Sunday, April 27, 2008

Greek Cookbooks: Tastes of the Sea with Recipe for Halibut and Red Pepper Souvlaki (Kebabs) with Green Herb Sauce (Σουβλάκι Ψαριού με Πράσινη Σάλτσα)

Καλό Πάσχα! Happy Easter! Χριστός Ανέστη! Christ is Risen! Αληθώς Ανέστη! Truly He is Risen!

We’re just back from Antonia’s house where we ate too much Easter dinner. Antonia goes all out every year with an amazing Easter spread: lamb, moussaka, pastitsio, spanakopita, tsoureki, koulourakia, and salads of every kind. On Easter, no one leaves Antonia’s house - or any Greek’s house - hungry. The amount of food is similar to what one sees at an American Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m never eating again. At least not until tomorrow.

Last week we had our first fresh
halibut of the year and broke out the grill in its honor. Halibut is a flatfish with white meat. An average-sized halibut weighs about 25 pounds (a little over 10 kilos), although large halibut can weigh over 500 pounds (about 225 kilos). Frozen halibut is fine, but the texture and flavor of fresh halibut is far superior, so it's always a happy day when the new halibut season starts.

Because halibut is meaty, it makes wonderful kebabs, aka souvlaki. I usually make halibut souvlaki with onions and bay leaves, but last week I used a new recipe from an award-winning Greek cookbook called Γεύσεις της Θάλασσας (Tastes of the Sea).

For this Halibut Souvlaki, chunks of fish are alternated on a skewer with red pepper pieces and topped with an herby, garlicky green sauce. The full-flavored sauce nicely complements the smoky red peppers and mild fish. The original recipe used two kinds of fish on the skewers; next time I make this, I’ll use both salmon and halibut.

Halibut and Red Pepper SouvlakiHalibut and Red Pepper Souvlaki (Kebabs) with Green Herb Sauce (Σουβλάκι Ψαριού με Πράσινη Σάλτσα)
Serves 4
Adapted from
Γεύσεις της Θάλασσας by Βασίλης Φραντζολάς (Tastes of the Sea by Vasilis Frantzolas) (Πατάκη 2004)
This quick and easy recipe packs a lot of flavor. It’s perfect for a mid-week meal, and is tasty and pretty enough to serve to company. Any fish that can be cut in large chunks may be substituted for the halibut.

Souvlaki:
1 1/2 pounds skinless halibut fillets (or 3/4 pound halibut and 3/4 pound salmon)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 red bell peppers

Green Herb Sauce:
1 packed cup parsley leaves
1/4 packed cup basil leaves
1/4 packed cup mint leaves
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
8 anchovy filets
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the fish in 1 1/2” chunks. Mix it with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper and let it marinate for 30 minutes while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Don’t leave the fish in the marinade for longer than 30 minutes or it will begin to “cook.”

Cut the red peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems and seeds. Cut each half pepper into lengthwise thirds, and cut each third in half crosswise.

Put all the sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper as needed.

Starting with red pepper, alternate the peppers and fish on skewers. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill over a hot fire, or on a white hot cast iron grill pan. Halibut cooks very quickly, and is dry when overcooked, so watch it carefully.

Serve the skewers drizzled liberally with herb sauce.
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This is my entry for
Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Margot from Coffee and Vanilla.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Recipe: Cannelloni with Spinach Filling (Κανελόνια με Σπανάκι)

Last week I found a bag of cookbooks in my basement that I’d never read.

I’d bought the books last year at a thrift store two days before my head exploded. By the time I was up and cooking, I’d completely forgotten about the thrift store cookbook score. My recent discovery was a lovely Easter present. A new cookbook always puts me in a good mood, and here were five of them. A bonanza!

The first book I picked up was Michael Field’s
Culinary Classics and Improvisations: Creative Leftovers Made from Main Course Masterpieces.

Michael Field was a successful concert pianist in the fifties and early sixties who had a passion for cooking. By 1964, that passion had become Field’s career. He got started by holding “
socialite cooking classes in his Manhattan apartment.” Ultimately, he started a culinary school in New York City, wrote cookbooks and magazine articles, and was a consulting editor for the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Field
died in 1971 at age 56. Among the accomplishments cited in his Time magazine obituary are debunking “such myths as the need to wash mushrooms, devein shrimp and press garlic” and preaching the “imaginative use of leftovers.”

Field’s primary rule for using leftovers is the source of leftovers must be “of the highest quality.” To this end, Field provides classic recipes for roasted and braised meat, fish, and fowl. He uses the leftovers from these dishes for the remaining recipes.

For example, Field gives a recipe for Yankee Pot Roast, the leftovers of which can be used in his recipes for Pot Roast Pie with Braised White Onions and Mushrooms, Pirog of Beef, Bigos, Cannelloni with Beef and Spinach Filling, Pâté of Pot Roast, or Cold Braised Beef Vinaigrette.

Here’s my take on Field's Cannelloni:

Cannelloni with Spinach Filling (Κανελόνια με Σπανάκι)
Serves 4 (makes 8 cannelloni)
Adapted from
Culinary Classics and Improvisations by Michael Field (Alfred A. Knopf 1967)
Cannelloni is a very flexible dish, and is a terrific way to use up leftovers. For stuffing, combine the spinach with sautéed mushrooms or leftover chicken, beef, pork, lamb, or roasted vegetables. It’s great with homemade pasta, but can also be made with plain crêpes or store-bought manicotti tubes. The tomato sauce may be made special for Cannelloni, but the dish tastes great with leftover or jarred sauce. I made my own pasta, hand-cutting noodles with the extra dough. The noodles are terrific in homemade chicken soup. Although Cannelloni may be made in one large pan, I like using individual gratin dishes for ease of serving and because it allows me to freeze assembled but unbaked cannelloni for future use.


Pasta (or substitute crêpes or purchased manicotti shells):
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. water

Cream Sauce:
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt

Filling:
1/2 pound cleaned, fresh spinach or 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
1 cup diced onion, 1/8” dice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup finely chopped leftover roast meat or leftover roast vegetables (see vegetarian variation below)
1 Tbsp. dried oregano, crushed
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 egg

1 cup tomato pasta sauce, puréed (use your favorite tomato sauce recipe or a good quality jarred pasta sauce)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Make the Pasta: Mix all the ingredients in a food processor and process until the dough clumps together, adding water if necessary. The finished dough should be very stiff. Dump the dough out on a floured surface and knead for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Following the manufacturer’s instructions, use a pasta machine to roll out the dough, half at a time, until the pasta has gone through the second to the last setting on the pasta machine. Let the pasta sheets dry for 10 minutes. Trim the edges and cut the pasta sheets into 5” lengths. You need 8 pasta rectangles. (NOTE: Cut the rest of the pasta into noodles, let them dry, and store in an air-tight container until ready to use.)

Cook the pasta rectangles in boiling, salted water until they are al dente. With a slotted spoon, lift out the pasta sheets and put them in a bowl of cold water. Dry the pasta rectangles by laying them out on paper towels.

Make the Cream Sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the cream in a slow stream, whisking rapidly and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cayenne and salt, remove from the heat, and set aside until ready to use.

