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

January 29, 2011

Steak with a Garlic, Butter, and Parsley Sauce

The other night we defrosted a couple of steaks from our freezer and wanted to find a new recipe to try out.

Looking around online, Matt combined a few recipes to make a garlic, butter and parsley sauce to pour on the steaks. We prepared the steaks by covering them in salt and pepper on both sides and then sautéing them in a little butter on the stove.

Once the steaks were cooked, Matt poured the sauce over them that he had prepared -- melted butter combined with finely minced sauteed garlic and parsley.

This was delicious. We ate it with skinny fries and couldn't get enough. We'll definitely make this one again.

January 28, 2011

Simple Couscous with Lamb and Vegetables (p. 222)

Last night we hosted Supper Club at our house. Theme: Foods That Are Too Cute To Eat. What's cuter than lamb?

I didn't take any photos through the cooking process since our buds were hanging out while I was cooking, so apologies for that.

The lamb requires about an hour to stew (along with EVOO, onions, chickpeas, and lots and lots of delicious spices -- cloves, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, saffron, harissa, and black pepper) and by this time it's smelling pretty fabulous.

While the lamb cooked, I also steamed carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes, and slivered cabbage. The couscous is made last, cooked along with sliced red peppers and golden raisins.

Spread the couscous along the bottom of a platter and heap on the lamb. Surround the meat and couscous with all the steamed vegetables and scatter the cabbage on top, along with toasted almonds. I didn't use a big enough platter, so I put all my veggies on a separate plate.

This was super delicious and flavorful. I loved the lamb, and the veggies were a great pairing with the sauces from it. The peppers and raisins cooked into the couscous were a really nice touch, too. Perfect food for a big dinner party.

lamb -- $18.52
onions -- $1.88
sweet potatoes -- $2.74
turnips -- $2.32
cabbage -- $1.66 (3/4 left)
red pepper -- $1.82
couscous -- $4.99 (half left)
golden raisins -- $2.99 (most left)
Total Cost of Simple Couscous with Lamb and Vegetables: $36.92
($3.08 per serving)

January 26, 2011

Tunisian Chickpeas with Spicy Vegetables (p. 253)

I've been really into spicy chickpea recipes lately, and since I still have leftover harissa in my fridge, I'm trying to work through a few more.

This one takes a little while to make, but it's worth the wait. Onions, chickpeas, tomato puree, and harissa diluted in water make up the main sauce of the dish.

Then add in carrots, turnips, Swiss chard, sweet peppers, and butternut squash.

A veritable vegetable patch!

Cook everything until softened, then just salt, pepper and serve!

Next time I'll definitely add more harissa to heat this up a bit more (and I probably will in leftovers, too), but for an all-veggie dish this one is definitely a winner. I had a huge bowl for lunch today and it was perfect for a rainy winter day.

onion -- $1.42
carrots -- $2.29 (plenty left to be used tomorrow night)
turnip -- $.60
Swiss chard -- $3.99
green pepper -- $1.00
squash -- $4.31 (more than half left for soup I'll make this weekend)
Total Cost of Tunisian Chickpeas with Spicy Vegetables: $13.61
($3.40 per serving)

January 25, 2011

Spinach with an Andalucian Sauce (p. 336)

I've started to really enjoy cooked spinach, especially if it has some kind of kick to it, like this one does.

This recipe only took me a few minutes to make -- it's just cooked spinach combined with an Andalucian sauce made of the innards of soaked red chili peppers, olive oil, garlic, stale toasted bread crumbs, and paprika. Just blend them together in a food processor until they've created a paste and then stir the paste in to a hot skillet with the cooked spinach. Leave on low heat for about 10 minutes, covered, and then serve immediately!

I really liked this and ate pretty much the whole thing for lunch yesterday. The bread in the sauce makes the dish pretty filling and the heat from the peppers was just my style.

spinach -- 1.99 (on sale!)
Total Cost of Spinach with an Andalucian Sauce: $1.99
($1.99 per serving)

January 23, 2011

Greek Olive Oil and Citrus Cake (p. 456)

Taco night is tonight, and I made more Mango Salsa, which I'm super excited for. And, since we've been busy with friends the last few nights and I haven't had a chance to make many recipes, I decided to tackle a cake this afternoon as well.

