Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spanakorizo (Braised Spinach and Rice)

A beloved Greek take on spinach and rice - a little truly goes a long way. Greek Americans have earned a dubious repuation for being meat eaters and one notable movie has done much to further this myth. In reality, vegetarian meals are at the center of Greek cuisine. Many of my memoriable Greek food experiences center around meatless dishes. This was the vegeterian staple of my childhood and fostered my dislike of spinach. My mother used long grain rice which takes long to cook and considering the rice and spinach were cooked together the spinach was mushy by the time the rice cooked. Only during a recent trip to Greece did I experience a version with short grain rice closer to arborio in texture, then finally did the dish really shine.

My take on this classic dish trades rice for orzo and cooks each element seperatley ensuring the spinach retains some texture. I am trying to convince my mom to guest blog her version as well as other vegeterian Greek dishes. Enjoy!

Serves 2 as a side

1 cup orzo
1 cup water
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups chopped curly spinch
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow or sweet onion, grated
1 scallion, chooped
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 lemon
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

In a heavy bottom pot bring to a boil the water and tomato sauce. Add 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the orzo. Cook according to packet instructions and drain if necessary.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pot. Add grated onion, dill, scallions and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Over medium high heat add the spinach. Mix well and cover pot. Allow spinach to wilt about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat.

Plate orzo and top with spinach mixutre. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve warm.

Friday, August 7, 2009

July Babies

Global warming- my behind! You will have to excuse my irreverent behavior. I am at my wits ends with mother nature. Summer is most closely identified with hot days filled with dreams of quenching lemonade or something a little stronger. The Summer of 2009 has had none of that. Frankly I sit in an office for the majority of the day and rarely get to enjoy the nostalgic benefits of summer. However, what really screams summer is tomato season. Even with my not so green thumb, I know these babies require sunlight, water and heat. For reasons that escape me and all politics aside, my tomatoes are not growing at the typical pace, and that makes me an unhappy cook!!

My father in his infinite wisdom convinced my husband to plant a variety referred to as July Babies. These plants yield smaller tomatoes and ripen in July. It's early August and finally I get my first taste of fresh tomatoes. At this rate, I will share my favorite tomato recipes during tailgating season. Instead of Brats we'll serve tomato pie, briam and tomato salads . I hope you hang in there with me.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Zucchini Lasagna Rolls

It is fitting the last day post of July encompass elements that transition perfectly in to August. While the zucchini are plentiful in my parents garden mine have yet to really sprout. The age old question of what to do with a lot o zucchini plagues most gardeners. My approach is simple use zucchini in place of pasta. The combination of fresh ricotta, ribbons of zucchini and a fresh tomato sauce is fabulous, simple and uses up a lot of zucchini. I baked a batch and froze a second for the miserable winter months when fresh garden vegetables are the further things from reality. The filling can easily be adjusted some other items I considered was sauteed mushrooms, pancetta, feta or spinach.

Zucchini Lasagna Rolls
Serves 4-5

1 large zucchini, sliced in 1/8 inch ribbons (about 10 slices)
2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated fontina
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup basic tomato sauce

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully add zucchini ribbons and boil for a minute or two until zucchini softens. Remove zucchini pieces and place on paper towels to drain.

In a small saucepan heat the olive oil, add the shallot and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until soft and fragrant.

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, fontina, shallots, garlic. Mix in the parsley, salt and pepper.

Place 2 tablespoons ricotta filling on end of the zucchini closest to you. Roll and place on a baking sheet. Repeat and top with Parmesan then tomato sauce.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Avocado is an acquired taste. Only recently have I warmed to its most popular application- guacamole. I am truly kicking myself for missing out. What initially turned me off is the brown bitter mess served at most restaurants. A friend insisted I try some from Whole Foods and since then I was hooked. What isn't exactly pleasing about purchasing at Whole Foods is the price. Making this at home allows me to control the flavors and the price. If you like more heat add more jalapeno or add more tomato for a more summery flavor. What I liked best about this approach is the avocado is still a bit chunky and each ingredient ensures that the avocado tastes better. Enjoy!

Inspired by Whole Foods
Serves 2

2 ripe Haas avocado, seeded
juice of half of lime
1 roma tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley or cilantro
1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced

Remove the avocado skin and chop into medium sized pieces. With the back end of a fork, mash the avocado until slightly smooth with small chunks. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato, shallot, flat leaf parsley and jalapeno and mix well. Add the lime juice to the avocado. Then add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Feta Pita Pizza

So simple, yet so good. I am almost ashamed to admit there is barely any cooking involved in this recipe. It came together in about 15 minutes. While I opted to make on an indoor grill, this pizza would be perfect for outdoor grilling.

