients have boiled together on the stove for a while, it's all supposed to go through a food mill to separate out the seeds and skins. The recipe warns against putting the sauce in a food processor because the seeds are very bitter and would ruin the sauce. I dumped the whole mess into a colander hoping to strain out the stuff that shouldn't go in the sauce but the remainder was way too thin to hold together on top of the pizza, and even after trying to thicken it on the stove top I knew it wasn't going to work quite right. I added some tomato paste that I had in my pantry and it became the consistency that I needed, but that definitely wasn't called for in the recipe. If you have a food mill, though, you might not have this problem at all.

Once the dough and sauce were ready I began assembling two separate pizzas. Mediterranean pizzas generally don't call for cheese -- they're primarily sauce, olive oil, garlic, oregano and whatever toppings (generally vegetables) you want to put on them. I had some leftover olives that I sliced, and, since we love cheese, put feta on one pizza and parmigiana on the other.

The pizzas only need to be baked for 5 or 6 minutes, and when they came out they smelled and looked delicious. My husband and I both decided this was one of our favorite recipes so far -- the dough is wonderful, and we're looking forward to making them again with some other more creative toppings. The feta pizza was our favorite -- it added a really nice salty kick, and was great with the olives.

Next time I make this I'll probably do the dough a day in advance so that we can eat a little earlier. Has anyone had any luck freezing pizza dough? It'd be nice to make a bunch at once and save it for when it's needed. The recipe also makes much more sauce than is needed, which is currently in my freezer waiting for our next pizza night.

tomatoes -- $13.54

Total Cost of Pizza alla Marinara: $13.54

March 5, 2010

Papaya Pineapple Salsa

This isn't from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, but it's delicious, and I'm going to Taco Club tonight, so I wanted to make it anyway. Taco Club is a fabulous combination of friends, tacos, and way too many Hint of Lime chips. Officially, I'm bringing Ricotta Cake to tonight's gathering, but in case it didn't work out, I wanted a back up plan.

I generally don't like fruit salsas. I prefer mine to be tomato-based and a little spicy, and generally out of a jar or at a Mexican restaurant. The only reason I even tried this recipe was because my coworker Amy was (still is, actually) pregnant, and we decided to bring a treat to work each week that used an ingredient the size of her baby. I was weeks 21- 24 (month five), when the little tyke was papaya sized. We eventually gave up on this project because no one wanted to do anything with cantaloupe, but everyone really enjoyed the salsa.

I'd never really done anything with papayas before, but I eventually found this recipe, and it looked easy enough, so I gave it a go. I have no idea when papaya season is, of if there even is one, but Trader Joe's sells bags of frozen chopped up papayas that defrost within an hour or so. Last time, I used canned pineapple and it worked out well, but this time I picked up some fresh sliced pineapple. You also need to dice a jicama, which is basically a Mexican potato like thing. I thought I'd have to make a special trip somewhere to find them, but they're sold in the produce section of my regular grocery store.

Red onion, a spicy pepper, and some vinegar give the salsa a little bit of a kick, and are a great pairing with the fresh, soft fruit.

Also, this time around I used fresh cilantro from my very own herb garden (which actually just lives in a cute planter next to my kitchen sink), so I was pretty excited about that.

This is a very quick recipe to make, and should be made just a couple of hours before you eat it. It's still fine the next day, but the flavors are definitely best soon after making it.

bag of frozen papaya -- $1.99
fresh pineapple -- $3.29
red onion (with some left over) -- $.92
serrano pepper -- $.02 (I think my clerk rang this up wrong, but whatevs)
chives -- $1.69
jicama -- $1.52 (some left over)

Total Cost of Papaya Pineapple Salsa: $9.43

Ricotta Cake (p. 452)

This is my first Mediterranean dessert recipe! Very exciting.

This cake substitutes ricotta cheese in the role that butter would normally play. The recipe calls for the ricotta to be strained overnight before anything else, but I forgot to do it, and I need it for tonight, and it seemed totally fine. I tried straining for the two or so hours that I had available, but nothing really happened, so maybe I just happened to purchase extra firm ricotta. Or something.

I also tried to run the ricotta through a food mill, as was called for in the recipe, and that didn't work either. So basically, my ricotta had nothing at all done to it.

You mix your dry ingredients in one bowl and beat eggs in a separate one along with some sugar, vanilla, and rum. You're also supposed to add lemon zest -- somehow I missed that when I ran to the grocery store. I already had a lemon in my fridge, but it had been zested for another recipe. Not to have a totally zest-less recipe, I zested an orange into the mixture instead. I'm sure it will still be delicious.

Once you combine the dry and wet ingredients, the cake is supposed to cook for 50 minutes. I took mine out after about 40, though, because it was golden brown on the top and a toothpick came out clean.

I don't know how it's going to taste yet, but it looks and smells great, so I think it's going to be a winner!

eggs -- $.89
ricotta -- $3.39

Total Cost of Ricotta Cake: $ 4.28

March 3, 2010

Mediterranean Country-Style Bread with Black Olives (p. 158) and Braised Tuna in White Wine (p.357)

After making such incredibly easy bread last week, I was a little nervous about making any other bread, ever again. Especially Mediterranean Country-Style Bread, which takes three days to make, and lots of kneading. After having just finished a delicious dinner with this awesome bread, though, I'm happy I took the time. According to Nancy Harmon Jenkins (author of our favorite cookbook), the key to good bread is twofold -- use as little yeast as possible, and let the rising be long and cool. So, on Sunday afternoon I started this bread with a little yeast, flour, and water, and since then I've been adding to it and loving it. I even came home over my lunch break today because it needed me (get it?) to tend to it.