Our friends who came into town last night left us with some beautiful oranges, so I made this citrusy cake that called for both the zest and the juice of an orange and a lemon. Mix these ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

The base of the cake is made up of cake flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and dried currants, which I had leftover from the stuffing I made for Christmas Eve dinner. Into the dry ingredients alternate between mixing in a combination of sugar and olive oil beaten together and the bowl of citrus. Once all the dry ingredients are absorbed into the wet ones, add in a little bit of brandy.

I used extra sugar in the recipe because I'm tired of my Mediterranean desserts not being sweet enough and going to waste. The extra sugar made the batter also need more olive oil -- until I added more it was incredibly dense.

Unfortunately, this recipe didn't list a temperature to set the oven to -- it just said to bake for an hour. I set my oven at 350 but the bottom burnt a little in parts, so if you re-create this you might want to go a little lower.

It's also pretty crumbly, maybe more olive oil would have helped? Or less? I'm not sure...

Luckily, I liked this one. I'm really glad that I added the extra sugar, because I think it needed it. The currants add a great flavor, and I could see eating this even as part of my breakfast with a nice hot mug of coffee on the side.

The best part was, I had everything I needed in my pantry!

Greek Olive oil and Citrus Cake : Free!

January 22, 2011

Stirato (Italian Baguette)

I made another recipe from My Bread this weekend, an Italian Baguette called a Stirato.

The recipe calls for a pizza stone and a Romertopf French Bread Baker. I have no clue what a bread baker is, but the recipe made it seem like its just a heavy stone that weighs down the bread. Since I didn't have one, I decided to use an iron skillet in its place.

I think the skillet was a little too heavy (looking at pictures online of Stirato, they don't seem nearly as flat as mine) but mine are still delicious!

(My Bread by Jim Lahey. Stirato, page 79.)

January 20, 2011

Oven-Roasted Fish with Vegetables (p. 380) with Turkish Walnut Sauce (p. 272) and Leblebi (p. 143)

This fish recipe is one from Spain and is known for its simplicity and no-fuss preparation. And that's pretty much true. In an oven-safe dish, layer sauteed onion and lightly fried potato slices before adding your fish -- a whole one, and preferably red snapper -- with slashes cut into each side.

Luckily, my asian market had just the thing.

Apologies for my photos this post, they're not super lovely.

On top of the fish, strew strips of pepper (softened in olive oil on the stove top) and slices of tomato. Pour a mixture of saffron, olive oil, and white wine over the fish and top with salt and bread crumbs. Then just bake.

This was pretty good, though the red snapper was a bit of a bear to parse out. The meat basically falls of the bones, but the bones fall of the bones, too. So we had a lot of those on our plate. Still, the flavor was nice and the saffron really shone through.

The winner of the fish course, though, was the sauce I decided to make at the last minute. I slapped Turkish Walnut Sauce for Fish or Vegetables together in about 5 minutes while the fish was resting. You can make the whole thing in the food processor -- it's just fresh bread crumbs, garlic, salt, walnuts, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and water. 

This was super delicious. I'd smother it all over my fish and vegetables every day. And I will, since we have a ton leftover. 

Most of the soups I have left are either bean or chickpea variations, and I'm trying to work through a couple each week. This week's soup, Leblebi, is Tunisian Chickpea Soup, so it's obviously of the chickpea sort, but made exciting by the mere fact that it contains harissa, which I adore. I've made my own before, but finally tracked down some commercially made harissa last week, and was excited to try it. There's a note in my cookbook about using a little less of the commercial type than you would home made because it's much spicier, but I sort of forgot about that.

The soup is super simple; just soften chickpeas (soaked overnight and then drained) in chicken stock, season with cumin, salt, garlic, and harissa, and eventually add in some thinly sliced sauteed onion. I added the amount of harissa that the recipe called for, which was of course too much for the commercial kind.

Luckily, Matt and I love us some spicy food, and thought this soup was a rock star. Mine could actually barely be considered soup since most of the broth was absorbed or cooked off by the time I served it. Soups almost never work out quite right when you halve the recipes. We didn't even care, though, and garnished the chickpeas with crumbled boiled eggs. We loved this, and will totally make it again some day.

green pepper -- $1.69
red snapper -- ARGHhhh. I threw my receipt away. I have no clue how much this cost.
potatoes -- $2.37
onion -- $1.02
Total Cost of Oven-Roasted Fish with Vegetables: $5.08, plus the price of the fish.

