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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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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Red Rice Risotto with Leeks, Mushrooms, Fresh Fava, and Cilantro

South of Arles, in Provence, the legendary wetlands of Camargue produce a superb red long-grain rice. Grown in Europe’s largest delta, the rice tastes incredibly nutty and lends itself to all kinds of dishes, warm or cold. This colorful risotto is vegan, nourishing, and satisfying so it can be a main course or side dish.

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.

 

PHOTO by Penny De Los Santos

 

Less known than the Italian Arborio or the Spanish Calasparra and Bomba – all medium grain rice – the red long grains of Camargue are easier to cook.  They don’t require constant stirring and retain their shape and bite beautifully. The recipe is simple, and you can use it as the base to create your own variations with seasonal vegetables, greens and herbs, or with dried fruits and nuts. 

 

Serves 3-4 (more…)

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Risotto with Greens, Herbs, Garlic, and Lemon

I fondly remember a light and delicious herb-lime risotto I enjoyed one sunny September day some years ago.  I was at La Fenière, the celebrated hotel and restaurant in Loumarin, Provence, and this was one of the dishes chef Reine Sammut’s offered in her Mediterranean olive oil tasting lunch.

She served the risotto topped with thin strips of braised cuttlefish, drizzled with a few drops of its deep black ink sauce. The seafood was excellent, but the fragrant, fruity rice was the real revelation to me.

Scroll down to see the impressive ‘red risotto’ a variation using beet stems and leaves. 

 

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

 

 

I didn’t get Sammut’s recipe, just a description, so this is my own rendition of the dish: a simple greens, garlic, herb, and lime risotto that I make often, using any leafy winter or spring greens, and all or some of the herbs on the list, whatever my garden provides. When I don’t have fresh herbs I use the ones I often freeze; unfortunately even good dried herbs will not give the same rich result.

I conclude by folding-in grated Parmesan, which brings out the flavors of the herbs, and very often top the risotto with a 7-minute cooked egg; the deeply-flavored ones from our neighbor’s hens.

You can also serve along with Baked or roasted Fish, or complement the risotto with grilled Halloumi.

 

Serves 4-6 as main course; 6-8 as a side dish

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Braised Green Beans and Potatoes in Tomato Sauce (Fassolakia Ladera)

Stringless green beans became widely available in Greece only in the last few years. As far back as I can remember, before we could cook this very popular summer dish we had to slave for hours trimming each one of the flattish beans – a kind of runner bean – that we cooked.

 

My mother often added sliced zucchini (see variation) when she wanted to save time, trimming fewer runner beans but still making enough food for all four of us. Fassolakia ladera, made with any kind of green beans, even with frozen ones, is an amazing dish! The potatoes take on a wonderful flavor cooked together with the beans in a rich tomato sauce, and I can’t resist eating them while still warm.

Sprinkle with the reserved parsley and serve warm or at room temperature, if you can wait, with crusty bread and Feta cheese.

 

Serves 4-6  (more…)

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