Make the Filling: Blanch the spinach in boiling, salted water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the blanched (or thawed) spinach, and finely chop it. Put in a bowl.

Sauté the onion, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until the onions soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the onion mix, meat, oregano, and parmesan to the filling and mix together thoroughly. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Mix in the egg.

Assemble the Cannelloni: Preheat the oven to 375°F

Lay out 8 rectangles of pasta, evenly divide the filling between them, and roll them up. Spread a little white sauce in the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold all the cannelloni or 4 individual gratin dishes. Place the cannelloni in the pan seam side down and side by side. Cover the cannelloni with tomato sauce and then cover the tomato sauce with the remaining cream sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. (The recipe may be made ahead to this point and refrigerated or frozen.)

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Put under the broiler until the tops are nicely browned; watch carefully, it is easy to burn the cheese.

Vegetarian Cannelloni
For meat in the filling, substitute 2 1/2 cups diced mushrooms (1/4” dice). Sauté the mushrooms, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil until the mushrooms are nicely browned.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is my entry for
Weekend Cookbook Challenge: Vintage Cookbooks hosted by Chocolate Moosey.

Recipe: Clove Custard and Petimezi (Grape Syrup) (Κρέμα με Γαρίφαλο και Πετιμέζι)

I’m writing this in the dark.

It’s been snowing all day. Around 6 pm we lost power. When I called the electric company to report the power out, a recorded message listed outages all across the city. Ours was apparently caused when a falling tree took out the main electrical line going into a substation.

[4/16/08 UPDATE:
According to the Anchorage Daily News, yesterday’s snowstorm was unprecedented for so late in the year.]

Recently, I’ve been playing around with grape syrup, called Petimezi in Greek and Saba in Italian. I started by making
Thyme-Braised Lentils with Petimezi and Pan-Fried Salmon; it was a great success.

My next foray with grape syrup was cool and creamy Clove Custard served with warm Petimezi. Clove is a strong enough spice that it stands up well to full-flavored Petimezi. If the sign of a good dessert is one that leaves you wanting more, Clove Custard and Petimezi met that test. Sadly, I only made half a recipe.

The recipe for Clove Custard was adapted from Lynn Rossetto Kasper’s recipe for Cinnamon and Clove Custard (Budino all’Emiliana) in
The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food. This is my favorite Italian cookbook, and Kasper one of my favorite food writers and commentators. Links to Kasper’s writings, recipes, and podcast are on her Splendid Table website.

Clove Custard and Petimezi (Grape Syrup) (Κρέμα με Γαρίφαλο και Πετιμέζι)
Serves 4 - 5

Adapted from The Splendid Table by Lynn Rossetto Kasper
The custard is wonderful on its own. Because it’s richly sweet with warm spices and flavorings, the custard doesn’t need the syrup. On the other hand, sweet and tart grape syrup is the perfect foil for creamy, clove scented custard. Since different people like different amounts of grape syrup, warm it and serve on the side.

2 1/4 cups milk
6” strip of lemon zest
9 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
Petimezi, Saba, or Grape Syrup (optional) (see NOTE 1)

Mix the milk, lemon zest, cloves, cinnamon stick, and vanilla in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, and cook for 10 minutes, being careful not to let the milk boil over. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the sugar until it melts, and cool the milk to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Butter five 1/2 cup ramekins or one 7” baking dish.

Strain the cooled milk into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolk until the mix is thoroughly combined. Pour the mix into the ramekins or baking dish, and cover each dish with foil. Bake in a water bath (see NOTE 2) for 25 – 30 minutes for the ramekins or 50 – 55 minutes for the baking dish. The custard is done when a knife inserted halfway between the custard’s center and its edge comes out clean. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let the custard sit in the water bath for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Turn the custard out on a plate or plates. Cover and chill. When ready to serve, heat up the grape syrup (if using), and drizzle it over or around the custard.

NOTE 1: To make grape syrup (Kasper calls it sapa), wash and stem 4 1/2 pounds of red grapes. Finely chop them in a food processor, and refrigerate for 48 hours in a glass or stainless steel container. Strain the grapes, pressing as much liquid out of the solids as possible, and scraping any solids on the underside of the strainer into the juice. Boil for 20 – 30 minutes or until reduced to 2 1/4 – 2 3/4 cups. When it’s close to the right thickness, the syrup will foam with large bubbles. Blend in 1 cup wine, boil for 1 minute, and cool.

NOTE 2: To make a water bath, you need a baking pan large enough to hold the ramekins or 7” baking dish. Cover the bottom of the baking pan with a folded dish towel. Boil 2 quarts of water. Pour enough water into the baking pan so it will go 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins or baking dish. Put the baking pan in the oven on the center rack, and set the foil-covered ramekins or baking dish into the water. Shut the over door and bake the custard.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is my entry for
Think Spice … Think Cloves an event created by Sunita from Sunita’s World and hosted this month by Canela & Comino.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Recipe: Red Cabbage and Spicy Peppers (Λάχανο Κόκκινο με Καυτερές Πιπεριές)

Spring in Alaska keeps you on your toes. For the past week, it’s been sunny and warm. Nearly all the snow was gone. At our house it was 60°F yesterday. We broke out the grill for the first time all year. Mosquitoes were out and active.

This morning it started hailing, followed shortly by snow. It’s been snowing all day now, at least 12” so far and rising. The new predicts another foot of snow.


I went out today and there were accidents everywhere; no doubt partially caused by people taking their snow tires off too early. In my area, several major roads are closed. The power just blinked off and on.

I know it won’t last long, but still. Snow at the end of April is wrong. I shouldn’t complain; my friend Sheila says the record last snowfall in Anchorage occurred on a May 22.

With all the snow, I wanted something warm and comforting to eat, but didn’t want to work very hard to get it. I settled on quickly sautéed Red Cabbage and Spicy Peppers, a full-flavored dish that goes together quickly.

The cabbage recipe comes from
Tangerine’s Kitchen, an interesting blog specializing in Indian foods, with many recipes, including the cabbage, from the Kerala region.

I found the recipe because I was paired with Tangerine’s Kitchen for this month’s Taste and Create organized by For the Love of Food. In this event, food writers are paired with a randomly assigned partner, and asked to cook and review one recipe from their partner’s blog.

One of my challenges in cooking from
Tangerine’s Kitchen was that many of the ingredients she uses aren’t available in Alaska. Tangerine had the same problem with finding ingredients for my recipes. Our difficulties are understandable; there are few places more different than India and Alaska.

Red Cabbage and Spicy Peppers is a beautifully purple dish, and would make a terrific accompaniment to fish of any kind. While I was eating it, I realized how well it’d go with salmon; not only are the flavors complimentary, but the standout colors of salmon and red cabbage would make a gorgeous plate.

Red Cabbage and Spicy Peppers (Λάχανο Κόκκινο με Καυτερές Πιπεριές)
Serves 4 – 6
Adapted from
Tangerine’s Kitchen
This recipe goes together very quickly and has a lot of flavor. Both Tangerine and I prefer the cabbage when it's a little crunchy; if you prefer softer cabbage, cook it longer. The peppers may either be chopped, as Tangerine recommends, or thinly sliced, as I did. With Tangerine’s method, the peppers melt into the overall flavor of the dish; with mine, there are bites in which the pepper flavor boldly stands out. Next time I make this, I’ll add a tablespoon of minced garlic and lots of freshly ground black pepper.


