Za’atar and Cheese Pita

You know the likes of peanut butter and jelly, pasta and tomatoes…? Well, you can officially include za’atar and cheese as a perfect pairing. Keep Reading!

Light and Airy Japanese Tempura with Tentsuyu Dipping Sauce

After ramen, tempura is probably one of the most famous Japanese foods outside of Japan. Lightly battered and fried seafood, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, kabocha pumpkin and whatever else you can imagine are dipped in a sauce and enjoyed with an airy crunch. In Japan, there are entire restaurants devoted to making only tempura, but you can easily recreate Japanese tempura in your own kitchen with a few simple ingredients.
Continue reading “Light and Airy Japanese Tempura with Tentsuyu Dipping Sauce”

An Easter Sunday Tradition: Grandma’s Pickled Beet Eggs

If you’ve never tasted a pickled egg you are missing out! For vinegar lovers, hard-boiled egg lovers and pub goers, pickled eggs are the perfect snack. Pickled eggs are hard-boiled eggs that are preserved in vinegar and seasonings for at least two days. Continue reading “An Easter Sunday Tradition: Grandma’s Pickled Beet Eggs”

Warm Hummus With Spiced Lamb: My Take On Hummus Awarma

If I had to describe my cooking it would be something along the lines of jet-setting around the globe from the comfort of my very own kitchen. I may have a burst of Asian flavours bubbling in my wok one week and a streak of Italian comfort foods the next. Other days I’m swept away by trying my hand at Persian ash, rolling out dough for stuffed pierogies, roasting chilis and braising pork belly for a taste of the Yucatan or hacking away at the tough skin of the cassava root for a Brazilian moqueca. But wait, there’s more!

Guacamole Mexicano

There is guacamole and then there is real guacamole. I guess it all depends on where you are and who you talk to, because just like there are hundreds of types of avocados, there too are several recipes for guacamole. Keep Reading!

Make Your Own Hummus

To me, pita bread is like a plate. Layer on an assortment of toppings and tear, roll or slice like a pizza and eat. Keep Reading!

19 Easy Spanish Recipes to Throw the Best Tapas Party Ever

Throwing a party and you’re the chef? What host wants to spend the entire night in the kitchen? With tapas, go ahead; mingle with your guests, toss the stylish apron aside and relax! Keep Reading!

Dates Decked Out with Blue Cheese, Pomegranate, Walnut & Mint

Looking for an easy, appetizer that says, gourmet?
Try this date dish out on your guests this Christmas.
Elegant, bite sized, and delicious they are sure to send guest rockin’ around the Christmas tree!
Stuffed Dates
Dates Decked Out with Blue Cheese, Pomegranate, Walnut & Mint
Serves 8-10

1/2 cup good blue cheese (stinky cheese, not your thing? Try goat’s cheese instead!)
Seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate
1 Tbs. chopped walnuts
Leaves of fresh mint for garnish
Balsamic Cream for garnish (recipe or purchase)
24 pitted dates


Gently remove the pits from the dates, making sure to only cut a small slit through one side of the date, carefully pushing out the pit.
Be sure to open the date a bit to make room for the filling. Next, using the end of a tiny spoon, fill each date with blue cheese.
Then top each date with a pomegranate seed or two and the walnut, pushed into the center. Arrange the stuffed dates onto a serving tray, drizzle with the balsamic cream and garnish with fresh mint.  Serve at room temperature.

Yes, I dredged and fried my tofu

A new sushi place opened near my house, Maru, extending a modernized, chicness to the neighborhood.  A friend suggested that I revel in a “pillow of goodness,” aka tofu from the vegetarian hibachi grill and well, it was clearly, quite good!  The first bite presented a crisp, golden texture on the outside, followed by a fluffy center that melted in my mouth.  The tofu was drizzled in a sweet sauce, brandished with sesame seeds.  It was a dish that had me asking, how?  What made the tofu so perfect!  Crisp and springy?!!!

I myself have never really cooked with tofu.  I know it is healthy and takes on many uses, textures and forms.  After trying the tofu from Maru, I decided that I would try my hand at creating a puffy, pillow of goodness!

In my research I learned a secret, perhaps this is only a secret to me but if not here you are:  After pressing the tofu and cutting it into bite-sized cubes, lightly dredge them in cornstarch and saute the tofu separate from the other ingredients.  This tactic successfully duplicated the crisp and springy tofu served at the sushi place!

