Chickpea Crostata di Ricotta (with kale and sundried tomatoes)

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I am happiest when i am cooking in my kitchen, closed off with all the wonderful fresh ingredients that are easily available every day here. This is a brand new recipe and like most of my recipes, it uses ingredients common in every kitchen on the island. i created it for the food section of Mediterranean News where you can find step by step photo instructions and the recipe.

I loved making it and the combination of flavors, the chopped sundried tomatoes and kale, and textures are so good together. Let me know what you think !

Legendary seas and a Mediterranean fish supper

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The Mediterranean is made up of a variety of cultures integrated into one region which is defined by the Sea of so many legends and tales.

And a diverse cuisine that is sought after all around the world has been created from this integration based on the freshness of the produce in the region. See how the sun shines here nearly every day of the year and the long extended summers produce the best flavors that need very little cooking to keep the taste of freshness alive.

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And this month brings a fish that is very much part of the island’s heritage and the season opened with a blessing of fishing boats by the parish priest of a Southern fishing village.

Lampuki are more commonly known abroad as mahi mahi and dophinfish but nowadays the word mahi mahi is preferred to avoid confusion with dolphins (mammals) as they are not associated in any way. Here they are lampuki. The blueish outer skin glistens when they are fresh and on the bottom they are flecked with pale yellow. The flesh is firm and dense and can cope with stromger herbs and flavors.

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There are various ways of cooking them but we are having them simply fried today and serving them with the lovely variety of lettuces that come in all sorts of fancy shapes and sizes this month.

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For the fried lampuki you will need:

1 kg lampuki
a fresh lemon
Flour
Fresh Marjoram
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
Oil
Vinegar
Some olive oil to drizzle on top

Yoi can ask your fishmonger to clean your fish.
Start by removing thr head and tail.
Rinse the fish and cut it into portions.
Cover a flat dish with a layer of sifted flour
Add the salt and pepper and fresh marjoram
Heat the oil in a heavy pan.
Shallow fry the fish on both sides using low heat so that it cooks inside,
Sever with a slice of lemon. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil and vinegar.
Garnish with olives and capers.
Serve immediately.

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Thanks to Benny Scerri for some of the photos.

Ricotta gnudi with crisped sage

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It is not pasta and Gnudi are not gnocchi, but seem to belong to the same family. They are simply skinless ravioli, the filling without the shell but not quite gnocchi. This is enough to whet my appetite and I am making them today for our supper!

You will need :

1 cup fresh ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for finishing the pasta
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
Pinch grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives (optional) or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 cup flour
4 cups semolina
3 tablespoons butter
10 sage leaves

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl
Fold in the 1/2 cup of flour until it is combined with the ricotta mixture, adding more flour by the tablespoon if needed so that the mixture isn’t too sticky to roll into 1-inch balls.
Using floured hands, roll the ricotta mixture into balls and place in a bowl or dish that has 1/4 inch of the semolina sprinkled on the bottom.
Arrange the balls so that they are not touching each other or the sides.
When you have a layer, cover the balls completely with flour and begin another layer.
Finish by completely burying the ricotta balls and transfer to the fridge. Leave overnight.
In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Watch it carefully, and when the butter solids begin to brown and the butter is foamy (above), add the sage leaves. Just a few moments longer on the heat and the butter should turn a nutty brown color. Don’t overcook it to avoid introducing any bitter flavors.
Carefully transfer the gnudi to a pot of salted boiling water and cook until they float, about 1 minute.
They don’t need long at all, and the pasta coating can turn tough if they are in the water too long.
Remove them with a slotted spoon to drain, and serve with the brown butter and crisped sage leaves. Grate Parmesan over them, if desired.

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Pepperonata with Chicken and garlic thyme

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A simple yet aromatically delicious chicken cooked with so many garlic cloves for flavor and i blend the cooked garlic with beans to make one of the local dips and refridgerate for use tomorrow. I will share the dip recipe with you next week. The pepperonata is simple, vibrant and i am careful not to overcook the vegetables as we like a slightly crispy vegetables but this can be cooked longer depending on what your preference is.

