Mediterranean Cooking

Roasted Autumn Pears, Honey, Cardamon & Halvah

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Serves 6

  • 6 pears (firm but not hard), quartered and seeds removed but stems left on

  • 2 Tbls. honey mixed

  • 1/2 tsp. cardamon mixed with 1 Tbls. sugar

  • 1/4 cup shredded halvah (sesame seed “candy” found in Mediterranean markets)

  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts, sliced or slivered almonds or pistachios

  • 1 Tbls. toasted sesame seeds (black seeds if possible)

  • 1 cup crème fraîche

  • 1 Tbls. powdered sugar

Place the fruit on a baking dish that is large enough to give them a little room. They should not be squished together. Drizzle with honey and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Sprinkle with cardamon-sugar mixture and roast the fruit for 10 to 15 minutes or until coked through when pierced with a knife. They should be slightly colored and not mushy.

Whip the crème fraîche and powdered sugar just until soft peeks form.

Divide the cooked pears among individual dishes and spoon remaining juices left in the baking dish over pears.

Place a dollop of crème fraîche on each serving.

Garnish with the shredded halvah, nuts and sesame seeds.

Homemade Crème Fraîche:

Combine 1 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk in a glass container. Cover with a towel or cheese cloth and let stand at room temperature (about 70°F) from 8 to 24 hours, or until very thick. Stir well before covering and refrigerate up to 10 days.

Carrots with Sumac & Pomegranate Molasses

Carrots pair perfectly with the tang of sumac and the sweetness of pomegranate syrup. Use rainbow carrots for a psychedelic blast of color.

Serves 2-4

  • 2 bunches carrots, peeled and left whole or cut into thick pieces
  •  2 to 3 tsp. good olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sumac* or to taste
  • 2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
  • sea salt to taste
  • chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 450˚F

If you are using the oven anyway: 

Line a cooke sheet with parchment paper. Add the carrot and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to coat/ Roast until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the thickness of the carrots.

In a small bowl, blend the molasses, sumac and one teaspoon olive oil. When the carrots are done, drizzle them with half of the syrup mixture and a dash of salt and toss using the parchment as a cradle, rolling the carrots back and forth. Place the carrots on a serving platter and drizzle with the remaining syrup mixture.

If you aren’t using your oven and need a faster option:

Boil the carrots in a pot of salted water until they are crisp tender and not all the way done, about 4 to 8 minutes. Drain and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Pat dry with paper towel and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to coat/ Roast until tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the carrots.

In a small bowl, blend the molasses, sumac and one teaspoon olive oil. When the carrots are done, drizzle them with half of the syrup mixture and a dash of salt and toss using the parchment as a cradle, rolling the carrots back and forth. Place the carrots on a serving platter and drizzle with the remaining syrup mixture.

*Sumac is a powdered berry native to the Middle East and found in Mediterranean markets.

 

Spinach Stems with Walnut Sauce

Spinach Stems With Walnut Sauce

Serves 4

I like to serve this salad with an assortment of roasted peppers, olives, cheeses and cured meats as an appetizer. The walnut sauce is also delicious on chicken, spread on toast and with other vegetables.

  • Stems from 3 lbs. spinach, some tops are ok too
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 Tbls. olive oil
  • 1 cup ground toasted walnuts 
  • 1 slice rustic bread, crusts removed, soaked in water, and squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 Tbls. water, or as needed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the spinach stems, onions, and olive oil in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until stems are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Lift out and discard the onion. Pour the contents of the pan into a sieve or colander and let drain for 15 minutes.

To make the walnut sauce, combine the ground nuts, soaked bread, vinegar, olive oil, and 3 Tbls. water in a small bowl. Stir to mix well and season with salt and pepper. Salt is the key ingredient for the balance here. The sauce should be thick but spreadable. If it is too thick, add the remaining 1 Tbls. water and taste again for seasoning.

