Tag Archives: feta

Mediterranean Dreaming

After 3 inches of rain last night, it is a steamy, warm day here in Michigan.  Although the farm really needed the rain, humidity generally puts me into salad mode; and there is no better time for salads than summer. I enjoy leafy salads, I like to get outside the box and create salads that use other ingredients.  Anything Mediterranean comes to mind, so a layered salad of hummus, ground lamb, and veggies hits just the right cord.

This layered salad makes a particularly nice presentation at a gathering on a large platter. You can also make individual plates if you rather. The hummus can be made a few days ahead to save time on the day of assembly. Macerating the cherry tomatoes in red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil adds even more flavor. You can also top it with crumbled feta cheese. Garnish it with parsley, cilantro or mint. It makes a good appetizer for a crowd along with other Mediterranean sides or can be used as a main coarse. I find that I typically have leftovers after I construct the salad, which are just as good the following day. Serve with pita or naan.

MEDITERRANEAN LAYERED SALAD

FOR HUMMUS (from my first cookbook Basics with a Twist:In

  • 2 15 ounce cans of chickpeas, drained but reserving their liquid; save 1/4 cup chickpeas for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

METHOD:

  1. Place drained chickpeas in a four cup glass measuring cup and heat in your microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. Heating your chickpeas allows them to break down in the food processor much easier.
  2. Feed your garlic through the tube of your food processor.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except liquid from chickpeas. This liquid will be used to thin the hummus if needed.
  4. Process for at least 3 minutes. Your hummus should be very smooth and creamy. If you feel you need to thin it slightly, add chickpea liquid 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Taste for salt and/or additional lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

FOR LAMB:

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout

METHOD:

  1. Brown the ground lamb in a medium sized non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add garlic, onion, pine nuts and Ras el Hanout. Saute until onion is soft and translucent. Depending on the age of the lamb, you may need to take a few paper towels held with tongs and absorb any unwanted fat. This can sit until you are ready to assemble your salad.

FOR VEGETABLES AND GARNISH:

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups sliced cucumbers, quartered
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt, such as Maldon
  • 1/4 cup chopped herbs, such as parsley, cilantro or mint
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, (optional)

METHOD:

  1. Place cherry tomatoes in a small bowl; sprinkle with red wine vinegar, olive oil and a little coarse salt. Mix and let macerate for 30 minutes. Keep tomatoes and cucumber separate.
  2. Chop herbs.

ASSEMBLY:

On large decorative platter, spoon hummus over bottom leaving a little space near the edges.  Next top with lamb leaving an edge to show the hummus. Sprinkle reserved chickpeas around the edges.

Sprinkle cucumber over lamb. With a slotted spoon drain cherry tomatoes, then sprinkle them on top of cucumbers. Garnish with herbs. Sprinkle with crumbled feta if using.

Serves 4

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“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” —Alan D. Wolfelt

The Best of Both Worlds

Now that our shelter in place order has been extended to May 15th, we are all seeking comfort through various ways. For me, cooking and food are my go to sources for calming myself. It is gradually getting warmer, we are planting in our greenhouse, the garlic is growing, and my daffodils are blooming.

These days, when I ponder what to make, it comes from a place of what is available? It becomes a combination of home-canning, frozen, fresh and pantry staples. I must say that when you put a little thought into it, you will be surprised at what you can come up with to warm the belly. This time it was a fusion of both Greek and Italian cuisines that worked quite well together. I love to make spanakopita, but was out of phyllo dough, I had my quarts of roasted tomato sauce and uncooked lasagna sheets. Then it hit me, why not combine the spanakopita in a lasagna? Bingo, the best of both worlds. It gave us a couple days of comfort food.

SPANAKOPITA LASAGNA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 sheets of oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 16 ounce bag of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained in a wire strainer
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 3 green onions, using both white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 10 ounces crumbled feta
  • 16 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 quart of roasted tomato sauce (or equivalent of jarred pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 x 9 ceramic pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place the drained spinach in a clean kitchen towel and gently squeeze out the remaining water. Place spinach in a large bowl.
  3. Add lemon zest, dill, green onions, garlic, eggs, feta and goat cheese. Mix gently but thoroughly until combined.
  4. In a bowl, combine your pasta sauce with the two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Place a ladle full of pasta sauce in bottom of baking dish, and evenly spread it. Place three oven-ready lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Spoon 1/2 cup of filling on each sheet and distribute evenly. Top with three more lasagna sheets, repeat with filling. Repeat one more time. You should have 3 layers of spinach mixture.
  5. On the top of the final lasagna sheets, pour an equal amount of pasta sauce over the 3 groups of layered sheets. Top with mozzarella. Cover with foil and place in pre-heated oven. Bake covered for 25 minutes; uncover and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and sauce is bubbling.
  6. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Serves 6

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“A good cook works by the fire of imagination not merely by the fire in the stove.”

