Kale Kalamata Salad

curly kale

Curly kale fresh from the farmer’s market pairs wonderfully with Kalamata olives. Massage the raw kale with vinaigrette to break down the cell walls and toss in some carrots and Parmesan for sweetness. Sprinkle with pine nuts and cherry tomatoes and you have a pretty, Mediterranean-themed salad. (Vegans can omit the Parmesan and still enjoy!)

kale salad

1 head of curly kale

Dressing: 2 Tb olive oil
1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tb brine from olives
¼ tsp dried oregano
a few grinds black pepper

10 pitted Kalamata olives
2 Tb freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
4 tsp pine nuts
12 cherry tomatoes, halved

Tear kale off of stems and into bite size pieces. Rinse several times, and spin dry in salad spinner. Whisk dressing together and massage kale with dressing and olives until it turns dark and is roughly 1/3 the original size. Add Parmesan and massage into kale. You can let it sit a few hours to let the flavor develop.
Just before serving, mix in grated carrot. Place on plates. Sprinkle with pine nuts and cherry tomatoes halves.

Marinated Eggplant

eggplant saladThis delicious Italian-style eggplant is marinated in olive oil, Meyer lemon and a touch of balsamic, with garlic and oregano. It makes an excellent side-dish for Italian food.

Make the dish a day before serving and marinate overnight in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.

eggplants3 medium or 4 small globe eggplants or 3 long eggplants

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 leek

1/4 cup plus 2 Tb garlic infused olive oil

1 cloves garlic, minced fine

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Tb balsamic vinegar

Juice of Meyer lemon

Several grinds black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

12-oz jar Italian-style roasted red bell peppers

14-oz can of artichoke hearts in water

10 fresh basil leaves

2 slices Meyer lemon (from blossom end)

chopped eggplant with leeksCut the eggplants at different angles into 2 inches pieces. Each piece should have skin on it. If using long eggplants, slice lengthwise, then cut crosswise into half coins. Put them on a rack above a rimmed baking pan, such as a jelly-roll pan. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the eggplant. Let it sit for 30 minutes. You will see it sweat. This improves the texture of the eggplant and is supposed to make it less bitter.

While eggplant is sweating, heat the oven to 350º F. Cut the white part of the leek length-wise and then crosswise into 1 ” pieces. Soak in a salad-spinner, then rise thoroughly. Spin until dry.

After eggplant sweats for 30 minutes, briefly rinse the pieces in the basket of the salad spinner, then spin, and pat dry with a paper towel. Grease a roasting pan with 2 TB garlic infused olive oil and add eggplant. Pour in the rest of the garlic oil and toss so that all the eggplant is coated with oil. Bake for 10 minutes at 350º F. Add the leeks to the roasting pan and roast an additional 15 minutes. Mince the garlic and add to the hot pan. Turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven until it is cool, about an hour. The eggplant and leeks should be very tender.

Cut two thin slices of lemon from the blossom end (opposite the stem end), then cut each in half and set aside. Juice the lemon and pour it into in a deep casserole dish. Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and oregano with the lemon juice.

Transfer the eggplant and leeks to the casserole dish. Stir in the Kalamata olives.Pour the jar of roasted peppers into the eggplant, then fish out the peppers and slice  into strips and stir into the eggplant. Drain the artichoke hearts and quarter them lengthwise and stir into the eggplant. Place the lemon slices on top.

Let the eggplant sit at room temperature. Adjust seasonings. Refrigerate for about 24 hours, and fold in the fresh basil leaves. If you have time, let it sit until it is room temperature before serving, but if not, it’s delicious cold as well. Serve as a side dish or over a lettuce and tomato salad.

Eggplant Parmesan – Aubergine Parmigiana

???????????????????????????????Our Roman airbnb houseguest, Cinzia, kindly demonstrated her traditional Italian version of Eggplant Parmesan, called Aubergine Parmigiana in Italian. I enjoyed making it with her and it was delicious, but a bit heavy due to the fact that she deep-fried the eggplant. I lightened her recipe by baking the eggplant slices with olive oil spray instead.

