Let’s welcome the new Cookbook of the Month in HO, thanks to @MelMM and her team. As HO doesn’t have COTM, to make things happen quickly, we will continue with the book LEMON LOVE AND OLIVE OIL by Mina Stone that has been chosen for March in CH and continue the discussion here. New vote for April will be available soon.
LEMON LOVE AND OLIVE OIL - March 2022 Cookbook of the Month
Good idea. I’ve posted about 12 reports over on CH. Should I copy and paste them here? What format should the reports take?
Yeah, you can copy and paste over here for continuity. Perhaps one report per reply?
Hey everyone! We’re going to give this a shot, starting with the current COTM. For this month, we’ll just keep this one thread that the mods have kindly set up for us. So please post your recipe reports right here. Going forward, we’ll discuss the format and adapt as needed, possibly going back to our multiple-thread format. But we can talk about that later. What we need to do now is get used to the new platform and, yes, move our posts from this months COTM over here. So please, just copy and paste your CH post, and upload your pics, if you have them.
Let’s try to stick to some of our old conventions: Please put recipe names in ALL CAPS. Include a page number if you have the hardcopy book. If you are on an ebook, you can skip that. If you are the first to post on a recipe, reply to the OP. If someone else has done a report, post as a reply to them. If the recipe is found online, feel free to include a link. And because we don’t want to get HO in trouble for copyright violations any more than we did CH, don’t post recipes verbatim. But a summary in your own words of the ingredients and technique is encouraged.
Huge welcome to all the CHers who come over and to any HOers who decide to join in! Let’s cook!
FRENCH LENTILS WITH CARAMELIZED FENNEL AND GOLDEN RAISINS - p. 125
I wish I’d just made a half recipe of this. Not that it’s bad. It’s fine. But not exciting. And the dish may be suffering by comparison to another lentil dish I made recently, which was super (jerk-spiced lentils from Charity Morgan). Anyway, for this dish, you cook some French lentils with bay leaves. When they are done, drain, remove bay leaves, drizzle with olive oil, and set aside. You cook sliced fennel and red onion until starting to get golden, then add golden raisins, and cook some more, turning up heat to get golden color on the fennel and onion (per the book). The lentils are then folded in. Parsley is to be tossed in to finish, with a little extra as a garnish.
As said above, this was fine, but a bit bland. Not something I would make again. The picture in the book looks like the stylist added raw fennel on top, and in addition to sloppily chopped parsley, there are some fennel fronds in the garnish. I actually did include some fennel fronds when I added the parsley. Served with lemon wedges because this desperately needed some acid/brightness. We are slogging through the leftovers. Fortunately Mr. MM liked it more than I did.
BIFTEKIA (OVEN MEATBALLS WITH LEMON AND OREGANO) - p. 104
I made these using Impossible instead of beef. Impossible comes in 12-oz packages so I scaled the recipe accordingly. Your meat mixture is a blend of soaked bread, ground beef, salt, dried oregano, and grated onion. This is to be formed into 4" patties, and you are meant to get 7 or 8 of them. I just gonna say that no way, no how are the ones pictured in the book 4" in diameter. Batali problem. I was scaling down, so I made mine a bit less than 4" and got 6. Potato wedges are tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt. You pour olive oil into a roasting pan, put down the patties, and tuck the potatoes in around them. You then squeeze over the juice of two lemons, and season with some more salt, oregano, and black pepper. You are to roast this for 45-50 minutes at 400 F.
The book says, “This is a soft dish, not one with lots of golden-brown caramelization.” And in that at least, the picture rings true. The headnote promises that the biftekia come out of the oven swimming in a “liquid gold sauce”. Um, no, they did not. All the liquid had evaporated, as you might expect when you cook something for that length of time and that temperature uncovered. The good news is that they still tasted quite good, and we had tzatziki to dip everything in. So no big deal. But I was looking forward to that sauce, so next time I would cook covered for at least a part of the time. I was thinking about the Greek potatoes i like to make, from The Olive & the Caper, and that recipe has you add not just lemon juice, but water to the potatoes as they cook in the oven, and they still don’t come out saucy. Anyway, I’m filing this one under “will make again with revisions”.
