Chéri Chicory

Chicory

Chicory

Lately, chicory is on my mind as I crave a good vegetarian winter dish!

I don’t find chicory very often in stores here, but when I do I take great advantage: I eat it raw as a snack! Now you’re probably imagining a farm pet munching on a grassy meadow, that’s not exactly the case, although I don’t hate the bitterness of its raw leaves, I only snack on the un-leafy stem part of chicory, which is less bitter, crunchy and has a rich taste that makes celery so dull in comparison (you’re probably still imagining a munching pet; my husband often tells me that I should have been born as a bunny, I take that).

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Chicory – Leaves and stems separated
While leaves can be used for cooking or in salads, stems are a great, crunchy and refreshing snack.

I also prepare chicory as a salad with a light, homemade vinaigrette (olive oil, lemon juice and herbs). However, the ultimate way to really savor the best of chicory is to cook it for a short time in boiling water then sauté it with caramelized onions and lemon juice… so yummy with pita bread!

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A popular countryside vegetarian meal in the Middle East
An assortment of sautéed chicory or dandelion with pita bread, cabbage-and-tomato salad, lentil-and-rice pilaf and greek yogurt

Chicory is a preferred ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. Wild and cultivated varieties are both popular. They are mainly used in salads nevertheless they can be a perfect replacement to any leafy vegetable in many cooked dishes. From Provence to the Middle East recipes abound and vary but chicory’s draw is the same: an appetizing taste, a medicinal character (detoxing, diuretic and tonic) and a great nutritional content. Chicory is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals mainly folic acid, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C.

Summer Soups

Foodies! Delight in the last days of summer with my selection of refreshing seasonal soups!

Soup “is the new black”! Tummy friendly as it consists mostly of cooked and/or blended ingredients, it is usually light in Kcal particularly when it’s a potage or a clear soup instead of creamy and is super nutritious since it is mostly or entirely a combination of veggies full with essential nutrients. Soup can easily replace a complete meal when it’s a combination of veggies, protein and complex carbs. While most people think of soup as a way to keep warm in the winter, soup is really fabulous all year round! What’s better than a zesty Gazpacho or a Minty cucumber with yogurt during those last days of summer?

Gazpacho

It is a soup originally from Spain prepared nowadays mainly with tomato, cucumber, red pepper and onion. It is basically a blended salad. That makes it even better than many other soups whose ingredients loose many of their nutrients in the cooking process. It’s super quick and easy to prepare if you have a blender and could be made in a big batch and stored in the fridge to be served later in many ways like an appetizer, a main course with a side or simply as a refreshing and super healthy drink.

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Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 4 medium tomatoes finely chopped
  • 2 small cucumbers finely chopped
  • ½ red pepper finely chopped
  • ½ red onion finely chopped
  • 1 small Jalapeno pepper chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • 700 ml tomato juice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 40 ml or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp of ground cumin
  • ½ tsp of fresh ground pepper
  • Salt (optional, take into consideration that the tomato juice used covers for the salt unless it’s homemade or unsalted)

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Place ½ of the amount of the chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, onion into the blender bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix. Let it chill in the fridge then serve topped with the rest of the chopped veggies.

Minty cucumber with yogurt

It is my favorite summer soup. Cucumber itself is very refreshing and hydrating as its main component is water (96% water). It’s also a diuretic, that means it helps flushing out water surplus and toxins. Choose this soup for stocking up on protein, Calcium and
vitamin D. Try my mom’s recipe; it’s the simplest and the easiest:

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (~500g) plain low fat or fat free yogurt (preferably Greek yogurt)
  • 1½ cup (~375 ml) water
  • 5 Persian cucumbers or 2 large cucumbers
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed dry mint
  • ½ tsp salt

Chop cucumbers finely. I prefer to keep the skin particularly if the cucumbers are organically grown and that’s because a major part of the cucumber nutrients are found in its skin! Also the deep green color of the skin makes a great color contrast with the yogurt. Mash garlic. Add the water to the yogurt and mix to make it more liquidy. Add the cucumbers, garlic, salt and mint and mix with a spatula or a kitchen spoon. This soup can be a perfect match for a wide variety of dishes.