Let’s Go Greek!

leg of lambI admit it .. when January rolls around I’m pretty much done with all of the Christmas candies and am ready to get back on the health band wagon.  With a giant carton of peeled garlic cloves left over from my Christmas party cooking (and my farm-girl instinct to never waste food!) I combed the pages of Michael Psilakis‘ cookbook How to Roast a Lamb and decided a healthy Greek feast would be perfect for a dinner party last week.  I appreciate the way Psilakis utilizes fresh herbs .. see if you agree.  Our main course:

Roasted Leg of Lamb
Psilakis says “Butterflying the lamb gives you options that you don’t have with a bone. A good butcher will be happy to do this for you.”

For the stuffing:
1 1/2 cups large, plump sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
Leaves only from 3 small sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon dry Greek oregano
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
15 cloves garlic confit (I used roasted garlic cloves-see notes below)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
About 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

For the lamb
3 to 3 1/2 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied to flatten, some of the fat trimmed off
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Garlic Puree (or 2-3 cloves garlic confit)
3 large sprigs rosemary
3 tablespoons blended oil (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive)

In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the stuffing and puree to a smooth, thick past, about 45 to 60 seconds. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the stuffing.

Lay the lamb out on a work surface with the fattier side down. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper and spread an even layer of stuffing over it, pressing the stuffing down into the crevices. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roll the lamb up in a spiral, seasoning the fatty side with salt and pepper as you roll. Tie in 3 or 4 places crosswise and 1 or 2 places lengthwise. Ideally, allow the meat to sit on a rack, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight to dry the surface well and develop all the Greek flavors.

Bring the lamb to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small roasting pan, whisk the reserved stuffing with the water, mustard and garlic puree. Throw in the rosemary sprigs. Place a rack in the pan; the rack should not touch the liquid. Again, season the lamb on all sides very generously with kosher salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, sear the lamb well on all sides, using tongs and leaning the meat up against the sides of the pan to sear the thinner sides and cut ends. Transfer the lamb to the rack seam-side up and roast for about 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes with the pan liquid. (When the meat is medium rare – 140 degrees – a skewer inserted at the thickest point should feel warm when pressed against your lower lip. Or use a meat thermometer.)

CGG_2278Rest the meat for about 15 minutes. Slice 1/4″ pieces, drizzle with the pan sauce, and finish with a little extra-virgin olive oil.

chick peasWhat Greek meal would be complete without hummus?  I adapted Ina Garten’s recipe by starting with dried chick peas, soaking overnight, then simmering until tender which took about an hour and a half. Canned garbanzo beans can have a high amount of added salt. Hummus is super easy to make .. check this out.tahini

 

 

Hummus
recipe courtesy of Ina Garten
4 garlic cloves
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons water or liquid from the chickpeas
8 dashes hot sauce

hummusTurn on the food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop the garlic down the feed tube; process until minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Taste for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

CGG_2265

What butter is to the French, garlic is to the Greeks.  Here’s how I make garlic puree.  Begin by roasting garlic cloves tossed in olive oil with a rosemary sprig until golden.  When cool, smash with a fork or puree in a mini food processor.  It’s great to have this puree (or the whole garlic cloves) on hand to add flavor to just about anything you are preparing.

 

Finger-Lickin’ Chicken

BentleyIt’s a lazy Sunday afternoon .. Curt tinkering in his wood shop + Mo our feline and Bentley our St. Bernard napping + breezy spring day = time to light up the smoker!

Check out these birds we found at Whole Foods market .. no growth hormones here! Looks like these chicks were able to walk around and forage to their hearts content. So if I’m gonna light up the smoker and babysit the coals for several hours, I fill that baby up! Also on the menu: rack of baby backs and a few brats.
RibsSmoke & Spice cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison is my textbook for smoking. Seriously, it’s by far the best book I’ve read about cooking with smoke. Check out this recipe, which is likely the best way of cooking a whole chicken ever invented in America!

