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

July 31, 2011

North African Fish Couscous (p. 218)

Do you have a couscousiere (or even know what one is)? I don't. It's kind of needed for this recipe. You can fake it, but I don't think it turns out quite the same.

Start the couscous first, because it takes a while to prep. Mix salt and olive oil into the grains slowly, allowing all the liquid to be absorbed. Repeat this process with hot water. Let this sit for about 45 minutes while you prepare the veggie stew.

Anyway, this is basically a vegetable stew served with couscous and fish. The stew part is pretty easy to make -- just onions and tomatoes stewed together with a spicy element (the recipe calls for harissa but we're fresh out, so I just combined some different hot sauces from my pantry.) Add in chopped potatoes, carrots, salt pepper and some water and continue cooking until the veggies start to soften a bit.

Layer in squash, green peppers, cumin, cooked chickpeas, more water, and whatever other veggies you have in your house.

Bring your stew to a simmer and create the couscousiere -- you can sort of make one with a strainer on top of your stock pot, lined with cheesecloth, in which you put the couscous in a layer to cover the entire bottom of the pan. Wrap dishtowels around the outside of the strainer so that the steam from the lower pot is forced to go through the couscous instead of escaping around the pan. Once the steam is coming through the grains, cook for 20 minutes.

Remove the cousous from the pan and add salted water again, allowing the grains to absorb the liquid before putting them back in the top of the couscousiere for another 20 minutes.

The fish can be steamed quickly on the stove top with a little of the liquid that was reserved from the stew. I kept mine warmed in the oven until it was time to eat.

This was good, but nowhere near as good as I wanted it to be for the amount of time it took to make it.

Maybe if I had a couscousiere, all would have been different. Sigh...

garbonzo beans -- $2.39
tilapia steak -- $4.90
potato -- $1.01
onion -- $.92
CSA tomatoes -- $1.97
CSA squash -- $3.29
Total Cost of North African Fish Couscous: $14.48
($3.62 per serving)

July 30, 2011

Dixie Peanut Brittle

Matt's Pork, Pickles, and Peanuts event at Duke Homestead resulted in a lot of extra peanuts, and I wanted to use some of them up. Luckily, he also brought home a little pamphlet from Virginia-Carolina Peanut Promotions entitled "All About Cooking Peanuts."

My mom was in town, and together we roasted and shelled a ton of peanuts.

And then followed these directions:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 cups raw shelled peanuts, skins on
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
In a heavy saucepan heat sugar, syrup, water and salt to a rolling boil. Add peanuts. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly. Cook to hard crack stage (300 to 310 degrees Fahrenheit).*

Add butter, then baking soda. Beat rapidly and pour onto a buttered surface spreading to 1/4-inch thickness. When cool break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

*In the absence of a candy thermometer, test for hard crack stage by dropping a tiny bit of syrup into ice water (let it thread from a spoon into the water). When the threads are brittle (not pliable) it has reached the hard crack stage.

I don't have a candy thermometer, so we had to follow the dropping the syrup into water way.

Unfortunately, we didn't quite reach the hard crack stage. 

The flavors are delicious, but it's more the consistency of a peanut taffy than a brittle. If you're looking for something delicious to get stuck in your teeth, this is the recipe for you.

July 29, 2011

Sutlac (p. 463)

Sutlac is Turkish Rice Pudding, and it's the last of the desserts I need to tackle in The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. The reason it's the last one is that rice pudding gives me the heebie jeebies. Rice? In pudding? Gross. The truth is I've never tried rice pudding before because I have an aversion to the mere idea of it.

But here we go. Rice pudding. From Turkey.

First off, a tip for you. If you need to heat a quart of milk, and you have a one quart saucepan, that's not the appropriate one to use.

I tossed in my cinnamon stick and lemon zest, walked a way for a second, and the whole thing overflowed. I dumped it into a 2 quart sauce pan instead (note to self: do this first next time) and kept it just below boiling for about half an hour. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of lemon zest in the overflow, but I had to deal with it.

While the milk was heating, I cooked the rice in water with a little bit of salt.

Once both the milk and the rice were ready, I combined them (straining out the cinnamon stick and remaining lemon zest -- plus the film that developed on top of the milk, gross) and added in a paste of water, flour, and corn starch.

