Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spanikopita!


Like, Couscous, this is another really fun word to say... SPANIKOPITA! Thank you Greece, for your delicious food, fun words, healthy diets, and amazing gathering traditions ("OPA!"). In San Pedro, CA, there once existed a beautiful, delicious Greek restaurant called Papadakis Taverna. Sadly, sadly, after 37 years of wonderful dining experiences, this family-owned restaurant closed in January of this year. One of my memories of eating at Papadakis as a young child includes chomping on a delicious Phyllo dough appetizer called spanikopita.

*Adapted from Closet Cooking

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds spinach (steamed, squeezed, drained, and chopped) or 1 package of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I prefer the block cheese to the pre-crumbled cheese -- pre-crumbled feta is very dried out)
1/2 to 1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup dill, chopped (I didn't have this so I substituted with about 2 Tablespoons Oregano and Italian Seasoning)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
phyllo dough

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion and garlic with 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until onions are browned.

Mix browned onions and garlic with the spinach, feta, goat cheese, dill, parsley, eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.

Brush the bottom of an 8x8 inch baking dish or pie plate with olive oil. Place a sheet of phyllo dough in the pan and brush with olive oil. (You may have to cut the phyllo dough to fit the pan... I used a pizza cutter for that.) Repeat until you have 6-10 layers.

Spoon the spinach mixture on top of the phyllo dough. Pat down gently to make level.

Place another sheet of phyllo dough and brush with olive oil. Repeat until you have another 6-10 layers. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown on top, about 30-40 minutes.

Let cool and cut into diagonals.

"Opa!!!"

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lemony Shrimp with White Beans and Couscous

The first time I had couscous was at my grandmother's house. I remember I got such a kick out of the name. She told me we were having couscous for dinner and we went back and forth for about five minutes saying, "Couscous! Couscous!" The faster we said the word, the funnier it sounded. Because of this memory, I bought a box of couscous a while back and finally found a good recipe to use it for. Couscous is a lower-calorie carb option which means you can eat a lot and not feel super-full. Also, this dish uses lemon and garlic for its flavoring, a savory-fresh delight that makes my tummy happy.

*Recipe from Real Simple

INGREDIENTS:

1 10-ounce box of couscous (1 1/2 cups)
kosher salt and black pepper
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 15.5-oz can canellini beans, rinsed
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Stir in the couscous and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and let sit off heat for 5 minutes; fluff with a fork before serving.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and scallions and cook for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they begin to turn pink, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the beans, parsley, lemon juice, the remaining butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with the couscous.

Bon App├ętit!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blueberry Cobbler


I once had an amazing strawberry cobbler at Kincaid's restaurant in Redondo Beach, CA. I think this recipe is a great homemade version. The cobbler is slightly reminiscent of the consistency of shortcake and the lemon zest adds a freshness that keeps the dish from feeling too heavy. Mmmm. Cobbler with any type of fruit: what a summer delight.

*Recipe from Real Simple

INGREDIENTS:

2 pints blueberries (or other fruit -- I think strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples, peaches would all work well)
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups plus 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish or a 9-inch pie plate, toss the blueberried, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 Tablespoon flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and the remaining flour and sugar.

Add the butter and blend with your fingers or two knives (it's easer with your fingers) until coarse crumbs form. Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cream and mix until a shaggy dough forms.

Drop mounds of dough over the blueberry mixture. Bake until the berries are bubbling and the top is golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream. (We prefer Breyer's vanilla bean.)

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rita's Simple and Perfect Hummus


My grandparents raised their children in the Middle East and as a result, whenever I get together with family on my dad's side, we have Middle Eastern food, talk about funny stories from their childhood travel adventures, and enjoy the amazing hospitality the Arab world has to offer. The staple of every Parker family get-together is my Grandma's hummus. When I was a kid, to be honest, I couldn't stand the taste. Now, I can't get enough. The recipe requires one unique ingredient: tahini. Tahini is a sesame paste made from lightly roasted sesame seeds. You can usually find tahini at a health food store or in the international foods section of your grocery store. Once you have that, chick peas, and three other simple ingredients, you're on your way to hummusland!

INGREDIENTS:

1 can chick peas (boiled for 3 minutes, then pour off liquid)
1/3 cup (or more) lemon juice
1/2 flat teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons sesame tahini (mix well before measuring)
2 cloves of garlic or 2 teaspoons garlic salt

DIRECTIONS:

Mix all ingredients well in a blender and if a little too thick, add water. Place in a flat bowl and pour a little olive oil on top with sprigs of parsley or toasted pine nuts for decoration. Serve with pita bread. Delicious and satisfying!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Espinacas con Garbanzos

*another delight from Smitten Kitchen

During my brief 2-month stay in Madrid, I savored, devoured, and praised my madre, Margarita's, paella every time she made it. Unfortunately, my experience with all other Spanish food was not quite as romantic. This tapas recipe for espinacas con garbanzos (Spinach and Chick Peas) absolutely changes that. If there's one thing I remember about Spanish cooking in the home I lived, it's the liberal use of the amazing ingredient of olive oil. The Diaz family stored a pallet of olive oil in their basement and probably went through about 2 bottles a week. While this does not require TOO much olive oil, it does use it liberally, which is one thing that makes this dish distinctly Spanish.

INGREDIENTS:

2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
6-8 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 lb. fresh spinach
1 baguette french bread
1/2 cup tomato sauce (I used tomoto soup because it's all I had in my kitchen.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1-1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (or regular vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon juice to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Cut french bread loaf into 3/4 inch slices, saving one hefty slice. Arrange slices on a pan and brush tops with olive oil. Toast in 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and add fresh spinach with a pinch of salt. Heat until leaves are wilted. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Using the hefty slice from the french bread loaf, remove the crust, cut into cubes and fry over 2 Tablespoons olive oil, about 5 minutes or until golden-brown all over. Then add remaining tablespoon of oil, garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes (if using). Cook for about 1 more minute, or until garlic is a nutty brown color.

Transfer to a food processor or blender, and blend until consistency is like a paste. Return to the pan. Add drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavor and are hot. Season with salt and pepper. If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add spinach and cook until heated through.

Serve on toasted french bread. Delicious!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

*From Just Cook Already

INGREDIENTS

{For Sauce to pour over wraps}
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
2 cloves finely minced garlic

{For Chicken Stir-fry}
1 Tablespoon + 1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 8 oz. can water chestnuts
1 8 oz. can bamboo shoots
1/2 cup mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
3 green onions, finely chopped (optional)

{Stir-fry Sauce}
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS

Begin by making pouring sauce. Mix all ingredients together and set aside.

Using a food processor, mince the chicken and saute in a pan over medium heat with 1 T. olive oil and 2 T. sesame oil until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.

Using the food processor again, mince, one at a time, the water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and garlic. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and saute above ingredients (plus green onions, if using) until the aromas blend together, 3-4 minutes. Add chicken and stir-fry sauce and stir until well blended.

Serve with fresh, crisp lettuce leaves. The combination of savory chicken and cold, crisp lettuce gets me every time!