Tag: zucchini

Grilled Bell Pepper and Zucchini Sandwich with Basil

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

My Maltese summer is coming to an end and the next couple of posts will be the last ones from the islands, on Saturday I will continue writing from my Berlin kitchen again! Till then I will share a few more of the special places that I have fallen in love with over the years. I will tell you about some of my favourite spots which I haven’t mentioned yet and tease you with a few more photos of my beloved Mediterranean sea!

Before I start my list I will show you my perfect summer sandwich, a sourdough bun soaked with lemon oil and filled with grilled green bell pepper and slices of zucchini. I sprinkled the smokey vegetables with some fresh basil leaves, flaky sea salt and crushed black peppercorns to add a little spiciness. The bell pepper and zucchini are at the peak of their season at the moment, full of ripe green flavours! The composition was so light and juicy, almost fruity, I could have eaten two of them!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

I promised to tell you a bit more about Gozo, so this would be a typical, perfect day on Malta’s sister island:

We leave Malta on the ferry very early in the morning and reach Mgarr harbour after only 25 minutes as the channel between the islands is just 6km (4 miles) wide. I always spend the journey on the top deck in the front of the boat as the view is stunning! When we arrive we drive straight to our apartment or farm house which doesn’t take too long as Gozo is just 14 x 7 km (9 x 4 miles)!

We often start our day with a cappuccino, a couple pastizzi and a piece of chocolate fudge cake at Bellusa in the capital Victoria (also known as Rabat). Joe Bugeja runs this café at the main piazza, he took over from his father who opened this pretty little place in 1960 and since then you can see him at the café taking care of the orders every day.

Gozo is one of the best places for diving and snorkeling in the Mediterranean, some people even say in the whole world, so we spend lots of time under water. These are a few of my favourite spots:

Dewjra (we like to snorkel right next to the Blue Hole, here you can see the most beautiful blue, sparkling, deep and endlessly)
Wied il Ghasri
Ta’ Cenc / Il Kantra
Qbajjar Bay
San Blas

For lunch or dinner we like to order pizza or Maltese Ftira at Maxokk Bakery, a take away bakery with an oven that is more than 100 years old! This family run business is famous for baking the best pizza on the islands. You should always give in your orders a few hours in advance (maxokkbakery.com)! We often enjoy the pizza at sunset right above the San Blas Bay on a bench in a little park.

My favourite restaurant on the island is on a beach, at Mgarr ix-Xini, it’s called Rew Rew. Noel, the owner, is famous for his delicious fish and seafood dishes. Normally, the restaurants opens just for lunch but unfortunately, it’s closed this summer due to filming taking place in the bay. For dinner, I can recommend Tmun in Mgarr, Tatita’s in San Lawrence and Oleander in Xaghra and for my last pastis on the island I love to sit on the balcony of  Gleneagles Bar in Mgarr, right at the harbour!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 Grilled Bell Pepper and Zucchini Sandwich with Basil

For 2 big sandwiches you need

crusty sourdough buns, cut in half, 2
green bell pepper, cut into thick slices, 1
medium sized zucchini, cut into slices, 1
fresh basil leaves 8
olive oil 6 tablespoons plus more for the vegetables
freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

Brush the bell pepper and zucchini with olive oil and grill until golden brown.

Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice and brush the inside of the buns with it. Spread the grilled zucchini slices, bell pepper and basil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper, close the bun and enjoy!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

 

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

Golden Zucchini and Crisp Sage

Golden Zucchini with crisp Sage

The south of Malta is a different world. I’ve heard this so often and for someone coming from abroad, like me, this can sound a bit strange considering the island’s tiny size of just about 28km (17 miles) in length. After spending so many summers here, I can see and understand the islands’ different mentalities a little bit more but I’m still learning! No matter how big or small a country is, people cultivate their unique habits, traditions, dialects and recipes. In the south of Malta, where you hear more Maltese than English (the country’s second language), you see more small farms with horses, sheep and goats in the countryside and one of the most significant characteristics of this part of the island is its fascination for fireworks. The famous fireworks for the Festas, the holy feast for each village’s saint, have definitely reached another dimension in some of the southern villages. They go on for hours and are passionately planned to perfection by a bunch of pyrotechnics enthusiasts a year ahead – they have proudly made it into the Guiness Book of World Records!

