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Mmm… Gyros

DSC_8100 (1600x1060)The mint is starting to come back.  I doubt we can eat enough gyros to eradicate it during the normal course.  It’s wildly invasive and this patch has been sprouting anew for years now after more than a few attempt to kill it off.  I suppose we can live with it.

The gyro meat and tzatziki sauce are both from Alton Brown’s recipe.  I sliced the loaf thin and broiled it a bit in the toaster oven this time, I usually brown it in a saute pan in a little olive oil.  The resulting brown crust adds to the flavor and is worth the extra time.

I see a lot of recipes for gyros that call for shredded lettuce and I’ve seen some served with French fries right in there but the first gyros I ever ate had only the meat, the sauce, and the tomatoes and onions rolled into a warm pita so that is how I do them.

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Dinner Menu: Tuscan Cod and Bruschetta

Melted Bruscetta copyright

When I was in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, we went out to dinner to a cute little fish diner, right on the water. The fish was amazingly fresh and I realized how much I miss it when I’m not on either coast. With that in mind, I went looking for one of my fish recipes. This one popped up and I thought it sounded spring like, so that’s how we got here.

When picking fish, make sure it doesn’t smell fishy, just fresh and like clean water.  It should be firm to the touch and any liquid should be clear, not milky. It helps to know your butcher, they’ll usually direct you to the freshest fillets. You should plan on using it the day you purchase it. You can substitute any firm white fish in this recipe.

  1. Tuscan Cod
  2. Bruschetta
  3. Broccoli
  4. Grapes

Tuscan Cod

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ diced red pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 4-6 oz cod fillets

skillet

Heat 1 tbsp oil in the skillet, over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and pepper for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, cumin and crushed pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and add remaining oil. Once heated, add fish fillets and cook 5 minutes, turn over, spoon sauce on top, cover and cook additional 5 minutes over medium heat. Fish should flake easily with a fork.

Bruschetta

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 French baguette, sliced in half, lengthwise
  • 3 roma tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella

baking sheet

Mix oil and garlic together. Lay baguette halves on baking sheet, cut side up and brush with oil mixture. Broil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown (watch carefully). Remove and top evenly with tomato slices, basil and mozzarella. Broil for 2 more minutes until cheese is melted. Slice and serve.

Shopping List:

  • 1 red onion
  • ½ red pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • 4-6 oz cod fillets
  • 1 French baguette
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella
  • 1 bunch of grapes
  • 1 head of broccoli or 16 oz frozen

Also: cumin, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil,

Friday Recipe Exchange: Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

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Tonight is a bit hodgepodge. While I was away, faithful contributor, Joshua D (Yutsano) sent me two tasty recipes to share. I was grateful, because lately I feel like I’m walking on ice and cannot get my feet under me long enough to cook, much less blog about cooking. I’m sitting on a folder full of great vacation pictures and some fun food stories that I can’t seem to find the time to blog about. I struggled with tonight’s featured recipe, finally settling on lamb, but not sure where I wanted to go from there and then I remembered that JeffreyW has been working for quite a while on perfecting his gyros.

And there it was, I knew what I’d feature tonight. What’s on your menu this weekend? Anything new and fun cooking in your kitchen? Be kind and share your inspiration, so I can find mine.

Moving on to tonight’s recipes, starting with Joshua D and Cilantro Lime Hummus, recipe here.

From Ruemara, thoughtfully shared by Joshua D, Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese Soup, recipe here.

And if making a gyro loaf seems a bit too labor intensive, this Spicy Lamb Burger (click here) would work as well with pita and Tzatziki sauce.

Now the featured recipe, inspired by JeffreyW (pictured above):

Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Food processor, loaf pan, baking dish

Ok, these are the general directions, but JeffreyW has been playing with perfecting the preparation, so click here and here for lots of step-by-step photos and his tweaks to make the perfect loaf.

In a large bowl, combine ingredients until well mixed and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. Remove to food processor and process until a fine paste. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

Place meat mixture into a loaf pan, pressing down on all sides. Place the loaf pan in the baking dish and add water to the baking dish to create a water bath. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove and rest covered with foil for 30 minutes. Slice and serve

Serve with:

  • Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)
  • 4 to 6 pieces soft pita (not pocket pita)
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Finely sliced onion
  • Cubed peeled seeded cucumber
  • Mint sprigs

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

Can I just say, thank goodness for Men Who Cook here at What’s 4 Dinner Solutions, I don’t know what I’d do without you  - TaMara

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Dinner Menu: Linguine w/Peppers and Italian Asparagus

It’s the time of year that I begin to crave fresh, light dinners. I’ve tired of stews, hearty soups and the other staples of the mid-winter gloom. As I start to believe spring will arrive again, I want meals that reflect that belief. Lots of fresh veggies, fresh fruits, light sauces and simple, full flavors.