And then I stirred for 10 minutes solid, which was boring. Luckily I had my current favorite show, Masterchef, playing on Hulu on the counter. Pour in some sugar and stir for another 15 minutes. I attempted to clean up the spilled hot milk and zest from the stove at the same time, and proceeded in making more of a mess. 

While the pudding was still warm, I poured it into individual cups.

And then topped with chopped pistachios before digging in.

Here's what I discovered: rice pudding isn't gross, it's actually good! I was worried that I'd have to force people to come over to eat the other 7 servings of pudding, but now I'm not even sure that I'm willing to share. Except with my husband, but only because I think he doesn't like rice pudding, either. We'll see tonight if he gives it a chance.

lemon -- $.79 (only needed the zest)
milk -- $2.00
pistachios -- $1.70
Total Cost of Sutlac: $4.49
($.56 per serving)

July 28, 2011

Prosciutto-Wrapped Goat Cheese-Stuffed Figs

One of my coworkers picked a huge crop of figs from her trees this week and brought them into work to share. I searched around online to find a good way to prepare them for a board game night I was going to last night, and saw lots of delicious looking recipes involving goat cheese and prosciutto, both of which I love.

I cleaned the figs, cut the stems off, and chopped them each in half length-wise. Then I just pressed a little goat cheese into the center of each and closed them back up like sandwiches.

Wrap each fig in a small piece of prosciutto.

This part took me about 10 minutes to make, and then I just brought them over to our hosts house where I tossed them under the broiler. It probably only requires 2-3 minutes in the oven but I gave it extra time since raw prosciutto is a no-no during pregnancy.

I don't have any pictures because these went fast. They were delicious and a super speedy appetizer, and I'll totally make them again once our own figs ripen up.

July 25, 2011

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Pepper, Peach, and Sweet Onion Topping

Last summer I cut out this recipe from Our State magazine for a grilled pork tenderloin. Somehow I never made it, but when we got a batch of peaches from the CSA this past week I dug it back out to make for my mom, who was in town this weekend.

Since I was getting home a little late from picking my mom up at the airport, Matt started the prep work, dressing the pork tenderloins in olive oil, brown sugar, and cumin.

I cut the red pepper, peaches, and sweet onion into quarters and tossed them in olive oil for Matt to grill, which he did beautifully.

While he put the meat on the grill I waited for the fruits and veggies to cool down so that I could chop them into a salsa.

Once the meat was cooked we let it rest for a few minutes and then served it with the now cooled and chopped salsa.

It's a bad last photo, but this was absolutely delicious. We loved the sweetness of the peaches and the meat, and the smokiness of the vegetables gave the whole meal a really wonderful flavor. We ate this with corn on the cob, and gobbled up leftovers the next day. Tenderloin is kind of expensive, but I would definitely make this again.

July 19, 2011

Guilt Free Desserts

I've had a major sweet tooth for the last couple of months, and seem to want ice cream all the time, so I've been on the lookout for some ways to satisfy my dessert-y desires without packing on the pounds.

I saw this recipe for White Chocolate Strawberry Popsicles on Better Than Burger's blog last week, and just needed to pick up a box of pudding to make it work.

I blended up my strawberries,

Made my pudding:

And assembled and froze the treats:

These were good, but the frozen strawberries really need to have a little sugar added to them to make it feel like a dessert. Next time I'll jazz up the strawberry part with some kind of sweetener and maybe a little lime juice. So, not perfect, but still a feasible dessert option!

The other recipe I've been loving lately is this Banana Ice Cream which has only one ingredient -- bananas. Somehow it's still sweet and creamy and completely refreshing!

And easy to make, to boot -- you just freeze bananas and then toss them in your food processor.

They get crumbly at first, but then become totally smooth and ice cream like.

I want this in my freezer all summer long.

Any other suggestions out there for some easy and guilt free recipes to quench my sweet tooth?

July 17, 2011

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

I received a ton of potatoes through my CSA last week, and was drawing blanks on how to use them up. I knew I wanted to do something simple that we could have as a side with pulled pork sandwiches (we bought a pound of BBQ at Duke Homestead's Pork, Pickles, and Peanuts event last weekend) and that I wouldn't need to purchase much to make.

