Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘Mediterranean’

Wolf and Bear’s – Portland

Well one place that certainly made me happy to eat at and feel that I wasn’t straying too far from my new healthy convictions was a food truck in Portland Oregon called “‘ Wolf and Bear’s “.

 

 

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We had been watching one of our favorite food programs ” Eat Street” on the Food Network, a show about food trucks far and wide, and knew we’d be passing through Portland in a couple of weeks and wanted to check it out!

I was even more thrilled to find that it was located in the East Burnside area which is always a favorite eating area for the Chef and I when we are in Portland.  Tucked into a  little vacant lot on SE 28th avenue, just off Burnside with a few other inviting food trucks is a little oasis of delicious.

I was so excited to order the:  OLEAWolf’s homemade kalamata tapenade, labneh, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, grilled red onions, gorgonzola crumbles, caramelized walnuts, freshly cracked pepper, salad greens drizzled with tahini sauce and olive oil on a warm pita.

The Chef declared that he wanted the same one!  Which would normally make me shift my choice so that we can both taste more than one thing, but on this occasion, I wouldn’t budge and nor would he so we had one each!

Everything is fresh made to order and is well worth the wait.

When our name was called and we picked up our sandwiches they also handed us a wonderful little dish of mixed olives and pickled peppers to go with them!  A perfect Middle Eastern combo!

 

 

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It was a glorious warm summer night as we sat in the court yard and ate our sandwiches and pickles and sipped our lemonades.  What a wonderful treat!

Thanks Wolf and Bear!

Souveggie

Well I couldn’t exactly call it “fake souvlaki” because it just doesn’t have the same appeal.

Being originally from Montreal, I am no stranger to a good souvlaki.  We have a large Greek community there with lots of wonderful restaurants with vibrant flavours like garlic, lemon and mint.    One of my favorites is what we simply refer to as “souvlaki pita”.  Which usually consists of some sort of grilled meat that has been marinated in above flavours, rolled up in a pita bread with tomato, onion, lettuce and a choice of various sauces, usually tzatziki sauce or a tahini based dressing.  Wrapped in a tinfoil wrapper and you are good to go!

So last night, on the second to last day of the Vegan Challenge, I thought I would try and make a Vegan equivalent to the much-loved favorite.

I started by marinating some strips of tofu in the same flavours the meat would usually be in.

  • lemon juice
  • oregano
  • chopped garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

And let that hang out in the fridge for awhile.

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Then for some extra filling I decided to grill some egg plant as well, which I cut into thin slices and brushed with a little olive oil and then sprinkled with crushed garlic, oregano and some S & P.

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Then I made up a nice tahini dressing of:

  • tahini
  • lemon juice
  • crushed garlic
  • dried mint
  • S & P

Don’t be alarmed that the tahini just seems to seize up when you add lemon juice to it.   Just add a few drops of warm water to thin it out to the consistency that you’d like.

Pop your tofu and eggplant in a 450 degree oven  and keep an eye on them until they look done.

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Meanwhile on the side I made up a nice fresh salad of:

  • mixed greens
  • shaved cucumber
  • shaved fennel
  • mixed olives
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a splash of red wine vinegar
  • a sprinkle of oregano
  • a slosh of olive oil
  • S & P

Toss well and serve on the side, although it actually goes very nicely on the sandwich too.

So when you are ready, lay out your pita ( slightly warmed or not)  lay down a few strips of cooked tofu then top with the eggplant.

Drizzle on the tahini dressing and sprinkle with chopped red onion, chopped tomato ( not shown here) and some chopped parsley if you have it.

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Sure, it doesn’t even pretend to taste like chicken, but all of the flavours were there and it was perfectly agreeable!

Even the Chef thought so!

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Different Salads

I suppose a staple of the Vegan diet is salads.

All shapes, sizes and colours.

To be honest, you can pretty much chop up anything, put on a little dressing and call it a “salad” these days!  And why not?

One of my favorite meals, Vegan or not, is what I call my “Mediterranean plates” where I just make a bunch of flavorful piles of stuff that go nicely together.

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Here’s tonight’s group:

First I got started with a nice batch of roasted yams and roasted cauliflower.

