Sweet and Sour Eggplants with Nuts, Raisins, Basil and Mint

 

I love melanzane alle noci e mandorle, the sweet and sour Calabrian eggplants that are crunchy with nuts and fragrant with basil and mint. They are great as a side dish with any cold meat, with grilled lamb chops or chicken legs. Traditionally, though, they are an antipasto (appetizer) served on the sideboard.

 

They also make a wonderful bruschetta if spread on toasted bread with shavings of parmesan, thin slices of mozzarella, manouri or sprinkled with crumbled feta. I often add grilled peppers –either home made, or store-bought– with the eggplants, and in the winter diced roasted squash is another interesting companion. Adjust the spicing of the  sauce accordingly.

Adapted from my Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.

 

 

Makes 6-8 appetizer servings

 

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Creamy Eggplant Puree (Hünkar Beğendi)

This is my take on  Hünkar, which  is traditionally prepared with sheep’s milk butter; but I find that this olive oil variation can be equally sumptuous. Cheese plays a very important role in my version and can alter the taste dramatically: Gruyere and cheddar make a richly sweet dish, but smoked cheddar or provolone combined with Feta adds a spicier note.

 

 

An Ottoman Sultan, a French Princess…and Hünkar Beğendi – all the necessary ingredients for romance, intrigue, and culinary invention.  According to legend this rich and creamy eggplant puree was created in the 18th century by one of the Sultan’s cooks.  The occasion was a dinner given in honor of a French Princess visiting the palace of the Ottoman ruler in Istanbul. The French were known for their love of vegetable purees, so the cook paid homage to the Princess by presenting an Oriental version, using the Empire’s most admired vegetable.  The dish was a great success.  We know less about the Sultan’s pursuit of the Princess…

 

In Turkey and in Greece hünkar traditionally accompanies a tomato lamb or beef stew. I love it on its own, or topped with my  Basic Tomato Sauce. You can also serve it with braised kale or other hearty greens. Hünkar makes a great appetizer: serve it with toasted pita triangles to scoop-up the creamy puree or spread it on toasted, garlic-rubbed multi-grain bread.

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

 

 

Serves 4 as a main dish, or 8-10 as an appetizer (more…)

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Yogurt Bread Stuffed with Cheese or Chocolate

This is a delicious, moist and very easy bread dough.

I describe here how you can make it into savory or sweets treats.

No need to make them both the same day, though. Just keep half the dough in the fridge to stuff and bake within the next 2-3 days making the sweet or savory version.  

 

You also can form into loaves or small buns and eat instead of any other bread; it makes wonderful sandwiches.

The cheese-stuffed bread is a lovely accompaniment to soups and vegetable dishes, or served as meze with  drinks. The chocolate bread can be part of breakfast or accompany soft cheese or served with tea, and coffee.

 

Yields 2 round loaves
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Red-pepper-and-feta-topped Flat Bread

Besides adding our garden’s delicious red peppers to sauces, fry, and stuff with rice, vegetables, meat, or fish, I love the combination of flavors created by olive-oil-sautéed peppers and use them as topping for my flat bread, pairing them with crumbled feta cheese.

The dough is the one I use for my everyday breads, sometimes adding yogurt if I have leftover that is going too sour or any kind of mashed vegetables or greens.

See also the Tomato and Cheese topped bread, the Smoked Cheese and Kumquat Bread which is basically the winter version of my topped breads. For a more spicy-aromatic topping spread Zaatar mixed with olive oil over the tomatoes.

 

Makes TWO large Laganes (flat breads), or FOUR smaller 10X7 inch (25X18,5 cm) breads, serving 8-12 people as appetizer 

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