Inspiration for the pita pizza's came from Big City Cooking. The idea of using flat break pita's is fabulous and you could use a variety of toppings. Enjoy!

Feta Pita Pizza
Inspired from Big City Cooking
Serves 2

2 flat bread style pita's
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 roma tomatoes, sliced
1/2 tablespoon Greek oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Heat olive oil in a heavy pot pan. When oil is warm add onions. Cook over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes. Place pita's on warmed grill. Top with feta, onions, tomatoes and olives. Top with oregano. Cook for an additional 5 minutes until feta is slightly melted. Serve warm.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BB: Peach and Blueberry Crumbles

Crumbles, cobblers and crisps, oh my. Frankly the difference between these various approaches to serving seasonal fruit escapes me. In come Ina with something I would have never tried if not for joining a group dedicated to trying her recipes.

Tart, sweet, flaky, smooth and delicious this is very simple yet so very good. I halved the below recipe from Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I would suggested reducing the sugar if using very ripe peaches. Also it needed a bit more topping so if crumbly is your thing make a bit more of the crumble.

Many thanks to Aggie of Aggie's Kitchen a brilliantly written and photographed blog, for an excellent seasonal selection.

Peach & Blueberry Crumbles
From Barefoot Contessa Family Style, pages 197-198
Serves 5 to 6

For the fruit
2 lbs firm, ripe peaches (6-8 peaches)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)

For the Crumble
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 lb (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in cold water. Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it’s in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and back for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you want to make these early, store the unbaked crumbles int he refrigerator and bake before dinner. Serves 5 to 6.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Toasted Orzo with Roasted Garden Vegetables

It took a bit of time to think of an appropriate title for this dish because it is complex in flavor, yet so easy to make. The key flavor is centered around summer vegetables that please so many like me, who suffer through snowy and long winters.

My family requests this dish for summer functions because it can be served warm or cold. What distinguishes this dish from your typical orzo pilaf or salad, is toasting the orzo. Such an approach not only brings a contrast of color, but enhances the flavor of the pasta.
As for the vegetables, the simpler the better. Once again, you do not have to do much to fresh ingredients. The dressing focuses on lemon, which complements the richness of the pasta and roasted vegetables.

Toasted Orzo with Roasted Garden Vegetables
Serves 4-6

For the orzo:
1 16 oz. box orzo
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
5-6 cups water
3-4 zucchini, sliced thin
2 medium sized Italian eggplant, quartered then sliced
2-3 yellow summer squash, sliced thin
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon black pepper

For the dressing:
2 shallots, minced
juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Kefalotyri or Roman cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Place seasoned vegetables on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

While vegetables are roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottom 6 qt. pot. Over medium heat toast half the box of orzo, stirring frequently for about 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Be careful not to burn. Remove pot from the heat. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining untoasted orzo and water. Bring to boil. Season with 1 tablespoon salt. Cook for 10 minutes until water is absorbed and orzo just tender.

Combine the orzo and roasted vegetables. Mix the shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, cheese and parsley. Toss the orzo mixture with the dressing. Serve warm at room temperature or cold.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Zatar Pita Chips

Greek pita bread is a flat bread closer in texture to Indian Na'an than Middle Eastern pocket pitas. While most associate pita bread with Gyros, my favorite way to serve Greek pita is to cut it up, season and toast. Perfect for dips or with a salad, these wedges are a perfect snack.

Zatar Pita Chips
Serves 4

3 Greek-style pita bread
2 tablespoons zatar seasoning
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 cup olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Using a pizza slicer cut pita's into 8ths. In a large bowl drizzle with olive oil and season with zatar and garlic powder. Place seasoned pita wedges as an even layer on a half sheet pan, lined with parchment paper. Cook for 10 minutes until crisp. Place on cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Whiskey Pork Chops

Pork chops have an unwarranted bad reputation for being fatty and dry. Those who tend to view pork chops in this light also are the type that drown boneless, skinless chicken breast with ranch dressing and cream of yuck soup. The preparation is equally important as the cut and quality of the product. A balanced diet based on moderation and rotation of various meats works best for me.

Chops are easy to work with, cook quickly, and can be seasoned in so many different ways. As for the health concerns with eating pork, a balanced diet with various meats seems to work best for my household. This marinade combines flavors and seasoning that both tenderize the meat and provide a glaze. The lime works really well with the whiskey, while the dried spices give it a bit of bite. I really enjoyed these chops and will tinker with whiskey in other pork recipes.