Get them started.

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Then I went to a white bean and kale with lemon salad:

In a glass or ceramic bowl add:

  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon ( but zest it first and put aside)
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 large handful of chopped green kale ( hard stems out)

Mix the kale down into the lemon juice and cover well and let sit in the acid until it gets a little wilted.

Then drain and rinse a can of white kidney beans and add to the bowl.

Then add:

  • 1 tbsp dried or fresh chopped sage
  • a splash of olive oil
  • a pinch more salt and some fresh cracked pepper.

Mix thoroughly, top with the lemon zest and set aside to rest while you perform your other duties.

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Next we have a nice Cous Cous salad.

Again, in a glass or ceramic bowl ( but preferably with a seal-able lid) start with your dressing on the bottom.   I just used more lemon juice, a little olive oil and some fresh herbs.

Then to the bowl I added some left over grilled vegetables, peppers, asparagus, Portobello mushrooms, zucchini.   If you don’t have any grilled veg and don’t feel like making any, raw ones would work just fine too but try and keep them of the more delicate nature, not hard things like raw carrots.

Toss these in the dressing.

Meanwhile and this is just something I do for added flavour, but by no means essential……

I like to dry toast the couscous in the bottom of a heavy pot or fry pan till they get just a little bit brownish.

Then toss the DRY couscous in with the vegs and dressing and toss them in well.

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Then pour boiling water over the whole thing ( amount according to couscous directions) and then seal the bowl with a lid or place a plate on top and let stand for about 10 minutes.

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Then I whipped up a nice little Tahini sauce to pour over things:

  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • salt & pepper
  • water as needed

Stir this all up in a bowl adding water as needed to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Tahini tends to cease up when you mix it with other things, so you may have to keep adding water for a bit.

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So now with our yams and cauliflower roasted.

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Our couscous absorbed and fluffed.

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Our beans and kale marinated.

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We are ready to put it all together!

Maybe drop a few spinach leaves or mixed greens on the bottom to “green ” it up a little and then pile on the good stuff!   And drizzle with a bit of tahini sauce!

Yummy Vegan Salad night!!

Or anytime really!   In fact this combo cold the next day made a great work lunch!

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Oh and …….note use of home-made bun now as toasted garlic bread!!!

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Mediterranean pasta salad

What with Bar B Q season upon us, we always need to come up with new things to make or bring.  Chances are that over the summer you essentially keep seeing the same ten people in different combinations and locations, so you need to keep straight what you brought to which party so you don’t become THAT person who ALWAYS brings the same thing every time!!

So here’s a dish you can add to your repertoire.

Start by boiling up a pot of the pasta of your choice.  But keep it in the short variety family, rotini, macaroni, fussili, rigatoni etc.

I happened to find something called “Scoobie Doos“!  They are a funky twisted, ribbed macaroni and seem to work perfectly for this kind of dish.

Now if you read my stuff regularly you know I am a great fan of “what ever you have” for most dishes, so I’m just letting you know what I used on this particular occasion, but please feel free to add, omit or substitute.

  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes ( finely chopped)
  • 6 -10 kalamata olives ( pitted and chopped)
  • 1/2 small bulb of fennel ( finely sliced)
  • zest of 1 lemon

Mix all of that up at the bottom of a large mixing bowl.

Then for the “dressing” chop up in a mini chopper or food processor:

  • 2 -3 ( or more depending on relationship with guests) cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 pieces of kale ( leafy bits only) – you KNOW how I love to hide kale in things!
  • juice of one lemon
  • fresh herbs if you have them, oregano, basil, parsley
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Whiz this up to a nice paste, add a bit more olive oil if needed.

Add this to the bottom of the mixing bowl and mix well in with the other elements.

When pasta is cooked, drain and add immediately to the mixing bowl and toss.   The heat from the pasta with loosen up the other stuff and help it stick to the pasta.

Mix REALLY well because you don’t want globs of the “dressing” stuck at the bottom.

I like to make this at least a couple of hours ahead so all the flavours have time to get acquainted before serving.

