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Cucamelon Salsa

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!

Recipe: Cucamelon Salsa

  • 300 g of cucamelons, cut in halves
  • 50 g of feta, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp. of chopped Thai basil
  • 1/2 tsp. of chili flakes
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
  • Set aside for at least half an hour.
  • Serve with toasted bread.

Roasted Baby Eggplants

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

Serves: 2
  • 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).

Recipe: Green paste

  • one garlic clove
  • one tsp. of grated ginger
  • 1/2 green chili pepper
  • 2 tbsp. of chpped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp. of soy sauce
  • Blend all the paste ingredients together.

Grilled salade nicoise

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

Serves: 2
  • 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.
  • Serve with bread and white wine.

Roasted artichokes with lemon and feta dip

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

Serves: 2
  • 2 artichokes
  • 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.

Recipe: Lemon and feta dip

  • 200 g of feta cheese
  • 3-4 tbsp. of lemon juice
  • one tsp. of olive oil
  • one tsp. of za'atar

Broad bean salad

Light summer brunch. Or even lunch, if the day is really hot.

Recipe: Broad bean salad

Serves: 2
  • 500 g of broad beans, shelled
  • 300 g of green peas, shelled (you can keep a few pods for decoration)
  • Cook broad beans and green peas.
  • Young broad beans need about 10 minutes (it should be tender, but not overcooked), young peas only about 2 minutes.
  • Remove skins from broad beans.
  • In a large bowl, combine beans and peas with the dressing.
  • Transfer salad to two bowls.
  • Place eggs on the salad. Top with freshly ground pepper.

Recipe: Lemon dressing

  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • one tbsp. of finely chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Whisk all the ingredients together.

Recipe: Poached eggs

  • 2 organic eggs
  • a pinch o salt
  • one tsp. of white wine vinegar
    • Bring water to boil, add vinegar. Crack each egg to a shallow bowl. Stir boiling water to create a whirl.
    • Carefully drop the egg into th center of the whirpool. Cover the pot, remove from heat and let it poach for 3 minutes.