Whiskey Pork Chops
Adapted from Cook's Country
Serves 2

4 thin-cut loin or rib pork chops
1/2 cup Jack Daniels whiskey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
2 teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Combine the whiskey, vinegar, oil and lime juice. Whisk in the brown sugar and mix until sugar is dissolved. In a separate bowl combine cayenne, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion. Rub the spice mixture on each chop. Set aside for 15 minutes at room temperature. Place rubbed chops in to the marinade. Refrigerate for 1-4 hours. Remove chops from marinade about 15 minutes before grilling. Pat dry and heat grill to 400 degrees. Carefully place chops on grill and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cajun Red Snapper Fillets

Red snapper is one of my favorite fish. While I prefer working with whole fish, such a preparation is often not practical. My local market has fresh filleted portions which are convenient and lend well to dredging and pan frying. The seasoning of this dish was inspired by Cajun flavors. I enjoyed experimenting with various spice concoctions and look forward to more opportunities to visit the world of Cajun and Creole dishes. The fish was very flaky and the seasoning gave a nice bit of heat. Served with braised spinach and lemon slices, the meal was light and tasty.

Cajun Red Snapper Fillet
Serves 2

2 8 oz. red snapper fillets
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons table salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil

Rinse the fillets and pat dry. In a small bowl, combine the flour and seasoning ingredients. Place flour mixture on a flat plate or cutting board. In a cast iron or heavy bottom pan, heat the oil until very hot. Dredge the fish in the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour. Place dredged fish in the pan and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes on each side. Serve warm.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Feta Hash with Poached Eggs

Feta and I were on a break. Easter was rough, because we had a lot of lamb and feta leftover from the holiday. We worked our way through the barrel of feta and made a vow to go our separate ways until tomato season. I am convinced God created tomatoes simply to be served with feta and crusty bread. Anyway, I could not wait until tomato season and we reconnected for this simply delicious dish.

Salty feta, crispy potatoes, fresh onion, a runny poached egg and butter- simple, straight forward, and hands down the best dinner I have had in a long time.

Feta Hash with Poached Eggs
Serves 2

3 medium sized white potatoes, peeled and dice into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 springs green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon black pepper
touch of cayenne
2 poached eggs
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt.

In a large pot bring a few quarts of water to a boil. Add salt. Carefully pour in potatoes. Cook for 8-10 minutes until tender and cooked through. Drain and pat dry. Allow to cool to room temperate. Gently combine the potatoes, feta and green onion.

In a skillet or flat top electric grill, melt the butter. When surface is very hot, place potato mixture as an even layer on the skillet. Season with pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are very crisp.

Serve warm and top with a soft poached egg.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

BB: Pasta with Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Food snobs have any number of coveted spectacular ingredients where the premium price reflect the reputation. Sun-dried tomatoes are such an item. While the concept of preserving tomatoes by drying in the sun and then soaking in olive oil sounds tasty, the chewy texture does not please my palate. Even with such a skeptical perspective on the key ingredient, I was pleased when Cat of Delta Whiskey chose Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes for the first July Barefoot Bloggers recipe.

Substituting oven roasted grape tomatoes mimicked the flavor of sun-dried tomatoes while creating a more pleasant texture with a price that fit my budget.

This recipe was a winner and is an excellent addition to any summer dinning table. The flavors were rich while still light for summer, with a bit of tang. Below is my adaptation, for the original recipe visit The Food Network or buy Barefoot Contessa Family Style.

Pasta with Oven-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted from Ina Garten Barefoot Contessa Family Style pg. 58
Serves 4

1/2 pound Gemili pasta
Kosher salt
Olive oil
1/2 pound ripe tomatoes, medium-diced (half-pint grape tomatoes)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, medium-diced

For the oven roasted tomatoes:
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved long wise and seeded
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of sugar

For the dressing:
Oven roasted grape tomatoes
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes and mozzarella.

For the oven-roasted tomatoes: pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine, sliced tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on sheet pan and sprinkle with sugar. Cook for 30-40 minutes until almost burnt. For the dressing, combine the oven-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, olives, salt, and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth. Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and parsley, and toss well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Vinaigrette Potato Salad

Nothing says summer parties more than chilled salads like potato salad. Sad as it may be- I never warmed to the mayo, mustard and egg rendition. However, I did not want to miss out on this classic, so this recipe omits the mayo, is light and easy, and above all does not spoil in the hot sun as quickly as its cousin.