You will need:

4 whole boneless chicken legs
about 12 fresh thyme leaves, stems removed and chopped
Peeled garlic cloves, about 1/4 cup, bit adjust to your taste. i do not serve the garlic but use it for flavor
Freshly ground black pepper sprinkled on the chicken
A touch of sea salt
Olive Oil
Fresh mint for garnish

Preheat oven to 200C.
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with freshly ground black pepper and thyme. Add the garlic cloves, cover and let the flavors seep through the mean in the refridgerator for at least two hours. This is a dry infusion and it works. The crispy appearance can only be better achieved with no addition of liquids.
Remove from the fridge. Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan, add the chicken amd quicky brown on both sides. Remove from heat. add the garlic and cook in a preheated oven for 25 minutes. The chicken is fully cooked when the juice run clear. Garnish with fresh mint.

While the chicken is in the oven prepare the pepperonata and you will need :

2 spoons olive oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded, sliced into 2 long strips
2 yellow bell peppers, seeded, sliced into long strips
2 orange or green bell peppers, seeded, sliced into long strips
1 large onion, sliced into slim half moon shapes
w garlic cloves, sliced thin or grated
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh basil or mint, or a mix of both, leaves torn roughly
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium high heat.
Add the onions, stir.
Add the peppers and stir well to combine with the onions. Add the garlic.
Sauté for 5 minutes stirring often.
The peppers should be left with a little crunch however cook them more if you prefer.
Sprinkle a little salt over everything and dried oregano. Cook for 1 minute and stir.
Add the diced tomatoes, and cook just one minute further.
Turn off the heat and mix in the torn basil.
Grind some black pepper over everything.
Squeeze a little lemon juice. This can be served hot or cold.

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Click here for the recipe of the day on Mediterranean News.

Victory Day and a regatta… stuffed and baked 8-ball zucchini

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A public holiday today here with a Regatta to celebrate Victory of the Great Siege by the Knights of St John in 1565.

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And for 8 September i am using ‘eight ball zucchini’ and I prepared a light but so delicious supper with these beautiful bottle green round vegetables flecked with light green. I love them, they are beautiful to look at and although not too popular here on the island they are grown locallly.

The flesh is sweet and remains firm after cooking. I scooped the flesh out but did not reuse it in the filling as most people seem to do but i used it in a stir fry.

The filling is half feta and half ricotta. I mixed both together to reduce the saltiness in the feta but you can simply choose to use either or. And added to this is lots of fresh mint from the garden, abundant at the moment.

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You will need :

2 eight-ball zucchini, allow one per person
125g ricotta
125g feta cheese
2 eggs
1/4 lemon, just the rind finely grated
1spoon oatmeal
2 spoons parmessan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh mint, as much as you like, chopped and i used lots (around 2 fistfulls, but reduce if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 220 C
Slice the top section of the Zucchin using a sharp knife. Then carve out the zucchini flesh from the shell gently with a teaspoon. I used the flesh to make a stiry fry.
Mash up the feta and ricotta. Ad the egg and then all the other ingredients.
Neatly fill the zucchini.
Place the 8-balls in a non-stick tray and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. The top of the filling will brown.
Serve with a big bowl of green leaves or as a side dish to grilled seafood.

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And for my recipe of the day click on MediterraneaNews

CIHEAM and a Mediterranean Diet … Watermelon, mint and ricotta salad

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Why is a Mediterranean Diet the most popular diet in the world? I really believe it is the most balanced diet. Unlike what many think, it is not a slimming diet, not part of a strict weight loss regime, but a way of life, to eat fresh healthy local produce that has been farmed sustainably, vegetables and fruit that we are able to eat on the same day of harvest, pork and poultry on the same day of slaughtering.