Just before you are leaving for the party, or serving at your own place, transfer everything to a more decorative or service friendly dish.   And then top with:

  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  • some more lemon zest
  • basil leaves
  • chopped fennel fronds ( green feathery stuff on top of fennel)
  • a grind or two of fresh pepper

And you are in business!

Fattoush Salad

                  When I lived in Montreal, one of my favorite things to eat was Lebanese food.  I have travelled far and wide ( well not to Lebanon but….) and have lived in many cities but have never tasted any Lebanese food as good as they seem to have there.   Not to say that other cities don’t have great Lebanese places too……it’s just that I’ve yet to find them.

                   So to round-up “Salad Week” I thought I would make a Lebanese “style” Fattoush Salad.  I say “style” cause this one isn’t the real deal, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice!

Fattoush Salad

                   A traditional Fattoush is made with the  spice, Sumac.   I neither had, nor care for Sumac so I did not include it in this recipe.  But feel free to try it out for yourself, or use it if you already know you enjoy it.

So we are going to start with some nice pita bread.   I had nice thick ones so I split them length wise to have more.   Brush them with olive oil ( and this is where you would sprinkle on some Sumac) and then I sprinkled smokie paprika just to give a little colour and then toasted them in the oven at 350 degrees till they are nice and toastie.   Remove and let cool.

oil and toast pita bread

So then for the salad in no particular order chop and add to a large bowl:

  • romaine lettuce
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • green onion
  • flat leaf Italian parsley
  • water cress ( except I didn’t have any so I didn’t use)

Toss those together well.

For the dressing:

  • 2 cloves finely minced garlic
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/4 cup ( or what ever double the juice is) of olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp of Sumac ( if you are using)

Shake it all up and pour it all over the salad and then mix well.

Then take the toasted pita and crack up into random pieces and toss that into the salad.

Let it sit for a few minutes before serving so that the flavours can soak in to and soften up the pita just a little bit.

There we have it.  Serve up with some shish taouk or Shawarma.   Yum YUm.

Let me know if you have a great Lebanese restaurant in your town so I’ll be sure to check it out if I am ever round there!

Salad Week – Deconstructed Greek Salad

I thought what with Summer now upon us……well some places are getting Summer anyway….that it would be a good time to roll out “Salad Week”.

I love salads and the combinations are endless, so let’s see what we can come up with.

Today we have “Deconstructed Greek Salad”.

Now don’t be intimidated.   This might sound all “Chefy” but it couldn’t be simpler!

Impress your friends with this simple tasty salad.

Gather all the ingredients typically found in a Greek salad and cut them into even sized bits.

Here we have:

  • Green pepper
  • Yellow pepper
  • Red onion
  • tomato
  • cucumber
  • Kalamata olives

So chop them up evenly and put them in little piles in a flat casserole dish like small 9 x 9 glass lasagna dish.

Then make up the dressing:  Thee parts oil, one part vinegar

  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • chopped fresh herbs – parsley, oregano etc

Stir up and then pour all over the vegetables and let them marinade for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

When you are ready to serve, arrange even piles of the individual vegetables around the plate.

Here we have a dollop of goat cheese, but crumbled feta would do nicely too.

Season with salt & pepper and sprinkle with additional chopped herbs if you have them!

Voila!  So simple and so good!!

Deconstructed Greek Salad

Please feel free to share YOUR  favorite salads with me.  Post a link to your blog if you’d like my friends to check it out too.

Happy Salad Week!

Decidedly Mediterranean

All right, I’ll admit it.  I’ve been on a bit of a Mediterranean kick lately!

Sometimes I just can’t get enough of it.  Luckily the Mediterranean covers a large choice of things to eat, but the one thing they all have in common is a lot of flavour!

So someone asked me if I’d ever made Imam Bayildi”  which apparently translated means “the Iman fainted”, I guess cause it is supposed to be THAT good!  But I had to admit  that I’d never heard of.

Needless to say I looked it up and felt the need to try and make it myself.

So this is what I came up with that is loosely based on most of the recipes I came across.

Basically it is an eggplant stuffed with other vegetables.  But I felt the need to bulk it up a little and use it as a more substantial main dish.  So I added some bulgur wheat to it.

