Monday, May 26, 2008

Recipe: Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Chorizo, Spinach, Lemon, and Pancetta & Chorizo and Spinach Pilaf

I hit the Taste and Create mother lode this month.

Taste and Create is an event 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.

Taking part in Taste and Create can be a challenge. Participants come from very different backgrounds and have widely divergent interests. But the commitment you make when signing up for Taste and Create is to cook from your partner’s blog, whether or not their recipes are ones you’d otherwise make.

I like Taste and Create for the same reason I liked grab bags as a kid; you never know what you’ll get until you open the bag.

This month, Abby at
Eat the Right Stuff is my Taste and Create partner. The recipes on her blog, which was new to me, are wonderful; I wanted to make them all. The ingredients and seasonings she uses are the ones I love most. Abby’s writing is easy to understand and her photographs inspirational. Like I said, I hit the mother lode.

As soon as I read the description “pork stuffed with pork wrapped with pork,” I had to make Abby’s recipe for
Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. As Abby promised, the caramelized onion, chorizo, lemon, and spinach stuffing was fabulous, and the accompanying rice worth making on its own.

I did have to deal with the typical vagaries and ingredient difficulties that always exist when making a recipe created in another country. For example, the recipe calls for “2 picante (hot) chorizo sausages.” I don't know about London (where Abby lives), but in the US, chorizo comes in many sizes and forms, including fresh and dry-cured, and is imported from many different countries.

I ultimately decided the stuffing would be good with any of the multitude of available chorizos. I ended up using a
dry-cured chorizo seasoned with hot smoked paprika made in Spain by Palacios (and bought at Sagaya in Anchorage). For those who don’t have access to chorizo, hot Italian sausage would be a good substitute.

Spicy chorizo, earthy spinach, and bright-flavored lemon combine to make a delicious stuffing for mild-flavored pork tenderloin. The pork is finished with a crispy pancetta wrapping and served on a bed of surprisingly good Chorizo and Spinach Pilaf.

Photograph by Abby at Eat the Right Stuff

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Chorizo, Spinach, Lemon, and Pancetta & Chorizo and Spinach Pilaf
Serves 4 - 6

Adapted from Eat the Right Stuff
If you can’t find chorizo, substitute your favorite salami or fresh hot Italian sausage.

1 pork tenderloin (1 – 1 1/4 pounds)
1 8-ounce dry-cured hot chorizo sausage
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion, 1/4” dice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
9 ounces cleaned and roughly chopped spinach, divided
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
16 slices of pancetta (see NOTE)
1 cup long-grain rice
2 cups chicken stock

Preat the oven to 400°F.

Wash the pork and dry it well. Cut the pork in half, lengthwise. Place the pork between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it with a meat pounder (or rolling pin) to flatten it slightly.

Remove the casing from the chorizo and cut the meat into 1/4” dice.

Sauté the onion, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until it softens and starts to turn golden. Add the diced chorizo and cook until the onions begin to caramelize. Remove half the onions and chorizo and most of the oil to a bowl and reserve it for making the pilaf.

Add half the spinach to the pan and cook, stirring regularly, until it wilts. Remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Season well with black pepper. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed.

Line up the slices of pancetta so they are slightly overlapping to form a pancetta rectangle. Top with half the pork tenderloin, then the stuffing, and then the remaining tenderloin. Wrap the pancetta around the tenderoin to fully encase it. Put the roll in a roasting pan, with the pancetta seam side down. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pork is cooked through. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

While the tenderloin is roasting, make the pilaf: Put the reserved onion, chorizo, and oil in a pan and heat. When it starts sizzling, add the rice and stir well to coat the grains with oil. Cook for 1 minute, then stir in the stock and bring it to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat to low, and let the rice cook for 20 minutes. When the rice is done, stir in the remaining half of the spinach.

Serve slices of Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Chorizo, Spinach, Lemon, and Pancetta over a bed of Spinach and Chorizo Pilaf.

NOTE: The pancetta slices must be long enough to wrap all the way around the stuffed tenderloin; this size of pancetta is available only from deli counters and specialty stores in most of the US. Too often, the only readily available pancetta is sold in pre-sliced 3-ounce vacuum-packed plastic bags. These pieces of pancetta aren’t long enough to wrap the tenderloin; if this is the only kind available, buy two 3-ounce bags to make sure there is enough pancetta.

Announcing the ENMAPYMMD Food Blog Awards

It’s been seven months since I started writing regularly for Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. From fall’s end, through a late April snowfall, and now in spring, I’ve cooked and photographed and written, and learned a lot in the process.

I’ve also had a crash course in the world of food blogs; there are thousands. I struggle to make time to read my favorite blogs; the frustrating truth is there aren’t enough hours in the day to read all those I love.

The writing, the photographs, the recipes, all inspire me. From different countries and backgrounds, different ages and genders, different tastes and sensibilities, the width and breadth of culinary writing on the web never ceases to amaze.

In recent months, I’ve been honored to receive several awards from my fellow food-bloggers: Gay from
Cakelaw in Australia (Excellence Award), Ivy from Kopiaste in Greece (Nice Matters Award), Peter from Souvlaki for the Soul in Australia (Arte y Pico Award), Manuela from Baking History (You Make My Day Award), and Manju from Three Tastes in Hawaii (Excellence Award). I’m humbly grateful. Gay, Ivy, Peter, Manuela, and Manju: Thank you so much!

All who gave me awards also deserve them, but I’m not allowed to give the same awards back. Instead, I’m making some new awards: to
Cakelaw for Inspired Baking, to Kopiaste for Top Chef: Greek, to Souvlaki for the Soul for Outstanding Food Photography, to Baking History for Best Use of Historical Recipes, and to Three Tastes for Kitchen Creativity and Spiritual Healing.

