Spanakopita

spanakopita

These little pockets are a great addition to a Greek dinner, or perfect served as appetizers.

 

I loved making these little pockets of deliciousness.  Once I got into the rhythm of the folding and rolling it went quite quickly and they were fantastic.  The recipe came from Food Network, Mary Sue Millikin and Susan Feniger.  My only addition was the fresh dill.

 

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds spinach, washed and drained
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 to 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound filo pastry sheets
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan, add half of the spinach and saute until spinach wilts, tossing with tongs, about 2 minutes. Remove spinach and squeeze out excess liquid, then chop roughly. Repeat with remaining spinach, using 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Pour off any liquid from the pan, and add remaining olive oil. Add scallions and saute until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the spinach to the scallions, along with the parsley, dill, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat to cool. (This part can be done ahead and kept refrigerated).
  2. Stir the feta and as much beaten egg  as needed to moisten the cooled spinach mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a baking sheet with some of the melted butter.
  4. Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and keep it covered with waxed paper and a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out and become brittle. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo into 3 by 11 inch strips, and recover with the towel. Use a pastry brush to brush a strip of filo with melted butter. Place a small spoonful of spinach filling 1 inch from the end of the pastry. Fold the end over the filling to form a triangle, then continue to fold up the strip in triangles, like folding up a flag. Continue with remaining strips of dough, placing filled triangles on the baking sheet and keeping them covered with a towel until all are ready to bake.
  5. Brush the triangles lightly with butter, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Serve hot. (These may be frozen before baking, layering waxed paper between layers of triangles to keep them from sticking. Bake frozen triangles an extra 10 minutes.)
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Start with a healthy “dollop” of the spinach mixture, then start folding over into triangles.

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I quickly discovered that using a healthy amount of the filling made better triangles.

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Ready for baking or at this point you can freeze them for serving later.  Bake from frozen.

Cook’s Note

Variation: Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, and spread 6 sheets of filo, brushing each with butter, on the bottom. Spoon the spinach filling over the filo, then cover with 6 more sheets of filo, buttering each sheet. Score the top 3 sheets with a sharp knife. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until top is golden, let stand 15 minutes, then cut into squares and serve warm.

Creamiest Hummous

Hummus 1

Drizzle the finished hummus with your best olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika.  A few toasted sesame seeds would be a great addition also. (I just didn’t think of it until I looked at my photos!)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups (250 grams) cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) well-stirred tahini
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 ml) water
  • Dash ground paprika, for serving

 

DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process for 30 seconds more. This extra time helps “whip” or “cream” the tahini, making the hummus smooth and creamy.

Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.

Open, drain, and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth; 1 to 2 minutes.

peeled chickpeas

I know, you are thinking “what goof peels chickpeas?”  Me.  Especially after Stella raved about the creamiest hummus she’d ever had.  At 5 years old, this girl knows food.  After that, how could I not peel my hummus.  After all, even if it takes you 20 min to peel that can of chickpeas, haven’t you ever wasted 20 min on something less interesting??

Most likely the hummus will be too thick or still have tiny bits of chickpea. To fix this, with the food processor turned on, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until you reach the perfect consistency.

Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of paprika. Store homemade hummus in an airtight container and refrigerate up to one week.

Hummus 2

We served the hummus today with fresh vegetables as well as                                                            lightly seasoned and toasted pita wedges.

 

I heard a rumour that hummus made at home could be creamy, dreamy & simple, but every time I tried it I was less than satisfied.  Sure, it was tasty …. but dreamy?  No.  So I hit the blogs looking for a trick, and “inspired taste” provided it.  Look up the blog – Adam and Joanne have some amazing photos and descriptions, plus tips for cooking your own chickpeas and many other great ideas.  I’ve made this recipe a few times now, exactly as written (except that I am that weirdo that doesn’t mind a 10 minute mindless activity like skinning chickpeas).

Hummus 3

A few days later, my grand daughters Sloan and Stella were here, asking for a snack …. when I produced the vegetables I got a look ….. “Well Nana ……..do you have any of that amazing peeled chickpea hummus left?  Could we please have some of that too?”                                                       That, my friends, is how foodies are born.

