mediterranean diet

RECIPE: Chickpea Curry and Cucumber

 
THIS WARM SALAD—chickpeas with cucumbers as a garnish—makes such a tasty one-dish supper. The next day, when I often seem to have more cucumbers than chickpeas left over, I reverse the balance: cucumbers with a little chickpea garnish makes a fantastic lunch.
 
Serves 4, as main dish for dinner
 
Chickpea curry
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or other cooking oil
1 large onion, halved then sliced
2 tbs finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp to 1 tbs chopped jalapeño pepper (optional)
1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and crushed
2 tsp mango powder
1 tbs paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas, drained
½ cup finely chopped cilantro (or 1 tbs dried green fenugreek leaves)
 
Cucumber
1 English cucumber, peeled and diced in ½ inch cubes (I used 3 Kirbies since I’d just bought them at the market)
¼ tsp black pepper
½ small red onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 tbs fresh lemon juice
½ to 1 tsp salt
½ cup chopped cilantro
 
Curry
1.     Heat oil in a medium pot on medium high.
2.     Add onion and sauté until lightly browned (up to 8 minutes).
3.     Stir in ginger and jalapeño and sauté for 1 minute.
4.     Add tomatoes, mango powder, paprika, turmeric and salt, stir well and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until oil glistens on top.
5.     Pour in water and chickpeas, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
6.     Stir in cilantro and let curry cool for 30 minutes.
 
Cucumber
1.     In a medium bowl, combine cucumber, black pepper, red onion and lemon juice.
2.     Mix well and refrigerate, covered, until you need it.
3.     Just before serving, add salt and cilantro and toss.
 
Adapted from Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth & Ease of Indian Cookingby Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij. 
 
 

Mediterranean Diet—Indian Style

PART OF WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET is how varied it is—you never get bored. This many-flavored cooking isn’t surprising really—the Mediterranean Sea reaches the shores of more than 15 countries, and each culture brings its own flair and flavors—from tagines to taboulleh, ratatouille to risottos—to the basic ingredients of the traditional Mediterranean way of eating. 

The ingredients:

~An abundance of plants: vegetables, fruits, grains (mostly whole), pulses (legumes like beans and lentils), nuts and seeds

~Olive oil as your major fat (substituting for margarine or butter)

~Fish, seafood, poultry a couple of times a week (especially fish)

~Every-other-day-or-so eggs, cheese and yogurt

~Red meat less often (a few times a month)

~Wine with meals (in moderation—one or two glasses for men, one for women), unless it puts you at risk, of course

Choose Your Favorite Flavor. What’s interesting is that, traveling beyond the shores of the Mediterranean, you can find inspiration for even more meals made with these building blocks of the traditional healthy Mediterranean diet. The other day, I couldn’t resist a recipe for “Chickpea Curry and Cucumber,” from Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij, chef/owners of Vij’s (“easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world,” writes Mark Bittman) and Rangoli restaurants in Vancouver. A friend in Montreal gave me her extra copy of one of their cookbooks, Vij’s at Home—lucky me. The subtitle, “Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking” says everything about its approach.
 
A Familiar Ingredients List. It struck me right away how many characteristics this recipe for a “warm salad” shared with so many in the Mediterranean diet: It’s a one-dish meal of beans and vegetables—warm chickpeas with tomatoes, with the lovely contrast of cool cucumbers.
 
 
These are all made irresistible with the big flavors of various spices and herbs—ginger, peppers, cilantro—and citrus. Since I usually cook with extra-virgin olive oil, I just went ahead and used it in this dish, too. (The first time I made this, I couldn’t find mango powder but that problem was solved by a visit to Kalustyan’s, whose selection of fresh spices is hard to beat.)
 
It’s great to discover another take on chickpeas-as-a-meal: This will definitely become a regular on our table—it’s simple and quick to make on a work night. So for anyone who’s interested in the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and loves Indian flavors, the basic ingredients above are endlessly adaptable.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Kalustyan’s 
123 Lexington Avenue,
New York, NY 10016
212-685-3451
 
 

Meatless Monday Recipe: Kale and White Bean Stew

I BECAME A KALE FAN JUST A FEW YEARS AGO when my friend Brenda made an amazing kale and roasted chicken recipe for a dinner party. But since today is Monday—Meatless Monday—that recipe will just have to wait. Instead, how about this amazing stew of kale and white beans, adapted from a recipe by Chef Dan Barber, of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns? Not only is it a delicious mix of tastes and textures, but it’s positively overflowing with goodness. 
 