1 1/2 pound red cabbage
3 cups thinly sliced onions
7 jalapeño or other hot peppers, chopped or thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt

Cut the cabbage in half and discard the core. Thinly slice the cabbage.

In a Dutch oven, sauté the onions and jalapeños, lightly seasoned with salt, in olive oil until they soften and the onions are translucent. Add the cabbage and stir well to evenly distribute the onions and peppers. Turn down the heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt, as needed. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska on SKAI with Recipe for Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread (Τσουρέκι)


Καλώς ορίσετε στο Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska!

Welcome to Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska!

SKAI, the Greek television and radio station, recently ran three articles by Lamprini Thoma about my efforts to cook Greek and Mediterranean food in Alaska and about Holy Transfiguration, Alaska’s only Greek Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, the articles no longer appear on SKAI’s website.

One article described how I wrote the cookbook Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska to help raise money for a new church building. This effort is very important because our church holds services in a converted house that is way too small for our parish. All proceeds from the sale of the cookbook go directly into Holy Transfiguration’s building fund. Many thanks to Lamprini Thoma for highlighting Holy Transfiguration’s efforts to raise money.

Another article had my recipe for Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread), made using ingredients readily available in Alaska. Although we make the bread for Easter, it’s delicious any time of the year.

Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)Alaskan Tsoureki
Makes 2 loaves
Like classic Tsoureki, Alaskan Tsoureki is rich with butter and light with eggs. However, maxlepi and mastixa, the flavors of classic Tsoureki, aren’t available in Alaska. Instead, we create special spice mixes that give wonderful flavor to our Tsoureki. When Alaskan Tsoureki is in the oven, the entire house fills with the wonderful aroma of sweet spices.


Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to


http://www.laurieconstantino.com/skai-tv-features-mediterranean-cooking-in-alaska/


Please click on over and visit my new site. Thank you!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Zafiris’ World: Recipe for Zucchini and Eggs (Κολοκυθάκια με Αυγά)

Zafiris is a man of his island, his village and his times. Except for a brief, much remembered, stint in the Greek Army, he’s spent his entire life in the village.

The Germans occupied the island during World War II and closed the schools, thus ending Zafiris’ formal education. He was in fourth grade. Zafiris’ lack of book learning never held him back; he is a smart, successful farmer and village leader.

A proud self-made man, Zafiris weaves his life into stories. For the last few years, he’s been semi-retired, which gives him more time to share his tales with all who’ll listen.

Like many Greek men, Zafiris holds strong opinions about pretty much everything. His opinions are usually framed by stories that demonstrate how and why his point of view is the only one a reasonable, enlightened person could hold.

If you are bold enough to ask “why” something should be done his way, Zafiris typically responds it’s because his approach is “correct.” No further explanation is necessary or possible.

Despite his semi-retirement, Zafiris’ gardens, pastures, fields and vineyards still supply much of what he and his wife, children, and grandchildren eat every day. He does this because he has always done it, but also to help protect his family’s health. Zafiris explains that store-bought food has limited nutrients when compared to what he grows, which is always picked at its peak of freshness.

Froso, Zafiris’ wife, is a
talented cook from whom I have learned much. Since their marriage nearly 50 years ago, Froso has prepared nearly all of Zafiris’ meals. Whether she cooks for the two of them, their large extended family, or their frequent drop-in visitors, Froso consistently serves wonderful food.

Zafiris rarely cooks and enjoys telling funny stories of his abysmal kitchen failures. Of course, Zafiris being Zafiris, he also holds quite definite opinions about the “correct” way to cook pretty much everything.

Although his practical kitchen talents are limited, Zafiris makes one dish well: Zucchini and Eggs. If you complement Zafiris on his Zucchini and Eggs, he’ll patiently explain the key to success is fresh eggs. He uses eggs from Froso’s backyard chicken coop or, when he can find them, from hidden nests in his fields, where Zafiris lets chickens run wild.

Zafiris is right about the fresh eggs, as he is about many things. The flavor of farm-fresh eggs is incomparable, and they are much healthier than eggs from factory farms. I use farm eggs whenever I can find them. Anyone who hasn’t tried farm eggs should seek them out; they’re a revelation about eggs’ depths of flavor. Farmers’ markets and natural food stores are good places to look for them.

Even if you can’t find farm eggs, Zucchini and Eggs is wonderful fare. Zafiris’ recipe makes a quick, easy, and delicious meal, especially when you follow his lead and top the eggs with a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Zucchini and Eggs (Κολοκυθάκια με Αυγά)
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as part of an appetizer spread


2 medium zucchini (1 pound)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced yellow onion, 1/4” dice
4 eggs
Lemon wedges

Cut the zucchini in 1/2” slices. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet and add half the zucchini in a single layer. Cook, without disturbing, until the zucchini is browned on the bottom; turn the zucchini over and brown on the second side. Remove to paper towels to absorb excess oil. Repeat with the remaining zucchini.

In the same pan, adding olive oil if necessary, sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, until they soften and begin to turn golden. Add the cooked zucchini and gently mix the zucchini and onion. Spread the vegetables out evenly over the bottom of the skillet.

Whisk together the eggs, and pour evenly over the zucchini. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover, turn down the burner, and cook over low heat until the eggs are set. Slide the Zucchini and Eggs onto a serving platter, cut into quarters, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve immediately.

Zafiris serves Zucchini and Eggs with slices of feta cheese, olives, bread, and a glass or two of ouzo.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is my entry for
Antioxidant Rich Foods/Five-a-Day Tuesdays hosted by Sweetnicks. Eggs are a good source of two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 65. Lutein and zeaxanthin also decrease the risk of cataracts.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Recipes: Morel Stuffed Mushrooms, Marinated Beets with Candied Red Onions, & Horta Salad (Μανιτάρια Γεμιστά, Μαριναρισμένα Παντζάρια, & Χόρτα Σαλάτα)

Dried Morels and Fresh MushroomsSome days, writing is easy. Other days, it’s like shelling pine nuts; in other words, hard and frustrating. Today’s been a pine nut day.

Part of the problem was my notes for three separate recipes were scribbled on one too-small piece of paper. Sorting them out made my head spin. None of the recipes are particularly difficult, but describing them on paper was harder than it should’ve been.


I considered dividing the recipes into two separate posts - one about mushrooms and the other about beets - but they taste so good on a single plate, I had to keep them together. Here’s the breakdown:

Morel Stuffed Mushrooms: The mushrooms have a soft, extremely flavorful filling. Tart lemon juice and tangy sun-dried tomatoes balance the rich, earthy taste of mushrooms. These can be stuffed several days ahead and refrigerated until ready to finish, so make impressive hot appetizers without a lot of last minute work. Paired with two kinds of beets, as I’ve done here, the mushrooms are the foundation for a filling vegetarian meal.

