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Aug 1, 2013 01:24 AM

COTM August 2013 MEDITERRANEAN HARVEST: Savory Pies & Gratins; Vegetables & Beans; Rice, Couscous & Other Grains

Welcome to Cookbook of the Month for August 2013, which is MEDITERRANEAN HARVEST by Martha Rose Shulman.

This is the reporting thread for the following chapters:

Savory Pies and Gratins (or Savoury if you're from the UK!)
Vegetables and Beans
Rice, Couscous and Other Grains

Please remember that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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    p. 272 – According to the author this recipe originates in Southern Italy so it surprised me a little that I hadn’t encountered it previously since I do a lot of Italian cooking. A search in EYB yielded a handful of similar recipes from my Italian books – a Sicilian version with black olives and anchovies and a lovely sounding variation using broccoli rabe and tomatoes from the wonderful book Pasta e Verdura.

    Admittedly I’ve never considered slow-cooking broccoli before but I was keen to try this dish to use up my broccoli and, surprisingly this is the *only* broccoli recipe in the book.

    Prep is simple. Broccoli is cut into florets. EVOO is heated in a non-stick pan (I’d use a wok next time as my broccoli kept escaping from the low-sided pan as I stirred). Garlic is added to heat for a few seconds before adding in the broccoli. Heat is reduced and broccoli is stirred to coat with the oil. Wine, salt and pepper are then added simmered for 5 mins before covering and continuing to simmer for another 10 – 15 mins until “very tender and fragrant”. After 10 mins mine was tender enough for our tastes. The broccoli is then removed with a slotted spoon and the sauce is boiled to reduce by half. At that point I found it too bitter for my taste (I’d used a very dry wine mind you) so I stirred in a pat of butter before pouring atop the broccoli.

    This was good and the acidity from the wine worked well with the earthiness of the broccoli. mr bc said if he didn’t know, he’d have sworn it was lemon juice atop. Not sure I’d bother making this again but it was worth a try. Ultimately I’d likely have been even happier with a glass of the white wine and some steamed broccoli!! ; )

    5 Replies
    1. re: Breadcrumbs

      Well Breadcrumbs, you've steered me away from this dish. It didn't sound terribly appealing to me to begin with, but as you mentioned, it is the only broccoli recipe in the book, and I've got broccoli.

      I haven't had much success matching recipes in this book to the produce we're getting in our CSA. I guess that's partly because we don't live in a mediterranean climate.

      1. re: L.Nightshade

        Sorry LN, it wasn't awful but it just wasn't worth repeating in my view. I just pulled a pan of roasted broccoli out of the oven. Believe it or not, my veggie-hating mr bc loves roasted broccoli. This time I tossed in some freshly grated parmesan and some lemon zest. We're taking it out to the deck w a glass of wine for an afternoon snack!!!

        1. re: Breadcrumbs

          Roasted vegetables can make a deal. My husband hated brussels sprouts until I started roasting them, and now he absolutely loves them. Those crispy outside leaves are almost like chips.

          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            Your roasted broccoli and wine on the deck sounds like a much better idea! I agree with LulusMom about roasted vegetables; I've never liked cauliflower, but when it's roasted I can eat it like candy.

          2. re: L.Nightshade

            Interesting point about the climate and your seasonal produce. This book is working great for me, because I live in the South, and the produce matches up quite well with what I have. But I've had the problem you describe with other books, last month's COTM being a perfect example. I don't get leafy greens, for example, in the summer. Those are more of a cool-weather thing here, so to combine tomatoes with them is not a seasonal combination for me. So it really does matter where the author is from or what cuisine a book is about when looking for "seasonal" recipes.

        2. Stir fry with chicken, eggplant and thai basil (


          I don't have the book, and I'm really totally not sure which of the threads to put this in, but I found it on the website that Gio so wonderfully gave us all the link to.

          Our induction burner came late on Tuesday (too late for me to cook dinner) and last night was babysitter night, so tonight I gave it a test run. I'm a fan. The rice I made to go with this didn't turn out as well as my rice usually does, but I think that is a matter of learning what temp to use. I put it back on for about 4 minutes and it was fine. Not great, but fine.

          This recipe has you finely mince chicken; I feel like you could just go with ground turkey or chicken if you wanted to save this step, but i did mince the chicken myself. Then you make a small dice of the eggplant (the smallness of the dice was much discussed at dinner approvingly - Lulu said "I don't always like eggplant, but I'm loving this."). Garlic, ginger and hot pepper are combined. I must admit that on this step I just minced the all, I did not use the M&P as called for. A sauce is made of fish sauce, soy, sugar and S&P (and maybe lime juice?). Cook the garlic mix, then the chicken, take out of the pan; cook the eggplant then add the soy sauce mix and some water and cover; add the thai basil and stir for a minute.

