Tag Archive: greek


Rise of the Nachos

chips_paintingI can’t believe it’s 2014 – already! I have no excuse for not having a recent post, other than my Master’s thesis being due very soon. Just imagine all the celebratory food cooking and related cacophony of posts I could do after THAT πŸ˜€ For now, I wanted to post this simple & sweet blurb on nachos. Ahh, cheese. Where would food be without you? One of my favorite foods is cheese. One of my other favorites? Salsa. I am also a carnivore by nature and can’t help but like eating meat from time to time too. Where do these three meet? Cue in – nachos. This undervalued dish isn’t necessarily unhealthy, just watch the cheese! Nachos are on the rise and if you’ve a bad or nonplussed experience of the dish before, it’s time to make new memories, I mean nachos. We are lucky to be in the era of limitless culinary diversity and the sheer amount of different things you can put on cheesy nachos is kind of mind-boggling.

From what I remember of my restaurant experience with nachos, it’s a little slimy, a little soggy, and kind of anticlimactic. But I do also remember from my bar-tending days that nachos was the one dish that people would NEVER finish. Why? Because there’s too much if it! Granted, there’s nothing better when you’re really hungry than a steaming pile of chips & cheese, but it’s important to transcend the baseline comfort elements in this recipe to reach something better. The 3 recipes or versions I have here I read in last year’s Cooking Light. So easy! So simple! So tasty! I should write ads for this magazine πŸ˜‰

When it comes to nachos, here’s 3 tips to remember: 1. It’s quality, not quantity. Gourmet ingredients cheese_nachosgive you some deluxe nachos and no matter what, you will be full by the time you’re done (and there will be some left). Spread a baking sheet onto the oven pan and one layer of chips, no need to make mountains – I know tortilla chips are cheap but please refrain, for the sake of your stomach 2. Don’t skimp on the cheese. Broiled chips aren’t very tasty by themselves, but add the right amount of cheese and viola, irresistible goodness. The best part? Broiling this dish takes 1-2 minutes MAX. You put it in and you’re eating moments later, it’s like magic πŸ™‚ 3. Be creative. Try making what you’d consider you’re “dream nachos.” Then m???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????ake a Greek version, a Caribbean version, and/or good ol’ Tex-Mex. Mix it up and have all-veggie nachos or use some crazy ingredients like toasted sesame seeds or capers.. No need to restrain yourself, this dish is messy and sloppy and will turn out del-ish once covered in warm, melted cheese. Have fun, because you have TIME for that when making dinner only takes 15 minutes!

My star ingredient? Greek yogurt. Greek what?! You don’t need sour cream or creme fraiche, they’re merely nice condiments that should be used in moderation. But, you get some low-fat Greek yogurt and put a big dollop in the center of your nachos? It’s practically the same thing, only better (for your body, I mean). I love sour cream as much as the next American πŸ˜‰ but hey, there are alternatives to watch the calorie count and Greek yogurt is just as yummy. Below are 3 versions of simple nacho recipes you can make, enjoy and WARNING: you will need napkins πŸ˜€

Nachos – 3 Ways

(1) Pork & Bean Nachos with Tomatoes, Onions, and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsalted

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded cheddar cheese

1 yellow onion, thinly slicednacho-combos

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 can black or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced

1 bunch fresh basil (or mint)

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

4-5 pickled or preserved jalapenos, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

baking paper

vegetable oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season the pork tenderloin generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, brown the tenderloin on all sides, turning every 4 minutes or so and cook until tenderloin is firm, about 15 minutes total. Remove from heat, cover with foil, and let sit 10 minutes. When cool, slice the cooked pork into chunks and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in an even (or not so even layer) across the baking sheet and top with meat and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add beans, tomatoes, and onion. Top with minced herbs, pickled jalapenos, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(2) Spicy Shrimp Nachos with Salsa, fresh Jalapenos, and Avocado

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedfresh-salsa

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 bag (around 1/2 kg) frozen small shrimp, peeled & de-veined