Tonight when I came home from work, the dough had gotten huge, overflowing its mixing bowl. I punched it down again, added olives, gave it another half an hour to relax, and tossed it in the oven. About 45 minutes later, I had two beautiful and delicious loaves. (And huge, note the size of the bread compared to my husband's iPod Touch -- right above it on the left side -- in the picture below)

I also made Braised Tuna with White Wine tonight, which is a nice easy recipe. You sautee red peppers, onions, and garlic in olive oil until they're nice and soft, and then throw some tuna (or swordfish) steaks in. Sear each side of the fish, add white wine, and put a lid on the pot. The wine cooks the fish and gives it a great flavor. Once the fish is cooked throughout, you add capers, olives, and lemon zest for a few minutes, and then serve with lemon wedges.

Our friend Chris joined us for dinner, so we put out a bunch of leftover side items as well. I'm still not sure that we'll ever finish all of last night's pasta.

white flour -- $4.69
whole-wheat flour -- $2.69
cornmeal -- $1.69
Kalamata olives -- $4.79

Total Cost of Mediterranean Country-Style Bread: $13.86 (with leftovers of all ingredients)

onion -- $1.47
red pepper -- $1.99
fresh tuna -- $9.43
white wine -- $9.79 (plenty left to drink!)
black olives -- $4.60 (with extra's for later)
capers -- $2.59 (with plenty left for other recipes)
lemon -- $.79

Total Cost of Braised Tuna in White Wine: $30.66

March 2, 2010

Beets with Yogurt and Tahini (p. 296) and Pasta with Pancetta and Beans (p. 209)

Like cabbage, I've never really made beets before, but I do like them. My dad hates beets, so I always thought that I did, too. We avoided them together. Since then, I've realized that I love them, especially with goat cheese atop a mixed green salad. Still, I've never made a beet, and probably wouldn't have recognized it at the farmer's market if it weren't signed (they're ugly little things, aren't they?) However, the color inside is my new favorite.

Beets with Yogurt and Tahini is the only beet recipe in The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, and it takes a bit longer then you'd think to make because you have to prepare the Labneh (p. 278) first. This is Lebanese Strained Yogurt, which is also apparently called yogurt cheese, which to me sounds a little disgusting. Anyway, it's just normal yogurt that has been strained for about 24 hours in a colander and/or cheese cloth. It's incredibly thick after this time period -- basically like making your own Fage (Greek yogurt).

To make the rest of the recipe, you just cook the beets (I boiled mine for about 25 minutes, which ended up to being a little too short), chop them into hunks, and then pour on a combination of Labneh and some garlic, tahini (sesame paste), and lemon juice.

For the main course, I made Pasta with Pancetta and Beans, which I'd recommend you make only if you have a large group of people -- not just the two that I made it for.  The sauce for the recipe starts with olive oil and red onion, and then you slowly add garlic, pancetta (YUM), tomatoes, and white beans. Once this thickens to a real sauce (which takes a half an hour or so), you mix it with pasta (I used farfalle) and top with some fresh parmigiana reggiano.

Both of these recipes were great. Next time I'd definitely cook the beets for more time, as they weren't quite as soft as I would have liked. Even so, the tahini sauce was awesome on them, and I think the dish would be a really good pair with a fish recipe. And anytime my husband is reaching across the table for more veggies is a good thing. Even though I don't love beans, the pasta recipe won me over with pancetta, and we both really enjoyed it. And will continue enjoying it for the rest of the week, considering the amount of leftovers we have.

And for dessert we had Krispy Kreme donuts, because we live in North Carolina, and because they just debuted two new banana flavors, and because bananas are my favorite fruit to be turned into a dessert.

beets -- $2.00
lemon -- $.89
tahini -- $7.49 (with plenty left over for other recipes)

Cost of Beets with Yogurt and Tahini: $ 10.38

canned tomatoes -- $1.29
pasta -- $2.50
red onion -- $1.47
pancetta -- $4.50
beans -- $1.79

Cost of Pasta with Pancetta and Beans: $11.55

March 1, 2010

One Year

Okay, I finally went ahead and counted out the number of recipes in the book (and had to shush my husband once while doing it -- sorry about that, love) so that I could figure out how long this project would take.

Including some variations on recipes, there are 264 all together. If I keep up on the five recipes per week, this will take 52.8 weeks. So, this time next year I should be wrapping the whole project up.

Wish me luck!

Sizzling Cabbage with Garlic (p. 301)

Oh, cabbage. You're not my favorite. 

This was my first attempt at doing anything with cabbage, the reason for that being it's not something I enjoy very much. And it makes your house a little smelly.

This recipe called for two cabbages, but since neither my husband or myself are crazy about them, I halved the recipe and just used one. Your quarter the cabbage and boil it for a bit, then toss it in the oven for a few minutes after covering it with an olive oil and garlic mixture.

Salt and pepper are the keys to making this actually kind of tasty. I wouldn't make it again, per se, but I'm not completely dreading the leftovers. Perhaps my mind has been changed on the worth of a cabbage.

cabbage -- $2.00

Cost of Sizzling Cabbage with Garlic: $2.00