Mediterranean Medley

Eggplants, zucchini, bell peppers, basil, olive oil and garlic….couldn’t get more Mediterranean then that.

This wonderful dish can be served as a salad or as a side dish, warm or at room temperature. It is at its best a day after preparing it as the flavors combine into a cohesive dish.

Ingredients:
2 eggplants, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 zucchinis, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 bell peppers
Olive oil for drizzling
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 sprigs basil (1 cup)
3 tbs white vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
Salt

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400F.

Place the cubed eggplants and zucchini on a baking sheet, drizzle with some olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes, until eggplants are golden. Remove from the oven and chill.

Place the whole bell peppers on a baking sheet. Set the oven to hi broil and roast the peppers until skin is charred. Turn the peppers and char them all around. Remove from the oven and place in a pot with a lid to let the peppers sweat. When cold enough to handle, peel the skin off the peppers and remove the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into strips.

In a large bowl, place the roasted eggplants, zucchini and peppers.

Cut the basil leaves into thin strips and add to the bowl.

Add the garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and salt, and toss the salad well.

Keep refrigerated overnight or at least 4 hours before serving, to let all flavors come together.

Best Dill Pickles

I grew up with these pickles. My grandma made them and so did my mother. With the years I’ve tried other versions of pickled cucumbers, but always came back to this recipe.

A crucial thing to know before attempting to pickle cucumbers is that you MUST have the right kind of cucumbers. Otherwise the cukes become soft and mushy when pickled. You want them to remain crunchy. Which are the right cucumbers? In the U.S. the most used pickling cucumbers are the Pickalot and National Pickling types. They are short and have a bumpy skin, and they can be found in many supermarkets and markets.  

I like to use the Persian/ Lebanese cucumbers. These are actually cucumbers that where developed in Kibbutz Beit Alpha in Israel in the 1950s and made a name all over the Middle East. They are small in size, with a firm texture and their skin is smooth and thin. They are sweeter in flavor. I always called them Israeli cucumbers because these are the only cucumbers I knew when living in Israel. Nowadays they are making a name in the U.S. and I see them more and more in different supermarkets. These cucumbers are great for pickling, but they are also great eaten raw. At home, we use only this kind for all our uses – salads, tzatziki, pickles, or just eating them as a snack with some salt sprinkled on them.

Once you’ve got your hands on the right cucumbers, it’s time to pickle…

Ingredients:
2 quart pickling jar
2lb thin Israeli cucumbers, rinsed
10 sprigs dill, leafy parts only
6 large garlic cloves peeled and smashed
6 bay leaves
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
3 cups warm water
½ cup white vinegar
4 hipping tsp salt

Preparation:
In a small pot, combine water, vinegar and salt , and mix until salt is dissolved.

Boil water in a large pot. When water is boiling, submerge the open jar and sterilize it for one minute. Remove the jar from the water using tongs, pour all the water out and leave to cool.

Place 5 sprigs of dill, 3 bay leaves, and 3 smashed garlic cloves on the bottom of the jar.

Insert the cucumbers and stand them tightly, one next to the other. If you have room on top insert more cucumbers in any way that works. I sometimes cut the cucumbers in half to fit them in.

When the jar is almost full (leave space of about 1 inch), top it with the rest of the dill, smashed garlic, and bay leaves, and sprinkle the pepper flakes.

Pour the brine into the jar to cover all cucumbers.

Tightly close the jar and let sit in room temperature, preferably in the sun.

The pickles will be ready to eat after 3 days. You can keep the jar refrigerated or at room temperature, but not in the sun.

Only use a clean, unused utensil to remove pickles out of the jar, and avoid touching any of the contents with your hands, to avoid spoilage.

Eggplant Rollatini with Mushrooms

My husband and two boys used to be the carnivores in our house, and if a main dish didn’t include meat, they were very dissatisfied. But not anymore. Not after having this dish for dinner. In fact, they enjoyed it so much that now I can introduce more meatless dishes and they are totally fine with that and a new era started in our home – we are all vegan now.

Of course, this dish is not what made us change our eating habits but it was a nice trigger.

The flavor of the mushrooms is very rich and full of umami. Do not skip on the baby bella or the dried mushrooms. They are responsible for the umami flavor.

Ingredients:
4 large eggplants
Oil spray
¼ cup oil
1 large onion, diced
20 oz mixed mushrooms (baby Bella, white button)
1 oz mixed dried mushrooms or dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt

Sauce:
2 tbs oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
1 cup water
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and black pepper

Preparation:
Preheat an oven to 400F.

Slice the eggplants lengthwise, into ½ thick slices. Generously pray a baking sheet with oil and arrange the eggplant slices in one layer. Spray the eggplants with the oil. You will probably need 2-3 baking sheets to accommodate all the eggplant.

Place in the preheated oven and bake until eggplants turn golden. Remove from the oven and chill. Turn oven off.

In the meantime, heat ¼ cup oil in a large pot and sauté the onion.

Chop the fresh mushrooms in a food processor until they resemble ground meat in texture.

Place the dried mushrooms in a coffee grinder and grind to a powder.

