Friday, May 14, 2010

Greek Lemon Cake

Lemons are a staple of Greek cooking, because the mild climate is perfect for citrus trees. This is a simple lemon cake that is not too heavy, but still very satisfying. A word of advice: use only fresh lemons for the juice and zest called for in this recipe. They make a world of difference!


* 3 cups cake flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 6 eggs
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup butter, softened
* 2 teaspoons lemon zest
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1 cup plain yogurt

Let’s prepare!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt cake pan and set aside. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside. Separate the eggs (always my favorite part). In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 of the sugar, beating a little more until stiff glossy peaks form. Set aside.

Cream the butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice until fluffy. Add the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt. Then gently fold in the egg whites and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes and let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before turning out on a rack to finish. Serve with a nice cup of coffee or lemon tea and enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Baba Ghannouj & Pita Chips

Baba Ghannouj is an eggplant spread that is popular throughout the world. Variations on it can be found in Turkey, Israel, Greece and now, right here in middle Georgia! What a simple spread to put together when you want to try some international cuisine! Great as an appetizer or party dish, especially when paired with these toasted pita chips.

Baba Ghannouj ingredients:

* 1 eggplant
* 2 garlic cloves
* 2 ounces fresh lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons tahini paste
* 1/2 bunch parsley, leaves only
* Salt and pepper

Pita Chips ingredients:

* 4-6 pita shells
* 1 teaspoon oregano
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon pepper
* olive oil

Pierce some holes in the skin of the eggplant and roast your eggplant in a 375 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, turning about every 7-8 minutes.

Once the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel away the skin and discard. Place the eggplant flesh in a colander and drain for 10 minutes. In a food processor, combine the garlic, lemon juice, tahini paste and parsley. Pulse to combine. Add the eggplant flesh. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the flavor with more tahini or lemon juice if you prefer. You can also add in a sprinkle of honey of sugar!

Let’s prepare the pita slices. Cut each pita in half, then two more times to make 8 wedges. Arrange on a large baking sheet. Brush the pita chips with olive oil, and sprinkle with even amounts of oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake for 7 minutes in a 400 degree oven, or until toasted and golden in color.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Greek Style Shrimp Scampi

If you love pasta like we do around our house, this is a quick, fresh-tasting alternative to the same old spaghetti and fettuccine alfredo you have had a million times before. It is extremely easy to put together and that is why it makes the perfect weeknight meal!


* 12 oz linguini or spaghetti
* Salt
* 1 lb medium to large shrimp, deveined, peeled, and tails removed
* Pepper
* 1/3 cup olive oil
* 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
* Couple pinches of red pepper flakes
* 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
* 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* 20 (or more) Kalamata olives, pitted, and halved
* 1/2 cup white wine
* 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
* 1 cup feta cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water and cook the pasta according to package directions.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. While the pasta water comes to a boil, heat the olive oil and garlic in a deep skillet. Once the garlic has browned (but before it burns!), remove and reserve. Add and cook the shrimp, about 3-4 minutes. Toss in red pepper flakes, lemon zest, oregano, olives, and wine and cook for a couple more minutes. Remove from heat. Add a ladle of the pasta water to the sauce along with the lemon juice. Drain pasta and add to the skillet. Let the pasta soak in the juices, then toss in parsley and feta.

All that is left is to enjoy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Greek Orzo & Mahi Mahi with Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette

Quick, filling, and tasty! Those are three words to describe this perfect weeknight Greek dinner. And let me tell you, the orzo with the vinaigrette-perfect just by itself. And even better, the vinaigrette works well just over a nice garden salad! If Mahi Mahi is not your preferred fish, feel free to use some other type of seafood.


* 8 oz orzo, cooked al dente
* 1 large cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise, and sliced
*3 green onions, thinly sliced
* 3 roma tomatoes, chopped
* 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
* 1 teaspoon dried dill
* 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
* 1/2 cup olive oil
* salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 6 oz feta cheese (with Mediterranean herbs), crumbled
* 2 Mahi Mahi fillets
* 1 teaspoon Greek Seasoning
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon pepper
* olive oil

To begin, cook the orzo according to package directions. Once it is cooked al dente, combine with the cucumber, green onions, and tomatoes. In a blender, pulse (until smooth) the dill, vinegar, and mustard. With the motor still running, slowly add the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the vinaigrette over the orzo mixture and stir to combine. Gently fold in the feta cheese.

To prepare the fish, combine the Greek seasoning with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of the fish and let it rest for a few minutes. Heat a heavy skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the fish about 7 minutes on each side, or until done.

Plate the fish on top of the orzo mixture and enjoy! How could a weeknight meal be easier?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eggplant & Potato Moussaka

I recently found a great recipe for this classic Greek favorite by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, which prompted me to try my hand at it. Emeril’s recipe calls for half of your meat to be ground lamb, but I stuck with ground chuck, which is a lot easier to find at our local supermarkets. A word of warning… this is the perfect weekend recipe, not something for your hurried weeknights! Take that word of caution from my experience! But please do not pass this great recipe by because of the steps involved. Your time and patience will be rewarded!


