Sicilian Caponata

This eggplant/aubergine based dish has different varieties throughout Italy, most popular in the regions of Sicily, Naples, and Genoa. This recipe is for the vegan-friendly Sicilian Caponata. It can be served as an appetizer on top of bread, on pasta, or as a main dish.

Serves 3-4

What you need:

4 tbsp olive oil
2 eggplants/aubergines, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and diced
6-8 plum tomatoes, diced
1 carrot, diced (optional)
2 tsp fresh basil or 1 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
1-2 tbsp capers
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
raisins (optional)

In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add everything to the pot and simmer on medium heat for about an hour. Serve!


Spanish Croquetas

You can order croquetas at pretty much every bar in Spain, though they are usually made of ham and cheese or fish. A vegetable variety is rare, but the most common types include mushroom, spinach, and eggplant/aubergine. This recipe is for spinach croquetas, but you can replace the spinach with whichever vegetable you fancy! Note: this recipe requires around 2 1/2 hours of refrigeration.

Makes 10 croquetas

What you need:

2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp margarine (or 2 tbsp more olive oil)
4 tablespoons flour
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 cups soy milk
2 cups fresh spinach or other vegetable
1 cup water
1 cup breadcrumbs

Spanish croquetas are made of béchamel sauce mixed with filling. So first you will need to make your béchamel. In a medium sized pan, add the olive oil and butter until hot. Add the flour and salt and mix until a smooth paste forms. Add the soy milk and whisk on medium heat until it thickens (around 15 minutes). Then add the spinach and cook for another 5-7 minutes. If using another vegetable, lightly cook it before adding into the béchamel. Put everything in a bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours. After you have refrigerated the batter, you can start forming the croquetas. With wet hands (the water will allow the breadcrumbs to stick to the croquetas), roll around 10-12 croquetas into log shapes around 7 cm long (3 inches). In a small tray, lay out the breadcrumbs and roll each croqueta into the breadcrumbs until it is covered. Refrigerate breaded croquetas for 30 minutes before frying. After you have refrigerated the breaded croquetas, add olive oil to a frying pan until its about 5 cm (2 inches) tall. The olive oil should be a bit smoky when it is ready. Add the croquetas and fry on each side for around 2 minutes or until the outside is crispy. Serve hot!


Andalusian Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a cold tomato soup from the region of Andalusia in the south of Spain, though it is consumed throughout the Spanish state. It is primarily served in the summer as a refreshing meal during hot months. Some people consume it with a spoon and others drink it from a cup. Many also add pieces of bread into the soup upon eating.

Serves 4-5

What you need:

10-12 ripe tomatoes, peeled
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1/2 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/3 baguette bread (soaked in water)
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the whole tomatoes for 5 minutes and remove. This makes it very easy to peel the tomatoes. The skin will come right off. In a blender or food processor, add all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. After blending, you are going to need to run all of the gazpacho through a strainer (ideally a bouillon strainer). Get a big bowl or jar ready and strain all of the soup into the bowl. You can serve immediately but usually people like to refrigerate it for a few hours before consuming.


Sicilian Broccoli Affogati

Broccoli Affogati comes from the island of Siciliy in Italy. It means "drowned broccoli" because the broccoli is cooked in red wine. It can be served as a side dish or on top of pasta.

Serves 3-4

What you need:

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 cups broccoli, florets
1/3 cup black olives, sliced (optional)
1 cup water
1 cup red wine
1 tsp salt

In a pot on medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and add in the sliced onion. Cook until the onions are soft and add the broccoli. Stir for a few minutes and add the one cup water and salt. Cook, stirring the broccoli until the water evaporates and then add the wine. Stir for another 15 or until the broccoli reaches desired texture.


Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla norma is a traditional Sicilian dish, most popular in the city of Catania, Italy. There are various theories as to its name, meaning "standard or normal pasta" in English. One revolves around playwright Nino Catania Martoglio, who when referring to the quality of the dish and its ingredients, stated "è una norma!". I must give credit to my Italian friend Francesco for creating this recipe, though he refuses to claim it without the essential ingredient of ricotta cheese that is normally present in the dish.