          Huge hit. Lovely aromatic flavors; spicy without being overpowering. Really tasty.

          1. Iman Bayildi, pg 278

            I have to admit I was intrigued by the title of this dish. According to the headnote, Iman Bayildi translates into "the iman fainted." The two possible explanations are that the dish is so delicious to be swoon-inducing or that the iman fainted when he learned how much expensive olive oil is used in this dish :)

            So anyway, the first step to making your iman swoon is roasting eggplant, followed by cooking some onion and garlic on the stovetop and then mixing with tomatoes (I used very juicy fresh heirlooms), herbs (parsley dill and basil), salt, sugar and olive oil. Then you are supposed to drain the eggplant over a colander (I skipped due to time constraints) and then top/stuff the eggplant with the tomato mixture, pour over a water, lemon juice, sugar, oil mixture and braise the whole thing on the stovetop. At the end, it is supposed to have slightly caramelized liquid in the pan, which you can drizzle over your eggplant. Apparently, skipping the colander step was a big no no, because I had some very soupy eggplant at the end! I removed the eggplant and boiled the liquid down for awhile. When it became clear that I was very far from having caramelized liquid (I literally had a good 2 cups of liquid in the pan), I improvised and threw some farro in the pan and made a farro pilaf with the soupy liquid.

            In the end.... no swooning at our house, but it was good. It was actually much more hearty than I expected. More of an October dish than an August dish. In addition to the farro pilaf, which was tasty, but added to the heartiness, I though it was improved by a squeeze of fresh lemon and a little bit of fresh herb when serving.

            Picture is of the eggplant and tomato pre-braising. it was really beautiful at this point. Unfortunately, it looked a little dowdy after the 1.5 hours of braising.

            1. Pan-Fried Zucchini with Mint and Pepperoncini, p. 292.

              This is a very simple recipe with one touch that was new to me -- the final, brief simmering of the slices of zucchini in white wine vinegar.
              First, the zuke-slices and a crumbled dried hot chili pepper (pepperoncini) OR some hot red pepper flakes (what I used.) are briefly sauteed briefly in oilve oil in which garlic cloves have been slowly cooked. You then boil the vinegar-zucchini-peper mixture with vinegar until the vinegar mostly evaporates--only a minute or two. Then cover the pan and simmer for a few more minutes until the zukes are tender. Season with s & p, toss in some fresh minced basil (my choice) or mint, and serve.

              The white wine vinegar gave the zucchini slices an interesting, unusual flavor: mildly pickled, sort of like bread-and-butter pickles, but not overpoweringly so. I liked them--and the leftovers the next day were also delicious cold in a salad. Then also seemed to stay nicely al dente--another result of the vinegar? . . . but that may have been because I was watching so carefully when they were completing the final simmer.

              Anyway, a nice, simple variation on my usual sauteed zucchini dish.

              1. Provincal Swiss Chard Gratin, p. 257.

                Like my zucchini bed, my Swiss Chard patch is overflowing, so I was glad to find this recipe suggesting using up to 2 # of chard including the stems to make a hearty chard gratin with Provencal French flavors. In addition to the eggs and cheese, cooked medium-grain or Arborio rice is mixed in.

                The chard leaves are boiled briefly until tender, then squeezed dry. The diced stems are chopped. Again, simple but effective ingredients: minced onion and garlic and the diced shard stems are sautéed in olive oil, mixed with the chopped parsley and chopped thyme (fresh or dried) Then a mixture of eggs and grated Gruyere cheese is stirred in along with the cooked rice and all is poured into an oiled shallow pan, and topped with some bread crumbs. Oil is drizzled over and it's baked for 45 minutes or so at 375 F, or until browned and bubbly.

                Lots of flavor--I was liberal with the s & p and the thyme, not to mention the three large garlic cloves called for. It's not really custardy--much firmer and could be cut into squares for a buffet or picnic. Nice.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Goblin

                  So glad to see this review as I have been very intrigued by the recipes in this chapter, and I've been having trouble deciding which one to try!

                  1. re: Goblin

                    OK, I have a gratin coming up this week and am choosing between this one and the Greens Gratin (which is very similar but has a little less garlic, less cheese, no thyme but 1/2 cup milk). Do you have any thought, based on how yours came out, which would be better? I'm assuming the other one would be a little milder and a little more custardy, but maybe this one is tastier? Also, I was wondering whether you think a toddler/preschooler would eat this as a main course, or if I should also serve something else alongside like maybe some sausage? Also, last question, when she says "1/2 cup rice, cooked" she means 1/2 cup *raw* rice, right, so about 1-1.5 cups cooked rice? I've never made anything like this before, which is why I'm full of questions!