Robert Coffin

Grandma Knew Best

Entering week five of sheltering in place, during the novel corona-virus pandemic; and  I’m discovering skills I didn’t know I had.  I’ve never been much of a baker.  Not because I don’t like wonderful baked goods, but because I have an aversion to measuring.  Writing cookbooks was challenging when trying to deliver a consistent product.  I basically wing it, taste, adjust, taste again as I go along.  Being at home consistently for this length of time has taught me several things.  One, why should I be talking myself out of something, when I really should be talking myself into something new?  I’ve always played with food, why not play with baking?  So I’ve been starting with savory quick breads and muffins with great results.  If there’s a down side to this exploration, it’s that  I’m now slightly obsessed, and one thing is leading to another.

This week it’s soda bread.  My wife Val inherited a 100 year old cast iron skillet from her Grandmother years ago (along with a classic potato masher), so I wanted to try out a soda bread using a skillet, rather than a free-form shape.  I’m coming around to the beauty of these old skillets for many uses, and I enjoy the historical continuity of using something that was handed down from a previous generation.  I mixed the bread in my Grandmother’s pottery mixing bowl, so I was channeling traditions from both families.  It felt wholesome somehow, and a basic quick bread like this could have been made by either of our Grandmother’s.  Val makes a delicious golden raisin and candied ginger scone that I love, and this reminded me of that texture with a savory profile.

I’m afraid that I will run out of flour, before I run out of ideas; but the experimentation was certainly worth it.  Next challenge, homemade pasta.

SKILLET SODA BREAD WITH ROASTED RED PEPPERS & FETA

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 whole roasted red pepper, (I used jarred), drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, oregano, black pepper and cubed butter, using a pastry cutter or fork to incorporate the butter.  The mixture should resemble course crumbs.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk and add it to the flour mixture.  Combine the dough using a large wooden spoon or spatula until it’s almost incorporated.
  3. Add the roasted peppers and feta and finish mixing.  Kneed the dough with your hands for a few minutes until comes together and transfer it to a greased cast iron pan (I use ghee).  Using a serrated knife, score the bread into four sections to help prevent it from bubbling up in the center.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Serve warm with butter.

Serves: 8

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“People who give you their food, give your their heart.”  –Cesar Chavez

 

Opportunity Knocks

As we all creep forward during this time of uncertainty; nature, reading, planting our vegetable farm and cooking are keeping me grounded and hopeful.  Rural living is a calming lifestyle that continues to nourish us.  Even with the farm year slowly ramping up, we have an established rhythm for daily life, that is forward thinking and hopeful.  Regardless of how this crisis plays out, if we can’t get to the farmers market to sell our food, it will certainly not be wasted.  We will be canning, along with making sure that our neighbors have access to fresh food. I respect that our farmers market is staying open, with a plan of action and necessary precautions.  Young farmers and businesses need to serve their communities and stay open as long as possible.  As elders, with my wife having a compromised immune system, we have been self-sheltering with the understanding that growing food is the very best use of our time.

It is often said that the character of a individual is how they respond to adversity.  After all happiness is an inside job; but I admit to having several sleepless nights. I am keenly aware of my privilege in feeling relatively safe during this time.  My heart hurts for people who have lost their jobs, businesses that have had to close, people without a sufficient safety net to get them through this time of uncertainty.  I trust the creativity and innovation of people, much more than the total lack of leadership at the federal level.  I know we will collectively get through this stressful time.  It is my hope that lessons will be learned that can lift all of us up, in the face of future challenges.

Actually, self-sheltering has been our rural life style.  When people come to the farm to laugh, cook and eat with us, they often say how they need to be a part of something with purpose.  Urban living has its own forms of signature stress.  They see a well lived in home, with a rich history, surrounded by land and vegetables, as something distant from their own reality.  We look forward to being able to welcome our friends back into our home and break bread together.  In the meantime, reading, writing, planting and preparing food is our devotion.

