Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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Spanakopita With Sweet Italian Sausage

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Spanakopita (2)

For the entrée, I made Spanakopita With Sweet Italian Sausage. I bought a beautiful Ciabatta baguette. I love to pile spoonfuls of the Greek Village Salad on top of slices of the toasted baguette bread.  I could eat this “village salad” every day and never think twice!

For the dressing, a simple Greek Vinaigrette served on the side. The reason for this is, the salad stays crisp and it allows all the ingredients to keep their integrity. If you have extra dressing, store the leftover a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

After the salads were plated, I drizzled a couple of spoonfuls of the vinaigrette over top and then tossed. The vinaigrette is super flavorful and ties the whole salad together.

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The Greek salad, also known as the Greek Village Salad (Horiatiki), is 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 asked her, “If you could go anywhere, in the world, for dinner, where would you like to go.” Her answer, “Greece!” Today we’re having Spanakopita With A Greek Village Salad, but with a twist.

This is not exactly your traditional Spanakopita. I’m going to be adding sweet Italian sausage to the filling.

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Spanakopita (2)

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Prep Time: 1 hour
Inactive Prep Time: 24 hours
Cook Time: 30 to 35 minutes
Total Time: 25 hours 35 minutes
Yields: 12 Spanakopita (entrée size)
Equipment:  2 rimmed baking sheet pan, cheesecloth, a fine-mesh sieve, large mixing bowl, medium-size mixing bowl, small mixing bowl, large rubber spatula, small saucepot, pastry brush, 8-ounce jelly jar with a tight-fitting lid

Ingredients For Spanakopita:
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage (5 links), casings removed (OPTIONAL)
2 (10-ounce) boxes of frozen spinach (thawed and drained of excess water)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of fresh nutmeg, freshly grated
3 sprigs (2 teaspoons) of marjoram or oregano leaves, finely chopped
3 sprigs (2 teaspoons) of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
4 fronds of fresh dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs, beaten
1 lemon, seated and juiced
3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 (4-ounce) package of Goat cheese, crumbled
1 (7-ounce) package of Feta cheese, cubed
2 packages of Phyllo dough sheets (24 sheets)
1 1/2 sticks of butter, unsalted and melted
1 cup of seasoned Italian bread crumbs

The Day Before…
Start by thawing the frozen spinach. Place the spinach into a fine-mesh sieve, fitted with a piece of cheesecloth, set on top of a medium-size mixing bowl on the counter overnight.

The Day of…
Gather the cheesecloth together and squeeze as much of the water out of the spinach as possible. Transfer the spinach to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In a large dry sauté pan on medium-high heat, add sweet Italian sausage. Start breaking the sausage up with the back of a wooden spoon. Once the sausage is browned, about 10 to 15 minutes, add the diced onion, minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, freshly grated nutmeg, Kosher salt, and black pepper. Continue cooking until the onions have softened, another 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the grease in the pan, transfer the sausage mixture into the bowl with the spinach.

In a small saucepot, over medium-low heat melt the butter. Add the breadcrumbs to a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add the beaten eggs to the cooled sausage and spinach mixture. Add the Goat cheese, grated Parmesan, and Feta cheese to the sausage and spinach mixture. Using a large rubber spatula, gently mix to combine. Set aside.

Remove the phyllo dough from the refrigerator. Carefully unfold the sheets of phyllo dough laying them on a flat surface covered with a damp towel.

Directions For Spanakopita:
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
Carefully peel one sheet of phyllo dough from the stack and arrange on a work surface with the short nearest you (keep the remaining sheets of dough covered). Using a pastry brush, brush with melted butter and sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over the entire sheet of dough. Repeat the process by laying a second sheet of phyllo dough over the first sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs until 4 sheets are completed.

Cut the sheets of phyllo in half lengthwise, making two large strips. On the first strip, place 1/3 cup of the filling on the shorter end, nearest you, then fold the corner of phyllo over to enclose the filling and form a triangle shape. Continue folding strip up (like a flag) maintaining a triangle shape until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed. Repeat this process with the second strip.