With each award came a request that I pass it on to others. Instead of parsing out who gets which award, I’m awarding a combined Excellence-Nice Matters-Arte y Pico-You Make My Day (ENMAPYMMD) award to a few of my favorite food writer-photographers.

The ENMAPYMMD Awards go to:

Maria from
Organically Cooked in Hania, Crete. Maria cooks traditional Cretan fare, and entertainingly describes the scenes and characters that make up her daily life. I’m drawn to Maria’s wry sense of humor and unique role as an insider-outsider in Crete (Maria is a native New Zealander of Cretan heritage.). Her stories are endlessly fascinating.

Susan from
The Well Seasoned Cook in the New York area and Lucy from Nourish Me in Australia. I read today they are friends, which is fitting, as Susan and Lucy are the two best writers among all the blogs I read. I dream about having their abilities to evoke moods and flavors. Their recipes are always interesting, and their photography beautiful.

Riana from
Garlic Breath and These Days in French Life. Riana lives with her French husband and daughter in the south of France and works harder than anyone I know to avoid consumerism and live life consciously. Riana and her family haven’t shopped since August 2007 except for food (and not even food in January and February). Though her choices may not be for everyone, Riana’s infectious enthusiasm is a welcome balance to the consumer-oriented world in which we live.

Lulu from
Mama’s Taverna in California. Lulu makes me laugh. She’s a good cook with a great ear for dialogue. I eagerly anticipate her new posts.

Mag from
Hommus with Tabbouli. Mag is Lebanese, but lives in Virginia. I ended up at Mag’s blog one day by accident and in it discovered one of the best English-language Lebanese cookbooks available. I love Lebanese food and Mag more than does it justice.

Núria from
Spanish Recipes in Barcelona, Spain. Núria is one of the nicest people in the blogosphere and her traditional Spanish recipes are mouth-wateringly good. Núria’s extensive and very clear pictures make it easy to recreate her recipes in the US.

Ronell from
My French Kitchen in France. Ronell is a skilled painter and her art and creativity inspire seasonal recipes and gorgeous photographs. Ronell’s blog has taken me from her herb garden and atelier to the banks of the Loire; visiting My French Kitchen suffuses me with a sense of peace and well being.

There aren’t any rules for the ENMAPYMMD awards, so I encourage awardees and readers alike to give them out freely to their favorite food writers and photographers. The more credit and encouragement we give our peers, the stronger all our blogs will be.

Bob the Bird-Watcher

Friday, May 23, 2008

Recipe for Devil’s Club Gnocchi (or Spinach Gnocchi) with Gorgonzola Sauce

I’ve always played with my food and eaten with my fingers. As a child, these habits got me into trouble. As an adult, they led me into the kitchen; there’s no more satisfying way than cooking to play with your food.

My favorite kind of playing with food involves foraging. Rooting around outside to harvest tasty wild plants is, in itself, great entertainment. Being able to experiment with their unusual flavors in the kitchen is the bonus prize.

Devil's Club Leaf BudI wrote about the unique flavor of devil’s club, a wild plant growing primarily on the Pacific coast of the United States from Alaska to California, in this post:
How to Harvest Devil’s Club Shoots and Recipe for Sautéed Devil’s Club Shoots with Onions.

Yesterday, I played with devil’s club shoots. First, I made Devil’s Club Pesto (splendid and coming soon). Continuing the Italian theme, I made Devil’s Club Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce, adapting a
Mario Batali recipe for a similarly sauced Spinach Gnocchi.

The result was even better than I’d expected, and my expectations were high. The fresh and slightly resiny flavor of devil’s club shoots was balanced perfectly by a deliciously creamy gorgonzola sauce. I’ll definitely make this again.

I also tried the Devil’s Club Gnocchi with a quick tomato sauce. This flavor combination didn’t work. Or maybe it’s just the gorgonzola sauce was so much better that the tomato-devil’s club combination paled in comparison.

For the 99% of my readers who don’t have access to devil’s club shoots, make the gnocchi with spinach. Or nettles. Or whatever flavorful green strikes your fancy.

Go ahead; play with your food.

Devil's Club GnocchiDevil’s Club Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce
Serves 4

Adapted from
Molto Mario
After blanching the devil’s club shoots in salted, boiling water, squeeze out as much water from them as possible; this is easiest to do using a clean dish towel as a wringer. For how to gather, clean, and blanch devil's club shoots, go

2 cups cleaned, blanched, and wrung-out devil’s club shoots
1 pound potatoes
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 – 1 cup all-purpose flour

Gorgonzola Sauce:
1 1/2 cups crumbled gorgonzola (6 ounces)
1/4 cup butter (2 ounces – 1/2 stick)
2 Tbsp. Pernod
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper (optional)
Finely ground black pepper
1/4 chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives

Make the Gnocchi: Chop the devil’s club in a food processor (or with a knife) until it is very fine.

Cut the potatoes in large chunks and cook them in boiling salted water until tender. Peel the potatoes and put them through a food mill (or whip until very smooth).

Mix the devil’s club, potatoes, egg, and salt (don’t use a food processor). Stir in 3/4 cup flour. Dump the dough on a floured surface. Knead lightly, adding flour as necessary to prevent the dough from being sticky.

Divide the dough into 2” balls. Using your fingertips, roll out each ball on a floured surface into a long, 3/4” diameter, rope. Cut the rope into 3/4” pieces. To make ridged gnocchi, roll each piece of dough off the back of a fork, pressing lightly down as you roll. Put the finished gnocchi on a lightly floured surface, in a single layer.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Put 1/3 of gnocchi in the boiling water. When they float, use a slotted spoon to remove them to a bowl of ice water. Cook the remaining 2 batches of gnocchi and put them in ice water. Drain well.