1 jalapeno, seeded & sliced

3 Tbs. coconut flakes

4 Tbs. seafood seasoning or market spice

2 ripe avocados, slicednachos_02

1 bunch fresh Cilantro, minced

1 cup salsa of your choice or pico de gallo, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

vegetable oil

baking paper

(1) Defrost shrimp, drain, and rinse thoroughly. Place in a bowl with seafood seasoning and 1 Tbs. oil and stir until well-coated. Heat another Tablespoon of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook, 1 -2 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and can be easily cut in half with a fork. Put cooked shrimp in a bowl and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips and coconut flakes in a layer across the baking sheet and top with shrimp and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add spoonfuls of salsa, slices of avocado, and jalapenos. Top with minced cilantro and a big dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(3) BBQ Chicken Nachos with Green Onions, Jack Cheese, and Honey-Mustard Coleslaw

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedbbq-chix

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded Jack cheese

2 cups of cooked barbecued chicken, shredded or cubed

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for servingColeslaw

(for slawπŸ™‚

2 Tbs. honey

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 Tbs. mustard

1 tsp. paprika

sea salt & cracked pepper

1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 head of fennel, thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled & grated

3 Tbs. fresh dill fronds

baking paper

(1) To make slaw, put honey, paprika, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and mustard in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal the container and shake until ingredients have combined. Season dressing to taste with salt & pepper and chill at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld. Mix thinly sliced cabbage, fennel, and carrots in a large bowl and add dressing. Stir until combined and chill slaw until ready. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in a layer across the baking sheet and topnachos_painting with barbecued chicken pieces and Jack cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oven and add green onions and spoonfuls of coleslaw. Top with a big dollop of Greek yogurt and serve immediately.

Serves 4

My question: what are the craziest (as in crazy delicious) things you can think of to put on nachos?

Come on, I’d love to hear what that could be – I want to make MORE of this cheesy deliciousness and I need some fresh ideas…

1.31.2014

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Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.

strained-mussels-judy-mercer

Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven πŸ˜‰ My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead πŸ˜€

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.Β  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt πŸ™‚

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)Β  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these πŸ˜›

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… πŸ™‚

9.4.13

Shrimp Saganaki (!)

Almost called this post “ode to Greek food” but it is perhaps a better ode to cheese πŸ™‚ Maybe there’s something about the dead of winter that makes you crave richly flavorful (and wonderfully filling) dishes. It’s been a while since I had shrimp and I have Greece_posterno excuse; it’s really the cutest, tastiest little crustacean I’ve ever had. The best part of this dish in particular is what I’d like to call its “Greekness,” which translates into how simple it is by nature – with basic ingredients, easy preparation & cooking, and even simpler cleanup since you’re all eating out of the skillet. What more could you ask for from bread and cheese?

My star ingredient would have to be the feta cheese. This dish would have been damn boring without it. And while ouzo, tomatoes, herbs, and shrimp all make for a layered entente flavor-wise, the cheese is always the best part. I mean, isn’t it? There’s something special about melted cheese too, feta is no exception. Like all components of Greek food, feta goes well with garlic. Coincidence? I think not! More like culinary fate, but that does sound a bit intense πŸ˜‰ The Greeks knew a thing or two about good food back in the day, as they still do, just look at their contributions to cooking and awesome food-eating as we know it today – wine, yogurt, olive oil, vinegar – what would we be eating today without them?

I made this for some fellow foodies last week and it was well worth all the chopping and sautΓ©ing (which really wasn’t much). I was initially worried it wouldn’t feed us all, but cheese always satisfies πŸ™‚ if not, garlic bread definitely helps! This dish, like shrimp in general, goes great with a (chilled) white wine. I am not a huge fan of chardonnay but with shrimp it’s like bread and butter πŸ˜€

This recipe comes from July’s Bon Appetit. I don’t know why I hesitated to make it way back when in July (oh yes, maybe the newborn baby was a mild deterrent;) but I got rather inspired with a new kitchen and all, along with a whole new host of super markets to forage through for “Greek” ingredients. Call it the spice of life, variety just makesFeta_cheese a chef want to show off πŸ˜‰ Like the recipe subtext says, high-quality ingredients make this recipe, so don’t skimp on the good stuff – I used a nice ouzo, marinated shrimp, and the most solid chunk of feta I could find πŸ™‚ Everything in this dish comes together pretty fast so remember to put the bread in the oven!