* 3 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
* 1 1/2 cups olive oil, plus more as needed
* 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
* 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
* 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 1 ½ pound ground chuck
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/4 cup dry red wine
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
* 1/2 cup water
* 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
* 1/2 cup salt, plus more for seasoning
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 2 1/2 cups milk
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 1 egg yolk
* 1 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Once you have all of your ingredients ready, let’s get started.

Place the peeled eggplant slices in a large bowl and cover with water. Add 1/2 cup of salt and gently combine. Let this stand for 20 minutes, drain, and pat dry with paper towels. (Tip: Lay out a few layers of paper towels, lay your eggplant slices on them, and top with more paper towels. This will help draw out the water.)

While the eggplant is soaking, let’s work on the potatoes. Heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet (I actually had two skillets going to cut down on the time) and, working in batches, add the potato slices and cook until lightly golden on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper-lined plate to drain and repeat with any remaining potato slices. Season lightly with salt.

Place 1 cup of flour into a bowl and coat both sides of the eggplant slices in the flour. Shake to remove any excess flour. Add 1/4 cup of the remaining oil to the skillet and, working in batches, fry the eggplant slices until golden, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add more oil to the skillet as needed in 1/4 cup increments. Repeat until all of the eggplant has been cooked and transfer to a paper-lined plate to drain.

Moving on to the meat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Cook the meat and drain off the grease. Add the onions, and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Toss in the garlic and oregano. Add the red wine and cook until evaporated. Add the tomato paste, stir to incorporate, then add the crushed tomatoes, water, and parsley. Stir occasionally, until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Let’s make the béchamel sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Once it is hot, whisk in the flour, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, until smooth and thick. Season with salt to taste. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, cover, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. The first layer will be all of the sliced potatoes in an even layer. Next, top with half of the eggplant slices then half of the meat sauce. Spoon 3/4 cup of the béchamel sauce evenly over the meat sauce and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cheese. Finally, top with the remaining eggplant slices, pressing down on the layers gently with your hands to compress (if needed) and top with the remaining meat sauce and then spread the remaining béchamel sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake (uncovered) 50 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown on the top and heated throughout. Let stand for at least 15-20 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fish Tacos with Guacamole Sauce

Most of us are familiar with plain old ground beef tacos. However, along the coast of Southern California and Mexico, tacos are often made with chunks of fried fish instead. Any mild white fish will do. The guacamole sauce is also a star, and you may find yourself enjoying the extra sauce with chips. It is that good!

* 3 Tilapia fillets
* olive oil, for drizzling
* Salt and pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon paprika
* 1 lime, juiced
* 3 avocados, pitted and scooped from skins
* 1 lemon, juiced
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1 cup plain yogurt
* 1 teaspoon coarse salt
* 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
* 2 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
* Flour tortillas
* Garnish: Shredded Cheese of your choice, salsa, and radicchio leaves

Let’s start with the sauce. In a blender, combine avocado flesh, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, yogurt and salt. Process guacamole sauce until smooth. Remove guacamole sauce to a bowl and stir in diced tomatoes and chopped scallions.

Preheat a skillet and drizzle tilapia with olive oil to keep fish from sticking. Season fish with paprika, salt, and pepper. Pan sear the fish 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until opaque. Drizzle the fish with the lime and remove from the skillet. Flake fish into large chunks with a fork.

To serve, prepare your tacos with the fish at the bottom, then add the cheese, salsa, radicchio, and top with the guacamole sauce. Fold and enjoy!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Black Bean Cakes with Orange Basil Salsa

What a pleasant surprise with this recipe. The fresh basil mixed with the orange really made this fresh salsa a hit in my house! And when topped over these delicious bean cakes… how could you go wrong?


* 2 navel oranges, separated and cut into small pieces
* 2 large tomatoes, cored and diced finely
* 2 scallion, sliced thin
* 1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
* 2 teaspoon olive oil
* 1 small jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
* 1 dash salt

Bean Cakes

* 4 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained if canned
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 medium onion, diced finely
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 celery rib, sliced thin
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp salt
* freshly ground pepper

Combine all the salsa ingredients in a bowl. Let sit for at least 1 hour.

Place 3 cups of the black beans in a large bowl. In a food processor, process the remaining cup of beans with the eggs until smooth. Stir this mixture into the whole beans along with the breadcrumbs.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and sauté until very tender and beginning to brown. Sprinkle on the cumin and cook 1 more minute.

Add the vegetables into the bean mixture and add the salt and pepper. Stir to mix well.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a cookie sheet. Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop up 10-12 portions of the bean mixture and place on the baking sheet. Flatten out with your hand. Bake 10 minutes, flip and bake 10 more minutes. Serve the bean cakes topped with the salsa.