This menu includes items that are plentiful at my local grocery this week. All the peppers are on sale right now, so I use red, yellow. orange and green. Lots of fresh berries, too. And asparagus is everywhere.

On the board tonight:

  1. Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers
  2. Italian Asparagus
  3. Mixed berries & whipped cream

Linguine w/Garlic & Peppers

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-Parmesan cheese
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine

saucepan and skillet

In skillet heat oil, add garlic, red pepper flakes, green & red peppers and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add fresh basil, tomatoes, salt & pepper let simmer while pasta cooks. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain well. Toss with pepper mixture & cheese.

* you can use fresh tomatoes, probably 2 large, but I couldn’t find any decent ones this time of year.

Italian Asparagus

  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan

saucepan & steamer

Gently scrub asparagus, cut in half and place in steamer. Add enough water to saucepan to come in the bottom of the steamer. Steam for 5 to 8 minutes, until the stalks are tender. Remove and toss with oil, oregano, salt, pepper & cheese.

Shopping List:

  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes*
  • 4 oz shredded Romano-parmesan cheese**
  • 9 oz pkg. fresh linguine
  • 1 bunch (approx. 16 oz) fresh asparagus spears
  • 2 oz shredded Romano/Parmesan
  • 16 oz mixed berries
  • Whipped Cream

Also: oregano, olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, crushed red pepper flakes

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Pastas and Sauces

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Last year I did a recipe exchange on meatballs (here) but was surprised to see I had never done one specifically on sauces. Now sauces can be risky and start a great debate, because every family has their version. So hit the comments with your favorite pasta sauce recipe, and for that matter, pastas, because there are so many choices. Like many things, I’m not all that concerned about the right pasta for the right sauce, I say, use what you enjoy and ignore the purists.

Food should be fun. For that matter, so should wine, beer and scotch.

So let’s start out with JeffreyW’s Awesome Sauce (here) because, well, it’s awesome.

Want something a little simpler and quicker? How about his San Marzano Sauce, here.

And his Shrimp & Pasta Formaggio (here) is quick and easy, also.

When everything is in season, I like to make my sauce with fresh ingredients, so I have a Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce (recipe here) that’s lighter and fresher than tonight’s featured recipe.

When it comes to pastas, I favor two options, a nice spiral (fusilli or rotini) or a quick cooking Angel Hair (capellini), but if I can get it fresh from the farmer’s market, I’ll take what I can get, which is usually a linguine. It’s all tasty.

For the featured recipe, I went with my traditional family sauce, the one I grew up with, but with a few tweaks. Now, even in my family, half of which are Italian, even the most basic sauce has as many different variations as there are cooks, so this is just a place to start, add your own touches to make it your family tradition. This is a hearty sauce and my go-to in the colder months when fresh ingredients are not readily available. I always double this and freeze half for a later dinner.

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta of choice (I like angel hair for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or 1/2 beef and 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp dried basil, crushed*
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely grated or 1/2 tsp sugar (these reduce the acidity of the sauce and bring out the spices – trust me on this one – I prefer the carrot, myself.)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (opt) to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese

2 saucepans and large skillet

In skillet, heat oil, sauté pepper, onion, garlic.  Add hamburger and cook thoroughly.  Add tomato paste and 1 tsp ea of crushed basil, oregano and rosemary, mix well.   In saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add meat mixture and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

*CRUSHING Spices – when using dry spices, to get the best flavor, you should crush them, either by rubbing them in your hand or using a mortar and pestle before adding them to a recipe.

That’s it for this week. I know I still owe you a recipe to go with this delicious looking Cream of Chicken Soup I made this week. And if you missed it, here is the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for the week, Pasticcio and Salata Meze. - TaMara

Dinner Menu: Pasticcio and Salata Meze

I’m planning on making a cream of chicken soup today. I wanted a rich, creamy soup and that is where I settled. I haven’t made it before, so if it turns out, I’ll post recipe and photos. If not, you’ll never know it happened. LOL.

