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

May 27, 2011

Paella (p. 238)

I love paella -- to me, it's a pretty perfect dish. Luckily, this recipe kept me believing that, and this will definitely be added to the list of recipes to make again some day.

Paella is pretty time consuming (this took me about an hour and 45 minutes) but, I think, worth the time.

Start your pre-soaked white beans at a low simmer and cook them until they're done. Start this at the very beginning because it takes a while for them to cook, and you can work on preparing everything else during that time.

You can use a variety of different meats for paella. I used chicken legs, chicken thighs,  pork spare ribs, and shrimp, browning each (or in the case of the shrimp, pinkening) in olive oil and then setting aside.

In the same olive oil, sauté chopped onion until soft, and then add chopped tomatoes. Cook this down into a sauce. Add green beans and the white beans with their cooking water. Stir in a healthy does of paprika and cook until everything has become thick.

Now all the meats (except the shrimp) go back into the pan, and this is where things get tricky. You really need a super huge pan to make paella. Even after cutting the recipe in half, my 12 inch sauté pan was really too small, as evidenced by upcoming pictures.

Pour simmering chicken stock into the pan and add lots of coarse sea salt and rosemary. Pour the rice in around the meat, so that it is fully immersed in the stock. Cook until the rice is completely done (I took mine off the heat a few minutes too early because I was worried that everything was going to overflow the pan.) Add the reserved shrimp, set aside for a few minutes, and serve.

Despite the rice being a tad bit crunchy, this was super delicious. Changes I'd make next time would be cutting down the quantities even more, and using cut pieces of meat instead of meat on the bone -- I think that would make it easier to cook and eat.

pork ribs -- $4.58
chicken stock -- $3.49
shrimp -- $4.16
chicken -- $4.69
onions -- $.65
green beans -- $.56
Total Cost of Paella: $18.13
($3.02 per serving)

May 23, 2011

Moroccan Tagine of Beef with Potatoes and Apricots (p. 424)

I altered this recipe a tiny bit -- it called for turnips, but I knew we'd enjoy it more with potatoes. And we did, I think. Also, I don't have a tagine. I dealt.

This recipe takes a long time to make, but doesn't really require a lot of work throughout that time. Once the meat is browned (use either beef or lamb, cut into small chunks) add black pepper, fresh peeled ginger, saffron, and salt, and simmer for just a few minutes (basically, until your kitchen starts smelling delicious) before adding in thinly sliced red onion, garlic, and chopped tomato.

When the onions have softened up, add water to the pan and cover, cooking for about an hour and a half.  While the dish is cooking, soak apricots in water until soft.

Once the cooking time is up, add in drained apricots, along with chopped potatoes (or turnips, whatever), and a cinnamon stick.

Stir in chopped parsley and cilantro, and cook for about 10 more minutes. The recipe also calls for zucchini, but I scrapped that, too.

I served this with white rice and crusty bread, and it was delicious. We both loved the sweetness of the apricots with the savory meat, and gobbled up all the leftovers. I'd totally eat this again.

apricots -- $3.59
potato -- $.78
red onion -- $.65
ginger root -- $.16
tomato -- $2.18
cilantro -- $1.79
parsley -- $1.99
Total Cost of Morocan Tagine of Beef with Potatoes and Apricots: $11.34
($2.27 per serving -- somehow the cashier didn't ring up my beef, so that made things cheaper)

May 16, 2011

Karydopita Nistisimi (p. 458)

This strangely named recipe is a Lenten Walnut Cake from Greece, which is topped with an apricot sauce, and smells pretty delicious, both while baking and also when topped with the heated fruits.

That said, the recipe didn't come together quite as I had expected. The first step was easy enough -- I made a sort of caramelized syrup from sugar, honey, water, and fresh lemon juice. Heat this over the stove until it has condensed into a thick syrup, and then stick it in the refrigerator to chill until the rest of the cake is prepared.

The cake itself proved less easy; I combined the traditional cake ingredients -- flour, sugar, and baking powder, and added in cinnamon and cloves. Since this is a lenten recipe, it doesn't have eggs, so instead a combination of olive oil, orange juice, and brandy mixed with baking soda make up for the liquid ingredients.

Next in are chopped walnuts, bread crumbs, and orange zest (actually I used clementine zest -- that counts, right?), and then pour the batter into a spring form pan.

There was nowhere near enough batter to fill the pan to a normal level -- I only had about an inch of batter at the bottom of the pan.

I cooked it for about half the time the recipe called for -- 30 minutes -- and it was definitely ready to be taken out by then. My syrup hadn't really chilled in that amount of time, so I couldn't really pour it over the cake. I scraped it out of the bowl and onto the cake in a sort of unkempt fashion.

The apricot topping is just apricot jam melted over the stove with a little bit of water, and then poured over the entire cake.

This is delicious, but also incredibly difficult to eat. The layer of syrup underneath the apricot made a sticky hard mess that is difficult to cut and gets stuck in your teeth. Delicious, yes, but next time I might leave that layer out.

lemon -- $.69
walnuts -- $2.97
apricot jelly -- $3.50
Total Cost of Karydopita Nistisimi: $7.17
($.90 per serving)

May 1, 2011

Lamb Baked with Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Zucchini (p. 438)

I think I'm down to my last few lamb recipes in The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, which means that soon I'll be moving on to rabbit -- yikes!

I made this dish on my day off this past week in hopes to have it ready for a nice lunch at home. I forgot to factor in the amount of time it needs to cook for, so it wasn't actually ready in time and I had a nice grilled cheese sandwich instead, but I've been enjoying it for leftovers this weekend.

This one requires a bit of prep work, but it's mostly just chopping up the veggies -- onion, tomatoes, zucchini, and potatoes (I used sweet, because that's what I had on hand.)

Brown the pieces of lamb thoroughly and put them into an oven proof dish.

Using the same pan (and the same meat and olive oil juices) sautee the onion  and some crushed garlic. Layer it on top of the meat.

Do the same with the potato cubes,

and then the tomatoes and zucchini, mixed with some tasty spices and allowed to simmer into a thick sauce with some water.

Bake the whole dish for about an hour and then serve.

The lamb in this was delicious -- very tender and flavorful. I do think regular potatoes would have been a better pairing that the sweet variety, but sometimes you just have to try.

lamb -- $5.12
zucchini -- $.52
onion -- $.65 (half left)
tomatoes -- $2.36 (CSA price)
sweet potatoes -- $.79 (CSA price)
Total Cost of Lamb Baked with Potatoes, Tomatoes, and Zucchini: $9.44
($2.36 per serving)