I use Cinzia’s recipe for Fantastically Fresh Tomato Sauce, which she made for this Aubergine Parmigiana. It makes about a cup of sauce.

DSC03129                                                                                     Cinzia

Serves 4:

???????????????????????????????Ingredients: (We bought the meat from Genova Deli in Oakland)

1 large globe eggplant

kosher salt

olive oil spray

1 tsp olive oil

2 slices of Mortadella salami. (it looks like bologna, but is much better)

5 slices of Salami Milano

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large ball (4 oz) of fresh mozzarella cheese

???????????????????????????????Cut ends off eggplant and peel it.

???????????????????????????????Use a large knife to slice eggplant thinly: about 1/2 inch thick.

???????????????????????????????Place slices in a colander or salad spinner basket and sprinkle with kosher salt. Layer more slices on top, sprinkling with more salt. Let sit while you make the sauce and grate the cheese, etc, for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw the bitterness from the eggplant and drops of moisture will appear on the surface.

???????????????????????????????Rinse the salt off of the eggplant and pat dry with a paper towel. Spray a couple of baking sheets with olive oil spray. Cut the larger eggplant slices in half. Place the eggplant slices on the sheet. Spray them with olive oil spray , then turn and spray the other side.

Bake at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes until soft, but not dried out.

Assembly:

???????????????????????????????Spray sides and bottom of a flat casserole pan with olive oil spray, then pour about 1 tsp of oil  on the bottom, add a bit of the tomato sauce and spread it on the bottom.

DSC03205Place about 1/2 the eggplant slices in the pan and cover them with half the tomato sauce. Cut up the fresh mozzarella and place the pieces evenly on top of the eggplant.

DSC03206Cut the sliced meat into wedges and place on top of the mozzarella. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top of the meat.

???????????????????????????????Cover the meat and cheese with the rest of the eggplant slices. Spread the rest of the sauce over them. Sprinkle evenly with the rest of the Parmesan cheese.

DSC03208Bake at 350′ for 30-40 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Mangia!

Turkish-inspired grilled chicken

???????????????????????????????This juicy and tender chicken gets its flavor from marinating in yogurt and za’atar, a mixture of dried thyme and other herbs which can be found in Middle-eastern markets. You can make the marinade the night before or in the morning, and marinade it all day. It will be ready to grill for dinner.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

marinadeMarinade:

1 cup plain yogurt (I use nonfat Karoun brand)

juice from 1/2 lemon (about 2 Tb)

1 Tb za’atar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1 Tb olive oil

Mix marinade ingredients  in a shallow bowl or plastic container. Trim fat from chicken breasts. Pierce them many times on both sides with a sharp knife. Cover both sides completely with the marinade. Let sit all day. Grill over medium flame until done. The marinade may burn a bit, but this adds to the deliciousness.

Fantastically Fresh Tomato Sauce

DSC03130This is truly the best tomato sauce I have ever tasted. The recipe comes from our Roman airbnb house guest, Cinzia. She made it simply with fresh tomatoes, sliced onion, olive oil and a few basil leaves. I added a bit of garlic, bay leaf and fresh oregano. We used Phat Beet’s farmer’s market tomatoes along with some dry farmed tomatoes from Monterey Market here in Berkeley. But it would be good even with grocery store tomatoes.

Makes 2 cups sauce:

8 ripe medium tomatoes

1 Tb olive oil

1/3 medium onion, sliced. We used a purple onion.

½ tsp kosher salt to taste

3 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

5 leaves of fresh oregano

10 small leaves basil (or 4 large leaves, cut up)

???????????????????????????????Fill a medium pot half-way with water and bring to a boil. Wash the tomatoes and de-stem them using a paring knife, then plop them into the boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes, and then drain in a colander to cool a few minutes.

???????????????????????????????While cooking the tomatoes, slice the onion.

???????????????????????????????

While tomatoes are cooling, pour oil into the same pot, heat a minute, and then add sliced onion and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until onion softens. Mince the garlic and stir in.

DSC03134Put tomatoes in a food processor with a steel blade, and pulse until the tomatoes become liquefied.