Chicken on a Throne

Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub
6 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugarMo
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne

Injection Liquid
12 ounces beer
1/4 cup oil, preferably canola or corn
1/4 cup cider or white vinegar
2 teaspoons Wild Willy’s rub

Throne Mop (optional)
Smoke & Spice cookbook12 ounces beer
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil, preferably canola or corn
1 tablespoon Wild Willy’s rub

Two 3 1/2-pound whole chickens
Two 12-ounce cans beer (no bottles, please)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup cider or white vinegar
4 garlic cloves, minced
barbecue sauce

Serves 5-6Prepped chickens

The night before you plan to barbecue, combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl. In another bowl, combine the ingredients for the injection liquid. Remove the organs from the cavity of the chickens. With a kitchen syringe, inject about 1/2 cup of the injection liquid deep into the breast and legs of each chicken in several spots. MoppingMassage the chickens thoroughly, inside and out, with the remaining injection liquid, working it as far as possible under the skin without tearing the skin. Cover the chickens well with the dry rub, again massaging inside and out, over and under the skin. Place the chickens in a plastic bag and refrigerate them.

Prepare the smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature to 200-220 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chickens from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temp for about 30 minutes. While you wait, open the 2 beer cans and drink half–and only half–of each beer. With a can opener, remove the tops of the half-empty beer cans. Place half of the onion, vinegar, garlic and reserved rub in each can. Insert the replenished beer cans into the cavities of the chickens, balTemperature gaugeancing the birds so they rest upright with their legs bent forward. The cans should sit flat on the grill or on a cooking tray, holding the chickens at attention while their insides are steaming and their outsides are smoking.chimney

If you are going to mop, combine the ingredients in a saucepan and keep the mixture warm over low heat. Transfer the chickens to the smoker. Cook for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, mopping every 30 minutes. When the chickens are done, their legs will move freely and the internal temp should be 180 to 185 degrees.

Let the chickens sit for 5-10 minutes, carve, and serve with BBQ sauce on the side.

Done!

Going Greek

Lamb BurgersA few years ago our friends Bryan and Karen treated us to a Food & Wine event featuring several well-known and up-and-coming chefs. Michael Psilakis, known for his classic and creative Greek dishes, was one of the presenters, and I was thrilled when he announced we were all going to receive his cookbook “How To Roast a Lamb.” On a warm summer evening just a few weeks ago I got the itch to go “Greek” so out came the Psilakis book. Here’s what was cookin’ in my kitchen.

eggplant in the fireFirst step is to get your fire goCooking spray tricking (this can be said of many things in life!).  Here’s my trick .. scrunch up a few pieces of newspaper then spray with cooking spray, Santa Maria BBQplace under your chimney charcoal lighter, fill the chimney with briquettes, and light. The small amount of oil will keep the fire going. When your briquettes are starting to char on the edges, it’s time to dump ‘em into your grill. When the coals are nice and hot, throw a piece of oak into the fire – the oak burns long and hot.babaganoush

Babaganoush
2 large eggplants
2 onions
1 lemon, juiced
2/3 cup tahini ( sesame seed paste, available in the international aisle at the supermarket)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pita chips, for dipping

This is so much fun to make in a fire! Toss the onions and eggplants right into your coals, and char ‘em in the fire. It’s important to keep turning and rotating them so they roast evenly. The eggplants will take about 20 minutes to get nice and soft, onions at least 30-40 minutes. When they’re done, remove from the fire and place in a colander over another bowl (or in the sicharred eggplantnk). Don’t skip this step – really improves the consistency of the dip. Once the eggplants and onions are cool enough to touch, carefully peel the charred skin off (my friend Deborah suggested leaving a bit of the char so I tried it – definitely added more smoky flavor!). Put in your food processor and pulse with the lemon juice, tahini, parsley, salt & pepper. Whisk together and taste for seasoning. Feel free to add more lemon juice, more salt and pepper .. it will vary depending on your eggplant.babaganoush

Lamb Burgers
1 pound ground lambground lamb
2 slices white bread, crusts removed, cubed
3 tablespoons milk
diced onions
fresh herbs: parsley, mint, dill
salt & pepper to taste
tsatziki sauce (recipe to follow)