                    1. re: Westminstress

                      Can't answer your other questions, but just looked up the greens gratin and yes, she means 1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked rice. If she had meant that the rice was already cooked, the ingredient list would, or should, have read "1/2 cup long-grain or medium-grain cooked rice." Also, in the note she gives specific instructions for cooking the rice, an additional indication that what she's calling for in the ingredients list is a measurement for raw rice.

                      1. re: Westminstress

                        Hi Westministress,

                        Oh, I love taking about recipes and results so it's fun to consider your questions. First of all, I agree with Joan N that the instructions meant to use 1/2 cup raw rice, and this is what I did: took 1/2 cup raw Arborio (in my case) rice and cooked it according to the instruction on p. 235, which were entirely satisfactory.

                        I think that you are also probably correct to intuit that the Provençal Greens Gratin recipe on p. 253 would turn out a bit "looser" or more custardy, and also without so much garlic and thyme flavor. With less cheese, It might not be quite so "cuttable" into neat squares, which I how I served it.

                        I happened to like the special Provençal flavor that thyme gave the gratin--and I'm a person who habitually uses more fresh garlic than called for, so you know where I stand on that! ;-) I made sure that it was well seasoned with S & P , too. The adults at my table were fine with it. I had a 7 and a 10 year old, who tasted the gratin but didn't wolf it down. There were other menu options so that was OK. I also saved the leftovers (which were delicious) and served them the next day cold in squares as well.

                        Would a Toddler/Preschooler go for either gratin as a solo main course? In my experience, toddlers are more accepting of new foods, since they haven't yet had time yet to develop definite opinions about what they will try! Depending on the age, being able to cut food into finger-food size portions can be a real plus. But I would probably have other options available, like sausage, perhaps some cut-up veggies or fruit and/or some bread.

                        Hope this helps and let us know how it works out.

                        1. re: Goblin

                          Thanks so much! I'll let you know how it turns out....

                      2. re: Goblin

                        Provencal Swiss Chard Gratin, p. 257

                        So I finally got around to this gratin last night. We enjoyed this. In fact, I was surprised by how much flavor was packed into this dish. It tasted "meaty" to me though it was vegetarian, and also I kept thinking I was eating mushrooms, though I knew I wasn't (must have been the gruyere contributing lots of umami!). And with all the rice, cheese and vegetables it made for a satisfying vegetarian main course without being overly heavy. I tasted the gratin 10 minutes out of the oven (the minimum resting time specified in the recipe) and an hour later when it was still just a bit warm, and I preferred it after it had been sitting for a while and was warm to room temperature. I found that the flavors deepened while it cooled. So a good make-ahead dish, and I'm looking forward to the leftovers. Oh, and out of my two kids, the baby loved it and ate an entire bowlful and my toddler said he liked it but only ate two bites (this is not surprising though; he rarely eats green vegetables, and there is a lot of chard in this dish.) I just served it with corn on the cob and he ate lots of corn, drank his milk, and that was dinner.

                        1. re: Goblin

                          Provencal Swiss [Rainbow] Chard Gratin [not really], p. 257

                          Every week my kid has been bringing me an unclaimed CSA box from a fairly mediocre farm. The bulk of these boxes is greens- kale and this week a bunch of rainbow chard. I taste greens as really bitter; too bitter in fact and so, I have to admit I have never actually eaten rainbow chard. [I tried kale 6 times, with "will convert you" recipes and hated all of them.]

                          But, I decided that I needed to try this stuff at last and chose this recipe, almost. At the end of the paragraph about preparing the chard for the gratin pan, she notes, you can stop now and serve this as a side dish. That is what I chose to do since once again, I didn't want all the eggs and cheese in this dish.

                          But there was an issue at the grilling station and the steak was a bit delayed so I threw the prepared chard into a tiny gratin pan [I only had .5 lbs of chard to start] and topped with the topping from last week's cauliflower- just a bit of breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and olive oil and threw it in the oven which was already going for dessert.

                          You know. This stuff isn't so very bad at all. I particularly liked the stems. It did look like a Christmas tree as you mix the stems and greens together. I added the thyme with the garlic to the sautée pan and am so glad that I did. I might even consider rendering a bit of bacon to start. I don't think a little pork would have hurt at all. Mr. SMT says I am welcome to add this green to our winter vegetable soups.

                          Served with a tiny steak, sliced garden [YEA!!!!] tomatoes, steamed corn, and steamed green beans.