Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's All Greek To Me

Can I say, "Yum, yum, yum?"  Our Friday night dinner last night was outstanding.  It all began the week before as my Friday night cooking mate was looking through my newest Food Network magazine and she kept exclaiming, "oh, wow, yum, ummmm!"  It left us with so many options, it might be hard to decide what to prepare for this week.  Alas, when push came to shove we chose the lamb dish.  What wonderful timing as I watched one of my all time favorites, Ina as in the Barefoot Contessa, to see that she was cooking up a Greek feast.  I adapted the Tzatziki and her Greek salad to compliment our roasted tomatoes and fennel and lamb on a bed of white beans.  Timing once again came about when my husband delivered a bag full of freshly picked hothouse cucumbers from a client who grows them here in the valley.  There was no question that Greek it would have to be.

We gathered the ingredients that I had in my cupboards and then formulated our grocery list for the remaining items we needed and hit the store.  Our shopping was an interesting exercise when we could only find packages of five lamb chops and we only needed four.  Then we wanted to purchase six tomatoes, but all the boxes only had five in them.  Little did we know that we would have a surprise guest joining us for dinner and we would not have to fight over the fifth lamb chop!  Amazing how the Lord knew all this before we did and HE mulitiplied our portions to have plenty with leftovers!


Champagne Cheese
Tzatziki with Pita Crackers
Greek Salad with Homemade Vinaigrette
Roasted Tomato and Fennel Veggies
Lamb Chops on a bed of White Beans
Sweet Blood Orange Garnish

Dessert was not typical for a Greek meal but it was necessary for me to try this recipe and see how I will "tweeck" it for an event I will be doing in a couple months.  Tiramisu was served in large red wine goblets and it was as tasty as it was pleasing to the eye.  I will, however, make a few slight adjustments to the recipe.

Let's get started with the prep.  First and foremost, you will be happiest and the flavors will be the best if you can use the freshest ingredients.  Instead of using canned beans my culinery sidekick had soaked the dry white beans the night before, drained off that water and cooked them with salt and a couple bay leaves the following morning.  No matter what the directions state, it takes many, many hours to cook the beans so they are tender enough to put on a plate.  The lamb chops were setting at room temperature during our prep of the other ingredients.  Meat takes a better sear if it is at room temperature rather than right from the refrigerator.  Also, a very hot skillet also gives the chops beautiful color and flavor and truly sears and seals in the juices and flavors as opposed to steaming it.  You should also pat your meat with a paper towel to remove any excess water to attain the nice brown crust you want.

Time to begin the appetizer so the flavors will have a little time to marry themselves together and since it is the first course, it was the appropriate dish to prep.  Wash, dry, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds from the hothouse cucumbers by using a spoon and scrapping down the middle of the cucumber. Using a fine grater grate the cucumber over a bowl and allow the juice to enter the bowl as well.  Main ingredients are Greek yogurt, sour cream, freshly squeezed lemon juice, white wine vinegar, fresh dill, garlic, and salt and pepper.  Add all these  ingredients and mix well.  This can be served with pita chips, crackers or toasted pita bread.  Refreshment will fill your palate as you savor this dip which is also figure friendly. 

Prep the tomatoes and fennel for roasting and finish the beans with some fresh toasted garlic, fresh oregano and parmesan cheese.

Cut up the veggies, herbs and feta cheese for the Greek salad and then mix up the dressing being sure to emulsify the liquid ingredients.  Pour over salad and smell the freshness and taste the crispness in the fresh veggies.  Always sample your dishes before serving them to be certain you didn't mistake the sugar for salt or mix up the proportion of oil and vinegar! 

Prep the chops as stated above, dust with kosher salt and cracked pepper and anticipate the sizzle as you place them in the pan.

Our resident wine steward chose a lovely Syrah to compliment the menu which was dy-no-mite!

Dessert was quite a hit as well.  I'll post it step by step once I revamp it a little. 

For a mouth watering Greek Mediterranian meal, look no further! 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cold Winter Nights

Well, fans, (like I have millions), I'm back to blogging meals.  At least I will try to post a few as often as possible.  I have been taking pictures of most of my creations as I cook; however, I just haven't found the time to sit and compose anything interesting to read.  So, here goes!

With the nice cold winter nights (and some foggy ones) we are beginning or continuing to experience, the heartbeat of warm comfy soups, stews and chilis which just can't be beat.  I have a favorite chili recipe that I love so much, I always make up enough so I can freeze it and pull it out whenever I want it.  You can imagine the disappointment I felt when I had my mouth watering for it and realized we had eaten it all up a while ago.  It is so good that I love taking it to work for lunch and warming it up in the microwave and make everyone around me jealous with the wafting aroma.  What is especially nice about this recipe is that you can doctor it up depending on your taste buds at the moment just by changing up a few items.  Use hot Italian sausage for a little more zip; use mild sausage, flavored or not for variety.  Go a little heavier on the spices or pull back if you have a mild palate.  Either way, the final result will be pleasing to anyone.

When I started to prepare this dish, I was so anxious to just get it going that I omitted taking pictures.  What I will post will be the final result.  If you think you just can't live without the recipe, I'll be happy to send it to you.  You start out with ground turkey, (you can use beef if you like, I just always use turkey because I prefer it); you add sausage (without the casing), your aromatics, spices, tomatoes, wine and beans.  With the beans, you can also change that up to your liking.  I prefer to mix black beans and kidney beans.  You can throw in any combination you like.  Just know that the bouquet will have the salivary glands of anyone within 500 feet jumping.  Here's the end product and don't forget, you have to put some up (I always use glass jars) for later or lunch!

Of course, you can always finish it off with some cheese of your choice.  I just happen to have a lovely slice of gouda which I dropped in the bowl and my favorite "dollop" is Greek yogurt.

You might also be very surprised that this is an extremely healthy dish and who isn't watching
out for their health and their waistline?