Make the Sauce: In a pan large enough to hold all the gnocchi, melt the gorgonzola and butter over medium heat. Stir in the Pernod, Aleppo pepper, and freshly ground black pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook until the liquid evaporates, 4 – 5 minutes. Add the gnocchi, and toss to distribute the sauce. Add the parsley and half the chives and toss again. Divide between 4 plates and sprinkle with the remaining chives. Serve immediately.

Spinach Gnocchi
Replace the devil’s club with 2 pounds fresh spinach (2 bunches) that have been washed, blanched, and wrung out. (Wash the spinach and remove the stems. Blanch in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Remove the spinach to a bowl of ice water. Drain and squeeze out as much water from the spinach as possible; this is easiest to do using a clean dish towel as a wringer.)
This is my entry for
Vegetables, Beautiful Vegetables 2008 hosted by Abby at Eat the Right Stuff.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

How to Harvest Devil’s Club Shoots and Recipes for Sautéed Devil’s Club Shoots with Onions & Crispy Chicken with Roasted Garlic

Devil's Club Towering over TeenyDevil's Club Towering Over Teeny Metcalfe
Treadwell Mine, Douglas, Alaska
Photograph by Ray Brudie

Devil’s club leaf shoots are the ultimate seasonal treat – they’re edible for only a few days a year and taste wonderful. They have a resiny, almost piney, odor when first picked that is tamed, but doesn’t dissipate entirely, when heated. Cooked devil's club shoots have a uniquely energizing and complex flavor that tastes like nothing else I’ve ever eaten.

In spring, I check the devil’s club on our property daily, anxious lest I miss the narrow harvesting window. Once they’re ready, we immediately head out with bags and baskets in hand to pick our fill of this unusual spring green.

When I mention how good devil’s club shoots taste, I often get looks of disbelief from those who have fallen victim to the spines that cover its stalks and the underside of its giant leaves.

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

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

Devil's Club Shoots

Sauteed Devil's Club with OnionsSautéed Devil’s Club Shoots with OnionsServes 4
Sautéed Devil’s Club Shoots go well with Crispy Chicken with Roasted Garlic, any seafood or poultry dish, with pasta, or on their own.

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

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

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Cate of Sweetnicks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How to Harvest Fireweed Shoots with Recipe for Fireweed Shoot Omelet

Fireweed After the FireAfter the Fire: Destruction Bay, Yukon Territories, Canada
Photograph by Teeny Metcalfe

Fireweed shoot season is upon Southcentral Alaska.Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) grows along Alaska’s roadways and waste areas (and throughout North America as far south as California in the west and the Carolinas in the east). Spreading rapidly on underground runners, fireweed is one of the first plants to reestablish itself after forest fires.

Fireweed’s brilliant magenta flowers brighten Alaska’s summer landscape and, in the kitchen, are an attractive salad garnish. The flowers are also the source of fireweed honey, a popular Alaskan sweetener.

Fireweed Shoots

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

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


(Coming Soon: I just checked the woods and, as of today, the Devil’s Club is ripe for picking.) UPDATE: My post on harvesting and preparing Devil's Club is here.

Fireweed Shoot OmeletFireweed Shoot OmeletServes 2
For 2 people, I prefer making 1 omelet in a large pan and cutting it in half, but you can also make 2 individual omelets in a smaller pan. To clean fireweed shoots, trim off any browned or damaged bits, and cut into 1” lengths. Taste, and if the fireweed shoots are bitter, blanch them in boiling, salted water before starting the recipe.

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

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

Monday, May 19, 2008

From a Volcanic Isle with Recipe for Shrimp Santorini in Tomato and Caper Sauce (Γαρίδες Σαντορίνης)

Santorini SunsetWhite-washed houses, bright blue skies, sun sparkling on the sea, and brilliant sunsets. Some of Greece’s most iconic images are of Santorini.

Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea and a regular stop for cruise ships wending their way through the Greek isles. Although it's jam-packed with tourists during the summer months, visitors to Santorini, dazzled by its dramatic beauty, write glowingly about their time on the island.

Modern Santorini was shaped by a violent volcanic eruption that occurred around 1500 BC. The volcano blew away the center of the island, forming a huge caldera. Some have theorized that Santorini is the site of mythical Atlantis, and the eruption is what caused Atlantis to be swallowed by the sea. Santorini’s volcano is still active.

Two years ago, we visited Santorini in early April. Because the season had not yet begun, we often had Santorini’s narrow village streets to ourselves. Many of the shops were closed. We had a great time.

The shopkeepers and restaurant owners were happy to see us, not yet jaded by a full season of tending tourists. Over glasses of Santorini’s crisp Assyrtiko white wine, our hotel’s owner told us about the island’s bone-dry volcanic soil and the crops that thrive in it.

“Waterless” tomatoes, capers, yellow split peas (called fava in Greece), and wine grapes are Santorini’s most important agricultural products. When we left, my bags were packed with jars of sun-dried Santorini tomatoes, dried capers, pickled caper leaves, and a kilo of fava.

One of the best things I ate on Santorini was locally-caught Shrimp in Tomato and Caper Sauce. The intense taste of Santorini’s sun-dried tomatoes boosted the sauce’s tomato flavor, and tangy capers made the dish truly special.

Shrimp Santorini in Tomato and Caper SauceShrimp Santorini in Tomato and Caper Sauce (Γαρίδες Σαντορίνης)
Serves 4
Capers are salty, so don’t add too much salt until after you’ve tasted the sauce with capers in it. Shrimp stay more tender when cooked at low temperature. No matter the temperature, shrimp cook quickly and must be watched carefully to prevent them from overcooking and getting tough. My husband likes this with a little fresh lemon juice squeezed over; I prefer it without.

