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Recipes from the Mediterranean

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Spanish Omelet

(Tortilla Española)

My husband and I bought our beloved Storm Eagle, a 40-foot Oyster ketch, in 1999 and, after sailing from New York to the Bahamas, shipped her from Port Everglades to Toulon in 2000. It was the beginning of a ten-year Mediterranean adventure: We spent two to three months each summer cruising a different place: Spain, France, Corsica, Sardinia, mainland Italy, Sicily, Croatia, Greece and Turkey, expanding our culinary horizons as I experimented with local ingredients for meals easily prepared on board.

One summer we endured a long trip along the windy Costa Brava, heading west toward Barcelona, to dine at Ferran Adrià’s famed El Bulli. After anchoring in the adjacent bay, I went ashore and discovered the restaurant was full. Fortunately, Adrià invited me to sit at the bar and sample 25 of his most amazing creations. Eventually, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I think you should go.”

What have I done? I thought. He pointed through the window at trees doubling over from the gusts. My husband came and ferried me back to the boat, and we spent the night huddled in the cockpit with winds over 50 knots. The next day, exhausted, I made a Spanish omelet—the three ingredients, eggs, onions and potatoes, always on hand.

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 large eggs

1. Heat the olive oil in an 8-inch nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and potatoes and toss them in the oil until well coated. Reduce the heat to low, season with salt and pepper, cover and let the onion and potatoes cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

2. Drain the onion and potatoes in a colander, reserving the oil. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir in the onion and potatoes until well combined.

3. Return the sauté pan to the heat, add 1 tbsp of the reserved oil and increase the heat to medium. Pour in the egg-and-potatoes mixture, reduce the heat to low and cook slowly, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Gently draw in the edges of the omelet with a spatula to allow the liquid from the center to run underneath and cook. Turn the omelet over by placing a plate over the pan, carefully inverting both so that the omelet is on the plate. Gently slide the omelet back into the pan and continue cooking until the underside is done, about 3 more minutes. Serve hot or cold, cut in wedges, with a salad.

Baked Penne

With Sausage, Mozzarella and Tomatoes

One of our favorite fishing harbors in Sicily is Castellammare del Golfo, near Trapani. Though it’s normally a sleepy little port, one morning we awoke to commotion and saw traffic streaming to and from a beautiful old wooden schooner moored near the end of the harbor wall. When we went ashore for dinner that evening, we found every street crammed with enormous trucks, every restaurant overflowing with film people. Ocean’s Twelve had come to town.

Fortunately, I had bought a basket of tomatoes the previous day from a farmer with a pickup truck laden with them. (Sicily has the best I’ve tasted anywhere.) Back at the Storm Eagle, I quickly assembled baked penne with sausage, mozzarella and the wonderful tomatoes. It was delicious, and we still enjoy it often, occasionally substituting leftover roast chicken for the sausage.

2 tsp olive oil
3/4 lb sweet Italian sausages
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup hot milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil
8 oz penne
6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1-inch cubes

1. Heat the oven to 400° F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the sausages and cook for a few minutes until firm. Remove them from the pan and allow to cool. Cut them into thin slices, return to the skillet and cook until they start to brown. Add the garlic and sauté briefly, then add the tomatoes, pepper flakes and oregano and cook for a few minutes. Do not allow the tomatoes to break down; they should remain in chunks.

3. Make the béchamel: Melt the butter in a saucepan set over medium.

Add the flour and stir until smooth. Cook for about 2 minutes before gradually whisking in the hot milk until the sauce is smooth. Continue cooking until it begins to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Add the béchamel to the sausages and tomatoes and stir until well combined. Stir in the basil.

5. Once the salted water reaches a boil, cook the penne until it is about a minute away from al dente. Drain well, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water, add the pasta to the sausage-tomato sauce and mix well. If the mixture is dry, add some of the water.

6. Transfer half of the pasta to a greased baking dish, layer with the mozzarella and cover with the remaining pasta. Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top and place the dish on the oven’s upper rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a light golden crust forms. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Sliced Oranges

With Rose Water, Cinnamon and Pistachio

En route to Marmaris in southern Turkey, we stopped in Istanbul to explore historical sites—among them, the 350-year-old Spice Bazaar. There we enjoyed the amazing aromas and colorful spectacle of spices of every kind stacked in neat pyramids—Aleppo pepper, coriander seeds, dried mint, za’atar, saffron—not to mention the presence of pistachios and rose water. Blissfully, I stocked up. While cruising, we loved ending a meal with the excellent fresh fruits we found around the Mediterranean—cherries, figs, strawberries, apricots, plums and the juiciest peaches still warm from the sun. Turkish oranges, in particular, are intensely sweet and full of flavor. They keep well and were ideal when we spent several days in an isolated anchorage. I discovered that adding a little cinnamon and rose water give the sliced fruit a subtle edge.

