Posts tagged ‘Mediterranean’

Let’s talk olives and obsessions

If you’re a semi-regular reader of my blog, you no doubt have figured out that olives are truly my favorite ingredient. They’re my guilty pleasure, and something I’d sorely miss if I didn’t have access to them.

According to Greek mythology the Olive tree was Athena’s gift to the people of Attica and it won her patronage of the city of Athens over Poseidon. And if it was, thanks be to Athena – because in my opinion, there is no more perfect food. I love the texture, the complexity, its versatility in a variety of cooking and packing styles, its saltiness, the variety of colors and its ability to totally transform a bland dish into a powerhouse of flavor.

My favorite kinds of Olives are Greek or or the young Italian variety. I find olives grown, cultivated and fermented in these climates to be the most flavorful and that they offer the best consistency for cooking in pastas and eating with antipasto.

I value Kalamata Olives for their saltiness and frequently add them to spicy pastas in lieu of salt or anchovy paste. I also tend to pop small handfuls into my mouth when i pass by the refrigerator (don’t tell Vita!).

Since Vita and I have been talking about one last really great trip before she starts her surgical residency, we’re leaning heavily towards Greece. I think with the availability of fantastic bread, tangy feta cheese, olives and a Mediterranean breeze, I may never come home.

So, with all those thoughts of olives and Greece running through my brain this morning, I made a very simple Greek salad for lunch. I won’t bother posting the recipe, as I’m sure my version is nothing to write home about. But I am curious my dear readers… what food items do you go absolutely crazy for? I plan on compiling some of your thoughts and doing a post at the beginning of October “foodie triggers,” which I’ll explain later. If you want to be included, post a comment and I’ll follow up with you through your blogs or e-mail and give you four or five quick interview questions. They’ll be painless and fun – I promise!

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September 11, 2008 at 10:24 am 5 comments

Recipe – Teriyaki Chicken Meatball Kabobs

This is really more of Vita’s recipe than mine, but I managed to make a nice summer salad to accompany her tasty Teriyaki Chicken Meatball Kabobs, slightly modifying a recipe I found on Chow.

First off, let me preface that my wife is a wonderful cook in her own right, and I was probably quick to call her a “snob” in the previous post on Chicken Marsala. She is developing an increasingly broad palate now that I have her eating chicken and turkey again (she was pretty much vegetarian when we first started dating two years ago). Nevertheless, it still sometimes surprises me when she grabs things at the grocery store and our local warehouse club that look a lot like red meat, as was the case with these pre-made Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken Meatballs.

We grabbed them because she started a new surgical rotation on Monday and we were unsure how much time we’d have to devote to our nightly cooking this week. And as we meal planned on Sunday, she thought it a good plan to make kabobs. The carnivore in me smiled so wide I think you could see rays of light emitting from my dimples that I hate to admit are there :). Here’s what Vita skewered for me to grill up.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package pre-made Teriyaki Pineapple Chicken Meatball Kabobs (we found some organinc pre-made meatballs at Sam’s Club
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper (sliced into kabob-size pieces)
  • 1 Orange Bell Pepper (sliced into kabob-size pieces)
  • 1 small can Mandarin Oranges
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:
1. Pre-heat grill to 400 degrees
2. Skewer meatball onto wooden or metal skewer (pre-soak wooden skewers) and flank with bell peppers. Add oranges, and repeat process until skewer is filled. Repeat as needed.
3. Salt and pepper kabobs and brush with Teriyaki sauce.
4. Grill for 2 minutes a side, turning as needed.

The kabobs were really great. We really didn’t need to do anything drastic to the meatballs and Vita’s idea of using mandarin oranges gave a really nice sweetness that complimented the Teriyaki flavor of the meat to an absolute T. We paired our kabobs with a really great summer salad.

Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Feta and Kalamata Olives

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound watermelon, seeded – large dice (about 1.5 cups)
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, seeded – medium dice
  • 1 small English cucumber, peeled, seeded – medium dice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves torn and bruised
  • 1 ounce feta cheese (I’d suggest the crumbled, dried version, brined feta will add too much salt – if brined is all you have, omit the kosher salt mentioned above)
  • 1 teaspoon of lime juice

Preparation:
1. Combine watermelon, tomato, and cucumber in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt, and gently toss to combine. Transfer mixture to a colander and let drain. After 5 minutes, return mixture to bowl after wiping it down with a paper towel.

