Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Greek Spaghetti by Tom

Greek Spaghetti by Tom
The actual Greek name for this Bolognese style recipe is Makaronia me Kima.  Kima is the actual word for ground beef, but also refers to a meat sauce.

This one struck my eye when I was surfing around the internet looking for a Greek recipe as the Greek food month comes to a rapid close.  I found it in Greekfood.about.com.  Do not confuse this with an Italian-style tomato sauce.  Even though tomato sauce is an ingredient, the taste is much different due to the different spices.  Mint, fresh parsley, oregano and cinnamon give this meat sauce a unique taste.  I used the meat sauce with buccatini cooked al dente.  I enjoyed this different approach to using pasta.


Greek Spaghetti
(from Greekfood.about.com)

Serves 4

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried mint
salt and pepper to taste
15 ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 pound pasta of your choice ( I used buccatini)
Grated cheese

In a large sauce pan, brown the ground beef in the olive oil until the pink is gone. 

Add the onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one more minute.

Add the wine and allow it to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Now add the parsley, cinnamon, oregano, mint, salt and pepper.  Next add the tomato sauce and the water.  Add the water to the empty can of tomato sauce before adding to the mixture to rinse out the can.
Now the ketchup, butter and the brown sugar.  Bring the entire mixture to a low boil and simmer for about an hour slightly covered to allow the mixture to thicken.

Prepare the pasta per the directions on the box.  I like pasta al dente, but prepare to your liking.
Plate the pasta and generously spoon the meat sauce over it.  Grate a hard cheese on top.

And there you have it, "Greek-style Bolognese-like spaghetti".  An interesting and quite good way to have pasta.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Greek Lamb Chops (Paidakia) by Tom

 Paidakia (Greek Lamb Chops) by Tom

Trolling around the internet for more Greek recipes, I found this incredibly easy recipe to make. And the same can be said of the taste - incredibly good.  Very simple preparation and some attention while grilling make for a very tender and tasty lamb chop.

These are meant to be eaten with your fingers.  These are to Greeks what baby back ribs are to Americans.  Most tourists who visit Greece love them and long for them when they leave, or so it is claimed.

We used them as the meat course in our meal, but they could just as easily be used as an appetizer or as an hors d'oeuvres.


Greek Lamb Chops (Paidakia)

Serves 2 - 4

1 - 1 1/2 pounds rack of lamb, separated between each rib
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
Lemon wedges while eating (optional)

Rinse the lamb chops under running water.  Rub a good olive oil all over them, and then generously sprinkle both sides with oregano, sea salt and pepper.  Cover with a plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator for an hour or more.
About 15 minutes before you want to eat, get your grill good and hot.  When ready, place the lamb chops on the grill.  You will get some flaring due to the olive oil, but try to minimize charring of the lamb chops from this.
Grill the first side for 3-4 minutes.  Then flip them over and grill for another 3-4 minutes. 
Lamb chops should be a little on the medium to medium-rare side.
When finished they will look like this with some nice grill marks on the lamb chop.  Drizzle some freshly squeezed lemon juice over them if you would like to.

This is about as easy as it gets.  Use the bone as the "handle" and nibble away!

        --- Tom

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Greek-style Beef Stew by Tom

 Greek-style Beef Stew by Tom

Continuing on the "Greek Food Month" journey, I came upon a Greek style beef stew recipe that I thought sounded pretty interesting.  I like beef stew, but this had flavor combinations that I had never had in any beef stews before.  Worth a try then, I thought.

This recipe comes compliments of allrecipes.com.  I have had success finding good recipes at this website in the past, and this did not disappoint as well.

This was quite easy to make and really was very good.  The secret is to let it simmer slowly for a couple of hours to get the meat nice and tender.

If you like beef stew, like I do, you will like this Greek-style recipe.


Greek-style Beef Stew
(from allrecipes.com)

Serves 6

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/4 pounds beef stew meat, or sirloin steak trimmed of excess fat and cubed into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons red wine
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
14 ounce can beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
6-8 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
~1/3 cup water
2 potatoes, cut into 2" pieces
2 carrots peeled and sliced into bite-size pieces
salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and brown on all sides.

Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté for one more minute.

Pour in the red wine, the red wine vinegar, and beef broth.  Then stir in the tomato paste and mix well.

Add the rosemary, oregano and peppercorns.  Also add the bay leaves, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and black pepper.  Stir this all up.

Now pour in the canned diced tomatoes.  Rinse the can with approximately 1/3 cup water, and add that to the mixture.