Kale is one of those superfoods. “Move over Popeye and make room for the ‘queen of greens,’ kale,” advises WebMD: One cup of kale has 5 grams of fiber, we learn, 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40% of the magnesium requirement, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C and 1,020% of vitamin K. (Too much vitamin K isn’t good for everyone. Anyone taking anticoagulants, for instance, is advised to avoid kale.) Kale is also a good source of minerals. Check out the whole list of nutrients here. Choose organic kale, when you can, because conventionally grown has been found to have pesticide residues of particular concern.
 
Serve this stew with crusty bread for a wonderful light supper. Leftovers are great for lunch, too.
 
Kale and White Bean Stew
Serves 4
 
1 1/2 lbs kale leaves, center ribs and stems removed
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup peeled carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
4 chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 15-ounce cans cannellini or other white beans (preferably organic), drained
6 San Marzano canned tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 tbs Sherry wine vinegar
a handful of assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as tarragon, parsley, chives)
 
 
Cook kale for 1 minute in large pot of boiling salted water. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool briefly. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Coarsely chop kale.
 
Heat olive oil in medium pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, shallots and garlic; cook until soft, stirring, about 15 minutes (do not brown).
 
Add white wine and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 7 minutes.
 
Add white beans, tomatoes, 4 cups broth, thyme sprigs and bay leaf and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes.
 
Add kale and simmer 5 minutes longer.
 
Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Add more broth by 1/2 cupfuls to thin stew, if desired.
 
Mix in Sherry wine vinegar and chopped fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

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! 

Best Med Dish at…Porsena Extra Bar

OK, SO I COULDN’T CHOOSE ONE DISH. LUNCH. LUNCH IS THE BEST Mediterranean dish at Chef Sara Jenkins’s Bar Extra in the East Village. Perch yourself on a stool at the long bar, pick almost anything on the midday menu, and you’ll likely find a Mediterranean-inspired combo: a trio of eggplant purée, spicy red pepper walnut purée and cucumber and labne, with Sardinian flatbread;  a Swiss chard and ricotta tart; salad of farro, tomato, cucumber, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Ribolitta, a warming Tuscan bean and vegetable soup, was tempting, but we were early and it wasn’t quite ready yet. (Oh, kale, where are you?)
 
We decided to start with another special, an arugula, shaved sunchoke and red onion salad, with a yogurt dressing ($6)—It was crisp and fresh and, sipping on hibiscus tea served Brooklyn-style in a Mason jar, I was already content.
 
 
After our salad, my friend Carol ordered the spicy grilled “Kimcheese” sandwich ($8), which she pronounced delicious, and I had the surryano ham sandwich ($10) made with cantaloupe melon butter (very delicate, but, yes, there was the cantaloupe) and cornichons on stecca, a baguette-like bread. Surryano, I learned, is a dry-cured ham made from Berkshire pork in Surry, Virginia. Clever name. Tasty in my sandwich.
 
 
The Extra Bar, which is right next door to Porsena, Jenkins’s pasta dinner restaurant, just opened in September, so being closed because of losing power for days post-Sandy—and refrigerated food—wasn’t exactly what they needed, but it wasn’t too long before they were announcing, “We’re back—boot straps up, knives sharpened, stove tops afire.” Lucky us.
           
In the evening, this friendly lunch counter turns into a wine bar, serving small plates and wines from around the Mediterranean. I walked by one evening and it looked so convivial. I’ll definitely be back—for lunch or a rosé, depending on the time of day and/or my mood! Mondays are always a good choice—$1 oysters all day long.
 
 
Want to learn how to cook like this at home? Jenkins will be teaching a class at De Gustibus Cooking School tonight, November 29, 5:30–8 pm, sharing classic holiday dishes from Tuscany. $95. The school is located on the 8th floor of Macy’s. Get tickets here.
 
Porsena Extra Bar 
21 East 7th Street
New York, NY
212-228-4923 

RECIPE: Fennel, Orange and Radish Salad


 
ORANGES, RADISHES AND RED ONION make a lovely salad on their own; Moroccan, Tunisian and Egyptian cooking all have tasty examples. For this meal, I decided to add fennel, for a welcome crunch—and because there it was, at the market. The dressing is an orange citronette (using orange juice as the acid, instead of lemon or vinegar). To prepare the orange segments, cut off each end of the orange, stand it on end and, using a sharp knife, cut downward in an arc, taking the pith and peel off. Finally, separate each segment from the membrane. (Here’s a handy video from Food52 if you’d like a demo.)
 
Serves 6
 
2 fennel bulbs, halved, cored, then very thinly sliced to create crescent shapes
2 oranges, peeled and in segments, membranes removed
4 radishes, thinly sliced (a mandoline makes this easy)
1/2 small red onion, halved, then very thinly sliced
Handful of mint leaves
   For the citronette:
Zest and juice of one orange
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
 
Combine fennel, orange segments, radishes and onion in a bowl.
 