SOUTZOUKAKIA (CUMIN-SCENTED MEATBALLS WITH TOMATO SAUCE) - p. 103
I was skeptical about this recipe. The meatballs sounded like the might be good, but the sauce? So simple, so little seasoning… and how much sauce can you get out of an 8-oz can of tomato sauce. Sometimes when I see a recipe that I don’t think will work, it actually drives me to make it. It’s like I’m saying, “prove me wrong” to the author.
So this extremely simple sauce consists of an 8-oz can of tomato sauce, some olive oil, an option teaspoon of sugar, 1/2 cup of water, salt, and black pepper. That’s it. No onion, no garlic, no herbs. You just dump the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer. The recipe doesn’t tell you to, but I did keep the pot partially covered during the simmering, because the sauce was not deep and I didn’t want it to evaporate too much.
For the meatballs, you mix ground beef with grated onion, grated garlic, a hefty dose of cumin, salt, and pepper. The recipe calls for 1 lb of ground beef, and I used 12 oz of Impossible, but didn’t really scale down the recipe (I also made a full batch of sauce). You are instructed to shape them into ovals - not sure what this means, quenelles? So I went by the picture where they seemed kind of quenelle-like. They are supposed to be 3" long and you are meant to get 10-12 of them. And yet… the headnote mentions that the author and her spouse like to serve these at Christmas parties on toothpicks. Who eats a 3" meatball on a toothpick? I made mine smaller, and got 10. You pan-fry these, then add to the sauce and simmer. I was a bit worried about this… I had my sauce in a 3-qt saucepan, and it turned out that the meatballs did just barely fit in one layer. But if you used the full amount of meat, I don’t think that would be the case, and the sauce didn’t fill the saucepan to the point that a second layer would be simmering in the sauce. So this ended up working for me, but if you are going to make these, think about how you will navigate combining the sauce and balls for the simmering. I simmered for longer than instructed, and also kept the meatballs warm in the oven for a while.
So the good news here is that the author proved me wrong. These meatballs were delicious. I guess the cumin and onion in the meatballs was sufficient to the point that the sauce didn’t need a lot of seasoning. I think my longer simmer and holding period probably helped in that regard. I would make again. We served this with spanakorizo from p. 177.
MUHAMMARA-INSPIRED RED PEPPER AND WALNUT DIP - P. 24
Ms. Stone says she has adapted this recipe for her palate and simplified it. The differences from a traditional muhammara are the lack of pomegranate molasses, no bread in the dip, and one weird thing that I wonder is a mistake: charring the peppers but not removing the skins. So she has you drizzle red bell peppers with olive oil and salt, and roast at 400 until soft and blackened (about 30 minutes). My peppers were soft but only partially blackened after that time, but by then I had noticed that she doesn’t have you skin them, so stopped the cooking. The peppers are seeded and cut into chunks, and put into a food processor with roasted walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, and cumin. This is pureed and seasoned to taste with salt and black pepper. Aleppo pepper flakes are added to finish.
I liked this, but missed the pomegranate. The amount of lemon juice used was substantial enough that there was plenty of acid, but I missed the sweetness and complexity that pomegranate adds. In the future, a combo of pomegranate plus some lemon would be good. The lack of bread/bread crumbs was welcome. The peppers having skins intact did not make the dip bitter, as I feared it might, but it did make it less vibrantly colored. I would revert to my usual method of roasting and skinning peppers for the future (blowtorch, if you must know). The picture in the book is much brighter colored that my rendition, so it makes me think the lack of direction to peel the peppers is a mistake in the recipe.
TOMATO SALAD WITH TAHINI AND MINT - p. 47
This is about as easy as it gets. You whisk up a simple tahini sauce, just tahini, lemon juice, salt, and water. The salad itself is just tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and mint. The recipe calls for heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges and cherry tomatoes. The picture in the book shows wedges of red and yellow tomatoes, and gold grape tomatoes. It was still February when I made this a few days ago, so I used Campari tomatoes and Sugar Bomb cherry tomatoes from the store. The recipe calls for “two handfuls of fresh mint leaves.” The picture shows a whopping 8 small leaves scattered on top. I used a lot more than 8 leaves, and I also stirred the mint into the salad so the flavors would blend more. What with the lemon juice, the oil, and the juice from the tomatoes themselves, my salad got, well, juicy. The picture in the book shows basically no juice. I’m pretty sure the food stylist just scattered some undressed tomatoes over tahini, gave a tiny drizzle of oil, and scattered mint leaves on top. This book suffers from what I call “The Batali Problem,” although it was never limited to Batali, and Batali has far bigger problems that the pictures not matching the recipe. There is a salad on p. 40 where the picture clearly shows watermelon radishes in the salad, and yet there are no watermelon radishes or radishes of any kind in the recipe. Yeah, yeah, I know, food styling. But I notice this crap.
