Tag Archives: Mediterranean Cuisine

Raw Vegetable Salad with Oil-Braised Garlic and Near East Spices

This vegetable salad is so delicious it’s making my mouth water as I look at the picture; it’s also exceedingly easy to make. You can use whatever vegetables you prefer, or whatever seasonings you prefer. The recipe is below, but these are the basic steps.

Slice, chop, or shred whatever vegetables you like.
Put the vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle salt over them.
Slow-cook whole garlic cloves in olive oil.
Add spices to the pan and remove from the heat.
Stir the still-hot oil-garlic-spice mixture into the vegetables
Stir in lemon juice.

Here it is in pictures, a recipe is below.

Raw Vegetable Salad with Oil-Braised Garlic and Near East Spices
Makes about 12 portions, but the recipe may easliy be reduced in size.
Slice, chop, and shred enough of your favorite vegetables to feed 12 people (I used red onion, cabbage, carrot, zucchini, asparagus, red bell pepper, celery, cucumber, and green beans). Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of kosher salt over them; mix the vegetables again and set aside. In a small skillet, combine 1 cup of olive oil and up to 25 whole garlic cloves (their sharpness is greatly diminished when they braise). Place the pan over low-medium heat and cook the garlic for about 20-30 minutes…it will simmer for quite a while before it begins to brown, if it browns too quickly the heat is too high. After the garlic is lightly browned and soft enough that it can be mashed with the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat. Stir into the oil-garlic mixture–while it is still hot–1 tablespoon curry, 1 tablespoon black sesame seed, 2 teaspoons crushed hot pepper, 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed, 2 teaspoons whole cumin seed, and 2 teaspoons whole mustard seed. All the spices to cook in the hot oil for about 30 seconds, stirring them gently, then pour this mixture over the raw vegetables. Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice and gently stir the salad. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Barley Tabbouleh

Yesterday I made mushroom-barley soup but cooked too much barley (it’s amazing how it just keeps expanding isn’t it). The outcome was that I had an excess of cooked barley today. So I made a variation of tabbouleh for staff lunch today. I had never made this with barley before but it was delicious. And it was a real variation–a sort of stone soup version of tabbouleh–because every time I went to the cooler I grabbed another vegetable and chopped it up and mixed it in. It really ended up being a sort of barley-vegetable salad with lemon-garlic-mint dressing. Nonetheless, it was truly delicious (and simple to make). Anyhow, the recipe I made today is below, and the recipe for classic tabbouleh is just below that.

Barley Tabbouleh
Makes about 6 servings
2 cups cooked and cooledbarley
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, cutin half
1 small red bell pepper,diced
1/2 English cucumber, seedsremoved and diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
1/4 cup kalamata olives,coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, coarselychopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley,coarsely chopped
3/4 cup virgin olive oil
1/3 lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a medium bowl, combinethe barley, tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, avocado, olives, mint,and parsley. Gently mix together and set aside. Combine in a blender,the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves, and salt. Process theseingredients for about 20 seconds, or until the garlic is pureed andthe liquids are emulsified. Pour the dressing over the saladingredients and mix gently. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
 Classic Tabbouleh
Makes about 4 servings
3/4 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups warm water
2 cups chopped parsley
3/4 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoon lemon juice
2 diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Soak the bulgur in the warm waterfor 1/2 hour, or until soft, then drain and squeeze out any excess water. In a medium bowl, combine the bulgur, parsley, mint, green onions, olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes,salt, and pepper. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Pesce (e Pasta) Fra Diavolo

I’ve mentioned it before but I have to again…this is without doubt my favorite pasta dish. It’s easy to make and super delicious (and you can use whatever seafood you like). The recipe is below, but if you would like more photos and info about this dish (including it’s history and etymology), click here. Now if you’ll excuse me I believe I’ll go have a second helping 🙂

Penne Fra Diavolo with Halibut
Makes 4 portions
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup red wine
2 cups tomato purée
1 pound diced halibut
1/2 pound linguine
Combine the olive oil, onion, garlic, anchovies, red pepper, basil, parsley, and salt in a skillet over medium heat. Stir and mash the ingredients with the back of a wooden spoon until the onion and garlic is translucent but not browned. Stir in the wine and simmer it for a minute or two, then add the tomato puree. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it for 5 or 10 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boil the pasta until al dente. Stir the fish into the sauce, bring it back to a simmer and poach it for about 5 minutes. When the fish is cooked gently fold in the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 5 minutes, allowing the flavors of the sauce and fish permeate the pasta.

Urban Simplicity.

