Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

Greek Salad

The Greek salad, also known as the village salad, are made with no leafy greens or lettuce. Trust me when I say,  “You won’t miss the lettuce!” There are so many flavors, textures, and colors working together to make this salad a winner. It’s healthy, light,  and super satisfying.

While visiting Steve’s mom,  I’d asked, “if she could go anywhere in the world for dinner, where would she like to go.” Her answer, “Greece!”

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For the entree, I made Spanakopita.  That’s a post for another time. I bought a beautiful Ciabatta baguette.  I like to pile spoonfuls of the salad on top of slices of the baguette.  I could eat this “village salad” every day and never think twice! For the dressing, a simple Greek vinaigrette. I made the vinaigrette and served it separately. The reason is, so the salad stays crisp, then later can be stored in the frig. This allows all the ingredients to keep their integrity. After the salad has been plated, I use a tablespoon to lightly drizzle the vinaigrette over the top. The vinaigrette is super flavorful and doesn’t require much at all. I’ts really only used to tie all the ingredients together, if you know what I mean.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 8 servings
Equipment: Large salad bowl, sharp chef’s knife, and cutting board
4 pints of grape tomatoes, 3 red, 1 yellow halved
1/2 large red onion sliced thinly in half moons
2 hot house seeded cucumbers ( English cucumbers) cut into half moons then cut half moons in half
12 ounces of good feta cut into cubes

Ingredients For Greek Vinaigrette:
1- 8 ounce jelly jar with tight fitting lid
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 clove of grated garlic
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil ( E.V.O.O.)

Directions For Vinaigrette:
Add all the ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well before serving. A tip for the vinaigrette. I only make the amount listed above due to the fact that the E.V.O.O shouldn’t be stored in the frig. I keep it in the jar with the lid on and it will remain good for 2-3 days like that. Just remember to shake it well before adding it to the salad.

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Pumpkin Pie Croissant Bread Pudding

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Traveling to Tennessee this week was a real treat. Steve and I got to spend an early Thanksgiving with his mother. Having done some cooking while I was there, Steve and his daughter were able to spend some quality time of their family’s property. They even did a little sight seeing. Here’s a peek at some of the beautiful scenery.

Being in Tennessee with its picturesque scenery gave me some inspiration.  I though, why not take a bread pudding recipe and make it super special. Once I saw the table Miss Ruth set up for our family celebration, I knew this dessert would be perfect.

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Because I was visiting family, I made the bread pudding in a disposable pan. This is the rectangle type pan with the high sides that’s available in the grocery store.  If your using a baking dish from home, use a 9 x 13.  My recipe is really simple so, I’m going to list the ingredients first, then I’ll explain the directions. This particular recipe does not require using a water bath during the baking process. I also wanted to mention that I didn’t make the traditional Bourbon sauce for the top. This is not a traditional bread pudding so I made a simple glaze to drizzle over the top.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
1 disposable rectangle baking pan or a 9 x 13 baking dish
Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour
Baking Time: 1 hour
Temperature: 350 degrees F.

18 perfectly stale mini croissants broken up into large pieces
8 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups whole milk
1-28 ounce can of pumpkin pie mix (you want the mix not just the pumpkin puree, if you can’t find this, mix  the 28 ounce can of pumpkin puree with 2-1/2 tablespoons of the pumpkin pie spice)
1-1/2 cups of granulated sugar for custard plus 1/4 cup for the topping
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1 cup of Nestle pumpkin morsels
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2-2-1/2 tablespoons of water

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, the egg yolks, milk, cream, sugar, the canned pumpkin pie mix and vanilla. Set the custard mixture to the side. Lightly spray your disposable pan or baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray.  Next, add the croissant pieces to the disposable pan that I have set on top of a baking sheet. You want to make sure the bread pieces are spread out evenly. Slowly pour the custard mixture over the croissants giving the bread a chance to slowly absorb the mixture. I like to pour half the mixture in, then push the bread down slightly. Then I add the rest of the mixture, and again, pressing slightly so all the croissants are submerged.  With the baking sheet underneath, place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour. At about 50 minutes in the frig, preheat to oven to 350 degrees F. After an hour, remove the bread pudding from the frig, Sprinkle on the pumpkin spice morsels and dried cranberries all over the top. Press them down into the bread pudding so they don’t burn. Next, mix the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle the mixture all over the top evenly. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature. To make the glaze, simple just mix powdered sugar and water together. Add the water a tablespoon at a time. You want the mixture’s consistency to reach the point where it falls back on itself into the bowl.