I did add one flaming embellishment to this recipe – which is probably the one reason I like saganaki in the first place! In theΒ  authentic Greek version of this recipe, the cheese is doused in ouzo and set aflame, effectively melting the cheese and looking seriously cool in the process. Did I light my skillet of cheese on fire with ouzo? Yes, without hesitation too πŸ˜€ (okay, only a few seconds of hesitation though..) and I can tell you, it was awesomely non-dangerous and was only really alit for about 7 seconds, although completely covered in a purple flames that whole time…This just makes me want to flambe all sorts of others things with ouzo too πŸ˜‰

Shrimp Saganaki with Fresh Herbs, Feta Cheese, and Tomatoes

Ingredients

1/2 kg. medium-sized shrimp, peeled & deveinedshrimp-medium

4 oz. block feta

3 small loaves garlic bread (frozen or fresh)

1 bunch green onions, chopped

8 garlic cloves, chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup white wine

3 Tbs. ouzo (anise-flavored liquor)

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup chopped fresh dillFIRE

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1 Tbs. dried oregano

olive oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Heat 3 Tbs. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add green onions and garlic, stirring often until softened, about 3 minutes. (2) Add tomatoes and stir occasionally until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. (3) Add wine, dried oregano, ouzo, and broth to the skillet and return to heat on medium-high. Let boil until reduced by half, another 5 minutes, and season to taste with salt and pepper. (4) Combine the fresh herbs in a cup, stirring half into the skillet mixture and reserving the remaining half of the herbs for serving. (5) Reduce heat to medium, and add shrimp, laying them on the side, leaving some space in the middle. Put the block of feta in the center of the skillet and cover, cooking until the cheese is soft and shrimp are cooked through, 5-6 minutes. (6) Warm the garlic bread in the oven and slice. When done, place in a glass bowl and cover. (7) When the shrimp & cheese are looking ready, pour a shot of ouzo over the top of the feta. Safely, light the ouzo on fire and let cook until flames extinguish themselves, about 10 seconds. (8) When ready to serve, remove skillet from heat. Put on the table with a wooden cutting board beneath (to protect the table:). Garnish the skillet mixture with the rest of the fresh herbs and cracked pepper. Serve hot with small plates and garlic bread. Goes with white wine, chilled beer, and/or more ouzo with lemon slices πŸ™‚

Serves 4

Shrimp-and-tomatoGod bless Greek flavors! I’ll have to go there someday, especially if I ever want to see the sun again πŸ˜‰ In the meantime I’m going to cook more creatures of the sea! They’re just so…tasty.. πŸ˜€

My question: What, in your opinion, is the tastiest appetizer involving seafood?

Maybe to truly answer this question, I’ll need to throw a little cocktail party where we serve 5 or 6 seafood appetizers and poll the guests to see which dish goes best with very dry martinis πŸ™‚ Mmm…

2.24.13

Dipping Madness }:-)

Lately, (in the wake of all this on-campus studying) I’ve been trying to think of a good type of snack food to bring along with me to school–something super low-maintenance that doesn’t need to be heated up (since microwaves are so few and far between) and has the potential to be both healthy and inexpensive. The answer? Dip.

I think the culinary concept of the “dip” gets a bad rap these days, often being portrayed as unhealthy or deceptively fattening but when looking at some of the classic dip recipes out there, I can see why. I’ve been flipping through some Taste of Home recipes for appetizers, which included a plethora of dips but very few that actually appealed to me. I suppose it’d be better if I got down to the basis of my complaints with these recipes: Okay first of all, there is never, ever any need to put mayonnaise in dip; just thinking about it gets me feeling gross; seriously, it’s mayonnaise, leave that goopy stuff to the sandwiches. If you’re looking for healthy (yet tasty) things to substitute, I got plenty of better recommendations like lite sour cream, cottage cheese, creme fraiche, and my favorite–Greek yogurt; now that kind of protein is actually good for you, so why not make a dip using yogurt as the base? That’s what I did and it’s cheap, nutritious, and delicious πŸ™‚

Second of all, many of the dip recipes I looked at called for seasoning packets. Well, seasoning packets are boring and far too uncreative if I may say so myself πŸ˜‰ Being in Denmark, I can’t make a lot of the dips in these recipes because they call for ‘Italian seasoning’ packets or ‘ranch dressing’ packets. Yeah, they’ll be no ranch seasonings over here. But why do we need seasoning packets anyway? Because it’s easy, too easy if you ask me (ha). But seasoning packets contain way too much salt anyway (ridiculous amounts, actually) and it’s better to get the hang of making your own spice or seasoning mixes–that way you can come up with unique, flavorful combinations yourself–all the while making use of the spice pantry.