2. Combine vegetable mixture with olives, vinegar, olive oil, mint, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle cheese over the top and serve. Can’t be less difficult and it’s VERY refreshing and matches perfectly with the meatballs and a nice glass of wine. As strange as the mint and lime juice might sound here, they’re key elements that gives the whole dish a special something. Kudos to Kate over at Chow for coming up with a real winner.

August 21, 2008 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

Recipe – Steak Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Today I got home from work fairly late. No wife, just a crazy brown dog and a tummy craving something fresh. I’ve been a little under the weather the past few days as well. So, needless to say, I didn’t want anything too heavy due to my aching stomach and frequent cough and due to arriving home so late, I didn’t want to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen. Thankfully, I had skirt steak, a lovely organic salad mix and some fresh organic tomatoes.

So, instead of laboring with pasta, or a long grilling process, I opted to go for a steak salad with a delicious balsamic reduction. Here’s the recipe I came up with.

Ingredients

  • 6 oz skirt steak (cut thinly into strips)
  • 2 cups organic baby greens
  • 1 organic tomato cut into wedges
  • 1/8 cup of Danish Blue Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vegtable oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon butter (preferably unsalted, if salted, omit Kosher salt mentioned above)

Preparation
Coarsely grind peppercorns and basil with a mortar and pestle. Coat both sides of the skirt strips dry and coat with peppercorns, pressing to adhere. Season with salt.

Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet or non stick pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to moderate and cook steaks to preferred temperature. I go about 1 to 1 and a half minutes on each side for medium-rare. (Admittedly, I got away from my pan for a minute prepping my plate and my meat came out medium well as you can see from the photos)

Transfer steak to a platter. Add balsamic vinegar to skillet and deglaze by boiling over high heat, scraping up brown bits. Simmer vinegar until reduced to about 1/8 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining tablespoon butter until melted. Season sauce with salt and drizzle over salad once prepared.

To prep the salad itself, I simply wash and toss the greens, crumble my blue cheese and slice a small tomato into wedges. I salt and pepper my tomatoes and ring them around my greens. Add the steak and drizzle your balsamic reduction over everything. What you’re left with is a really flavorful, yet light meal that you’ll want to make again and again. The bold flavors of the Danish Blue Cheese are complimented by the reduction and the tomatoes make a lovely accompaniment. Happy cooking.

August 14, 2008 at 11:08 pm 1 comment

Recipe – Mediterranean pizza

Dan prepping a pizzaI love making pizza at home. I enjoy it, mostly because it’s not very often you find a delivery joint that’s willing to spend the kind of scratch I’m willing to spend on for premium olives, spices and cheeses.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good greasy slice of delivery, but most of the time, I enjoy making my own pizza, mostly because I can control the crispiness of the crust and the bite on the sauce. When I’m pressed for time and want to whip a pizza out quickly, I doctor up sauces and opt for a pre-made crust. Since my wife is a surgeon, we’re often pressed for time and opt for quicker meals that we can whip through quickly. It leaves more time for good conversation and catching up on one another’s work lives. On a good day, one of us will have pre-heated the oven and will be already at work on doctoring sauces and flavoring a crust before the other has hit the driveway.

On this particular evening, we opted for a Mediterranean-style pizza. My side was heavy on olives and feta, while hers tossed mushrooms into the mix.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Boboli 12-inch pizza crust
  • 1 packet of Boboli pre-made pizza sauce
  • Garlic Salt, Basil, Olive Oil, Red Pepper Flakes, Oregano, Italian Parsley
  • 6 to 8 jumbo Greek black olives
  • 6 to 8 jumbo Green Sicilian Olives
  • 6 to 8 chopped white mushrooms
  • 4 to 6 sliced cherry or Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cups Mozarella cheese (shredded)

Preparation:
1. Preheat your oven to 450, leaving a large seasoned pizza stone inside to warm. This is the key to a nice crispy crust.
2. Remove crust from packaging and dust with garlic salt and other herbs. Add pre-packaged sauce and spread evenly across crust. Dust with additional herbs and add crushed red pepper flakes to add a little heat.
3. Add cheese and toppings, spreading evenly.
4. Dust top of pizza with oregano and a splash of olive oil. Ring crust with Olive Oil laced with Garlic salt
5. Place pizza on stone and bake for 11 to 13 minutes.

It’s really simple, and really fast and tastes so much better than the delivery 90 percent of the time. The olives and simple herbs really make this baby sing.

Couldn’t be easier. Get cooking. Oh, and I promise to give you guys my homemade crust and sauce recipe next time. I’ve recently gotten into grilling my pizzas. Very cool technique. Happy eating.

August 13, 2008 at 5:08 pm 1 comment


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