Many of you ask me questions about the Mediterranean diet. There is an cooperation between 13 Mediterranean countries under the umbrella organisation called CIHEAM and intensive research and studies are carried out to ensure transparency in the food chain and that approved agricultural practices are used to bring the best produce to the consumer. And this is one of the reasons that accounts for the goodness of Mediterranean ingredients along with the natural resources of our special soil that nurtures the roots and seeds of what we are going to eat and of course our mild climate and sunshine nearly everyday of the year.

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And if you wish to catch up with my week in the heart of the Mediterranean click here

So what is in my fridge today? A watermelon from Joseph’s harvest just before the season ends, ricotta and lots of fresh mint from the garden and supper tonight is a Watermelon and Ricotta salad.

You will need:

5 cups cold fresh watermelon, cut into small cubes and remove black seeds
5 tablespoons fresh ricotta cheese
a fistful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
some whole mint leaves for garnish

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Lemon Dressing
juice of half a fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 olive oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the ingredients of the dressing together and keep aside. if you have any extra this will keep well in the refridgerator.

To assemble salad

On a platter, place the cut up watermelon.
Flake some crumbled up ricotta over the top.
Drizzle with a small amount of the salad dressing
Top with chopped mint.
Season
Garnish with mint leaves
Serve cold.
I like to add some plain local olive oil on this salad otherwise more dressing to suit your preference.

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CIHEAM, the 13 participating countries

And for my recipe of the day click on MediterraneaNews

Watermelon Chili Chutney

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Watermelon is so refreshing and at the peak of its season now so i think its a good idea to take advantage while the price is low to stock up and store some for the winter months.

We have spent the last month eating watermelon for breakfast with yoghurt, for lunch with local goats cheese and making endless fresh juices and home made granitas with mint and other herbs but it is time for something a little bit different.

I wanted to make a sweet chili jam using watermelon and I have combined two recipes and added chili and salt. In the Middle East, it is common to make a watermelon rind jam and I have combined the red flesh and rind of the watermelon to make this wonderful preserve. The result is something different with a great taste, texture and color and it is delicious served with cheese, fresh bread or water biscuits or alternatively with cold meats.

Although I deseeded the watermelon, I decided to leave a few seeds as this clearly identifies the fruit once it is in a jar or when it is plated. The chili can be adjusted according to your taste. I love it and hope you will try it out. It is especially good with hard cheese such as pecorino or Manchego.

1 kg watermelon rind, with the tough green skin peeled off
1 kg watermelon flesh put in a sieve and mashed to drain water out
2 kg sugar plus some extra sugar to sprinkle over watermelon rind
6 limes, squeezed juice and zest
50 g pectin
Crushed dried chillies, quantity to your discretion

Remove the green tough skin of the watermelon and cut into rough chunks. Sprinkle sugar over it and leave for 2 to 4 hours. Drain the liquid out.

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Take the flesh of the watermelon, deseed and cut into chunks. Place in a sieve and with a masher break it up allowing the juice to drain through the strainer. Save the juice and refrigerate it. It is delicious with some ice and lime zest.

Add the drained flesh to the chopped rind in a large cooking pot. i added a few seeds but this is optional. Add the sugar, juice and lime zest and heat gently until it comes to a boil and reaches 220 C. Add the pectin and cook for a further five minutes.

I used the saucer method for testing the setting point. Place a saucer in the freezer and test the preserve by putting a few drops on the cold plate. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it has reach setting point. If it is still runny, return to heat, boil and retest. The best color is achieved when the jam is not over heated for a long period of time, but this is a matter of preference. I have heard some people say that they like a darker color.

Finely chop as many chillis as you desire and stir me into the watermelon preserve.

Now you will need to sterilize the jars. Rinse them in clean warm water and allow them to drip dry and place upside down on an rack in the oven at 140C for half an hour.

Pour the jam into the jars preferably through a funnel. I wear latex gloves to prevent contamination. I pour the jam into warm jars while it was still warm.

If you are going to store the jam, I suggest placing a disc of waxed baking paper onto the jam before covering with a lid.

You will need to store the jam in a cool dark place.

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