Tomato Sauce:
1 1/2 cups diced onions, 1/4” dice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper (optional)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes or 1 1/2 cups fresh, with juices
1 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. oregano
3 Tbsp. minced sun-dried tomatoes in oil or 1 1/2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 Tbsp. capers, preferably salted, rinsed and soaked to remove excess salt

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, shelled
Lemon wedges (optional)

Sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until the onions soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the Aleppo pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and boil until it is reduced by half. Stir in the tomatoes, water, bay leaf, and oregano. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for 45 – 60 minutes or until the sauce thickens and its flavors meld together. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water. Turn off the heat and stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and capers. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed. (This can be made well ahead.)

Wash and dry the shrimp. Season them on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the shrimp. Cook just until the shrimp turn pink, about 5 minutes total for medium-sized shrimp. Serve immediately with chunks of feta cheese, oil-cured black olives, a crisp green salad, and plenty of crusty bread for mopping up the sauce.
This is my entry for
Antioxidant Rich Foods/Five-a-Day Tuesdays hosted by Sweetnicks.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Recipe: Eggs Rockefeller with Dandelion Greens and Hollandaise

Living so far from our families, we’re nostalgic on Mother’s Day. We call and send flowers, but always wish we could be together in one place. To feel closer to our mothers, we do something special on Mother’s Day.

Last Sunday, we celebrated by making Eggs Rockefeller with Dandelion Greens and Hollandaise. To toast our mothers, we had
Bloody Marys (one of them virgin, one not), the perfect drink for eggs served with buttery hollandaise.

If you’ve never tried
dandelion greens, they have wonderful flavor when picked before the flower buds form. For information about gathering dandelions and other wild greens, go to my How to Harvest Wild Greens post.

For those who don’t have the time or inclination for dandelions, use spinach instead, the green used in many “Rockefeller” preparations. If you don’t like spinach, use Swiss chard. Or nettles. Or whatever leafy greens strike your fancy.

Hollandaise sauce is a breeze to make in a blender. For as long as I’ve been cooking, I’ve used the blender hollandaise recipe in The Joy of Cooking (a classic American cookbook) that was given me when I first moved out on my own. This recipe has never failed; it makes perfect hollandaise every time.

Eggs Rockefeller with Dandelion Greens and Hollandaise
Serves 2

Well-flavored greens, flavored with a hint of fennel, are a terrific counterpoint to runny egg-yolks and rich hollandaise. Any tender greens, wild or domesticated, may be used instead of dandelions.For special occasions, serve with a Bloody Mary or Mimosa.

1 pound dandelion greens (uncleaned) or 1 bunch spinach
1 cup diced onions, 1/4” dice
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. freshly crushed fennel seed
4 slices artisan-style bread or 2 English muffins
4 eggs
Blender Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe below)
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Wash the dandelions very carefully. Discard any tough or damaged leaves, stems, roots, and the tiny flower bud often found in the very center of even young dandelions.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in the cleaned dandelions and cook for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the greens into a bowl of cold water. (Reserve the hot cooking water for poaching the eggs.) Drain the greens. Pick up a handful of drained greens and, using your hands, squeeze as much water out of them as you can. Continue with the remaining greens. Chop the greens.

Sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until they soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the garlic and crushed fennel; cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chopped greens and toss to thoroughly combine. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid in the greens has evaporated. Keep warm while you make the eggs.

[For the hollandaise, put the egg yolks etc. in the blender container, and start melting the butter.] Toast the bread or English muffins.

Bring the greens cooking water to a simmer. Crack the eggs into 4 separate small bowls. Slip the eggs into the simmering water. [While the eggs are cooking, finish the hollandaise by blending hot bubbling butter into the egg yolks.]

When the simmering eggs are just set (be sure not to cook the yolks hard), remove them from the water with a slotted spoon. Drain the eggs briefly on paper towels.

Assemble: Place two slices of toast on a plate. Top each piece of toast with the cooked dandelion greens. Put a poached egg on top of the dandelions and pour a ribbon of hollandaise on top of the eggs. Sprinkle with a pinch of cayenne and serve immediately.

Blender Hollandaise Sauce
Makes 1 cup
Adapted from
The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (1964 edition)
The sauce must be hot when served; either make it at the very end or keep it warm by putting the blender container in warm (not hot) water. This makes enough for 3 servings of Eggs Benedict or Rockefeller and I usually only make it for 2. I’ve tried making a smaller amount and it doesn’t work; without the full amount of bubbling hot butter, there isn’t enough heat to cook the eggs. Leftover hollandaise makes a terrific sauce for asparagus or other green vegetables. To use leftover hollandaise, slowly reheat the sauce in a water bath.

3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne, and salt in a blender. Melt the butter until it is hot and bubbling (this is easiest to do in a microwave). Blend the egg yolks on high for a few seconds, and then pour in a steady stream of hot bubbling butter. The hollandaise should now be done; if it isn’t thick enough, continue to blend for a few more seconds. If the sauce is too thick add a tiny amount of lemon juice or water. Taste and add salt, cayenne, or lemon juice as needed.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Gay from A Scientist in the Kitchen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recipe: Braised Green Beans (Fasolakia) with Lemon (Φασολάκια Λαδερά με Λεμόνι)

“If there are three Greeks in a room, you’re bound to hear five different opinions about the correct way to cook just about anything.”

Or so goes the self-deprecating joke at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Anchorage, Alaska. Although it may not be literally true, the joke helps lighten the mood at festival time.

For the annual Greek festival held in August, parishioners join together to make classics of the Greek table. The correct ways to make Moussaka, Fasolakia (braised green beans), and Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) trigger the most vigorous debates. Everyone knows the “correct” recipe, but none of them are the same.

At Mama’s Taverna, Lulu captured the essence of these debates as she described how Zoe came up with
her wonderful Fasolakia recipe.

