Red cabbage and orange salad

This salad combines the crunchy texture of the cabbage and the sweet flavor of oranges for a delicious side dish. It’s quick and healthy and oh so pretty.

prep time 10 min
ingredients for 2
  • a very small red cabbage or half of a bigger one
  • 1 orange
  • a handful of cashews
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt

1. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage,  cut in half and take out the hard core. Slice into thin slices either with a knife or a mandolin.

2. Peel the orange taking off all the pith. Then either cut into segments or slice into rounds. Note that the juices tend to run so place your salad dish underneath.

3. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. Toss  through the salad and add the cashews.


Spaghetti with tuna, olives and tomatoes

There are many ways to prepare pasta with tuna, in tomato sauce or pasta con tonno in bianco which means no tomatoes or tomato sauce, just olive oil. This version is with fresh tomatoes. It’s ideal if you want a quick but satisfactory pasta meal without a heavy creamy condiment.

Prep time  5 min     Cook time  15 min
  • 320 g spaghetti
  • 240 g of tuna packed in oil or water
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes or 8 plum tomatoes
  • 10-12 olives
  • 1-2 tablespoons of capers
  • 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt
  • parsley

1.  Cook the pasta according to the package instructtions. Save a glass of the pasta water.

2. Meanwhile warm the oil in a medium size skillet over medium high heat with the garlic cloves. Add the drained tuna, stir to coat and sprinkle with  1/4 teaspoon of salt. Let cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the halved tomatoes, olives (pitted if you prefer, I usually leave them whole) and capers. Let cook for another 5 minutes.

4. Drain the pasta 1 minute before it’s cooked al dente and pour it in the skillet, stir to coat and add a little bit of the pasta water that you have previously saved and finish cooking. Sprinkle with parsley. I added the parsley after I took the photo.


Apple crumble

Cinnamon laced baked apples are a must in fall and winter. Try them with this crunchy and nutty topping to make a perfect dessert. Serve it warm with vanilla ice cream and you are in heaven!

prep time  15 min     cook time 35-40 min

ingredients for 6-8
  • 1 kg (2.2lbs) apples, I used Granny Smith and Annurca Apples*
  • 30g (1oz) granulated sugar**
  • cinnamon to sprinkle
  • 1/2 dl (1/8cup) water
  • 70g (2.5oz) white or wholemeal flour
  • 70g (2.5oz) rolled oats
  • 50g (1.75oz) brown sugar
  • 150g (5.3oz) of roughly chopped walnuts***
  • 50g (1.75oz) sunflower seeds
  • 100g (3.5oz) butter
  • scoops of vanilla ice cream

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

2. Peel, halve, core and cut the apples into chunks.

3. Place the apples in a slightly buttered 20 cm x 20 cm (8″x8″) glass baking dish and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon (I put A LOT of cinnamon). Add 1/2 dl of water.

4. Put the dry crumble ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Chop the butter into small cubes and add these to the bowl. Mix and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture has formed small clumps.

5. Cover the fruit with this crumble mixture.

6. Bake for 35-40 min until golden and crisp.

7. Spoon warm crumble into bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream.

*Annurca Apples are grown in Campania region. They have a smooth, waxy, thick greenish-yellow skin ripening to streaked red, with russetting around the stem area. Inside, they have firm, crispy, white juicy flesh. They have a very good flavour that is neither overly sweet nor sharp. Having said that, I would go with any cooking apples or winter apples for this dessert.

** I found a world of sugars ploughing through apple crumble recipes. While I understand that not all sugars are created equal and that different types have very specific uses, I honestly don’t think that substituting granulated sugar for caster sugar or brown  sugar for light muscovado sugar will make such a huge difference in a home baked apple crumble. I also used considerably less sugar compared to many recipes found on the internet because I just don’t care for overly sweet.

*** I used a mix of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds


Coconut curry soup

Let’s warm up with this creamy, hearty and healthy soup. The sweetness of the coconut perfectly compliments the curry and other spices.

prep time min 10 min     cook time 30-40 min
ingredients for 4-5
  • 1 can (400ml/14 oz) coconut cream
  • 1 can (400ml/14oz) chickpeas
  • 5 carrots, cut to rounds
  • 2 zucchini, sliced or diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1-2 tablespoons green curry paste
  • curry
  • turmeric
  • salt and pepper

to garnish

  • 2 avocados
  • handful of sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds
  • parsley or cilantro

1. Sauté the chopped onion and the garlic cloves for a few minutes in a large pot. Add ginger, spices and green curry paste and turn to coat.

