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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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

Pastitsio

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Lately, I’ve been testing a couple Greek Pastitsio recipes. Pastitsio, Greek style lasagna is so delicious.  Instead of just making one pan, I’ve made three to share with family and friends.

Bucatini is the pasta that’s a little thicker than spaghetti with a hole running through the center. I used Bucatini in this dish because it is readily available at local grocery stores. The traditional Greek pasta used for this dish can be found on line. I recently visited an International market, about 30 minutes from my home, and found that particular pasta.

You’ll see in the picture below that they are large tubes of pasta.

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Pastitsio (3)

This dish is definitely is a labor of love but so well worth it. There are three components to this dish, first the pasta, then the meat sauce, and finally the Bechamel. The one thing I find that different in the making of Pastitsio is the type of pasta that’s used. I have some very dear friends that are Greek and traditionally their parents and grandparents used Bucatini. That’s a thicker style of spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center, so that’s what I’m using today. I’m going to start with the tender and flavorful meat sauce.

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Directions step by step:
In a deep sided pot that been heating up on med heat I’ve added 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. To the oil, I’m adding some spices. I have oregano, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and ground cumin that I’m adding in to flavor the meat. I let the spices bloom in the hot oil and this is going to flavor the meat.

To the pot, I’m adding in a diced yellow onion that I’m going to saute until soft and translucent. Next,  I’m sprinkling in a pinch of Kosher salt and black pepper, and just stirring the diced onion so it gets really good and coated in the spices.

I have some lean ground beef and lamb that I’m adding to the pot to start browning and getting a hold of those delicious spices. I turn the heat up to med high, and using a wooden utensil I break up the meat. This is when I add in the minced garlic and let that cook for about 10 minutes or until all the meat is nice and brown.

Once the meat is nice and brown I like to drain any excess fat off the meat before returning it to the pot. Next, I’m adding in a good red wine. I’m using a Merlot, 1 cup. I let this come back up to a boil still on med high heat, then reduce the heat to med low, to a simmer, until all the wine has been absorbed. Once that’s happened I add in the whole can of crushed tomatoes.

I go ahead now and turn the heat back up to medium, and let cook for about 40-45 minutes stirring occasionally. Right before the sauce is done I add in some fresh thyme leaves and oregano. I stir the fresh herbs through and set the meat sauce aside before starting on the next phase of the Pastitsio. Next, the pasta.

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Cook the pasta to just under the al dente stage. Drain the pasta really well.  I have some Pecorino Romano cheese, that I’ve coarsely ground up in the food processor. Transfer the drained  pasta into a container. Add 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of softened unsalted butter. Toss butter through really well. This will ensure the pasta doesn’t stick together while it sits to the side until I’m ready for it. I’m also adding some of the ground up Percorino cheese and tossing that through the Bucatini.

The second component to this dish is finished. Now for the Bechamel sauce.

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To start the Bechamel sauce for the Pastitsio, I have a pot that I have on med heat with some unsalted butter melting in the bottom. To that I’m adding in some flour that I’ve whisked until the flour and butter has made a smooth paste.

Next, I’m adding in some milk and heavy cream that have been heated (on the back burner) right below the boiling point. To the heated milk and cream mixture, add in some Kosher salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir that though before slowly adding the milk and cream mixture to the roux. Wisk continuously until everything starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon.

This is when I add in some grated Pecorino cheese. Next, I ladle in some of the flavorful meat sauce into the Bechamel. Allow the mixute to cool before adding in the beaten eggs, and the room temperature Greek yogurt.

Well, that’ the last of the components for this dish. Now it’s time to put this bad boy together.

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First, I toss the prepared Bucatini in with the meat sauce.

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I have 3- 9 x 9 disposable pans that I’ve lightly butter. Remember I’m sharing with some really good friends of mine who happen to be Greek and to get their opinion on my take on this delicious recipe.

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I transfer a third of the Bucatini, in meat sauce, and divide that equally between the three pans. Next, I spread some of that delicious and creamy Bechamel sauce, equally, over the top so that it covers the pasta with meat sauce completely.

Sprinkle a good helping of the grated Pecorino cheese over the top of each pan. Place them into a 350 degree oven and bake them for 1 hour. The top should have a bubbly golden brown crust.

While it’s still hot, I chop up, very finely some Italian flat leaf parsley to sprinkle over the top for color.

Let this rest for at least 15 minutes to set before cutting.

I wanted to say, that this dish freezes beautifully.  Let cool completely, wrap them in foil, then again in plastic wrap really tightly. Then label and date them so you can have Pastitsio any time you like. When you ready to heat them up, place a pan into the frig to thaw over night.

Next, remove the foil and plastic wrap. Take a new piece of foil and lightly spray, the dull side, with non- stick cooking spray.  This will prevent the cheese topping from sticking to the foil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and heat for about 30-35 minutes or until hot all the way through.