Enter Barefoot Contessa's Rosemary Roasted Potatoes -- a really simple recipe that you probably have most ingredients for in your pantry already. The only thing I picked up at the store was fresh rosemary, because I never got around to creating an herb garden this year.

I chopped my potatoes into large chunks, chopped the rosemary and garlic, and mixed all the ingredients together.

Then just toss them onto a baking sheet and cook for about an hour, stirring every twenty minutes.

These are incredible. They're crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside, and the flavors are great. We'll totally make this one again and again.

And no complaints about the BBQ sandwiches, either.

July 16, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This time last year I entered Duke Homestead's first annual pie making competition at their Pork, Pickles, and Peanuts event. I didn't blog about my actual pie last year, but I made a Sour Cream Apple Pie and came in 3rd in the competition.

This year, I made this recipe for Grandma's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. My mom grew rhubarb in our garden growing up, and would make strawberry rhubarb compote for us in the summer, smothered with whipped cream and served piping hot. I loved it, and hoped the pie would have the same great flavors.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, but used a little less sugar, butter instead of shortening, and corn starch instead of tapioca. It looked delicious even before i had mixed the pie filling ingredients together.

I always have trouble with my pie crusts, but this one came together pretty easily. I assembled the pie and did a little decoration on top to make it pretty. My pies are always slightly unattractive because I have no clue how to crimp the edges. Do you need a special tool for that?

Anyway, despite the edges, it looked pretty and smelled amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't get to taste it, because the whole pie needed to go to Duke Homestead for judging, and by the time I stood in line to buy a piece of my own pie back after the judging, it was all gone. Sad, but true. People told me it was really good.

I was hoping for some improvement this year, but once again I came in third. Alas.

July 7, 2011

Midye Pilaki (p. 394)

When I went shopping for mussels to make Peppery Steamed Mussels yesterday, I bought enough to make Midye Pilaki as well, which is a Turkish potato and mussel stew. Whereas yesterday's recipe came together very quickly, this one is a little more time consuming.

Cook the mussels in a couple of inches of water, covering the pan with a lid to steam them. After about 10 minutes, all of the mussels should have opened -- remove the meat from the shells and set aside in a little liquid to keep them moist.

Sauté sliced onions and garlic in olive oil and, once softened, put in chopped, seeded tomatoes. When they've had the chance to release some of their liquid, add in chopped potato and carrot as well as the reserved and strained mussel liquid, and cook for about 20 minutes.

Add the mussels back in and serve.

This was nice, but nowhere near as yummy as yesterday's mussels. This is a much heavier meal that feels more winter-like with the potatoes and carrots. Nothing wrong with it, it's just not comparable to the Peppery Steamed Mussels.

mussels -- $.98
onion -- $.75 (about 3/4 left)
tomato -- $.89 (used about half)
potato -- $.35
Total Cost of Midye Pilkaki: $2.97
($2.97 per serving)

July 6, 2011

Peppery Steamed Mussels (p. 395)

I've had trouble tracking down mussels lately -- anyone else? I bought some a couple of weeks ago to make this recipe with, and they were all dead. I was not a happy camper. Last time I went looking for them Fresh Market hadn't gotten a mussel delivery. Finally today I found them, and they were alive, so I was sold.

I had actually started this recipe a couple of weeks ago before realizing that my mussels were dead, so I was already familiar with the first steps -- sauteeing chopped celery, garlic, parsley, julienned red pepper, and lemon zest.

This smells amazing. Actually, last time, Matt and I ate this mixture on top of pasta so that we wouldn't waste it, so I already knew this was going to be delicious.

Once the veggies are soft, pour in some white wine and lemon juice, and toss in black pepper as the pan starts to sizzle. Toss in the mussels and cook until they have all opened.

Then serve, preferably with crusty bread to mop the sauce up with.

This was super delish. I would eat this again, in a heart beat. The lemon zest made it feel like a really light and summery meal, but the mussels were filling and meaty.

celery -- $1.99
red pepper -- $1.99
mussels -- $.98

July 5, 2011

Walnut Cake with Mastic (p. 457)

I've never cooked with mastic before, and it took me a little while to track down. It's the resin of a bush and looks like crystal meth. (I've been watching a lot of Breaking Bad, otherwise I would have no clue what meth looks like.)

