mediterranean diet

RECIPE: Beet and Goat Cheese Salad, with Arugula and Frisée

 
AT OUR HOUSE, WE CALL THIS DISH Christopher’s Beet Salad, because of how the recipe came to us. Golden beets work really beautifully, too, says Chris.
 
Serves 4
 
5 medium beets
wild arugula and frisée greens
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper
4 oz goat cheese
 
Scrub the beets and boil whole until tender (45 minutes to an hour). Remove from water and let cool.
 
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and vinegar, adding salt and pepper to taste. 
 
Combine about four handfuls of wild arugula and frisée in another bowl, dress with the vinaigrette and toss gently.
 
When the beets are cool, peel and, using a mandoline, slice them into thin rounds. Arrange in circles in one layer on four salad plates.
 
Drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil over the beets. 
 
In the center of each plate, pile a small handful of the arugula/frisée mix.
 
Top with a slice of goat cheese (browned under the grill if you like).
Serve with crusty bread.  
 

Mediterranean Diet Suggested in Stroke Prevention Therapy

 
ANOTHER SHOUT-OUT FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET from the medical world. In a Jane Brody column today in the New York Times, Dr. David Spence, a stroke prevention specialist at the University of Western Ontario who advocates intensive medical therapy (as opposed to surgery) for stroke prevention in asymptomatic patients, comments:

“Americans tend to name their meals by the meat. ‘Tonight we’re having steak, or chicken or fish,’ ” he said. “I recommend that my patients go vegetarian every other day, and when they eat meat, chicken or fish on the days in between, the portion should be the size of the palm of their hand.” Along with appropriate medications and control of blood sugars in diabetics, Spence “is a strong advocate of a traditional Mediterranean diet, high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lentils and beans, olive oil and canola oil and low in cholesterol and animal fats,” Brody writes.  

 

Cooking with Stanley Tucci

 
STANLEY TUCCI WAS AT THE NEIGHBORHOOD BARNES & NOBLE on Friday to promote The Tucci Cookbookand it was more than a little fun. He brought along his mother Joan Tropiano Tucci and his father Stanley Tucci Sr. “the real authors of the book—I’m the fake author” and his wife, literary agent Felicity Blunt (sister of Emily) and his pet dog. Well, no dog actually, or kids, for that matter, but you get the picture. It was very homey, just like I imagine his family’s kitchen has always been. “Cooking is about doing it together, seeing the creative act, that’s what’s binding,” he told us, and you can imagine the fun he and his parents and children all have cooking together. “Then you sit down at the table and see what you’ve produced,” Joan says. “It’s exciting.”
 
 
In a foreword, Mario Batali writes that “Stanley has written a love letter to his mum and dad, to his distant roots in Calabria.” Tucci tells his Barnes & Noble audience, “My mother is an incredible cook,” calling her up to join him at the microphone, “and she learned to cook from her mother.” The book goes into some family history (both sides are Calabrese), with sections written by his mother and father. His father apparently would pause at some point during dinner and always ask, “How does the rest of the world eat?”
 
Tucci and his parents share family recipes that were the inspiration for Big Night, as well as those of Gianni Scappin, of Le Madri, with whom he collaborated on the movie. Tucci has cooked more than once on screen. Did he have any tips for Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia, in which he plays Paul Child? someone asks now. Well, just acting tips. Big laugh. “Seriously, though, Meryl is a great cook, but at one point, she was stirring manicotti and I just couldn’t take it any more. I had to demonstrate how it was done. She said, great, sure….but I have no idea whether she changed anything.”
 
Tucci first started cooking when he was around 12 years old, his mother says. “It was a lasagna bolognese with bechamel.” They all seem to like Stan Sr.’s peaches in red wine. Why not? Sounds like the perfect dessert to me. Tucci shops at Stop & Shop, Joan at Shoprite. She likes to search out Italian products, and has tried a lot of different canned San Marzano tomatoes before settling on, damn, I didn’t quite catch the name. Barilla pasta, or De Cecco are great, “not too starchy,” says Joan.  “And forget the light olive oil; it’s terrible.” When Stanley was growing up, Joan mostly used Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil. Tucci uses Frantoia from Sicily.  Now they’re really dishing!

I haven’t had a chance to try any of the recipes yet. I’ll report back when I have. I doubt if timpano (made famous in Big Night) will be the first one I try, although it truly sounds magnifico. Tucci and his family cook it every Christmas. “My most memorable food moment,” says Tucci. 

RECIPE: Beans and Red, Yellow and Orange Peppers Salad

 
SOMETIMES A FARMERS’ MARKET STAND JUST LEAPS UP AT YOU and says, “Make this dish!” At this time of year, that dish often involves peppers. Piled up in gorgeous multicolored heaps, who can resist?
 
 
For this recipe, I add chopped up peppers to a few staples from the cupboard—canned cannellini and garbanzo beans, which I stock up on at Whole Foods, plus extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar—and a generous handful of mint. It makes a fall meal full of wake-you-up tastes and crunch. If you like, you can top it off with crumbled feta or goat cheese—adding a salty zest and some extra protein.
 