Grilled Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romesco Dipping Sauce

Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romescu

Grilling the shrimp in the shell protects them from the searing heat of the barbecue, and is definitely worth doing.  Serve this as an appetizer and nobody minds getting in with their hands!

 

romescu

Go ahead and make a big batch of this, it goes really well with any cooked fish or chicken dish.

Romesco Sauce:

  • 1 jar (300 mL) roasted red peppers , including juices
  • 1/4 cup prepared tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons almond butter or 1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Romesco Sauce: In blender, purée together red peppers including juices, tomato sauce, almond butter, vinegar, paprika and cayenne pepper until smooth. Season to taste with salt, if needed.  Transfer to small saucepan, and set aside.

  • 1 head cauliflower , cut in large florets
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 450 g unpeeled jumbo shrimp (21 to 25 count)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 bunch green onions

Shrimp and Vegetables: Plunge cauliflower pieces into boiling salted water for just about 2-3 minutes, and then immediately drop into ice water bath.

This can easily be turned into a vegetarian dish by omitting the shrimp, just use an assortment of vegetables.

In bowl, toss together shrimp, oil and remaining salt.

Thread shrimp onto metal or soaked wooden skewers. Place shrimp and cauliflower on greased grill over medium-high heat; close lid and grill, turning once, until shrimp are pink and cauliflower is charred, about 8 minutes. Add green onions during last 3 minutes of grilling.

Heat Romesco Sauce, stirring frequently until warm, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve cauliflower, shrimp and green onions on large platter with sauce on the side for dipping.  Add some crusty fresh French bread and you’ve got a great appetizer!

Roasted Marinated Sweet Red Peppers

It’s true, going through all the steps to grill and prepare these peppers does take a little bit of time.  Pick a sunny day and the sweet smell of them grilling will be enough payback.  Do enough for a dinner side dish also!  In the middle of winter when you open a jar you will immediately be transported back to that summer day.  I love using these in so many different appetizers, slivered in a salad or pasta or just served with a grilled steak.

Red pepper 4

These sweet peppers are an amazing way of capturing the tastes and smells of summer in a jar.

4 pounds firm, fresh and cleaned red bell peppers

Lightly oil peppers and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill until charred in spots and softened.  Put in bowl, cover tightly and allow to sit for 15 minutes until you can easily slip the skins off.   If you don’t have a barbecue you can also do this over an open flame or in your oven with the broiler unit.

Red pepper 1

MARINADE

  • 1 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Bring all marinade ingredients to boil in a saucepan.

Red pepper marinade 2

In most cases I would suggest squeezing fresh lemon juice, but in this instance the consistency and acidic content of bottled lemon juice is what you need.

If you want to use these within a few weeks, just fill the jars with peppers and pour the boiling marinade over.

Red pepper 3

Seal and keep in the fridge.

SEALING AND PRESERVING

Scald jars in boiling water and heat canning lids and sealers in boiling water.  Fill jars with peppers, immediately fill to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Quickly close the jars with lids and sealers and boil in canner for 15 minutes.

 

 

The BEST Crab Artichoke Dip

I’m not kidding you guys.  This dip is delicious, so make sure you get in there before your guests have consumed it all!

Crab Artichoke Dip 3

If you want a little “kick” stir in finely diced jalapeño chilies or chili flakes.

  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tin good quality crab meat
  • 1 diced roasted sweet red pepper
  • 1 14 oz container artichoke hearts (diced)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I like white)
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion or chives
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream … then add the Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire, & horseradish.  Give this mixture a good blend, I like to use my hand held blender for this to make sure it is all smooth and creamy.  If you do this before you add the rest of the ingredients all your flavouring will be evenly distributed before you stir in the rest.

Crab Artichoke Dip 1

Gently fold in the diced roasted red pepper, diced artichoke hearts, shredded cheese, sliced onion and lemon juice.  Stir carefully at this point so you keep all the distinct colours and textures.  Lastly stir in the crab meat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Crab Artichoke dip 2

 

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until it is bubbling.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette, and stand back …. watch the crowd go wild.

 

Indian Vegetable Pakoras

Don’t even think twice about giving these a try – super easy and more flavour in every bite than you can imagine.

