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Eggplant Salad with Bell Peppers, Onions & Parsley (vegan)

In Salads, Vegetables On June 4, 2023 0 Comments


Eggplant, bell peppers, onions and parsley are staple ingredients in Mediterranean countries. I grew up in an Italian kitchen where these simple veggies and herbs were transformed into delicious meals on a daily basis.

This eggplant salad boasts luscious flavors, especially when fused with garlic and olive oil. The best part of this salad is that you can keep it as an exquisite leftover in refrigerator (covered) for up to four days. Buon appetito!<

Active prep time: 50 minutes
Inactive prep iime: 30 minutes (for eggplant to sit & drain)
Serves: 6 to 8

2 large eggplants (dark-skinned & firm – without marks or dents)
3 tablespoons salt (to coat eggplant & drain bitter juices)
vegetable oil (for oiling baking sheets)
2 red bell peppers
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 small spring onions or scallions, peeled & finely chopped
1 cup packed fresh, flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut and discard tips from both ends of the eggplant; cut eggplant into 1/2-inch thick rounds.

2. Cut each round into 1/2-inch thick slices and then into 1/2-inch cubes; set aside in a large colander set over a bowl.

3. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons salt over eggplant cubes.

4. Wearing disposable chefs’ plastic gloves (to prevent brown staining of hands), toss the eggplant; set it aside in a colander set over a bowl to drain for 30 minutes.

5. In the meantime, coat two 18-inch X 12-inch baking sheets with vegetable oil.

6. After eggplant has drained for 30 minutes, wearing gloves, grab a batch of eggplant and squeeze it tightly over a sink to drain bitter juices.

7.Set squeezed eggplant cubes on baking sheet; continue squeezing remaining eggplant & scatter it evenly over the baking sheets.

Boiling/Grilling the Eggplant:
1. Set oven to “BROIL” (this is the upper element in oven that turns red).

2. Place one baking sheet with eggplant on a rack set 6 inches away from upper boiling element.

3. Broil (this is the same as “grill”) eggplant cubes until they look golden brown (about 7 to 8 minutes).

4. When eggplant cubes look golden brown, toss them and broil/grill them for an additional 5 to 6 minutes or until they look golden brown. DO NOT LET THEM BLACKEN OR CHAR.

5.Set the baking sheet with broiled/grilled eggplant aside on a rack or trivet on counter; repeat above procedure with the second baking sheet.

6. Meanwhile, cut the red bell peppers in half lengthwise, remove & discard tip and seeds. Set aside.

7. With a spatula, gently transfer the eggplant to a large glass or porcelain bowl; set aside.

8. Place bell peppers, rounded side facing up, on one of the same baking sheets previously used for eggplant.

9. Transfer the baking sheet with peppers on an oven rack set 6 inches away from top broiling element.

10. Broil the peppers for 8 to 9 minutes or until skin has blackened. Set sheet with peppers aside on a counter or trivet to cool.

11. After peppers have cooled to “lukewarm”, remove & discard skins. Chop peppers into 1/2-inch pieces; set aside.

Assembling the Salad:
1. Combine the broiled eggplant, bell peppers, garlic, onions, parsley, pepper and olive oil (SINCE THE EGGPLANT IS ALREADY SALTED, DO NOT ADD ADDITIONAL SALT). Toss and taste.

2. If needed, adjust seasonings and olive oil. Cover the salad with plastic wrap & set it on a counter at room temperature until ready to serve.

3. When served with Italian, French bread or pita bread, this dish stands on its own. You can also serve it as part of a Vegan, meat or fish course and/or buffet table. Enjoy!

Text & Photograph ©2023 Nancy DeLucia Real

Beet Tzatziki

In Appetizers / Starters On May 11, 2023 0 Comments


Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes: 2-1/2 cups tzatziki

Tzatziki (Greek) is also known as cacik (Turkish). It is a dip or sauce with a yogurt base and found in Southeastern Europe and the Middle East.

In Greece, classic Tzatziki is made with yogurt, chopped cucumbers, salt and garlic. It’s served as a cold appetizer (mezze) and usually accompanied by pita bread. People also enjoy tzatziki as a side dish or sauce on souvlaki (meat on a skewer) or gyros (sliced meat wrapped in pita bread).

A few weeks ago, in Athens, Greece, I was served beet tzatziki and I loved it. Here’s my version of it (it’s pretty authentic). This is an easy appetizer for Mothers’ Day!

Two medium whole beets (peeled, each wrapped in aluminum foil & baked in a 400°F oven for 40 minutes), cooled & cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (whole or low-fat milk)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
Juice from 1 to 2 lemons
2 tablespoons tahini paste

1. In a glass blender (do not use a plastic blender or food processor or it will become permanently stained by beats), place cubed beets, yogurt, salt, garlic, juice from 1 lemon and tahini paste.