Pour milk into small bowl, add bread cubes and mash with a spoon. Mix lamb burgerslamb, milk/bread mixture, diced onions, fresh herbs and salt & pepper together with your hands. Do not overmix. Shape into patties (I form them to fit perfectly into a half pita) then press your thumb into the center to prevent burgers fropattiesm puffing up on the grill. Grill burgers over a wood fire, then tuck into a pita and top with tsaziki sauce, thinly sliced red onions and arugula.

grilling the burgers

 

Tsatziki
Psilakis says “this is the one sauce you must make. It’s a classic and very easy to prepare, but be sure you use only a superior quality Greek yogurt or labne spread. It makes all the difference.”

1 English cucumber, peeled
10 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 cup distilled white vinegar
4 shallots, thickly sliced
1 cup small, picked sprigs dill
2 1/2 cups strained or Greek yogurt, or labne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Quarter the cucumber lengthwise and trim off the triangular wedge of seeds. Cut the cucumber into a very small, even dice. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, vinegar, shallots and dill. Pulse until finely chopped but not pureed. Add the mixture to the cucumbers; add the yogurt. Fold together with a rubber spatula, adding the olive oil and lemon juice. Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper, starting off with 1 tablespoon salt. Taste for seasoning. You can store Tsatziki in a covered, clean jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

green beans

Tomato & String Bean Salad
This is one of my favorite salads .. so very fresh and tons of flavor.

shallots1/4 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 pound yellow wax beans, ends trimmed
1/3 cup Red Wine and Feta Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
4 vine-ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into rough wedges
1 teaspoon dry Greek oreganoherbs
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
6 small sprigs parsley, torn
6 small sprigs dill, torn
16 leaves fresh mint, torn
Kosher salt and coarsely cracked pepper

Prepare an ice bath and bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the beans until tender but still snappy, about 3 minutes, then shock them in the ice bath. Drain well and dry on a clean towel.heirloom tomato

blanching beansIn a bowl combine the beans, vinaigrette, feta, tomatoes, oregano, red onion, and torn herbs. Toss well with clean hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Red Wine & Feta Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 small onion, sliced and grilled
6 basil leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 shallots, thickly slicedviniagrette
2 tablespoons dry Green oregano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

grilling onionsIf you’re able, take the time to grill the onion for this vinaigrette. Slice into 1/2″ rings, drizzle with oil, and char on the grill until soft.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients except olive oil. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until smooth. Taste, and if needed, season with more salt and pepper.viniagrette

 

Turkey Pot Pie

Turkey Pot PieThere are certain cookbooks sitting on my bookcase that look like they were rescued from the Titanic .. you probably have a few like this .. tattered covers, numerous bookmarks, crumpled, stained pages ..

The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook is that book in my collection. I have several favorite recipes in the book, but one that tops my list is Chicken Pot Pie. Sadly, I overcooked yesterday’s Thanksgiving turkey a tad, so this was my “day after” go-to recipe.

Thanksgiving TableAfter hosting a houseful of guests yesterday, I was ready for some serious comfort food on this cloudy, rainy day. I’ve made this dish several times, with both chicken and turkey, and it is definitely one of my favorites.

Fresh veggiesIf you’re using leftover turkey or chicken and have stock on hand, just cut meat into bite-size pieces and skip steps 1-3.

Chicken Pot Pie
9 cups water
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, skinned
3 celery stalks, each cut into 4 pieces
1 small onion, quartered
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups diced unpeeled round red potato
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup thinly sliced carrot
1/2 cup chopped leak (about 1 small)
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen green peas
6 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
Cooking spray
Biscuit Topping (recipe below)

Garlic1. Combine first 6 ingredients in an 8-quart Dutch oven or stock pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 1 hour. Remove from heat.

2. Remove chicken pieces from broth. Place chicken in a large bowl and chill for 15 minutes. Strain broth through a cheesecloth-lined colander into a bowl; discard solids. Set aside 4 1/2 cups broth; reserve remaining broth for another use.

