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

June 18, 2011

Angelo Pellegrini's Braised Chicken with Wild Mushrooms (p. 422)

Here's another recipe that actually called for rabbit -- I made the call to switch out to chicken instead. 

The first steps are reminiscent of making shake and bake, which growing up we called Chicken Amelia, because my sister Amelia loved it and could make it on her own from a pretty young age.  This one is made up of just flour, salt, and pepper, and the chicken pieces are doused in it.

Cook in olive oil until the chicken pieces are thoroughly browned.

Remove the chicken and cook up some delicious diced bacon in the pan. This smells amazing, obviously, but it smells even better after adding some herbs and veggies; celery, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and a dried red chili.

Cook for several minutes but don't allow the celery to brown.

Add the chicken pieces back in, as well as dried mushrooms that had been soaked in hot water, then removed from the water and chopped up. Stir in the drained liquid from the mushrooms, tomato puree, some wine, chicken stock, as well as a little flour to thicken up the sauce. Actually, the recipe called for arrowroot, but I couldn't find it at the grocery store, and I was completely fine with a substitute. 

Then cook, covered, for about an hour.

This is pretty much amazing. The chicken falls apart and is completely tender because of the long period of braising, and the flavor is spot on, with a little bit of heat from the chili, and a delicious thick sauce of bacon, celery, and mushrooms. I would eat this again and again.

bacon -- $2.99 (Plenty left for a Father's Day breakfast tomorrow!)
chicken -- $8.11
celery -- $2.99 (I just used one stalk)
wine -- $6.99 (this was for one of those 4 packs of tiny wine bottles. I didn't even use half of one, and I'll have Matt finish it up when he gets home, but I just hate the idea of opening an entire bottle of wine and not being able to drink it.)
Total Cost of Angelo Pellegrini's Braised Chicken with Wild Mushrooms: $21.08
($5.27 per serving)

June 16, 2011

Turkish Apricots Stuffed with Sweet, Thick Yogurt (p. 449)

This is so delicious! So easy! Why don't we eat this every night?!

Seriously, make this. It's lovely. Here's how:

Plump the apricots by putting them in a pot with water until it comes to a boil, then simmer.

Drain the apricots, reserving some of the liquid. Use the reserved liquid and combine with sugar to make a sort of syrup. Add the apricots back into the mixture and cook until they're extremely soft. Remove them again but save the syrup.

When they're cool enough, open the apricots and stuff them with a combination of thick yogurt mixed with sugar.

Close them up, like whoopie pies, the recipe says. Whoopie pies? I love whoopie pies!

Sprinkle the tops with some chopped pistachio.

And drizzle the reserved syrup back over them.

Yum. These make me happy.

pistachios -- $1.70 (3/4 of the bag left for a snack at work tomorrow!)
apricots -- $8.04 (about 1/4 are left)
Total Cost of Turkish Apricots Stuffed with Sweet, Thick Yogurt: $9.74

June 15, 2011

Turkish Meat and Winter Vegetable Stew (p. 440)

So, yes, this is a winter recipe, and it is definitely not winter. But we've had a bit of a cold snap (it was only in the 80s today) and I have to finish this cookbook before baby arrives in September, so a winter stew in summer it is.

I did have to replace some of the wintery ingredients with more summery ones, and the celery root and leeks that were called for in the original recipe got scrapped in favor of a nice summer squash from my CSA.

You can use lamb or beef for this recipe, and I chose beef, cutting it into small pieces and sautéing in olive oil until thoroughly browned. Then goes in the chopped onion -- I used half red onion and half white, because that's what I had in my fridge leftover from an earlier recipe this week. Once the onions are softened, add a little salt and some flour and combine.

Pour in chicken stock and cook for about 20 minutes at a nice low simmer.

While my timer counted down, I did a whole lot of peeling and chopping -- the potatoes, carrots, and summer squash were all prepped and ready to be tossed into the stew along with some more stock.

The soup doesn't require a lot of seasoning, just some dried thyme and black pepper did the trick. Cook until the veggies are done, and then serve.