I usually make the following recipe during the summer months, but I have found that the use of frozen corn and the frozen cherry tomatoes that I put up during the last farm season create a beautiful and delicious alternative.  Depending on your circumstances and location, most grocery stores have cherry tomatoes even this time of year.

FRESH CORN POLENTA WITH ROASTED CHERRY TOMATOES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ears of fresh corn (or 6 cups frozen)
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 7 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 cups fresh or frozen cherry tomatoes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish

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INSTRUCTIONS:

FOR THE TOMATOES:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Pour cherry tomatoes and garlic onto sheet pan and drizzle 4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.  Roll the tomatoes around with the palms of your hands to evenly coat.
  2. Sprinkle the tomatoes and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Roast for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and toss the tomatoes.  Return to oven for 20-30 minutes more or until the tomatoes have slit and are slightly brown in some places.

FOR POLENTA:

  1. If using fresh corn, peel the leaves and silk from each ear, then chop off the pointed top and stalk.  Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels, taking care to remove as much of the ‘milk’ below the kernels as possible, while stabilizing the cob on a cutting board.  You will need 6 cups of kernels.
  2. Place the fresh or frozen kernels in a medium saucepan and barely cover them with water.  Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer.  Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid in a Pyrex measuring cup.
  3. Process for several minutes; you want to break as much of the kernel case as possible.  Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.
  4. Return the corn paste to the pan with some of the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10-15 minutes; or until the corn mixture thickens to a mashed potato consistency. (the more liquid you use, the longer this process will take; watch carefully in case it sputters)
  5. Fold in the butter, the feta, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

TO ASSEMBLE:

Spoon some of the polenta into individual shallow bowls,.  Spoon roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic on top.  Garnish with fresh basil or parsley.

Serves: 4

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“When we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them— some food, a place in our homes, our time— not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched.”  —Pope Francis

 

 

Anyway You Slice It

I eat a lot of salads.  I never tire of the crunch factor.  The winter is a great time to step outside the box and look for salads that don’t rely on lettuce as the main ingredient.  I usually look for seasonal, stable vegetables; and brassicas are an easy solution.  Every thing from cauliflower, to broccoli, to cabbage offer creative and healthy options for salads with a seasonal flare.

Another thing to keep in mind is to include a variety of textures, color and flavor profiles.  Sweet against salty, is one I often use to help keep it interesting.  This salad has all the elements that I enjoy.  It’s colorful, crunchy, sweet and salty all at the same time.  It has great staying power and lasts for several days in the refrigerator.

Red Cabbage Salad with Dates and Feta

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 small red cabbage (or half of a large one), halved, cored, then quartered and sliced very thin
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

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INSTRUCTIONS:

  1.  In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Taste and adjust with more lime juice and salt.  It should taste well seasoned.  Let macerate on counter for 30-45 minutes, to slightly soften cabbage.
  2. Toss dressed cabbage with half of the dates. and feta.  Arrange in a bowl or on a platter, and sprinkle the rest of the dates and feta on top.  Garnish with parsley and toasted almonds.

Serves 4-6

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 “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.””

 

Anyway You Slice It

I absolutely love Mediterranean food.  No matter if it’s from Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Spain or France, I love it all.  Fresh vegetables, legumes, olives, olive oil, cheese and an array of spices make for endless savory meals.  I find that if something you eat is truly satisfying and delicious, you eat less not more.  This Middle Eastern Tart can be served as an appetizer or entree, depending on whether or not you use both sheets of puff pastry, and how many you are serving.  Served with a salad, it is easily a complete meal.  It comes together pretty quickly and is showy enough for company.  The first time I made it there was left-over filling, which I stuffed into peppers and baked the next day.

MIDDLE EASTERN LAMB TART

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 or 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, choppped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked chick peas (I use canned and drained)
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout (page    , or alternatively 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a saute pan over medium heat add olive oil, onion and garlic until soft, about 3-4 minutes.  Add ground lamb, breaking up the lamb with a spoon and brown, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, olives and spices.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or until heated through.  Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (two baking sheets if using both puff pastry sheets).  Roll out slightly, then make a one-inch rimmed line on the inside edges with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.  Prick the dough with fork all over in center area.  Place in oven and bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and spoon mixture evenly in the center of each pastry sheet.  Top with feta cheese, brush pastry edges with beaten egg (optional) and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until puffed and edges are golden brown.
  4. Top with chopped parsley and cut into desired portions; 4, 6 or multiple if serving as appetizer.  Serve.