Total Cost of Turkish Walnut Sauce for Fish or Vegetables: Free 
I love having all the ingredients I need!

harissa -- $1.39
Total Cost of Leblebi: $1.39
($.46 per serving)

January 19, 2011

A Seafood Extravaganza with Oranges and Ouzo (p. 385) and Provencal Marinated Fennel (p. 320)

How can you not make a recipe that refers to itself as a seafood extravaganza? It's begging to be cooked. And cook it I did.

The base of the recipe is sliced red onions, garlic, and fennel along with tomato, all cooked in olive oil down into a thick sauce.

Fresh squeezed orange juice, orange zest, and Greek ouzo give the sauce a punch of flavor.

White fish and peeled shrimp cook directly in the sauce. Once thoroughly cooked, stir in pitted green olives, chopped fennel greens, and salt and pepper and serve immediately.

This was quite lovely. The white fish sort of fell apart and made it pretty soup-like, but the flavors were great, and I liked the different textures in the dish. The green olives added a lot of salt, though, so careful on how much extra you add.

With my extravaganza, I cooked up some Provencal Marinated Fennel, which is quick and easy and surprisingly delicious. Trim up your fennel bulbs and cut them into slices. Cook these in a skillet with olive oil, salt and pepper, sliced celery, and crushed garlic. Add in bay leaves and pine nuts and simmer everything together for about 15 minutes.

Toss in some currants, keep over the heat a bit longer, and then serve.

We were both really surprised by how much we liked this. The currant and pine nut topping had a lot of flavor and really complemented the softened fennel.

fennel -- $4.47
shrimp -- $4.63
fish -- $14.42
red onion -- $1.97 (half left)
orange -- $.62 (half left)
tomato -- $1.20 (half left)
olives -- $3.50
Total Cost of A Seafood Extravaganza with Oranges and Ouzo -- $30.81
($7.70 per serving)

fennel --$4.47
Total Cost of Provencal Marinated Fennel: $4.47
($2.24 per serving)

January 18, 2011

Castilian Garlic Soup (p. 125) and Pancetta Rolls

This recipe uses a lot of garlic -- like, a real lot. If you make the full recipe's worth, it calls for 5 or 6 whole heads (no, not just the cloves) of garlic. Crazy! I cut the recipe down to just two whole heads of garlic, which still seemed extreme.

Soften the garlic in olive oil for about 15 minutes, being careful not to brown the cloves. Once they're soft, remove the cloves from the oil and squash them all up in a bowl.

Stir red chili pepper into the still hot oil in the pan and add in chicken stock and sherry as well as cumin and saffron. Add the garlic paste back in and set on low heat, covered, for about 15 minutes. Serve with toasted bread, poached eggs, or grated cheese.

This was very ehh. I was surprised that it wasn't super garlic-y -- it actually didn't have a ton of flavor at all. It mostly just tasted like chicken stock to me. Also, the photos were hideous, so you don't get to see any.

Luckily, I also made a recipe from My Bread by Jim Lahey -- Pancetta Rolls.

I used bacon instead of pancetta.

And voila, bacon rolls!

Next time, however, I won't use the maple bacon; it kind of made the rolls taste like maple syrup. 

For lunch today I filled up on bacon-y goodness instead of garlic soup.

chicken stock -- $1.79 (about half left)
garlic -- $1.14
Total Cost of Castilian Garlic Soup: $2.93
($1.47 per serving)

January 17, 2011

Eggplant in a Sauce of Peppers and Tomatoes (p. 314)

I don't like eggplant. It has a weird consistency -- all creamy and buttery -- that doesn't seem to belong in a vegetable. But I have several eggplants recipe left, so here we go. Team eggplant!

I started by chopping my eggplant into small chunks and covering the pieces up with salt in a colander. This sucks the water our of them, I guess, and then the water drains away. I let them sit this way for a couple of hours and then rinsed them off and patted them dry again.