The truth is, Greek braised green beans taste great no matter the recipe. As I commented to Lulu, “I’ve sautéed, I’ve not sautéed, I’ve layered, I’ve stirred, I’ve added potatoes, I’ve added zucchini, I’ve cooked the beans plain, I’ve cooked them with meat, I’ve cooked them without and, shockingly, I’ve even made them sans tomatoes. In all their incarnations, I’ve NEVER had a pot of Fasolakia that tastes anything other than absolutely wonderful.”

I no sooner sent the comment than I started obsessing about Fasolakia made without tomatoes (the most common recipe includes them). I used to make tomato-less Fasolakia all the time. In recent years I’ve been stuck on versions with tomato, one of which I wrote about in February:
Greek Beef and Green Bean Stew and two of which are included in Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska (Fasolakia and Fasolakia with Zucchini and Potatoes).

Last night I made the tomato-less version. It was everything I’d been wanting. The braised beans and onions were soft and sweet, rich with oil and herbs, and tangy from the fresh lemon juice finish. This is a dish where bread is a necessary accompaniment; it’s a shame to let the remarkably good juices go to waste.

Fasolakia belongs to a class of Greek dishes called Ladera, which means “oily” (ladi/λάδι is the Greek word for oil). The oil and vegetable juices cook together to make a wonderfully unctuous sauce. However, for many today, traditional Ladera has too much oil. Adjust the amount of oil in the recipe to suit your taste; for the traditional version, use the larger amount.

When considering the amount of oil to use, keep in mind that olive oil is a heart-healthy fat. According to the
Mayo Clinic, “Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, which can lower your risk of heart disease by reducing the total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol levels in your blood.”

The FDA says there is "limited but not conclusive evidence" that 2 tablespoons of olive oil daily can reduce the risk of heart disease. (Olive oil should be substituted for fats already in the diet, and not just added to what you’re already eating.)

This recipe’s dedicated to Lulu and Zoe.

Braised Green Beans (Fasolakia) with Lemon (Φασολάκια Λαδερά με Λεμόνι)
Serves 4 - 6 as a main course
In this easy recipe, the herbs and vegetables are layered in a Dutch oven and cooked without stirring until the beans are soft and tender. The beans shouldn’t be crunchy, and must be cooked through. Adjust the amount of olive oil as desired. Serve with slices of feta cheese, Kalamata olives, bread, and lemon wedges.

1 1/2 pounds green beans (6 cups cleaned)
4 cups thinly sliced onions
1 1/2 cups minced parsley
1/2 cup minced dill
1/2 cup minced mint
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 – 1 cup olive oil
1/4 - 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Lemon wedges

Wash the beans, break off both ends, and break them in half. Mix the herbs and garlic together.

In a Dutch oven, layer 1 cup of onions on the bottom of the pan, top with 1/3 of the beans, then 1/3 of the herb mix, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and drizzle with 1/3 of the olive oil. Repeat. Repeat again but finish with the remaining cup of onions before drizzling with the last 1/3 of olive oil.

Cover and cook over medium high heat until the pan lid is hot. As soon as the lid is hot, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 1 hour, or until the beans are very soft and tender. Stir in 1/4 cup lemon juice. Taste and add lemon juice, salt, or freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.
This is my entry for
Heart of the Matter’s May heart-healthy herb challenge hosted this month by Michelle at The Accidental Scientist.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Recipe: Carrots with Capers (Kαρότα με Kάπαρης)

When I want an easy, reliable, colorful vegetable side, I make Carrots with Capers adapted from Marcella Hazan's More Classic Italian Cooking. It goes particularly well with roast meat or chicken.

I’ve made it for 2 and I’ve made it for 100. Over the last 30 years, I’ve made this dish hundreds of times. It’s never been anything other than wonderful.

Marcella explains why: “The tart corrective of the capers is just what the carrots need to add a little zip to their otherwise passive sweetness. And their gentleness, in turn, tempers the tonic bite of the capers.”

I've changed Marcella's original recipe by upping the parsley, garlic, and capers. Because the garlic is cooked in water, its flavor in the finished dish is quite mild.

Try it. You won’t be sorry.

Carrots with Capers (Kαρότα με Kάπαρης)
Serves 4
Adapted from More Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan (Alfred A. Knopf 1978)
Adding the water a little at a time keeps the carrots from getting waterlogged; it's the same principle as adding broth to risotto in stages. The carrots may be cooked ahead, reheated, and the capers added at the last minute, but the carrots taste better if cooked right before serving. Since capers are salted, be careful not to oversalt at the beginning.

1 pound carrots
1/4 cup capers, preferably salt-cured
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 – 1 1/2 cups water

Wash the carrots, peel them, and cut off the tops and bottoms. Cut into lengths the size and width of a woman’s little finger.

If using salt-preserved capers, rinse off the salt and let them soak in cold water for 10 – 15 minutes, and rinse them again. If using brined capers, rinse off the brine. Dry the capers and reserve.

Sauté the carrots, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil for 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 cup water and cook until the water completely evaporates. Continue adding 1/4 cups of water and evaporating it until the carrots are done. This takes 10 – 20 minutes; cook until the carrots are tender but firm.

When the carrots are done, brown them lightly in the oil remaining in the pan after the water is gone. Stir in the capers and cook for 1 minute. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Serve immediately.
This is my entry for Antioxidant Rich Foods/Five-a-Day Tuesdays hosted by Sweetnicks.

Weekend Herb Blogging Roundup for May 5 - 11, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging is a weekly event created by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and features interesting recipes made with herbs, plants, vegetables, or flowers. For those who want to take part in Weekend Herb Blogging, here are the rules.

The responsibility for summing up each week’s submissions jumps from blogger to blogger; this week it’s my turn. Fifty people from across the globe submitted an interesting and eclectic group of recipes. I enjoyed reading them all.

