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Eggplant Antipasta and Sumac Berries

Sumac is my new favorite spice. I had never heard of it until it came as a free sample with an online spice order. It tasted tangy and like a mild lime. I immediately googled it to see what it was.

Sumac is made from the dried and ground red berries of the sumac bush. The sumac bush is native to the Middle East. This yummy spice brightens up any dish it’s added to with its mild citrus flavor and quickly began popular in my house. I’ve added it to my roasted veggies, asparagus, eggs and most recently, eggplant antipasta. Sumac is available online and at specialty grocery and spice stores.

This eggplant antipasta dish is delish. My husband likes to chop up the leftovers and add it to his eggs in the morning. I use 3-4 small graffiti eggplants, but any eggplants will work.

First slice your eggplants into 1/4 inch rounds. Now there is great debate over whether or not you have to salt and rest your eggplant before using it. Traditionally, this technique was used to draw out the bitter liquid from the eggplant’s flesh. I have read that modern eggplants are not as bitter as those from 50 years ago and no longer require salting. However, I still do it because I don’t want to risk a bitter batch. Feel free to skip this step yourself. I rest mine for 30 minutes and then rinse off the salt and pat the rounds dry.

Saute your eggplant in batches in a little olive oil until golden brown. Cool.

While your eggplant cools, make the marinade by combining: 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tsp balsamic vinegar, juice of 1/2 lemon, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp sumac, 1 tbsp Tabasco sauce, chopped fresh basil, sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Cover the eggplant rounds with the marinade and chill in the fridge for two hours or more. Enjoy!

 

 

Eggplant Antipasta Dish
Eggplant Antipasta
Ingredients
  • 3-4 small eggplants
  • olive oil for sauteing
Marinade
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
  • fresh basil, chopped fine
  • sea salt to taste
  • cracked black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch (or less) rounds.

  2. Salt rounds and rest for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.

  3. Saute the rounds in a little olive oil until golden brown. Cool.

  4. Mix marinade ingredients together.

  5. Pour marinade over eggplant rounds. Toss to cover.

  6. Chill for a minimum of two hours. Enjoy!

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Ground Lamb Dumplings with Pistachio and Pomegranate

This recipe creates juicy and flavorful meatballs delicately displayed in wonton wrappers and baked in pomegranate juice. It can be served as a an appetizer or a main dish. It’s one of my new “favorite” recipes and is something I will definitely add to my regular repertoire.

This recipe did not end up the way I initially intended. I originally was trying to create an Italian fusion dish using the Armenian method of wrapping Manti (dumplings) with homemade dumpling wrappers and my meatball recipe. I cooked it in beef broth as per the Armenian method. It was doughy and weird (although pretty). So, I switched out the homemade dumpling pasta for premade wonton wrappers that I bought at a local Asian store. Not only was it less doughy, it was also A LOT easier. Next I switched out my meatball recipe for something with more of a Persian flare – lamb meatballs made with ground pistachios. Then I changed the beef broth out for pomegranate juice because why not? It was sure to add a little sweetness. The final creation was beyond delicious and beautiful. It was a tasty mosaic of Persian and Armenian flavors and textures.

As per usual, it’s easy to make. Just know you need about 10 minutes to wrap the dumplings. (You could easily make this without the wonton wrappers and serve as an appetizer with little wooden skewers.)

I used a shallow serving dish that was oven proof to bake the dumplings in, but any oven proof dish will work.

First you need grind your pistachios. This was easily accomplished in my small food processor. You will need 1/2 cup of ground pistachios when your done, plus some chopped ones for garnish.

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Now you need to do a little chopping. Alternatively, you could place all this in your food processor, but I like to see the individual ingredients in my meatballs so I chop by hand. You need to finely chop 1/2 an onion, then chop the herbs – cilantro, tarragon and parsley.

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In a large bowl mix the ground lamb, finely chopped onion, ground pistachios, bread crumbs, cilantro, parsley, tarragon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, black pepper, sea salt, cumin, and egg. Mix together well using your hands. This is your meatball mix.

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Grease your oven proof dish.

Now create the open faced dumplings. Take a wonton wrapper and place a walnut sized meatball in the center. Dip your finger in a bowl of water and use it to wet the edges of the wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper in half to form a rectangle, but only seal the side edges leaving the top open. Then seal the outside edges of the top to form a “kayak” shaped dumpling (open in the middle so you can see the lamb meatball).

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Place the dumplings in a symmetric pattern in the greased, oven proof dish.

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Bake for 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Remove from oven and drizzle 1 cup of pomegranate juice over the meatballs. Placed sliced butter evenly over dumplings. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15-17 minutes (or until meatballs cooked through).

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Mix together 1 cup of plain yogurt with 1 tbsp. of lemon juice. Add sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

Garnish the dumplings with pomegranate arils and chopped pistachios. Drizzle some of the yogurt sauce overtop and put the rest on the side for dipping. Enjoy!

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Ground Lamb Dumplings with Pistachio and Pomegranate

Ingredients
  • 1.5 lbs ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup ground pistachios
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh tarragon chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 3/4 cup fresh flat parsley chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pkg wonton wrappers
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 3 tbsp sliced butter
Garnish:
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios
  • 3-4 tbsp pomegranate arils
Sauce:
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • sea salt to taste
  • cracked black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Grind your pistachios in a food processor. 

