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.

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Marinated Eggplant

marinated eggplant dishThis 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

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 leek

1/4 cup plus 2 Tb garlic infused olive oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

12-oz jar Italian-style roasted red bell peppers

1 cloves garlic, minced fine

1 Tb balsamic vinegar

several grinds black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp dried oregano

2 slices Meyer lemon (from blossom end)

Finely grated peel of Meyer lemon

Juice of Meyer lemon

chopped eggplant with leeksCut the eggplants at different angles into 2 inches pieces. Each piece should have skin on it. 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 into 1 ” pieces. Soak in a salad-spinner, then rise thoroughly. Spin until dry. Grease a roasting pan with 2 TB garlic infused olive oil and add leeks.

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. Add to the leeks in the roasting pan. Pour in the rest of the garlic oil and toss so that all the eggplant is coated with oil. Bake for 25 minutes at 350º F. 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. Transfer to a deep casserole dish. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Cut two thin slices of lemon from the blossom end (opposite the stem end), then cut each in half and set aside. Finely grate the peel of the rest of the lemon, then juice it. Add peel and juice to the eggplant.

Pour the jar of roasted peppers into the eggplant, then fish out the peppers and slice them in half cross-wise, then into strips length-wise and stir into eggplant. Place the lemon slices on top.

Let the eggplant sit at room temperature. Adjust seasonings. Refrigerate for about 24 hours, then let sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

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)

1 egg for filling. Another egg if using puff 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. Spray a little oil on top of the roll.

Bake at 375’ for 40 minutes until browned.

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