Next, brown the eggplant in olive oil, and, once totally browned, remove it from the heat. Add in chopped green or red pepper, yellow onion and garlic and cook until softened. Put the eggplant back in along with chopped tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper and serve, either hot from the pan or at room temperature later.

The textures of this were definitely not ideal, but it was better than I thought it was going to be. I'll probably finish the leftovers, though its not like I'm looking forward to them.

eggplant -- $1.24
green pepper -- $.81
tomato -- $.92
yellow onion -- $.29
Total Cost of Eggplant in a Sauce of Peppers and Tomatoes: $3.26
($1.09 per serving)

January 16, 2011

Mango Salsa

I have a papaya salsa recipe that I love so when I came across Better Than Burger's recipe for Tropical Salsa I had to give it a try.

It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Seriously, this salsa is killer, go buy a mango and make it right now.

January 15, 2011

Neapolitan Cauliflower Salad (p. 84)

This cauliflower salad, Insalata di Rinforzo, is a Neapolitan Christmas tradition, and is nice and quick to throw together.

In boiling water, cook cauliflower florets until just tender, then remove them from the heat and drain.

Combine the cauliflower in a bowl with julienned veggies (celery, carrots, and roasted red pepper) as well as crushed red chili pepper, black and green olives, capers, and chopped parsley.

Once all the veggies are combined, top with a dressing of olive oil and white wine vinegar (as well as salt and pepper) and set the salad aside so the flavors from the dressing can soak in to the rest of the salad.

We ate this with a delightful pizza we whipped up.

Cauliflower has never been my favorite veggie, but this was really good. The dressing has a lot of vinegar in it, so it adds a real kick to the salad, and the roasted red peppers add a different flavor dimension. I'll be eating this all weekend while Matt's out of town, and I think the flavors will continue to develop the longer it sets in my fridge.

cauliflower -- $2.64
celery -- $1.37 (only used one stalk)
olives -- $3.70 (the leftovers were used on the pizza)
red pepper -- $2.64
Total Cost of Neapolitan Cauliflower Salad: $10.35
($1.29 per serving)

January 14, 2011

Tomato Soup with Rice and Lemon from the Eastern Mediterranean (p. 122)

I've been worried about making this soup because it calls for fresh, ripe, and delicious tomatoes and obviously its not the season for that. I'm trying to finish this project well before the next tomato season, so I decided to use canned tomatoes in hopes that the flavors might be a little better than in the fresh ones right now.

Sauté down onions and garlic in olive oil until nice and soft and then add in chopped tomatoes, salt, grated lemon zest, thyme, and a bay leaf.

Let simmer until the tomatoes have dissolved and then stick it all in a food processor (except for the bay leaf -- you can discard that) and puree. Then return the soup to the pan and bring back to a simmer, this time with some rice in it.

The last step is to slowly stir in a frothy mixture of egg and lemon juice. Slowly so that it doesn't create scrambled eggs in the soup, which would be disgusting.

Add pepper and serve, preferably with croutons lightly browned in olive oil.

This was pretty good, despite not having fresh seasonal tomatoes. My rice wasn't quite cooked fully enough -- whoops -- but I still liked the thickness of the soup and the flavor of the pepper and tomatoes.

lemon -- $.79
tomatoes -- $.94
Total Cost of Tomato Soup with Rice and Lemon from the Eastern Mediterranean: $1.73
($.87 per serving)

January 13, 2011

Arroz al Horno (p. 233) and Fricassee of WIld Mushrooms (p. 326)

Arroz al Horno is Rice Baked in the Oven and includes a recipe for the cocido (the stock) which I opted not to do because a) I've already made homemade chicken stock before and b) I wasn't entirely sure that it was worth the process. So, I just used Fresh Market stock and hoped for the best.

Begin by simmering chickpeas in chicken stock to soften them up -- this process takes about forty minutes. In the mean time, you've got about a billion things (or maybe just four) to brown (separately) in olive oil; potato chunks, peeled garlic, halved tomatoes, and cubes of lean pork. As each ingredient browns remove it from the oil. Once the pork is done, add in chopped tomato and simmer down for just a couple of minutes and then stir in rice, salt and pepper, and paprika.

I got lazy and browned multiple ingredients at once.