I finally found this at local restaurant/grocery store Neomonde, so it was time to make this cake to bring to a 4th of July cookout

The first step is to make a mastic-flavored olive oil, which is simply crushed mastic rocks dissolved into olive oil. I cooked them in a sauté pan for just a few minutes, until the mastic had disappeared, and then set it aside to cool.

Then it's just regular types of cake ingredients -- baking soda, baking powder, flour, and salt are mixed together for the dry ingredients, and eggs are separated for the wet. The egg yolks are beaten with some sugar before adding in the mastic flavored oil as well as plain yogurt. The egg whites are beaten until super fluffy, and more sugar is added in with this. Fold all the wet and dry ingredients together, as well as very finely chopped (actually, I used my food processor for this step) toasted walnuts.  

The dough comes together looking incredibly fluffy and delicious.

Pour all the batter into a lightly greased and floured cake pan and cook for about an hour.

Mine came out looking beautiful but fell once I turned away for a moment. Luckily, blueberries and powdered sugar can make anything pretty.

And whipped cream helps, too!  

This was light and tasty, and really more like a sweetened bread than a cake. My friend Sarah likened it to banana bread without the bananas, but in a good way. It's a nice healthy-tasting dessert variety.

mastic -- $5.99
yogurt -- $1.67
eggs -- $1.79 (with half left)
walnuts -- $6.99 (with about 3/4 of the bag remaining)
Total Cost of Walnut Cake with Mastic: $16.44
($1.37 per serving)

July 4, 2011

Torrijas (p. 462)

Torrijas are Spanish Sweet French Toast with Citrus Syrup and, despite being in the dessert section of the cookbook, Matt and I had them for breakfast this morning. Perhaps not the most 4th of July-like recipe, but still something special for my favorite holiday of the year.

The syrup part takes the longest, so I started that first, combining fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice.

Add in brandy, Cointreau, sugar, and orange zest in a small sauce pan, and cook down into a thick liquid.

Meanwhile, I also had a sauce pan on the stove of milk, a cinnamon stick, and lemon zest. This cooked on a much lower temperature, just to thicken and allow the milk to absorb the flavors of lemon and cinnamon.

For my bread I used Challah, but you could use any crusty white bread.

Once sliced, lay these out flat in a rectangular dish and pour the heated milk mixture (minus the aromatics) over the bread to soak for several minutes.

From here on, you cook this just like french toast. Dip each milky slice into beaten egg and put in a heated skillet with a little olive oil. Cook on each side until done.

 Then serve, with the citrus syrup.

This is much sweeter than normal French toast, but a great spin on it. The Challah bread cooked beautifully and added its own flavor to the dish. I served this with bacon to have a little savory addition to the meal, and we had a lovely 4th of July breakfast. Even if I never make this recipe again, I think from now on  I'll make my French toast extra special by pouring the heated, flavored milk mixture over the bread to sit aside for a few minutes before cooking. 

oranges -- $1.58
brandy -- $5.99 (tons left)
lemon -- $.57
Total Cost of Torrijas: $8.14
($2.71 per serving)

July 2, 2011

Lebanese Pickled Turnips (p. 282)

It seems fitting for me to pickle things during my pregnancy. Right? So pickled turnips, here we come.

The part that always makes me nervous about pickling things is the sterilization -- it's so easy for things to go wrong. I followed directions to a tee, boiling water and pouring it into the jar and letting it sit for 10 minutes. I also topped the lid into the remaining of the boiling water during the ten minutes.

After that, this recipe is stress free. I cut up large pieces of turnips and beets to be layered into the jar.

Then just add salt and a mixture of vinegar and water and close the jar tightly. Flip the jar every few days to re-distribute the salt. 

The pickles are ready to eat in 7 to 10 days, or can be kept longer if refrigerated. 

They become an amazing pink color, and are actually pretty tasty. 

I think I'll bring them to a 4th of July cookout on Monday to add some festive color to our eats.

turnips -- $3.27
beet -- $.92
Total Cost of Lebanese Pickled Turnips: $4.19
($.42 per serving)