2. Pulse-blend a few times. You will need a spatula to scrape down sides and stir ingredients.

3. Repeat pulse-blending and scraping/stirring until the tzatziki dip is uniform.

4. Taste and adjust salt and lemon levels.

5. Transfer the beet tzatziki to a glass bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate up to a day ahead.

6. Serve beet tzatziki with pita wedges as an appetizer (mezze). Alternatively, serve it as a side to grilled meat, chicken or fish or as part of a vegetarian/vegan meal.
Text & Photograph ©2023 Nancy DeLucia Real

Shrimp & Saffron Risotto

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On April 4, 2023 0 Comments


It doesn’t get any easier than this – make a delicious Shrimp & Saffron Risotto with few ingredients! Don’t forget to pair it with chilled Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc wine. Buon appetito!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes
Serves: 4

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallot
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice, rinsed in cold water & drained
1 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 to 2 quarts (6 to 8 cups) chicken broth
0.0070 oz. (0.100 grams) ground saffron (about 1/8 teaspoon)
16 large or jumbo shrimp, raw, shelled & deveined

1. In an 8-quart sauce pot, heat the oil.

2. When oil is hot (but does not smoke), add the minced shallot;

3. Using a wooden spoon, stir-fry on medium heat until shallot is clear.

4. Stir in the rice; stir until uniform.

5. Add 1 cup white wine to rice mixture; stir on medium-low heat until it has almost dried out.

6. Next, add one ladle of the chicken broth; stir continuously until liquid is almost all absorbed (spoon should leave a path at bottom of pot).

7. Stir in the saffron.

8. Continue adding chicken broth, one ladle at a time, stirring continuously, until rice has almost cooked through.

9. At this point, add the shrimp; stir continuously until rice has cooked through (do not overcook shrimp or it will have a tough texture).

10. Add salt, to taste; serve risotto in individual bowls.

11. Top each bowl with 4 shrimp and 1 sprig of basil or parsley.
Wine Pairing: Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc).
Text & Photograph ©2023 Nancy DeLucia Real

St. Pat’s Green Sesame Cakes

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets On March 12, 2023 0 Comments


These green treats are like cookies, but they’re soft. Hence, St. Pat’s Green Sesame Cakes. Make these cakes ahead (you can freeze them). On March 17th, simply bring them to room temperature and serve. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Prep time: 20-25 minutes
Bake time: 12-14 minutes
Makes: 18 – 20 cakes

1-1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unbleached or regular granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (NOT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup milk (whole or 2% milk fat)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
40 drops green food coloring
3/4 cup to 1 cup raw sesame seeds (not roasted)

Preparing the Green Dough:

1. Combine dry ingredients (four, sugar, baking powder and salt) in a bowl by stirring them with a spoon; set aside.

2. Cut the cold butter into five squares and scatter over dry ingredients.

3. Using a pastry cutter, blend or “cut” the butter into the dry ingredients in bowl until butter granules are the size of peas. Set aside.

4. Meanwhile, in a 2-cup bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla and green food coloring.

5. Pour the green liquid over top of flour/butter granule mixture.

6. With pastry cutter, gently blend in the wet ingredients until a green dough has formed. It will be sticky.

7. Lightly flour a wood surface; transfer the dough to the floured surface and give it a roll until it is lightly coated.

8. Preheat oven to 350°F and line two 18 in. X 12 in. baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

9. Set the sesame seeds in an 8-inch bowl with low edges (you’ll need room to roll the dough balls in sesame seeds).

Shaping the Cakes:

1. Prepare a small bowl with cold water and set on working surface.

2. Wet your hands and pull a one-inch piece of dough from large mass.

3. Shape it into a one-inch ball and roll it in the sesame seeds set in bowl.

4. Place dough ball on a baking sheet and slightly flatten it to make a thick circle.

5. Repeat, placing the dough balls two (2) inches apart on baking sheets until both sheets are full.

Bake the Cakes:

1. Place one baking sheet with raw cakes on top rack in oven and place the second sheet on bottom rack in oven; bake for about 7 minutes.

2. After 7 minutes, invert top and bottom baking sheets.

3. Bake the cakes for an additional 5 to 7 minutes or until bottoms of cakes are light golden brown and tops feel firm.

4. After cakes have cooled completely, using a spatula, transfer them to a serving platter. The cakes can also be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to two weeks.

FOR MAKING AHEAD AND FREEZING – store cakes in double Ziploc freezer bags up to two months.
Text & Photograph ©2023 Nancy DeLucia Real

Valentine Strawberry Truffles

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On February 9, 2023 0 Comments


Gearing up for that Valentine dessert or candy? Hope you enjoy these delicious, homemade truffles on February 14th!

Active prep time: 20-25 minutes
Inactive prep time (refrigeration): 2 hours
Makes: 15-20 truffles

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (with or without almonds), broken into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla or rum extract
One 1.2-ounce (34 gr) package freeze-dried strawberries

1. Place the chocolate pieces, heavy whipping cream and butter in a double boiler set over a sauce pot that is filled halfway with water.

2. Heat stove burner to high; when water boils in sauce pot, begin stirring chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon until it has melted and is uniform.

3. Stir in the vanilla or rum extract; carefully pour melted chocolate mixture into a glass or metal bowl and refrigerate (uncovered) for 2 hours or overnight.

4. Transfer the freeze-dried strawberries to a gallon-size Ziploc® freezer bag.

5. Using a rolling pin, with rolling motions over bag set on a counter, crush the dried strawberries to medium-fine crumbs.

6. Transfer the crushed dried strawberries to a wide 8 or 10-inch bowl; set aside.

7. After chocolate has become firm, scoop it out with a spoon or melon ball scooper and shape the truffles into one-inch balls.

8. Gently roll each truffle ball in dried, crushed strawberries.

9. Place truffles on a flat plate and refrigerate until ready to serve.

10. Alternatively, you can freeze the truffles in double, quart-size Ziploc® freezer bags.

NOTE: In general, when using double freezer bags, truffles and other frozen foods will be free of the freezer-burn smell.
Text & Photograph ©2023 Nancy DeLucia Real