When all the ingredients are cooked, assemble the recipe. Place the garlic in the middle of an oven dish and surround it with the pork and rice mixture. Pour the chickpeas (along with their remaining broth) over the top, pushing the beans down into the rice. Settle the tomato halves on top with the potatoes all around them. Lastly, pour more simmering chicken stock over everything; this is how the rice will cook.

Bake for about 20 minutes until most of the stock is absorbed and then set aside covered in aluminum foil for an additional five minutes before serving.

This was good but not quite as delicious as I had hoped for. I really liked the flavors of the chickpeas and pork but it seemed to be lacking flavor in the rest of the dish. I'm happy for the leftovers but it's not something I would make again, at least without changing a bunch of the ingredients and seasoning.

Luckily, with this I made a side of Fricassee of WIld Mushrooms to give a little addition to the flavor sector of our meal. It's super simple to make -- just sauté onions in olive oil until soft and then add chopped, cleaned mushrooms. Keep over the heat until the mushrooms have absorbed the olive oil and then rereleased it and have become quite soft. Add salt and pepper and then quickly stir in egg beaten with lemon juice. Mix everything up and serve immediately, on top of toasted bread.

I loved how creamy and flavorful this was, and the toasted bread added a great texture to the dish. I just picked up the bread and ate it that way -- it could almost be considered finger food. Plus, so easy! I'd definitely eat this again.

tomatoes -- $4.12
pork -- $2.88
potato -- $.72
chicken broth -- $3.99 (about 2 cups left)
Total Cost of Arroz al Horno: $11.71
($2.34 per serving)

mushrooms -- $2.50
rolls -- $1.99 (several left) 
onion -- $1.55 (3/4 left over)
Total Cost of Fricassee of Wild Mushrooms: $6.04
($2.01 per serving)

January 12, 2011

Greek Baked Beans (p. 250)

I mentioned my escapades tracking down a few Mediterranean ingredients the other day, and one of those ingredients was for this recipe. Instead of finding true Greek gigantes ("giant" beans) I picked up some large lima beans to give Greek Baked Beans my best attempt.

The beans (soaked over night) need to be simmered for about 45 minutes before anything else.

This makes them tender, and, at least with the lima beans, makes their skins fall off. The recipe warned of foam that might rise to the top of my pan during this step, and it wasn't kidding.

Meanwhile, sauté chopped red onion in olive oil. When the beans are ready, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pan and into an oven-safe dish. Save the water from the beans, though -- you'll want to dissolve some honey and tomato concentrate in some of it and then pour it back over the beans. Yup, that's what you'll want to do.

Add olive oil, the cooked onions, and chopped peeled tomatoes to the bean dish and tuck in a bay left.

Cook for about an hour and a half, and then add red wine vinegar and some fresh herbs (I just used parsley, since that's what I had) as well as salt and pepper. Cook a little bit longer and then serve.

I enjoyed this, but not as much as I liked Egyptian Beans with Olive Oil the other day, those were the bee's knees. This was good though, and I enjoyed it more on day 2 after the flavors had done some soaking.

tomatoes -- $3.29
lima beans -- $1.79
Total Cost of Greek Baked Beans:$5.08
($1.69 per serving)

January 11, 2011

Tunisian Orange-Olive Oil Cake (p. 455)

I haven't done a ton of desserts from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, mostly because I don't love Mediterranean desserts -- they're just not sweet enough. I'm willing to keep trying them in order to finish the cookbook, but the "A Few Sweets" section of the book is definitely not my favorite part.

Tunisian Orange-Olive Oil Cake, or Gateau a l'Orange, uses beautiful blood oranges; peels and all.

Blend these in your food processor along with olive oil to create a beautiful pink creamy mixture.

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl and then alternate between folding in the orange/olive oil mixture as well as the traditional baking ingredients -- flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Pour the batter into a buttered and floured springform pan.

Cook until a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Top with powdered sugar and serve.

I had really high hopes for the cake because I loved the batter, but once again, it's just not sweet enough for my taste buds that I can really consider it dessert. Luckily, I've had some frozen buttercream frosting waiting to be used, so this was my perfect chance.

oranges -- $1.55
eggs -- $1.09 (2 left)
Total Cost of Tunisian Orange-Olive Oil Cake: $2.64
($.30 per serving)