Bulgar is quite easy to make, just put about 1/2 to 1 cup dry Bulgar ( depending on how much you need, it expands a lot!) into a heat safe bowl.

Pour boiling water over it, enough to cover it and then swim a little.   Then cover it with a plate or something like that and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so.

Then when all the liquid is sucked up and the bulgur is all puffed up, you are ready to use it!

Meanwhile, get a nice size eggplant, or a few small ones, depending on if you are making it as a main dish or side dish.   Wash them, pat dry and remove the green bits off the stem.  Then slice them in half and place them in a shallow baking dish.  Put in the over at about 375 for about 15 minutes.   But keep a close eye on them.  You don’t want to cook them fully, just enough so that the innards are soft enough to remove easily.

On top of the stove, in a large skillet add:

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 red and/or green pepper diced
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
  • 3 coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes ( with juicy bits from inside)

Start with the onions and peppers and cook till softened.

By now your eggplant should be done enough, so remove it from oven and give it a minute or two till you can handle it without pain.

Scoop out the innards and chop it up well and add it to the pan with the onions and peppers.  Set the shells aside waiting to be stuffed.

Then add the tomato and let all of that cook till it is well acquainted.

Then add:

  • a tsp of ground cinnamon (gives it that Mediterranean flare!)
  • juice of half a fresh lemon
  • a good handful of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

At this point you have more or less the traditional filling, but now is when I added about 3/4 of a cup of the cooked bulgur wheat and mixed thoroughly.

Now you are ready to stuff your eggplants.   Spoon in generous amounts of the filling and pack it in there.  Everything is basically already cooked so we will just be essentially re-heating.

The real recipes don’t call for it, but you could add a bit of bread crumbs on top, or like what I did with a bit of grated parmesan cheese, just to give it a bit of a crust.

Bake for about 15 minutes till everything is nice and warm and serve with the side dishes of your choice. And a little drizzle of good olive oil to make it particularly Mediterranean!

Stuffed eggplant

Tonight I just made some lemon and herb brown rice pilaf to go with it.  The other thing that would go nicely with this and which I had toasted and waiting on the counter but simply forgot to add, would be some pine nuts.   The would definitely add to the “decidedly” Mediterranean taste!

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Baba ghanoush

Or eggplant dip.

I love most food that originates from the Mediterranean.  

A friend and I were at a local Mediterranean eatery the other night and we started with an appetizer platter that contained baba ghanoush and then I remembered just how much I enjoyed it and thought I best try to make some at home!

Start with an eggplant, wash it and put it on a baking sheet and then poke it with a fork all over.   This is so when it bakes the steam will escape and it won’t explode in the oven!!

poke eggplant with fork

Ideally, the best way to make this is on the bar b que or if you have a gas stove, on the open flame.  You are supposed to char the outside first and then bake it till it’s cooked in the middle.

But if you can’t char it, just bake it in the oven at about 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, in the food processor, whiz up:

  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 3-4 table spoons of tahini
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt & pepper

And then my personal secret ingredient 1 tsp of smokey paprika

Then when the eggplant is baked and let to cool enough to handle, cut it down the middle and scoop out the innards into the food processor and whiz it all up.

Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some chopped parsley.

Eat alone with crackers or as part of your own Mediterranean appetizer platter!

Mediterranean appetizer plate

Add baba ghanoush to a plate with tzatziki, feta cheese,  roasted cauliflower, domalas and pita for dipping.

My favorite Tzatziki sauce

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but my top three “cuisines” to eat are Indian, Mexican and “Mediterranean”.  I know I am cheating with Mediterranean because it encompasses the food of several different countries.  Like Greek, Italian, Persian, Lebanese, Morraccan…..you get the picture.  Cuisines with deep roots and strong flavours!

When I lived in Montreal we would often frequent the many Greek restaurants.  I’ll admit, probably because most of them were “bring your wine” type establishments.  Meaning you can drink a bunch more wine for your dollar!

The one thing that was always so good at the Montreal Greek restaurants, that regrettably I have not tasted again in my travels, is the Tzatziki sauce.

So since then I have been trying to replicate it myself and have come pretty close with this one.