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Italian Wedding Soup

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If you follow my blog, in the past, under the “Let’s Dish” category, I’ve posted a little on my Italian Wedding soup. I didn’t go into much detail, as I was a newbie at blogging. The name Italian Wedding Soup stemmed from the combining of meat with pasta. Growing up in my home pasta was served as a separate course from the meat dish.This post will show you everything you need to know on how I make this soup. My secret ingredient for the most flavorful meatballs is basil pesto. Surprised, don’t be. When you break down the ingredients in basil pesto, you’ll find that most of those item are in my meatballs anyway. I have done variations, like, instead of small pasta, I’ve used mini cheese ravioli. It’s really delicious that way. I gives an extra surprise to the dish.

I think whenever your making a recipe that calls for meatballs, it’s important that they are tender and flavorful bites of heaven. My basic recipe for meatballs ( with a couple of exceptions) is always the same. Whether I’m using  ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken, There are those times however; when I’ll make a Greek or Asian dish that call for meatballs. For those times, my recipe changes, but that’s another story. So for the meatballs for my Italian Wedding Soup. I’m making a double batch because, I’m going to show you two versions. What’s great about making extra is that you can freeze the soup for another time.Whenever I freeze a completed soup, I let it come to room temperature, and place them into tight fitting zip lock bags, releasing all the air. Label and date the bags and set them upright in the freezer in a container that will hold them just until the soup has frozen.  I’m also making a double batch of meatball to show both versions of my Italian Wedding Soup. This recipe yields 30 meatballs. If you only want to use half the amount of meatballs, let them come to room temperature. Next, place them in the frig for 30 minutes to chill. Then place them in a tight zip lock plastic bag, releasing any air, and place them into the freezer.

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The one thing that I believe is important when making meatballs, is to mix all the flavoring first into a bowl.  Once all the flavorings have been mixed together, it should have the consistency of, if you’ll pardon the expression, “mud like”. Then I’ll add in the ground meat. I’ll also use a fork in order to combine the flavorings with the meat. This keeps the meat light and tender. I used to use my hands to mix everything together, but that caused me to over mix and compact the meat too much. Taking a fork to combine the ingredients, takes a few minutes longer but it’s well worth it. Your meatballs will be light and tender. I line two  baking sheets with parchment paper and allow a little space between the meatballs for even cooking. I spray the tops with a light spray of non-stick cooking spray to help them brown evenly. Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

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While the meatballs are cooking in the oven, I utilize this time for chopping all my veggies. To start, I have two heavy bottom soup pots on the stove set on med heat. I now also, have all my veggies ready to go. It’s the standard Mirepoix, onions celery, and carrots, along with some minced garlic. To each pot I’ve added some olive oil. I throw in the onions first to start them softening. Once they’ve started to soften I add in all the other veggies. At this point I season with salt and pepper. I let everything saute for about 5-7 minutes before adding in the low sodium chicken stock. I’m using chicken stock instead of broth for a deeper chicken flavor. I also kept the rind from the grated cheese that I added earlier into the meatballs. It’s great to throw them into soups and stews for depth of flavor. To both pots, I add in the chicken stock. I bring this up to a bubble and reduce to a simmer. Now it’s time the meatballs come out of the oven. Carefully, add half the meatballs (15) to each pot. Let this simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Next, add the pasta. Mini Ravioli, and Dittilini to the other.  Give each pot a big stir. The pasta will start to float when it cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Lastly, I add  one package of the thawed frozen spinach,that’s been squeezed of any excess water, to each pot and stir it around gently. Turn the heat off and cover until your ready to serve.