On to the salad… It was very good, actually. Very messy to eat, because of aforementioned liquid and the tahini. We scooped it up with pitas, but it might work better if it composed on toast from the get-go.
See my post below. I’ve already started the copy and paste.
GEORGIAN-INSPIRED GREEK SALAD WITH HERBS - p. 57
For this salad, you put down a layer of tomatoes, and season with salt and lemon juice. Then add a layer of cucumbers, green bell pepper, and red onion, and season again. The herbs go over that (basil, cilantro, and mint, but I skipped the basil because I didn’t have any). Feta goes on top of that (a hunk, but I sliced mine, and used Violife instead of “real” feta). You season with dried oregano and add kalamata olives and capers. Pour on some olive oil and give the whole thing another salt/lemon seasoning. We liked this a lot - very simple but refreshing. It was a great accompaniment to the biftekia from the book.
GREEK FRENCH FRIES, p. 172
You can fry these or bake them. I baked. Preheat oven to 450. Peel and slice 2 large russet potatoes into 1/2 inch fry shapes. Soak in water for 20-30 minutes (I did 20). Then you drain, toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil—I just didn’t this right on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Then sprinkle generously with salt and oregano. Roast for 25-30 minutes. I did the full amount of time. These were delicious!
KOUNOUPIDI YIAHNI (BRAISED CAULIFLOWER WITH TOMATO AND OLIVE OIL), p. 174
This was very comforting and delicious. I served it with the greens reported on below, as well as the braised chickpeas from this book, because I wanted lots of beans and vegetables left over for lunches this week. However, I agree with the author that some good feta and bread would complete this dish (and maybe a sprinkling of parsley?).
You cook some thinly sliced onions in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add 4 peeled and quartered Yukon gold potatoes, a head of cauliflower cut into large chunks, and a 28 oz can of whole tomatoes. Add 1 cup of water to loosen, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes and cauliflower are soft, about 45-60 minutes (full amount for me). I salted at the onion stage and again after adding the tomatoes. Lovely, simple dish. It would also be good with a dollop of yogurt.
SPIGARELLO [KALE] WITH OLIVE OIL AND LEMON, p. 162
The key to this recipe is draining all or as much of the water from the greens after boiling them. You can use spigarello (which I have never seen here) or Swiss chard, kale, spinach, etc. I used a very large amount of curly kale, which cooked down into practically nothing. Personally, I wouldn’t do this with spinach. Basically you boil water, salt it generously, then add the greens and cook them for about 5 minutes, turning them over with tongs. Then you lift them out with tongs, place them in a colander, and let them drain for 20-30 minutes. I probably did a bit longer. MS recommends “fluffing” them occasionaly to let steam escape. I also ended up squeezing quite a bit more water out of my kale, and then sort of re-fluffing it, as it were, with my hands, for serving. There was probably about 2 cups of water that drained off. When you are ready to serve, you place the greens in a single layer on a serving plate, dress with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Once again, she recommends the juice of two lemons, “or to taste,”. I used less than 1 and it was plenty. The lemon came through strongly. My husband doesn’t really care for greens cooked this way (though I usually slow cook them in a skillet à la Suzanne Goin’s black kale recipe), but he liked these, as did I.
I don’t see how these could be served anything warmer than room temperature—and that would be welcome on a hot day in Greece, but I would have appreciated a note indicating the temperature either way.
My kids like raw kale of all varieties but they wouldn’t try this, unfortunately.
SPAGHETTI WITH SARDINES, LEMON, AND ARUGULA, p. 157
Right off the bat, I knew I was going to have to sub in linguine and mackerel for the spaghetti and sardines, respectively, as that was what I had on hand. The first sentence of this recipe’s head note reads, “sometimes we create our best meals out of necessity.” I considered that permission to make those changes.
The other place I diverged was starting off the recipe by boiling water for pasta. If I had done it at the point MS instructs, dinner would have gotten to the table a lot later than I wanted it to. I have a gas stove and it takes awhile to boil a huge pot of water for pasta.