Place the well-drained spinach stems in a serving bowl, pour the sauce over the stems and stir. Allow to marinate for a few hours or as long as overnight. Serve at room temperature. 

Adapted from Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean, Joyce Goldstein

 

 

Dukkah, a crunchy condiment from Egypt.

Dukkah is delicious on so many things. Here I have it on roasted parsnips. There are more serving ideas below. Like any regional food, there are many versions. This just happens to be my favorite but don't be afraid to experiment! I also love smoked paprika or switching out the hazelnuts to pistachios.

  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (skinned) or almonds
  • 1/4 cup black or white sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds                                                                                  
  • 2 Tbls. cumin seeds                                                                                          
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds                                                                                          
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric                                                                                                  
  • A hefty pinch of each dried oregano and red pepper flakes                        
  • Sea salt & fresh cracked pepper (Maldon salt is nice here)

Put all of the seeds into a small sauté pan on medium heat and shake the pan moving the seeds until they smell fragrant and are warm. Cool and pour them into a spice mill or food processor with the remaining ingredients and pulse until the nuts are medium-coarsely chopped. You don't want a paste. Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Stir. Store in a sealed container. Go to town!    

Serve on:

  • Scrambled eggs  
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Ricotta or fresh goat cheese drizzled with with olive oil, sprinkled with Dukkah
  • Sprinkle on hummus
  • Rub on fish or chicken before sautéing
  • Serve with pita and a bowl of olive oil to dip first helping the Dukkah to cling to the pita                                                                                                                       

*Adapted from D. Madison's Vegetable Literacy

Socca, a French street food & perfect hors d'oeuvre.

Christmas is the time to make food festive. 


Christmas is the time to make food festive. 

Socca are a traditional street food in the south of France made with chickpea flour. They are a delicious, gluten free crepe. Here, egg whites are added to make more of a pancake or blini. These pancakes make great individual pizzas but I prefer to use them as a blini. They are easy to make, can be made ahead and hold up well when being picked up with fingers. Be creative with toppings.

For the schmear I use:

  • Hummus, either homemade or purchased
  • Creme Fraiche or Labne (Greek yogurt) 
  • Whipped cream cheese with chopped herbs
  • Soft Brie
  • Fresh goat cheese blended with a touch of cream

For the toppings:

  • I go to a good grocery store olive bar and grab a viriety of toppings like olives, roasted peppers, garlic confit, capers, marinated feta, what ever suits your fancy
  • Smoked fish of any sort is killer with creme fraiche 
  • Caviar! 
  • Pistachios on Brie  
  • Poached, spiced figs with cheese

The recipe:

Serves 4 or 24-30 mini cakes

1 3/4 cups chickpea flour (garbanzo flour)

1 3/4 cups water

1 1/2 Tbls. olive oil

3/4 tsp. salt

2 large egg whites, room temp

pinch cream of tarter

Put the chickpea flour, salt, olive oil, salt and water in a large metal bowl and whisk until completely smooth. Let the batter sit 10-15 minutes. Add more flour if needed to make the consistency similar to pancake batter.

In a clean and grease free metal bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tarter until soft,  glossy peaks form. Gently fold 1/4 of the whites into the batter. Fold in remaining whites just until blended. You should still see thin streaks of whites.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and lightly brush with olive oil.

For Blini: Use a nonstick pan or seasoned pancake griddle lightly brushed with olive oil. Heat to med-heat. Add one tablespoon of the batter forming a small pancake. Any size you’d like is fine really. Cook until bubbles appear as you would pancakes. Flip and cook the second side. Remove to cookie sheet and make remaining blini. You can keep blini in a warm oven until ready to serve but it’s not really necessary.

 To make four large pancakes: Using a 6” nonstick pan brushed with olive oil, heat to med-heat. Add one quarter of the batter forming a pancake. Cook until bubbles appear as you would pancakes. Flip and cook the second side. Remove to cookie sheet and make remaining pancakes. Keep warm in the oven.

Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Community Cuisine, Barbie Aknin