Bulgur Salad with Nuts, Spices, and Tomato Paste Dressing

My recipe is inspired by the Syrian Jewish Bazargan, yet one more wonderful dish introduced to the world by the unsurpassed Claudia Roden in her 1968 classic Book of Middle Eastern Food, that she later updated.  

I am surprised that we don’t find this irresistible bulgur ‘salad’ along with the ubiquitous hummus and the other Mediterranean-inspired prepared foods offered at the counters of the gourmet supermarkets.

Bazargan is traditionally eaten together with other meze; but it is filling and very satisfying, so we often eat it as main course during  our summer lunches, accompanied by a simple tomato or cucumber salad.

 

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Assertively spiced with cumin and seasoned with tangy tamarind, bazargan makes a terrific appetizer especially if you serve it elegantly on lettuce leaves, or on toasted pita bread. Once you’ve tasted it, you will want to keep eating it until every last grain has disappeared…

 

Make sure you listen to the latest long, wonderful interview of the incredible Claudia Roden! She is such an inspiration for all of us!

 

Makes 6-8 servings, 10-12 as appetizer  

 

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Pasta with Purslane and Tomato

This easy, fresh, and utterly delicious summer dish is based on a Cypriot recipe my friend Marilena Ioannides cooked on Facebook Live during one of her brilliant weekly presentations.

Even if you don’t speak Greek you can easily follow her cooking method, which in that case is extremely simple.

Marilena uses scallions but I prefer to flavor the tangy purslane and tomatoes with garlic. Also I substituted basil for the mint, as we have plenty in the garden. Note that contrary to Italy, the traditional herb used in Cyprus, as well as in Greece is mint, not basil.

But of course you can choose either, depending on your taste, and whatever you have in your garden…

 

We ate purslane in the summer, since I was a child, as it is one of the very few greens we have this very dry season in our part of the world. Lately it has become much sought-after for its health benefits. Yet, as I will never cease to repeat, my choice of ingredients and way of cooking is always based on what I learned from my mother and grandmother, as well as from friends who recorded old regional dishes of our area. I choose seasonal produce and combine them simply, to create wonderful, fresh flavors; whatever health benefits they have is an extra bonus!

 

Serves 4

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Ginger-Grape Molasses Cookies

My take on the classic Ginger Snap Cookies, based on the recipe of King Arthur Baking.

I reduced the amount of sugar in the mix since the topping makes them far too sweet, anyway. Also I choose to make them with olive oil, instead of any ‘shortening,’ and of course I use grated fresh ginger that gives them a lovely, fragrant kick.

As for the ‘molasses’ mentioned, the only kind we have here is Grape Molasses, which have a wonderfully deep flavor. In Greece the traditional Moustokouloura (grape molasses cookies) are vegan –no egg– as they are a favorite Lenten treat. But frankly, these gingery ones are far better-tasting and easier (!)

 

 

As for the ‘molasses’ mentioned, the only kind we have here is Grape Molasses, which has a wonderfully deep flavor. In Greece the traditional Moustokouloura (grape molasses cookies) are vegan –no egg– as they are a favorite Lenten treat. But frankly, these gingery ones are far better-tasting and easier (!)

 

 

 For about 3 dozen cookies (more…)

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Gorgeous White Eggplants

My friend Hara Alexandrou gave me a basket with these wonderful white eggplants she grows in her garden. As I had mentioned before, we have not been able to produce decent eggplants of any kind in our sandy, poor soil, although we tried for years. I roasted slices of these wonderful eggplants simply dressed with plenty of olive oil, sprinkled with coarsely ground coriander, salt, and Aleppo pepper.

 

 

Only once we managed to harvest from our garden a few tiny white eggplants, full of seeds… (more…)

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Old-fashioned, Homemade Drinks

Long before shrubs became fashionable again, they used to be ancient Greeks’ favorite refreshments, called oxymeli (vinegar-honey syrup).

Equally almond milk, before becoming the favorite commercial dairy substitute, homemade milk from almonds and almond syrup, as well as the magnificent almond liqueur –called Crema alla Mandorla— were favorite Sicilian, and southern Italian drinks.

 

From my 1994, out of print book Mediterranean Pantry, with photos by the brilliant Martin Brigdale

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