This was lovely. The flavors were really fresh, and although I was at first worried that there wasn't a ton of meat in my bowl, I quickly found that it didn't really need it. I ate this with some delicious Challah bread and was one happy camper. I'll be looking forward to this for lunch the next couple of days.

squash -- $1.83 (CSA price)
potatoes -- $3.67 (CSA price)
chicken stock -- $3.99
beef -- $2.69
Total Cost of Turkish Meat and Winter Vegetable Stew: $12.18
($3.05 per serving)

June 13, 2011

English Sausage Rolls

I'm slightly in love with Gordon Ramsey, and his show MasterChef just started up again. The show starts with eliminations, and one of the people who made it through the first round prepared a sausage roll, which I had never heard of before. It's apparently a lot more popular in England, and is pretty much just street food. We've had some sausage in our freezer for months now, so I was excited to try these.

I followed the recipe for Mark's English Sausage Rolls, which seems like a super basic start to my endeavor with this new food.

When Matt and I honeymooned in Maine, we fell in love with Raye's Mustard, to the extent that now, four years later, we still get the mustard shipped to our house about once a year. We only have one jar left right now -- their hot and spicy variety.

The mustard gets spread over the puff pastry:

 And then the sausage is wrapped in before being wiped down with a beaten egg.

My sausage was already cooked. In the future I'd like to use uncooked sausage to be able to mix in some other delicious ingredients, like in this recipe.

Since this is kind of finger food, I cut the wrapped sausage into small pieces before popping them in the oven for 20 minutes.

Pull them out when they're golden brown.

And then gobble them right up.

These are super delicious! They're basically pigs in a blanket for grown-ups and would be pretty awesome as hors d'oeuvre at a party. I'm excited to make them again and try combining some delicious ingredients in with the sausage before baking.

June 12, 2011

Summer Corn Salad

This isn't from my cookbook, but I'm bitter about Mediterranean cooking right now since my refrigerator still smells like sardines.

We got some beautiful corn from our CSA this past week, and I had been planning on just having corn on the cob one night with dinner until I got lunch at Parker and Otis in Durham this week. Have you been? It's so delicious. I had a yummy corn side salad with my pimento grilled cheese sandwich, and it blew me away. So a change of plans for my corn -- this morning it became a salad.

I used this recipe because it had gotten great reviews, but made a couple of changes. I had a cucumber in the fridge, also from my CSA, and I decided to use that and ditch one of the three tomatoes. I also used a half a red onion and a half a white one to give it an extra kick. And fresh basil from the beautiful basil plant that Matt brought home yesterday from his work.

Once the corn is cooked, this comes together super quickly. It's just chopping and mixing, and then you have a fresh and delicious salad.

 Next time I'll probably use a quarter of a red onion and more white onion, because it had a bit too much of a bite to it, but I still loved it. I'll definitely finish this quickly, but luckily it made a ton.

I love summer.

June 7, 2011

Sardines in a Fennel-Spiked Tomato Sauce (p. 379)

This recipe calls for "impeccably fresh sardines," but I could only find impeccably frozen ones, so I worked with what I had. Also, my only experience with sardines was when my dad and I used to share tinned ones when I was really little. It's probably been over 20 years since I've eaten them, and I was definitely a little nervous about this cooking venture.

The recipe is pretty easy -- it starts with a simple sauce made of onion (sauteed in olive oil), chopped tomatoes with some of their juices, fennel seeds, orange zest, and salt and pepper. Line the bottom of an oven-proof dish with this.

Next up are the sardines.

Mine were, unfortunately, not dressed, so I got the pleasure of slicing them down the belly, removing the entrails (this is as gross as it sounds) and spine, and rinsing them down.

Butterfly the fish and lay them in the sauce, scattering bread crumbs and more cracked fennel across the top, and then pouring in white wine. Dollop the rest of the sauce on top of the fish and cook for twenty minutes.

Around this time my house began to reek of fish. Truly reek. Sardines have a very very strong odor.