For this week’s dinner menu, I went with a recipe that was completely out of my experience when I first tried it. Cinnamon and nutmeg in macaroni and cheese? Never!  It soon became one of my favorite recipes because the flavors are so rich, layered and exotic. Paired with an equally flavorful salad, this menu adds a little Greek to the week.

On the board tonight:

  1. Pasticcio
  2. Salata Meze
  3. Chopped Apples w/honey & walnuts over ice cream

Pasticcio

  • 7 oz dry ziti
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz grated parmesan/Romano mix
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

saucepan & skillet

8×8 glass baking dish, greased

Cook ziti according to package directions, drain well. Sauté onions, add beef and cook until beef is browned. Stir in tomatoes & salt. Layer 1/2 ziti in baking dish; add beef mixture and then 1/2 of the cheese, sprinkle cinnamon over cheese. Add remaining ziti. Beat eggs, milk & butter together. Pour over ziti mixture, top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes, until center is set. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Salata Meze

  • 8 oz green beans
  • 2 small zucchini sliced
  • 8 oz cauliflower crowns
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 red onion, sliced in rings
  • 6-12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • lettuce leaves
  • 2 oz whole black olives
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese

saucepan & serving bowl

Add beans, cauliflower and zucchini to water in saucepan, bring to a boil. Simmer on med-low for 3-5 minutes until vegetables are tender-crisp. Rinse with ice water & drain well. Mix oil, lemon, honey & spices and toss with vegetables, including onions & tomatoes. Layer lettuce leaves in serving bowl, top with vegetable mixture. Garnish with olives and feta.

Chopped Apples w/honey & walnuts

  • 2 apples, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup honey (more as needed)
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • Dash of lemon juice

Add chopped apples, honey, lemon juice and walnuts to saucepan and heat until honey is melted and coats everything. Let simmer until apples are tender. Serve warm over ice cream.

Shopping List:

  • 7 oz ziti
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 6 oz fresh grated parmesan/Romano mix
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 oz green beans
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 8 oz cauliflower crowns
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 6-12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small head bib lettuce
  • 2 oz whole black olives
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • 2 apples
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Also: cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, salt

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Dinner Menu: Santa Fe Wraps

I know this late, but I got hit with a nasty bug and about all I could accomplish this week was work. The cold weather has stayed around longer than they predicted, though except for a day, it was nothing like anywhere else was experiencing.

I thought about doing soup for the menu tonight, but I’m tired of cold weather food (sigh, and it’s only January) so I decided to go for something that seemed a little fresher. I was in the store and passed by the flavored tortillas: sun dried tomato basil; jalapeno cheddar; garlic herb; and spinach and knew what I wanted to do. These are extra large and I really like the flavors. I like this recipe for company, you can make it all ahead of time, keep it warm and put it on the table and let everyone assemble their own.

On the board tonight:

  1. Santa Fe Wraps
  2. Salad w/Creamy Cucumber Dressing
  3. Grapes

Santa Fe Wraps

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 14 oz can black beans
  • 14 oz can red beans
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb sirloin or London broil, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 red pepper*
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 12 oz shredded Jack Cheese
  • 4-8 burrito size flour tortillas (maybe try a flavored style)

2 saucepans, skillet and 4 serving bowls

In saucepan, add rice, 2 cups water and bring to a boil, cover, simmer for 20 minutes until all water is absorbed. In other saucepan, add beans & heat on med-low. In 300° oven, place tortilla shells between two pieces of foil and warm. In skillet, heat oil, sauté onion & pepper add steak, cook 5 minutes, reduce heat & add tomatoes, taco seasoning and cook 5 minutes on medium. Put rice, beans, cheese and meat mixture in separate serving bowls, let everyone assemble their own wrap at the table.

*There are a lot of peppers at my grocers, so go wild, use a couple of different colors for some added flavor.

Also, please note my friend who lived in Santa Fe says it needs green chilis to be authentic.

Salad w/Creamy Cucumber Dressing

  • 12 oz bag spring greens
  • ½ head green leaf lettuce
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced

serving bowl

Mix all ingredients together in serving bowl.

Dressing:

  • 8 oz plain yogurt (low fat ok)
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled & chopped (seeded opt)**
  • ¼ Miracle Whip style salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • 4 green onions, chopped (or use the remaining yellow onion)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp dried dill
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

small bowl

Mix ingredients together and toss with salad greens.  **I really like the English cucumbers (those are the long, thin ones, usually wrapped in plastic).