Marinated Beets with Candied Red Onions: Sweet with candied onions (or honey, if you’re pressed for time), and sour with red wine vinegar, these beets fill your mouth with wonderful flavors. Grated lemon peel is the essential ingredient that brings the dish together. It’s terrific on its own, wonderful with Horta Salad, and remarkable when paired with Morel Stuffed Mushrooms.

Horta Salad: Boiled greens, dressed with lemon juice or vinegar, are a classic Greek salad. Any domesticated and wild greens, separately or together, can be used for this simple recipe.

The recipes were inspired by Sarah Stegner’s
Stuffed Mushrooms with Marinated Beets, described in Art Culinaire (Winter 2002). I loved her recipe's name, which immediately triggered my imagination. The details of Chef Stegner’s recipe diverged from what I’d been imagining, so I ended up using it for inspiration, rather than as a guide.

I particularly liked the morel powder Chef Stegner used in her stuffing. Last year we had an abundance of curiously bland morels, which I dried to concentrate, intensify, and improve their flavor. Powdered, our dried morels dramatically boosted the mushroomy earthiness of the stuffing.

Stuffed Mushrooms, Marinated Beets, and Horta SaladMorel Stuffed Mushrooms (Μανιτάρια Γεμιστά)
Makes 16 - 20
I ground the dried morels to a powder in a spice grinder. Without the morel powder the stuffing tasted great; it just wasn't as intensely flavored. On another note, I dread both soggy stuffed mushrooms and those that aren’t fully cooked. To avoid these problems, I use a technique for prebaking the mushrooms recommended by
Cook’s Illustrated.

Mushrooms:
16 - 20 large white mushrooms (or other variety of fresh mushroom)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Stuffing:
Reserved mushroom stems, cut in 1/4” dice
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion, 1/4” dice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. diced reconstituted or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 1/4” dice
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup potato purée (6 ounce potato, cooked and grated)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mascarpone or cream cheese
1/4 cup dried morel powder (2 ounces dried morels, pulverized) (optional)
1/4 fresh lemon juice

Topping:
1/2 cup Panko or fresh breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp. finely grated garlic

Prebake the Mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel to clean off any dirt. Remove the mushroom stems and reserve for the stuffing. Put a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss the mushrooms with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Place the mushrooms on the rack gill-side-up and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the oven. Reserve any liquid in the mushrooms for the stuffing. Turn the mushrooms over and bake for 5 minutes. Set the mushrooms aside until you’re ready to stuff them.

Make the Stuffing: Sauté the mushroom stems and onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until they're browned. Stir regularly to prevent the onions from burning. When the mushrooms and onions are done, stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Place the onion mix in a bowl and stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, green onions, potato purée, parmesan, mascarpone, morel powder, lemon juice, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and any liquid reserved from the prebaked mushrooms. Taste and add lemon juice, salt, or pepper, as needed.

Make the Topping: Sauté the Panko in butter until it is nicely toasted, stirring regularly to prevent the breadcrumbs from burning. Stir in the lemon peel and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Let cool and put in a small bowl.

Assemble the Stuffed Mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Using a spoon or piping bag, divide the stuffing equally among the mushrooms. Smoothly round off the surface of each stuffed mushroom. (The mushrooms may be made ahead to this point and refrigerated; store the mushrooms in a single layer, on a paper towel, to prevent them from turning soggy.)

Take each stuffed mushroom, turn it upside down, and roll the stuffing around in the topping until it is nicely coated with breadcrumbs. Bake the mushrooms for 10 – 12 minutes, or until they are hot and the topping is lightly browned. Let sit at room temperature 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with Marinated Beets and Horta Salad, or on their own as an appetizer.

Variation - Stuffed Mushrooms with Pancetta

The pancetta works as a savory counterpoint to the Candied Red Onions in the Marinated Beets recipe. To make the mushrooms with pancetta, eliminate the olive oil, and start the recipe by browning 3/4 cup (4 ounces) pancetta, cut in 1/4” dice. When the pancetta is done, drain it on paper towels; use the pancetta fat for sautéing the onions and mushroom stems. Mix the cooked pancetta with the rest of the stuffing ingredients. NOTE: For this recipe, thick-cut, deli pancetta works better than the thin-sliced prepackaged version.

Marinated Beets with Candied Red OnionsMarinated Beets with Candied Red Onions (Μαριναρισμένα Παντζάρια me Κρεμμύδια Γλυκά του Κουταλιού)
Serves 4 - 6
The key to this recipe, as with all sweet and sour dishes, is getting the balance of flavors correct. The only way to get it right is to taste and adjust the flavors for your palate. If you’re serving this with Horta Salad, keep its vinegar dressing in mind as you adjust the seasoning. Candied Red Onions add unique flavor, but honey is a fine substitute for them.

Candied Red Onions:
2 cups diced red onion, 3/4” dice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water

Marinated Beets:
2 bunches beets, roots only
(greens used for Horta Salad)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp. minced thyme
2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel (1 lemon)
1 tsp. finely grated garlic
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Candied Red Onions or 1/4 cup thyme honey

Make the Candied Red Onions: Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a slow boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Watch it carefully at the end and stir regularly; once most of the liquid is gone, sugar syrup can burn easily. It takes 30 – 45 minutes for the syrup to reduce, and can be done while the beets are roasting. (The candied onions can be made well ahead. There may be slightly more candied onions than needed for this recipe.)

NOTE on Roasting Beets: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash the beets, cut off the greens leaving an inch of stem (don't cut into the beet itself), rub the beets with olive oil, and wrap tightly in a foil packet (or place in a tightly covered baking dish). Bake for 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how fresh they are. The beets are done when they're tender if poked with a knife or skewer. Let the beets cool, and slip off their skins (I wear gloves when I do this to protect my hands from staining). (These can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for about a week.)

Make the Marinated Beets: Cut the beets into 1/2” slices; quarter the slices. Put the beets in a bowl and mix with all the other ingredients. Let marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Taste and add salt, freshly ground black pepper, vinegar, or candied red onion, as needed.

Serve with Horta Salad and Morel Stuffed Mushrooms, or on its own (or with Horta Salad) to accompany roast chicken or fish.

Horta Salad (Χόρτα Σαλάτα)

Serves 4 - 6
"Horta" is the generic Greek word for greens. This salad can be cooked ahead and dressed with olive oil, but don’t add vinegar until just before serving. If you buy beets without greens, or the greens aren’t in good enough condition to eat, use Swiss chard or any other greens.

2 bunches of beets, greens only
(roots used for Marinated Beets)
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash the greens very carefully and discard any damaged leaves. Remove the stems and cut into 1” pieces. Tear the greens into large pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the stems and cook for 2 minutes. Add the greens and cook for 3 – 5 minutes more, or just until the greens are tender. The cooking time varies depending on the type of greens being used. For example, Swiss chard cooks faster than beet greens. Be careful not to overcook the greens or their texture will suffer. Drain the greens well.

While the greens are still warm, toss with olive oil, and then with vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add vinegar, salt, pepper, or olive oil, as needed.

Serve hot or at room temperature with Marinated Beets and Morel Stuffed Mushrooms. Horta Salad can also be served on its own, or just with the Marinated Beets.