I liked the texture of the red potatoes as white or russet varieties tend to fall apart. The vinaigrette is light on the vinegar part and certainly can be adjusted to taste. Focusing more on the olive oil gives a great flavor that is not masked by a tart component. Herbs round out the salad and green onions gives some bite. Enjoy!

Vinaigrette Potato Salad
Serves 2-3
1 lb. redskin potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
2 fresh green onion springs, chopped
2 teaspoons table salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt

In a large pot bring 4 qt. of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of table salt and carefully drop in the potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes until soft and cooked through. Drain potatoes and cut in 4ths. Place in a large bowl and carefully fold in the dill, parsley and green onion. Mix the vinegar and mustard, and slowly pour in the olive oil until thickened. Fold in the vinaigrette. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Allow to cool to room temperature then refrigerate. Serve cold.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sockeye Salmon Ala Helen

At length I have discussed the great many things I learned from shadowing my mother in the kitchen. Her wisdom is never lost on me. Helen's rustic baked salmon with almonds and dill is another family favorite. In this version, finely chopped toasted walnuts with lemon zest and fresh dill encrust a beautiful piece of sockeye salmon. There is a fine line between undercooked and overcooked salmon, and while I may have moved closer to the overcooked side, the flavor more than made up for the cooking time error. Bottom line-- watch the fish! Since sometimes all you really need to serve is one, this dish can obviously be adjusted for a crowd.

Walnut Encrusted Sockeye Salmon
Adapted from my mom (Helen)
Serves 1

1 8 oz. sockeye salmon fillet
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2 fresh springs dill, finely chopped
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon whole grain mustard

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor grind the cooled walnuts until finely chopped. Add the dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper, and pulse for a few seconds until everything is combined. Apply a thin coat of mustard to the fish. Place an even coat of walnut mixture on top of the mustard. Place onto a greased pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Oregano Rubbed Chicken Legs

Next to salt and pepper dried Greek oregano is the most used spice in my pantry. Oregano complements most meats and can be a central spice in ones arsenal. Spice rubs are an easy way to flavor typically boring and bland chicken. Blending spices is a great way to reflect your personality in food and there is no better canvas then chicken. This dish is common on my dinner table. After playing around with different spices and proportions you can't go wrong with the earthy flavors and heat offered by the oregano and cayenne.

Oregano Rubbed Chicken
Serves 2

2 chicken leg quarters
2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 lemon slices

In a small bowl combine the spices. Liberally rub the chicken with the spice mixture. Set aside at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile heat the grill to about 450 degrees. Apply a small amount of olive or canola oil to the grill grates. Place the chicken skin side down on the hot, oiled grates. Grill for 10-15 minutes, then flip. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked Rest for 5 minutes then serve with grilled lemons.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Roasted Eggplant Pasta Salad

Eggplant gets a bad rap. Draped with a ton of cheese and dripping in batter is the most popular American rendition of Eggplant Parmesan. However, the true flavor of eggplant is masked under these heavy ingredients. This dish focuses on the smoky flavor of the smaller Italian variety and adds a nice element to a typical pasta salad. This recipe requires little preparation and delivers on flavor. Tossed with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, the eggplant was roasted in a sheet pan on the outdoor grill. While I normally opt for homemade dressing, this time I used Newman's Own Balsamic, which of all the store bought dressings tastes quite fresh.

Roasted Eggplant Pasta Salad
Serves 6

1 lb box of Rigatoni
2 small Italian eggplant's, chopped into 1/2 in. pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 springs green onion, chopped
2 roma tomatoes seeded and chopped
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Toss eggplant pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place eggplant pieces on half a sheet pan and place on hot grill. Roast for about 15 minutes until eggplant pieces are golden. Let pieces cool. In a large bowl toss the pasta, eggplant pieces, tomato and green onion. Pour in the dressing and mix well. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Kielbeisa Skewers

Whether its kielbasa, chorizo, chicken apple, spicy Italian, or Greek style with orange peel- sausage is truly versatile, difficult to resist, and perfect for summer grilling.

Serving for a large crowd can prove a bit messy. If you cut into bite sized pieces before grilling, the pieces fall through the grates. However, cutting after grilling is not always ideal when a hungry crowd is waiting. By the time I find a clean cutting board, the crowd has already devoured the sausage. Skewering with onions and red peppers is not only convenient but creates a nice presentation. Enjoy!

Update: I received an excellent suggestion from a reader that is worth passing along. She commented that a sprinkle of lemon would be a nice addition and I could not agree more. Many thanks to the reader!!