 
Oh, and a loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of crisp Albariño from Spain are always welcome accompaniments.
 
Generously serves 4 as a main dish
 
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans
1 15-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
½ small red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbs. red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
A good handful (½ cup or more) fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade) or left whole if very young and tender
Fresh feta or goat cheese (optional), for topping
 
Core, seed and dice the peppers into ¼-inch pieces and place in a serving bowl big enough to fit all ingredients. Drain and rinse the beans. Zap them for 20 seconds or so in the microwave, ’til just warm, and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and garlic, and pour over the beans. Let sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Add beans, onion and mint to the peppers, and gently mix. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

 

At the Market This Week: Desperado Chefs and Salade Niçoise Royale

MY FRIDAY MORNING RITUAL is to visit my neighborhood farmers’ market on West 97th Street, often with one friend or another who lives nearby. Today—because it was pouring rain of course—I decided to switch things up a bit and make the trek down to Union Square Greenmarket. I have to say the sights just made me feel like singin’ in the rain.
 
 
 
 
I was early enough to bump into (be run over by) chefs foraging for the day’s ingredients. You can learn a lot from how they eye the produce and then hone in on, say, the romano beans and buy four big bags of them. Plus perfect bunches of dandelion greens. You look at what they choose and see that, yes, it is at its peak of perfection that day, at that farm stand. (And as Mario Batali once pointed out—in encouraging people on all sorts of budgets to shop at farmers’ markets—when you buy a particular crop at its season’s peak, it’ll also be at its cheapest.)
 
 
One hyperfocused chef/cook (maybe he was running late and worried he’d miss out on a crucial ingredient) rushed into the Migliorelli Farm stand and said, “I want all your Tuscan kale, all of it. I’ll take all you have.” Now this is not a small farm stand, so that’s a big load of kale! Tuscan kale soup? Sautéed Tuscan kale? Maybe the menu will reveal all.
 
 
As usual, I bought enough beans and tomatoes and potatoes and greens to feed an army and give me a good upper body workout at the same time. With a lovely piece of Yellowfin Tuna from Mermaid’s Garden in my fridge, I have all the makings of a Salade Niçoise Royale, as Nancy Harmon Jenkins refers to the new-fangled version of this dish that includes tuna. In The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, she reminds us that traditionalists don’t include tuna, or even potatoes. I guess in this case I’m not a traditionalist.
 
 
On the way home, I stopped by Eataly to refuel with a latte and apricot croissant. It was just after opening hour and the place was amazingly calm. I relaxed for a while and then strolled through the store, spotting the frisée (above) I needed and hadn’t found at the market. That will be for a salad with golden beets. But more about that another day.  

At the Market This Week

ABUNDANCE! I GO TO THE FARMERS’ MARKET year-round, but there’s nothing like the pleasure of seeing pristine summer crops piled up one after the other. Since I don’t have a family of eight, I try to be reasonable in my purchases but it’s hard to resist.  

  
 
What do you get for $16 at the market?
 
A Renaissance painting.
 
  
Cherry (tomato) candies.
 
 
A riff on the Italian flag.
 
 
Peaches so juicy you have to eat them over the kitchen sink.
 

RECIPE: Smoked Trout with Spicy Arugula and Grapefruit

ACCOMPANIED BY CRUSTY BREAD, this salad makes a fresh light supper in summer, with a lovely contrast in flavors between the salty fish, peppery arugula and the grapefruit. Red or pink grapefruit tend to pack a bigger nutritional punch—especially vitamin A and the antioxidant lycopene—and look prettiest in this salad I think, but when I cut this one open, surprise, surprise, it was white. Better luck next time.

 
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs lemon juice
1 large shallot, thinly sliced with a mandoline
1 garlic clove, cut into fine julienne
1 pink grapefruit
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
8 oz smoked trout, flaked into small pieces
5 oz wild arugula (or 2 bunches, washed and torn)
1/2 small red onion, sliced very thinly
 
Whisk together mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper; let sit for 10 minutes
 
Trim off the top and bottom of the grapefruit. With a sharp knife, starting at the top, cut peel and pith from the grapefruit, following the curve of the fruit. Trim away any pith that’s left and then slice out sections of fruit from the membrane, placing in a medium bowl.
 
Add trout, arugula and onion to grapefruit and toss gently. Add dressing and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
 
Adapted from Olives & Oranges: Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond, by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox.
 

Sometimes a Cookbook Is More Than Just a Cookbook

PANZANELLA DI FARRO, a Tuscan-style tomato salad with farro, from Olives & Oranges, by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox, is the recipe that got me started eating farro. At the time, I didn’t know much about farro, except that it was a grain, so making that dish led to all sorts of research and then expeditions all over the city to find it.
 
 
After that, since I travel regularly to Montreal and Toronto, I had to find farro sources in those cities, too, because the salad had become something of an extended family favorite as well. (Travelers: Dinah’s Cupboard in Toronto; Milano Supermarket in Montreal). 
 