Serves 5

What you need:

1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggplants/aubergines, sliced
10 tomatoes, diced
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
fresh basil
1 box tubular pasta

Prepare the eggplants by slicing them and rubbing them with salt. Lay the slices flat between two cutting boards or plates and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Press down on the cutting board, squeezing any excess liquid out of the eggplants, and rinse. After rinsing, dice the eggplants in large chunks. In a large pan on medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil for around 10 minutes or until the garlic is golden. Add the diced eggplants and cover, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, a few whole leaves of basil, and salt. Recover and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Strain the pasta and add it to the sauce, mixing well. Sprinkle fresh basil on top and serve.


Risi e Bisi

Risi e bisi is a pea risotto from the Venetian region of Italy. The dish is traditionally prepared on April 25th, the feast day of Venice's patron saint, St. Mark.

Serves 4

What you need:

1 onion, diced
4 tbsp margarine
1 tbsp parsley
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups short grain rice, dry
7 cups vegetable broth, hot

In a large pan on medium heat, melt 3 tbsp margarine and add the diced onion. Sauté for around 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, pepper, spices, and peas and sauté for another 5 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and stir for around 3 minutes. Add the dry rice and stir until it has soaked up all of the liquid. Add the broth, cup by cup, while continuously stirring for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Add 1 tbsp of margarine after removing the risotto from heat and serve immediately.


Catalan Escalivada

This is a very typical and easy Catalan dish. Escalivar in Catalan means to "cook in hot ashes" and refers to its traditional method of preparation, where it is grilled on an open fire. While this method is still in use, many people now make it in the oven. You can find escalivada in pretty much every bar and restaurant in Catalonia. It is usually served as a tapa on top of bread.

What you need:

Red bell peppers
Sweet onions
Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). Brush the whole vegetables with olive oil and set them on an oven tray. Place in oven for 35-40 minutes, turning twice while baking. The vegetables should be charred when you take them out. Let them cool and remove the skin and seeds of all the vegetables. Slice into strips, drizzle with a lot of olive oil and salt and serve.


Catalan Trinxat

Trinxat, meaning "chopped and shredded" in Catalan, is a potato pancake fried in olive oil. This dish comes from the Pyrenees, where Catalans prepared it for cold winters.

Serves 3-4

What you need:

2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 head of green cabbage, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp salt

In a large pot, boil the chopped potatoes and cabbage for 30 minutes. In a small pan, fry the minced garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil until lightly browned. Strain the potatoes and cabbage in a colander and place them in a large bowl. Mash the potatoes and cabbage with the garlic until smooth. Form the mashed potatoes into patties and fry in a non-stick pan in olive oil until browned on both sides.


Turkish Miroloto

Miroloto is a mix between Italian polenta and old-fashioned skillet corn bread. This moist Turkish bread can be paired with vegetables or beans or eaten as a snack.

Serves 6-8

What you need:

4 cups corn flour
1/2 cup margarine or 1/4 cup oil
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
2 cups chopped greens (chard, spinach, cabbage)
1 onion, diced
2 1/2 - 3 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the margarine or oil and mix well. Add the water, onion, and greens and mix until a thick dough has formed. In a large pan or skillet, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil. Press the dough into the form of the pan and cover. Cook on low-medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove cover and cook for another 10 minutes.


Turkish Zeytinyagli Mantarli Kuskonmaz

Zeytinyagli Mantarli Kuskonmaz is a Turkish salad consisting of asparagus and mushrooms. In this recipe, I added some leftover wild rice that I had. This works as a hot dish or a cold summer salad. Enjoy!

Serves 2-3

What you need:

3 tbsp olive oil
10-12 mushrooms, sliced
1 bundle of asparagus, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tsp lemon zest or lemon juice
2 cups cooked rice (optional)

In a large pan, heat the 3 tbsp olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the chopped mushrooms, asparagus, salt, pepper, and lemon zest and sauté for 10 minutes. If you are using rice, add the cooked rice and mix for another 3 minutes. Serve hot or cold.