Repeat these steps until all the phyllo dough and filling are used.

Place the filled pastries, seam-side down onto a rimmed baking sheet pan. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with seasoned breadcrumbs. Sprinkle each one with a pinch of Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until phyllo is golden and crisp. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. There you have it my Spanakopita With Sweet Italian Sausage.

Note: Pastry triangles can be formed, but not baked, 3 days ahead. Arrange in one layer in a large heavy-duty sealed plastic baggie, then freeze. Bake frozen pastries (DO NOT THAW) in the same manner as above.

Greek Village Salad

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Pumpkin Pie 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 a little cooking while I was there, I’d made this incredible Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding while Steve and his daughter were able to spend some quality time on their family’s property.

It was so delicious I made it again when I returned home. Here’s a peek at some of the beautiful scenery.

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Steve’s mom had pumpkin pie spice on hand for the holidays.

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Being in Tennessee with its picturesque scenery gave me some inspiration.  I thought, 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 my Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding 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 high sides is available in many grocery stores.  If you’re using a baking dish from home, use a 9 x 13.

My recipe is really simple. This particular recipe doesn’t require using a water bath during the baking process. I also wanted to mention. I didn’t make a traditional Bourbon sauce for the top. This is not a traditional bread pudding a simple glaze to drizzle over the top is perfect.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour
Baking Time: 1 hour
Yields: 9 to 12 servings
Equipment: 1 (9 x 13) baking dish or  a 9 x 13 disposable baking pan

Ingredients:
18 perfectly stale mini croissants broken up into large pieces
8 large eggs, room temperature
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups whole milk
1 (28-ounce) can of pure pumpkin purée
1 1/2 tablespoons of store-bought pumpkin pie spice (substitute homemade 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 (available during the holidays)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Ingredients For Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice:
4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1 pinch of allspice

Directions:
Mix all the spices for your pumpkin pie spice mixture together. Store in an airtight container. Place the spice in a cool dry place.

Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove any lumps
2 1/2 tablespoons of whole milk
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract, (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, milk, cream, sugar, the canned pumpkin purée, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract. Set the custard mixture aside.

Lightly spray your disposable pan or baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray.  Next, add the croissant pieces to the disposable pan. 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 add the remaining mixture, and again, pressing slightly so all the croissants are submerged.

Place a rimmed baking sheet pan underneath the baking dish and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. After an hour, remove the bread pudding from the frig, sprinkle the pumpkin morsels, and dried cranberries all over the top pressing them down into the bread pudding preventing them from burning.

Next, in a small bowl add the granulated sugar and cinnamon, whisk to combine. Sprinkle the mixture all over the top evenly. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

To make the glaze, simply mix powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and milk together, adding the milk one tablespoon at a time. You want the mixture’s consistency to reach the point where it falls back on itself into the bowl or a smooth pourable glaze.

To serve, allow the Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding to cool slightly before serving. Warm or room temperature, drizzle the silky smooth sugary glaze over each piece.

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Italian Wedding Soup-Two Ways

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The name, Italian Wedding Soup, stemmed from the combining of meat with pasta. Growing up, in my home, pasta was served separately from the meat dish.

This post will show you everything you need to know about how I make this soup. My secret ingredient, for the most flavorful meatballs, is fresh basil pesto. Surprised!, don’t be, when you break down the ingredients in basil pesto, you’ll find that most of those ingredients are in my meatballs anyway.

I have done variations of my Italian Wedding Soup like, instead of small pasta, I’ve used mini cheese ravioli. It’s a really delicious way to give an extra surprise to the dish.

I think whenever you’re making a recipe that calls for meatballs, it’s important that they are tender and full of flavor.

My basic recipe for meatballs is always the same, whether using ground beef, pork, turkey, or chicken. The exceptions are when I make a Greek or Asian dish that calls for meatballs. That’s a story for another time.

I’m going to show you two versions. One made with a short cut pasta called Ditalini, the other  I’m using mini cheese ravioli.