Bring the mixture to a low boil and then reduce the heat to simmer.  Simmer for at least two hours to allow the meat to get tender.  Taste the stew to see if you need to add salt.  Mine did, so I added probably about a teaspoon of salt.

I had Barbara guess all of the ingredients, and she did a good job of figuring out most of them.  Try it yourself when you make this very tasty Greek-style beef stew.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Greek Green Beans by Tom

Green Green Beans by Tom

The proper Greek name for this dish is fassolakia lathera.  Vegetable dishes that are cooked with olive oil and tomatoes are referred to as lathera because the key ingredient is flavorful olive oil, or "lathi".  And the most popular of the lathera style dishes is prepared with green beans.  That is your "Greek" foodie history lesson for today.

With this being "Greek Food Month" on the food blog, I searched the internet for a vegetable dish and found this one on greekfood.about.com.  It is a green bean casserole with olive oil and tomatoes, but also incorporates carrots and potatoes into it as well.  It looked good, and it was good!

This takes about an hour and a half, so give yourself time to make this.  Most of the time is spent in the "cooking stage" versus the "preparation stage", so don't let that deter you from trying this recipe.

Top it off with some feta cheese, and you have a hearty Greek vegetable to serve with any other entrée companion...be it goat, beef, lamb, chicken or seafood.


Greek Green Beans
(from greekfood.about.com)

Serves 8

1 pound cleaned and trimmed green beans
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic
2 medium potatoes cut into wedges
2 carrots cut into 1"' sections
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
Feta cheese to sprinkle on top after cooking (optional)

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the green beans, potatoes and carrots to the pot. 

Dissolve the tomato paste in the warm water.  Add that to the pot.
Now add the crushed tomatoes, parsley and sugar. 
Lower the heat to medium low and simmer covered for about an hour, or until the green beans and tender but not mushy.  Be sure to monitor your liquid levels while the beans are cooking.  If necessary, you can add a little bit more water.

In the last ten minutes of cooking, add the fresh chopped dill.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the contents to a serving bowl after cooking, and sprinkle with the feta cheese. 

This is a very flavorful way to eat your green beans!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Grilled Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki

Grilled Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki

Finally -- success making a Greek-inspired dish at home!

I reviewed a bunch of recipes and then decided to try my hand at making a gyro the way we like them when ordered from a Greek diner here in New York state.

Came up with a simple marinade, then Tom grilled the chicken while I made the sauce and the dressing.  We assembled them at the table.

Not 100% authentic, but pretty darn good!

This dish is easy to make and will be in our roster for summer grilling.

fyi - Tzatziki is a Greek sauce served with grilled meats or as a dip.  It is a refreshing, cooling counterpoint to the spicy, hot meat.

Grilled Chicken Gyros

1 soft pita (bread) per person -- we used Sahara brand

1 chicken breast per person
olive oil
garlic powder
onion powder
sweet paprika
dried oregano
dried mint
dried rosemary
salt and pepper

For the toppings:
very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved, about 4 per person
romaine lettuce, sliced crosswise into ribbons, about a 1/2 cup per person
Feta cheese, crumbled ( the dry version, not the kind in brine), a few tablespoons per person

Tzatziki (Cucumber Dill Yogurt Sauce)

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 greenhouse English cucumber, peeled, quartered, seeds removed then chopped (or 1 regular cucumber)
Juice of one lemon
2 T. fresh dill, chopped
1 clove of garlic, grated (optional!)
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on top

A half hour before grilling, generously coat the chicken breasts with oil.  Sprinkle with garlic powder, onion powder, sweet paprika, dried oregano, dried mint, dried rosemary, salt and pepper.

Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt.  Put in small serving bowl.

Wash the lettuce, if needed, and slice into ribbons.  Put in small serving bowl.

For the feta cheese, crumble, if needed, and put in a small serving bowl.

Make the tzatziki by peeling the cucumber, removing the seeds, then chopping into bite sizes.  Wash and chop up the dill.

In a small serving bowl, add the yogurt, the juice of one lemon, the chopped cucumber, the chopped dill, and grate in the garlic, if you are using it (I like it without it but Tom likes it with it).  Mix it all together and drizzle olive oil on top.

Grill the chicken breasts.  When they are done, let them rest a few minutes, then cut them into chunks.  And put in a serving bowl.

At the table, each person can load up their pita as they wish.

First the chicken, then the lettuce, tomato and lots of tzatziki on top.


Friday, April 10, 2015

Robert's Absolute Best Brownies -- another keeper from David Lebovitz

Robert's Absolute Best Brownies

Made these brownies back in March with the leftover chocolate from Tom's cookie baking for the grandkids, which were David Lebovitz's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies.