Kielbasa Skewers
Serves 6

6 6-inch kielbasa, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large red pepper, cut in to medium sized pieces
1 small yellow onion, cut into medium sized pieces
6 metal skewers

Pre-heat grill. Skewer sausage, onion and pepper pieces. Grill for 5 minutes on each side. Serve warm.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette

In my part of the world, dried beans are principally associated with winter stews and soups, because protein filled beans will help one survive long and nasty winters. To my surprise, I learned that countries where beans play a principal dietary role, experience mild winters. So, I presented myself a challenge to integrate beans into our summer diet. Not in the the traditional sense of baked beans, which are fabulous, but not exactly week night or waistline friendly.

Black-eyed peas have a mild flavor with a firm texture. Often served warm, I like texture served cold with fresh herbs and spring green onions. What completes this salad is a tahini vinaigrette. Tahini brings a nutty flavor to the party. I have used tahini in hummus and dipping sauces for chicken or lamb and until coming across a recipe in Bon Apetit it never occurred to me to use in a vinaigrette. I am sold. Enjoy!

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Serves 2 as main dish, 4 as side dish
Requires 24 hour soaking time

8 oz. black eyed peas (half bag)
5 springs fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 spring mint, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

Soak beans in cold water for at least 24 hours. Pick through and discard any off colored beans. Rinse with cold water and place in large pot. Cover with water, bring to boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes until beans are tender. Meanwhile, chop herbs and place in a large bowl. Drain beans and combine with herbs and seasoning. Dress with tahini vinaigrette. Allow to cool then refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight. Serve cold.

Tahini Vinaigrette

Adapted from Bon Apetit

1 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of salt and pepper
1 tablespoon, cold water (if need to thin out the tahini)

In a small bowl, combine the tahini, honey, vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. If mixture is too thick which in a bit of cold water.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Honey Lime Grilled Chicken and Jasmine Rice

Summer has finally arrived to the Detroit area and the last thing that sounds remotley interesting is preparing a complicated meal. Even the most seasoned cooks find making anything complicated a chore. Simple weeknight meals are life savers as I would rather be outside enjoying the season than slaving away in the kitchen. This simple marinade with ingredients available in most pantries is a wonderful choice for a simple weeknight meal. Thrown together the night before, then grilled, the chicken stays moist and most of all the grill does the work. Served with a flavorful jasmine rice, scented with lime zest, this dish is light and easy. Enjoy!

Honey Lime Grilled Chicken
Serves 2
Requires 12-24 hour marinating time

1 8 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
the juice of one lime
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch of sesame seeds
12-24 hours prior to cooking, mix all ingredients but the chicken. Pour marinade in a large plastic freezer or storage bag and add the chicken breast. Place bag in bowl and refrigerate. 1 hour prior to cooking remove chicken from marinade set aside. Heat grill and cook chicken from about 5-8 minutes on each side. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes then slice and serve on top rice.

Lime Scented Jasmine Rice
Serves 2
1 cup jasmine rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of table salt
zest of one lime

Bring rice, water and butter to a boil. Add salt and reduce to a simmer and place top on pot. Cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile zest lime. Fluff rice with fork and mix in the lime zest. Serve warm.

Monday, June 22, 2009


As another birthday approaches it becomes ever more important to document and preserve family recipes. The dishes and treats that make everyone smile aren't often the most complicated or innovative. Simple cookies like this family favorite take me back to a special place and time. I was lucky enough to have my dearest aunt, Theia Sotiria (pictured below on the far left) share her recipe and wisdom.

My dad's sisters have a panache for baking and to my great fortune are pretty good about sharing their techniques. They have a dictatorial approach as in this case my aunt needed an extra blood pressure pill when I hinted butter may be a nice substitution for margarine. Sharing on their terms can lead to interesting recipe discussions and I am willing apprentice as no cook book can teach the approach of not measuring the flour rather just continue adding until it comes together and leaves the hand. That dear reader is the philosophy of those born to bake.

Amygthalota cookies are flaky but sturdy little bites of almond goodness. The recipe is straight forwarding, beating the fat, sugar adding the eggs then the dry ingredients. This version creates an almond sugar cookie that is perfect to serve with coffee or wine. While the more traditional recipes use blanched ground almonds as opposed to flour I like this texture and flakiness of this cookie. Enjoy!