Shopping List:

  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 14 oz can black beans
  • 14 oz can red beans
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb sirloin or London broil
  • 1 red pepper (don’t stop there, add a yellow and orange, too)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 pkg. taco seasoning
  • 12 oz shredded Jack Cheese
  • 4-8 burrito size flour tortillas (be daring, try a flavored one)
  • green chilis, opt.
  • 12 oz bag spring greens
  • 1 head green leaf lettuce
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 8 oz plain yogurt (low fat ok)
  • 2 cucumbers (I like English)
  • 4 green onions (or use the remaining yellow onion)

Also: Miracle Whip style salad dressing or mayonnaise, lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, dill

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Not Turkey: Guest Recipe from Joshua D.

This popped up in my mail just before Thanksgiving from Men Who Cook regular, Joshua D. I thought the timing was perfect since I always post not-turkey recipes after the holiday. So if you’re tired of turkey, Joshua has the perfect remedy:

This was an impromptu recipe too good to not share! One point: how much honey you will need will depend on the sweetness of your tomatoes. True it’s November but this is a good recipe to hold for summer plus if you have spare canned San Marzanos hanging around that will work beautifully!

PENNE POMODORO

(Note from TaMara, I changed amounts to serve 4)

  • 12 oz dried penne
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped (or two cans of diced tomatoes, San Marzanos preferred)
  • 3 large shallot, sliced
  • 2 -4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp basil, chiffonaded
  • 1 tbsp oregano, chopped
  • Few drops honey
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup parmigano reggiano

Cook penne in boiling salted water) for about a minute under package directions. While pasta is boiling, cook shallots in a skillet over medium heat. After about 2 minutes, add in tomato with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes break down, about 4-5 minutes. Add in sliced garlic,wine and herbs and cook for another minute. Drop in honey and stir well. By now the penne should be very toothsome. Add penne to skillet (if water gets into sauce this is good!) and cook together until sauce thickens slightly and penne is done to your liking. Turn off heat and mix in most of cheese. Serve with slices of toasted ciabatta or your favourite bread. Top with more cheese and enjoy!

Joshua De Mers

Dinner Menu: It’s Not Turkey

I thought to combat Turkey Fatigue, it would be nice to have some fresh vegetables and pasta. Have leftover cranberry sauce? Use it to make some cobbler.

On the board tonight:

  1. Pasta Primavera
  2. Crusty Bread
  3. Cranberry Apple Cobbler

Pasta Primavera

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 ea. green, red, yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 8 oz frozen sliced carrots
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cubed
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp ea, crushed rosemary, basil, oregano
  • 12 oz bowtie pasta, cook according to package directions
  • ½ cup grated parmesan

skillet, saucepan and large serving bowl

Put water on to boil. Heat oil in skillet, sauté onion & garlic, until onions are translucent. Add peppers, sauté for 2-3 minutes, add the rest of the fresh vegetables and more oil if necessary. Sauté for 5 minutes, then add tomatoes & spices. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Drain cooked pasta well. In serving bowl, add pasta, vegetable mixture, & parmesan. Toss well and serve immediately.

Cranberry Apple Cobbler

  • 5 cups peeled & sliced apples*
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup raw chopped cranberries (or 1 cup whole cranberry sauce, reduce sugar to 3/4 cup)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted

2 qt baking dish, buttered

Mix ingredients together and spread in the bottom of baking dish. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes, until bubbly.

Topping:

  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 3 tbsp milk

large bowl

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Stir in milk until soft dough forms. Drop by tbsp onto hot apple mixture. Bake additional 30 minutes until golden brown.

* if you want to substitute equivalent amount of pie filling, reduce sugar to ½ cup.

Shopping List:

  • Loaf of Crusty Bread
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 ea. green, red, yellow bell pepper
  • 8 oz frozen sliced carrots
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 12 oz bowtie pasta
  • 4 oz grated parmesan
  • 5 apples
  • 1-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup raw chopped cranberries
  • 1 stick butter

Also: Milk, salt, pepper, baking powder, flour, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, oregano, olive oil

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Mmm… lamb burger

DSC_7075 (1600x1060)My local Kroger store surprised me with lamb patties but I dithered about using them until tonight when I threw this dinner together.  The yogurt came from one of those little cups – plain Greek yogurt with dried dill weed added and a little garlic.  I’ve been collecting olives, the plate tonight has three kinds: Baby kalamatas, country style cracked green olives, and stuffed manzanillas.  The garden is still producing tomatoes but the nights have been cooler so they will be coming to an end.  Love them with feta and kosher salt.

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