  2. Chop the onion, tarragon, parsley and cilantro.

  3. In a large bowl, mix together the ground lamb, pistachios, onions, herbs, lemon juice, bread crumbs, red pepper flakes, sea salt, cracked black pepper, cumin and egg. This is your meatball mixture.

  4. Form walnut sized meatballs and place in the center of the wonton wrapper.

  5. Dip a finger in a bowl of water and wet the edges of the wrapper.

  6. Fold wrapper in half, into a rectangle.

  7. Seal sides.

  8. Seal top edges leaving the middle open to expose the meatball. The dumpling should look like a kayak.

  9. Grease your oven proof dish. A round dish is best, but any casserole dish will work. Arrange dumplings in dish in a geometric pattern.

  10. Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

  11. Remove from oven and drizzle pomegranate juice over the meatballs. Top with sliced butter. Place back in the oven for another 15-17 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

  12. Mix together the sauce ingredients.

  13. Garnish dumplings with chopped pistachios, pomegranate arils. Drizzle some of the sauce overtop and save the rest for dipping.

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Pomegranate Guacamole

I love guacamole. I put it on toast, chips, sandwiches, eggs, crackers, burgers, and just eat it plain. I’ve always thought that my homemade guacamole was delicious. But then, in Arizona, a restaurant I visited had pomegranate arils in their guacamole. They added such a yummy sweet crunch that I’ve been making my guacamole with pomegranate arils since. I recently discovered frozen pomegranate arils at my local grocery store so now I can make my “new and improved” guacamole year round.

It’s simple to make. Dice 2 avocados and put into a medium sized bowl. Add 1-2 tbsp. chopped cilantro, 2-3 tbsp. finely chopped red onion, 1.5 tbsp. fresh lime juice, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Mash lightly with a spoon then add in 2 tbsp. pomegranate arils. And enjoy!

Pomegranate Guacamole
Ingredients
  • 2 ripe avocados diced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp red onion chopped fine
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • sea salt to taste
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate arils
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except arils into medium bowl and mash lightly with a spoon.

  2. Add pomegranate arils and mix in lightly

  3. Enjoy

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The Squamish Salad Bowl. Luncheon Bowl Series Part IV

I used to live in Squamish. It’s a small town on the Western Coast of Canada. I lovingly refer to it as “hippieville” to my North Eastern friends. Flip flops, toques (wool hats), and flowing skirts are required wardrobe there. Healthy, organic food, full of nuts and vegetables is the popular cuisine. This bowl is based off of a west coast recipe called the “Glory Bowl” which was made popular by a café in Nelson, BC. This is my east coast version of that bowl. I have replaced the tofu with chicken, the rice with quinoa, made the dressing lighter and changed up a couple of other ingredients to create a lighter, yet slightly tastier bowl.

Taking the brown rice out of the bowl also makes it quicker to prepare. I usually start by making 1 cup of quinoa (I prefer the tri-color kind) and setting it aside. Then I grate one bunch of carrots and one bunch of beets. Finally, I cube some chicken (breast or boneless thighs) and saute them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Now I can assemble the bowls.

You can make this as individual bowls or as one big salad. If making individual bowls, I use about 1/2-3/4 cup of each ingredient (except the nuts). First place the quinoa in the bottom of the bowl. Then add a layer of wild arugula, then beets, carrots, chicken and finally sprinkle the top with roasted pepitas.

Now to make the dressing (which is the best part in my opinion). Place all the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until well combined (about 90 seconds). (Nutritional yeast flavoring/flakes can be found at most upscale grocery stores such as King’s or Whole Foods.) Drizzle lots of dressing over each bowl (or onto your big salad). Use it all, you won’t be disappointed.

This bowl makes a perfect lunch on a hot summer day. Enjoy!

The Squamish Salad Bowl
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried quinoa prepare according to package directions
  • 1 small bunch carrots peeled and grated
  • 1 small bunch beets peeled and grated
  • 3-4 cups wild arugula
  • 4 chicken breasts or deboned thighs cubed
  • 1/2 cup roasted pepitas
Dressing:
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast flavoring/flakes
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Set aside. (I like to use tri-color quinoa because it looks pretty).

  2. Peel and grate the beets and carrots.

  3. Cube the chicken and saute in olive oil until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. If doing individal bowls use approx. 1/2-3/4 cup of each ingredient. Layer in the following order: quinoa, wild arugula, beets, carrots, chicken. 

  5. Sprinkle roasted pepitas on top.

Dressing:
  1. Place all dressing ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. (About 90 seconds).

  2. Drizzle dressing overtop of bowls.

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Baked Brie in Puff Pastry. Holiday Appetizer Series Part II

This baked brie is a snap to make and will add color and flavor to any cheese platter. I made it two different ways and both were equally good.

First thaw out your puff pastry as per box instructions. Then, using a rolling pin, roll it flat. Place your brie in the middle of the pastry and mark the edges with a fork. Remove the brie, leaving a marked circle in the middle.