Tofu in Sweet Soy Sauce with Edamame

Tofu in Sweet Soy Sauce with Edamame

Canola oil
1 ¾ lb. firm tofu, cut into 1″ cubes
½ cup cornstarch
10 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
10 small shallots, thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, crushed
4 red Thai chiles, stemmed and sliced (you can use less to decrease heat!)
Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
3 tbsp. kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
3 tsp. tamari
2 tbsp. sugar
2 bunches of green onions, chopped into 1″ pieces
1 cup edamame (peeled and warm)
Cooked rice, for serving

Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (you will need enough to saute the tofu about 1 cup or 1/4″ deep in skillet). Dredge the tofu with the cornstarch in a bowl until evenly coated, or sift in a colander. Fry tofu until golden brown all over, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside; discard the oil, and wipe the skillet clean.

Return the skillet to medium heat with butter. Add shallots, ginger, garlic and chiles; cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the pinch of black pepper, soy sauces, and sugar. Return the tofu to the skillet; cook, stirring, until warmed through. Stir in scallions or use as garnish; serve over rice and edamame.

**note if you like really crisp tofu then do not return it to the skillet.  Instead keep it warm in the oven and serve it atop the rice and edamame then drizzle the shallot, sweet soy sauce mixture atop!

Knee-High by July

A summer memory:

Sitting on the front stoop, my sister by my side with a brown-paper grocery bag and a heavy bottomed cooking pot.  There we sat shucking away the green husks and wisps of silk from Mid-Western sweet corn.  We knew that summer had arrived when corn was offered up at roadside stands and grew to be knee-high by July.  Nothing beat those crisp, golden kernels, bursting open with a pop of sweet, starchy goodness!

My taste for sweet corn spiked early this year, mostly in thanks to the crazy tricks the weather has played on the Mid-West.  Fortunately or perhaps, unfortunately the unseasonably warm temperatures have encouraged some crops to arrive 6 weeks ahead of schedule, such as sweet corn.

A favorite corn on the cob delicacy of mine is in the Mexican tradition of Elotes, grilled corn on a stick.  Sounds simple but there is much more to experience with Elotes that I will share with you soon!  What I am going to share with you is a fusion twist on this Mexican sweet corn standby, that I found on Epicurious.  They brilliantly spun the idea of Elotes halfway around the globe to the Mediterranean and came up with, Corn on the Cob with a Mint-Feta Butter.  Frankly, I just can’t get enough.  The sweet corn is boiled to perfection and then tossed around in a delightful buttery, cheesy, mint mixture.

Corn on the Cob with Mint-Feta Butter by Michelle

Corn on the Cob with Mint-Feta Butter, Gourmet | August 2009

by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Active Time: 15 min

Total Time: 20 min

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
7 ounces feta, finely crumbled (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
8 large ears of corn, shucked, each cob cut crosswise into 4 pieces

Stir together butter, feta, mint, and a rounded 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

Cook corn in a large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer with tongs to butter mixture and toss until well coated.

Cooks’ note:
Mint-feta butter can be made 2 days ahead and chilled.

Ful Mudammas

Throughout college I worked part-time at a local Mediterranean restaurant, The Pita House.  The restaurant locale resides in an eclectic neighborhood with a good mix of college kids, families, hipsters and hippies.  I was able to walk to work everyday, worked along-side my BF Brooke and donned a self-fashioned turban with a kanga from Brazil…it was highly fashionable for my then, bohemian self (and a heck of lot better than a hairnet!)  My uncle humorously referred to me as, Erykah Badon’t…funny guy!

I like to fashion my turban high like this, with dangly earrings. It's all in the twist!

The Pita House is owned by a local family, The Shatara’s who became a second family to me.  They are a wonderfully social, loud, adventurous family with great food tastes and open hearts.  From them I learned some great recipes, shway shway Arabic, how to dance the Dabke and how to sip Ouzo and smoke hookah.  When I worked mornings we typically shared a breakfast and Turkish coffee, which was a right start to the day!

A popular Mediterranean breakfast is Ful Mudammas (simmered Fava Beans.)  This dish is often referred to as Egypt’s national dish but you will find several takes on Ful throughout the Mid-East.  At The Pita House we used canned fava beans which were warmed and topped with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and parsley.  The ancient way of preparing Ful, which means fava and Mudammas, which means buried, is to take fava beans in a sealed pot of water and bury it under hot coals to cook.