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Yields: 18 servings
Equipment: 3- 9 x 9 disposable pans
Ingredients For Meat sauce
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large diced yellow onion
1 pound of lean ground beef
2 pounds of ground lamb
1 cup of Merlot
5 cloves of minced garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes with their juice
1 stick of unsalted butter, reserve some for greasing the baking dish

Ingredients For Bechamel Sauce:
2 cups of whole milk
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
1/2 a stick of unsalted butter
4 tablespoons of all- purpose flour
1/2 a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
3 cups of grated Pecorino cheese (1-1/2 cups for the Bechamel, 1 cup to toss with the pasta, 1/2 a cup for the topping)
2 extra large beaten eggs
1 cup of Greek yogurt
1 pound of Bucatini
Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:
Making the sauce. Heat the olive oil over med heat in a large pot. Add in the oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper to bloom in the oil first. Then add the diced onion seasoning with Kosher salt and pepper. Stir the onion until well coated with the spices and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the meat in and break up with a wooden utensil, and also add in the minced garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes. After the meat minture has browned nicely drain off the excess fat and return the meat mixture back into the pot. Turn the pot up to med high heat and add in the wine. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat to med low and let the wine reduce completely. This takes a couple of minutes. Next, add in the crushed tomatoes. Turn the heat back up to med and let the meat sauce simmer for about 45 minutes. About half way through taste for seasoning. This is the perfect time to add a light sprinkling of Kosher salt and pepper and stir that through.Be sure to stir the sauce occasionally through this process. Once finished set aside

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the pasta. Cook just under the al dente stage because it still has to bake. Once drained really well, add the unsalted butter. Toss the butter through. Then add in  Pecorino cheese and toss that through to coat the pasta. Set aside

Next for the Bechamel. Heat the milk and cram together in a sauce pan. Once just under the boiling point, 2-3 minutes, add in the Kosher salt, black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg and stir through. In another pan melt the butter add in the flour whisking continuously Once the flour and butter are smooth and thick,add in the milk mixture and continue whisking for about 5 minutes or until the thicken white sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon. Now off the heat add in the grated Percorino cheese, 1 cup of the meat sauce. Stir this though and allow to cool before adding in the beaten eggs and Greek yogurt. Set aside.

Now add the pasta to the meat sauce and toss through so everything is mixed well  Place the pasta and meat sauce mixture divided evenly in the bottom of the pans, To that pour the Bechamel sauce evenly and equally over the three pans covering the pasta completely. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of each pan.  Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Sprinkle some fresh finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley for garnish over the top of each one. Let rest for about 15 minutes before cutting into.

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Stuffed Grape Leaves With Egg-Lemon Sauce

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After visiting the International Food Club, I came home with a jar grape leaves, I knew right then that I would be making traditional Stuffed Grape Leaves With Egg-Lemon Sauce.

Before making this dish, I did speak to a few people of Greek descent. I asked them about the filling. I wanted to know what, in their families, was traditional. They were all pretty much the same on the specifics of the filling.

Next, I did a little research, I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. What I found was, there was one difference from those I spoke to and the online recipes which called for adding some type of nuts to the filling. I decided to make this recipe as authentic as possible giving the option of adding chopped pine nuts or walnuts. That being said, this dish is definitely a labor of love.

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                          The next step is what I mean by this dish is a labor of love.
As you can see, the grape leaves are packed in a brine to preserve them. First, line a large plate with paper towel.

The imperfect and/or smaller leaves, use to line the bottom of the greased pot. This will stop the grape leaves from having direct contact with the bottom of the pot and ensure they won’t burn.

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One important thing that I want to mention here is, that you want to stuff the grape leaves fairly tight but not too tight. The rice is still going to cook in the next step, and with that said, the rice may expand a bit more and you don’t want the grape leaves to break or to come apart while cooking.

White Wine And Unsalted Chicken Broth

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Before placing the lid onto the pot, place a heavy plate upside down on top of the stuffed grape leaves to prevent the leaves from unrolling.

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Now when removing the Stuffed Grape Leaves from the pot, be careful, the plate under the cover is still very hot. Use a slotted spoon to remove the leaves in case of any liquid that may be in the pot. Place the Stuffed Grape Leaves on a serving platter alongside the Egg-Lemon Sauce a few slices of lemons, and serve.