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Option One: In the circle place whole pecans, dried cranberries and some apricot jam.

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Option Two: In the circle place sliced pear and chopped walnuts. Drizzle maple syrup over the top.

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Place your brie back on top of the circle and fold the pastry over the sides of the brie.

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Turn brie over so the seam is at the bottom and place on a baking sheet.

Option One: Place some pecans and cranberries on top to decorate.

Option Two: Place some walnuts on top and drizzle with more maple syrup.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve and enjoy!

Baked Brie

Ingredients
  • 1 pkg puff pastry
  • 2 rounds brie
  • 2 tbsp whole pecans
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 3 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 pear sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Thaw out the puff pastry according to package directions

  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  3. Using a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry flat

  4. Place the brie in the middle of the pastry and mark edges of brie into the pastry using a fork

  5. Remove the brie, leaving the marked circle.


  6. Option One: place pecans, cranberries and apricot jam in the circle. Replace the brie.

  7. Option Two: place sliced pears, chopped walnuts and drizzle maple syrup over the circle.  Replace the cheese.

  8. Fold puff pastry over the brie

  9. Place brie, seam side down, on a baking sheet

  10. Option One: decorate top with pecans and cranberries

  11. Option Two: decorate the top with walnuts and drizzle with more maple syrup

  12. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown and serve warm

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Fancy Holiday Appetizer Series. Part I. Quince Paste

As some of you may know, I discovered quinces in my local grocery store this year. I love their fragrant fruity flavor that is similar to a pear-apple cross. When I told my mom I had bought some quinces she immediately asked me to make quince paste. I had never heard of quince paste before, but it is quite popular in Australia. It’s traditionally served with Manchego cheese on a cracker.

This blog will be the first in a series on holiday appetizer platters. Quince paste is unique, yet easy to make, and will impress all your guests with it’s autumn texture and flavor combination.

First you fill a large pot with about 5 cups of water. Add in the lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon. Add to the water two slices of the lemon peel, each about 2 inches by 1/2 inch in size.

Peel, core and roughly chop the quinces. Place them immediately in the lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. Save the quince peels and tie them into a bundle using cheesecloth and place it in the pot too.

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Boil for approximately 30 minutes or until the quinces are fork tender. Drain. Remove the bag of quince peels and discard.

Puree the quinces in a blender or food processor. Measure the puree. Measure out the same amount of sugar (for example, if you have 5 cups of puree, measure out 5 cups of sugar).

Pour the puree back into the pot and place on medium heat. Stir in the sugar slowly. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat down to low-medium. Allow it to cook for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. It should turn a rose-orange color. If the puree is not changing color, turn up the heat slightly.

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Cook until the color changes and the puree is so thick that it sticks to your wooden spoon.

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Pour the puree into a parchment lined, 9X13 pan, smooth out the top with a spatula and allow to cool.

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Preheat your oven to 175 degrees.

Bake the cooled puree for 3 hours. Allow to cool overnight. It should be the consistency of gummy bears. If it is still too soft, return it to the oven for another hour and recheck.

Slices into 1 1/2 inch squares and store in a container in a cool and dry place.

Serve with Manchego cheese and crackers. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for the next post of this holiday platter series.

Quince Paste
Ingredients
  • 4 lbs quinces
  • 1 lemon
  • 5-6 cups sugar
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, pour 4-5 cups of water. Add in the juice from 1/2 lemon and two pieces lemon peel approx. 2 inches by 1/2 inch each.

  2. Peel, core and roughly chop the quinces. Place them immediately into the lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. Save the peels.

  3. Tie the peels in cheesecloth and place in the pot with the chopped quinces.

  4. Boil until fork tender, approx. 30 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth and quince peels. Discard. 

  5. Drain the water from the quinces and puree in either a blender or food processor.

  6. Measure the quince puree. You will need an equal amount of sugar. (If you have 5 cups of puree, you will need 5 cups of sugar).

  7. Pour the puree back into the pot and heat on medium. Add the sugar slowly while stirring.

  8. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat down to low-medium and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. The color should deepen into a rose-orange. If the color doesn't change, turn up the heat slightly.

  9. Once the paste has changed color and thickened to the point that it stick to your wooden spoon, pour it into a parchment lined 9X13 pan. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Allow to cool.

  10. Bake at 175 degrees for three hours and then cool overnight. It should be the consistency of gummy bears. If it is too soft, return it to the oven for another hour.

  11. Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares. Serve with manchego cheese and crackers.

 

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Spinach and Artichoke Dip Sunflower

I was inspired to make this scrumptious and visually stunning appetizer when I saw a post on a breadmaking site. I searched the internet for a recipe and found one that didn’t work. However, after a few changes and modifications, I was able to create a delicious stuffed Sunflower for a friends lunch party.

You can make the dip the day before. Which I did, since my toddlers don’t allow me a lot of time to cook. It was super easy.

First thaw out 10 oz of frozen spinach in a colander. Squeeze out the excess liquid.

Drain your artichoke hearts and gently squeeze each heart to remove the excess liquid.

Chop your spinach and artichoke hearts. Mix together along with 2 minced garlic cloves.

Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, shredded cheese, cream cheese and salt and pepper. You can add red pepper flakes for a bit of a “kick” if you like. Refrigerate until ready for use.

The first dough recipe I tried was horrible. It ended up resembling a hard beige rock. I created a simpler recipe using instant yeast that takes most of the difficulties out of making bread.

It’s best to use a stand mixer. In your stand mixer bowl, add all of your ingredients. Using the paddle attachment, mix until combined. The dough will look very wet – don’t panic.

Using your dough hook, mix the dough for another 8 minutes or so, or until it becomes smooth, elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You should be able to spread the dough thinly without the gluten strands breaking apart. Alternatively, you may hand knead the dough.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn it around so all sides of the dough are greased. Cover with a damp tea towel and place in your cold oven with the light on.

Wait for the dough to double in size. This will take about one hour. After it’s doubled, remove it from the oven and punch the dough down to remove the large air pockets.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and cut in half. Form each half into a ball. Flatten the balls into disc and roll out. Roll the first ball into a circle slightly bigger than your dinner plate. Transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper so that you may easily place it onto a baking tray later.

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Use a small cereal bowl to mark a circle in the middle of your dough.

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Scoop your dip into a mound in the circle. Make a ring of dip around the edges of your dough circle leaving one inch on the edge to seal the dough.

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Roll your second ball of dough out slightly larger than your first ball to accommodate the dip. Cover the dip with the second dough circle. Press down around the dip, from the center out. (I used the cereal bowl again to shape the dough around the center dip). Press down on both sides of the dip ring (inside first to avoid trapping air).

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Seal the edges of the circle using a fork. Press down on the edges with the fork tines to seal. Trim.

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Cut slits in the dough almost to the edge of the center dip. First cut at 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock.

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Cut each section in the middle to form 8 slices. Then cut the 8 slices in the middle again to form 16 slices.

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Twist each slice 90 degrees and press down on the ends of the petals.

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Beat together 1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp. milk to form an egg wash. Brush over the top of the sunflower.

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Sprinkle poppy seeds and sunflower seeds over the center of the flower.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the dough in the center of the flower is done.

Enjoy!

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Spinach and Artichoke Dip Sunflower
Ingredients
DIP:
  • 10 oz frozen spinach
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 cups parmesan and romano cheese shreddedf
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes to taste optional
DOUGH:
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 envelope instant yeast 3/4 oz
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 egg slightly beaten
  • 1 cup water
GARNISH:
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • poppy seeds
  • sunflower seeds
Instructions
  1. You can make the dip the day before and store it in the fridge until you're ready.

Dip:
  1. Thaw and drain the spinach in a colander. Squeeze out the excess liquid. Chop.

  2. Drain your artichokes and gently squeeze each artichoke heart to remove the excess liquid. Chop.

  3. Mix together the chopped spinach, artichoke heart and minced garlic.

  4. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Dough:
  1. Place all ingredients in a stand mixer bowl. Mix with the paddle attachment until thoroughly combined.

  2. Change from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for about 8 minutes or until dough comes together, becomes smooth, elastic and stretches easily without breaking.

  3. Place dough in a greased bowl and turn dough around to grease all sides. Cover bowl with a damp tea towel.

  4. Place covered bowl in a cold oven with the light on to rise. Wait for the dough to double in size. This takes about an hour.

  5. Once doubled, remove dough from the oven and punch it down to remove the large air pockets.

  6. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide into two equal portions. Form each portion into a ball.

  7. Roll out first ball until it is about 2 inches wider than a dinner plate. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper for easier handling.

  8. Mark a circle in the middle of the dough using a cereal bowl.

  9. Fill the center circle with dip.

  10. Create a ring of dip around the center circle leaving 1 inch on the outside to allow the dough to seal.

  11. Roll out your second ball of dough so that it is slightly larger than the first. Place over first dough circle and dip.

  12. Using the same cereal bowl, press down over the center pile of dip. Then press the dough together between the ring and the center pile. Then press down around the edges of the circle.

  13. Seal edges shut using a fork. Press the tines around the circle edge to press the dough layers together. Trim the dough to a neat circle.

  14. Cut the dough from the edge to within 1/2 inch of the center dip pile at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock.

  15. Cut each section again in the middle to form 8 sections.

  16. Cut each section again in the middle to form 16 sections.

  17. Twist each section 90 degrees and press down on the tips of the petals.

  18. Beat together the egg yolk and milk to form an egg wash. Brush over the sunflower.

  19. Sprinkle poppy seeds and sunflower seeds on the center of the sunflower.

  20. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the dough in the center is done.

 

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Spanakopita Triangles. How I got my kids to love spinach.

Last night I heard the magic words from my teenage son. He told me I finally had gotten him to love a vegetable. That vegetable was spinach and it was in the spanakopita triangles I served with dinner. He didn’t want to eat one at first, but after one bite he grabbed a handful more.

I didn’t use the traditional herbs of dill and parsley in my spanakopita. Instead I used marjoram, oregano, thyme and lemon zest. They turned out delicious. Here’s how to make them.

In a large saucepan, cook your onion, shallot and garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. Add the spinach, lemon zest and herbs. Cook until the spinach wilts and steam off as much water as you can. Cool and then squeeze out the remaining water. Chop.

