Category Archives: Entree

Dolmades

I live in a primarily Greek neighborhood in NYC, and I can get fresh Dolmades pretty much whenever I want, but since I just moved 12 blocks (and 2 Avenues) away from my absolute favorite place to eat, Opa!, I’ve been eating stuffed grape leaves out of a can for lunch all week–but shockingly, the canned version is just not as good as the freshly prepared ones.  This is my favorite recipe.  I also mixed together some Tzatziki yogurt sauce to go along with my meal–even though traditional dolmades are usually served with lemon slices.  These are great with lemon-roasted potatoes or a nice Greek salad with a hunk of fresh feta.

INGREDIENTS:
2 T extra virgin olive oil
half a finely chopped onion
½ tsp grated lemon zest
¼ C pine nuts
pinch of cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ C brown or wild rice, cooked
1 ½  C vegetable stock
2 T finely chopped fresh parsley
1 T finely chopped fresh dill
20 grape leaves (I use jarred)
1/2 lemon, for juice

DIRECTIONS:
Heat olive oil in saucepan.  Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add lemon zest, pine nuts, salt, pepper, rice, and 1/2 C vegetable stock.  Stir and cover.  Cook for 10 minutes.

While filling is cooking, remove grape leaves from jar and rinse in a colander.  There is usually a pretty brine-y smell that can carry over to the final product if the leaves aren’t rinsed, so this step is especially important.  I just set them in room temperature water and slosh around a bit with my hands.  Than I transfer to a colander and give a rinse with cold water to finalize things.  If there are stems on the end, now is also a good time to trim them off with scissors or a paring knife.

When the filling is finished cooking stir in chopped parsley and dill.  Now you will fill and wrap the leaves.

Place one grape leaf, seam side up, on a plate or cutting board.  Spoon in a heaping Tablespoon of filling onto the lower 1/2 of the leaf.  Wrap the bottom of the leaf over the filling, tuck in the sides, and roll until closed tightly in a neat little envelope!  Since the rice is already cooked, you don’t have to worry about the dolmades expanding during the final step, so be sure to wrap tightly.

Pack dolmades into a saucepan.  Add 1 C vegetable broth, 1 T olive oil, and juice from 1/2 a lemon  Be sure the dolmades are packed tightly, because as the broth boils the steam will encourage those little guys to unwrap–I try to use the smallest saucepan I can possibly squeeze them in, without having to stack.

Cover the pan and simmer on low until liquid cooks down completely–usually about 20-40 minutes.

Remove from pan and cool for 10 minutes. Enjoy immediately–OR–chill in refrigerator for up to 2 days.  Serve with Tzatziki dressing and fresh lemon slices.

Adapted from The Mediterrasian Way.

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Avocado on Toast

Avocado on toast is supremely satisfying (and filling) and can be eaten for any meal, although my favorite time of day to eat it is for breakfast.  Sometimes I add a fried egg underneath the avo if I know I’ll be having a late lunch.  A squeeze of lime on top is also nice if you have it on hand.  Try it on Buttery Beer Bread–you won’t be sorry!

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 ripe avocado
1 slice bread
olive oil, to grill bread
sea salt, to taste
fresh lime juice, to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan.   Add bread to pan, and toast in the oil until both sides reach a golden-brown consistency.

Remove bread from pan and place on plate.  Scoop avocado onto to fresh toast and sea salt to taste!  Add a little lime juice to enhance the sweetness.

Lime-Garlic Mayonnaise

I absolutely adore homemade mayonnaise because its nothing like the store-bought stuff.  Its really fun to make, and its totally customizable.  All you really need is an egg, some oil, and an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or vinegar; experimenting is really cool.

One tip if you’ve never made mayo before: really, really take your time when emulsifying the oil and egg.  If you pour too quickly, the ingredients will not bind.  Further suggestions are in the recipe directions below.

Since you will not be adding any preservatives (yay!) to this awesomely homemade mayonnaise, be especially attentive to its life outside the refrigerator.  Also, I always throw mine out after a week.  Any longer might be compromising the food-safety integrity of the mayo.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe does use raw eggs so if you are unsure about whether you are “at risk” when consuming raw eggs, check out the USDA Egg Fact Sheet.

INGREDIENTS:
1 egg
1 C vegetable oil, divided in half
1 T Dijon mustard
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Juice of one small lime
1/2 tsp salt

In a food processor, add the egg and mustard. Turn the food processor on. Through the feeder tube, add a drop (and I do–literally–mean 1 exact drop) of oil. Add another drop, and then another, until you have the thinnest, slowest possible stream of oil going through the feeder tube. This process of adding the oil will take several minutes. You will begin to notice when the oil and egg emulsify as the texture will suddenly “come together” and you’ll recognize the creamy consistency you are used to seeing. The reason I divide the oil in half is to ensure I don’t pour too fast; having a smaller volume to pour ensures maximum concentration each time.