DSC03139Stir tomatoes into onions. Let sauce cook for a few minutes, and then add bay leaf and fresh basil and oregano. If you are using large basil leaves, tear them up first. Cover pot and let cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

???????????????????????????????

Chopped Salad

This easy side dish uses some of the parsley left over after you’ve taken a few sprigs to dip in salt water at the Seder. Mix ingredients close to serving time. We actually serve this before the Seder ceremony to stave off our appetites.

½ cup parsley leaves

2 large round tomatoes

2 large cucumbers

¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives

¼ cup olive oil

juice of one large lemon

kosher salt and pepper to taste

Peel cucumbers, slice lengthwise in quarters, then chop crosswise into thick slices. Chop tomatoes into thick pieces, and mix in parsley leaves and olives.

Sprinkle in olive oil and lemon, salt and pepper just prior to serving and toss.

Spanakopita and Tiropetes with phyllo or puff pastry

These Greek spinach and cheese pies have a complex taste: sharp bite of feta, green spinach, explosion of herbs: mint, dill, oregano, basil, garlic, and green onion, wrapped in a crispy filo dough or buttery puff pastry. My recipe was inspired by my Greek-American friend Margret’s delicious version.

You can make these traditionally with flaky phyllo (filo) dough. I use olive oil spray on the phyllo instead of spreading oil or butter with a pastry brush, to cut down on the fat. I also make tiropetes, which are phyllo filled with feta and ricotta cheese. They are great for breakfast.

On the other end of the calorie range, I recently tried these at a Greek restaurant made from puff pastry. They were rich and delicious! So I made them at home. It’s much less fuss than phyllo, although it has quite a few more fat and calories from the buttery pastry.

Makes 3 logs (about 18 triangles) of phyllo wrapped spanakopita or 8 triangles of puff pastry spanakopita

3/4  package defrosted phyllo dough OR 1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry (defrost for only 10 minutes at room temperature)

Olive oil spray for phyllo dough

Spinach filling: You can make this a day ahead of time.

2 heads fresh spinach, well washed, stems removed and chopped (use a food processor to chop it) OR 1 lb bag of frozen chopped spinach – about 3 cups.

1 tsp olive oil

2 scallions

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup pine nuts

1 Tb finely chopped mint leaves OR 1 tsp dried mint

½ Tb finely chopped fresh dill weed OR ½ tsp dried dill weed

1 Tb finely chopped fresh oregano leaves OR 1 tsp dried oregano

1 Tb finely chopped fresh basil OR 1 tsp dried basil OR 1 cube frozen basil

Several grinds pepper (about ¼ tsp)

2 eggs (1 for filling and 1 for brushing on the pastry)

6 oz (about 1 cup) crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375’ for filo, or 400’ for puff pastry

Microwave frozen or fresh spinach in a covered casserole bowl about 2 minutes (longer for frozen spinach) until soft. Drain in fine mesh sieve over a bowl.

I place a bowl with a few cans in it on top of the sieve while preparing the other ingredients. Afterward, press on the spinach with a tablespoon for several minutes to squeeze out the liquid. You should have 1 1/2  cups drained spinach.

While spinach is draining, finely mince white and green parts of scallions, garlic, and mint leaves and other fresh herbs, salt and pepper Sauté onion, garlic and pine nuts in olive oil in a heavy skillet. After a couple of minutes, stir in the herbs and heat for another minute.

Finish squeezing the last liquid from the spinach and discard the liquid. Stir the spinach into the onion and herbs.

Beat the first egg and add feta and Parmesan cheeses. Stir in the spinach mixture until well blended.

Tiropetes

1 cup feta cheese

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 egg, beaten

2 Tb minced fresh parsley

Mix ingredients together. Spread on puff pastry or phyllo dough as below.

Assembling Puff Pastry (I used Trader Joe’s), cut both sheets in two. Beat the second egg. Using a pastry brush, paint the egg on each piece. Spoon filling o to fill exactly half the pastry, leaving about 1/2 inch border of dough on the edges. Fold the pastry over the filling, then seal the edges with the back of a teaspoon.

Place on a cookie sheet that you have sprayed with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes at 400’ Let cool, then cut in half diagonally, to make triangles.

Phyllo Dough directions:

For phyllo dough pastries: spread one sheet of defrosted dough on a large wooden board or cutting board. Spray olive oil on top. Spread another sheet on top of it and spray and repeat for a 3rd sheet. Spread a 2 inch line of spinach or cheese filling about 3 inches from the edge of the shorter side of the rectangle. Leave a one inch space between the filling and the sides of the phyllo.

Roll the dough up over the filling, then tuck in the sides, and continue rolling until the end. Spray a little of the oil on the edge to seal it. Place the roll seam side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a basting brush to cover the top and ends with a beaten egg.

spanikopita with egg wash

Bake at 375’ for 40 minutes until browned.

Let cool, then slice the logs diagonally in each direction into triangle shapes.

Fatayer bi Sabanekh: Lebanese Spinach Pies فطاير السبانخ

baked pies

When I lived in Boston, I used to buy Fatayer bi Sabanekh, (fa-TYE-year bee sa-BEN-ikh) Lebanese* spinach pies, at Bob’s Pita Droubi Bakery in Roslindale, MA. One bite of this pastry transported me to an ancient exotic place. I could taste lemon and something else: a tart, lemony spice I later discovered was sumac. I have only found this spice, made from ground berries, in Middle Eastern markets.

You can make these with the traditional Fatayer olive oil yeast dough or use pizza dough. If you want a vegan pastry, substitute water for the milk and omit the egg glaze.

You can make the spinach filling a day ahead.

*Also claimed by Syrian, Palestinian, Turkish, Somali, and Jordanian cuisine

Traditional Fatayer Dough: (works great with cheese or meat fillings as well)

1 envelope dry yeast (1 tsp yeast)

1 tsp sugar

1/4 cup warm water

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup warm milk

proofing yeast

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Proof the yeast by gently stirring it in, then cover with a damp dish towel in a warm place for 15 minutes until it foams. Mix the flour and salt in a medium-large bowl. Make a hole in the middle and add the proofed yeast, olive oil, and warm milk. Mix with your hands until the dough is formed. Transfer to a floured pastry mat or board. If it is sticky, sprinkle more flour on top until you can easily knead it. Knead for several minutes until it is springy.

dough before rising dough after rising

Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp dish towel in a warm place until it doubles. Knead again to flatten out the air bubbles, pull off egg-sized chunks of dough, rolling into a ball. Roll out each ball into a circle on a floured surface, then fill with the sabanekh (spinach mixture). You can make the sabanekh while the dough is rising.

I also invented this cross-cultural recipe using the sour cream dough my mom used to make for Vatrushka, a Russian dumpling filled with farmer’s cheese. I filled it with the Sabanekh. I like how the rich dough compliments the spinach filling.

Sour Cream Dough
1/2  cube butter (1/4 cup) , softened to room temperature
1 1/2 Tb sour cream
1 large egg
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

I’ve used both an electric mixer and a food processor to make the dough. Beat butter until light and fluffy.  Add sour cream and egg and beat well. Add flour and salt and mix until dough is formed. Knead about 12 times on a floured board until it is not sticky. Roll dough into a ball and cover in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for ½ an hour. You can begin to prepare the filling while the dough is chilling.

Sabanekh: Spinach filling

1 Tb olive oil
1 onion
1 bunch fresh spinach, or 10 oz pkg leaves, washed well and dried in a salad spinner
½ tsp salt
1 Tb lemon juice
1 tsp sumac
3 Tb pine nuts

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Chop onion finely with the blade in a food processor, and then add to oil. Cook on medium low about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent.

While onion is cooking, pulse spinach in batches in food processor until finely chopped.