For the sauce: heat some olive oil in a large skillet, add a finely chopped onion, and cook until translucent. Add 2-4 cloves of finely chopped garlic, stir, and then “crumble in” the fish. I first drained it of most of its olive oil. You turn the heat up and let the fish get some golden color. It smelled delicious at this point. Add the zest of 3 lemons (I used 2.5), and turn off the heat. Once the pasta is ready you drain it and add to the sauce. Then you add the juice of 3 lemons (again, 2.5), a drizzle of olive oil, and 1 bunch of finely chopped parsley. Add a sprinkle of red chile flakes, salt, and pepper, and then serve topped with arugula, on top of which you drizzle more oil, and add more salt and pepper (I left out the pepper in this last step and used fleur de sel).
I really liked this, but both my husband and I found it far too lemony, even though I used less than what the recipe calls for. I compared this to a similar dish I often make (from Bourdain’s appetites), and that one uses no lemon. I think one lemon would be enough here. You don’t really need the arugula either, but it does make it a one-dish meal, which I appreciated, especially since I got to use up some arugula on its last legs.
I would make this again, and I’d sub in the mackerel again, which I prefer to sardines. My kids devoured this!
ROASTED SWEET POTATOES WITH GREEK YOGURT, PISTACHIOS, & CILANTRO, p. 186
I took quite a few liberties with this one, but I felt I still kept to the ethos of the book (if you don’t have this, use that). For this dish you drizzle halved sweet potatoes with olive oil and bake in a 400 oven for 4 minutes. I used small Japanese sweet potatoes that I had previously baked whole, with no added oil. I simply warmed them up in the microwave and then continued with the recipe. The sweet potatoes are topped with a simple sauce of yogurt whisked with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. You dollop this on the potatoes and then top with chopped pistachios (toasted almonds for me), and cilantro (parsley for me). You drizzle with more olive oil and season with freshly ground pepper.
Usually a plain steamed sweet potato (especially yellow-fleshed varieties) is delicious enough for me, along with a salad, for lunch. But this was a really easy treat and made for a filling and satisfying lunch on a cold day. I think if you roasted the sweet potatoes with olive oil as MS instructs, it would be even more delicious and a little more special. I will try this again and next time follow the recipe exactly.
PAPPARDELLE WITH CHICKPEAS, LEMON, AND TOASTED WALNUTS, p. 154
This is a very simple weeknight pasta dish and it comes together very quickly if you used a can of chickpeas, like I did, rather than the second option MS gives, which is her recipe for Oven Chickpeas. The sauce here consists of olive oil and butter heated in a pan, to which you add finely grated garlic, which you cook until fragrant. Then you add chickpeas and salt and cook until the chickpeas are heated through and take on a little color. For me this took longer than the suggested 5 minutes, and I think it’s really worth it to get the chickpeas browned. Off the heat you add the zest and juice of 2 lemons, and a bit more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and mix with the pappardelle and toasted, chopped walnuts.
The only thing I did differently was cook the pappardelle while I was making the sauce, rather than cooking it first, draining it, and then drizzling it with olive oil and setting it aside. I don’t like cooking pasta that way. Also, my pappardelle only took 5 minutes so I don’t really see the need to cook it first. The photo is awful (bad lighting and where are my walnuts?), but this was a really delicious pantry meal and even good as leftovers. I would definitely make it again. I think the pappardelle is key here.
KOUNOUPIDI YIAHNI (BRAISED CAULIFLOWER WITH TOMATO AND OLIVE OIL) - p. 174.
PP has already described the process. I also cooked this the full time, and kept warm for a bit before serving, so my cauliflower was very soft, and the tomato and olive oil really soaked into the potatoes. Those are good things! We enjoyed this with some pita and tomato/cuke salad.
@pistachiopeas , I’ve run into an eight-reply limit on our posts here. If you post eight things, you cannot post again until someone replies to you. An anti-spam measure, I guess, which is fine and wouldn’t normally be an issue at all. But in copying over these posts… I think you and I are the only people that would be affected, because we had more posts in the current COTM than others. If you could post your lentils as a reply to mine, I’d be very grateful, as I cannot continue to copy my posts over until I get a reply.
The lentils weren’t me but I’ll reply to another post of yours!