Lemon-marinated Carrots with Finocchio, Mint, and Arugula

This is a salad even the more avid meat-eaters –like my friend Stathi— will love. I first made it for our joined Easter table, early in May, inspired by a salad we had whipped up some years back with thin slices of butternut squash that I had marinated in lemon, then served with equally thin slices of zucchini. I think I had sprinkled the mixture with crumbled feta, but I don’t remember, really. This carrot salad was a big success, and our friends, in whose house we had the Easter lunch, loved it, saying that the leftover were even better the next day.

 

As I was writing this, I remembered another carrot salad, that one a classic from North Africa: The Tunisian Carrot Salad is also laced with lots of lemon juice, and unexpectedly scented with caraway seeds. Dietician will tell you that lemon makes you absorb all the wonderful nutrients of carrots; but this is an added bonus to the really brilliant combination of sweet and sour, that we, in the Mediterranean, adore!

 

Note the beautiful stoneware ceramic bowl my dear friend Hara Bahariou has created. I am so happy to have many of her exquisite creations in which I serve my dishes; makes such difference at the table!

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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Vegetarian Beet Borscht

This is the meat-less version of the famous Russian and Eastern European hearty, winter beet soup, which David Tanis brilliantly changed, creating a refreshing summer treat.

I slightly adapted Tanis’ recipe, basically omitting the celery, because Costas is not fond of it. Kale is not available here, but the beets come with their greens which I used; you can alternatively add chard, kale, or any other green you like.

I simply top the wonderful soup with thick strained yogurt instead of the cream and freshly grated horseradish, which would be fantastic, if only we could get it on Kea!

 

In his introduction to the recipe, David Tanis talks about “…the long-gone resorts of the Catskills, in the so-called Jewish Alps. During their heyday, in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, these summer resorts hosted generations of Jewish Americans, at a time when virulent anti-Semitism prevented their admittance to non-Jewish resorts. Families would spend the whole summer in these mountains enclaves to escape the sweltering city. There were daily activities and nightly entertainment. Comedians who worked the circuit called it the Borscht Belt. And quite a lot of cold borscht was served in that era before air-conditioning.”

 

Serves 6 (more…)

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Pasta with Raw Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Sauce: ‘Spaghetti alla Carrettiera’

There is no better way to showcase the succulent, end-of-summer tomatoes than using them to flavor this simple, yet delicious dish.

 

 

Throughout Italy there are many versions of raw tomato sauces: a similar dish I had published in my Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.  It was more spicy, based in Crudaiola the name used for the sauce in Puglia –the heal of the Italian boot.

Similar sauces are whipped-up all over the Italian south and probably more famous is pesto Trapanese, from the eponymous Sicilian city, which combines almonds, tomatoes, and cheese. I recently came accross this other Sicilian peasant version in Serious Eats: ‘Spaghetti Alla Carrettiera’ which I consider by far the best of the raw tomato sauces; and also the simplest.

 

 

As we read in the recipe’s intro “In the olden days, wandering cart drivers would crisscross the Italian countryside, selling goods, wares, and basic cooking ingredients to the townspeople along the way. When they were hungry, they’d quickly whip up a sauce like this using just the basic ingredients they had on their cart.” One can add cheese, but I found that it is not really needed. I suggest you try it first without.

 

Following the Greek and Eastern Mediterranean tradition I do not blanch and skin, or seed the tomatoes, but simply cut in half and grate them to get their pulp. I always felt that the greenish jelly around the tomato’s seeds is especially delicious, so I don’t want to lose it. (more…)

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Eggplant’s Myriad Disguises

As a child I remember eggplants’ taste being much stronger, often unpleasantly irritating; I sometimes developed a rush in my mouth after eating fried eggplants –a summer dish my mother often served for lunch, topped with fresh tomato sauce. I loved it but then I suffered for the rest of the day. The eggplants we get today are less assertive, and I at least will not lament for the lost pungency of this wonderfully versatile summer vegetable.

 

We have never been successful growing eggplants in our garden, but five years ago we managed to harvest a few small white ones (read more about our Eggplant Paradox). But there are other, more amusing eggplant paradoxes; some years ago I came across this confusion between the word ‘aubergine’ (the British term for eggplant) and Aborigin (!) If the words interest you, you will love it. (more…)

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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

 

(more…)

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