Caprese Fruit Salad

Caprese Fruit Salad

This is a delicious summer fruit salad masquerading as a caprese salad.

I got the idea when I visited the SF Giants Baseball Stadium (AT &T Park) Organic Garden with our CHEFS students. After the garden tour, they gave each of us a delicious strawberry wrapped in a basil leaf.

Cut summer fruit: Strawberries, stone fruit such as plums, apricots and /or peaches. Mix in ciliegine, little balls of fresh mozzarella. Tear basil leaves and sprinkle over the fruit and mozzarella. Drizzle a little olive oil over the fruit and cheese.

caprese fruit appetizers

Make caprese salad appetizers by threading a piece of fruit, basil and half a ciliegine on a toothpick. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. I mixed in a bit of blood orange infused olive oil with the regular oil.

 

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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.

Hachiya Persimmons and Yogurt

yogurt topped with persimmonTry this simple dish of plain yogurt mixed with sweet jelly-like Hachiya persimmon pulp for a tasty and healthy breakfast or dessert.

???????????????????????????????Hachiya persimmons are oval shaped, and should be so soft they are practically weeping. Scoop out the flesh and mix with a cup of plain yogurt. If desired, sprinkle a few raspberries and pistachios on top.

persimmon mixed with yogurt

Spicy Red Deviled Eggs (low mayo)

These deviled eggs are spicy with cayenne, blushing with red bell pepper, and have only 2 Tb mayonnaise.

Perfect for Easter! or Passover!

I roast the bell pepper ahead of time (450 ‘ for 45 minutes) until it is smooth and, well, slimy.

You can also use jarred red bell peppers. Be sure to remove the skin, seeds, and membrane, or they will clog the tip of the pastry bag.

I based this recipe on 

I dedicate this recipe to Sofia, who loves my deviled eggs so much she even ate them the time I screwed up and added too much salt!

Makes 1 1/2 dozen deviled eggs

9 eggs
1 Tb baking soda
3 Tb  roasted red bell pepper (1/2  pepper), skin, seeds and membrane removed.
2 Tb mayonnaise
1 tsp yellow or Dijon mustard
about 1/8 tsp of cayenne (about 4 dashes or so) to taste
1 1/2  tsp  lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt to taste
4 fresh chives

The important and rather frustrating thing about making deviled eggs is that your eggs must peel  perfectly smooth, or they will look ugly and may fall apart completely. There are several tricks to ensuring that the shell and membrane slide off the egg smoothly:

Buy the eggs at least a week before cooking.

Add 1 Tb baking soda to the cooking water.

Immerse cooked eggs in an ice water bath

Crack the shells of the cooked eggs by tapping on them with the back of a spoon so  the water seeps inside, between the shell membrane and the egg white. 

Peel the eggs carefully under cool running water.

Cooking eggs: Place 9 eggs in a large pot and cover with one inch water and gently stir in 1 Tb baking soda. Cover pot, heat to boiling, then turn off heat. Let eggs sit in the covered pot for 15 minutes. You can test them by spinning on a hard surface. If they spin quickly with no wobbles, they are done. Drain the water, then add cold water and several glasses of ice cubes and let the eggs cool for 15 minutes. Then crack them by tapping the shells with the back of a spoon. Add more ice to keep water cold,  and wait at least 5 minutes before peeling eggs. Peel under running water, starting at the tip where there’s a little pocket, then pull off the shells and membrane together.

Pulse the red bell pepper in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Gently pop out the egg yolks into the food processor.  Add the other ingredients except chives, and pulse until yolk mixture is smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Place the egg halves cut end up on a paper towel to dry. Then arrange them on a platter.

Fit a pastry bag with a large star tip and fill it with the yolk mixture. Pipe the yolk mixture into the egg whites. Garnish with the fresh chives.

For this last batch, I made the filling ahead of time and refrigerated the whites and the filling in plastic containers. I filled the eggs the next day right before serving them.

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.

Vatrushka

These cheese-filled, sour cream dough pastries were one of my favorite treats as a child. I can eat these for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or as an appetizer. My mom, Sarah, baked hundreds of these as hors d’œuvre for our wedding. Now my kids and husband gobble them up as fast as I can make them.

We use the same filling as for Blintzes.  I changed mom’s recipe by substituting whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour she used, and mixing nonfat ricotta cheese with the farmer’s cheese to cut down on the fat. But I still top them with a bit of sour cream. The fresh strawberries I placed on top add just the right amount of sweet juiciness to balance the filling.

I got a  kick out of the comments or rather criticisms I got on this blog entry. Russians have got to be the most opinionated people on the planet! (I should know, being half-Russian myself).

makes several dozen, depending on the size

Dough for Vatrushka
1 cube butter, softened to room temperature
5 Tb sour cream
1 large egg
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp salt

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 on a floured board about 12 times, until it is no longer sticky. Roll into a ball and cover in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for ½ an hour. Prepare the filling while the dough is chilling.

Cheese filling
1 1/2  cups farmer’s cheese
1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese
2 eggs
¼ tsp salt
1/2  tsp sugar

Mix ingredients together in an electric mixer until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350◦

Roll out the dough on a floured board until thin, and cut with a round biscuit cutter. For larger pastries, I made little balls and roll them out into circle shapes. The circles don’t have to be perfect as long as they can fold into a half-moon shape. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle, and fold it over into a half-moon shape.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. If you don’t have any parchment paper, spray the pan with canola oil. Bake for 20 minutes at 350◦

Serve topped with sour cream and fresh strawberries.


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.