In a bowl combine a beaten egg, ricotta and feta cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix this with your cooled spinach mixture.

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Take one thawed filo sheet and lay it flat on your counter. Cover the remaining sheets with parchment paper topped with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.

Brush melted butter all over your filo sheet. Cover with a second sheet and butter that one too. Don’t worry too much if they rip. As long at it’s not at the top it will be hidden inside the triangle.

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Using a pizza cutter, cut into 2 1/2-3 inch long strips.

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Put one tablespoon of the spinach mixture at the bottom of each strip. Fold one edge over the mixture into a triangle. Continue to fold the triangle over (like you would fold a flag) to the end of the strip. Butter the top and place seam side down on a greased baking sheet.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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Spanakopita Triangles
Ingredients
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 small onion chopped
  • 1 medium shallot chopped fine
  • 10 oz baby spinach
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp fresh marjoram chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano chopped
  • 3 sprigs thyme use leaves only
  • 1 egg beaten lightly
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pkg filo pastry thawed
  • 8 tbsp melted butter for brushing filo
Instructions
  1. In a large frying pan, cook the garlic, onion and shallot until starting to brown.

  2. Add the spinach, lemon zest, marjoram, oregano, and thyme. Cook until leaves wilted. Cook off as much steam as you can. Set aside to cool. Once cooled squeeze out excess water (I used a paper towel) and chop.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the egg, ricotta cheese, feta cheese, salt and pepper. Mix with spinach mixture.

  4. Take one sheet of thawed filo pastry.

  5. Brush with melted butter.

  6. Apply a second sheet on top and brush with melted butter as well.

  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 2 1/2 to 3 inch wide strips. Place 1 tbsp. of spinach mixture at bottom of strip.

  8. Fold edge of filo pastry over mixture to form a triangle. Fold triangle like flag down the entire strip.

  9. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Brush with melted butter.

  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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How To Make Homemade Ricotta

In May, I went to a local creamery to take a cheese making class. The master cheesemaker there had told us that the ricotta cheese you buy at the grocery store isn’t a traditional cheese and that it is easy to duplicate at home. Traditionally, ricotta is made from the leftover whey from making cheese, but it can also be created by adding acid to milk. I have tasted ricotta made both ways and while they are different, they both taste delicious.

Today, I made homemade ricotta using this “fast method” that doesn’t involve making another cheese first. It was so easy I don’t think I’ll ever buy grocery store ricotta again.

First you need whole milk. Skim and low fat milk have some of the fats and proteins removed, so your final cheese yield will be low. You also don’t want to use UHT or “ultra pasteurized” milk because the high temperatures used to process these products change the protein structures in the milk.

In a large pot combine one quart of whole milk with one cup of heavy cream. By adding the cream you will increase your yield of cheese by increasing the amount of fats and protein available.

Add one teaspoon salt and bring to a full boil on medium heat. Stir occasionally.

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Once boiling, add your acid. You can use either lemon juice or white vinegar. I used 1/4 cup lemon juice because that’s how much juice was in the lemon I had in the fridge. Don’t worry too much about the exact amount. Anywhere from 3 tbsp. to 1/3 cup will work. Pour your vinegar or lemon juice into the milk while stirring. Once combined, remove the pot from the heat and leave it undisturbed for 5 minutes. You should see the milk curdle.

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While you wait, place a cheesecloth in a colander. I then put the colander over a bowl. After 5 minutes, scoop the curds into the cheesecloth and allow to drain for about one hour. The nice thing about making your own ricotta and that you can decide what consistency you want. The longer you let your curds drain, the drier they will be.

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And that’s it. You’re done. Store your new cheese in the refrigerator until ready for use. I used some to make a spread with balsamic strawberries and put the rest in spanakopita.

Enjoy!

Please sign up for my blog so you don’t miss my next post where I demonstrate how to make spanakopita triangles with all this ricotta you just made! Don’t worry, I keep my email lists private.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients
  • 1 quart whole milk not UHT or ultra pastuerized
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice may substitute white vinegar
Instructions
  1. On medium heat, in a large pot, bring your milk, cream and salt to a full boil.

  2. Add lemon juice in a stream while stirring. Stir until combined.

  3. Remove from heat and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.

  4. Scoop curds into a cheesecloth lined colander. Allow to drain for up to one hour.

  5. Store in fridge until ready to use.

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Mediterranean Scrolls – Puff Pastry with Salami, Feta Cheese, Roasted Peppers and Grilled Artichoke Hearts

I love cooking from scratch. Sometimes, though, I’m just too darn tired. When I’ve negotiated with the toddlers (aka terrorists) after a knock down fight over Minnie Mouse for the 58th time that day, I’m in NO MOOD to try and cook during the temporary cease fire agreements. When the day is peppered with constant, LOUD, and messy interruptions, easy – no fuss cooking is best.

This appetizer uses the wonderful invention of premade food while still being delicious. “Scrolls” is an Australian term for pastries rolled like a jelly roll. Scrolls can be sweet or savoury. This recipe is a Mediterranean inspired SCROLL.