One of the villages that is popular for its spectacular firework orchestration is Mqabba, Emma’s (my Maltese sister) boyfriend’s hometown. We went there a couple days ago to visit Mariano’s farm where he keeps horses, sheep, chickens and the cutest goat babies that were only four days old. Farming isn’t his profession, it’s a family hobby passed on from one generation to the next. I was jealous when I saw all the vegetables they grow, the cheese they make, it’s a perfect little farm to deliver fresh eggs and vegetables to the table, every day!

When we got home, I felt inspired to cook one of Malta’s most delicious vegetables, qarabaghli. I cut the round zucchinis into thick steaks and sautéed them for a few minutes until they were golden and started to soften on the outside. We ate them with crisp, fried sage leaves, it’s such a great combination! You just have to watch them carefully while they are in the pan as the leaves taste bitter when they become too dark! You can eat this dish warm or cold as an antipasto.

Golden Zucchini with crisp Sage

 

Golden Zucchini with crisp Sage

 Golden Zucchini and Crisp Sage

For 2 people you need

medium sized zucchini (round or long), cut into thick steaks, 1
big sage leaves, a handful
olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the zucchini on a high-medium temperature until golden on both sides. They have to be spread out in the pan, you may have to cook them in batches. Add the sage leaves for the last 1-2 minutes until they are crisp. Season the zucchini with salt and pepper on both sides and serve warm or cold.

Golden Zucchini with crisp Sage

 

Golden Zucchini with crisp Sage

 

Golden Zucchini with crisp Sage

 

Golden Zucchini with crisp Sage

 

Golden Zucchini with crisp Sage

Mediterranean Feta and Vegetable Casserole

Mediterranean Feta and Vegetable Casserole

It was a cold, grey evening when my aunt Ursula invited us to dinner a few years ago. We meet quite often to enjoy good food and wine together but that day we felt tired from work and weren’t in the mood for a heavy meal. When we arrived at her apartment we saw that she hadn’t set up the table in the dining room as she normally does but created a comfy dining scene in her living room. The low table was packed with loaves of bread with herbs and dried tomatoes, a few dips and a bottle of red wine was just waiting for us. Our mood was lifted straight away, this was exactly what we needed, a relaxed evening on the sofa! When Ursula came out of the kitchen with a steaming dish in her hands, filling the air with the smell of roast vegetables and herbs she had our attention and we felt awake again!

The meal she served became one of my most beloved dishes, Mediterranean vegetables on top of a thick slice of feta roasted in the oven for only half an hour. By the end of it you have a plate full of juicy, partly crunchy vegetables that you can spoon onto a thick slice of bread together with the aromatic cheese and herbs, it’s delicious! The mix of zucchini, red and yellow bell pepper, aubergine, red onions, garlic and lots of thyme and rosemary became my favourite, personal variation on this recipe. Just throw together a composition that suits your taste and put this on a slice of a French country bread, ciabatta or focaccia and I’m sure you’ll be as happy as I am whenever I cook this meal!

I love to make this when friends come over, I just put one or two big casseroles on our long table, a few loaves of bread, some wine – this is the perfect food and atmosphere to let the laughing and chatting begin! Or to celebrate that Germany won the World Cup!

Feta Casserole with Zucchini, Bell Pepper + Aubergine

Mediterranean Vegetable and Feta Casserole

For 4 people you need

feta cheese, 2 slices, around 2cm / 3/4″ thick, 400g / 14 ounces
medium sized aubergine, cut into 1cm / 1/2″ cubes, 1
medium sized zucchini, cut in half and sliced, 1
yellow bell pepper, cut into cubes, 1
red bell pepper, cut into cubes, 1
medium sized tomatoes, cut into cubes, 3
medium sized red onions, cut into 8 pieces, 2
garlic, 8 cloves in their skin
olive oil 60ml / 2 ounces
thyme, a small bunch
rosemary, 6 sprigs
salt and pepper

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (I use the Rotitherm roasting setting).

Put the feta cheese next to each other in a baking dish, cover with the vegetables, garlic and herbs and season with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil on top and mix until everything is coated in oil (add a little bit more if it’s not enough). Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft, they shouldn’t burn. Check the aubergine first as it needs the longest to cook. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with rustic white bread.

