Category Archives: Mediterranean

Confetti Vegetable Sauce

I’ve been keeping something from you.

More than a year ago, I was hanging out in Italy. Mostly just eating, but sometimes cooking. Obviously, my life tends to revolve around food as it is, but my fixation was only exacerbated by being in a place where food serves as a language of its own.

The point is, I learned how to make this really amazing, really simple sauce, and then I proceeded to not share the recipe with you for more than a year. My host in Pisa taught me how to make this sauce. That’s right; you’re looking at a real Italian recipe from a real Italian person.

Once you make it, I imagine you’ll forgive me. Basically everything in here is easily substituted, too. Try it with eggplant. Try it with sour cream. Try it without any dairy at all. Then, let me know how it turned out!

Confetti Vegetable Sauce:
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 zucchini, grated
1 squash, grated
1 red pepper, grated
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
your favorite pasta, cooked and drained

1) Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add zucchini, squash and red pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until most of the water has been cooked off. Drain the vegetables.
2) Place the pan back on the stove and lower the heat to medium-low. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the tablespoon of butter. Stir in the garlic. Cook until light brown.
3) Stir in the well-drained vegetables until the mixture is very warm. Turn the heat to low and combine the mascarpone cheese. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper.
4) Spoon sauce onto your favorite pasta and top with fresh basil.

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Chickpea, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

It’s that time of year again — that period in summer where I mostly boycott my oven. And I eat even more vegetables than usual.

This salad is super simple and chock full of protein, which I always appreciate along with my veggies.

Chickpea, Cucumber & Tomato Salad
Serves 8
2 (8-ounce) cans of chickpeas
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1/2 cup of feta cheese
3 (or to taste) sprigs of dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper

1) Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Baked Eggplant, Tomato & Feta with Polenta

“Great restaurants are, of course, nothing but mouth-brothels. There is no point in going to them if one intends to keep one’s belt buckled.”
– Frederic Raphael

It’s not that I have forsaken cooking in pursuit of other, more easily acquired (and dare I say wanton?), meals. I haven’t. Sure, the occasional Chinese food delivery threatens my resolve, and the even less frequent meat loaf sandwich convinces me of my own culinary inadequacy, but I do still cook.

Unfortunately, prolific eating does not always lead to prolific writing. On the contrary, my food-induced comas compel me to do very little of anything, which is further indication that my restaurant reviewing career would not be especially promising. (Unless Instagram-friendly reviews were considered pithy rather than lazy.) Similarly, the food I eat out does not always inspire me so much as enable me to continue eating out.

So, my homemade meals of late have been basic. Vegetarian. Wholesome. I am still wholly capable of making indulgent foods, but mine is a city of indulgences, and sometimes I just crave simplicity. And that’s what home is for these days.

This recipe comes from One Big Table, which is as much about American food and material culture as it is about recipes. I highly recommend buying a copy. I especially love all the amazing vegetable dishes. (Cooking veggies tends to be where my creativity wanes.)

Baked Eggplant, Tomato & Feta with Polenta
Serves 4
1/4 cup olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
sea salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used canned)
pepper
4 ounces/1 cup feta cheese
1 dish of polenta

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a pan, heat olive oil to medium heat, then add eggplant and garlic. Cook until browned and slightly tender, then season with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of oregano.
2) Pour eggplant into an 8 x 8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish, then cover with diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, and remaining oregano. Sprinkle feta on top, then cover the dish with foil. Bake until cheese begins to melt (25 to 30 minutes).
3) Meanwhile, prepare the polenta according to the package’s directions.
4) Remove the eggplant dish from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Heat a pan to medium heat and grease with butter or olive oil. Slice pieces of polenta and fry on each side for 2 to 3 minutes.
5) Place polenta on a plate, then top with eggplant and tomato dish. Serve warm.

Hummus

Surely you recall the hummus debacle that occurred in my kitchen several weeks ago. I’m happy to say that I’ve more than redeemed myself in the weeks since then, and I’ve managed to recover my favorite pot (and get rid of the burnt popcorn smell that pervaded our apartment).

This time, I decided not to soak the chickpeas overnight because I wanted hummus that day. I’d still recommend overnight soaking to preserve more of the nutrients that hours of cooking can leach out, but it’s your call.

Also, I roasted the garlic because I could. Next time, I’ll also roast a red pepper to throw in there. If you decide not to roast the garlic, you might want to add fewer cloves. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

By the way, don’t forget to RSVP if you’re a judge for the cookie tasting! I’m stoked to have another excuse to eat cookies.

Hummus:
Makes about three cups
2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled
1-2 lemons, juiced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin

1) If you’re cooking your chickpeas, follow these directions, otherwise, skip to step 2. You only need one cup of dried chickpeas since they’ll expand so much. Place them in a pot with three times as much water. If you’re soaking them, add more water before cooking. Otherwise, bring the chickpeas to a boil, then let them simmer for about four hours on medium-low heat. I put a bay leaf in the pot for additional flavor. Let the chickpeas cool and save the chickpea cooking water.
2) Put the chickpeas, tahini, oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and process. Scrape the sides and bottom several times to make sure all ingredients are well combined.
3) Add water or the liquid in which you cooked your chickpeas to make the hummus thinner. The hummus might need additional spices, depending on your taste. Add as needed. Serve with pita chips and veggies. (I garnished mine with more olive oil and some paprika for color.)

Couscous with Curried Baked Lamb



I am turkied-out. Following my last post, my family ate turkey in so many different combinations that I began to think I’d be perpetually tripping out on tryptophan. We had traditional Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, ABC sandwiches with turkey (I also added cranberry sauce and substituted the apples for apple pie filling), turkey & cranberry sauce quesadillas and vegetable soup with turkey broth.

When I left my family’s house today, I vowed not to consume another meal involving turkey until all the tryptophan left my system and rendered me alert once again.

This recipe fit the bill. In fact, this recipe didn’t involve any foods I consumed on Thanksgiving, but still contained a few seasonal ingredients. (Yay local squash!)  Plus, it allowed me to use up more veggies that I had in my apartment fridge–feel free to substitute or remove any of the vegetables. Or opt for the vegetarian version, sans the lamb. The crucial feature of this meal is the spices, really.

I combined two different recipes to create this one. I liked the idea of baking the lamb, and I love curried anything. So here’s the best of both worlds.

Couscous with Curried Baked Lamb:
1/2 acorn squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 eggplant, diced
olive oil
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup golden raisins
a few tablespoons of vinegar
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup couscous
1 & 1/2 cups boiling water

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the diced squash and eggplant with olive oil and roast on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes while preparing other ingredients.
2) In a bowl, combine raisins and vinegar. Set aside.
3) Cook lamb over medium heat with a sprinkle of olive oil until browned throughly. Spoon out lamb onto a paper towel-covered plate, saving the liquid fat from the lamb.
4) Add onion and bell pepper to pan, cook for five minutes. Add garlic. Let brown. Reduce heat, add spices, tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook until thickened. Remove squash and eggplant from oven.
5) Stir in spinach to pan and let wilt slightly, then combine lamb, drained raisins, roasted squash and eggplant. Cook for another two minutes.
6) Place the lamb mixture in a cake pan. Sprinkle with feta cheese and bake for 20 minutes.
7) In the last ten minutes of cooking time, pour couscous into a medium-sized saucepan (with lid). Pour in boiling water, stir with a fork. Cover with the lid and stir again in five minutes. Water should be absorbed.
8 ) Place 1/2 cup cooked couscous into a bowl, top with baked lamb.