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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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

Spanakopita With A Greek Village Salad

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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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For the entrée, I made Spanakopita. 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.

Spanakopita (2)

Inactive Prep Time: 24 hours
Prep Time: 30 minutes (for filling)
Prep Time: 30 minutes (for assembling the Spanakopita)
Cook Time: 30 to 35 minutes
Total Cook Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yields: 12 Spanakopita (entrée size portions)
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,

Ingredients For Spanakopita:
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casing removed (OPTIONAL)
2 10-ounce boxes of frozen spinach (thawed and all excess water removed)
1 diced onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of fresh nutmeg, grated
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, grated
4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
7 ounces of feta cheese, cubed
2 packages of Phyllo dough sheets (need 24 sheets)
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, 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 the 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 and filling is used.

Place the filled pastries, seam-side down onto a rimmed baking sheet pan. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with 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.

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.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 8 servings
Equipment: large salad bowl, sharp chef’s knife, and cutting board

Ingredients For Greek Village Salad:
4 pints of grape tomatoes, 3 red, 1 yellow, halved
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced half-moons
1/4 cup of whole pitted Kalamata olives, diced
2 hothouse seeded cucumbers (English cucumbers) cut lengthwise, then into half-moons then quartered
12 ounces of good feta, large dice

Ingredients For Greek Vinaigrette:
1 8-ounce jelly jar with a tight-fitting lid
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
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 *E.V.O.O.

Directions For Greek Village Salad:
In a large salad bowl add all the ingredients from the list above. Add the diced Feta last. Toss gently.

Directions For Greek Vinaigrette:
Add all the ingredients into a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake well before serving.

A good tip for the vinaigrette is (do not store the dressing in the refrigerator), to keep the leftover dressing stored in a jelly jar with a tight-fitting lid. The vinaigrette will remain good for 2 to 3 days. Just remember to shake it well before adding it to the salad.

*E.V.O.O. is extra virgin olive oil.

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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, Steve and his daughter were able to spend some quality time on their family’s property. They even did a little sightseeing. Here’s a peek at some of the beautiful scenery.

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 that 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 the 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. 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.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour
Baking Time: 1 hour
Yields: 9 to 12 servings
Equipment: 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 pumpkin pie mix (you want the pumpkin pie mix in a can, not pure pumpkin purée, if you can’t find this, use the 28-ounce can of pure pumpkin puree with 2 1/2 tablespoons of the store-bought pumpkin pie spice or the homemade pumpkin pie spice recipe below)
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, 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. 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 spice morsels and dried cranberries all over the top. Press them down into the bread pudding so they don’t burn.

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 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 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 really delicious way to give 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 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 call 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 with 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 it come to room temperature, transfer the soup into tight fitting zip lock bags. Release all the air 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.

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’re going to use half of meatballs, let them come to room temperature. Next, place them in the frig for 30 minutes to chill. Label and date the zip lock freezer bag transfer them to the bag, releasing as much of the air as possible, close it up and place into the freezer.

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The one thing that’s important when making meatballs, is to mix all the flavoring first.  Once all the flavor ingredients are placed into a bowl, mix to combine. This mixture should have the consistency of wet sand.  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. 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 medium heat. 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 sauté 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’ve  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 them up to a bubble, then 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 to one pot, and Ditalini 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 really well 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 30-35 minutes
Cook Time: 50-60 minutes
Total Time: 1hour 20 minutes
Yields: 30 meatballs
Note: If only making one pot, use 1 1/2 pounds of ground chicken (15 meatballs) otherwise freeze the other 15 meatballs.

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 Ditalini pasta ( short cut tube shaped pasta in one pot)
1-24 ounce package of mini cheese ravioli ( in the other pot)
2 packages of thawed frozen spinach

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Start with a large bowl and add all the ingredients for the flavorings for the meatballs. Once everything is in the bowl mix well. You want the flavorings to have the consistency of wet sand. Next, add the ground meat to the bowl. Using a fork, mix the flavorings through the ground chicken. It may take a few minutes but your meatballs with be light and tender. Using a small ice cream scoop so meat mixture into your hand. This will ensure the meatballs will all be the size of golfballs.

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 medium 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 sauté for 5-7 minutes. Next, add the liquid. 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 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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