Feta Casserole with Zucchini, Bell Pepper + Aubergine

 

Feta Casserole with Zucchini, Bell Pepper + Aubergine

 

Feta Casserole with Zucchini, Bell Pepper + Aubergine

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Olives and Basil

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

The beginning of July is the perfect time to throw a few of my favourite vegetables on a big plate of spaghetti. This dish is basically a Mediterranean Caponata, just without aubergine as it would have stretched the cooking time and changed the texture – I didn’t want a juicy sauce, I was after some crunchiness! I mixed lots of zucchini with my Gozitan capers, anchovies and garlic and sautéed everything for a very short time. This way, the vegetables stay firm and fresh like a salad.

My tomatoes, olives and basil weren’t even cooked,  I just mixed them together with some olive oil into the warm pasta. When vegetables reach the peak of their season they don’t need long to spread their aroma. Spoiled by the sun, strong in flavour and full of vitamins, they have this intense taste of summer that I’ve been waiting for for months. A few minutes in the hot pan and they were done, that’s one of summer’s kitchen qualities!

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

 Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Olives and Basil

For 3-4 people you need

spaghetti 300-400g / 10.5-14 ounces
zucchini, cut in half and sliced, 350g / 12.5 ounces
anchovies, rinsed, dried and finely chopped, 1 1/2
garlic, thinly sliced, 3 cloves
capers 2 heaped tablespoons
tomatoes, cut into cubes, 350g / 12.5 ounces
black olives (whole or chopped) 8
fresh basil leaves 10
optionally: fresh mint, chopped, 5 leaves
black pepper
olive oil

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water al dente.

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil, add the anchovies, garlic and capers and cook for 1 minute on a medium heat. Add the zucchini and a little more oil and cook for 5 minutes on high-medium temperature, stirring every now and then. Season with pepper (no salt!) and mix into the spaghetti, add a tiny bit of olive oil if the pasta is too dry. Stir in the tomatoes, olives, basil and mint and serve immediately. There should be enough saltiness from the anchovies and capers, I didn’t need to add anymore.

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

 

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

 

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

Mediterranean Meatloaf with Zucchini and Bell Pepper

Mediterranean Meatloaf with Zucchini + Bell Pepper

Meatloaf was one of the few meals with meat that I really liked as a young child (apart from Wiener sausage). My mother used to make a big portion of it which we ate cold the following days. I still prefer it that way! When we were younger, my sister and I weren’t very experimental when it came to our food, that changed over the years and it effected my mother’s cooking. Now she fills her meatloaf with vegetables and herbs, a Mediterranean version but in those days she kept it simple to please our sensitive taste buds and picky taste.

I hadn’t made meatloaf for years, I had forgotten about it to be honest, but two summers ago my mother cooked it  for a garden party. My whole family (which is quite big) was there, it was a hot day in July and no one wanted to stay inside the house. We just went to the kitchen to fill our plates at the long table piled with lots of summery dishes and then went straight outside again to sit on the grass. It was a big picnic, a beautiful day with eating, drinking, laughing and playing music – and the cold meat was my happy rediscovery!

This meatloaf is very juicy, it’s cooked with zucchini, leek, bell pepper and lots of herbs. Thyme, oregano and rosemary give it a Mediterranean touch, either warm or cold, it’s best with a light salad and some baguette on the side.

Mediterranean Meatloaf with Zucchini + Bell Pepper

 Mediterranean Meatloaf with Zucchini and Bell Pepper

For 6-8 people you need

minced beef 1kg / 2 pounds
zucchini, roughly chopped, 140g / 5 ounces
red bell pepper, roughly chopped, 160g / 5.5 ounces
yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped, 160g / 5.5 ounces
leek, cut in half and thinly sliced, 100g / 3.5 ounces
milk 360ml / 12 ounces
breadcrumbs 45g / 1.5 ounces
organic eggs 2
thyme leaves from a small bunch
parsley, chopped, 4 tablespoons
rosemary, finely chopped, 3 tablespoons
oregano 1 1/2 tablespoons
salt 3 1/2 teaspoons
pepper

Set the oven to 170°C / 340°F (I used the Rotitherm setting but you could also use fan).

Mix the milk and breadcrumbs. In a large bowl mix the other ingredients, add the milk and combine well with your hands or a mixer. Put the mixture in a baking dish and form a loaf. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or cold, the meatloaf is great for summer parties and picnics!