In a separate bowl, combine the orange zest and juice with the mustard, then whisk in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
 
Pour citronette into the bowl with the fennel combo, add mint leaves and toss gently. 

RECIPE: Tunisian-Style Carrot Salad


 
I’VE COME ACROSS MANY DIFFERENT VERSIONS of Tunisian and Moroccan carrot salads. Some are made with julienned raw carrots, often with raisins added. This one, though, is made with cooked carrots, which are tossed with a spicy citronette at the end. (Tunisian carrot salad is sometimes garnished with hard-boiled eggs and olives, a version that would make a great light lunch on its own.) A good harissa (hot chili sauce), made at Les Moulins Mahjoub in Tunisia, is available at Le Pain Quotidien. 
 
Serves 4, as side dish
 
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into thin (1/4-inch) angled slices
2-3 tbs lemon juice (depending how lemony you want it)
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne (or more, to taste)
1/8 tsp harissa
4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Handful of flat-leaf parlsey, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
 
Boil a medium saucepan of salted water and cook the carrot slices for 5 to 6 minutes. Don’t let them get mushy.
 
While the carrots are cooking, whisk together the lemon juice, spices, harissa and extra-virgin olive oil in a small bowl.
 
Drain carrots, let cool a little and place in a bowl.
 
Add the citronette to the carrots and the parsley and toss gently. Let stand for 10 minutes or so, so that the flavors combine.
 
Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Two Mediterranean Salads for the Thanksgiving Table

 
DAVID TANIS, WHO FOR MANY YEARS WAS CHEF AT CHEZ PANISSE, was writing in the Times last week about how chutneys, relishes and pickles can brighten up the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, gravy and stuffing. He wasn’t dissing the Thanksgiving meal, but he pointed out that the usual add-ons to this trio, delicious as they may be, “simply seem to add more richness.”
 
That got me thinking: Wouldn’t the much-loved citrus notes in Mediterranean cooking also help “brighten up an otherwise one-note meal,” as Tanis put it? When I first got interested in Med cuisine, I was amazed and thrilled by all the different uses of oranges and lemons and grapefruits. Grapefruit and fennel salsa with roasted halibut, sliced oranges with black olive spread or in a salad with beets, lemon zest on a roasted chicken dish. Lemons, especially, have become a pantry staple now for me.
 
But back to Thanksgiving. Carrots and fennel were plentiful at the farmers’ market this week. I thought they might work well for my citrus-y mission and complement the traditional Thanksgiving menu as well.
 
 
 
The dishes I came up with are both inspired by the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean—Morocco and Tunisia in particular. The cooked carrot salad is lemony and redolent of the spices of the Maghreb. The fennel, orange and radish salad incorporates the zest and juice of an orange, as well as orange segments, with fresh mint adding the final flavor boost. Both certainly add a bright note and lightness to the meal. I can even see leaving the fennel salad til the end of the meal, as a little palate cleanser before those fabulous desserts.
 


 
 

Browsing the Cookbooks for Monkfish Recipes

I JUST GOT MY WEEKLY E-MAIL FROM MERMAID’S GARDEN, the CSF (Community Supported Fishery) I belong to, telling me what fish had been caught this week for me—and the other 200+ CSF members. Monkfish!   

I will never forget the first time I ate monkfish. We were on the road somewhere in southern France—on the outskirts of Orange, I think, in the Vaucluse—and we stopped at a bistro for dinner. On the menu, under Poisson, was something called lotte.  “What is this lotte?” I inquired. “Une espèce de poisson,” was the reply (“a type of fish”), which was about as helpful as when I had asked—this time in bilingual Montréal—“what is the soupe du jour?” and the answer came back: “the soup of the day.” Really? I’d been hoping for a few more details. For starters, was lotte an ocean fish, from the Mediterranean, a lake, a stream? Was it mackerel cousin or might-as-well-be-Dover-sole? Anyway, I decided to take a leap of faith, and it turned out to be delicious. I’ve eaten it more than a few times since, especially enjoying it in Mediterranean soups and stews.  

This time around, thanks to Bianca and Mark at Mermaid’s Garden, I learn quite a bit more about the fish itself. As they wrote in their e-mail:

“There are a lot of interesting things about Lophius americanus, but perhaps the most curious thing about this fish is what and how it eats. Recently we got an email telling us about a monkfish that was caught with seven ducks in its belly! We passed the news along to a fisherman friend of ours on the Cape, who said, “A monkfish tried to eat my leg once. Did some good damage to my boots.” Turns out that monkfish will eat just about anything they can fit into their gigantic mouths, which may be why another common name for the fish is devilfish. Monkfish are anglers, which means they catch their prey using a lure called an esca that is attached to the top of the fish’s head. Anything that touches the esca triggers an automatic reflex of the monkfish’s jaw. Monkfish like their dinner to come to them, so they mostly spend their time buried into the sea floor or “walking” slowly along it on their sturdy pectoral fins.”     

