July 31, 2010

ETL: Stuffed Zucchini

This is a very simple and delicious summer dish. This is what you will need:
  • couple of zucchini. I prefer the light green type. Washed and cut into 2"-3" pieces.
  • few carrots, chopped into small pieces
  • a shallot
  • two cloves of garlic, chopped
  • green pepper, sweet or hot, depending on your taste
  • a handful of walnuts
  • a handful of chopped dill
  • two tomatoes, one chopped, or blended, and the other sliced
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste 

  1. First carve the zucchini. I used a coring knife for apples. Chop or mince the internal part of the zucchini.
  2. Saute the onions, garlic, peppers and the zucchini mix. Add the paprika, the spice, the walnuts, and let it cook for few minutes. Add the dill.
  3. Arrange  the zucchini tubes in a baking dish. Fill the tubes with the cooked filling. Cover the dish with foil or lid and bake at 450F for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for additional 10 minutes. The cooking time may vary depending on your stove and the quantity you cook.

July 29, 2010

Fettuccini with Pesto, Mushrooms and Peas

I have always been a fan of tomato based pasta sauces, but this time I decided to experiment a bit and to make a pesto sauce, and it turned out pretty good. The whole dish took less than 30 min with multitasking so it is perfect for making a quick dinner.

In a food processor, combine and homogenize the following:
  • 1-2 cups loose basil leaves + parseley leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (I did not have any pine nuts but Bitman says that walnuts are OK)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • some salt

1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
2 (9 oz each) packs of fresh pasta

In a large pan, add some olive oil and sautee the mushrooms on high heat until most of water has evaporated. Add the peas and onion, season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper and continue cooking until soft.

In the mean time, heat a pot of water and once boiling, add the fresh pasta. Let boil for 3-5 min or until cooked.

Once the pasta is ready, drain and mix with some of the pesto sauce and with the mushrooms.
Sprinkle some shredded pecorino romano cheese and enjoy!

July 28, 2010

Aah - The Magic of Zaatar...

With my Indian cooking spell largely behind me, I am now knee-deep in the fascinating world of Sheherezade from A Thousand and One Arabian Nights..."How come?" you may ask...It's all about Zaatar...

I had the good fortune of receiving this magic (...and I guess no longer secret) ingredient from a colleague at work today and couldn't wait to put it good use. 

To my surprise,  zaatar resembles very much a beloved spice from my childhood in Bulgaria called samardala ( [самардала] in Bulgarian ) -  an herb with garlicky flavor called honey garlic (Nectaroscordum siculum ssp. bulgaricum syn. Allium bulgaricum). It turns out Zaatar contains savory - another  Bulgarian staple.

From Wikipedia:

Za'atar (Arabicزعتر‎, also romanized zaatarza'tarzatarzatrzahatarzaktar or satar) related Middle Eastern herbs from the genera Origanum (Oregano),Calamintha (Basil thyme), Thymus vulgaris (Thyme ) and Satureja (Savory).[1] It is also the name for acondiment made from the dried herb(s), mixed together with sesame seeds, and often salt, as well as other spices.[2] Used in Arab cuisine since medieval times, both the herb and spice mixture are popular throughout the Middle East and Levant.

I made a classic Middle Eastern tomato and cucumber salad with Tahini dressing:

Tahini dressing:

- 1 teaspoon tahini
- 1 teaspoon water
- juice of one lemon
- a bit of sea salt
- 1 large clove of minced garlic

July 21, 2010

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Here is another interpretation of one of my very favorite BG dishes. Can be made vegetarian as well as with ground beef/pork (although I like the vegetarian version way better). Here is what you'll need (as always the recipe can be scaled up or down):

  • 9 red bell peppers, tops removed
  • 2 cups of rice (brown, wild, white ... pick your favorite)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1lb mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 2-3 zucchini or summer squash, peeled and sliced
  • 2-3 good sized potatoes, peeled and cut into thin round slices
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes (i like to blend them and get a homogenized mixture)
  • season with thyme, savory, salt, red paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste


0. To speed things up, I like to pre-cook the rice, especially if I use brown or wild rice, since these take ~ 45 mins to cook. In a boiling pot, mix 2 cups of rice with 4 cups of water and bring to boil. Then reduce to light simmer and cook until rice is almost done (brown rice ~ 45 min, white rice ~ 15 min).
Also preheat oven to 425C.

1. While the rice is cooking start working on the vegetables (you can also add ground beef/pork as well in addition). In a large pan over medium heat put some olive oil and saute the onions and the garlic until translucent. Add the carrots and keep cooking until tender, or for another 5 min. Then add the sliced mushrooms and cook until soft and all the water has been released. Add the corn and peas and the sliced zucchini last and cook for 5 min. Lastly, add the canned tomatoes (pre-blended to avoid large chinks) and cook for another 5 min and add the seasonings (thyme, savory, salt, black and red pepper, cayenne etc...).

2. Add the almost cooked rice to the vegetables and stir well to mix. It is a good idea to taste the rice mixture and add additional seasonings if necesary.

3. Then arrange the bell peppers (washed and tops removed) into an appropriate size baking dish and add ~ 1 inch of water at the bottom of the dish. Stuff the peppers with the rice+vegetable filling and "cap" each stuffed pepper with a slice of potato. If you have extra filling, then you can put it between the peppers in the baking dish. Then tilt the peppers so that they are laying on their side and cover with aluminum foil and bake at 425C for 1h. Then remove the foil and broil for ~ 10 minutes until the skin of the peppers is slightly burned.

4. Serve and top with a spoon of plain yogurt and enjoy!

Couscous Salad

Delicious, nutritious, fast and easy dish!!! Can use it as a main course or as a side salad to your favorite meal. Here is what you would need (of course can be scaled up or down depending on how much you would like to make):


  • 2 cups dry couscous
  • 1 english cucumber
  • 5-6 tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 small jar kalamata olives
  • 1/2 bunch parseley
  • 1/2 bunch basi
  • salt, black pepper and some olive oil

1. Cook the couscous following the instructions on the box. If you use the Trader Jose's brand you can use a large saucepan and put 2 cups of water + 1 spoon olive oil and some salt and bring to boil. Then add the dry couscous and stir well. Remove from heat, cover and let sit ~5 min. Then remove the cover and fluff with a fork and let it cool down for ~ 10 min (if the couscous is too hot then the vegetables will get a bit mushy).

2. In a separate bowl, combine the finely chopped red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, parseley, basil and the olives (pretty much all the ingredients should be chopped into small cubes).

3. Finally, mix the cooled couscous with the chopped vegetables.
Add a little bit of olive oil (optional but i've found that it adds a nice flavor... also lemon juice goes well with this salad as well so you can use that instead), some salt and black pepper to taste and enjoy big time!