First you will need some full fat plain yogurt or “Greek style” which is more and more readily available.

I then strain it to thicken it up.   I just purchased an inexpensive reuseable coffee filter and put it on top of a container and then pour in the yogurt.  Put it in the fridge for awhile, the longer the better, till all the liquid drains out.

 
Strain the yogurt

Then grate about a 3rd of an English cucumber into a clean tea towel.

grated cucumber

 
 Then tie up the tea towel and stand over the sink and twist as hard as you can till as much liquid comes out of the cucumber as possible.  Then place the squeezed cucumber in a bowl. 
 

Squeezed cucumber

 
 
Then finely mince 1 or 2 cloves of fresh garlic and add to the grated cucumber.
 
Then, when it is well strained, add the yogurt and mix well with the garlic and cucumber.
 
Some people also add a bit of sour cream to make it nice and thick, but I find if you strain the yogurt long enough it isn’t necessary.
 
Then season with salt and pepper and about a teaspoon of dried or fresh dill.
 
Mix well and then refrigerate till all the flavours exchange well.
 
Then when you are about to serve it, give it a quick shot of nice olive oil.
 
 
 

Tzatziki sauce

 
Serve with some pita wedges or with your favour Greek dishes.
 
 

Tzatziki and pita

 

Mediterranean style club sandwich

Here’s the recipe for the Mediterranean style club the Chef made for our movie night in the park picnic.

You will need:  amounts will vary depending on how many people you are feeding.  And please feel free to add, subtract or substitute according to taste and availability.  This is just a guideline, but I must warn you, it was delicious!!

  • a large baguette or other crusty bread
  • marinated chicken breast
  • smoked cheddar
  • bacon
  • onion
  • tomato
  • avocado
  • blue cheese/goat cheese/sun-dried tomato/mayo
  • olives

Start by marinading your chicken breasts in a marinade of:

  • chopped fresh garlic
  • chopped fresh basil
  • chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • olive oil

Meanwhile make up your “bacon jam”.  Bacon is always delicious but sometimes it is unmanageable when it is crispy and often falls out of the sandwich!  So if you make it into a nice spreadable “jam” it will solve the problem.   You’ll need:

  • a good size onion, sliced
  • a few strips of bacon

Grill up the bacon until nice and crispy, remove and let cool.   Add the onions to the same pan with and cook until brown in colour and soft and squishy.

Bacon jam

Chop the bacon into fine bits and mix it in with the carmelized onions until you have a nice paste or “jam”.

Once that is cooling, make up your “mayo” by combining some blue cheese, goat cheese, sun-dried tomato, a bit of fresh basil and a little mayo.  Cream these together till you have a nice thick spread.  Now if you don’t happen to have these kicking around like we always seem to have, then straight mayo will work fine.

blue and goat cheese mayo

Then grill off your chicken in the same pan as the bacon and onions were in to add extra flavour.

Marinaded chicken

Then slice up the extras and you are almost ready to assemble.

Sandwich fixins

Slice your baguette or crusty bread into three, length wise and toast in the oven.  If you want to be really decadent, you can brush a little of the left over bacon fat on the bread before toasting.

Grilled baguette

Now it’s time to assemble.

Start, as many good sandwiches begin, with the first layer of bread on the bottom!

First goes the bacon jam.  Spread a nice thin layer on the bottom slices.  Then a layer of fresh sliced tomatoes, then a layer of smoked cheddar, then chicken.

As soon as the chicken is cooled enough to touch, slice up the breasts to go into your sandwich.

Then we are ready for the middle layer of bread, top that with the cheesy mayo concoction. Then another layer of thinly sliced chicken breast, followed by another layer of smoked cheddar and then topped with creamy avocado.

Layer ingredients on bread

Spread another thin layer of the bacon jam on the top slice of bread and add it to the stack.

We secured it with tooth picks with olives on top but when the Chef makes them at the restaurant he uses fresh sprigs of rosemary to hold them down and add extra flavour!

Mediterranean style club sandwich

So if you were super hungry you COULD eat this whole thing yourself  BUT I think it is much too good not to share!

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