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 375 degrees F. for meatballs- 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 50-60 minutes total
Yields: 30 meatballs
Note: If only making one pot, use 1-1/2 pounds of ground chicken (15 meatballs) otherwise freeze the other 15.

Ingredients: For Meatballs
3 pounds of ground chicken
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of fresh basil pesto ( in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, next to the fresh pasta)
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
3 cloves of freshly grated garlic
2 tablespoons of Ketchup
5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese ( Parmigiano- Reggiano)
2 cups of Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup of freshly chopped Italian parsley

Ingredients for soup:
Note: cut recipe in half, for one pot of soup,  with the exception of the pasta. Choose which pasta you want to use. Use only 1-1/2 pounds of ground chicken for 15 meatballs.
4 tablespoons olive oil ( 2 per pot)
2 cups of diced onions
2 cups of diced carrots
2 cups of diced celery
4 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
4 quarts plus 4 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2 cups of Dittilini pasta ( short cut tube pasta in one pot)
1-24 ounce package of mini cheese ravioli ( int the other pot)
2 packages of thawed frozen spinach

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Start with a large bowl and add all the ingredients in for the flavoring to make the meatballs. Once everything is in the bowl mix well. You want the flavorings to have a slightly wet “mud like consistency. Next add the ground meat to the bowl. Using a fork, mix the flavoring through the ground chicken. It may take a few minutes but your meatballs with be light and tender. Using a small scoop to measure out then roll them into golf size balls. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay the meatballs on the baking sheet with space between each one. Lightly spray the top of the meatballs with non-stick cooking spray to ensure they will brown nicely. Place the meatballs in the oven. While they are cooking, dice all the veggies and mince the garlic. On med heat, prepare your pot(s) with the olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes. Add the diced onions in. Let them start to soften before adding in the rest of the veggies. Give all the veggies and garlic a big stir and add the Kosher salt and black pepper. Let saute for 5-7 minutes. Next, add in the liquid. If you have the cheese rind left from grating the cheese go ahead and throw that into your pot(s).  Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce it to a simmer. At this point, the meatballs will be ready to come out of the oven. Add the meatballs to the pot(s) very carefully. Let them simmer on med low for another 15 minutes. Now it’s time to add the pasta. Throw in your pasta of choice, or both if you’re making two pots like I have. Carefully give the pasta a big stir. Let this cook for another 8-10 minutes. Once the pasta floats to the top, it’s time to add in the drained thawed frozen spinach. Again, carefully give the spinach a good stir to incorporate it through the soup. Turn the heat off and cover until your ready to serve.

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Eton Mess By Way Of Italy

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This dessert is one of my favorite to serve whenever I have guests over. I think it’s the “WOW” affect it has.

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I just set up some pretty serving glasses on a sheet pan. Next, I break up the Biscotti using a small mallet. In a large bowl I add all the berries (reserving back a couple of each of the fresh berries for the top) and the hulled and quartered strawberries. To the berries I add some granulated sugar. I toss the berries and sugar together. Let the berries macerate in the sugar for a couple of minutes. While the berries are macerating,  I mix the Mascarpone with powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon zest together. Then it’s just a matter of assembling the dessert in the glasses. I start with a spoonful of the crumbled Biscotti, next, a spoonful of the Mascarpone mixture. Then a spoonful of the berries. Repeat this process ending with a few of the reserved fresh berries and the crumbled Biscotti on the top. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. I feel this dessert is served better if it’s chilled, so I refrigerate the Italian Eton Mess, for a least 15 minutes, before serving.

Yields 6 serving
Prep Time: 15 minutes

1 box chocolate turtle Biscotti (10 cookies)
2- 8 ounce containers room temperature Mascarpone
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/2 pint of blackberries
1/2 pint of blueberries
1/2 pint of raspberries
10  large strawberries hulled and quartered
2 sprigs of fresh mint.

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