It’s so easy. It takes no time and will still impress your friends. First thaw out your package of puff pastry. There should be 2 sheets in there. Either thaw overnight in the fridge or for 40 minutes on your counter.

Drain your marinated artichoke hearts and roasted peppers. After they’re WELL DRAINED, chop them. (I found these in the deli section of my grocery store).

Unfold your pastry sheets and cover with a layer of salami.

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Evenly spread your peppers, artichoke hearts and Feta cheese over top.

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Tightly roll the pastry.

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Using wet fingers, seal the seam of the roll shut.

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With a VERY SHARP knife, cut into 1 inch rounds. If your knife is not sharp enough you will squish the roll flat while cutting it.

Place rounds on a greased baking sheet.

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Combine the egg yolk and water. Beat slightly to create and egg wash and brush on top of rounds.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle Dijon mustard over top (use a squeeze bottle) or serve on the side.

Meditteranean Scrolls
Ingredients
  • 1 box sheet puff pastry thawed
  • 8 oz salami sliced
  • 4 oz feta cheese crumbled
  • 2 sweet bell peppers, roasted, in oil chopped
  • 3 marinated artichoke hearts chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp water
  • dijon mustard for garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Unfold thawed puff pastry sheets

  3. Cover with salami slices

  4. Evenly sprinkle over chopped sweet peppers, artichoke hearts and crumbled feta cheese.

  5. Roll tightly into a jelly roll. Using wet fingers, seal the seam shut.

  6. Slice into 1 inch rounds with a sharp knife

  7. Place on a greased baking sheet.

  8. Combine egg yolk and water and beat slightly to create an egg wash. Brush over rounds.

  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown

  10. Cool and then drizzle Dijon mustard over top or serve on side

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Potato and Goat Cheese Croquettes

My goal with this blog is to share recipes that even a novice can cook or bake. My recipes are either fast and easy or can be done in stages. This isn’t by accident. Anyone who has had kids knows that cooking with toddlers presents challenges. My kids won’t tolerate my attention diverted elsewhere for very long. This recipe is takes a little bit of effort, but made in stages it is a snap. I made these potato and goat cheese croquettes over two days.

Day One: I boiled 5-6, peeled and chopped, russet potatoes until tender. I mashed them with a splash of milk, 2 tbsp. butter, 10 oz of goat cheese, sea salt and coarse black pepper. I then fried about a 1/2 lb of bacon and chopped it into small pieces. Why add bacon? Because bacon makes everything taste better! I chopped up 1/4 cup of green onions (I found some AMAZING organic green onions this week). I mixed everything together and then put it in the fridge overnight (this makes it easier to work with).

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Day Two: I beat one egg lightly and mixed it in with my mashed potatoes. Then I set up three bowls: one with flour, one with two beaten eggs, one with plain bread crumbs.

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I made a ping pong sized ball with the potato mixture and rolled it in the flour. Then I rolled it a second time with my hands to incorporate the flour into the ball. I did this step until all the potato mixture was gone.

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Then I slowly rolled the balls in the egg and then the breadcrumbs. I placed them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Then I took a break.

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Shortly before dinner, I heated up a heavy bottomed pot (I used a cast iron dutch oven) with 2 inches of canola oil to 350 degrees. I fried the croquettes until golden brown, removed them with a strainer spoon and drained them on paper towels. I did this in three batches. Try not to overcook them, the croquettes will split open. They take less than two minutes to cook, so do this step right before you’re ready to eat.

I served the croquettes on a bed of wild arugula with some honey mustard on top. The whole family loved them. This recipe make 2-3 dozen croquettes. Happy cooking!

Potato and Goat Cheese Croquettes

Ingredients
  • 4 cups mashed potatoes
  • splash milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • sea salt to taste
  • coarse black pepper to taste
  • 10 oz goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup bacon chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onions chopped
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
Step Two:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
Step Three:
  • canola oil
Instructions
  1. Mix together the mashed potatoes, milk, butter, goat cheese, salt, pepper, bacon and green onions. Chill in the fridge until cold (this makes it easier to work with).

  2. Once chilled, mix in one lightly beaten egg.

  3. Roll into ping pong sized balls and coat with the flour. Roll the balls a second time to incorporate the flour into the potatoes. Continue until all potato mixture is used up.

  4. Gently roll balls in egg and then breadcrumbs. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Chill until ready to cook.

  5. Heat up 2 inches of canola oil in a heavy bottomed pot to 350 degrees. Fry the croquettes in batches until golden brown. Don't overcook and be gentle with them to prevent splitting.

  6. Remove with strainer spoon (they take about 2 minutes to cook) and drain on paper towels.

  7. Serve on a bed of wild arugula and drizzle on some honey mustard dressing for garnish.

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Ambrosia Salad. A Southern Holiday Treat for the Summer

Ambrosia salad is traditionally served during the holidays in the south. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. As a kid growing up on the west coast of Canada, I missed out on this fabulous tradition. My mom made bread sauce for the holidays… while yummy, as a kid I would have much preferred ambrosia!

Today ambrosia is served all year round and is especially popular during the summer. Its light texture and sweet fruits are complimented by a childhood love…MARSHMALLOWS!