2. Toss in the carrot rounds and zucchini slices, the size doesn’t matter since they will be blended.

3. Add the coconut cream, rinsed chickpeas and a can of water. All the veggies should be covered. Add also 1-2 teaspoons of salt.

4. Let simmer on low for about 30 min until the veggies are done. Blend with an immersion blender. Check the salt.

5. Ladle into large bowls and garnish with avocado slices, parsley (or cilantro) and seeds. I am one of those people who find the taste of cilantro to be soapy so I never use it.


Green apple fennel and walnut salad

We had this tasty salad for lunch:  fennel, apple and roasted walnuts on a bed of arugula and valerianella salad also known as songino, lamb’s lettuce or corn salad.

Prep time 15 min
  • 1 bag of arugula (rucola, rocket)
  • 1 bag of valerianella
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 fennel bulb or two if small
  • big handful of walnuts
  • 3 tbls extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 3 tbls of lemon juice
  • salt and peper
  • whole rose pepper

1. Place the arugula and valerianella on a serving platter.  I used a tray.

2. Peel, halve, core and slice the apple. Trim, halve, core and thinly slice the fennel on a mandolin. Keep the fennel fronds for garnish.

3. Roast the walnuts in a small skillet without oil.

4. Whisk together the oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

5. Toss the dressing with apple and fennel and transfer to the serving platter.

6. Drizzle with olive oil, then top with the walnuts and garnish with the fennel fronds.

Tip: I have tried this also with pomegranate seeds leaving out the rose pepper.


Stuffed mushrooms

When I use the term mushrooms, I usually mean white button mushrooms, sometimes portobello mushrooms. This was my lunch but these are really good for appetizers too, just prepare one per person.

Prep time  5 min     Cook time 20 min
  • 3 button mushrooms
  • 100g Philadelphia or other cream cheese
  • parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • grated parmesan
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper

1. Wipe the mushrooms with a wet paper towel, cut the stem and slice off the very end. Chop the stems.

2. Put the garlic in a pan with oil and add the chopped stems. Add some salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.

3. Blend the stems, the cream cheese and the parsley.

4. Stuff the mushrooms with the cream, sprinkle parmesan on top and put in a preaheated oven at 170 °C (340F) for 15 minutes until the parmesan is golden  brown.


Greek fava

I had a craving for Greek fava so I made it today. Fava is made with pureed yellow split peas. Not chick peas, not fava beans, not lentils (even though I have seen Greek fava called yellow lentils) nor white beans.

The best and most famous Greek fava comes from Santorini. This dish is served as an appetizer, a meze or a side dish, but it can also be a vegan main course. A part from being tasty, fava is really healthy, full of antioxidants and non-animal protein.

Every Greek mama has her own fava recipe just like every Italian mamma has her own tomato sauce recipe. Mine is a mixture of Cretan and Greek and having added some suggestions from the Internet.

Prep time  5 min     Cook time  1 h

INGREDIENTS FOR 8 (or even more!)
  • 1/2 kg (1 lb)  fava
  • 2  onions + some to serve
  • 1 peeled potato
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 dl (1/4-1/2 cup) EV olive oil
  • lemon
  • parsley
  • optional: kalamata or Gaeta olives, capers

1. Rinse the fava in cold water.

2. Bring the fava to a boil in 1.2 l  (5-6 cups) of water, skim the froth and add 2 quartered onions and a peeled potato cut into two or four pieces.

3. Let the fava simmer at very low heat for about an hour. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. You might need to add a cup of water.

4. When the split peas are soft and the water has been reduced to leave a thick “porridge”, remove the pot from the heat and pass the fava through a food mill or use a stick blender or a food processor. I use a stick blender and blend the fava directly in the pot. You can puree it to a smooth cream or leave it more coarse.

5. Add the extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 minutes but BE CAREFUL. The fava is piping hot!

6. Let the fava cool (it becomes considerably more solid) and serve it in a shallow dish. Add some chopped (spring) onion and parsley, some olive oil and lemon juice and alternatively olives or capers. Some use vinegar instead of lemon but I haven’t tried that yet.


Pasta e fagioli

Pasta e fagioli aka pasta and beans. One of our faves at the moment. And you don’t have to add pasta, it’s just as good as bean soup. I’ve tried both  borlotti beans and  cannellini beans and they are both good, but I prefer the latter.