Canned Fava Beans
Photo by Michelle

This evening I finished a run and needed something fresh and fast to eat, so I turned to Ful.  It’s packed with protein and fiber and I added an array of vegetables to freshen it up!  Typically Ful is served with pita bread but I was out, so I substituted some locally homemade wheat tortillas.

Ful Mudammas
Photo by Michelle

Not an authentic Ful recipe but a great tasting post-workout replenisher!

Ful Mudammas on the Fly

1 can Fava Beans, pureed
1 Persian or Kirby cucumber, chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/2 Hungarian Pepper, chopped
Few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
Few cloves of garlic, minced
Juice from half a lemon
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt to taste
2 Whole Wheat Tortillas, quartered or Fresh Pita Bread

First, open and drain the canned Fava Beans.  Then heat the Fava Beans in a pan on the stove top.  When heated through puree in a food processor, blender or by hand with a potato masher.  Place in a bowl to serve and garnish with the garlic, vegetables, olive oil, lemon juice and salt to taste.  Slice the Tortillas or Bread into serving sized pieces and use to scoop up the warm Ful!

I also recommend trying the authentic version which I will share from my cookbook, Mediterranean The Beautiful Cookbook .

Ful Mudammas

2 cups dried fava beans
5-6 cups water, to cover
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
lemon wedges
olive oil
fresh ground pepper
pita bread
beid hamine (recipe below)

In a bowl combine the fava beans and water to cover generously and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.  Drain.
Place the beans in a saucepan and add the water making sure the beans are covered.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until tender, 2-5 hours.  The cooking time will depend on the age and the size of the beans.  When the beans are ready, add the garlic, cumin and salt to taste.
ladle into bowls.  Set out the parsley, lemon wedges, oil, beid hamine and prepare for diners to add as they like.  Pass the pita.

Beid Hamine
Long Cooked Eggs with Onion Skins

6 eggs
skins from 6-10 yellow onions
2 cups coffee grounds
2 tablespoons olive oil

Place the eggs in a saucepan.  Tuck the onion skins around them so that all the surfaces are covered.  Add the coffee grounds and then water to cover by 2 in. and the oil (which prevents the water from evaporating).  Cover and simmer over very low heat for 6-8 hours.

Jamón Crudo con Palmitos y Tostones!

If you love entertaining as much as I do, then you understand how important appetizers are!  They are a subtle introduction to a meal, a way for guests to mingle and wet their appetite while not getting too full!  The following appetizers would be great accents to a Latin or Caribbean style meal.  Each dish is simple to prepare, look fabulous and most importantly taste amazing.

My inspiration came from:
a. My friend Luciana posted a FB photo of smoked salmon wrapped heart of palms, they looked amazingly divine!
b. I have never been, but my dear friend Amorena tells me that I must try Tango Sur in Chicago. They offer an appetizer of Prosciutto wrapped Hearts of Palm (served up by swanky Argentinian servers yielding sticks of carne!)
c. My love of tostones!

Hearts of Palm are very delicate and tender.  If you buy the canned, which is more typical than fresh (especially here in Michigan), I would describe them to be similar to artichoke hearts.  I enjoy a good interesting fact so here you have it:  harvesting wild palm plants actually kills the plant because they only have one stem.  In order for us to enjoy the tender heart of palm the inner core of the palm stalk is extracted, which kills the plant.  But DON’T WORRY, fortunately, for the wild palm and consumers of palm hearts, palms have been domesticated and bred to produce multiple stalks.  This allows the farmer to extract the heart of palm while the plant sustains.  Hooray!  A guilt free and plant friendly heart of palm.

Well, enough introducing of the introduction here you have it:
Prosciutto Wrapped Hearts of Palm Marinated in Red Wine Vinegar with Parmesan and Tostones with Golf Sauce.

Prosciutto with Hearts of Palm and Tostones with Golf Sauce photo by michelle.

Recipe 1

Prosciutto Wrapped Hearts of Palm (Jamón Crudo con Palmitos)
serves about 4ish

1/4 lb Parma Prosciutto
1 can Heart of Palm
Big splash of red wine vinegar
Big splash of olive oil
Fresh Thyme (for taste)
Fresh ground black pepper
Fresh grated Parmesan

Whisk together the olive oil and red wine vinegar and dash in the thyme to taste.  Now, to wrap the heart of palm in prosciutto.  If the heart of palm is rather large go ahead and cut it in half.  Lay the heart of palm on an end of an outstretched piece of prosciutto and roll, then cut in half.  Lay the pieces of wrapped palm in a glass or plastic dish and pour over the olive oil and vinegar.  Allow this to marinate at least 4 hours or up to one day.  Serve on a nice dish and grate fresh ground pepper and Parmesan atop.

