Category Archives: Dinner

Greek Stuffed Onions, from ancient times

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With our son, James, going back to school in a day or two my mind started to focus on my to-do list. Next? Vacation! And back to Greece!  I can already feel that delicious, dry heat on my face. It’s blistering hot in the sun but under a sea grape or olive tree it’s quite pleasant…especially if there’s a cold pitcher of house white wine and a few pieces of freshly grilled octopus sitting in front of me lounging in a pool of fruity, green olive oil and oregano from the field next door. Last year on the island of Lesvos in the town of Molyvos I happened to chat with the owner of a shop I was in and learned she gave cooking lessons in her home. I took several classes from her and had a marvelous time. The lessons were not demanding and quite enjoyable.

And everyone makes their own olive oil. Sigh.
And everyone makes their own olive oil. Sigh.

I was able to take away quite a bit of information from technique to previously unknown ingredients due to the fact that she tailored the classes to me. I don’t need anyone to show me how to make a spanakopita; I can make that in my sleep. This was right up my culinary alley. I loved my teacher.  She young, vivacious and pretty, she buzzed about the island on a moped. She’s incredibly knowledgeable regarding Greek cooking but, most importantly, she believes passionately in the traditional, time-honored, Greek methods. That and she’s totally laid back.  The lessons were to take place in her home, something I yearned to experience.  I asked Jimmy to stick around the morning of my first class just in case things didn’t work out. My teacher, Eleni, took us for a quick tour of her property.

Zucchini blossoms just waiting to be stuffed or made into fritters and served with a light dusting of freshly grated Mizithra cheese.
Zucchini blossoms just waiting to be stuffed or made into fritters and served with a light dusting of freshly grated Mizithra cheese.

Her daughter is grown and gone, London I think, so it’s just her husband and her. Well! The more I saw the more pea-green I turned with envy! They have, of course, the ubiquitous groves of olive trees and that’s enough to throw me into a spiral of jealousy. But to add to my covetousness, or joy take your pick, they have peach trees, pomegranate trees, cherry trees, fig trees, orange trees and grape vines. She also has a gorgeous herb garden filled with banks of dill, mint, basil and parsley surrounding a delightful koi pond her husband built for her. It’s just paradise! Towards the rear of the property is the hot-house where Eleni had figs drying…shelf after shelf of beautiful, wrinkled figs. And did I mention she had a voluptuous pot of fig and grape marmalade bubbling and whispering softly in a corner of the outside grill?

Yes, the pot was calling to me, "Just stay! Just stay!"
Yes, the pot was calling to me, “Just stay! Just stay!”

I want that life! When we met the day before she asked my what I wanted to prepare. What was it I wanted to learn? From that she put together a menu for my class. Jimmy was to come back at noon or 12:30 to join us for lunch and we would be finished by 2:30 or 3:00. She started pouring wine at 11:00am. I was one happy girl! Jimmy took off and we started prepping. For the Sougounia she said that big red onions are better. I peeled them and she instructed me to trim the stem end and the root end but not to cut the root end off completely. Carefully, so as not to cut ones self, the onion was sliced from stem to root BUT ONLY TO THE MIDDLE OF THE ONION. The whole onions are then boiled in salted water 15-20 minutes until tender. Now while the onions are simmering the stuffing will be mixed in a separate bowl. Gently break up in the bowl 1/2 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork. To that add 1/2 cup medium grain rice, 1/2 cup ouzo (lovely flavor with the pork), 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1//2 teaspoon black pepper,1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Combine enough that all ingredients are mixed but not too much or you’ll toughen the meat.

Sougounia in the pot...not exactly an attractive dish but crazy good!
Sougounia in the pot…not exactly an attractive dish but crazy good!

When the onions are cool enough to handle peel off the layers one by one. Don’t let them cool completely or they’ll be difficult to handle and won’t roll up. The tough outer layers may be set aside to tuck into any empty spaces prior to baking. Cover the bottom of your baking dish liberally with olive oil. Take one layer of onion in the palm of your hand and you’ll see it rolls right up into shape, like the shape of a boat or a diamond! Fill the onion with a good tablespoon of the meat filling, close the opening as best you can and place into a baking dish. It’s fine to gently stack them.  When you get to the onion’s small inner layers they can be saved for another dish or chopped and mixed into the meat. Continue until all the meat has been used. Chop a tomato and scatter over the stuffed onions. Tuck any outer skins into any spaces or corners so they all fit snugly in the baking dish. In a small bowl dissolve one chicken bouillon cube in 1/4 cup of hot water. To that add 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, mix well and gently pour over stuffed onions.

Sweet, rich figs drying.
Sweet, rich figs drying.

Cover the baking dish tightly with tin foil and bake at 350° for approximately 45 minutes. This dish may also be prepared in a braising pot stove top. The preparation is exactly the same except you would cook the sougounia at a low simmer.  The flavors are wild!  You’ll pick up the deep richness of the ouzo and pork then the smoky earthiness of the cumin and paprika.  It’s like no other dish and you’ll never have to worry about someone else turning up at a party with it.  It stands alone!