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Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 1 to 1 1/2 hours
Cooking Time For Stuffed Grape Leaves: 45 to 50 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Equipment: 6-quart Dutch oven pot with a tight-fitting lid, medium-size mixing bowl, large mixing bowl, 12-inch sautépan

Ingredients:
1/3 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (1 tablespoon for sautéeing the onions)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup of chopped green onions
1 pound of lean ground sirloin (substitute ground lamb)
1/2 cup long grain rice, uncooked
3 cups unsalted chicken broth (plus a 10 3/4-ounce can for EggLemon Sauce)
1/2 cup dry white wine.
2 tablespoons of pine nuts (optional)
2 tablespoons of fresh dill (1/2 the number of dried herbs)
2 tablespoons of fresh Italian flat leaf parsley ( 1/2  the amount if dried)
1 tablespoon of fresh mint ( 1/2 the amount if dried))
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper
1-16 ounce jar of drained and rinsed grape leaves.
7 whole lemons ( for both grape leaves, egg-lemon sauce, and 1-2 lemons for garnish)

Ingredients: Liquids 
3 cups unsalted chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon of olive oil

Ingredients: Egg-Lemon Sauce (Avgolemono Sauce)
4 egg yolks (substitute “Egg Beaters”)
1- 10 3/4 ounce can unsalted chicken broth
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions: Grape Leaves:
The very first step is to rinse the long grain rice of any excess starch. Place 1 cup of Jasmine rice into a large bowl and cover with water, 3 cups. Let the rice sit until the water turns cloudy. Drain the water and repeat this process four times until the water remains clear. Drain the rice into a large bowl, set aside

Line a large plate with paper towel. Remove the grape leaves from the jar, separating them carefully, removing the hard stem from each leaf. Rinse each one at a time really well to remove any and all brine.

Let the excess water drain onto the paper towel, patting dry the top of each one of the leaves before transferring them to a large bowl. The imperfect and/or smaller leaves, I used to line the bottom of the pot. This will stop the grape leaves from having direct contact with the bottom of the pot and ensure they will not burn.

Note: The imperfect and/or smaller leaves, use to line the bottom of the greased pot. This will stop the grape leaves from having direct contact with the bottom of the pot and ensure they won’t burn.

In the Dutch oven, on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil. Add diced onions and sliced green onions sauté until just until soft, 2 to 3 minutes.

Next, add the ground sirloin to the pot. Using the back of a wooden spoon, break up the meat. Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Continue cooking until the meat is brown and cooked through, 10 minutes. Add the uncooked rice and combine. Transfer to the bowl holding the uncooked rice.

Next, for the pine nuts (optional) and herbs. Add chopped mint, dill, and flat-leaf Italian parsley to the meat and rice mixture, stir to combine. Allow the filling to cool before stuffing the grape leaves.

Tip: One important thing to remember is, you want to stuff the leaves fairly tight but not too tight. The rice is still going to cook in the next step, that said, the rice may expand a bit more and you don’t want the grape leaves to break or to come apart while cooking.

Lay a plastic baggie down on a cutting board. Place a leaf, shiny side down. Add a heaping teaspoon of filling to the bottom portion of each leaf. Next, bring the bottom of the leaf up over the filling then folded in each side and continued to roll the rest of the leaf. Similar to if you were rolling up a mini burrito.

Grease the bottom of the Dutch oven with the remaining grapeseed oil. Line the bottom of the pot with the smaller-imperfect grape leaves. Place the stuffed grape leaves in a circular pattern into the pot. There will be two layers of stuffed grape leaves when finished.

In a measuring cup, add fresh lemon juice, olive oil, dry white wine, unsalted chicken broth, and mix. Pour this liquid over the grape leaves.

Before placing the lid onto the pot, place a heavy plate, upside down on top of the stuffed grape leaves to prevent the leaves from unrolling. On medium heat, bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the covered pot from the heat and set aside. Star the Egg-Lemon sauce.

Directions For Egg-Lemon Sauce, Avgolemono Sauce:
In a medium-size bowl lightly beat 4 egg yolks with 1/2 the can of unsalted chicken broth. In another bowl add the juice of 4 lemons with the remaining chicken broth and Kosher salt, stir.

On medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small saucepan. Add the 2 heaping tablespoons of all-purpose flour whisking to form a roux and light blond in color. Slowly add the lemon juice/chicken brother mixture, continuously whisking until thick and smooth.

Remove from heat for, around 2 minutes, or until mixture has cooled down enough to add the egg yolk mixture. You DO NOT want the eggs to scramble. You want a smooth creamy sauce.

Gradually add the beaten egg yolk mixture continuously whisking until smooth.

Note: The next day the grape leaves will taste even better. Heat them up in a sautèpan and serve the Egg-Lemon Sauce.

 

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Lombardi’s, Orlando’s Fresh Seafood Market

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Orlando’s fish market is one I frequently visit.  It’s been in the area for many years and the staff is professional and know seafood. Located at 1888 W Fairbanks Ave, Winter Park, Florida. 32789. You can also visit them at www.lombardis.com for hours of operation and directions.

If your entertaining or just making dinner for the family, and want the freshest seafood available, visit Lombardi’s Seafood. Here’s a peek at what they have to offer.

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