Recipe 2


from 3 Guys from Miami

I chose to use this recipe because it uses great pictures!  PS No worries if you don’t have a tostonera/plantain press, a bottom of a good solid cup will do!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Tostones are unique because they are fried twice.

2 large green plantains, peeled and cut into 2-inch slices
2/3 cup vegetable oil (approx.)
1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)

Peel the plantain: Cut the ends of each plantain off with a sharp knife. Use the knife to cut through the peel only the entire length of the plantain. Loosen the peel along the cut and remove peel by hand.Cut the plantain into slices, about 2 to 2 1/2-inches wide.
Fill a large skillet a third full with oil and heat over medium-high heat to a temperature of about 300 degrees F. Once the oil is hot, fry the plantain slices for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, just long enough to make them soft.
Remove the plantains and drain on paper towels. Use a plantain press or a brown paper bag folded over to smash the plantains to about half their thickness.
Let the oil come back to a higher temperature – this time about 375 degrees F. Fry once again, turning occasionally, until golden brown on both sides.

Remove and use paper towels to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and serve.
All iCuban photos on this page by Nancy Bundt.

Basically this sauce is a mixture of mayonnaise and ketuchup…to be fancy you can add lemon or lime juice and play around with some cumin or oregano!  It’s really good with tostones and uber popular in Argentina.  I am including a recipe from blogger Rebecca at From Argentina with Love recently wrote up a great history on this sauce, well worth a read From Argentina with Love .

Recipe 3
Salsa Golf

Salsa Golf is a semi-liquid cold sauce that starts with a base of homemade mayonnaise.  You may also try it with premade mayonnaise for convenience, but the taste will be different.  To be served on pizza, hearts of palm (as a salad), French fries, burgers or hot dogs, etc.  If you are pregnant and/or avoiding raw eggs, use the pre-made mayonnaise.

2 eggs, yolks only
3/4 cup vegetable oil
juice from half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard (I used Dijon-style mustard)
2 tablespoons ketchup, or  to taste

Put the yolks in a medium bowl.  Using a hand-mixer, beat the yolks on medium speed.  Add the oil in a very thin steady, stream, beating continuously until the yolks and oil have emulsified, and you have mayonnaise.  Add in the lemon juice and salt.  Taste for seasoning.  Stir in the mustard and ketchup with a spoon until combined, and chill until ready to serve.


Aubergines and Pomegranates

Deep Purple Eggplants

Tangy Buttermilk

Blood Red Pomegranates

Toasty Za’atar

I came across these ingredients in a recipe that I just had to try.  The onset of fall had me craving for a slow cooked dish and pomegranates have just begun to make a presence in our local produce department.

A delightful fruit filled with ruby colored seeds that are pocketed amongst the pomegranate’s white pith.  I recall my first encounter with the pomegranate: I was teaching children at their home in Oaxaca, Mexico and they picked for me a large, thick-skinned, red fruit from a tree growing in their yard.   I had never seen such a fruit before and ironically had to be taught how to eat it!  I quickly discovered that it is messy business!  Peeling away the thick skin and prying the jeweled seeds from the pith had my hands covered in bright red juice.

Now that I’ve gotten to know the pomegranate a little better I’ve found that cutting it in half and prying the seeds from the fruit under running water into a bowl is much easier.  In Michigan, pomegranates are available from October through January, so I decided to take advantage of the pomegranate’s recent debut!

photo by michelle.

The recipe which follows incorporates the smoky meatiness of slow roasted eggplant with tangy buttermilk and yogurt, nutty za’atar and a sweet burst of pomegranate.  A nice starter which I enjoyed with warmed pita bread.

Eggplant in Buttermilk Sauce

by Yotam Ottolenghi


  • 2 large and long eggplants
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus a few whole sprigs to garnish
  • Maldon sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 tsp za’atar


  • 9 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don’t eat it). Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.

Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil—keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh. Sprinkle with the lemon thyme leaves and some salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely.

While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling-pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds to remove any bits of white skin or membrane.

To make the sauce. Whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za’atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with lemon thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

photo by michelle.

note: When I made this dish I found that 40 minutes at 200 F did not roast the eggplants to my liking.  I roasted them for 1.5 hours until nicely browned.