Mark Bittman

Recipe: Orange Slices with Tapenade

 
TODAY I’M GOING TO PRETEND I’M IN NICE at La Zucca Magica, not in New York City with Snow Blizzard Nemo happening outside my window. It’s citrus season—hooray!— and a bowl of beautiful oranges makes my fantasy almost seem real. And I mean fantasy: I’ve never actually been to La Zucca Magica, but I take Mark Bittman’s word that it is a marvelous place to be—a vegetarian restaurant whose dishes are never ascetic or meager, with the produce bounty of Provence at its doorstep. What I do know is that, thanks to Bittman and La Zucca, I regularly eat an appetizer of orange slices and tapenade that he discovered there. I’m sharing it with you now so that you, too, can ignore the snowpocalypse outside your window and delight in orange season.
 
 
Top-quality ingredients are key here—as they are in many simple Mediterranean dishes that are more combinations of ingredients than complicated recipes.
 
I make this dish super-simple by using a ready-made tapenade from Moulins de la Brague in Opio, a village near Grasse in Provence. No, unfortunately I wasn’t able to drop in to the Moulin to pick up a jar; I purchased it at Fairway
 
The Moulin is a seventh generation family business, run by the Michel family, and it seems to be a little magical itself, combining a respect for tradition with modernization—so often the case with old artisanal businesses that survive and thrive. Most of the olives grown in their orchards are Cailletier, a cultivar often called Niçoise, although that, I’m told, refers strictly speaking to the curing method typical of Nice. The tapenade is made the traditional way, with just mashed olives, olive oil, salt, capers and anchovy.
 
I always use my best extra-virgin olive oil for this recipe. Today, I’m lucky to have some Frankies 457 Spuntino Olio Nuovo, the first pressing of the 2012 harvest—grassy green and deliciously pungent. It’s made from organically grown Nocellara del Belice olives in the DOP (protected origin) Valle del Belice in Sicily. How nice that restaurateurs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo visit Sicily each year to oversee production and bring back the olive oil to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, just for you and me.
 
Now for the recipe...
 
Serves 4
 
3 or 4 juicy navel oranges (depending on their size)—enough for 12 slices
4 tbs tapenade
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Fennel seeds for garnish
 
Cut each end off orange. Set it on end, and with a sharp knife, remove peel and pith in a curving downward motion.
 
Cut the orange in thin rounds and place three slices on each plate.
 
Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
 
On each plate, spoon 1 tbs tapenade in one dollop on the oranges.
 
Sprinkle with fennel seeds.
 
Bon appetit! 

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 4

KITCHEN SANITY
 
 
THIS IS THE TIME OF YEAR when I find myself drawn to “getting organized” articles, and only my friend Carol W. surpasses my enthusiasm for new calendars, which for at least a few weeks, I deeply believe must be the key to “New Year, New You!” (I save the old ones, too, but that’s another story.) So I want to be sure you don’t miss the Moleskine Wine Journal, not strictly a calendar, but a way to track what bottle was opened when and avoid those annoying conversations with one’s spouse—what was that Tempranillo we liked? No, wait a minute, wasn’t that the one we couldn’t stand? And the Moleskine Recipe Journal, which like the wine journal is slightly bigger than 5" by 8", has room for squiggles and jottings that are sure to guarantee that the recipe comes out perfectly each time. Think of it as scrapbooking for cooks.
 
CULINARY APPS
If your iPhone is what keeps your life together, it can help out in the kitchen, too. Mediterranean diet–friendly recipes, time-savers and an encyclopedia of cheese—apps for all tastes. 
 
Jamie’s Recipes, free, plus add-ons available for purchase 
Jamie Oliver wants to bring his fresh food revolution to everyone’s household. This follow-up to his hit app 20-Minute Meals covers some of the same ground, but wins fans because of its user-friendly interface, healthy recipes, basic how-to videos and shopping lists.  The free download includes a tasting pack of 10 recipes plus 4 videos, with the option to buy 10 additional packs for $1.99 each.
 
Mario Batali Cooks!  $2.99 (holiday special)
Cook along with Mario as he demos the app’s 63 recipes from different regions of Italy. It’s fun and informative: It also includes videos on technique and kitchen basics, plus advice on wine pairings.
 
All 2,000 recipes from the “less-meatarian” maestro’s big heavy book, with quick conversions of recipes into shopping lists and a built-in timer. Latest update includes holiday menus.
 