Asparagi Aglio e Olio (ricetta)

This is just another delicious variation of cooking vegetables in olive oil with garlic and hot pepper. It is so simple but truly delicious and you can cook nearly any vegetable in this fashion. Here’s a simple recipe; for more recipes like this click here.  (I ate this for dinner tonight with brown rice, lamb, and yogurt…yum!)

Asparagi Aglio e Olio
(Asparagus with Garlic and Oil)
                                        Yield: 4 servings

4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup water
Heat the olive oil, garlic, and hot pepper in a skillet. When the garlic begins to sizzle and brown slightly add the asparagus, salt, and water. Toss and turn the asparagus for a couple minutes until most of the water evaporates and the asparagus is just cooked. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Middle Eastern Brown Rice with Lamb and Vermacelli

This is a variation of my recipe for Lebanese Chicken and Rice. In this version I replace the chicken with lamb and use brown rice instead of white. Beef or pork can replace the lamb but it’s not quite the same. The aroma this dish (or any of it’s variations) will permeate the house with the sweet smell of broth and spices simmering.

For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here.

Lebanese Lamb-and-Rice
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lamb, diced
4 ounces diced onion
2 ounces vermicelli, broken into pieces
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups long grain brown rice
3-4 cups hot chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced parsley

Heat the olive oil over high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sauté the lamb then remove it from the pan and set aside. Add the onion and vermicelli to the pan and cook until golden, then add the garlic and cook another minute or two. Add the cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and salt; sauté two minutes while stirring. Add the onions and pasta back to the pan along with the rice, stirring to fully coat it with with the oil and spices. Then add the lamb back to the pan along with the broth. Cover the pot with a lid. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Remove the pot from the stove and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

Urban Simplicity.

Deep-Dish Pizza with a Whole-Wheat Seven-Grain Crust, Five Vegetables, and Three Cheeses

Deep-Dish Pizza with a Whole-Wheat Seven-Grain Crust, Five Vegetables, and Three Cheeses…that’s a mouthful if I ever heard one (pun intended). This is yet another variation of pizza that I made tonight for dinner. The vegetables (onion, pepper, carrot, cauliflower, and broccoli) were cooked aglio e olio style before being placed on the dough. The cheeses I used were cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan. When I shaped the dough I formed a sort of ridge around the edge to hold all the ingredients (yum!). Anyhow, for a recipe for the seven-grain bread (with photos and directions), click here. To see how to cook vegetables aglio e olio, click here. For additional pizza recipes, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Ma recette préférée de moules

This is by far my favorite mussel recipe. It is so delicious and so easy to make…simply put everything in a pan and cook it for a few minutes. I made this for staff lunch today at work. They can be eaten alone or served over pasta or rice (the recipe yields a delicious broth). Or if you want to be a Francophile you can eat them with French fries (moules frites). The only diversion I did from the recipe below was that I added a sliced lemon simply because I had it at hand.

Moules Marinière
Makes 4 servings.
3 pounds mussels, washed, rinsed,and de-bearded
1/2 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
Sea salt and cracked blackpepper to taste
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, washedand chopped
Place all of the ingredients except theparsley in a low-sided pot or a very large skillet. Cover the pan andplace it over a fast flame. Cook the mussels, shaking the panoccasionally, until they open, then cook for an additional minute.Remove from the heat and sprinkle the parsley across the mussels.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

This is by far one of my favorite seafood/tomato sauce recipes. It’s easy to make and really delicious…and it has an interesting history also. To read more about it’s origins, the reason certain ingredients are included, or to see photos of it being prepared, click here. (And no, to some of the squeamish readers who may be afraid of anchovies, you don’t taste them in the sauce…they are more of a nuance–I personally love them and ate a few straight from the can–and yes, to the same group of readers, you can omit them from the recipe…but it’s not quite the same.)

ShrimpFra Diavolo 
Makes 4 portions
6tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2small onion, diced
2cloves garlic, minced
2anchovy filets
1teaspoon crushed red pepper
2teaspoons minced parsley
1/2teaspoon basil
1/2teaspoon salt
2/3cup red wine
2cups tomato purée
1/2pound linguine
1/2pound large shrimp, peeled and cleaned

Heat3 tablespoons olive oil in a small saucepot. Add the onion andgarlic; sauté until translucent but not browned. Add the anchoviesand hot pepper; sauté for 1 minute, mashing the anchovies with awooden spoon. Stir in the parsley, basil, salt, and red wine. Simmerthe wine for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato puree. Simmerthe sauce slowly fore about 20 minutes. If the sauce becomes toothick thin it with a little water. While the sauce is simmering boilthe pasta until aldente,rinse it and set aside.

Heatthe remaining 3 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Patthe shrimp dry and carefully add them to the skillet. Stir and tossthe shrimp in the hot oil for a minute or two, then add the sauce.Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the shrimp for just a coupleminutes. Make sure the pasta is drained well and add it to the sauce.Cook just long enough to reheat the pasta.