Pakoras 1

Look at the bits of craggy onion strips, potato shreds, broccoli bits and moist zucchini – how can you not love this?

I’ve been wanting to try making pakoras for some time now, they are one of my top five Indian dishes to order in a restaurant.  These hit it out of the park on my first try!!  So delicious, full of intense flavour, you can use as much or little of the spice as you like.  Crispy, craggy and loaded with fresh vegetables, you can make it just the way you like.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chickpea flour or besan
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

 

  • potatoes, cut into thin, small fingers/chips/cubes and washed
  • cauliflower, or broccoli, broken into small florets or chopped (or other vegetables)
  • onion, peeled and chopped
  • spinach leaves, washed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tbsp fresh fenugreek or methi leaves, chopped (or use 1/2 tbsp. dry methi leaves)
  • 1-2 green chillies, chopped finely. Omit if you like the pakoras to be mild

Use your imagination for the vegetables, these are only suggestions.  For this amount of spice, and the chickpea flour you will need a total of 4 cups vegetables.

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, adjust to taste
  • 1 tsp  chili powder, adjust to taste
  • 1/4 tsp coarsely crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander powder or the spice blend, Chat Masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • Oil for deep frying
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Todays mixture included broccoli, zucchini, potato and onion – use whatever is fresh (or you need to use up). :o)

Instructions

  1. Place all vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle salt, as well as all the spices over the vegetables, and toss to combine.  Allow to sit for about 30 min so the water drains out of the vegetables.
  2. Add sifted (sift to remove lumps) chickpea flour/besan & baking powder slowly and make a slightly stiff mix of vegetables and besan, just enough to hold the vegetables together.  Usually, no additional water is required, as there is enough water released from vegetables. If the mix is too stiff, sprinkle a little water, so that all vegetables are bound lightly by besan.
  3. Heat oil in a wok. The oil is correct temperature, when a test pakora dropped in it sizzles and rises to the top of the oil quickly. The oil should not be smoking hot. Pakoras are crisper when cooked in medium hot oil.
  4. Drop small blobs of this mix into the hot oil gently, about 1- 1 1/2 tbsp. at a time. Wait until they sizzle to the surface and then turn them over. Continue turning intermittently, until all Pakoras are evenly golden brown and crisp on all sides.
  5. Rest to drain on an absorbent kitchen paper.
  6. Continue this way until all pakora mix is used up.
  7. If you need to keep them warm, put them in your oven at 200, perfect temp to keep them crispy and not overcook them.
  8. Serve immediately with chutney.
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Served tonight with chicken korma over rice, homemade naan bread (surprisingly easy) and these intensely flavoured pakoras.

Garden Fritters

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Make enough of these and it is a total meal, or use as an appetizer or side dish, either way, you are going to love these intense vegetable fritters.

 

I’m having a fritter moment.  It seems like a magical way of getting pounds of vegetables eaten up in record time, just when it is all at the peak of freshness, and who doesn’t love that?  I had to call these garden fritters, due to the tangle of grated zucchini, the wilted swiss chard, the crunchy pop of corn kernels fresh off the cob ….  Now just add to that a bunch of herbs, some garlic and a bit of cheese.  In today’s version I used feta and a bit of cumin.

If you make fritters just a few times you will quickly realize you don’t really need a recipe, but here is my general guideline:

  • 4 cups of vegetables
  • 1 clove of garlic (completely variable depending on your garlic love)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • salt, pepper and seasonings to taste

Now – once you’ve got  this far, just use your imagination with seasonings, and/or any cheese you decide to add.  Cheese certainly isn’t necessary, just adds another level of tasty goodness.

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These fritters have grated zucchini, lightly wilted swiss chard, corn kernels cut off a fresh cob, and herbs of parsley and chives.  One garlic clove and a bit of cumin with some feta cheese crumbled in created an intensely mouthwatering fritter.

A cast iron frying pan works best but any non stick pan will work well.  Lightly coat with oil, and on medium heat drop in dollops of the mixture.  Fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 min per side.

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HEAD’S UP – these delicious little kernels of corn will actually pop and sizzle like crazy in the oil – be prepared for the splatter.

I served these with a dip resembling tsatsiki:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup grated cucumber
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste