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Archive for the ‘tomatoes’ Tag


Middle Eastern house salad

Seattle was beautiful and I cannot wait to show you pictures, but first, there’s a salad I’ve been meaning to tell you about – it’s called fattoush (فتوش).

It seems like the market for Middle Eastern salads (outside of the Middle East) is disproportionally dominated by tabbouleh, a salad, that when made right, combines ultra-finely chopped parsley with tiny pearls of fine-ground bulger wheat and other finely chopped vegetables. Fattoush is quite the opposite, at least when it comes to preparation – it can be thrown together in a matter of minutes, in a very rustic and hearty way that’s all about flavor rather than embellishments. Tabbouleh is delicious though, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, however, I just want a quick and tasty, no-frill salad, and for moments like these I make fattoush.

mise en place

The mise en place can be overwhelming, but in one trip to the farmer’s market you can have all these vegetables laid out on your table, too. The most exotic ingredient here is probably the sumac, which is a lemony, sour spice that can be found in most specialty markets these days and certainly any Mediterranean market you know of. If you like cooking Middle Eastern dishes, this is a spice that you should always have on hand.

toast the pita with a sprinkle of sumac

This is the part where some people might disagree: the bread. Probably the best (and most traditional) way you can prepare the bread for fattoush is by pan-frying the triangles in extra virgin olive oil, but that takes a long time and makes a mess of my stovetop. I prefer to toss the pita triangles in olive oil, sprinkle some sumac on the bread (something my grandmother taught me), and throw the whole tray into the oven/broiler, on high.

shake it up

The dressing for this salad is equally simple, as promised. It’s a combination of olive oil and lemon juice, with a sprinkle of salt and sumac – that’s it. You can add dried mint to the dressing like I did, but that’s completely up to you.

Fattoush (فتوش)

Fattoush

for the salad

Components

  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup radishes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cucumbers, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/3 cup mint, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 pita breads, cut into triangles
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • dressing/vinaigrette

  • 2 parts extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • sprinkle of dried mint, optional
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Roughly chop all your vegetables, except the radishes, I prefer to slice those.
  2. Chop the pita bread into triangles or small squares, coat with olive oil and 1/2 tsp of sumac and broil until golden brown.
  3. Prepare your vinaigrette by mixing the olive oil and the lemon juice in a jar with the sumac and a dash of salt.
  4. Toss everything together and enjoy.

notes: Joumana pointed out that traditional fattoush calls for purslane (بقلة). There wasn’t any readily available to me, but you can add it to your salad for a more authentic and tangy flavor – if not, romaine lettuce is an acceptable substitute.

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صحة و هنا – bon appetit

Mejillones in my new Kitchen

If you knew the kind of things I’ve been eating the past ten days, you’d be appalled. After I made the Moroccan chicken and olives dish a couple weeks ago, I carefully set aside some left overs and packed up my entire life into a 14-foot U-Haul. After that, my will to cook was nowhere to be found. I’m sure it was hidden somewhere behind the fortress of boxes that consumed my new apartment, but, for the time being, I was happy with my daily bowls of cereal and occasional sandwiches. A diet devoid of fruits and vegetables – like I said, appalled.

The unpacking process was just as painful because the towering boxes were the first things to greet me as I walked through the door after a long day at work. Slowly though, everything started finding it’s place. Since I do most of my blogging from my kitchen, I thought I’d show you my new digs; nothing fancy, but I made sure to find something spacious. My eat-in kitchen was transformed into an extension of the kitchen, where I created an additional 8 feet of counter space by simply propping a dining room table on top of bed stands.

my homemade countertop

Since the weather has been beautiful the past few days, my will to cook was still nowhere to be found – even though my apartment is now fully unpacked. On my first run to the grocery store, I saw some mussels out of the corner of my eyes that I knew I couldn’t pass up. 

mise en place

In Spain there’s a popular tapas called Mejillones a la vinagreta, or simply Mussels in a vinaigrette; and that is what I set out to make. It’s a dish that can be eaten cold and is extremely refreshing and simple to make. The base ingredients for la vinagreta are tomatoes, onions a splash of vinegar and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice, but none of this is set in stone. I’ve seen some people add hard boiled eggs, others add long green peppers, you get the picture.

wash & scrub each one

To avoid getting sick you’ll want to carefully wash your fresh mussels in cold water, remove their beard and toss out the ones that are open or chipped before cooking. They should also smell like the sea and not fishy. Once their cooked most of them will open up, but if you have a couple stubborn ones in the bunch, simply pry those open and enjoy. (Updated: 06/12)

don’t forget the bay leaves (like I almost did)

Once you’ve got all your mussels prepped, the cooking part is simple. You throw them in a large skillet with a glass of white wine you’ll be drinking that evening and a couple of bay leaves, cover them and let them steam in the wine for a 3-4 minutes, or until they all open up. Once they cook, I like to serve this dish cold, so I throw them in the fridge while I whip up la vinagreta.

bright summer flavors

In the end, after changing my mind a couple times of what should go in my vinagreta (after I took the mise en place photo), I decided to throw in some Italian parsley and garlic.

mejillones a la vinagreta

This month we’re in Spain for A Taste of the Mediterranean, being hosted by the beautiful Núria from Spanish Recipes. The theme this month is to make tapas – any tapas. I’ve neglected the contest a bit with my moving, but Núria has gone all out and prepared a post full of Spanish inspiration. Check out her blog, get inspired by how beautiful, simple and delicious Spanish tapas are and then venture to make your own. iGourmet is sponsoring this contest and is giving away a $50 gift certificate to the winning tapas post.

Mejillones a la Vinagreta

serves 6-7 appetizer portions

Components

  •  2 lbs fresh mussels
  • 1 glass of pinot grigio
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely diced
  • 1 roasted pepper, finely diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Clean mussels in cold water by removing their beard and make sure to toss any that are open before cooking.
  2. Add the cleaned mussels to a large skillet with the white wine and bay leaves, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until they’re all open.
  3. Toss any mussels that didn’t open and cool the rest in the fridge.
  4. Make the vinaigrette by tossing all the remaining ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. To serve, remove half the shell from each mussel and top each one with a tablespoon of the vinaigrette.

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signs of a good time

Molly’s Tomatoes

Yesterday, my Friday started out like a dreadful Monday in disguise. It was pouring, I was running late for work and I had a flat tire. In retrospect, this wasn’t too bad. I called in late, pulled up my sleeves and youtubed: how to change a tire. I was mildly amused by the number of videos there were for this topic. After watching a few I thought I was fully-trained, if not an expert, on how to put on those silly-looking donut wheels. To make a long, miserable story short – my spare also turned out to be flat, the tow truck took 3 hours to pick me up, and it took 2 hours to get my wheel changed  - never in my life had I felt so much relief in returning home and closing the door behind me.

Before going to bed last night, I finished Molly’s book: A Homemade Life. If you haven’t already bought it, you need to go and pick up a copy. In her book she has a chapter appropriately titled and dedicated to happiness, which apparently is achieved by slow-roasting tomatoes for six hours. I was convinced. After my miserable chain of events, I set out to make this recipe on Saturday morning, and ran errands while the tomatoes did their thing in the oven.

mise en place

Molly’s recipe calls for coriander, which I didn’t have, but I sprinkled some dried thyme instead, and added couple cloves of minced garlic for good measure. I cook under the illusion that anything roasted should have garlic in it. Ultimately though, I was happy that I found a recipe for the large bowl of tomatoes idly resting on the dining room table, just waiting to be used.

tossed in olive oil, thyme & garlic

The dish couldn’t have been easier to put together. I sneaked a taste of a couple the quartered tomatoes, put the rest in the oven at 200 degrees F, and went on with my errands. *I knew I wasn’t going to take long, but if you’re going to do this, I recommend using the cook-time feature in your oven so that it could turn itself off automatically.

ready to combine

After six hours, your entire house will take on the wonderful scent of the roasted tomatoes and lemony thyme. In order to make it a meal, I toasted a few slices of a day-old baguette, topped them with a healthy smear of fresh goat cheese, and a couple pieces of the slow-roasted tomatoes. Molly was right, this is happiness.

roasted tomato, goat cheese crostini

As she describes in her book, the possibilities for flavoring or using these tomatoes are virtually endless. Tomorrow, for instance, I can’t wait to wake up and throw a couple of these in with my scrambled eggs. I can then layer a few more pieces inside my sandwich for lunch, or toss them in with my salad – you get the idea.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

approx 1 cup of roasted tomatoes

Components

  • 2 lbs roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • thyme, to taste (approx 1 tsp)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Wash and dry tomatoes. Quarter them and scatter them on a large baking sheet.
  2. Gently, using your hands, toss the tomatoes with the oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.
  3. Bake at 200 degrees F for 4-6 hours or until tomatoes crinkle at the edges and shrink by about half.
  4. Pull them out of the oven, let them cool and eat as desired.

notes: Recipe adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. Roma tomatoes are best for this recipe, but any tomato will work just as fine. You could go longer than 6 hrs if you’d like, I actually went 7hrs when I made these and they were excellent.

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deliciously wrinkly

According to the atmospheric noise generated by this random-number generator, these three commenters will be receiving a pack of mahlab in the mail.

Congratulations to Hélène, Katie and Hannah, respectively, and thank you to everyone who commented and e-mailed me with their support. 

fried gnocchi.

I’m not a liar, I promise. I know that in my croquetas post I mentioned that I hated frying, and I do, but I couldn’t pass this up. Last week I made about 200 gnocchi for A Taste of the Mediterranean; after photographing them, I boiled a quick batch for dinner with some leftover pesto and stashed the remaining 180 in my freezer, in individual servings. 

mise en place

The idea for this snack came to me last Thursday at around midnight while studying for my Arabic exam the following day. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know this is not my first craving this week. For some reason, probably having to do with the endless hours I spend studying Arabic grammar, I’ve been craving everything from oatmeal raisin cookies, dates (the edible kinds), to tatter tots. I stopped conjugating irregular verbs for a second and thought about frying up some of the gnocchi I had in my freezer, but I didn’t. Instead I continued conjugating and waited until right after my test Friday afternoon to fulfill my craving. As you could tell from the mise en place photo though, I knew that one bag wasn’t going to be enough that afternoon.

they puff up like pillows

Once you start to plop the gnocchi into the hot oil they immediately begin to puff up like pillows. Fight the urge to nudge them around and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful, golden-brown nuggets of Italian deliciousness. As is my advice with all fried foods, also resist the urge to bite into the ones fresh out of the oil. I, of course, didn’t follow my own advice (again) and am typing this post with a slight tingly pain at the tip of my tongue.

fried gnocchi

I was in no mood to go shopping or do extra cooking after my exam, so I opted for store-bought tomato sauce my roommate (who recently found out she is allergic to tomatoes) had in the fridge. Another sauce that would probably go well with these is the saffron aioli I made back in the day.

Fried Gnocchi

yields approx 4-6 appetizer servings

Components

  • 48 gnocchi
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, for frying
  • tomato sauce

Putting them all together

  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan (preferably cast iron) to 350-375 degrees F.*
  2. Fry the fresh or frozen gnocchi in small batches until golden brown on both sides.
  3. Move to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil.
  4. Season with some salt, if necessary.
  5. Serve along side tomato sauce or saffron aioli

note: If you don’t have a thermometer and want to know if your oil is hot enough, stick the back end of a wooden spoon into the oil – if bubbles start to form on the spoon, your oil is ready for frying.