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Other Interesting Vegetarian Mushroom Recipes
Parsnip Gnocchi with Pearl Onions, Peas, and Mushrooms
Mushroom Stifado (Μανιτάρια Στιφάδο)
Red Cabbage with Mushrooms and Blueberries – Chou Rouge Forestière (Λάχανο Κόκκινο με Μανιτάρια και βακκίνιο το Μύρτιλλο)

To find more mushroom recipes,
Food Blog Search is a great tool.
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This is my entry for
No Croutons Required, hosted this month by Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen.

Spring is Springing with Recipe for Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula Salad (Δροσερή Σαλάτα με Καρπούζι, Ρόκα και Φέτα)


I wore boots and a wool coat for my Friday shopping. After the first stop, I dumped my coat in the car and basked in being able to walk around unencumbered. I saw women in sleeveless tops and men in shorts. It may be cold according to the thermometer, but Alaskans respond to the first sunny spring weather with outbursts of irrational exuberance.

The grocery store’s produce aisle was stacked high with reasonably priced melons, reflecting South America’s seasonal bounty. I couldn’t resist a cut of juicy red watermelon, and decided to make a Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula Salad and pretend the snow was long gone.

The salad is one of my favorite dishes at Kuzina, a restaurant near the Ancient Agora archeological site in downtown Athens. Kuzina has an interesting menu, a very competent chef, and specializes in creative Greek cuisine.

Watermelon, Feta, and Arugula Salad (Δροσερή Σαλάτα με Καρπούζι, Ρόκα και Φέτα)
Adapted from Kuzina Restaurant, Adrianou 9 (Thissio), Athens, Greece



Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to



http://www.laurieconstantino.com/spring-is-salad-time-in-alaska/



Please click on over and visit my new site. Thank you!


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Recipe: Fennel and Saffron Bread (Ψωμί με Μάραθο και Ζαφορά)

I fell in love with food writer and teacher Patricia Wells during the pre-internet, pre-satellite-TV era.

We were living in Greece, and I barely spoke the language. Virtually no one on the island spoke English. We’d find BBC or Voice of America shortwave broadcasts when we were lucky; otherwise I didn’t have daily news of the world beyond the island.

On most Fridays, we’d drive 20 kilometers to the island’s main town for shopping. Buying the
International Herald Tribune (IHT), an English-language newspaper flown in from Athens on the morning flight, was always on my list.

I preferred shopping on Fridays because that was the day IHT published Patricia Wells’ restaurant reviews. Her witty writing transported me to the best restaurants in France. She regularly inspired me to try new and interesting food combinations.

I’ve kept up with Wells ever since. She’s written numerous cookbooks, focusing primarily on the foods of France. Wells won the James Beard Award for
Patricia Wells at Home in Provence. She still writes an occasional IHT article.

My favorite of Patricia Wells’ many books is her first cookbook,
Bistro Cooking. The recipes are simple, straightforward, and unpretentious, yet are consistently full of flavor. Over the years, I’ve made many recipes from Bistro Cooking and never had a dud.

I was recently reminded of Wells’
Fennel and Saffron Bread, a Bistro Cooking recipe I used to make regularly. Years ago, I’d gone through a phase of serving several different flavored breads when I made company meals. Fennel and Saffron Bread was one of my favorites for that purpose.

When I read about a day for cooking yellow foods to support
Livestrong Foundation’s cancer awareness fight, I knew immediately I’d have to make Fennel and Saffron Bread. In addition to its wonderful flavor, this bread turns a beautiful shade of yellow from the saffron and semolina flour included in its ingredients.

A Taste of Yellow is a
Livestrong Day event (May 13, 2008) and is designed to raise cancer awareness. Winoandfoodies is the originator and host of A Taste of Yellow.

Fennel and Saffron Bread (Ψωμί με Μάραθο και Ζαφορά)
Makes 1 loaf
Adapted from
Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells (Workman Publishing 1989)
Patricia Wells said this recipe came from Jacques Collet, an Aix-en-Provence baker. Collet designed the bread to be the perfect accompaniment for
bouillabaisse. She writes, “The addition of hard durum wheat flour, or semolina, helps give the bread a hard, crispy, buttery flavor, perfect for dipping in the rich fish soup.”

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp. dry yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. freshly ground fennel seed
1/8 tsp. ground saffron
1 cup semolina flour

1 3/4 - 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Mix the water, dry yeast, and sugar in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast starts to bubble. Stir in the salt, fennel seed, and saffron. Add the semolina flour and let the dough sit for 10 minutes to fully hydrate the flour. Stir in 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour. Place the dough on a well-floured surface and knead in as much additional flour as necessary to form a stiff dough. Knead for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and satiny.

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl. Cover and let rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, shape it into a round loaf, place on a parchment-paper-lined rimless baking sheet, and let rise until the loaf has almost doubled in size. (If you are using a baking stone, you can rise the bread directly on a wooden peel sprinkled with semolina flour or corn meal.)

Preheat the oven to 450°F.


Cut an asterisk in the center of the loaf with a razor blade or extremely sharp knife. (If you have a baking stone, slide the bread - and parchment paper if using - from the baking sheet or wooden peel onto the stone.) Turn the heat down to 375°F and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool, cut, and serve.

NOTE: I prefer using a baking stone when I make bread as it helps my home oven maintain an even temperature and gives bread a crisper crust. I also have an old baking sheet with edges that I use when I make this bread. I preheat the baking sheet and baking stone for at least 30 minutes at 450°F (the stone on the shelf above the baking sheet. I turn the heat down to 375°F when I put the bread in to bake. Just before I close the oven, I dump a cup of water into the hot baking sheet and quickly shut the door. (Do not throw water directly on the oven floor or it will warp. Trust me, I know this from experience.) The water creates steam which prevents the bread from quickly forming a hard surface, thus allowing the bread to rise to its fullest extent. The water cooks off quickly, and leaves a hot, dry oven which, together with the baking stone, helps ensure a crispy crust.
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This post is dedicated to our good friend, Ron Zobel, who died way too young from esophageal cancer.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Recipe: Lamb and Leek Meatballs with Onion Egg-Lemon Sauce (Κεφτέδες με Πράσα και Αβγολέμονο)

I redeemed myself tonight. My sad story about an unfortunate lamb tagine has a happy ending.

Two days ago, after deciding the tagine was not worth eating, I’d rinsed off the meat and threw away every bit of the nasty sauce. I was left with tender chunks of leftover lamb.

Tonight I ground the lamb in a food processor, and mixed it with soft, sweet leeks to make luscious little meatballs. Paired with an oniony egg-lemon sauce, the meatballs made a delicious mid-week meal.

The egg-lemon sauce (avgolemono) has an unusual twist. Because the meatballs weren’t cooked in liquid, I didn’t have the broth necessary for making egg-lemon sauce. Rather than using plain chicken stock, I simmered stock with onions to boost the flavor, and used this as the foundation for the sauce. The result was surprisingly good, and paired particularly well with leek meatballs.

Although the meatballs could easily be made with raw ground lamb, they are a great way to use up leftover roast (or the remnants of tragic tagine). Since Easter dinner is just 10 days away, and we’ll no doubt have leftover lamb again soon, I invented the meatballs just in time.