Amygthalota (Almond Sugar Cookies)
Adapted from my beloved Theia Sotiria
Yields 4 dozen

1 lb. unsalted room temperature margarine (fleischman's)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs separated
2 teaspoons almond extract
4 1/2 cups all purpose white flour
8 oz. sliced almonds (unbleached if possible)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer beat the margarine and sugar until fluffy and white (about 10-15 minutes). Add the almond extract. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time. Decrease the speed and slowly add in the flour. Beat the egg whites. Place sliced almonds in a shallow plate. Roll dough in to 1 inch balls. Dip in egg what then roll in almond pieces. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks and store in air tight container for up to a week.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lemon Braised Spinach with Pine Nuts

I have always wanted to ask Popeye "Are you smoking crack?". Clearly only someone on drugs could enjoy spinach that much. It's the same question I posed to my husband when early on in the relationship he revealed that spinach was one of his favorite foods. He warned my lack of love for spinach could be deal breaker. Since then I have come a long way. However to move forward one needs to look back. Maybe it was the smell or texture there was something that I just didn't dig about spinach leaves and certainly wasn't a lack of exposure as it is difficult to avoid spinach growing up Greek. My mother's spanakorizo (spinach and rice) is one of her most requested dish. Now a few years have based since I questioned my husbands "drug" problem and luckily he realized both spinach and I could coexist.

My spinach frown has been turned upside down thanks in part to this dish. Spinach tastes so much better topped with lemon with a side of crusty bread and feta. The beauty of this dish is the utter simplicty in cooking witout adding more liquid as spinach has enough or cooking for a long period of time. Both spinach fans and novice will be pleased . Oh and I love the watery, lemony goodness in this pic. It's perfect for dipping bread.

Braised Spinach with Pine Nuts
Serves 2

1 16 oz. bag of curly spinach, washed and stems removed
1 small onion, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 green onion, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried dill (fresh if you have it)

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add grated onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Over medium high heat add the spinach. Mix well and cover pot. Allow spinach to wilt about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice, salt, pepper and dill. Serve warm.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salad

Summer salads can be so very refreshing but often too filling. This salad is truly light, colorful, easy and was inspired by a trip to a local market. Nino Salvaggio is one my favorite places. One could visit Nino's each day for at least a month and still not try the in house pre-made items from four different chicken salads to panzanella the options seem endless. Their corn salad mixed with zesty Italian and creamy French dressing focuses solely on the corn and is a lifesaver and was the inspiration for this dish.

Fresh corn doesn't need a whole lot of doctoring so I omitted the pre-made dressings and opted for a more simple vinaigrette. I further added the black beans which bring a texture contrast to the crunchy corn and red pepper. I will make this again and may substitute black eyed peas and use grilled corn. Thank God summer has finally arrived!

Fresh Corn and Black Bean Salad
Inspired by Nino Salvaggio
Servings: 2 Main Dishes or 4 Sides Dishes

2 ears of corn, cooked and cut off the cob
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups drained canned black beans
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of half a lime
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
dash of cayenne pepper

Combine olive oil, lime juice, salt and cayenne. In a large bowl mix the corn, red pepper, green onion and black beans. Dress with the vinaigrette and serve at room temperature.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

BB: Curried (Not Really) Couscous

Couscous is a simple, versatile grain that can stand on its own or play a supporting role. It often makes an appearance on my dinner table so I was pleased that Ellyn of Recipe Collector and Tester selected this dish as the first June recipe for Barefoot Bloggers. The part of this selection I wasn't so keen on was the curried part of the recipe. One of the great challenges of cooking along with a group is dealing with ingredients that don't please ones palate. In this case, I took a bit of liberty, scratch that, a lot of liberty and substituted zatar seasoning comprised of sumac, dried wild thyme and sesame seeds. Pine nuts seem to be a natural pairing to zatar and from there I changed the focus of the dish away from curry. Regardless of these substitution this was an excellent choice for the first month of summer. The fundamentals of the recipe are strong and very, very good. The yogurt element was tangy and is something I will integrate in my couscous recipes. Enjoy!