Serves 2-4 as entree

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“Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon, or not at all.” –Harriet von Horne.

 

Cabbage Rolls Revisited

Once in a while I like to re-post a blog that seems particularly timely.  This originated back in 2011.  We currently have in our possession a large head of cabbage that was begging to be used in something tasty.  This is it.

I love cabbage rolls.  My mother-in-law Elsa made them for me the first time in the early 80’s.  she mixed beef and pork together with onions and rice, placed them in cabbage leaves and tied them with thread.  She called this peasant-food.  Her son John and I called it heaven.  The first time I tried making cabbage rolls I was surprise just how bad I was at getting the leaves separated from the head in one piece.  I kept saying, “It can’t be that hard!”  I decided to get out of the box and approach it differently.  Why not turn it into a casserole I thought?  It would be less time-consuming and we could enjoy it more often.  While I was getting out of the box, I decided to use ground lamb, different spices and feta for a different take on it completely.

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Assembling the ingredients

Doing the cabbage ‘rolls’ as a casserole allowed me to follow my own whimsy.  I could shake it up a bit with non-traditional spices and be able to enjoy more cabbage in the process.

Lots more cabbage!

Lots more cabbage!

Cabbage and Lamb Casserole:

  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs), core removed, halved and sliced into 1/2 inch sections
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large farm-fresh egg
  • 8 oz (1 cup) crumbled local feta
  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (11/2 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I use our own canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I also used homemade)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish with ghee.
  2. Cut cabbage in half, core, then slice in 1/2 inch wedges.  Place the wedges in casserole dish so they overlap each other in two rows.
  3. In a large bowl, use your hand to combine the lamb, onion, egg, rice, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, feta, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper.  Place mixture on top of cabbage, leaving a 1 inch space round the sides of the casserole so that the cabbage shows through.
  4. Combine the tomatoes and chicken broth in a medium bowl, then pour the mixture over the meat.  Cover with foil (shiny side down).
  5. Bake covered for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes.

Serves 6

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

New Traditions!

New Traditions!

“A smiling face is half the meal.”  —Latvian quote

It’s Bean A Long Time Coming

This has not been a typical farm year for us.  Challenges with weather, deer, woodchucks and bunnies have made it difficult to grow our delicious haricot verts called Maxibels or as we call them at market, ‘skinny French girls’.  Finally after 3 tries we have succeeded in harvesting our first beans.  I wait all summer for certain vegetables.  Garlic, tomatoes and Maxibels.  I couldn’t wait to make this protein filled, colorful, crowd pleasing salad.  I did a Mediterranean spread today with our dear friends George and Karen.  Lamb meatballs in tomato sauce and feta, roasted beets with preserved lemon and dill, hummus salad, raw zucchini thyme and walnut salad, and this was a wonderful addition.

This salad has an assortment of textures; al dente green beans, toasted almonds, sweet cherry tomatoes, quinoa, chickpeas, onion and feta.  Although it originally calls for red onion, we had my favorite sweet onion Bianca and I substituted that variety (poetic license)  During the summer, after working all day on the farm, it’s nice to have meal salads that are simple to make and refreshing to eat.  Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.  This salad can be doubled to serve a crowd.

 

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HARICOT VERTS, QUINOA AND CHICKPEA SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup quinoa (any color)
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 pound green beans (I like haricot verts) or a combination of yellow and green
  • 1 cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1 can canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 small red onion  (or onion of your choice), thinly sliced vertically
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (I used my homemade tarragon vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 ounces feta, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (any color)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine quinoa and cold water; bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, cover and turn heat to low.  Cook for 20-25 minutes.  When finished pour onto sheet pan and let cool completely.
  2. Toast the almonds on a sheet pan in a 350 degree F oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from sheet pan and let cool.
  3. Wash and trim the beans.  In a large pot bring salted water to a boil and blanch beans for 3-6 minutes depending on the variety that you use.  Maxibels 3 minutes, traditional green beans 6 minutes.  Drain and place in ice bath to cool completely.
  4. To make vinaigrette, place olive oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, and salt and pepper to taste in a pint mason jar.  Place lid on snugly and shake vigorously.
  5. To assemble, place cooled quinoa, drained green beans, onions and chickpeas in a large salad bowl.  Mix gently with your hands;  add 1/2 of the dressing and mix again with your hands.  Add almonds and additional dressing if needed.  Place salad on serving platter and top with crumbled feta and cherry tomatoes if using.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a entree, 6-8 as a side

