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

November 30, 2010

Brick Chicken (p. 416) and Gratin of Mushrooms and Potatoes (p. 325)

Brick Chicken, or Pollo al Mattone is just chicken in a simple marinade cooked under a heated brick. I let my chicken breasts sit in a marinade of olive oil, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, dried thyme, and chopped rosemary and parsley for about an hour.

The recipe is normally made on the grill under a cooking brick or tile. I have neither, so I used the alternate recipe of heating two heavy skillets in a very hot oven and then cooking the chicken on the stovetop, crushed between the two pans.

Unfortunately, I stuck with the cooking time that was recommended for grilled chicken, and it was entirely too long for the stovetop version. My chicken was very dry and tough, though smelled lovely and looked quite pretty.

I would make this again, but keep a very careful eye on the cooking time throughout.

With this, I served a Gratin of Mushrooms and Potatoes, which is a pretty simple recipe involving both dried and fresh mushrooms.

Soak the dried mushrooms in very hot water until soft.

Meanwhile. sauté the fresh onions (sliced) in olive oil.

Assemble the gratin starting with very thinly sliced potatoes in the bottom of an oiled dish.

Pour in the water that the dried mushrooms were soaked in (strained of any sediment from the mushrooms) and layer in the two types of mushroom.

Add sliced tomato on top.

Cook for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked, top with cheese, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes.

This was pretty good, but nothing ground breaking. Really, I probably just liked it because of the amount of cheese on top.

All in all, not the best meal, especially before I head out of state for the rest of the week. Poor Matt will be stuck home alone with the kitty eating who knows what out of the pantry.

chicken breasts -- $4.14
Total Cost of Brick Chicken: $4.14
($2.07 per serving)

dried mushrooms -- $6.99 (half left)
fresh mushrooms -- $1.56
tomato -- $1.82
potato -- $.70
Total Cost of Gratin of Mushrooms and Potatoes: $11.07
($2.77 per serving)

November 29, 2010

Mini Apple Tarts

Thanksgiving this year was at my husband's aunt's house in Winston-Salem, but I had planned to bring some sort of delicious dessert made out of apples and sugar and happiness. Alas, I got sick and Matt suggested his relatives might not love eating something that I had coughed all over, so I didn't contribute to the meal at all.

Once I was feeling a little better, though, I made the Mini Apple Tarts I'd been craving.

I made the dough using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and shaped it into little cups by molding them over the backside of my mini cupcake pan. I baked them for about 10 minutes and then pulled them off, but they weren't able to hold their shape. I'm not sure if they weren't cooked long enough to be able to stay together, but I just smooshed them into a regular size cupcake pan and went with it.

For the apple filling, I used my favorite recipe for Sour Cream Apple Pie. I filled the mini tarts and topped each one with sugar and cinnamon that I cut butter into until it crumbled.

Then I baked it until the pastry was cooked and the tops were browned.

This was super delicious. The apples were soft and flavorful and the pastry tasted almost like a short bread. My sister, dad, and I scarfed these down the day after Thanksgiving. 

I'll definitely make this recipe again!

November 24, 2010

Christmas Cookies!

I got together with some of my lovely library school buddies this past weekend for a Christmas-cookie-baking party, and it was amazingly delicious.

My sugar cookies:

Emily K.s pecan tarts:

Emily D.'s snicker doodles (top pan) and my ginger snaps (bottom pan):

Marian's biscotti, after it's first bake:

More snicker doodles:

And somehow I missed snapping a picture of Libby's delicious molasses cookies.

Thanks, girls! Everything was delicious!

November 22, 2010

Mussel Soup from the South of France (p. 116)

After my try at Bouillabaise, which wasn't fabulous, I've been hesitant to give another seafood soup a try. It's time to start tackling them, though, and since Matt wasn't home last night, it was a perfect chance to make one (he's not keen on soup or shellfish, so this recipe would have been a total waste on him.)

I cleaned up the mussels a little bit before starting to cook, discarding the ones that were open and removing their beards. I had to call my mom during this process asking if all the open ones were really dead. She told me to poke them, which I did, and some closed themselves right up. So now I know. She also promised that the beard removal doesn't hurt the mussels, but I think it still probably lets them know that they're in for something unpleasant.

I brought some water to a boil with garlic cloves, chopped onions, and a bay leaf, and then tossed in the mussels until they had all opened.

The meat gets removed from each mussel and set them aside with a little olive oil so that they don't dry out.

Strain the remaining broth to get rid of any grit left by the mussels.

Next up, sauté more onion and garlic in olive oil until they're soft and then add in chopped fennel, tomatoes, and thyme.

Once the tomatoes have released some of their juices, add the strained broth back in as well as some white wine. Toss in broken spaghetti and cook until tender.

Add the mussels back into the soup, just long enough to heat them, and then serve, topped with parsley and a little bit of cheese.

