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.
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