3. Remove chicken from bones; cut meat into bite-size pieces.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Veggies5. Bring 4 1/2 cups broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add potato, chopped celery, bell pepper and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes. Add carrot and leek; cover and cook 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and peas; cover and cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

6. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add milk, stirring with a whisk; add to vegetable mixture. Cook over medium heat 3 minutes or until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add chicken.Stock with vegetables

7. Spoon into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Drop Biscuit Topping onto mixture to form 16 biscuits. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden. Yield: 8 servings (serving size about 1 cup chicken mixture and 2 biscuits.)

Pot PieBiscuit Topping
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and garlic powder in a bowl. Stir in milk and margarine just until flour mixture is moistened. Yield: 16 biscuits.

Pot Pie

Jumbo Shrimp South Beach Approved

I’m on a quest to find flavorful dishes that are easy on my waistline, and came across this shrimp recipe on the Epicurious website.  The shrimp are grilled and served alongside a chile, cilantro and lime dipping sauce.

Peppers in the food processorMy Latin market, Baja Ranch, didn’t have red Anaheim chiles (what’s up with that??!!!) but the green ones worked great.  I piled the peppers with fresh chunks of ginger, cilantro, a serious amount of garlic cloves, fish sauce and a couple tablespoons of oil into my food processor and a few pulses later, the dipping sauce was done.Asian slaw  Several reviews suggested using half as much fish sauce as the recipe called for, so I went with this plan.

Another great suggestion in the reviews was to serve the shrimp alongside an Asian slaw.  I snagged this recipe from Epicurious, as well.  The snap peas and red pepper really jazzed it up, and this was super easy to make.

Asian Slaw with Peanuts
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons oriental sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce

6 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
6 green onions, very thinly sliced
6 ounces snow peas, stringed, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup roasted peanuts

Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper.  Mix cabbage and remaining ingredients in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Jalapeno poppers

I was at a party a few years ago and had these jalapeno poppers for the first time.  Friends of ours were hosting a dinner to benefit the organization my husband works for, Lake Avenue Community Foundation, and … talk about the “hostess with the most-est” … Robin knows how to do DO IT RIGHT!  She and her close friend Jackie have a fun blog … check it out here.  These poppers are absolutely delicious, and totally work if you’re going low-carb.  Slice jalapeno peppers lengthwise, remove the membrane and seeds, place a slice of good quality dry salami in the pepper, spread cream cheese on top of salami, and top with grated sharp cheddar.  (I used reduced-fat cream cheese and cheddar.)  Grill on a barbecue until the pepper is soft, charred a little, and the cream cheese is gooey and delicious.  These taste even better if you cook in a smoker rather than BBQ, so if you have one, definitely use it!

Stuffed Pork Loin Roast

It’s funny how people think pork is dry.  It just needs a little extra time and love.  I’ve made several pork dishes from Alton Brown’s collection, Epicurious and Cook’s Illustrated and have learned how important it is to brine pork.  Don’t skip this step!  After brining the roast for 24 hours, I prepared a fruit-based filling with leftover dried fruit from the pantry.  Next time I think I’ll try adding cashews.

Serves 6-8
THE BRINE

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (4- to 4 1/2-lb) boneless pork loin roast, trimmed

Combine all ingredients except roast in a large pot; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the salt is dissolved.  Cool completely, then immerse roast in brine and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

THE FILLING

  • 1/3 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried bing cherries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup carmelized onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch ground cumin
  • pinch ground coriander
  • pinch ground cinnamon

THE ASSEMBLY

Remove the roast from the brine, and rinse thoroughly; pat dry; butterfly (check out this YouTube if you need a refresher on how to butterfly a roast).  Sprinkle flattened roast with salt and pepper.  Combine remaining filling ingredients, then spread over the roast.

Roll tightly in the shape of a log, then use kitchen string to tie together in 2″ intervals.  Place in a roasting pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 1/4 hours, until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.  Remove from oven, and tent with foil for 5 minutes.  Slice, and serve!