I also learn from them that in the late 1990s, monkfish populations had become overfished. “This fact, combined with the fact that most monkfish are caught in trawls, which can harm the ocean floor, led to monkfish being an unsustainable choice.” However, today, “monkfish populations exceed target levels, and both trawl and gill net fishermen employ quite a few mechanisms to reduce bycatch.”  

My particular monkfish was gill netted off Montauk on the F/V Sea Devil—pretty funny, considering the fish’s nickname—“by a fisherman who refers to himself as Billy the Kid. Known to others simply as ‘the kid.’ (We are not making this up, Mark and Bianca write, “pinky swear.”)  

Monkfish may be one of the ugliest fish in the sea, but its taste redeems it: fresh, slightly sweet, with a firm texture, it’s been called “poor man’s lobster.” And it’s full of goodness: niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, potassium, as well as being very good source of selenium. It has a gray membrane surrounding the flesh, which your fishmonger can remove, or you can do it yourself (with the help of this video—start at minute 3:10).  

How to Cook It? Knowing that Mediterranean cuisines like to use monkfish, I start browsing my cookbooks and the web, looking for recipes. I find monkfish couscous, roasted monkfish with tomatoes and olives, Andalusian monkfish ragout. Jamie Oliver has what looks like a delicious grilled or roasted monkfish with black olive sauce and lemon mash, just the kind of full-of-Mediterranean-flavors dish I like. Sara Jenkins’s Olives and Oranges, includes a monkfish dish with her wintertime take on Sicilian caponata, made from olives, potatoes and sun-dried tomatoes. I made this the last time we had monkfish, and I’d be happy to eat it again, but I’m in the mood to be adventurous. Mark Usewicz, the chef behind Mermaid’s Garden (Bianca’s a marine biologist) has posted a couple of delicious sounding recipes on Mermaid’s Garden’s Facebook page: Mark’s Monkfish with Clams and Cranberry Beans and Mark’s Fish in Mustard Curry. (I noticed this week that Dave Pasternack’s Il Pesce, Eataly’s fish restaurant, has a monkfish/clam combo on its menu right now, too: Crispy Monkfish Cheeks with Local Clams, Steamers and Meyer Lemon Aioli. The cheeks are quite small and a prized delicacy, I hear.)  

To tell you the truth, these dishes all sound good, making it hard to choose. In the end, though, to take advantage of how super, super fresh I know this fish will be, I decide on Monkfish “Carpaccio,” from Patricia Wells At Home in Provence. The recipe is beyond simple: thinly sliced monkfish, which is then grilled for less than a minute, with only olive oil, lemon juice, chives and sea salt added. I like the idea of the sweet flesh of the fish taking center stage. To accompany it, I’ll make a simple green salad, and I have the perfect bottle of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, from Domaine de la Pinardière, chilling in the fridge. Crisp, clean tastes all around.

Recipe Love

 
LISTENING TO STANLEY TUCCI and his mother talk about recipes the other night made me think about all the little culinary treasures my mother has passed on to me. Not just basic cooking techniques that I learned at her elbow, but recipes from her mother, her mother’s mother, her father, her mother-in-law, a childhood schoolmate of my father’s, their friends in London in the late 1940s. She has been the keeper of these recipes and now is making sure her children have them, too.
 
There’s Friar’s Omelette, from Susanna Moss, my mother’s grandmother, written out in her own hand, my Polish Babcia Władysława’s pickled herring and babka (two separate dishes!), my dad’s traditional Christmas beetroot brine and soup, shortbread from Grandma Lily, brown bread from Grandad Percy (he was a miller and expert baker). Not to forget Marysia’s almond torte and Zosia’s pickled dill cucumbers. I’ve collected some on my own visits to family, too: Uncle Abdul Beidas’s hummus, Aunt Ela Makowiecka’s gazpacho (despite the Slavic name, she lived a good part of her life in Spain).
 
Recently this loving passing around of recipes took a different turn when my 20-something son Christopher flipped the tables and taught me how to make an elegantly plated beet, arugula, frisée and goat cheese salad that he’d learned somewhere along the line living in an Italian (Canadian) household for the last two years and working at an Italian café. Lucky me, and now lucky you because it’s the perfect Meatless Monday dish to share. Slicing the beets very thin is not only beautiful but somehow highlights their delicate sweet flavor. From my family to yours. 
 
 
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