Category Archives: Mediterranean

Socca

714d7163-69e7-4477-bfa8-965537149405As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m no stranger to making my own pizza. At least, I wasn’t before I became a parent. These days, however, I’m not only short on time, but recognize that eating a big slab of white bread with cheese is probably not the best idea if I’m trying to keep energy levels up. Socca, a sort of flatbread made with ground chickpeas, is not only pizza-like enough to sate a craving, it’s inexpensive, gluten-free, full of protein and, best of all, can be made quickly and easily in a single cast-iron pan. It can also be topped with anything you happen to have on hand. You don’t even need cheese! (This time I’ve used feta, but other times I’ve gone without and it’s been just as great.)

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Barley-lentil stew with prosciutto & dill: $1.83/serving

As mentioned in previous posts, we were gifted a family-sized CSA box a few weeks ago, and were able to make use of every single item in it…except for half a bunch of dill. (The other half went into two loaves of dill-olive bread.) Dill is pretty far down the list of my favorite herbs. In fact, it may well be at or near the bottom. It’s mostly known for going well with seafood, which I hate, and/or eggs cooked by themselves, which I also hate, leaving few options for use (other than pickles, of course). Luckily I was able to find one. Yes, it’s a stew, which isn’t exactly the most appealing meal in late August, but the yogurt and dill combine to give it a coolness that somehow seems perfectly appropriate.

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Creamy lemon pasta with olives & basil: $1.01/serving


Because basil is finicky to grow from seed outdoors—and doesn’t last as long once it gets going—we’re currently on our second planting of basil in the indoor Aerogarden, timed (hopefully) to coincide with the ripening of our larger heirloom tomatoes. Unfortunately, this means we’re currently having to buy basil, as I did for a lemon-basil cake I made for a party this past weekend. Do you have any idea how much basil costs in the store? Either $1.99 for a few limp sprigs packed into a plastic clamshell case, or upward of $3.50 for a “hydroponically grown” (with, incomprehensibly, dirt clods attached to the roots) or living bunch. You’d better believe I’m using every last minuscule leaf of that stuff. All I had left was enough for a sprinkling over this vaguely Greek-inspired pasta, which is good hot but even better cold as a salad. I must say, though, the basil completely made the dish, and may have earned it a spot in our regular rotation once the home-grown basil gets going.

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Whole-grain salad with leeks, sun-dried tomatoes & Parmesan crisps: $1.26/serving

This is another hot-weather whole-grain salad in the vein of the whole grain & celery salad I posted back in April; it can be served cold or at room temperature, and there’s no danger in letting it sit out awhile since there’s no meat or mayo. When I devised the Parmesan crisps I had the idea they could be broken up over the salad, but they were more pliable than I thought they’d be, so you could even turn them into edible scoops or bowls for hors d’oeuvres. Use them as you see fit, or eliminate them altogether and substitute some grilled slices of non-budget-friendly haloumi cheese, as is featured in the original recipe from Maria Speck’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

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Bulgur-lentil soup with mint: 63 cents/serving

Few things are more healthily filling than the combination of bulgur and lentils, and few things are more simple and inexpensive to make than soup. Why not combine them? (And use up some more of the weed-like mint that has now aggressively popped up in almost every part of the garden?) This soup certainly won’t win any awards for innovation, but it’s warm, comforting, and so hearty that B. and I were completely stuffed after our single 63-cent servings.

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Leek fritters: $1.06/serving

It’s hard to believe this restaurant-quality dish (in flavor, at least; let’s just quietly ignore my food-staging skills) only costs around $4 to make, but there you have it. They’re admittedly a lot like pancakes, so they work great for brunch or dinner. They can also be made with or without the tzatziki-like sauce, although I would not advise going without. If you’re lucky enough to still have overwintered leeks in your garden, this is definitely the time to use them.

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Greek pasta salad with spinach and mint: $1.37/serving

Now that the weather has warmed up (although in Portland, “warmed up” means it’s no longer 32 degrees every night; more like a balmy 39), our garden mint has taken it upon itself to intrude on the personal space of nearly every plant in a 10-foot radius. I understand this is What Mint Does—and don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have anything green growing in the garden at all at this point—but it does create a dire need to use mint at least a couple times a week, to avoid wasting any of the prunings. I used to make mint chocolate chip ice cream at least once a week for this very purpose, but since our ice cream maker broke (has anyone else had this problem, with the Kitchen Aid bowls? After only two years it sprung a leak right where the dasher fits in, oozing an extremely toxic-looking electric-blue fluid), I’m having to get a little more creative.

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Whole grain & celery salad: $1.05/serving

This is a deceptively easy and satisfying dish that can be made using ingredients you probably already have on hand. It’s chewy, lightly crunchy, briny, and sweet, and works perfectly as a lunch (provided you’re having an equally inexpensive dinner), light dinner, or side dish for you non-budgeting folks. It’s also vegan and sit out for long periods, which makes it perfect for potlucks. As with the cabbage rolls, any whole grain—farro, barley, oat groats, rye berries—can be used.

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Whole grain-stuffed cabbage rolls with currants & pine nuts: $1.91/serving

First off, it’s near physically impossible to take an appetizing-looking photo of a cabbage roll, so I apologize. Second, I normally make these in the slow cooker and this time chose to make them in the oven, a method I’m not entirely sure I prefer. But, caveats aside, they’re a delicious alternative to meat-filled cabbage rolls, and if you’re averse to the whole cabbage-roll thing (which I completely understand; when I first encountered them a few years ago, I thought they were the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen, but have since grown to appreciate and even love them), the filling on its own makes a great salad or side dish.

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Rye berries with tomatoes & Andouille: $1.99/serving

Rye berries are, like oat groats, the whole-grain version of their respective flour or meal. This was my first encounter with rye berries after reading Maria Speck sing their praises in “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals,” and I have to say, I found them more or less indistinguishable from farro (emmer wheat)  in appearance, taste and texture. Which isn’t to say they’re not worth using if they’re readily available, but I’m guessing you’ll have an easier time finding farro. In any case, the flavor of the sausage and tomatoes against the texture of the whole grains is the star in this risotto-like dish, but most things are interchangeable—different sausages, different types of tomatoes, different types and amounts of liquid—so feel free to use whatever you happen to have on hand. If I made this again, I’d probably bake it instead of cook it on the stove, so if anyone tries this, let me know how it turned out.

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