I have adapted this recipe a little. I like my ambrosia creamy, so I substituted full fat greek yogurt in place of the sour cream. I also used real whipped cream instead of the fake stuff you find in a tub. I added a little honey to sweeten it up and ended up with a bowl of delicious heaven. It tasted like a cloud at the end of a rainbow. I’m in love.

To start, mix up your full fat greek yogurt with the honey. You can adjust the honey to taste.

Then whip up the heavy cream until stiff and fold in the yogurt.

Fold in the remaining ingredients (ensure your fruits have been well drained!) and chill for at least one hour in the fridge. My husband said this salad tasted even better after a full night in the fridge.

Ambrosia Salad
Ingredients
  • 1 cup full fat greek yogurt
  • 1/2-1 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 13 oz jar marachino cherries
  • 15 oz can mandarin orange slices
  • 20 oz can pineapple chunks or 1 1/2 cups fresh
  • 1 cup grapes sliced in half
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
Instructions
  1. Combine yogurt and honey

  2. Whip heavy cream until thick

  3. Fold yogurt into whipped cream

  4. Well drain all fruits

  5. Fold in all remaining ingredients

  6. Chill for at least one hour in the fridge prior to serving

 

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Yay or Nay?

I grew up on the west coast of Canada. Similar to the west coast of the USA, the cuisine tends to be light, healthy, organic and perfect for aspiring hippies. My husband grew up in New Jersey where Italian food is popular. When I first moved here I could not understand Italian rollatini. Why would anyone stuff a pasta tube with cheese and then cover it with more cheese? But my husband LOVES them. I like tofu, but he HATES it. Our tastes can sometimes be very different.

So, needless to say, when I told him I was making spring rolls that were NOT deep fried, he was a little skeptical. These rolls are light, healthy and fun to make. I found the coolness of the mint a perfect taste match to the shrimp. I dipped them in peanut sauce for a little extra flavor, but I really enjoyed the fresh, crisp taste of these rolls. My husband….not so much. He took one bite, told me it wasn’t food, and made a frozen pizza and mozzarella sticks for dinner.

So…don’t make these unless they’re your cup of tea. They are LIGHT and make a fabulous appetizer. You can make them fun for your guests by serving them with a variety of different dipping sauces.

The key to making them is to remove your spring roll wrapper from the water before it  becomes completely soft. This will make it much less likely to tear.

Here’s how to create the roll.

I hope you enjoy them. Leave me a comment about what you think. Yay or Nay?

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Ingredients
  • 1 pkg spring roll wrappers
  • 12-15 U16/20 shrimp cooked, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 head romaine lettuce chopped
  • 1 pkg vermicelli noodles cooked according to package directions
  • 1 container bean sprouts
Instructions
  1. Soak the spring roll wrappers in a flat bottomed bowl of water until mostly soft (about one minute)

  2. Place wrapper on a tea towel

  3. Place three shrimp, cut side up on the wrapper

  4. Cover with mint, lettuce, noodles and bean sprouts

  5. Fold ends of wrapper in. Press down to stick

  6. Tightly roll and place on serving tray

  7. Serve with dipping sauce

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Chlodnik. A tangy, cold, Polish soup

I was going to post a Thai recipe today, but since my sneak peek picture of this soup got a lot of interest I decided to let this post jump the queue. Today we’re off to Poland! (Not literally, we’re just making Polish food.)

Chlodnik is a vibrant pink, cold, traditional, Polish soup. The pink color comes from the beets and this soup would typically be served as the first course of lunch. Made with young beets, cucumber and fresh dill it is a welcome starter or full meal during the hot summer months. The base is made up of sour cream and buttermilk or kefir. I added some potatoes for a bit more substance and it is typically garnished with an entire boiled egg. Here’s how to make it:

First off you need to separate the beets from their greens. Save the greens.

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Peel the beets and boil or steam them until soft. Cool and chop into small pieces. Then place them in either a blender or food processor to form a puree. I have a Ninja blender so I used that.

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Boil the beet leaves and/or stems until tender (usually about 5 minutes). Chop.

Boil your potatoes until tender. Cool and chop into bite sized pieces. (I used baby gold Yukon potatoes). (This step is optional.)

Mix the sour cream and buttermilk together in a large bowl.

Add your dill, chives, radishes, potatoes, beet greens and 1 cup of the beet puree (note – you can keep the beets raw, but your soup will have a slightly grainy texture). Mix well. Chill.

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Hard boil and egg. Cut in half and garnish when ready to serve.

To wszystko! (Supposedly that’s how you say “that’s all!” in Polish)

Follow this blog so you don’t miss out on my next post where I make delicious Thai lettuce wraps.