I've gotta say, I did not love this at all. The flavor of the sardines isn't quite my style, and even though I had picked over the pieces very carefully, there were a ton of bones to gently eat around. Glad I tried it, but I won't do this one again.

tomatoes -- $.99
orange -- $1.29 (only used for the zest, I'll eat it with my lunch tomorrow)
sardines -- $8.98
Total Cost of Sardines in a Fennel-Spiked Tomato Sauce: $11.26
($1.88 per serving)

June 6, 2011

Braised Chicken Garnished with Green Olives and Onions (p. 421)

So, this was actually supposed to be braised rabbit, which is why I've held off on cooking it for so long. After lots of going back and forth, Matt (and the cookbook itself) convinced me that it was okay for me to substitute chicken for the rabbit because a) rabbit is hard to find and b) rabbit is super extra expensive. Fresh Market sells it, but only frozen, and it's $30 - $40 for one whole rabbit. I have three rabbit recipes, so that starts adding up to be way too costly.

So, braised chicken. Delicious braised chicken.

The only lengthy part of this recipe is that the chicken needs to marinate for several hours. I started mine yesterday morning in a marinade of sherry (the recipe called for dry white wine, but now that I'm with child, cooking sherry is about the only similar thing I had around the house, and it feels crazy to buy wine and then not be able to drink it), olive oil, minced parsley, salt, dried thyme, a bay leaf, and a combination of herbs that came from my CSA last week. I tossed this in a tupperware in the fridge until closer to dinner time.

When you're ready to start preparing the actual dinner, brown tiny onions in olive oil, and then set them aside.

Using the same oil, brown the chicken pieces (removed from the marinade and patted dry) on both sides until they are nicely colored. Add some flour to the top of the pieces and continue cooking, distributing and browning the flour.

Put the onions back in the pan, as well as the rest of the marinade and some extra liquid (I used water, you could use wine) and bring to a boil.  The recipe says to cover and simmer for about an hour, until the meat is falling off the bone, but since I used boneless chicken that was clearly cooked by that point, I just let mine simmer until the sauce was getting thick, and then removed the chicken and onions.

To make the sauce, strain the remaining liquid to get rid of the marinade aromatics and put the leftover sauce back into a pan. Heat until thickened and then add green olives briefly, just to warm them.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and onions, and serve!

We both really enjoyed this. The chicken was tender and extremely flavorful from the marinade, and we mopped up all the sauces with bread.

chicken -- $3.87
onions -- $3.99 (about half the bag is left)
olives -- $2.50
Total Cost of Braised Chicken Garnished with Green Olives and Onions: $10.36
($2.60 per serving)

June 4, 2011

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice (p. 90)

I've never been a huge fan of stuffed grape leaves, not because of what's stuffed inside, but because of the flavor of the actual grape leaf -- it's just not really my thing.

This recipe kind of changed my mind on them, and I enjoyed the end result, although I wasn't very good at stuffing or rolling the leaves.

The preparation for the stuffing is pretty easy -- just sauté minced onion and scallions in olive oil until soft, add in pine nuts until golden, and then stir rice, tomatoes, salt, and pepper in to the mix. Pour in some hot water, cover, and cook until the rice begins to soften. Then just stir in some allspice and currants that had plumped up in hot water and set aside for a bit.

The grape leaves need to be rinsed out before using them to get rid of the brine that they were packed in. Once rinsed, lay them out flat with the veins facing you.

Place a spoonful of the stuffing in each leaf and then roll it up. I made that sound so easy, didn't I?

Place them all together snugly in a pan and cover with water and lemon juice. Place a plate over the stuffed grape leaves to keep them submerged in the water, and slowly steam them for about a half an hour.

When I went to get them out afterwards, a bunch of mine just totally fell apart. Maybe I didn't wrap them tightly enough?

Anyway I lost over half of them because the stuffing just fell out, but these were still tasty.

grape leaves -- $4.99
onion -- $1.03
scallions -- $.99
rice -- $2.65
Total Cost of Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice: $9.66