Transfer the cooked onion to a medium bowl. Sprinkle the spinach with salt, and cook in the same pan for 2-3 minutes. The salt will help to draw the water from the spinach. can tower Let spinach cool, then place in a sieve over a bowl for 20 minutes to drain the excess liquid from the spinach. Press the bottom of a small bowl into the spinach in the sieve, then pile as many cans in the bowl as you can safely make into a tower. You will get about 2/3 cup of spinach water. You can use this in soups. While spinach is draining, roll out the fatayer dough into a circle shape. It won’t matter if the circle’s not perfect as long as you can fold it into a tricorner shape. If you use the sour cream dough, cut it with a round biscuit cutter. You can make larger pies by cutting with a top of a soup bowl.

Stir drained spinach into the onions. Stir in pine nuts, lemon juice, and sumac.

spinach on pastryFill pies with a tablespoonful of Sabanekh for small pies, more for larger pies. Flatten the filling  a bit with the back of the spoon, then fold in a tricorner shape: Gather two sides together and pinch the sides towards the middle. Fold in the opposite side towards the middle, pinching the other two edges towards the center. Pinch all sides towards the center. I leave a little space in the center so you can see the spinach filling. Brush with beaten egg if you like. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with olive oil spray.

For Fatayer Dough: Bake for 15 minutes at 400◦

For Sour Cream Dough: Bake for 20 minutes at 350◦ until the dough is golden.

Brush with a bit of olive oil when you remove it from the oven. Let cool on a rack until you are able to eat them.

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs, Dates and Roasted Asparagus

I just discovered prosciutto di Parma, the Italian dry-cured ham and I can now not only spell it but also pronounce it: pro-SHOO-toe. This ham is cured with sea salt instead of nitrite, which gives it a delicious fruity flavor.

I buy it in paper-thin slices and trim the excess fat, and then slice it in half crosswise. I wrap it around halved figs, dates and Walnut Oil Roasted Asparagus for easy yet exquisite hors d’oeuvres.

Prosciutto-wrapped dates make a salty-sweet treat. Halve the dates and discard the pits.

I roasted the asparagus ahead of time, but serve it warm out of the oven if you desire.

Capering about the Kitchen with Chicken Piccata

serving chicken picattaMy son Francisco and I first made this on Mother’s Day when he was a teenager. It’s one of his favorite dishes.

ingredients for chicken piccataIngredients: Makes 6 cutlets

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Several grinds black pepper

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup (4 Tb) olive oil, divided

1/4 cup dry white wine

½ cup chicken stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup

2 medium or 1 1/2 large lemons to make ½  cup fresh lemon juice plus  lemon slices

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

1 large shallot, diced

1 tablespoon capers, drained

4 Tb butter (1/2 cube), divided

cutting chickenPrepare chicken cutlets. They will fry better if cut in half width-wise and pounded flat. With your knife parallel to the cutting board, cut each breast as if to butterfly it (although in this case, there’s only one butterfly wing!)

Place a cut breast half between two pieces of plastic wrap, then place in a clean plastic bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag, then fold it over.

smashing chickenPound the cutlet several times with a heavy iron skillet so that it is about ½ inch flat. It’s a good way to get out your frustrations after a hard day. Repeat for all the cutlets. Rinse the chicken and dry it with a paper towel. Mix flour, salt and pepper on a plate. Dredge one cutlet at a time in the flour until it’s coated. Pat it gently until it’s just lightly coated with  flour.

frying cutletsHeat 2 Tb oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in 1 Tb of butter. As soon as the butter melts, add 2 chicken cutlets, making sure they do not touch each other. Saute for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Turn chicken around while cooking so that they brown evenly on both right and left sides. When chicken is golden brown, place it on a plate and cover it with a large lid or an inverted plate to keep warm. Add another Tb of oil and 1 Tb of butter to the pan before adding the next batch.

saute garlic n leeksWhen all the chicken is fried, add garlic and shallots to the pan and stir a few minutes until they are  fragrant.

whisk saucePour in chicken stock and wine and bring to a boil. Using a metal spatula, scrape the pan to loosen browned bits. Whisk while cooking for  5 minutes. Cut middle slices from lemon for garnish, then squeeze the juice and stir in sauce with capers and a tablespoon of butter. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Return chicken to the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes, turning several times to absorb the sauce. The sauce will be thick.

Serve chicken with sauce and garnish with lemon slices.