It's Secret Recipe Club time again! This month I was assigned Sarah's Kitchen - a name that I love, obviously. Sarahs of the world unite! Sarah is from England, but now lives in Texas - which is kind of funny because I'm from Texas and once lived in Ireland (which I realize is not the same as England, but is geographically/culturally similar). Spooky.
Anyway, I was clearly craving a casserole while looking through Sarah's blog because every recipe I was drawn to was one. Like this Stovetop Beef and Penne Casserole, this Eight Layer Casserole, these two Mexican Casseroles, this Chicken and Dumplings Casserole, and this Turkey Tetrazzini. They all looked tempting, but as soon as a saw a recipe for Pastitsio, I was done. This Greek lasagna like casserole is one of my all time favorite dishes. So let's make it!
Start by sauteing onions and garlic, then browning beef. I actually chose to use half beef and half lamb.
When the beef is browned, stir in tomato paste.
On Monday, I promised you a recipe for the side dish I served with the Garlic Butter Salmon with Dill. And here it is - a Greek style salad made with shredded raw zucchini, so healthy! The dill in this dish helps tie it in with the flavors in the salmon (plus it helps me get rid of more dill).
The raw zucchini - along with mint, dill, green onions, and feta - is marinated in a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and garlic. The original recipe recommends chilling for several hours to allow the flavors to meld together, but we found that 30 minutes was enough.
This salad is bright and fresh, perfect on it's own or as a side. Make it all summer, take it with you anywhere, and enjoy!
As per usual, I went to have lunch with Melissa of Smells Like Brownies. We had actually planned on going out to eat that day, but Melissa said she was planning on making these spanikopita at some point that day and I thought that sounded waaaaaaaaaay better than eating out. And then it turned out that she was looking at the exact same recipe I had been eyeing for awhile. Great! So we whipped them up pretty quickly, and while they were in the oven there was a knock at the door. Her Greek neighbor came by to drop off some homemade baklava - serendipity! Sometimes being spontaneous or changing your plans leads to some pretty great stuff.
Anyway, you will not believe how easy it is to make these. First step - filling. Whiz a whole bunch of fresh spinach around in a food processor until chopped but not pureed (we don't want soup here) - I suggest doing it in 3 batches. Then add some well beaten eggs, feta (you know my favorite brand), and cottage cheese. The cottage cheese threw me for a bit of a loop, I wasn't expecting that. Some recipes use ricotta, but what I ended up liking was the creaminess of the cottage cheese. I think ricotta dries out quite a bit when it is baked.
The next part can seem daunting, but I promise it's not really that fussy. When working with pyllo dough, you need to move quickly or it will dry out. The box will usually have tips, like keeping the bulk of it covered with a cloth while you work, but I find that I don't really need that. In order for it to bake into crispy layers, you need to get fat in between the sheets of phyllo. Most people brush butter over the sheets, which is time consuming and actually doesn't work as well as other methods because it saturates the dough too much and weighs it down. I recommend drizzling the butter, or if you are really in a rush - spraying with cooking spray. You will need to use the brush on the top of the strudel, though, to make sure it is covered.
Now I didn't get any pictures of the rolling up process, so please check out Smells Like Brownies for a more detailed tutorial. What I love about these is that they are large and self contained (versus baking in a big sheet like a casserole and cutting into triangles). So one strudel is a serving and you have a good visual reminder of that (not that that will prevent you from eating two, or three...).
These are really very easy to make, and they come out so perfectly. The phyllo is buttery and crispy, while the filling is silky and creamy. I'm pretty sure this will be my go-to recipe for homemade spanikopita.
Halloumi is a salty, dense Greek cheese that is super amazing when grilled. My friend Melissa, from Smells Like Brownies, is a big fan so she was pretty excited when I showed her this recipe. Hearty quinoa mixed with lettuce and veggies and topped with warm cheese - delish!
We didn't end up having the cucumbers the original recipe called for, so we used tomatoes instead and they were great. I do really like cucumbers, though, so I would say to use both. The more veg, the better, right? The dressing includes red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mint, and scallion - yum!
We also discovered (by oiling one side and not the other of an electric grill) that the cheese gets better grill marks when the grill is not oiled. Don't worry, though, it won't stick!
This is a very satisfying (and light!) vegetarian lunch that is sure to make even meat eaters happy.
For anyone who has read Pt 1 or Pt 2, you will know that my Vegan friend challenged me to try the top 25 Vegan-friendly restaurants in the area. This time we decided to two different spots in the same trip. Cafe Green (an all vegan restaurant) and Agora (a Greek spot with a number of vegetarian options and a few vegan ones) are right next door to each other near Dupont Circle.
The menu at Cafe Green is a little eccentric - part Asian, part Southern comfort food; all Vegan, with a large portion of Raw food. I ordered the macaroni and cheese platter based on good reviews, and the fact that I love mac-n-cheese. The macaroni is made from quinoa (which is a super grain) and the sauce had almost a bit of curry flavor too it. Great texture, great flavor - this is a winner. The platter came with a side of lemony kale that was alright and some spiced, candied yams that were AWESOME. I also added on a piece of cornbread that had good flavor but was super dry and crumbly.