Baked Sweet Squash

This simple, wonderful Turkish treat is called kabak tatlisi, and is a favorite dessert served in all kinds of restaurants and taverns.

Paula Wolfert, in her wonderful book  The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, explains her most ingenious, simple way of making it perfect! All you need is time to bake the squash slowly. Use your phone timer if you have not an automatic oven that you can set it bake the squash for 1 ½ to 2 hours.

In my recipe below I have reduced the amount of sugar, as I find that butternut squash is by itself very sweet!

We like to serve it with mastic or vanilla ice cream sometimes adding the walnuts that Paula suggests sautéing in butter, something I don’t usually do.

In Turkey this baked squash is usually served with kaimak (clotted buffalo cream).

See also the elaborate Greek Squash or Pumpkin Preserves (rossoli).

 

 

 Serves 4

 

1 pound (500 gram) peeled butternut squash, cut into about 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces

 

2/3 cup superfine or baker’s sugar

 

Optional accompaniments:

 

About ½ cup toasted walnuts

 

1 cup crème fraîche, or thick yogurt, or ice cream

 

 

Mix the squash pieces with the sugar in a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish and let stand for at least 30 minutes, or until the squash weeps and the sugar melts.

 

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150 C). Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to mix the squash and sugar. Cover with a crumpled sheet of wet parchment paper, place in the oven, and bake for 1½ hours, or more, until the juices boil and the squash is tender.

 

Turn off the oven and leave the dish inside until completely cool. (The squash will continue to re-absorb their syrupy juices.)

 

 

Store in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Let return to room temperature before serving. If you like, sprinkle with walnut and/or accompany with crème fraiche, thick yogurt, or ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cucumber, Purslane, and Mint Salad with Spices on Yogurt

“Coriander, cumin and red-pepper flakes bloom in a neutral oil, and the cucumbers take on the flavors as they sit,” writes Yewande Komolafe in the New York Times Food section, where this recipe is based.

I just omitted the dill and scallions –I didn’t have any in the fridge— and added some purslane, as we have so much succulent sprigs growing all around our garden. The combination of the lightly toasted spices is ingenious!

The salad can easily become a lovely summer lunch, served over warmed pita or with toasted slices of whole wheat bread.

 

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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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  

 

(more…)

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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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