This was quite lovely, although I think it had too much wine in it. I halved the recipe, which I think is difficult to do with soups in general. Still, I really enjoyed the flavors, the mussels were tasty, and the spaghetti was a pleasant surprise.

I'd definitely make this again, but would make the full recipe.

tomato -- $1.97
onion -- $.89
fennel -- $2.54
mussels -- $4.19
wine -- $7.49 (most was just for drinking with the meal)
Total Cost of Mussel Soup from the South of France: $17.08
($5.69 per serving)

November 21, 2010

Braised Duck with Wild Fennel (p. 417) with Bulgur Pilaf (p. 244)

I've been a little wary about making this Duck dish, Anatra alla Finocchietta, both because duck is super expensive and also because Matt doesn't love duck and thinks it's too fatty. Anyway, I ignored those reasons and bought some duck yesterday, and now am sad I did because I discovered how incredibly delicious duck in this preparation is, and I want to spend all my hard earned cash on duck breasts now.

Prepare the breasts (actually, I could only afford one singular breast) by slicing several cuts into the skin and sprinkling it with pepper. Next up prepare a marinade for your duck. Rub it down with a mixture of salt, garlic, rosemary, and fennel seeds (all crushed together.) Set this aside to absorb the flavor goodness for about half an hour.

Using a black iron skillet or something equally heavy, brown the duck on all sides in some olive oil on the stove top.

Once it's browned, set the whole dish in a pre-heated oven and cook for about 20 minutes, rotating the duck once.

Once cooked, remove the breast to a dish and discard the fatty pan juices. Pour dry sherry into the skillet and put it back on the stovetop to deglaze the pan until the sherry has boiled down to just a few tablespoons. Slice the duck breast and pour the sauce over each serving.

This was hands down amazing, like something you'd expect to be served at a fancy pants restaurant. The skin was crackling and delicious but the meat was tender and juicy. If I were hosting Thanksgiving this year, I would make duck breasts with this exact recipe instead of turkey, it's that good. This one I'll definitely make again, once I save up my pennies.

With the duck, I served Bulgur Pilaf, which is pretty much exactly like rice pilaf, just using bulgur. You just sauté onions in olive oil and then add the bulgur, coating the grains with the remaining oil. Add in chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes (just to soften them) and then pour in simmering stock (I used chicken, because I like the flavors it provides) and salt. Then just simmer away, covered, until the stock has been mostly absorbed. Stir with parsley and serve.

This was pretty good (especially in the duck juices) but in general I think I prefer the texture of rice pilaf. Apologies for the lack of final product picture -- I snapped a couple of shots but there was too much steam from the straight-off-the-oven pilaf.

duck breast -- $14.16
Total Cost of Braised Duck with Wild Fennel: $14.16
($7.08 per serving)

onion -- $.85
tomato -- $1.09
chicken broth -- $2.50 (used 3/4 of it)
Total Cost of Bulgur Pilaf: $4.44
($.74 per serving)

November 18, 2010

Anna Tasca Lanza's Sicilian Focaccia (p. 177)

Focaccia! Who doesn't love it! Nobody doesn't, so here we go:

The dough is a pretty traditional recipe; yeast, warm water, flour, salt, and an egg. It called for semolina, too, but apparently Raleigh is out. Or, at least the two places I checked didn't have any. I just used more bread flour instead.

Roll the dough out into a jelly roll pan and add chopped anchovies on top.

And then begin to layer delicious cheeses. Sliced mozzarella:

Sliced emmental:

And gouda:

Next up is sauteed onions. Lots of them.

Strain the onions, reserving the olive oil, and then layer them on top of all the cheeses:

Sprinkle on grated parmesan and grated pecorino (more cheese!) as well as oregano and bread crumbs. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and set it aside to rise for a little while.

Then bake! Your kitchen will smell amazing.

And then you get to eat the messy, gooey, cheesy, delicious focaccia. It's wonderful, and possibly even better cold.

onions -- $1.87
gouda -- $7.12
emmental -- $6.30
mozzarella -- $4.49
Total Cost of Anna Tasca Lanza's Sicilian Focaccia: $19.78
($1.65 per serving)

Mediterranean Bean Soup (p. 134)

I've had my eye on this recipe for a while, mostly just because it looked simple and I generally have most of the ingredients lying around my house.

It's just sauteed onions and garlic with beans (soaked overnight) and boiling water added in. Season it with thyme, parsley, a bay leaf, and salt and pepper, and then just let it simmer until the beans are cooked, which for me took about an hour and a half.

Unfortunately, this just wasn't all that interesting, flavor-wise. I'll finish it, but I'm not excited about it. Well, at least it was cheap.

onion -- $.55
Total Cost of Mediterranean Bean Soup: $.55
($.14 per serving)

November 17, 2010

Coulis de Tomates (p. 269)

Have you ever made your own ketchup? That's basically what this is, and it's a little bit amazing.