You can reach up and cut off a bunch of grapes anytime!
You can reach up and cut off a bunch of grapes anytime!
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Real Girls Eat Quiche

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Earlier this week I met some dear friends for breakfast at a small, tucked away French restaurant.  There were all different kinds of quiches on the menu, ALL calling out to me.  I decided on spinach and at the first bite was not disappointed.  The baked custard filling was smooth and rich and each mouthful ended with the round, full flavor of cheese.  I had the choice of potatoes or a baby green salad with a vinaigrette.  Being breakfast I naturally opted for the salad.  Mama used to serve us sirloin burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches sometimes for breakfast if she had nothing else to give us.  We often had kind of off the wall meals.  Anyway, my breakfast was splendid but it left me wanting more!  I wanted quiche for dinner.  I wanted more of that baked custard filling and if it was lower in fat, well, all the better!  Now pie crust being pie crust I just couldn’t compromise.  There’s no substitute for butter or lard.  You either eat it or you don’t.  But I could certainly improve on the fat content of the filling.  And I seriously jacked up the amount of vegetables.  Paired with a gorgeous baby green salad for dinner…I was one happy girl!  We’re not big meat eaters but we do enjoy a bit of the pig for flavor.  Often I use a  couple of turkey bacon slices crumbled up.  A little finely chopped pancetta rendered is lovely as well.  I’m really crazy about those huge boxes of organic greens for cooking and salads.  To this quiche I’ve used the entire box of baby arugula, baby spinach or a fantastic blend of baby greens called “Super Greens” by Organic Girl.  Infinite kinds of cheeses can be used, the flavors just need to complement the pie.  Just because I have Pepperjack and Gorgonzola on hand I wouldn’t necessarily throw both cheeses in.  What I did have  on hand was two small slices of Muenster, two small slices of Swiss and I cut a bit off of my beloved hunk of Gruyere.  The Muenster added to the creaminess we all love and the Swiss and Gruyere both brought strong cheese flavors so not much is needed.  Also bringing down the caloric and fat content is the number of eggs.  In the deep dish pie I used only two whole eggs.  Four fresh egg whites completed the custard.  Sharing the plate was my baby romaine salad dressed only with a high quality Greek olive oil, a scant sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  A cold, crisp glass of Pinot Grigio would have finished off my feast perfectly but being that I’m working on my girlish figure it was non laisse’!  Just not allowed!

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LEEK AND GREENS QUICHE

yield: one deep dish pie

Preheat oven to 350° if you have plenty of time or 375° if you’re in a hurry.

  • 1 deep dish pie shell in pie pan
  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 3-6 leeks, washed, drained and white part chopped up to light green part
  • 1-5oz. box organic greens of your choice
  • 1 small handful minced pancetta or ham or several slices of bacon or turkey bacon crumbled
  • 2 cups cheese of you choice, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 whole eggs plus the egg whites of 3 or 4 eggs, the equivalent amount may be used of cartoned egg whites
  • 1 pint half and half, I use fat-free
  1. In a large pan heat oil and saute leeks until soft and somewhat clear.
  2. If using ham or pancetta add to leeks and saute until slightly browned.
  3. While stirring add greens.  Keep tossing and stirring so they don’t clump up into one tight mess.
  4. When completely wilted and cooked, take the pan off the heat and if using bacon add it to the mixture and stir until well blended. Set aside to cool.
  5. In a medium bowl scramble the eggs to break up and add half and half. Mix well.
  6. Add egg mixture to greens, add cheeses and mix well.
  7. Pour into pie shell and bake until golden brown on top and middle is cooked through. It will take about an hour and a half at 350° and about one hour at 375°.  It IS deep dish!!

Turkey Meatloaf

Tell my godson he’s having meatloaf for dinner and his face will fall.  His shoulders will slump and his eyes will have that “dead man walking” stare.  I understand.  We’ve all suffered from CNMD (Chronic Nasty Meatloaf Disorder) at one time or another.  But tell MY boy he’s having turkey meatloaf for dinner and all of a sudden the day’s getting much better. He always asks with anticipation “with butternut squash and asparagus?  Awesome!”.  I love using turkey because it’s much lighter and no matter how hard you mix it, it will not toughen up.  What is important is to season the mixture well because you know how bland ground turkey can be.  I usually always use quick, not instant, oats instead of bread crumbs.  Might as well make it healthful when you can.  The oats just disappear into the mixture just like the bread crumbs.  Last night, however, I found myself out of oats.  Damn.  And after a full day of work, I am NOT going back out into the dark for anything.  Anyway, I knew there had to be something I could use and after rooting around…voila! Le Wheat Germ.  Works great, loses itself in the mixture and, also, packs a healthy, nutritional punch.  Last night’s meatloaf was covered tomato paste but I often make it with a peppercorn crust. Both produce a phenomenal sandwich the next day.  And the recipe doubles well.

Turkey Meatloaf

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Preheat oven to 375°

  • 1 20 oz. package lean ground turkey (1.25 pounds)
  • 1 medium onion, grated using large holes in box grater
  • 1 carrot, grated using large holes in box grater
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced (I use a rasper)
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 3/4 cup quick oats or wheat germ
  • 1 medium zucchini or 1/2 cup cooked spinach, both optional
  • 2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 /4 cup water
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste or a thin layer of black pepper. I grind it directly over loaf.
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  1. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT turkey, tomato paste and spray in a large or medium bowl.  Incorporate well.
  2. Spray loaf pan or baking dish with non-stick spray.
  3. Mix turkey well into vegetable oat mixture and put into baking dish.  Using a spatula or the back of a cooking spoon, shape mixture into a loaf.
  4. Spread tomato paste all over or grind pepper over turkey to make an even layer.
  5. Bake at 375° for 30-45 minutes.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com