Add Sunshine to Your Meals with These Mediterranean Flavors
In this series I’ll give you my simple, basic recipes for a few versatile preparations that you can use to add flavor to a myriad of dishes.
Winter is great for making warming soups and stews, but to brighten your meals don’t forget these standard Mediterranean ingredients that are available during the chilly months of winter. I was raised on meals that combined the flavors of the old world and the new, and when winter sets in I can still indulge in the sunny flavors that I crave: fresh parsley, roasted sweet red peppers, olives, lemons and legumes, such as gigante or garbanzo beans (chick peas). Combined with kitchen standards like olive oil and garlic, you can make Mediterranean inspired dishes that will add zest to your menu.
The Key Ingredients
The following ingredients pair well together. Try them in different combinations to create your favorites:
Flat leaf or curly, parsley is a cool season crop that I always make sure to have in my garden over the winter. Okay, so not everyone can have a winter garden, but you should be able to find it in your grocery store produce section, from your CSA or farmer’s market. Parsley can be used to make a pesto or an Italian salsa verde, besides being chopped to garnish soups, pasta, or vegetables. The spicy, fresh green flavor really adds a spark to almost any dish.
Sweet Red Peppers
Find jars of roasted, peeled, sweet peppers in water or oil at your market. They can be puréed with parsley, garlic and olive oil to make a lovely sauce, or simply chopped and tossed with pasta, vegetables or beans.
Available cured all year round. One of my favorites is the Greek kalamata for its sharp, deep flavor. Chop up to add to dishes or purée with capers and olive oil to make a tapenade, typical of the Provence region of France.
Winter is citrus season and lemons are abundant; use the juice, and grated rind in an array of savory dishes, including risotto, stews, and vegetables, besides making salad dressing. If lemons are expensive where you live, here’s a fantastic way to preserve a few for cooking. There are lots of recipes on the internet for making preserved lemons, but I have to heap well-deserved praise on Chef Mourad Lahlou for his gorgeous book, New Moroccan, for details on a couple of ways to preserve lemons and loads of delicious recipes. (His restaurant, Aziza in San Francisco showcases organic and sustainably grown produce and meats.)
Making Preserved Lemons- the Simple Method
The traditional way to make preserved lemons is to cut them in wedges, salt them and pack them into a sterile jar covered in lemon juice. You keep this at room temperature for at least 3 weeks. This softens the lemons and ferments them. To make an alternative quick and easy version, go here. This is not the same as the fermented recipe, but I found it’s great for many uses.
Watch for the next post in this series: Gigante beans with salsa verde and sweet red peppers.
Photos: Urban Artichoke