Once the onion is golden, add the ground mushrooms to the pot and sauté on high heat for 5 minutes stirring it occasionally.

Add the garlic powder, Aleppo pepper and salt and sauté for 1 more minute.

Turn off the heat, add the chopped parsley and mix well. Chill.

Heat 2 tbs oil in a small pot and saute the onions for 3 minutes.

Place the tomatoes in a food processor and puree. Add the tomatoes to the sautéed onion and saute for 2 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste, water, and spices and stir it all in. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Putting it all together:

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Place 1 tbs of the mushroom filling on one end of the eggplant and roll up tightly.

Place the eggplant rolls in a baking dish, seam side down, one next to the other.

When baking dish is full, top the eggplant with half the amount of the tomato sauce, and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature with some good bread.

 

Cauliflower, Asparagus, Pea, and Herb Salad

This salad was born as I was making it. As I was roasting the cauliflower with the idea of making some kind of salad, I was exploring the options in my head. I wanted to add texture and flavors that would complement a Moroccan lamb dish we made for Passover dinner. I wanted the salad to be refreshing and not too packed with flavors as the lamb was already very flavorful. And I had to use what I already had in the fridge. The result is a refreshing, delicious salad that can accompany any meat, chicken, or fish dish, as the flavor is mild and lends itself to a wide variety of flavors.

Ingredients:
1 medium head cauliflower
1 cup frozen green peas
7 asparagus spears
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup chopped mint
½ cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped parsley

Vinaigrette:
½ cup olive oil
3 tbs red wine vine
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp salt
¼ black pepper

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with some salt and drizzle a little oil on top. Roast in the preheated oven until cauliflower has soften, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Remove 2 inch of the bottom of the asparagus and slice the spears on an angle into 2 inch pieces.

In a medium saucepan, place the asparagus and the peas. Fill the pot with water just to cover the veggies and bring to a boil on high heat. Cook for 2 more minutes, then remove from the heat.

Transfer the asparagus and peas to a bowl filled with ice water, to stop the cooking process and retain the green color of the veggies. Remove the veggies from the bowl once cold.

In a large bowl, combine the roasted cauliflower florets, peas, asparagus, and the chopped herbs.

In a small jar combine the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Closed the jar with the lid and shake well until the dressing emulsifies.

Pour the dressing over the salad and mix it in well.

Turkish Salad

In Israel, this salad is known as Turkish salad and is sold in every supermarket under this name. I’m not sure that this salad actually originated in Turkey, since I haven’t found any supporting evidence for it when looking for recipes. However, I don’t know what else to call it, so I’ll just go with the name I know.

We make many different salads at home on a regular basis but Turkish salad wasn’t one of them. For no good reason, really. But we did eat it every time we dined in Middle Eastern grill restaurants in Israel. And my kids loved it. So I decided to look for the recipe and make it at home. As I’m sure you know, as with any recipe, there are so many different versions and I wasn’t sure which one to try. And then I met this Israeli woman who owns a bakery/grocery store in Boca Raton, where I buy really good pita bread. She also makes her own salads, one of them was this Turkish salad. When I asked her how she makes it, she gave me the recipe without hesitation, which I thought was very nice of her. And this is the recipe I use. It tasted pretty good to us, so we stuck with it. It is a salsa-like salad, and is a great accompaniment to main dishes or on sandwiches. We especially enjoy it with good pita bread or a fresh homemade challah. Hope you like it, too.

Ingredients:
4 tbs oil
3 red bell peppers, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
½ cup water
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup thinly chopped cilantro
½ cup thinly chopped parsley

Preparation:
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the peppers for 3 minutes on medium high heat.

Add the garlic and keep sautéing for 2 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste, mix it in well and cook for 1 minute contently stirring it so that it doesn’t burn.

Add the water and the spices, lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the onion, cook for 2 more minute, then remove the pot from the heat.

Add the cilantro and parsley and mix well.

Pickled Asparagus

What do I do when I find asparagus at the supermarket that is so beautiful and fresh and so cheap? I buy a nice amount of it even though I have no idea what to do with so much asparagus. That’s what happened 2 weeks ago and I ended up with a nice amount in the fridge for a few days, and it actually made me a little anxious. Asparagus goes bad quickly and you have to use it fast. But how much roasted asparagus and asparagus soup can you make in one week? Then It dawned on me that I could pickle the asparagus just like my mother pickles cucumbers and it would probably be as crunchy and delicious. So I did it.

Ingredients
3lb fresh asparagus
6 dried bay leaves
10 cloves garlic, peeled
10 allspice seeds
5 dill sprigs
Salt
Water
2-quart jar

Preparation
Place 3 bay leaves, 5 allspice seeds, and 5 cloves garlic on the bottom of the jar.

Chop the ends of the asparagus spears to fit the height of the jar. Place them tightly in the jar spear side up. Push the dill sprigs in between the asparagus.

Top with the rest of garlic, bay leaves and allspice.

Make a saltwater solution in a bowl with the ratio of 1 teaspoon salt to 1 cup water. You’ll need about 3 cups water. Fill the pickle jar with saltwater until the water completely covers the asparagus. Close the jar and let stand in room temperature for a week.

Enjoy!