When the oil is completely incorporated, and your mayonnaise is creamy, turn off the food processor. Add garlic, lime juice, and salt. Pulse several additional seconds, taste, and adjust flavor.  If you want to make an aioli garlic spread, try substituting olive oil for the vegetable oil–delicious!  Serve with Tostones, Tuna Burgers, or your favorite sandwich.


Tuna Burgers

This is one of my favorite childhood meals that I continue to make when I want a quick home-cooked meal.  My mom used crushed saltines instead of the breadcrumbs, and she also added relish to the mix–which is definitely reminiscent of 1980’s food culture–but this is my own updated recipe.  

You’ll only be able to make 2 average-sized burgers from this, so just double or triple the recipe if you are cooking for more than two people.  If you use homemade breadcrumbs, as I do when I have them on hand, then add 1/2 tsp or more of salt, and your choice of Italian seasonings to taste.  Store-bought breadcrumbs already contain all that good stuff–and some bad stuff too, but they are a nice staple to have on hand in the pantry for emergencies.  

Serve on a toasted bun, or wrapped in romaine leaves with avocado and sprouts.

INGREDIENTS:
1 can tuna, drained
1 egg
1/4 C finely chopped onions
1/2 C Italian-style breadcrumbs (homemade or store-bought)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 T olive oil, for pan-frying

DIRECTIONS:
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the egg into the tuna with a fork.  Add onions and garlic.  Mix again.  Add breadcrumbs and mix with hands until moist and evenly distributed.  Split the mix into two evenly-sized balls, and mold into patties.  Let sit for 3-5 minutes so the breadcrumbs become completely absorbed.

Heat the olive oil in a no-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the burgers, and pan-fry until golden brown, approximately 3-5 minutes per side.

Serve on a toasted bun, or wrapped in romaine leaves with avocado and sprouts.

Crepes with Parmesan Scrambled Eggs

You can stuff anything into a crepe–sweet or savory–and it will be a new experience each time.  Some of my favorite fillings are nutella with banannas and raspberries; crockpot apple pie oatmeal; and marinated peppers, mushrooms, and onions.  Here’s a nice brunch-y recipe that pairs great with a spicy bloody mary.  If you don’t want to make the parmesan sauce, garlic hummus is an awesome substitute!

PREPARATION ORDER:
1- Prepare crepe batter, and set aside for 20-30 minutes
2- Prepare parmesan sauce
3- Prepare scrambled eggs in a bowl, but do not cook until crepes are almost finished
4- Make crepes.  Keep warm on a plate covered with foil, or in a stove warmer on very low heat
5- Cook scrambled eggs when crepes are almost finished
6- Fill crepes with eggs, drizzle with sauce, wrap, & eat!

CREPES (Ingredients & Method):
1/2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C milk
2 eggs
1T butter (melted)
1/3 tsp salt

In a food processor, mix eggs for about 10 seconds.  Add milk and butter, and mix 10 additional seconds.  Add flour and salt.  Mix again for 10-15 seconds.  The batter should be considerably runnier than a pancake mixture, but should also maintain a slight thickness.  If its still too thin add additional flour 1 T at a time until desired texture is reached.  See video below for an example of my own ideal crepe batter consistency.  Let batter sit 20-30 minutes while you prepare the sauce and eggs.

When cooking crepes, heat a no-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Remove the skillet from heat and coat the pan with a small layer of vegetable oil (I use a pastry brush).  Scoop 1/4 C of the crepe mixture into the skillet and use your wrist to distribute the batter evenly around the circumference of the pan.  Return to stovetop.  When edges begin to brown (after about 1-2 mins), use you fingers and the tip of a cereal spoon to flip crepe.  Cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat, store on a plate covered with foil, or in a warmer.  Repeat until batter is gone.  This recipe should make about 4 thin crepes.

PARMESAN SAUCE (Ingredients & Method):
1/2-3/4 C milk
1/4 C cheese (shredded)
1 T butter
1T flour

In a small saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in flour.  Add 1/2 C milk and stir until sauce thickens–this will happen as the mixture boils for a few seconds, but it is important to continue stirring during the process so the sauce does not burn.  After sauce thickens, add cheese and stir until melted.  This will be a pretty thick sauce, so if you’d like to thin it out, add extra milk 1 T at a time until sauce reaches desired consistency.