 

 

Chlodnik
Ingredients
  • 5 beets with leaves
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 cups buttermilk or kefir
  • 2 cups potatoes cooked and chopped
  • 2 cups cucumbers chopped
  • 7 radishes sliced
  • 1/2 cup chives chopped
  • 1 tbsp dill chopped fine
  • 4-5 eggs hard boiled
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut the stems and leaves off of the beets

  2. Peel beets. Boil or steam until tender. Shred in a blender or food processor to form a puree

  3. Boil beet leaves until tender (about 5 mins). Chop and set aside to cool

  4. Combine the sour cream and buttermilk

  5. Add the cucumber, potatoes (I used Yukon gold), radishes, chives, dill, salt, pepper and chopped beet leaves

  6. Add 1 cup of the beet puree and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste

  7. Chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours before serving

  8. Serve with sliced hard boiled eggs for garnish

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Spiced Lamb Turnovers and all things Persian

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The Ancient Kingdom of Persia was always known for it’s exemplary food. Renamed in 1935, this area is now referred to as Iran. Politics aside, to ignore this country’s cuisine would be a true tragedy. Their culinary history is rich with the flavors of fragrant spices, sweet pomegranates, cool mint, slow cooked meats and warm roasted nuts.  When I was writing my cookbook, my Persian friend invited me and my mom over to her house to learn about Persian Cooking. It was a magical afternoon where she shared everything from the proper way to serve tea to how your rice should “dance” in the pot when it was boiling. She stressed to us that “presentation is everything” and that taking this extra step when cooking for others is considered crucial in her culture.

After greeting us the front door, my friend poured us a sweet and sour drink called SEKANJABIN. It was a refreshingly cold drink that reminded me of my travels through Jordan. It’s perfect for a hot summer afternoon with friends.

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The syrup is made ahead of time and stored in the fridge. You pour a couple of tablespoons into the bottom of a glass, add ice and cold water, and stir. Garnish with shredded cucumber, fresh mint leaves and a lime rind. I will post the recipe at the end of this blog.

I learned how to make Persian style Basmati rice. Slightly boiled, but mostly steamed, this rice should be drier than that North Americans tend to serve. Her Jeweled Rice, which graces the cover of my cookbook, is traditionally served at weddings. It’s named for the colors displayed by the saffron infused rice, sour red barberries and bright green pistachios. The recipe is in my cookbook so I won’t repeat it here, but her food was so delicious that I went on the hunt for the ingredients. I couldn’t get over the flavor combinations.

One ingredient that is used to both decorate and flavor many dishes is rose petals. I thought it would be hard to find food grade rose buds, but I saw them at my local Asian store.

I ground some up in my mortar and saved it in a jar. The aroma is divine and so is the taste.

Back to my gorgeous afternoon. My friend served us the Jeweled Rice with a saffron chicken dish (also in the cookbook), herbed yogurt and pickled vegetables. It was delicious, and that’s an understatement.

After lunch, she served us tea. She placed cardamom pods in the kettle with the water to boil and then poured the hot water through loose leaf tea brought in from England. She set her hourglass timer to the appropriate steeping time and explained that tea should be served in glass cups, so that the deep colors could be enjoyed.

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Motivated after this amazing spread I searched for Persian recipes where I could find all the ingredients at my local grocery store. What I found was Spiced Lamb Turnovers. I spent the extra time on presentation as my friend suggested and I ended up with a beautiful dish. These take time to make, but they’re well worth it. The garnish adds quite a bit of taste, so don’t skip this important step. This recipe makes about 4 dozen, but they freeze extremely well.

Click HERE to order my cookbook

SPICED LAMB TURNOVERS
Ingredients
  • 3 boxes puff pastry thawed 40 mins
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 onion diced fine
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup fresh tarragon chopped
  • 2 cups fresh Italian parsley chopped
  • 1 cup fresh mint chopped
  • 1 cup pistachios ground (use food processor)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
For wash:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp milk
For garnish:
  • ground pistachio
  • ground rose petals (available at asian stores)
  • powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. In a large frying pan heat the oil on medium heat till hot. Add in lamb, onion and garlic. Add 1 tbsp water and cover. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 15 mins.

  2. Add remaining ingredients and turn heat up to medium. Cook uncovered for 15-20 mins or until mixture fairly dry. Make sure to break up lamb into small pieces.

  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  4. Take out puff pastry and cut into 3 inch rounds using a cookie cutter or jar.

  5. Add 2 tsp filling to each round. Fold into a half moon and pinch closed. Place on a cookie tray.

  6. Brush egg wash on tops of turnovers

  7. Freeze extra turnovers on tray. You may transfer them to a bag or container once frozen. (This prevents sticking.)

  8. Bake for 20 mins or until golden brown.

  9. Remove from oven and garnish. Use whole rose buds to decorate your serving platter.

Recipe Notes

To PIN this recipe click on the thumbnail image and then the P icon

 

Sekanjabin
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (you may add up to 2 tbsp more to taste if desired)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small bunch fresh mint
  • 1 small seedles cucumbers peeled and shredded for garnish
  • 1 lime for garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves

  2. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10-15 minutes

  3. Add the vinegar and simmer for 30 minutes or until mixture thickens into a syrup. Taste and adjust amount of vinegar/sugar to taste

  4. In the last 2-3 minutes, add in the bunch of fresh mint

  5. Remove from heat and cool completely

  6. Remove mint leaves before serving

  7. When ready to drink, pour a couple tablespoons of the syrup into a cup. Top with ice and water. Stir

  8. Garnish with shredded cucumber, fresh mint and a lime rind