And third (finally, right?), why are dips always served with carbohydrates? Chips, tortillas, bread–as if poor humans didn’t already have to feel bad about eating some of the lusciously fattening dips out there. The best ‘dippers’ are the obvious ones: vegetables! And there are so many to choose from–carrots, snow peas, celery, broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, bell peppers, jicama, endive, sugar snap peas, radishes–the list goes on and on πŸ™‚ Vegetables don’t have any of the fat or carbs that bread and chips do and in some instances they’re cheaper too (but always healthier so that’s good). I don’t see why a few whole-grain crackers now and then aren’t a good idea either. Ahhh, so now that I’ve listed my complaints with the dip concept I can get on to good stuff, namely the concoction I came up with }:-]

I made my dip mainly with Greek yogurt (1%) and added substance with a can of mashed beans (whatever is cheapest) and another can of artichoke hearts I chopped finely. The spice mix I used to season the dip with was New Orleans style, a blend that would normally be used in roasted chicken dishes (what can I say? I wanted to taste it!) I’ve delineated the exact measurements of the spices below to make this practical. If I had my spice cupboard with me, I’d have been even more creative but I am still quite satisfied with the result. As for dippers, I went for cheap and cheerful: carrots (they are exceptionally good in Denmark) and steamed broccoli for my veggies with a handful of crackers. The crackers I actually baked this week with a friend and, thanks to her marvelous expertise, they were surprisingly easy to make and included much healthier ingredients than those found in the crackers you’d buy at the supermarket. Our batch included rough oats, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; how’s that for fiber? They are flippin’ delicious too πŸ™‚

The star ingredient in this recipe would have to be the garlic powder just because it packs so much flavor. Guaranteed this dip would not be so tasty without it. Not only is garlic powder incredibly flavorful, it packs its own health benefits too (like lowering cholesterol, the exact opposite of what using mayonnaise would do to this dip). Anyway, if you ever find yourself wanting more flavor–use garlic powder–it’s savory, salty, and best of all, garlicky!

Spicy Yogurt Dip with Artichoke Hearts, Green Onions, and Kidney Beans

Ingredients

(for the dipπŸ™‚

1 large tub 1% Greek Yogurt

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 can red kidney beans, drained

1 can artichoke hearts, drained

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup milk

(for the seasoningπŸ™‚

3 Tbs. paprika

2 Tbs. chili powder

2 tsp. Cayenne pepper

3 Tbs. garlic powder

2 Tbs. onion powder

3 Tbs. black pepper

2 Tbs. salt

1 Tbs. dried Thyme

2 Tbs. dried Oregano

2 Tbs. dried Basil

1 tsp. Nutmeg

(for the dippersπŸ™‚

1 head of broccoli

1 lb. carrots

1 bundle of crackers

(1) Wash the head of broccoli and cut florets into bite size pieces; peel the stem and coarsely chop. Steam the florets and stem pieces for 4-6 minutes until tender enough to be pierced easily with a fork (this is done by placing all the broccoli pieces in a metal/plastic strainer which is then put in a pot with 2 inches of boiling salted water at the bottom; use the pot lid to cover the veggies until they are cooked). When steamed, rinse the broccoli thoroughly with cold water and set aside. (2) In a large bowl, combine Greek yogurt with all the spices (paprika through nutmeg) and stir well. (3) Put the kidney beans, green onions, broccoli stem pieces, and artichoke hearts into a blender, pulsing until smooth. (4) Add the blended mixture to the dip using a spatula. Next stir in the milk and olive oil, mixing everything together very well. (5) For the dippers, line a large plastic container with paper towels. Wash and peel the carrots, then halve them. Put the steamed broccoli florets and carrot pieces in the plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. (6) Let the dip chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes. Serve with veggies and/or crackers, garnishing the dip with a sprig of oregano or dash of pepper if desired.