Curried Couscous
Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
6 Servings
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (omitted)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (used lemon juice)
1 teaspoon curry powder (substituted with zatar seasoning)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (omitted)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small-diced carrots (omitted)
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley (used only 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins (substituted pan sauteed tomatoes)
1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds (substituted toasted pine nuts)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts) (omitted)
1/4 cup small-diced red onion (substituted shallots)

Place the couscous in a medium bowl. Melt the butter in the boiling water and pour over the couscous. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Roasted Lamb with Fresh Herbs

Sunday dinner is my favorite meal of the week. I tend to have more time, patience and over all energy to prepare things that require a little more love. Lamb is perfect dish when time is not a factor and nothing makes more happy than lamb whether stewed, roasted, grilled even poached, I have not met a cut or preparation I could resist. Now certain cuts of lamb such as chops can be prepared quickly others such as this shoulder piece need some TLC. While most in North America consider lamb a restaurant only dish most of the rest of the world treat lamb as a rustic dish suitable for both everyday meals and celebrations. Admittedly I am spoiled living in an area comprised of many nationalities that appreciate lamb thus I have access to affordable cuts not usually found the grocery stores. None the less lamb shanks or leg of lamb would be brilliant in this dish. Considering this roast was on the fatty side I knew it would stay moist and a simple herb rub would ensure the flavor of the lamb would come out. One thing I have not seemed to embrace is medium rare lamb. If that's your thing decrease the cooking time by about a half hour.

But let me make one thing clear the real reason to roast lamb is to make lemon potatoes. :)

Roasted Lamb Shoulder
4 servings
4-5 lb. Lamb shoulder
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
3 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons fresh black pepper
1 large clove of garlic
1/4 cup lemon zest (zest of 2 lemons)
juice of 1 lemon
2 cups water

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse lamb in cold water, pat dry and place in roasting pan or dutch oven, season with half the salt and all the pepper. In a food processor combine the rosemary, thyme, half the kosher salt and lemon zest. Pulse until finely minced. Slowly pour in the lemon juice. Mixture should be somewhat thick. Rub the herb mixture on the lamb. Place in the oven (uncovered ) for 30 minutes. Cover and continue to cook for 1.5-2 hours. Remove lamb from pan and continue on for lemon potatoes. Let the roast rest for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with lemon potatoes.

Lemon Potatoes
4 servings
2.5 lbs. russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled and rinsed
2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil (optional, if lamb has no fat add oil)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1-2 cups of water (optional, if there is plenty of cooking liquid no need for water)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine potatoes, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix the olive oil if using and lemon. Pour the lemon mixture over the potatoes. Place in the cooking liquid and roast for 45 minutes until liquid is absorbed and potatoes are golden.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

BB: Outrageous Brownies

No words can truly express the chocolaty, gooey and outrageously delicious nature of these brownies selected as the last May recipe for Barefoot Bloggers. May was very hectic and vacay coincided with the deadline for posting this dish. After reading many of the posts I recognized this recipe could not be skipped. While I may be late to the party, please don't be, make these brownies.

Please note, I halved the recipe and broke in my first 9x13 baking pan. I reduced the amount of sugar and coffee by 1/4. The brownies were moist not overly sweet and overall big on chocolate. Please be sure to visit Eva at I'm Boring for an excellent recipe play by play.

Outrageous Brownies

Ina Garten from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Servings: 20 large brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Ricotta

Pasta, cheese and lemon are three of my favorite foods. Each is fabulous on its own, but together the flavors create a wonderful meal. The whole wheat pasta movement has been brought to my grocery store and comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. This variety is a bit more healthy, perfect for summer, and so very easy. I first saw the combination of ricotta and pasta on Everyday Italian on the Food Network. I chose not to follow that recipe to the tee and added more lemon for a summer twist.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Ricotta
6 Servings
1 box whole wheat spaghetti
16 oz. whole milk fresh ricotta
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup 1% milk
salt and pepper
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, optional, if baking
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. In a separate pan heat the olive oil. Add milk, ricotta, Parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine drained pasta with ricotta mixture. Add lemon zest and a pinch of pepper. Serve immediately. For leftovers, top with mozzarella, bake for 10-15 minutes until warmed through and broil for 2-3 minutes until cheese bubbles.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Grilled Parsley Pesto Pizza

Since retruning from vacation laziness has set in and weeknight meals have become typical. When seeking suggestions from my husband pesto always creeps in to the conversation. Now the food Gods may strike me down but I dislike basil and thus pesto is not top on my list. Parsley though, I can live with and have tons always in the fridge. One of the other reasons I dislike pesto is it seems like a ton of bricks has hit my stomach after a meal and the parsley variation was surprisingly light.

Now I am a working girl and am lucky if I have an hour from start to finish to get the meal on the table. I cheated a bit and purchased fresh pizza dough from the market. This truly was unexpectedly light, topped with fresh mozzarella or fresh ricotta (an undervalued kitchen friend) this is very different from the usual cheese and pepperoni. Don't get me wrong nothing can replace my local pizza favorite this dish however is a great homemade alternative.

