Category Archives: Mediterranean

Mediterranean Trout

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Fish doesn’t need to be intimidating to cook.  In fact, it is surprisingly easy and since it cooks quickly makes for a fast dinner.  Fish filets are nice but if you want to really impress your guests serve them a whole fish.  You can either serve a large one for the table or an individual fish for each guest.  Your fish monger can clean them for you making preparation even easier.

Think of the combination of vegetables I’ve used as a method rather than an exact recipe using and substituting whatever vegetables you like or have on hand.  If you don’t have capers substitute black olives or use both.  I like oregano but you can also use thyme, basil or a combination of all three.  Experiment with different combinations until you find a winning one for your family.  It really is that easy.

I served this with buttered baby red potatoes but mashed potatoes, orzo, or Israeli couscous would also be good.

MEDITERRANEAN TROUT

4 whole trout, cleaned, scaled, rinsed, and patted dry

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 large eggplant, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, divided

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Juice of 1 lemon plus 8 lemon slices

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Coat four pieces of tin foil with spray and place a trout in the center of each foil piece and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Thinly slice two of the garlic cloves and distribute the garlic slices and 8 slices of lemon evenly inside the four fish.  Generously season the outside of the fish with salt and pepper.
  • Place the tomatoes, eggplant, green and red peppers, zucchini, fennel, and onion in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Mince the remaining two garlic cloves and add them to the vegetables along with the capers, lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, and oregano.  Toss well to combine all of the ingredients.
  • Evenly divide the vegetables over the top of each fish.
  • Tightly wrap each fish with the foil to create packets.  Be sure to seal the edges so that the juices don’t escape.
  • Place the pan in the oven and bake the fish for 35-40 minutes.  Take care when opening the packets since hot steam will escape.

Serves:4

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Orange Hummus

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Hummus is one of my favorite food items.  I love its versatility; you can serve it as an appetizer, as a between meals snack, or slathered on your favorite bread as part of a sandwich.  Despite our geographic location I have yet to find hummus in any of the local markets or grocery store.  This doesn’t have to be a deterrent however, since homemade hummus is very easy to make.  Garbanzo beans are like a blank slate; their neutral flavor makes them the perfect backdrop for whichever flavors you like.  If you love garlic, add more.  In lieu of the orange you could also incorporate roasted red peppers for a colorful and flavorful addition.  Personally I love the addition of orange juice and orange zest.  The hint of citrus adds a bright note to the garbanzo beans.

If you have the time use dried garbanzo beans.  You will be able to taste the difference.  If you don’t have dried beans or are making the hummus on short notice, go ahead and use canned beans.  You will still be happy with the results.

ORANGE HUMMUS

2 cups dry garbanzo beans (or 3 1/2 cups canned beans)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Zest and juice of 2 oranges

10 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

  • Rinse the garbanzo beans under cool water.  Place in a large stockpot, cover with water, and let soak overnight.
  • Drain the beans, cover with water again and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the pot and continue to cook for an additional 45 minutes to an hour until the beans are tender.  Drain and allow to cool.
  • Place the garlic cloves into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the garbanzo beans and continue to pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add up to 2 tablespoons of olive oil to help moisten the mixture.
  • Add the cumin, cayenne, orange zest, orange juice, and remaining olive oil to the food processor and pulse until smooth and combined.
  • Season with salt to taste.
  • Serve with pita wedges or your favorite dipping items.

Yields 4 cups

Olive Oil – Olive Bread

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My 2013 bread baking challenge continues.  For inspiration I’ve been reading Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Fanncois’ Artiisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day and was excited to find this recipe that includes one of my favorite savory ingredients. This time it is taking on a Mediterranean twist with a rich olive oil based dough (using my stash of my own olive oil) as well as a generous helping of home cured olives.  Since the recipe for the dough produces four full pounds of dough, it can easily be halved, or even doubled if you are a big fan of bread.  The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 12 days so you can make a batch of dough and use it as the base for several different types of bread.

OLIVE OIL DOUGH

2 3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

OLIVE BREAD FILLING

1/4 cup high quality olives pitted and halved

  • Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded, not air tight, food container.
  • Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor with a dough attachment, or a heavy duty stand mixer with a dough hook.  If you are not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
  • Cover (not air tight) and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  • The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate in a lidded (not air tight) container and use over the next 12 days.  

 

COMPOSING THE BREAD

  • Dust the surface of of 1-pound of refrigerated dough with flour.  Using your hands and a rolling pin, flatten the dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cover with the olives and roll up to seal inside the dough.  Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 1 hour.
  • Twenty minutes before the baking time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack.  Place an empty broiler tray on the other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising of the bread.
  • Just before baking, paint the surface of the bread with a cornstarch wash of 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch combined with 1/2 cup of water that has been microwaved on high for 1 minute.  Slash a cross onto the top of the loaf using a serrated bread knife.
  • Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone.  Pour one cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door.  Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top crust is deeply browned and very firm.
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing and eating.

Preserved Lemons

Preserved lemons are a staple of Mediterranean and North African cooking.  You can find them in gourmet markets (outside of Albania that is) but they are so easy to make you with proper planning, you can make your own.  After making lemoncello I’m alway left with a dozen rindless lemons and have difficulty finding something that requires that much fresh lemon juice.  Preserved lemons to the rescue!

This simple recipe from Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest cookbook only has three ingredients.  I pack my lemons in small jars that hold one lemon each.  These make perfect holiday or hostess gifts for the foodies in your life.

 

 

 

 

PRESERVED LEMONS

 

12 organic lemons or enough to fill a wide mouth 1-pint or 1-quart jar

Sea salt

Lemon juice

  • Sterilize your jar by submerging in boiling water for a minute.  Very carefully lift the jar out of the water using tongs.  Tip the water out of the jar and into the pot as you remove it, so that you don’t get scalded.  Drain the jar on a clean dish towel, top down.
  • Quarter each lemon lengthwise from the pointed (bud) end down to within 1/2 inch of the stem end making sure to keep the lemon intact.  Pack the lemons with salt.  Place the lemons in the jar, packing as many as will fit.  Add lemon juice to completely cover the lemons, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons salt over the top and cover tightly.  Set in a cool place or refrigerate for at least 3 weeks.  The lemons are ready when they have softened.  

  •   To use, simply remove from the jar, rinse, and slice or chop as directed.

If you need ideas for using your preserved lemons, check out the following recipes:

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