Serves 6

I am happy to have this cooled treat to munch on in my many hours spent sitting in the library. It was a little bit of work prepping all the veggies, but absolutely worth it…now at least I don’t have to listen to the grumblings of my stomach all day. I think the dip’s so good I almost don’t need the dippers, would eat this stuff with a spoon }:-)

My question: what are your favorite vegetables to use as dippers in appetizer recipes?

I feel like I may be missing some awesome ones…

09.21.11

Leg of Lamb }:)

I realize I’ve dwelled on the wonderfulness of lamb before, but last weekend I was given the opportunity to serve a meal for some guests and my family, an experience that in which I had to pleasure of grilling an entire leg of lamb for dinner at my family’s house. Got to love the flaming monster they call their grill, it sears just beautifully πŸ˜‰ Imagine this: Me in a fur coat outside in the darkness, standing over a grill while a blizzard of snow comes down. I may have been cold, but nothing beats the smell of lamb roasting πŸ™‚

My inspiration for this recipe came from one of my favorite cooking books of all time, Tyler’s Ultimate by Tyler Florence (it is definitely worth a read). He served his lamb with a chickpea puree and we served ours with a cold sauce that included chopped cucumber, fresh Oregano, and coriander, but I used a similar citrus marinade as he did for the lamb. When the meal was all assembled, it reflected the Greek-inspired style we’d adopted for the evening πŸ˜‰

Within this carnivorous display, we paired the meat with a big salad of mixed greens with feta, tomatoes, and pine nuts which I served with a warm vegetable vinaigrette I found in last months Food & Wine. Since it was all so deliciously good, I decided to include both these recipes in case anyone is curious. The combination of the flavors proved to be amazingly tasty, the perfect dinner for a cold winter night…

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Oregano Coriander Sauce

Ingredients

1 3-4 lb. leg of lamb, trimmed

1 gallon size ziploc

cooking spray

(for marinade)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup white wine

4 Tbs. dried Oregano

5 garlic cloves, minced

(for sauce)

1 cup nonfat plain yogurt

1 bunch oregano, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbs. lemon juice

2 Tbs. butter, melted

1 Tbs. ground coriander

1 Ts. ground Cumin

3 Tbs. cucumber, chopped

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Whisk together all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl. Wash the leg of lamb and trim most of the excess fat before putting into the Ziploc bag; pour the marinade over the lamb into the Ziploc bag and seal. Refrigerate 2-3 hours, turning occasionally. (2) Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small serving bowl and refrigerate. When you’re ready to cook, preheat the grill over medium-high heat. (3) Remove the lamb from the Ziploc bag and spray with cooking spray before placing on the grill; use a basting brush to give the leg one thick coat before discarding the leftover marinade. (4) Allow the lamb to cook until it reaches medium-rare (or medium), turning once for about 15-20 minutes. (5) Remove the lamb from the grill and let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Serve in 3-inch thick slices with coriander sauce.

Mixed Greens with a Warm Vegetable Vinaigrette

Ingredients

(for salad)

1 bag mixed greens (like baby spinach, arugula, or redleaf)

1/4 cup crumbled feta

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1/4 cup fresh Oregano, chopped

(for vinaigrette)

2 carrots, shredded

1 small red onion, chopped

1 parsnip, peeled & shredded

6 oz. pancetta (or bacon)

2 Tbs. fresh or dried Thyme leaves

1/4 Ts. crushed red pepper

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a large mixing bowl and toss well, refrigerate until ready to serve. (2) Cook the pancetta/bacon in the microwave (or oven) until crispy; let cool before cutting into crumbles. Cover and set aside until ready. (3) Heat 2 Tbs. oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; when hot, add the carrot, parsnip, and red onion, cooking until browned and slightly crunchy, 10-15 minutes. (4) Scrape the vegetables into a small mixing bowl and add the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, thyme, and crushed red pepper; season to taste with salt & pepper. (5) Sprinkle the salad with the pancetta crumbs before serving with the warm vinaigrette.

Everything serves about 6…

So, while this meal required a little bit of preparation, the results made all the work worth it πŸ™‚ And what’s good cooking without a little work, anyway? I just love preparing a menu for serving a large group like this, it allows me to attempt to show off πŸ˜‰

My question: if you were looking cook a group dinner, what meat would you choose to serve?

2.9.11