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell.  One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the woods.  –Diane Ackerman

Morocca-Tori

I’m always looking for inspiration in the kitchen.  When it comes to regional cuisine, a classic dish can often inspire me to bend the rules.  For example, I love Italian Chicken Cacciatore, with its tomatoes, garlic, onions and capers.  The challenge for me was, its traditional breading always sat a little heavy.  Why not lighten it up, leave the breading off, use Moroccan spices, chickpeas and feta?  The result?  Something similar, yet completely different in tone.  Vegetarian?  Leave out the chicken completely and replace it with roasted butternut squash or zucchini.  The real focus is what the regional seasoning does in relation to everything else.  The Moroccan or North African seasoning called  Ras El Hanout (which means: “top of the shop”) can contain anywhere from 10-100 different spices. I’ve included my version of this savory spice combination.  I highly recommend making it yourself, as you can easily control the heat. I’m hooked on it and keep finding different ways to use it.  You can also find it manufactured by several companies like McCormick or the Teeny Tiny Spice Company. Served over rice, couscous or quinoa, with a simple side salad of mixed greens tossed with vinaigrette and you have a dinner that’s comes together quickly and is sure to please.

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Moroccan Chicken Thighs:

  • 6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, sliced vertically into thin strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Ras El Hanout*
  • 1 28 oz. can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) crumbled feta
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 cups of cooked rice, couscous or quinoa

*Kim’s Ras El Hanout:

  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cane sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add a bit more if you want more heat)
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all the spices together and store in airtight container.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt butter and olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Saute garlic and onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add Ras El Hanout and simmer an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.  Take off heat.  Spoon about a 1/2 cup of the sauce into a 8 x 8 casserole dish.  Place chicken thighs on top of sauce.
  4. Sprinkle chickpeas around chicken.  Spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle feta over sauce.
  5. Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, or until bubbly and chicken thighs are done.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with minced parsley.
  7. Serve over rice, couscous or quinoa.

Serves: 3-4

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“The forest not only hides your enemies, but its full of your medicine, healing power and food.”  —African Proverb

Cabbage Rolls Revisited

I love cabbage rolls.  My mother-in-law Elsa made them for me the first time in the early 80’s.  she mixed beef and pork together with onions and rice, placed them in cabbage leaves and tied them with thread.  She called this peasant-food.  Her son John and I called it heaven.  The first time I tried making cabbage rolls I was surprise just how bad I was at getting the leaves separated from the head in one piece.  I kept saying, “It can’t be that hard!”  I decided to get out of the box and approach it differently.  Why not turn it into a casserole I thought?  It would be less time-consuming and we could enjoy it more often.  While I was getting out of the box, I decided to use ground lamb, different spices and feta for a different take on it completely.

3049

Assembling the ingredients

Doing the cabbage ‘rolls’ as a casserole allowed me to follow my own whimsy.  I could shake it up a bit with non-traditional spices and be able to enjoy more cabbage in the process.

Lots more cabbage!

Lots more cabbage!

Cabbage and Lamb Casserole:

  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 lbs), core removed, halved and sliced into 1/2 inch sections
  • 1 lb grass-fed ground lamb
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large farm-fresh egg
  • 8 oz (1 cup) crumbled local feta
  • 1/2 cup short-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped (11/2 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I use our own canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (I also used homemade)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 13×9 inch casserole dish with ghee.
  2. Cut cabbage in half, core, then slice in 1/2 inch wedges.  Place the wedges in casserole dish so they overlap each other in two rows.
  3. In a large bowl, use your hand to combine the lamb, onion, egg, rice, parsley, oregano, lemon juice, feta, cumin, fennel, salt and pepper.  Place mixture on top of cabbage, leaving a 1 inch space round the sides of the casserole so that the cabbage shows through.
  4. Combine the tomatoes and chicken broth in a medium bowl, then pour the mixture over the meat.  Cover with foil (shiny side down).
  5. Bake covered for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes.

Serves 6

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

New Traditions!

New Traditions!

“A smiling face is half the meal.”  —Latvian quote