Lamb-Leek Meatballs with Avgolemono SauceLamb and Leek Meatballs with Onion Egg-Lemon Sauce (Κεφτέδες με Πράσα και Αβγολέμονο)
Serves 4 (makes 20 1” meatballs)
The meatballs can be served on their own as an appetizer (without the egg-lemon sauce) or with tomato sauce instead of egg-lemon. They are a wonderful way to use up leftover roast lamb.

Meatballs:
3 cups diced leeks, 1/8” dice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups leftover lamb, ground (or raw ground lamb)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
4 tsp. minced mint
2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 egg
Oil for frying the meatballs

Egg-Lemon Sauce (Avgolemono):
1 cup diced yellow onion, 1/4” dice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken stock
2 eggs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Minced mint for garnish

Make the meatballs: Sauté the leeks in olive oil, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, over medium heat until the leeks are soft. Mix the leeks with the lamb, garlic, mint, oregano, and egg. Brown a sample of the meatball mix in olive oil, taste, and add salt, freshly ground black pepper, mint, or oregano to the meatball mix, as needed. Shape the mix into 1” balls, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, and fry half the meatballs until they are nicely browned on all sides. If you put too many meatballs in the pan at one time, they won’t brown properly; if you’re in a hurry, cook the meatballs in two frying pans. Drain on paper towels. (You can hold the meatballs in a 250°F oven for 15 minutes, if needed, while you make the sauce.)

Make the Egg-Lemon Sauce: Start the egg-lemon sauce while the meatballs are chilling in the refrigerator. Sauté the onion in olive oil, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Purée the onions and stock in a blender. Strain out the solids, pressing out as much liquid as possible.

Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they are very thick. Add the lemon juice slowly while continuing to beat the eggs. Slowly beat in the onion-stock, and put the mixture in a saucepan.

When the meatballs are nearly done, or are keeping warm in a 250°F oven, cook the sauce over low heat until it thickens (this takes 3 - 5 minutes). Don’t let the sauce boil, or it will curdle. If the sauce is too thick for your taste, thin it out with a little chicken stock.

To Serve: Spoon a pool of egg-lemon sauce onto a plate, top with five meatballs, sprinkle with minced mint, and serve immediately.
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This is my entry for Leftover Tuesdays #13, hosted by Project Foodie.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sorry, No Recipe Today

I should’ve read the recipe more carefully before I started.

I’d cut lamb and onions, added garlic, toasted saffron, sprinkled spices, and prepped dried fruits. The ingredients were in the pot and I only needed to add oil, the last ingredient.

First, I thought I’d flipped a page and was reading the wrong recipe.

No, I was reading correctly. The recipe, which served 6, called for 3 pounds of lamb, a pound of onions, and 2 liters of vegetable oil.

I tried, unsuccessfully, to think of a way this made sense.

Maybe I had a bad printing of the book? I went to amazon.com and searched inside the book for my recipe. Yes, indeed, it called for 2 liters of oil. Just to make sure the reader understood, the recipe helpfully translated: 2 liters equals 3 1/2 pints (7 cups).

I don’t think so.

Now the dilemma was in deciding how much oil to add to a recipe I’d never made before. I settled on 2 tablespoons.

I shouldn’t have bothered. The finished dish tasted horrible. Even a gallon of oil woudn't have made a difference. I ate the couscous and forgot the tagine.

It’s enough to put me off cookbooks. When I make my own food, at least I have a clear idea of what the finished dish will taste like.

I rinsed the nasty sauce off the meat, and will try and use it for something else.

Any suggestions?

Maybe I should start an event: Cooking with Second-Hand Meat.

UPDATE 4/17/08: The rinsed-off leftovers made wonderful little Lamb and Leek Meatballs that I served with Onion Avgolemeno Sauce. A happy ending!


Bob, The Rabbit EaterBob, The Rabbit Eater

Monday, April 14, 2008

Recipes: Steamed Alaska King Crab & Spinach with Garlic and Preserved Lemon

For the last five days, I’ve been celebrating my birthday. I’ve indulged myself, and been indulged by my friends and husband. My house looks ravaged (indulgence=no cleaning). My blog’s been neglected (indulgence=no writing).

Now it’s Monday, and time to pick up the pieces. The dishwasher’s humming, and a load of clothes is in the washer. I’ve taken out the crab shell laden garbage.


The crab shells are from one of my birthday indulgences: live Alaska king crab.

I’ve only ever seen live king crab in Alaska, which is a pity because it’s the best tasting seafood I’ve ever had in a life of searching out the world’s finest foods from the sea. When fresh, Alaska king crab tastes sweet and salty, with a firm, meaty texture. Frozen king crab legs don’t do justice to the glorious flavor of fresh king crab.

When I was young, we used to buy live king crab off the dock: $5 for small crabs (5-8 pounds) and $10 for large crabs (8-12 pounds). In those days, boiling up a mess of Alaska king crab was one of my favorite company dinners. That was before over-fishing threatened king crab stocks and king crab fishing became a highly regulated industry, as it is today.

Now we’re lucky to find live king crab and rarely pay less than $50 for one small crab. In the old days I used to cook with king crab as an ingredient (and still make crab cakes out of rare leftovers). Now, it’s so expensive that I only serve unadulterated crab, perhaps with a little melted butter on the side.

Steaming crabs is a recent innovation in our house. For years, I followed my mother’s lead and boiled live crab (guts and all, for better flavor). Then I read about a lobster taste test in which steamed lobsters beat out boiled, so decided to try steaming crab. As with the lobster I’d read about, steamed crab has better, more concentrated flavor than when it’s boiled. Call me a steaming convert.

After I cooked and cleaned the crab, I put it in the refrigerator to chill. That meant making space in my woefully overcrowded refrigerator. When I jerked the bag of Full Circle Farm spinach from where it was precariously balanced on the top shelf, a jar of preserved lemons came tumbling down on me.

Inspired by the falling jar of lemons, I added some to the spinach I was serving that night as a side dish. The tart, salty lemons were a wonderful addition to the earthy taste of spinach. This easy recipe is a keeper.

Steamed Alaska King Crab
Steaming crab couldn’t be easier. Put an inch or so of water in the bottom of a large stockpot, pop in a steamer, bring the water to a boil, put the live crab on the steamer, and steam it for 15 – 25 minutes, depending on the size of the crab. When the crab is cool, clean it by discarding the gills and innards. Separate the legs and break the body in half, using paper towels if needed to protect your hands from the spiny shells. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with little bowls of melted butter, and nut crackers or kitchen shears.


Spinach with Garlic and Preserved Lemon
Serves 4


2 large bunches of spinach
2 Tbsp. garlic
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp.
harissa or 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 cup minced preserved lemon peel (peel from 1 preserved lemon) or 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon peel (see NOTE)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Wash the spinach in two changes of water to remove all the grit. Remove and discard the stems and tear any large leaves into pieces.

Sauté the garlic, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil over medium heat until the garlic softens. Do not let the garlic brown. Stir in the harissa.

Add the spinach, and stir until it wilts (you may need to add the spinach a little at a time so it fits in the pan). When all the spinach is wilted, remove it from the heat, taste and add salt, pepper, and harissa, as needed. Stir in the minced preserved lemon peel and lemon juice and serve immediately.

