Cucamelons, also known as mouse melons, Mexican miniature watermelons or Mexican sour cucumbers, look like tiny watermalons (and you know that I love all things tiny, see: baby eggplants) and taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime. In spite of appearances, they have not been created by a crazy gardener - cucamelons are native to Mexico and Central America. Oh, and they are also delicious!
I have deep respect for eggplants. Can you think of any other edible item in such a deep shade of purple?
If there's anything better than eggplant, it's baby eggplant. But I'm a fan of miniature versions of pretty much everything. Baby eggplants make a perfect starter - all you have to do is roast them, maybe adding a bit of spicy green paste.
Recipe: Roasted Baby Eggplants
5 baby eggplants
one tbsp. of olive oil
Score the bottoms of each eggplant with an “X”, about 2/3 through.
Stuff eggplants with green paste and place them on an oiled baking sheet.
Roast at 180C until the eggplants have softened (about 25 minutes).
You probably have all heard about , right? And most of you have tried it at least once. So have I. But while I can easily evoke a mouthwatering image of a colourful salad, naming its ingredients comes up as quite a challenge. And this time it’s not me to cause the problem, it’s the salad. Finding the ultimate recipe seems impossible. Ok, so I didn’t verify this, but I’m willing to make a bet that ordering in each bistro on the French coast, you will end up eating a different meal every time.
The first version of the salad was limited to tomatoes, anchovies and a few drops of olive oil. We will find tomatoes in most of the contemporary variations of the salad - either cherry tomatoes, or thick slices of the larger ones. Anchovies either go together with tuna or substitute it. Personally, I cannot imagine a Niçoise salad without tuna, which is also the reason why I have avoided this particular salad for years. My aversion to canned tuna comes from the time when I was starting my culinary adventures at the age of 10. In one of the food magazines I found a recipe for tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad. Needless to say, this fancy presentation seemed like the essence of elegance and good taste (I was a huge fan of mini skewers at that time too), so I tortured my whole family with this dish on every occasion. I haven’t had the courage to ever try stuffed tomatoes again.
Luckily I have discovered that you can substitute canned tuna with slices of delicious, pink tuna steaks. Most recipes include haricot verts (or other beans), olives (black, Niçoise) and hard boiled eggs. Other add potatoes, artichokes, broad beans, slices of cucumber or radish, bell peppers, crunchy lettuce, capers, red onion or scallions. When it comes to dressing, different variations of vinaigrette are the most popular (with garlic, with red wine vinegar, with herbs), followed by olive oil mixed with fresh herbs, like parsley or basil.
The good new is that you can make whatever you want and still call it . I didn’t care for eggs, went with fresh tuna, grilled everything that was grillable and opted for traditional vinaigrette. You can do something similar. Or something completely different.
Recipe: Grilled salade niçoise
2 tuna fillets (about 150 g each)
a few baby potatoes
a handful of green beans
a few cherry tomatoes
a handful of olives
1/2 of red onion, cut in half
Whisk all the ingredients together.
Parboil the potatoes so that they're mostly cooked, but not perfectly soft (about 15 minutes). Let them cool and slice in halves.
Blanch green beans (about 5 minutes).
Grill potato halves, beans, onion quarters and tomatoes. The time depends on your grill, ingredients and individual preferences. Potatoes should be tender and golden, beans should remain crunchy, onion should be browned and tomato skins should start wrinkling. Place grilled vegetables on a plate, together with olives.
Grill tuna fillets for about 30 seconds each side (or longer, if you prefer the tuna well done).
Slice the tuna and place on the salad. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with lemon juice. Top the salad with vinaigrette.
Artichokes might be funny-looking, but they're delicious and you shouldn't feel intimidated in their presence. If you've never tried to make them at home, it's time to give them a chance. The first bite of artichoke heart will make up for any moments of fear and uncertainty.
How to prepare an artichoke?
Cut the stalks off the artichoke. Pull off the tough leaves. Cut off the thorned tips of the remaining leaves. Cut the artichoke in half. Spoon out the inner leaves and the fuzzy choke. To prevent artichokes from discoloration, keep the ready ones in a bowl with cold water and lemon juice.
How to cook an artichoke?
The easiest way is to cook artichokes in slightly salted water with lemon (it should take about 40 minutes). The healthiest way is to steam them. You can also fry, grill, roast and stuff artichokes.
How to eat an artichoke?
Use your hands to pull off petals, one at a time. Dip the broken end in olive oil or dip and scrape the soft, meaty part off with your teeth. When all petals are gone, it's time for the best part - delicate, delicious artichoke heart.
Recipe: Roasted artichokes with lemon and feta dip
3 tbsp. of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice and zest of one lemon
a pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Start with preparing a bowl with water and lemon juice.
You will keep the prepped artichokes in the this water until you’re ready to proceed. It prevents them from turning brown.
Cut an artichoke in half. Carefully spoon out the inner leaves and the fuzzy choke.
Place the prepared half in the water bowl. Repeat the process with remaining artichokes.
Combine olive oil with lemon juice and zest and salt.
Sprinkle each artichoke with the mixture.
Roast at 180C for about 40 minutes.
Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with crunchy baguette and lemon and feta dip.