Mediterranean Meatloaf with Zucchini + Bell Pepper

Juicy Zucchini Steaks with Dried Tomatoes, Sage and Chèvre

 Zucchini, Dried Tomatoes + Chèvre

When I went to the market on Saturday I bought one of my favourite goat cheeses from a tiny stand run by a sweet lady who produces her own cheese. She just uses goat milk for her products and her display offers delicious soft chèvre rolls and creamy cheese balls coated in spices and herbs, with chili, herbes de provence, rosemary and basil. These soft cheeses are her absolute speciality, mild and milky with a soft hint of goat milk.

I planned to buy a plain cheese roll but a beautiful white chèvre covered in parsley leaves and pansy flowers caught my attention. The lady explained to me that it’s filled with dried tomatoes, I was currious and forgot about my plain cheese immediately. I tried it, liked it and bought it! My plans for dinner involved golden sautéed zucchini cut into thick round steaks, juicy inside but far away from soft and soggy, topped with fresh goat cheese and sage. My find at the market inspired me to add some dried tomatoes, it was a good choice, the Mediterranean flavours were great together with the mild goat milk!

 Zucchini, Dried Tomatoes + Chèvre

 Zucchini Steaks with Dried Tomatoes, Sage and Chèvre

For 2 people you need

zucchini, cut into 1,5cm / 1/2″ steaks, 300g / 10.5 ounces
garlic, thinly sliced, 1 clove
chèvre/ soft goat cheese, thickly sliced, 70g / 2.5 ounces
dried tomatoes, cooked in a little boiling water for 1 min, rinsed, dried and chopped, 1 1/2 -2
sage leaves, thinly sliced, 5
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper

In a large pan, heat a splash of olive oil together with the garlic and fry the zucchini on high-medium temperature for a few minutes until golden brown on each side. Add the cooked dried tomatoes and sage, season with salt and pepper and fry for 1 minute. On a plate, pile the zucchini steaks on top of each other and let them sit for 1 minute, that makes them a bit softer and juicy. Spread them on a big plate and place the chèvre on top of the warm zucchini and sprinkle with the dried tomatoes and sage from the pan.

 Zucchini, Dried Tomatoes + Chèvre

 

 Zucchini, Dried Tomatoes + Chèvre

Zucchini, Bell Pepper and Aubergine Moussaka with Lemon Ricotta

Moussaka

My Moussaka, truth be told, is a fruity ratatouille baked with a fluffy lemon ricotta soufflé on top. The traditional Greek Moussaka is made with a Béchamel sauce which I’m not too fond of. I like this creamy sauce in my lasagna or cannelloni but that’s it. The ricotta tastes much lighter, enhanced with lemon zest, nutmeg, parmesan and fresh basil, it gives this dish more of a summer feeling. Contrary to the Greek version, I kept mine vegetarian, there’s no minced meat involved, just zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, red onions, lots of parsley and a velvety layer of fried aubergine slices in between the vegetables and the cheese. It stops the ricotta from running into the juicy ratatouille.

When I cook a ratatouille I always make a big batch. This moussaka is perfect as a second day dish for ratatouille leftovers. Topped with the ricotta it just has to bake in the oven for half an hour, great if you have friend’s over for dinner and not much time for preparations! I baked it in small casserole dishes closed with a lid so that each of us could have our own little pot.

Moussaka

 Zucchini, Bell Pepper and Aubergine Moussaka with Lemon Ricotta

I bake the Moussaka in two 12,5cm / 5″ casserole dishes with lids, you could use a big one instead but you may have to bake it a bit longer for the ricotta to set.

For 2-3 people you need

small aubergine, sliced into circles, 1
zucchini, sliced into circles, 1
red bell pepper, thinly sliced, 1
big red onion, quartered and thinly sliced, 1
big tomatoes, chopped, 4
garlic, thinly sliced, 3 cloves
parsley, chopped, 2 tablespoons
Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons plus more to taste
olive oil for frying
salt and black pepper

For the topping
ricotta 260g / 9 ounces
organic eggs 2
parmesan, grated, 30g / 1 ounce
small basil leaves, chopped, 30
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
lemon juice 1 teaspoon plus more to taste
(I also added in a little of the liquid of my Moroccan preserved lemons)
nutmeg, ground to taste
salt and pepper

Spread the slices of aubergine on a baking dish and sprinkle with salt on both sides to pull some of its water out. Let it sit for around 15 minutes, rinse the slices and dry between kitchen roll paper. In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the aubergine for a few minutes on both sides on medium temperature until golden and soft, add a little more oil if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the onion for a few minutes until golden and soft. Add the bell pepper and garlic and fry for 2 minutes before you add the zucchini. Fry the vegetables for 2-3 minutes and deglaze with 2 tablespoons of Balsamico vinegar. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Add the parsley and season with Balsamico vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

For the topping, mix the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F top/ bottom heat.