NOTE: Preserved lemons are often used in Moroccan cooking. They are tart, salty, and very easy to make. If you use
my recipe for preserved lemons, you’ll have to let the lemons cure for at least a week before you can use them. If you don’t want to bother making them, you may buy preserved lemons at Middle Eastern markets, specialty stores, and online. To use preserved lemon, remove it from the brine in which it is swimming and rinse it well. Remove the flesh, and any stringy bits from the inside of the peel. The peel is now ready to use.

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Preserved Lemon Recipes
Preserved Lemons, Candied Lemon Peels, and Sparkling Mint-Lemonade (I make preserved lemons, candy the extra lemon peels, and use leftover syrup for sparkling lemonade.)
Moroccan Salmon, Fennel-Preserved Lemon Salad, & Sweet Potato Oven Fries (I deconstruct a Moroccan tagine, and use preserved lemons to make Preserved Lemon Aioli and in a fennel and red pepper salad.)
Moroccan Eggplant Salad with Preserved Lemon (Susan flavors eggplant salad with preserved lemons, and makes a preserved lemon martini).
To find more preserved lemon recipes, Food Blog Search is a great tool.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is my entry for
Antioxidant Rich Foods/Five-a-Day Tuesdays hosted by Sweetnicks.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Recipe: Smoky Tunisian Oven-Roasted Vegetables with Tabil (Τυνησιακό Μπριάμ)

It’s no secret to my regular readers that I favor oven-roasted vegetables.

Roasting vegetables in a hot oven concentrates and develops subtle vegetable flavors that are lost when the same vegetables are boiled, stewed, or fried. Briam (Μπριάμ), a classic Greek medley of roasted vegetables, is one of my favorite ways to serve an abundance of vegetables. (My Briam recipe is in
Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.)

While Briam is what I make most often, grilled and roasted vegetable combinations are popular throughout the Mediterranean region; I like them all. For example, in Tunisia, tomatoes, onions, and peppers are grilled and mixed with Tabil (pronounced “table”), a spice mix containing coriander seeds, caraway seeds, garlic, and dried red peppers, to make a refreshing cold salad called Mechouia.

This weekend I needed a main course, not a salad, but really had a taste for Mechouia. Inspired by a Paul Gayler recipe in
A Passion for Vegetables, I decided to combine Tunisian Mechouia with Greek Briam. I used a vegetable combination typical of Briam and, as for Briam, oven-roasted the vegetables. However, instead of the herbs used in Briam, I seasoned the vegetables with Tabil and quickly charred them, two essential elements of Mechouia.

The vegetables can be completely cooked on a grill, in which case, the oven-roasting step is unnecessary. However, when I’m cooking on a stovetop grill pan (as I was yesterday due to the snow), it’s much easier to quickly char the vegetables on the grill pan and then finish cooking them in the oven.

A benefit to pre-cooking the vegetables on the grill is this step can be done well ahead. Although you can skip charring them and completely cook the vegetables in the oven, I don’t recommend it because you lose the smokiness, an important flavor element in this dish.


Oven-Roasted Vegetables with TabilSmoky Tunisian Oven-Roasted Vegetables with Tabil (Τυνησιακό Μπριάμ)
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish
Adapted from
A Passion for Vegetables by Paul Gayler (Lyons Press 2000)
This dish is a combination of Briam and Mechouia; it has Briam’s oven-roasted vegetable medley, with Mechouia’s smokiness and spicing. We like spicy food, so I use the larger amounts shown in the ingredient list for Tabil. If you prefer less highly seasoned food, use the smaller amounts. If you’re unsure, mix up the dry spices and add half to the vegetables along with all of the garlic; when the vegetables are done, taste and add more dry spice mix, as needed. Tabil tastes great with any kind of vegetable (or fish, meat, or poultry), so consider the list of vegetables as only a suggestion. Leftovers may be roughly chopped and added to vegetable or chicken stock for an easy mid-week soup.


Tabil:
1 – 2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 – 2 tsp. caraway seeds
1” – 2” piece of dried red pepper or 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 tsp. finely minced fresh garlic

Vegetables:
4 medium Yukon Gold or red potatoes
2 medium zucchini
2 red bell peppers
1 large fennel bulb
1 extra large onion
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Tabil spice mix: Mix all the ingredients together.

For the Vegetables: Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wash all the vegetables. Peel the potatoes, and cut into large chunks. Parboil the potatoes in salted water for 7 minutes, drain, and put them in a large roasting pan.

Cut the zucchini on the diagonal into 3/4” slices. Discard the peppers’ seeds and stems, and cut each into six lengthwise slices. Cut off the stalks and leaves of the fennel, and cut the bulb in lengthwise quarters. Remove most of the core, leaving enough so the layers of fennel stay together. Cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Peel the onion, leaving the stem end intact so the layers of onion stay together, and cut into 3/4” wide lengthwise sections. Put all the vegetables in the roasting pan, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, liberally drizzle with olive oil, and toss the vegetables to coat them with oil.

Heat a grill pan until it's white hot (or fire up the grill). Quickly char the vegetables on both sides, but don’t cook the vegetables through. Char the vegetables in batches; for me, it's easiest to lay them out on the grill pan one at a time. As each vegetable is done, return it to the roasting pan. (I set the peppers aside, and peel them before adding them to the pan; this step is optional.)


When all the vegetables are done, sprinkle the Tabil over, and toss the vegetables to evenly distribute the spices. If the vegetables seem dry, drizzle with a little more olive oil. Spread the vegetables out into a single layer.

Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with couscous, green salad, olives, and plenty of bread for soaking up the splendidly spicy oil and vegetable juices.

Variation: For a saucier version, stir in one 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (or 2 cups freshly diced tomatoes) just before putting the roasting pan in the oven.

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Oven-Roasted Vegetable Recipes

Roast Cauliflower with Dukkah (Dukkah, a Middle Eastern spice mix, enhances roasted cauliflower).
Oven-Roasted Vegetables (Λαχανικά στο Φούρνο) (How to bring out the flavor of vegetables by oven-roasting them).
Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Oven roasted vegetables are an ideal accompaniment to holiday meals.)
Roasted Beets with Celery Root Skordalia (Roasted celery root is a low-calorie, high-flavor alternative to bread or potatoes in the wonderful Greek garlic spread called skordalia.)

To find more oven-roasted vegetable recipes, Food Blog Search is a great tool.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is my entry for
Antioxidant Rich Foods/Five-a-Day Tuesdays hosted by Sweetnicks.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Recipes: Grilled Radicchio & Grilled Radicchio and Arugula Salad with Parmesan Shavings (Ψητό Ραδίκιο & Σαλάτα με Ψητό Ραδίκιο, Ρόκα, και Παρμεζάνα)

Treviso Radicchio and Knife
Treviso Radicchio and Knife (Click entry)

Radicchio drizzled with olive oil and grilled has lots of flavor and takes very little work. Grilling tames radicchio’s natural bitterness, and changes it into an ingredient that enhances everything with which it is paired.