What’s great about making extra is, you can freeze the soup for another time. First label and date the bags. Whenever I freeze a completed soup, I let the soup come to room temperature, transfer the soup into gallon zip lock bags. Release as much of the air as possible, then close the bag. Lay the bag out onto a sheet pan in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the sheet pan and you can stack the bags of soup to utilize freezer space.

I’m also making a double batch of meatballs to show both versions of my Italian Wedding Soup-Two Ways.

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Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

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Stuffing (2)

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 to 60 minutes (per pot)
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (per pot)
Yields: 30 meatballs (15 meatballs per pot)
Yields:  4 to 6 servings per pot
Equipment: 2 (6-quart) heavy-bottom saucepots,  large mixing bowl, cookie-dough scoop, 2 rimmed baking sheet pans, parchment paper, chef’s knife

Note: For one pot, use half the meatballs. After the meatballs are cooked allow half of them (15 meatballs) to come to room temperature. Place into a resealable zip-lock bag and transfer to the freezer.

Ingredients For Chicken Meatballs:
3 pounds of ground chicken
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 (7-ounce) container of store-bought fresh basil pesto (use 1/4 cup for this recipe)
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 Parmigiano- Reggiano, freshly grated (reserve the rind)
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 fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup of Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Note: Cut the 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.

Ingredients For Soup:
4 tablespoons olive oil (2 per pot)
2 cups of onions, diced and divided
2 cups of leafy-top carrots, diced and divided
2 cups of celery, diced (include leafy tops) and divided
4 cloves of garlic, minced and divided
2 tablespoons Kosher salt, divided
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 quarts plus 4 cups of chicken stock, unsalted and divided
2 1/2 cups of Ditalini pasta (short cut tube-shaped pasta in one pot)
1 (24-ounce) package of mini cheese ravioli ( in the other pot)
2 (10-ounce) packages of frozen spinach, thawed and divided

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper, of each pan, with a light coating of non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl and add all the ingredients (except the ground chicken) for the meatballs. Once everything is in the bowl mix to combine. You want the flavorings to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, add the ground meat to the bowl. Using a fork, evenly distribute the flavorings throughout the ground chicken. It may take a few minutes but it’s so worth it for your meatballs to be light and tender.

Using a cookie-dough scoop ensures the meatballs will be the same size. Scoop the meat mixture into your hands forming a ball. Continue until all the meatball mixture is finished.

Arrange the meatballs onto two baking sheet pans with space between each one. Lightly spray the tops of the meatballs with non-stick cooking spray to ensure they will brown evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

In the meantime prep the *Mirepoix for the soup. Dice the carrots, celery, and onions. Finish by mincing the garlic. Evenly divided, transfer them to two separate plates. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Set aside.

Preheat both stockpots over medium heat. To each stockpot add olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes, carrots, celery, garlic, onions, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Stir to combine. Stirring occasionally, cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.

Next, add the chicken stock to each pot. If you have the cheese rind, leftover from grating the cheese, go ahead and throw that into your pot(s). Bring the soup up to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. for 10 minutes.

At this point, the meatballs will be ready to come out of the oven. Add the meatballs to the pot(s) very carefully. Simmer over medium-low heat for another 15 minutes.

Now it’s time to add the (Ditalini, and the mini cheese ravioli) pasta. Carefully give the pasta a big stir. Cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. Once the pasta floats to the top, it’s time to add the thawed spinach. Again, carefully give the spinach a good stir to incorporate it throughout the soup. Turn the heat off and cover until you’re ready to serve. Italian Wedding Soup-Two Ways.

Tip: If you’re only going to use half of the meatballs, let them come to room temperature. Next, place them in the frig for 30 minutes to chill. Label and date the ziplock freezer bag before transferring them to the bag. Release as much of the air as possible, close it up, and place it into the freezer.

*Mirepoix: The standard base for most soups consisting of celery, carrots, and onions.

Nominated “Best Italian Wedding Soup Recipes”

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