Parsley Pesto Pizza
Adapted from Michael Chiarello
Servings: 4 six inch pizzas

12 oz. pizza dough
Flour for rolling surface
1/2 cup parsley pesto (see below)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
4 bocconcini fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
olive oil

Heat grill. Roll the dough in to 4 pizzas, each about 1/8 thick and 6 inches round. Brush each side with olive oil. Grill pizzas over medium heat until lightly brown around 5 minutes. Turn the pizzas over and spoon a few teaspoons of ricotta or 5 slices of mozzarella. Cook until the cheese is about to melt. Remove from grill and serve warm.

Parsley Pesto
From Gourmet
yields 1 cup

Note: pizza recipe called for a 1/2 cup, froze the remaining amount in airtight container
1 cup tight-packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Place parsley, walnuts, cheese, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse until well combined. Combine oil, lemon and zest in a small bowl. Add the oil mixture to parsley mixture in a slow stream, pulsing to combine.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Savory Puff Pastry Heaven

Puff pastry is our friend so don't wait for company or a frou-frou party for an excuse to make these taty tarts. Elegant, easy-to-use and above all versatile it instantly elevates any ingredient. Earlier this year I made Ina Garten's tomato goat cheese tarts and was smitten at first bite. Today, I put together spring flavors and pantry staples. Served with a simple salad this made a perfect lunch.

The first approach uses rectangular puff pieces covered with sauteed beer mushrooms and Parmesan. The second uses Neufatchel with fresh herbs topped with two asparagus springs.

Mushroom Tart
Servings: 3 tarts

1 piece of puff pastry, defrosted, cut in thirds, lengthwise
Parchment paper
1 lb. button mushrooms, stemmed and diced
1/2 cup ale beer
1 large shallot, minced
1 teaspooon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pan heat the butter. Add minced shallot cook until fragrant. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until mushroom are golden about 15 minutes. Deglaze with the beer. Meanwhile using a sharp knife draw a 1/4 inch border on each puff pastry piece. Take a few large spoonfuls of the mushroom mixture and place inside the puff pastry border. Top each rectangle with 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and puffy.

Asparagus Neufatchel Tart
Servings: 9 tarts

1 piece of puff pastry defrosted cut into 3x3 squares
Parchment paper
18 stalks of asparagus, ends trimmed
4 oz. neufatchel, room temperature
1/2 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon rosemary
pinch of salt and pepper

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine neufatchel and herbs. Smear 1 about 1 tablespoon of the cheese on each puff pastry piece. Top with 2 stalks of asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Roasted Michigan Asparagus with Two Dipping Sauces

In season asparagus roasted with simple seasoning is one of my favorites. It often appears as a side dish on our dinner table. I decided to make two different dipping sauces as I found beautiful locally grown asparagus. Both sauces played on traditional acidic pairings. The first highlighted the sweetness of balsamic vinegar and the second the tartness of lemon. While both were really good, I preferred the lemon vinaigrette.

Roasted Asparagus with Dipping Sauces
2 Servings
1 stalk asparagus cleaned with ends trimmed

Balsamic Honey Reduction
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon good honey
pinch of salt and pepper

Lemon Vinaigrette
1/2 cup of the best olive oil you have
juice of half a lemon
few pinches of minced parsley

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Place asparagus on baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes for thicker stalks or 10 minutes for thinner stalks. Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, heat and simmer the balsamic vinaigrette until it becomes syrupy. Add honey, salt, pepper and keep warm until ready to serve. For the vinaigrette, place olive oil in bowl and beat in lemon juice until emulsified. Add parsley, salt and pepper.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

BB: Lemon Cakes... Sort Of

Lemon is used is just about everything I make. My husband has an unnatural love of lemons to the point that I don't throw lemons out after juicing as he will eat them like apples. This bonus BB recipe selected by McKenzie or Kenzies Kitchen, profiled lemon in a big way and I didn't take the bait. The recipe sounded challenging but more lemon didn't so very interesting so I substituted orange zest and juice.

The cakes were similar to a pound cake and truly profiled the fresh orange flavor. The recipe was challenging for a novice baker but the directions were concise easy to follow.

Other than using orange I made a few adjustments: added only 1 1/2 cups of sugar as opposed to 2 cups; poked holes so the syrup would seep into the cake; made only 1/2 the glaze.

We brought this cake with us on our road trip to Montreal and it was a perfect snack! Once again you delivered, Thanks Ina! I am on vacay for a bit, hopefully I return with some blog worthy inspiration.

Lemon Cakes
Barefoot Contessa Parties!, 2001
Servings: 2 loaf sized cake, 20 servings

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.
Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.
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