Radicchio PastaThe outer leaves of grilled radicchio are charred, soft, and slightly smoky; the inner leaves warm yet crunchy. Mixed with garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and sometimes a little good quality balsamic vinegar, grilled radicchio makes a wonderful topping for egg-yolk rich, Piemontese tajarin (or any other pasta).

The form of radicchio most commonly found in US supermarkets looks like a small red cabbage. Occasionally, the market has
Treviso Radicchio, which is elongated and, when the outer leaves are stripped away, looks like a large red Belgian endive. For most purposes, the two radicchios can be used interchangeably.

Backyard Shed 4-6-08Friday night we had no snow near the back shed; this is Sunday morning (April 6, 2008).

We planted radicchio in our Alaskan garden last summer and harvested it on our return from Greece in October. Today we ignored the 12” of snow that fell yesterday and started this year’s radicchio seeds in the garage.

Radicchio Ready to GrillGrilled Radicchio (Ψητό Ραδίκιο)
Serves 4
If you don’t have the time, weather, or inclination to start a fire, it’s easy to grill radicchio on a cast iron grill pan.

2 heads radicchio, round or elongated (Treviso)
Olive oil
Salt

Rinse off the radicchio and discard any damaged portions. Cut round radicchio in quarters, and elongated radicchio in lengthwise halves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.

Preheat a cast iron grill pan until it is very hot (if you're grilling over fire, you need
moderately hot coals), and grill the radicchio on all sides until the outer leaves are nicely browned. Remove from the grill.

Serve immediately drizzled with a little best quality balsamic vinegar. For use in another recipe, cut out any tough center core, and roughly slice or chop into pieces.


Grilled Radicchio and Arugula Salad with Parmesan ShavingsGrilled Radicchio and Arugula Salad with Parmesan Shavings (Σαλάτα με Ψητό Ραδίκιο, Ρόκα, και Παρμεζάνα)
Serves 4
Save leftover salad
and wrap it, with a few parmesan shavings, in a warm flour tortilla for one of the most delicious vegetarian sandwiches you’ll ever eat. To make parmesan shavings, you need to start with a chunk of fresh parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Dressing:
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salad:
4 cups roughly chopped grilled radicchio
4 cups loosely packed torn pieces of arugula
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion or shallot
Parmesan shavings

Whisk together the sherry vinegar, mustard, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil. Taste the dressing and add salt or pepper as needed. Mix all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Toss with the appropriate amount of dressing just before serving (there may be dressing left over).

Using a vegetable peeler, or very sharp knife, shave off very thin pieces of parmesan and arrange over each serving of salad.

Serve immediately.

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Radicchio Recipes

Lentil Salad with Radicchio, Celery, and Capers (Ilva makes an easy salad with marinated lentils and fresh radicchio and celery.)
Radicchio Stuffed with Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette (Cris gives directions for a beautifully composed fresh radicchio salad.)
Roasted Radicchio di Treviso (Susan tells how to simply roast radicchio with grated cheese.)
Bruschetta with Burrata and Radicchio Marmalade (Luisa tests Russ Parsons’ recipe for Radicchio Marmalade and finds it “delicious beyond words.”)
Radicchio Soup – Minestra di Radicchio (Susan makes radicchio soup, flavored with vegetables, pancetta, and ham.)

To find more radicchio recipes,
Food Blog Search is a great tool.

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This is my entry for
Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Jai and Bee from Jugalbandi.

The first picture, of the Treviso Radicchio and Knife, is my entry for Click, a food photography event hosted and created by Jai and Bee from Jugalbandi. This month’s theme is Au Naturel: food photographed in its natural state.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Recipe for Potato Pie with Cabbage and Mustard (Πατατόπιτα με Λάχανο και Μουστάρδα)

Whether it’s potatoes and cabbage in the winter, or eggplant and tomatoes in the summer, I love layer upon layer of perfectly seasoned vegetables. I recently dug into my Full Circle Farm CSA box to make one of those wonderful dishes: Potato Pie with Cabbage and Mustard.

Over the years, I’ve separately served each individual layer of the Potato Pie to accompany meat, poultry, or seafood. Oven roasted potatoes, caramelized onions with cumin, and sautéed cabbage with thyme are all are old stand-bys that taste great.

The old stand-bys combined in a single dish make company-ready fare that is better than the sum of its parts. The vegetable juices run together and mingle, forming unexpected and delicious flavor combinations.

Potato Pie with Cabbage and Mustard is warm and filling, and makes a satisfying meal when paired with a crisp green salad, olives, and bread. It is also a charming partner for sausages or roast meat.

Potato Pie with Cabbage and MustardPotato Pie with Cabbage and Mustard (Πατατόπιτα με Λάχανο και Μουστάρδα)
Serves 4 – 6

Inspired by A Passion for Vegetables by Paul Gayler (Lyons Press 2000)
I’ve suggested using a 9” springform pan for this recipe because it makes unmolding the pie easier. However, I’ve made this in a well-oiled large soufflé dish and the pie slid right out, so a springform isn’t absolutely necessary. The vegetables are cooked separately and individually seasoned; keep in mind the finished dish and be careful not to over-salt any single vegetable. For a more decorative presentation, place pitted, dried black olives between the potato slices on the bottom layer. Turnips may be substituted for the potatoes.

1 pound Yukon gold or red potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups thinly sliced yellow onions, cut in quarter moons
4 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. freshly ground cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. wholegrain Dijon or
Creole mustard
4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
4 tsp. minced thyme
1 cup grated
graviera or cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Wash, peel, and cut the potatoes into 1/4” slices. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 10 – 15 minutes or until the potatoes soften and start to turn golden.

Sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in 2 Tbsp. olive oil until the onions soften and start to brown. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions to a bowl. Stir in the mustard when the onions have partially cooled.

In the pan used for the onions, add the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Sauté the cabbage, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, until the cabbage wilts completely. Remove from the heat and stir in the minced thyme.

Thoroughly oil a 9” springform pan; tightly cover the outside of the pan with foil to prevent oil from leaking out into the oven.

Layer the springform pan's bottom with 1/3 of the potatoes, cover the potatoes with 1/2 the cabbage, cover the cabbage with 1/2 the onions, and cover the onions with 1/2 the cheese. Repeat the layers, and finish with a layer of potatoes. (The recipe can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before baking.)

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the top of the pie is golden and the juices bubbling. Let the pie rest in the pan for 5 – 10 minutes. Invert and unmold on a serving plate; if any potato slices stick to the bottom of the pan, carefully move them back to their place on top of the pie. Carefully cut into wedges and serve.

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More Cabbage Recipes:
Greek Cabbage and Rice (Λαχανόρυζο) (My recipe for rice with cabbage, onion, thyme, tomato, and currants)
Red Cabbage with Mushrooms and Blueberries (Chou Rouge Forestière) (My review of Robert Reynolds and Josephine Araldo’s From a Breton Garden, including Araldo’s unique red cabbage recipe.)
Cabbage Rolls (λαχανοντολμαδάκια) (Peter Minakis’ recipe for Greek cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and meat.)
Mama’s Health Soup (Zoe’s Greek mother’s recipe for cabbage soup, written up by Lulu as a service to humanity).