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Let's Dish With Linda Lou

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

Greek Salad With Spanakopita

The Greek salad, also known as the Village salad, 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’d asked her, “if you could go anywhere in the world for dinner, where would you like to go.” Her answer, “Greece!”

For the entree, I made Spanakopita. 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 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 used a tablespoon to drizzle the vinaigrette over them. The vinaigrette is super flavorful and ties the whole salad together.

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Yields: 12 Spanakopita (Dinner Size)
Equipment:  2 rimmed baking sheet pan
Inactive Prep Time: 24 hours
Prep Time: 30 minutes (for filling)
Prep Time: 30 minutes (for assembling the Spanakopita)
Cook Time: 30-35 minutes
Total Cook Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients For SPANAKOPITA
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
2- 10-ounce boxes of frozen spinach (thawed and all excess water removed)
1 diced onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of grated fresh nutmeg
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
3 large eggs beaten
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
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 melted butter
Seasoned Italian bread crumbs

Directions For SPANAKOPITA:
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F.
Thaw the frozen spinach getting as much of the water out as possible. Do this the night before. The picture above shows the spinach sitting in a strainer over a bowl, where the liquid slowly drips into the bowl. I leave the spinach out on the counter overnight because it’s frozen solid. The next day, remove the bowl discarding the liquid. Using my hands, wring out any remaining water from the spinach. If you were going to do this in the same day, I would defrost the spinach in the microwave, then let it cool enough where you could handle it, and squeeze the water out by hand. You could even place all the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and wring it out that way. The most important thing is to get as much of the water out of the spinach as possible. Place the dried thawed spinach in a large mixing bowl.

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 10-15 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 5-7 minute. Using a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the grease in the pan, transfer the sausage mixture into the bowl with the spinach. Let the sausage mixture cool completely before adding in the cheese and beaten eggs.

In another bowl, I beat the eggs, Kosher salt, and black pepper together. Add the beaten eggs to the sausage and spinach mixture. Next the cheese. I’m using a good Feta and Goat cheese for this recipe. Add the Goat cheese, grated Parmesan, and Feta cheese to the sausage and spinach mixture. Gently stir together, not to break up the cheese too much. So now the filling is done, on to the Phyllo dough.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lay the sheets out on a flat surface covered with a damp towel. Have the melted butter and breadcrumbs on stand-by.

Unfold 1 sheet of the phyllo dough. Brush the one sheet of phyllo dough with melted butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. 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. Place 1/3 of the filling on the shorter end and roll the phyllo up diagonally as if folding a flag. Then fold the triangle of phyllo over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding first diagonally then straight until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed as seen in the pictures above. Continue assembling until all the filling has been used.

Place them on a sheet pan, seam side down. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, Kosher salt, and black pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until phyllo is golden and crisp. Serve hot.

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

Ingredients For GREEK SALAD:
4 pints of grape tomatoes, 3 red, 1 yellow halved
1/2 large red onion sliced thinly in half moons
1/4 cup of whole pitted Kalamata olives then diced
2 hothouse 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 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 extra virgin olive oil ( E.V.O.O.)

Directions For Greek Salad:
In a large mixing bowl add all the ingredients from the list above. Add the cubed Feta cheese 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 dressing in the refrigerator), to keep the leftover dressing stored in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The vinaigrette will remain good for 2-3 days. 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.

Ingredients:
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
Glaze:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2-2-1/2 tablespoons of water

Directions:
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 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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Eton Mess By Way Of Italy

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This dessert is my favorite to serve when I have guests over. I think it’s the “WOW” factor of Eton MessBy Way Of Italy.

My mom who was born in London, England,  and then on my dad’s side of the family was from Sicily. This combination, from my background, definitely allows for awesome fusions dishes and desserts.

Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, broken meringue, and double cream. As a young girl, who lived in London in the early ’70’s, with my sister and mother, I was exposed to a whole new style of food. Eton Mess was a dessert we’d have after Sunday supper. I remember my mom always let me help, telling me that I could be as creative as I wanted to be when assembling this dessert.

I thought I would update this recipe by taking a slight detour through Italy. Bringing my Italian influences onto the scene.

I’m using a mix of fresh berries, Mascarpone  (Italian cream cheese) mixed with lemon zest, and broken turtle pecan Biscotti cookies. Topped off with a sprig of fresh mint and a dusting of powdered sugar.

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Yields: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
1 box of turtle pecan Biscotti cookies
2-8 ounce containers of room temperature Mascarpone
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1/2 pint blackberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint raspberries
10 large strawberries hulled and quartered
small sprigs of fresh mint for garnish
dust with powdered sugar on top

Directions:
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).

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.

Now 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 and a dusting of powdered sugar.

This dessert is served best chilled for a least 15 minutes.

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