SCRAMBLED EGG FILLING (Ingredients & Method):
4 eggs
1 tsp garlic
1/4 C shelled edamame (thawed if stored frozen)
1/4 C shredded carrots
1/8 C shredded parmesan cheese
1 T mixed Italian herbs
4 T water

Beat eggs in mixing bowl with 4 T water.  Add garlic, edamame, carrots, parmesan, and herbs.  Beat until thoroughly distributed.  Scramble over medium heat in no-stick skillet to your preferred consistency.

Assemble by spreading 1/4 of the egg mix in the center of one crepe.  Drizzle parmesan sauce over top and roll crepe into a tube shape, shown below.

You can fold your crepes simply by placing your filling in the center and then rolling them up, as in the picture at the top of this post; or place your filling on one half of the crepe, flap the other side over the top to form a half, circle, and then fold again to form a triangle.

Drizzle the remaining parmesan sauce on top & enjoy with a fresh bloody mary or some apple slices!

Crepes

You can stuff anything into a crepe–sweet or savory–and it will be a new experience each time.  Some of my favorite fillings are nutella with banannas and raspberries; crockpot apple pie oatmeal; and marinated peppers, mushrooms, and onions.  They also go great with a scrambled egg filling of your choice, accompanied by a nice spicy bloody mary.  

If you’ve never made crepes before, the batter will be considerably runnier than a pancake or waffle batter, and the crepes themselves will be no more than 1/4 inch thick when baked.  If you have a 12″ no-stick skillet, try folding them the traditional triangular method.  I have a smaller skillet, so I roll mine, just like the picture above.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C milk
2 eggs
1T butter (melted)
1/3 tsp salt

DIRECTIONS:
In a food processor, mix eggs for about 10 seconds.  Add milk and butter, and mix 10 additional seconds.  Add flour and salt.  Mix again for 10-15 seconds.  The batter should be considerably runnier than a pancake mixture, but should also maintain a slight thickness.  If its still too thin add additional flour 1 T at a time until desired texture is reached.  See video below for an example of my own ideal crepe batter consistency.  Let batter sit 20-30 minutes while you prepare the sauce and eggs.


When cooking crepes, heat a no-stick skillet over medium-low heat.  Remove the skillet from heat and coat the pan with a small layer of vegetable oil (I use a pastry brush).  Scoop 1/4 C of the crepe mixture into the skillet and use your wrist to distribute the batter evenly around the circumference of the pan.  Return to stovetop.  When edges begin to brown (after about 1-2 mins), use you fingers and the tip of a cereal spoon to flip the crepe.  Cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat, and store on a plate covered with foil, or in a warmer.  Repeat until batter is gone.  This recipe should make approximately 4 thin crepes.

You can fold your crepes simply by placing your filling in the center and then rolling them up, as in the picture at the top of this post; or place your filling on one half of the crepe, flap the other side over the top to form a half, circle, and then fold again to form a triangle.

You can fill these guys with anything under the sun: scrambled eggs and spinach; peanut butter and chocolate chips; or strawberries and creme fraiche.  Sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top for the sweet ones.

Garlic Basil Grilled Cheese

There are sooo many things that can be done with grilled cheese, but THE BEST combination is garlic, basil, & muenster cheese.  When muenster melts, it becomes super stringy–one of the defining features of a magnificent grilled cheese.  Some tomato slices or a few caramelized onions and mushrooms are also a nice addition, if you have them on hand.

INGREDIENTS:

1 T butter
2 slices Buttery Beer Bread (or any bread)
1 T minced garlic (I use jar garlic–I know, how faux pas!)
3 basil leaves, depending on size
2 slices muenster cheese

DIRECTIONS:

In a non-stick skillet, melt 1/2 T butter over medium heat.  Roll it around in the pan so it covers the same area your bread will.  Atop this buttery goodness, proceed to construct the following masterpiece:

LAYER 1: Buttery Beer Bread (bottom slice)
LAYER 2: 1 slice cheddar cheese
LAYER 3: 1 T minced garlic–spread it over the cheese with a spoon
LAYER 4: basil leaves
LAYER 5: 1 slice muenster cheese
LAYER 6: Buttery Beer Bread slice (top slice)

Apply a lid to the skillet, so the cheese melts as desired.  When the first side approaches a crispy golden brown, toss in the remaining 1/2 T of butter.  When it melts completely, scoop up the sandwich with a spatula, distribute the melted butter as described in the first step, and plop the sandwich back into the buttery delight–uncooked side down, of course.  Replace the lid, if cheese needs more melting urgency.

Cook until bread becomes a crispy golden-brown.  Remove from heat and transfer to plate.  Slice at an angle.

Have a beer, and serve sandwich with Vegetarian Chili, tomato soup, or your favorite salad.