Divide the vegetables between the 2 casserole dishes, cover with 3-4 slices of aubergine and spread the ricotta mixture gently on top. Cover with lids and bake for around 35 minutes until the ricotta mixture is set.

Moussaka

Ricotta stuffed Zucchini in White Wine Sauce

Zucchini stuffed with Lemon Ricotta

When we have friends over for dinner, my mood always decides what treats I bring to the table. There are two options, I either feel like a sumptuous meal with several courses which might mean cooking for one or two days and which definitely requires good organisation before and on the night and most importantly enough time to enjoy all the preparations. The other approach is to take it easy and choose recipes which don’t need a rigid plan. I just fill the table with plates full of food before or as our friends arrive and we all enjoy the night together. Eating, talking and laughing, drinking some wine of course, savoring and emptying the plates for hours. This was my choice when I had a dinner for 10 ahead of me a few days ago!

Some of our friends from Malta just moved to Berlin a few months ago. I know how much Maltese love and miss their home and food when they live abroad so I decided to make a traditional Maltese recipe, zucchini stuffed with lemon ricotta. I would have loved to get the small round courgette (Qarabaghli in Maltese) which would have been perfect for this recipe as you can close the stuffed fruit from the top. I worried that the ricotta would run down the sides of my long zucchini when I closed them but it worked fine. I cooked them for an hour in white wine together with the fried pulp of the fruits and some onions. Just a little of the creamy cheese went into the sauce and added some nice creaminess.

In the late afternoon, I cooked the zucchinis and left them al dente. I didn’t want them to turn soggy as I had to warm them up again before our guests arrived. I filled my dining table with three different kinds of quiche which are very easy to prepare in advance and I can’t really say if I prefer them warm or cold (here’s one of my recipes). Two loaves of homemade bread and a big batch of my raspberry chocolate brownies were on my list as well, both are great nibbles for a long night. When we all gathered around the table and I brought the dish with the steaming zucchini I didn’t know that the night would go on for so long – our last guests left at 5 in the morning or so I was told, I fell asleep on the sofa at 4!

Zucchini stuffed with Lemon Ricotta

Zucchini stuffed with Lemon Basil Ricotta in White Wine Sauce

For 2 hungry people or for 4 when you have starters, you need

zucchini / courgette, cut in half (lengthwise)  2 (around 500g / 1 pound)
ricotta 200g / 7 ounces
parmesan, grated, 20g / 1 ounce
organic eggs 2
basil, chopped roughly, 10 big leaves
lemon zest 1 teaspoon
salt 1/2 teaspoon
crushed black pepper
medium sized onion, chopped finely, 1
garlic, cut in half, 2 cloves
parsley 3 sprigs
white wine 1 glass
tomato paste 1 tablespoon
olive oil for frying

Whisk the ricotta together with the parmesan, eggs, basil, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Scrape the pulp out of the zucchini with a small spoon and set aside. Season the inside of the zucchini with a little salt and pepper and fill both sides with the ricotta mixture. Close them just before you put them into the casserole.

In a large pot or casserole with a lid (big enough for the zucchinis), fry the onions in a little oil till golden and soft on medium heat. Add the garlic and the pulp and fry for 2-3 minutes, deglaze with some white wine and add the sprigs of parsley. Put the stuffed zucchini on top of the onions, add some more wine (1-2cm / 1/2-1″ of the bottom should be covered), close with a lid and cook for 1 hour on low – medium heat. Check after 2o minutes, you may have to add some more wine, the bottom should remain covered.

When the zucchinis are soft at the bottom and al dente at the top, take them out with 2 spatulas, carefully, and set them aside. Take out the parsley, add the tomato paste to the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the zucchini together with the sauce.

Zucchini stuffed with Lemon Ricotta