Meatballs…or polpette?

Likely everyone in America has an opinion on the recipe and/or origin of classic tomato sauce and meatballs, especially if you are of Italian ancestry. Some say this is purely an American recipe that was adapted by early Italian immigrants out of necessity, while others believe it has its roots in the “old country”…and surely no recipe is as good as your mother’s or grandmother’s. Anyhow, I am not of Italian ancestry but grew up eating spaghetti-and-meatballs (made from scratch), and it’s still one of my–and my son’s–favorites. It’s easy to prepare, delicious, and you can make enough meatballs and sauce to freeze for a future meal when you’re in a hurry. We had this for dinner tonight and it was so good I believe I’ll go back for another helping.

Likely you have a recipe for this, but in the event that you don’t I’ve included a basic one below. If you’d like to read an article I wrote on pasta in general some years ago (which was originally published in Artvoice but is still floating on the Internet at AlterNet),  click here.

Ziti with Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

Yield 2-4 servings

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled andminced

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 cup red wine

1-1/2 cups chicken broth

1-1/2 cups tomato purée

Heat the olive oil over medium-highheat in a small sauce pot. Add the onion and sauté untiltranslucent, but not browned. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute.Stir in the sugar, basil, salt, and pepper; sauté another minute.Add the red wine, and allow it to simmer for 30 seconds. Stir in thebroth and tomato purée.Bring the sauce to a slow simmer.

For the meatballs:

8 ounces ground beef

1/2 small onion, peeled and diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons grated PecorinoRomano Cheese

1 large egg

1 slice wheat bread, crust removedand torn into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon pepper

olive oil for sautéing

Combine all of the ingredients in asmall bowl, and knead them for a minute or two, or until they are ahomogenous mass. Roll the meat into 16 mini meatballs. Heat a fewtablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.Place the meatballs in the hot oil and brown them on all sides.Remove the meatballs from the skillet and transfer them to the sauce.Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 45 minutes. If the saucebecomes too thick add water or broth until desired consistency.

To complete the dish:

1/2 pound ziti

grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

crushed hot pepper

Cook the ziti in plenty of boilingwater until al dente. Drain the pasta thoroughly, then transfer it toa large bowl. Pour the sauce and meatballs over the pasta; toss untilcombined. Serve while hot with grated cheese and crushed red pepper.

Urban Simplicity.

Super Delicious (and simple to make) Pasta con Vendure

This is a dish that I served to our staff at work yesterday. I was trying to use up some vegetables because we are closed for the first week of January. It’s really just a more complex version of any of the aglio e olio dishes I’ve posted here before. But before I start the recipe I have to qualify some of the ingredients…most are out of season, which is unlike me when I cook at home. But this was at my place of employment where we are primarily a banquet house, meaning what I purchase and serve is dictated by what the customers request. Unfortunately, to many, everything is always in season (it’s always overflowing in the supermarket isn’t it?). OK, sorry for the brief rant, I’ll get back on topic about the actual recipe. Anyhow, and as aforementioned, this is basically a version of an oil and garlic style pasta dish…but with more stuff in it…mainly how it was seasoned.

Here’s the ingredients I used (but you can adapt this to any ingredients…especially more seasonal vegetables), they’re listed in the order of application…

Olive oil, onion, carrot, sweet red pepper, garlic, crushed hot peppers, fennel seed, saffron threads, smoked paprika, white wine, chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth if you want to keep it vegetarian), kosher salt, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, cooked whole-wheat penne rigate, grated Manchego cheese (proportions are up to you; the more vegetables the better…and I use lots of garlic and hot pepper).

This is how to make it…

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, carrot, and sweet pepper; cook it until it begins to brown. Add the garlic, crushed hot pepper, and fennel seed; cook a couple minutes longer, making a sort of sofrito. Then add a small amount of smoked paprika and a few saffron threads; cook just a minute longer to bring out their flavor. Add some white wine and allow it to evaporate for a few minutes as it cooks, then add an equal quantity of broth. Season the liquid with kosher salt, and while it is boiling add the tomatoes and asparagus. Stir and cook the vegetables for a couple minute, until some of the liquid evaporates and the vegetables are al dente. Stir in the pasta and allow most of the remainder of the liquid to absorb into it. Toss with the cheese just before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Broccoli Aglio e Olio

Vegetables can be so beautiful. I’ve posted on cooking things with aglio e olio many times in the past, but I had this for dinner last night and thought it was so beautiful and delicious I thought I’d share a picture. Click here or a recipe (with pasta); click hereto see many other versions of this dish.

Urban Simplicity.