 
A bag of farro even made the trip north with us to Georgian Bay (above) and 45 minutes across the water to my brother’s cottage on an island one summer (we’d found wild rice on its shores, but weren’t holding out any hope for farro).
 
All this adventure, thanks to one recipe.
 
Beyond farro, though, that dish introduced me to a whole wonderful world of cooking with chef Sara Jenkins. I’ve been down to Porchetta, her little shop on East 7th Street where she makes herbed roast pork sandwiches that get raves from anyone who’s tried them. And I’m looking forward to more visits to her pasta restaurant, Porsena, in the same neighborhood.
 
But the East Village is not exactly next door, so back to the cookbook. I usually like to cook and eat at home anyway, so I’ve branched out to try other recipes in this very approachable but sophisticated book. Roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce. Orange and mint leaf salad with roasted beets. (Both great for Meatless Monday!) Baked pork chops with peaches (time for this one again, now that peaches are appearing in the market). Spaghetti with lemon sole, almonds, capers and parsley. Monkfish with olives, potatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes. And recently for dinner, smoked trout with arugula salad, pictured here.
 
 
 
 
Along with the recipes, which are helpfully labeled quick-cook and slow-cook, Jenkins shares her knowledge of the Mediterranean pantry and offers flavor tips that make you an all-round smarter Mediterranean cook. I’m still a little obsessed with that farro salad, though. Planning to make it for another family get-together some time soon. Purslane or arugula? We’ll see. 
 
Porchetta
110 East 7th Street  
New York, NY 10009
212-777-2151
 
Porsena
21 East 7th Street  
New York, NY 10003
212-228-4923
 

Jealous of My Delicious Weekly Fish Dinner? Want Your Own?

MONDAY, JULY 23 IS THE LAST DAY to sign up for Season 2 of Mermaid’s Garden CSF. As you know, I’ve been loving the once-a-week fish fix myself.

There are now five pickup locations in Brooklyn: Park Slope, Bushwick, Red Hook, Clinton Hill/Bedford Stuyvesant and Cobble Hill. Space is limited so act now if you’re interested. Go to: Mermaid’s Garden CSF for more information.

 
 

Fish for Dinner—Mermaid's Garden Makes It Happen

FRIDAY WAS FISH DAY IN MY FAMILY, for as long as I can remember growing up. Initially a religious observance, it eventually just became the custom and what we all enjoyed eating. It helped that we lived in a town on the shores of Lake Huron. Depending on where we were or what was convenient, dinner might be English-style fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, bass or perch caught in Georgian Bay (and the occasional pike!), shrimp fried rice or pickerel from the fishing boat at the dock down by the bridge.
 
In my own household, I’ve always cooked fish, although I drifted from the Friday fish idea—and it didn’t always happen weekly. Ever since I became smitten with all things Mediterranean, though, I’ve been enjoying fish and seafood more again—and exploring new ways to serve it.
 
This Catalan white bean soup with shrimp, from Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, makes a meal “handsome enough for a dinner party,” as she puts it. She’s right.
 
 
These ocean perch are baked with lemon slices, a little wine, capers and olive oil in the pan. Talk about fast food.
 
 
Oven-baked fish fillets with cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, garlic, capers and olive oil are always a hit. These are red snapper.
 
 
And here’s red snapper again, a couple of big ones from a Portuguese fish store in Toronto, ready to pop in the oven. (It was Christmas Eve and we were cooking for a crowd.) This is another Spanish recipe from Jenkins—the fish is roasted on a bed of sautéed onions and small potatoes, and then topped off with red pepper slices and tomatoes. A one-dish dinner—lazy Mediterraneanista loves it.
 
 
This summer, I’ve found a new and wonderful way to get a regular fish fix—I’ve joined Mermaid’s Garden Community Supported Fishery. It was started by Bianca Piccillo, a marine biologist who left academia to work in the food business, and Mark Usewicz, the French-trained executive chef at Palo Santo in Brooklyn. As consultants, Bianca and Mark work with restaurant professionals helping them “knowledgeably and confidently chose delicious, sustainable fish.” Now, as a CSF member, I get that benefit too. Which is nice because shopping for fish that’s good for you and the ocean can be confusing.

The CSF works like a CSA does—you buy a 4-week share (fish for two in my case) and pay $66 up front. On Thursday morning we get an e-mail from Bianca, telling us what fish we’ll be getting, how it’s caught, even who caught it—and ideas from Mark for cooking it. Later that afternoon, I head to Brooklyn to pick up my share of fish. So far, we’ve eaten tuna, hake, black bass, striped bass (probably my favorite), pollock. The fish has been fresher than fresh, and although I don’t collect if off the boat myself, there’s something nice about knowing something about where it came from. I’ve been enjoying learning a bit more about fishing practices—and different types of ocean fish. And there’s something very comfortable—and comforting—for me about reviving that weekly rhythm of fish for dinner that was implanted at a young age. Thank you Bianca and Mark!

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