This is an equally good recipe from his book, Ready for Dessert, My Best Recipes.  I sent them along with Tom for his parents when he was visiting and they thought they were really good.
And I highly recommend Guittard's chocolate melting wafers if you haven't tried them yet.  They make measuring and melting chocolate easy.

The secret to making these excellent brownies is to follow the steps carefully --- including stirring the batter vigorously for one full minute.

Robert's Absolute Best Brownies
(from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert cookbook)

Makes 9 to 12 Brownies

6 T. (3 ounces/85 g) unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces (225 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup (35 g) all purpose flour
1 cup (about 135 g) walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the inside of a 9-inch square pan with 2 lengths of foil, positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan.  Or use one large sheet of extrawide foil or parchment paper.  Lightly grease the foil or parchment paper with butter or nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, then add the chocolate and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 full minute, until the batter lose its graininess, and becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan.  Stir in the chopped nuts.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes.  Don't overbake.

Let cool completely before lifting from the pan, and cutting into squares.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Baklava (Nut Pastry)


Well, our foray into Greek food this month didn't start off so well.  The first three recipes we tried were a bust.

The first one was a fish dish called Cod Plaki. The poaching liquid completely overwhelmed the fish, plus it was too complicated to ever make again.  The second one was a Spiced Roast Lamb which Tom made and thought was only so-so.  And the third was my attempt to make Greek Easter Bread which completely bombed.

But luckily we found "a keeper" with this baklava recipe.

I was intrigued that it uses pistachios for the nuts and a rose water syrup instead of honey. Cardamon is the spice. The result is exotic and quite lovely.  Less messy to eat than the honey version, too.
Rose water is found in the spice aisle.

(from the Mediterranean cookbook by Hermes House)

for the pastry:
3 cups ground pistachios  (a little less than a pound)
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 T. ground cardamom
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
18 sheets of phyllo pastry

for the syrup:
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
2 T. rose water

Defrost the phyllo dough overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature 1/2 hour before using.

Determine what size baking pan will work with the phyllo dough.  My sheets were 9x14 so I used a 9x13 pan which is a close as I could get.  I just let the extra inch of dough creep up the edges.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Grind the nuts.
In a bowl, combine the nuts, confectioners' sugar and cardamom.

Melt the butter.
Unroll the phyllo dough carefully, and cover it with a wet paper towel.
Using a pastry brush, brush butter on the bottom of the pan.  Add a layer of phyllo, then brush with butter, add another layer, brush with butter.  Do this for 6 total sheets of phyllo.
Use half of the nut mixture and distribute over the dough, pressing it down firmly with your hand or a spatula.

Add six more layers of phyllo, brushing each with melted butter, evenly and thoroughly, especially the edges.

Layer in the rest of the nut mixture, then press down firmly with your hand or a flat spatula.
Add the remaining 6 layers of phyllo, brushing with butter, each time, in between each sheet.  Pour any remaining butter over the top, i.e., use it all.
Now, find a very sharp thin knife and cut through the pastry on a diagonal.  I made 8 cuts.  Then cut across the pastry to make horizontal cuts.  You will end up with diamond shapes.

Place the pastry in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.
Then, turn up the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes or until well browned.
Meanwhile (or in advance) make the syrup.  In a heavy saucepan with steep walls, melt the sugar and water and let it simmer for 10 minutes until syrupy.  Remember that sugar and water get very hot.  Stir carefully.
Take it off the heat.  Stir in the rose water.  And let cool.
When the pastry is done, remove it from the oven.
Then, drizzle 2/3 of the syrup over the top and let it soak in the crevices.  You will need to make 2 or 3 passes over the top.  Reserve the remaining 1/3 to serve with pastry.

When it is cool, use a firm, i.e., rigid, spatula to lift the baklava out of the pan.  Serve with the remaining syrup.

Decadent and delicious!


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April: Greece

April: Greece

Today begins a new month and new food adventures.  This time it is Greece.  Although I have never visited, I have always enjoyed Greek-American foods, so I am hoping I can find some interesting recipes for us to cook at home.

On the tablescape for Greece is moussaka (eggplant casserole), baklava (a dessert of layers of pastry with nuts and honey), olive oil, Greek salad, tsoureki paschalino (traditional Greek Easter bread), retsina (wine), paidakia (grilled lamb chops), and fasolada(bean soup).

If you have any authentic Greek recipes (or Greek inspired) to share, please let me know.