Pep time  10 min + the soaking time    Cook time  1,5 – 2 hrs

  • 500g  dried beans soaked overnight *
  • 400g fatty pancetta finely chopped
  • 200-300g fresh pig skins
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1  garlic clove
  • can of peeled/diced tomatos
  • 1 potato
  • peperoncino (chili pepper)
  • salt, pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • grated Parmesan
  • fresh maltagliati pasta or any kind of short pasta

1. Flame the pork skins to remove bristles, rub them clean with a cloth, and cut them into strips. Or if you use the skin from pancetta, just cut that into strips. No need to clean.

3. Mince the onion, celery and carrot and combine them. Heat a bit of oil in a large pot and sauté the chopped pancetta until it begins to brown. Add the minced onion mixture, a crushed garlic clove and the spices and continue to sauté, stirring, for about 10 minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes, the drained beans, the peeled potato, the skins and water to cover abundantly, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer until the beans are tender. Total cooking time about 1,5 – 2 hrs. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.

5. After an hour, add 1 cup or more of water and salt.

6. When done, take an abundant cup of the soup with the potato (if it’s still in one piece or in chunks) and use a blender to cream it. Add it back to the soup.

7. Cook the pasta directly in the soup checking the water and salt. You can use the amount of soup for your need and refrigerate or freeze the rest.

8. Add a little bit of olive oil and grated parmesan to the plate

FOR THE VEGETARIAN ALTERNATIVE: leave out the pork skins and pancetta

FOR THE GLUTEN FREE ALTERNATIVE: use as soup or use appropriate pasta

Tip: If you want to serve it as soup, add croutons or pieces of grilled bread.

*the soaking time depends on the quality of your beans. Sometimes 8 hrs is enough, sometimes even less.


Sea bream with tomatoes and capers

(also known as Mediterranean style)

In Italy Tuesdays and Fridays are traditionally fish days or no-meat days. We don’t usually follow this tradition, but I have to say that I’m more inclined to prepare fish or seafood on Friday than any other day of the week.

Since the first time we had delicious gilthead sea bream (orata it. tsipoura gr.) in Crete years ago, it’s been one of my go-to fish recipes. Easy to prepare, light and healthy, what’s not to love?

Prep time  15 min     Cook time 20-25 min
  • 2 breams 350gr each
  • olives (recipe requires black olives, I used Gaeta olives which are my faves)
  • 2 tbl spoons of capers (if salted, rinse them before use)
  • 300 gr of cherry tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • thyme, marjoram, parsley
  • peperoncino/chili pepper
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • extra vergin olive oil

1. Rinse the gutted and scaled bream and place it in a pan with some olive oil. I love to use a glass pan, easy to clean.

2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the fish as well as inside. Place also a few sprigs of thyme and/or marjoram and  1 chopped garlic inside.

3. Halve the tomatoes and place them in the pan around the fish. Add some peperoncino but be careful. The purpose is to enhance the flavors, not overpower them and with peperoncino you can easily go overboard. Been there, done that!

4. Add olives and capers and thyme, marjoram and parsley with a generous hand and the rest of the garlic.

5. Place the fish in a preheated oven at 200° for appr 20-25 min.

I served it cleaned. To avoid cleaning you can use fillets.

As a side dish I made oven potatoes but you could use broccoli or green salad. Whatever floats your boat.


Eggplant casserole with a Greek twist

I love eggplants! This is a lighter version of eggplant parmesan. And anything with feta cheese can be considered Greek.

Prep time 30 min +30 min degorging eggplants    Cook time  45 min
  • 2 big eggplants
  • 450g (1 lb) ground lamb or beef
  • handful of dried herbs: oregano, basil, rosemary, mint
  • 2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 fennel
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 400g (14 oz)  crushed tomatoes
  • salt, pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g feta cheese

1. Cut the eggplants into slices and sweat or degorge them: sprinkle salt on the slices, put them in a colander with a weight on for 30 minutes and rinse or wipe them. This takes the bitterness out. Also you need less oil when frying since the eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge.

2. Roast or fry without oil the slices on both sides. Put aside. You can do this step a day before. Just store the roasted slices in the fridge.

3. Fry the ground meat in oil and add the herbs. I used fresh mint because I didn’t have any dry mint . Next time I will try all fresh herbs.

4. Chop the onions, fennel, celery and garlic, cook them in a pan with lots of olive oil  until soft. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and let simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Assemble your dish in layers: first onion-tomato sauce on the bottom, eggplants, ground meat and crumbled feta. Repeat 2-3 times. On top add the juice from the pan. I didn’t and had to moisten the dish half way through in the oven.

6. Put in a preheated oven at 170° C (340F) for 45 minutes.

7. Serve with good rustic Italian bread.