Fromage, $2.99
History, production info and wine pairings for 750 cheeses.
 
Scales recipes to more or fewer portions, converts to/from metric.
 
Suggests solutions if you’re in the middle of cooking dinner and suddenly realize you’re missing an ingredient. Latest release includes healthy substitutes, too.
 
 Mediterraneanista’s Holiday Gift Guide:
 

Eat Less Meat: Sure, But How Do You Get There from Here?

 
BY EATING THE TRADITIONAL MEDITERRANEAN WAY, of course. By now Mediterraneanista’s loyal readers know that the Mediterranean diet includes a lot less meat than many of us are used to. And we know it makes sense, this eating less meat, for all sorts of good health and environmental reasons. But what is less? And how do you get there from here?
 
I remember as a business editor one of the many managerial concepts that floated across my desk was “chunking”—a strategy for managing a big project by, well, breaking it into chunks. If you’re an enthusiastic meat eater who’s interested in moving in the direction of a more Mediterranean diet, “chunking” may be a concept worth reviving. Let’s face it, many of us have eating habits that were formed in households where the dinner menu was Meat Plus (you fill in the blanks, but it often involved potatoes). We may need a little aide-mémoire to adopt a different way.
 
 
So here are some chunks to get you closer to the Mediterranean way:
 
Meatless Monday, which I’ve written about here before, is a great example of a manageable chunk. You have six days to plan for one day of meatless eating. Since standard dietary recommendations call for no more than 18 oz. of meat a week, Meatless Monday works out perfectly. Three ounces a day, which is a portion or serving size, plus one day off. And you get the week off to a good start. (The Meatless Monday organization reports that “studies suggest that we are more likely to maintain behaviors begun on Monday throughout the week.”)
 
Learn to cook two or three meatless main dishes you love, so they become second nature, just the way the Meat-Plus concept once was. Most important, this flips the idea around from denying yourself meat to treating yourself to a different kind of delicious meal—a joy-of-eating concept Mediterraneanista likes a lot. I didn’t start out with the goal of “eating less meat.” I just became seduced by the adventure of discovering just how delicious and satisfying the traditional Mediterranean way of eating could be. Roast vegetables is one of my simplest favorites. If you enter “vegetarian” in the Mediterraneanista search box at right, you’ll find others.
 
Be a vegetarian before dinner. Over the long term, this is much easier to keep top of mind than tracking your meat intake meal by meal. (I don’t know about you, but I find the whole tracking thing gets tiresome pretty quickly, although it can be useful as a way to learn exactly what you are eating or spending now.) Cookbook author and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman has written about how a mostly-vegan until dinner approach works for him in Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating. He’s never doctrinaire about it, and makes it seem doable and adaptable.
 
Chef Mario Batali, who offers vegetarian dishes for Meatless Monday at all his restaurants, recently surprised a few people when he said he was working on a vegetarian cookbook and is now “vegetarian all day until dinner, and I try to eat no meat whatsoever on Monday and Tuesday.” Perhaps that helps explain why there’s 45 pounds less of him—and counting. Actually, his cookbook Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking very much reflects a traditional Mediterranean table and includes a lot of fabulous meatless dishes in it already.
 
Make meat a secondary ingredient on your plate, not the centerpiece. That helps the portion size make a lot more sense. Because, yep, as I wrote yesterday, 3-4 oz. is actually the suggested serving of meat to be eaten at a meal. That’s a piece about the size of a pack of cards, a useful way to visualize it, I find, when I’m eyeballing meat purchases for a family dinner or dinner party. Some of you are probably thinking, 3 ounces of meat could look pretty lonely in the middle of a plate. True, if it’s at the center of that plate. Instead, think of a stir-fry, for instance, that’s three parts vegetables, one part meat. Or a whole-grain rice pilaf for four in which ½ pound of ground lamb adds fabulous meat flavor. Last week, I made a Turkish eggplant dish (more about that soon) that used ½ pound of lamb in the stuffing for four eggplants. Delicious!
 
Use legumes—beans, lentils—and grains like farro to give some of the textural and nutritional satisfaction of meat—they’re high in fiber and protein. Throw them in soup or salads or stews. I’ll write soon about how to make this super easy. I’m branching out from my favorite farro salad to learn more ways of incorporating this incredibly tasty grain into more meals, and I’ll keep you posted on that, too. 

Bon appetit—Mediterranean style! 

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