And easy, to boot. You basically just sauté tomatoes down into a jammy sauce and then run them through the food mill. Put your leftovers in a pan with sauteed onions (very finely chopped), whole garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you want (I used rosemary sprigs, a bay leaf, and dried thyme.) Let this simmer for about an hour.

Then just run it through the food processor and use it anywhere you'd use ketchup!

We ate this with french fries and it was amazing. Who doesn't love fancy condiments? We'll definitely make this again.

CSA tomatoes -- $3.67
rosemary -- $2.99 (plenty left)
Total Cost of Coulis de Tomates: $6.66

November 16, 2010

Pan-Seared Steaks

Matt and I met while working at Crate and Barrel -- cute, right? Sometimes vendors would come out and do demonstrations of their products for us (and give us a free one while they were at in), and this is how I learned how to pan-sear a steak. Thank you, Calphalon, whose pans I still love.

What I love about pan-searing is how completely simple it is (and also that there is a very minimal amount of clean-up.)

Prepare your steaks by trimming off any excess fat and grinding salt onto both sides of the meat. Don't be shy about the salt, it makes the steak juicier and totally delicious.

Place the steaks on your hot, dry pan. Don't use butter or olive oil on the pan, you want it to be dry.

Leave the steak in one place while its cooking, until you flip it halfway through.

Once the steaks are cooked to your liking, remove them to plates and pour red wine into the pan, raising the temperature. The wine will pick up all the little bits left by the meat, and will clean the pan while making a sauce. I threw a little bit of feta into mine, both to thicken the sauce and to add a little flavor.

Pour this sauce over the steak, and you're ready to eat!

We had ours with more of Paula Deen's Baked Sweet Potato Fries and it was a lovely combination.

November 15, 2010

Karni Yarik (p. 311)

Karni Yarik is Turkish Eggplant Stuffed with Meat and Rice and, although neither myself nor Matt are huge eggplant lovers, I gave it a whirl last night.

The eggplants are cooked whole in the oven (be sure to prick them with a fork though, so they don't explode) until their skins have softened.

The stuffing for the dish is pretty simple; it's just onion, sweet pepper, and ground lamb, all sauteed in olive oil. The recipe also calls for tomatoes but I had forgotten to pick some up, so I left that part out. For spices, add cumin, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Stir in cooked rice as well as chopped parsley.

Once the eggplants are cooked, slice through the top half to be able to fill them with the stuffing, but be sure not to pierce the bottom of the eggplant!

Pour boiling water into the bottom of an oven-safe dish to surround the eggplants. Top them with cheese and place back in the oven until the tops are browned.

I enjoyed this -- the stuffing is great and very flavorful and made me not mind the eggplant. Matt avoided the eggplant but really enjoyed the lamb part as well. So, next time, maybe just the stuffing as a meal?

CSA eggplants -- $3.67
CSA red pepper -- $1.84 (half leftover)
onion -- $.94 (half leftover)
lamb -- $3.43
parsley -- $1.69 (lots remaining)
Total Cost of Karni Yarik: $11.57
($5.79 per serving)

November 13, 2010

New Kitchen Bookcases!

So, we moved into our house in August of 2009, and since then all of my cookbooks have lived crammed in a cabinet over my washing machine, which means I haven't really had access to any of them for over a year. Until yesterday, when we had bookshelves built underneath the counter in our kitchen.

I'm obsessed with the new shelves, and love having access to all of my cookbooks.

Also, somehow I hadn't even remembered that I own a Sara Foster cookbook, so now I'll be able to follow along with some more of my friend Sarah's recipes over at A Little Fancy, who cooks a lot of Sara Foster.

Plus, I can now get to some of my pretty jars of regularly used ingredients.

A huge thanks to Triangle Carpentry, Inc. -- if you live in the Triangle and need some carpentry work done I'd highly recommend them!

(They also made our gorgeous new mantle shelf.)

November 12, 2010

Tabbouleh (p. 73)

Finally, a no-bake recipe! Nothing to do on the stove top, nothing to go inside the oven -- tabbouleh is just all about chopping.

Chop up some parsley.

Add in chopped tomatoes, green onions, and mint leaves.

Add in bulgar, which is a type of wheat. The bulgar needs to be soaked in water for about half an hour before hand (so that it plumps up) but be sure to completely dry it before adding it in to the rest of the salad.

Mix in olive oil and fresh lemon juice and serve on top of a bed of romaine lettuce.

This was great and light and made a really lovely main entree dinner salad, though I'll also enjoy it as lunch leftovers. I had never been all that into tabbouleh before because I felt it had too much grain -- this has a much higher percentage of greens to grains, so it felt like a salad with a little extra texture. 

lemon -- $.89
green onions -- $.59
tomato -- $.90
bulgur -- $2.99 (tons leftover)
mint -- $1.99 (I used about half the packet)
romaine lettuce -- $1.83
Total Cost of Tabbouleh: $9.19
($2.30 per serving)