The entries are described in the order they were received. If anyone finds an error, please let me know and I’ll fix it right away. Next week’s host is Gay from
A Scientist in the Kitchen.

Thai-Style Red Curry with Chicken
Alexandria, Virginia, USA
While readying her garden for spring, Cheryl of
Gluten Free Goodness found a volunteer Vietnamese basil plant growing in a patio crack. Cheryl used the basil to garnish and give flavor to Thai-Style Red Curry with Chicken.

Trio of Preserved Tomatoes
Manila, Philippines

Chicha Jo, of
80 Breakfasts, bought a passel of organic red and green tomatoes that had been “grown using local community labor at fair wages.” In an epic cook-a-thon, she made Pickled Green Tomatoes to serve with fish or burgers, Red Tomato Chutney, a versatile condiment, and Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, which she’s already used in salad, pasta, and a tart.

Farro with Mushrooms, Thyme, and Balsamic Vinegar
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Kalyn, of
Kalyn’s Kitchen (and creator of Weekend Herb Blogging), has trouble finding time to cook out of all her accumulated cookbooks. Luckily for us, Kalyn dove into one of her books and made Farro with Mushrooms, Thyme, and Balsamic Vinegar. Kalyn also gives tips for using farro, an ancient Mediterranean high-protein grain.

Spanish Omelet with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Mill Valley, California, USA

Anna of
Anna’s Cool Finds shows off her shopping skills, and demonstrates why her blog is aptly named, with a wonderful Spanish Omelet and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce served with ocean friendly Canadian lobster tail. Anna says the quick and easy pepper sauce, made with pantry staples, can also be used to enliven roast meats.

Palek Paneer (Spiced Spinach and Cheese)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Elizabeth of
Blog from OUR Kitchen made her favorite vegetable: an Indian spinach and cheese dish called Palek Paneer. This is so good it converted Elizabeth from a spinach hater to a spinach lover. Palek Paneer can be made well ahead, and is nicely seasoned with ginger, cumin, mustard seed, and garlic.

Matar Paneer (Spiced Peas and Cheese)
London, Ontario, Canada
Lisa of
Lisa’s Kitchen made spiced peas and cheese from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan called Matar Paneer. When you eat this, Lisa says the warm paneer cheese melts in your mouth and nicely balances the spicy tomato sauce.

Fresh Cardamom and Rocket (Arugula) Salad
Athens, Greece
Ivy of
Kopiaste went to a farmer’s market and discovered fresh cardamom greens. The seller told Ivy to use it in salads, but warned her fresh cardamom is a male aphrodisiac. (The Greek verb kardamono/καρδαμώνω means “to become invigorated.”) Ivy made a delicious Fresh Cardamom and Rocket (Arugula) Salad that included cherry tomatoes, green onions, dried figs, and fresh strawberries.

Black Bean Chili-Soup
Missouri, USA

Susan of
Farmgirl Fare made an easy, healthy, and delicious Black Bean Chili-Soup packed with herbs and vegetables. The soup can be made ahead or frozen for use on days when finding time to cook is impossible. For maximum flavor, Susan advises to buy whole spices and grind them at home; I whole-heartedly agree.

Foxtail Millet with Dal and Fenugreek Leaves

Srivalli of
Cooking 4 All Seasons cooks foxtail millet instead of rice and serves it with Dal and Fresh Fenugreek Leaves. Her fascinating post explains the variety of ways that fenugreek is used as food: seeds, fresh greens, and dried greens. (The word fenugreek comes from the Latin for “Greek hay;” in Greece it’s called Trigoniskos – Τριγωνίσκος.)

Ricotta Cheese Spread with Herbs
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

KC of
Kits Chow loves Boursin cheese but hasn’t been eating it since starting the South Beach diet. To ease her longing, KC created a lovely Ricotta Cheese Spread with Herbs seasoned with cilantro, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and lemon zest.

Minty Watermelon Shake

Gay of
A Scientist in the Kitchen blends watermelon and fresh mint to make a wonderfully refreshing Minty Watermelon Shake: the perfect drink for a sunny day.

Red Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

Natalie of
Gluten Free Mommy loves quinoa and says it’s easiest to make in a rice cooker. For Red Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, Natalie bakes peppers with red quinoa, kale, tomato, and herb stuffing, and serves them with mashed avocado and lime.

Herbed Parsnip Soup
Greenwich Village, New York, USA

The Chocolate Lady says that parsnips are at their sweetest and most intense in early spring. For the last days of Passover, she made Herbed Parsnip Soup, a comforting soup guaranteed to sooth even the most harried among us.

Split Pea Soup
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Johanna of
Green Gourmet Giraffe was inspired by medieval recipes for pease pudding to make vegetarian Split Pea Soup. She uses smoked paprika instead of ham to round out the soup’s flavor. For food history buffs, Johanna describes pea soup’s importance in years past.

Oregano Crusted Wavy Pork Skewers
Belgrade, Serbia

Marija of
Palachinka layers thin pork slices with zucchini and smoked cheese, skewers them, and coats them with oregano flavored bread crumbs to make Oregano Crusted Wavy Pork Skewers. Marija cooks interesting Serbian food; when you’re done reading about pork skewers, check out the rest of her wonderful blog.

Liver in Onion and White Wine Sauce
Croatia (Dalmatia) via the UK
Maninas of the wonderful
Food Matters blog shares her mother’s recipe for Liver in Onion and White Wine Sauce. Sweet carrots and onions combine with white wine, garlic, and parsley to make a typically Croatian sauce. When served over buttery soft mashed potatoes, Maninas' liver dish is heavenly.

Carpaccio with Dandelion Salad and Truffle Oil
Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Laurie of
Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska (yep, that’s me) used the first, sweet dandelions of the year to make Carpaccio with Dandelion Salad and Truffle Oil. I also give some basic rules to follow when foraging for wild greens.

Tamarind Rice
Los Angeles, California, USA
Divya Vikram of
Dil Se says Tamarind Rice is the ultimate comfort food and can be prepared in minutes. She mixes cooked rice with lots of Indian spices, chili, and garlic. Tamarind Rice can be made with pantry staples, so is a handy dish for days when you don’t have time to go shopping.

Dhokla Sandwiches
California, USA

For days when she wants something attractive, delicious, and low-calorie, Mansi of
Fun and Food makes Dhokla Sandwiches filled with cilantro chutney. The bottom layer is a steamed chickpea flour cake and the top layer a steamed chili and cilantro cake. Dhokla Sandwiches are perfect finger food that can be served with your choice of dipping sauce.

Bottle Gourd Curry (Bolu Kodhel)
India via the UK

Sia of
Monsoon Spice came home after a long flight from India and needed simple comfort food. She made her amah’s mother’s recipe for Bottle Gourd Curry which mixes silky bottle gourd with spicy sambar powder and sweet jaggery. (Use the links if you need help understanding what, for me, are exotic ingredients.)

Parsley Pesto with Walnuts
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Peter of
Souvlaki for the Soul makes Parsley Pesto with Walnuts and serves it on toasted pita bread and also tossed with pasta. Peter says it’s delicious and highly addictive. For anyone interested in food photography, Peter’s blog is a must; he consistently takes some of the best and most innovative photographs available in the food blogosphere.

Yellow Rice & Black Bean Salad
Lima, Peru

Last Friday, Gretchen of
Canela & Comino woke up to a wind storm; winter is arriving in Peru. Gretchen, however, is still pretending it’s summer so made a healthy Yellow Rice and Black Bean Salad.

Millet and Red Pepper Pilaf
Ontario, Canada

Ricki of
Diet, Dessert and Dogs used her knowledge of gluten free grains to whip up a 20-minute Millet and Red Pepper Pilaf. Curry and coconut milk add Asian undertones, and complement the sweet red peppers. Pretty to look at, pleasingly aromatic, and ready in a flash, Ricki’s millet pilaf is a wonderful side dish.

Mom’s Stuffed Artichokes
San Diego, California, USA

Susan of
Food Blogga first helped her mom make vegetarian stuffed artichokes when she was 6. After moving to California, the artichoke-lovers’ promised land, Susan called her mom for advice on how to make them by herself. Over the years, Susan has perfected her Mom’s Stuffed Artichokes and now shares the recipe with us.

Roasted Tomatoes with Fresh Chives
Soddy Daisy, Tennessee, USA
Pam of
Sidewalk Shoes is blessed with too many chives in her garden. One way she uses them is in quick and easy Roasted Tomatoes with Fresh Chives. Pam says roasting sweetens and deepens the flavor of even off-season tomatoes.

Lamb Shanks in Port Sauce
Victoria, Australia

Autumn has arrived in Australia, and Pam of
The Backyard Pizzeria turns to her favorite cut of meat to make the perfect fall dish: Lamb Shanks in Port Sauce. Pam cleverly uses a pressure cooker to turn this normally slow-cooked dish into one that is tender and succulent in only an hour.

Black Bean Chicken Chili
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Mandira of
Ahaar had some leftover chicken and used it to make Black Bean Chicken Chili. Green peppers and carrots give substance to the chili, which is warmly spiced with cumin and chili powder.

Sourdough Rosemary Olive Oil Bread
Arcata, California, USA

Tommi of
Brown Interior makes her first WHB entry a great one with La Brea Bakery’s recipe for Sourdough Rosemary Olive Oil Bread. Tommi’s loaves have a beautiful tender crumb from the added olive oil, which also makes the crust thin and crispy.

Pineapple Sage

Linda of
Snowys grows Pineapple Sage as an ornamental perennial and provides links for Pineapple Sage Pound Cake and Pineapple Sage Tea. The gorgeous red flowers can also add a tasty accent to fruit salads.

Portuguese Chicken
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Australians are obsessed with
Portuguese Chicken for good reason, says Anna of Morsels & Musings. The spicy chicken is seasoned with Piri Piri (African Birdseye) Peppers which, at 175,000 Scoville units, are hotter than Thai and Pequin peppers but not as hot as Habaneros or Scotch Bonnets. To cool down your mouth, Anna throws in a bonus recipe for Coriander Soup.

Gingko Nut and Mushroom Custards
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Lucy of
Nourish Me searched out gingko nuts at an Asian grocery and used their pungent flesh to make Gingko Nut and Mushroom Custards. Seasoned with shiitake mushrooms and smoked tofu, Lucy says the barely set, quivering custards are a welcome restorative. Speaking of restoratives, Lucy’s lyrical writing and striking photographs make Nourish Me one of mine.

Roasted Garlic Oil
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Kevin of
Closet Cooking claims he used to make boring meals, but you’ll never believe it if you read his prolific postings. This week, Kevin enters an easy recipe for Roasted Garlic Oil. Making the oil leaves you with a bonus bowl of roasted garlic that can be tossed with pasta, spread on toast, slipped under chicken skin, or used in a myriad of other ways; just don’t throw it away.

Asparagus Chèvre Quiche
Les Pineaux, Vendée, France

Katie of
Thyme for Cooking dreams of eating Asparagus Chèvre Quiche in the Monet-designed gardens of Giverny and takes us along to this floral paradise. Katie's spendid quiche has an interesting brown rice crust and also includes prosciutto, tomatoes, and basil.

Braised Peas with Pancetta and Onions
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Haalo of
Cook Almost Anything brings us her mom’s recipe for Braised Peas with Pancetta and Onion. Fresh peas are combined with slowly braised onions, garlic, and pancetta in a glorious side dish. Haalo says she never has leftovers when she makes this; it’s that good.

Spring Lamb Stew
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Tammy of
Food on the Food braises spring lamb until it’s fork-tender and mixes it with fresh asparagus, peas, tarragon, and chervil to make Amanda Hesser’s Spring Lamb Stew from The Cook and the Gardener. If you haven’t seen WHB first-timer Tammy’s blog, I recommend it – she’s a humorist as well as an excellent cook.

Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves and Zucchini Flowers)
Hania, Crete, Greece

Organically Cooked is one of my favorite Greek food blogs. Its author, Maria, is a born storyteller and purveyor of healthy, tasty, and traditional Cretan foods. For her first time participating in WHB, Maria makes rice-stuffed Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves and Zucchini Flowers). Maria cleverly uses Dolmadakia as caps for oven-baked Stuffed Tomatoes.

Pasta with Pink Peppercorns
Chennai, India

Arundathi of
My Food Blog approached pink peppercorns with trepidation after learning they can be toxic if eaten in large quantities. However, when she made Pasta with Pink Peppercorns with exactly 5 peppercorns, Arundathi discovered they added a delicate and wonderful flavor to her vegetarian pasta recipe.

Chinois Pancakes
New York, USA

Siri of
Siri’s Corner continues her series of vegetarian Wolfgang Puck recipes with her post on Chinois Pancakes. Though the pancakes were originally designed to accompany Puck’s Chinese Duck with Plum Sauce, Siri says they can be served with just about anything. The savory pancakes, seasoned with garlic, ginger, and green onions look like beautiful lace.

Zoe’s Green Beans (Fasolakia tis Zoes)
California, USA

Green beans braised in tomato sauce are a classic of the Greek table, and for good reason: they taste wonderful. At
Mama’s Taverna, clever Lulu gives us a taste of the debates that rage in Greece over the correct way to make Fasolakia (and every other classic dish), as well as a recipe and step-by-step photographic instructions.

Creamy Quinoa with Banana, Cassia, and Almonds
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

With fall’s arrival in Melbourne, Another Outspoken Female from
Confessions of a Food Nazi is drawn to hot breakfasts. Creamy Quinoa with Banana, Cassia, and Almonds hits just the right spot. Ms. Outspoken hand-grates cassia bark for seasoning, and prefers its spicier flavor to that of milder true cinnamon.

Mushroom Balls
Davis, California, USA

Sher of
What Did You Eat? loves meatballs, but decided it was time to make something that would let her vegetarian friends “experience the joy of popping a savory orb into their mouths.” She serves her delicious gluten-free Mushroom Balls with spiced red sauce and says they look meaty, but taste like concentrated mushrooms.

Cheese, Olive, and Buttermilk Herb Bread
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

When Y of
Lemonpi was young, she made her brother hot breakfasts showcasing cheese, one of his favorite foods. In honor of those long ago days, Y recently made her brother Cheese, Olive, and Buttermilk Herb Bread. With oodles of herbs and two kinds of cheese, Y’s beautiful bread is best served warm.

Tapenade (Olive Spread)
Northern Germany
Ulrike of
Küchenlatein used thyme and rosemary from her garden to make a Provençal olive spread called Tapenade. Anchovies and capers add to Tapenade’s flavor, which is best served on freshly baked bread.

French Beans with Spicy Dried Shrimp

For busy nights when Wiffy of
Noob Cook wants flavorful food in a hurry, she makes French Beans with Spicy Dried Shrimp. Green beans are cut in 1/2” lengths, seasoned with chili, garlic, and dried shrimp, stir-fried for 5 minutes, and served with steamed rice.

Spareribs with Bitter Gourd Soup

Soli Deo Gloria of
Hearth and Home learned to remove the bitterness from bitter gourds by making Spareribs with Bitter Gourd Soup. Since bitter gourd is such a healthy vegetable, Ms. Gloria was happy to find a way to make it that even children like.

Picnic by the Loire

Ronell of
My French Kitchen kindly takes us along for a Picnic by the Loire River. She packs a hamper with beautiful herbs and vegetables (and vinaigrette on the side), and adds cheese, bread, wine, and ice cream for dessert. If wishes were horses, I’d join her on the riverbank. Since they aren’t, I’ll bask in Ronell’s lovely pictures and be inspired by her good time.

Oregano Ravioli
Ontario, Canada

Natashya of
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies shows genius by making Oregano Ravioli for her maiden voyage with WHB. She works fresh oregano directly into pasta dough and stuffs the ravioli with cheese filling. Natashya serves her ravishing ravioli with grilled chicken.

Wild Garlic Chutney
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Maybelle’s Mom of
Feeding Maybelle is enjoying the rewards of foraging for wild plants (a woman after my own heart). She used the spoils from a recent expedition to make Wild Garlic Chutney and ate it spread on buttered toast. The chutney is a terrific example of the wonderful food that can be made with wild gleanings.

Greek Mushroom Filo Cups
New York, USA

“Musky, woodsy, just enough crunch” is how Susan of
The Well-Seasoned Cook describes her Greek Mushroom Filo Cups. Susan’s knack for evocative food descriptions and tasty recipes makes her blog one of my favorites. The mushroom cups, seasoned with coriander seed and fresh thyme, were a superb accompaniment for Susan’s late afternoon apéritif.

Chicory, Potato, and Dolcelatte Salad
United Kingdom

Scott of
Real Epicurean mixes hot potatoes with gorgonzola (dolcelatte), mustard dressing, and fresh Belgian endive (chicory) for a lovely Chicory, Potato, and Dolcelatte Salad. Lemon juice and a sprinkling of walnuts finish this luscious salad.