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dunk in dipping sauce of choice

Med LOVE

Glasses filled with wine, bursts of laughter, plenty of food to nibble on – this, to me, is the Mediterranean way of life. Even though there is no way I can convince my boss to let me take a siesta in the middle of the day, I can still lead a Med lifestyle vicariously through the food I make. This month I’m entering Jenn’s popular Royal Foodie Joust, where bloggers have to strategically incorporate three featured ingredients into their entries. Kittie, last month’s winner, chose to feature whole grains, ginger and citrus. YUM!

mise en place
mise en place

I decided to make a traditional Middle Eastern salad called Tabbouleh alongside citrus-marinated swordfish spedini (Italian word for skewers).  I snuck some grated ginger into the swordfish marinade, used bulgur wheat in the salad and incorporated citrus into both dishes.

parsley bouquet
parsley bouquet

In order to get most of the leaves from the parsley (and not a lot of the tough stems) you want to bundle little bouquets of parsley and mince the leaves ultra fine with your sharpest knife. I remember for large social events and holidays, all the women in my family would gather in the kitchen to chop mountains of parsley and exchange juicy gossip. 

lemon juice + olive oil dressing
tabbouleh dressing

Now that we’re on the subject of Tabbouleh, I want clear up the common misconception that Tabbouleh should have only a tiny bit of parsley and a TON of bulgur wheat – NO! The only reason many (non-authentic) restaurants go heavy on the bulgur is because it’s a lot cheaper and quicker than chopping up all that parsley. And don’t try to whip out your fancy food processor here… nope, it’ll only make parsley pesto and that’s a totally different post.

swordfish skewer
swordfish skewer

When it comes to fish, I don’t like to overdo it with too many harsh herbs and spices. I purposefully chose a combo of clean flavors – specifically, basil, mint, lemon & orange zest, ginger, olive oil, salt & pepper. Let them all mingle in the fridge for a couple hours before throwing the fish on the grill. 

swordfish spedini, tabbouleh & olives
swordfish spedini, tabbouleh & olives

Next time you want to take a break from life and jet off to the Mediterranean, invite friends over for some tapas, mezze, antipasti, whatever you want to call it (small food?) and open a nice bottle of wine. It’s lots of fun and definitely my preferred way to host. Spread the Med LOVE!

tabbouleh salad
tabbouleh salad

Tabbouleh

yields approx 10 small servings

Components

  • 3 cups parsley, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp bulgur, fine-ground*
  • 2 tbsp water, lukewarm
  • 1 cup scallions, finely chopped
  • ½ qt. cherry tomatoes
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 ml lemon juice (approx 1/2 cup)
  • ¼ cup mint, minced
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Soak the bulgur in lukewarm water (until all the water is absorbed).
  2. Finely mince parsley with a sharp knife (make sure parsley is completely dry before chopping)
  3. Prepare the rest of the vegetables by chopping them as well (they don’t need to be as finely minced as the parsley). 
  4. At this point you could store everything in the refrigerator (well covered) for up to a day.
  5. To assemble, toss soaked bulgur wheat, minced parsley and prepped vegetables in a large bowl. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and spices together and pour over salad.
  6. Wash some hearts of romaine to serve alongside the tabbouleh and enjoy!

* My supermarket carries fine-ground (aka #1 ground) bulgur in the bulk and ethnic isles, but if yours doesn’t, Dayna’s Market will gladly deliver.

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swordfish spedini
swordfish spedini

Swordfish Spedini

yields approx. 10 small skewers

Components

  • 1.25 lbs swordfish
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 2 tbsp ginger, grated
  • basil, chopped
  • mint, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Soak bamboo skewers in water.
  2. Cut swordfish into 1 inch cubes
  3. Marinade with the rest of the ingredients in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  4. Skewer the cubes and grill (or broil) for a couple minutes on each side.  Until the inside is no longer translucent. 
  5. Serve with lemon wedges

notes If you can’t find swordfish, you can make this dish with any hearty fish that can hold up being skewered and grilled. Tuna is a great fish that comes to mind.  Measurements for the marinade don’t have to be exact, just use what you’ve got.  

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