4 large firm navel oranges
2 tbsp rose water
1 to 2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios

1. Cut off the top and the bottom of an orange with a sharp knife. Stand the orange on end and cut from top to bottom, following the shape of the fruit to remove the skin and all the white pith. Turn the orange on its side and cut it into thin rounds, reserving the juice in a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oranges.

2. Remove all the pits, and arrange the slices so they overlap on a platter.

3. Combine the rose water and honey with the reserved juice in a bowl and mix, then pour over the oranges. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

4. Just before serving, scatter the chopped pistachios over the top.

Roasted Lamb

On a Bed of Vegetables

Several years ago we made the pilgrimage up the hill from Cannes to dine at Roger Vergé’s acclaimed restaurant, the Moulin de Mougins (which he has since sold). Fascinated by the chef’s traditional Provençal dishes, I chose the navarin of lamb served with fresh, sweet baby vegetables. This memorable dish inspired me to search for a shoulder of the local pale-pink Sisteron lamb in the Cannes Marché Forville, which in early June is bursting with colorful produce, fish, meat, cheese, olives and my favorite seasoning, the versatile herbes de Provence.

On our voyages, whenever possible I make a one-pot dish for dinner, and I love to roast lamb shoulder above a gratin dish of typical Provençal vegetables sprinkled liberally with herbes de Provence and garlic, allowing the juices from the meat to flavor the vegetables.

1 lamb shoulder (4 to 5 lbs)
3 garlic cloves (1 sliced, 2 minced)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 tbsp herbes de Provence
1 or 2 zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 small eggplant, trimmed, cut into 1/8-inch slices
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 long, thin potato, cut into 1/8-inch slices

1. Stud the lamb with slivers of one garlic clove. Rub in 2 tsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper and generously sprinkle 1 tbsp herbes de Provence all over the lamb. Set aside for about 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

3. Oil a rectangular gratin dish, then arrange the zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, onion and potato in overlapping rows. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with herbes de Provence and garlic and season generously with salt and pepper.

4. Place the lamb on a small metal roasting rack crosswise on top of the gratin dish, set in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, turning the lamb occasionally, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 130F for medium rare. (The temperature will increase by about 5 while the lamb is resting.)

5. Remove the lamb from the oven, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes, leaving the vegetables to continue roasting until they are tender and their edges are browned. Place the lamb on top of the vegetables and carve the shoulder at the table, allowing the meat juices to run.

Chicken Souvlaki

With Tzatziki Sauce

When cruising the Mediterranean, we like to visit local vineyards. Once, in the Ionian Sea, we docked on Cephalonia to visit the Gentilini Winery. After a leisurely tasting, our host drove us to a rocky part of the coast, where he donned a wet suit, took out his diving knife and disappeared beneath the water. Minutes later he surfaced, clutching a net full of sea urchins, which he opened for us as we sat on the warm rocks. We proceeded to feast on urchins drizzled with lemon juice, sipping glasses of chilled Gentilini white. Heaven.

On our way back to Storm Eagle, we stopped at a roadside stall to purchase bunches of freshly dried Greek oregano. I frequently cook meat on skewers, but I particularly love the chicken souvlaki I made that evening with the oregano crumbled into the marinade.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 to 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano, plus additional for sprinkling
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 red onion, cut into eighths, layers separated

1. Add the first six ingredients to a ziplock bag and mix to combine. Add the chicken pieces and rub the marinade into them. Refrigerate for an hour, turning occasionally.

2. Thread the chicken and onion alternately onto four skewers and brush with the remaining marinade.

3. Heat a cast-iron grill pan for several minutes over medium-high heat. Add the skewers and cook for 8 minutes or until the chicken is slightly charred at the edges, turning once. Season with salt and sprinkle with oregano. Serve with tzatziki (recipe below) and warm pita.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/4 tsp salt
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Pinch Aleppo pepper, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Grate the cucumber on a coarse grater, toss it with a little salt and then drain in a colander for about 30 minutes. Taste the cucumber for salt; if too salty, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Crush the garlic with a little salt using the blade of a knife, until it forms a paste.

3. Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, dill and Aleppo pepper in a bowl. Stir in the cucumber and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve with the chicken souvlaki.


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