Category Archives: Savory

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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Tzatziki Yogurt Sauce

Tzatziki is an incredibly refreshing (and healthy) Greek yogurt sauce that is excellent for dipping pita slices or fresh-cut vegetables.  My favorite use for the sauce is alongside Dolmades, or on top of a pita stuffed with vegetables (tomatoes, onions, mushrooms & green peppers).

I prefer a chunkier texture, which is what I’ve recorded here–however some recipes call for a seeded, almost shredded cucumber.  I’ve also adapted my own recipe so that I can make it in under 5 minutes.  It chills well in the fridge for a couple of days, but it usually doesn’t last that long!

INGREDIENTS:
8 oz plain Greek yogurt
1 small cucumber, finely chopped
1 T olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 T fresh dill, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Mix ingredients together in a bowl.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with Dolmades, Pita, or as a vegetable dip.

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.

Tostones

The ripeness and color of any plantain you choose at the market has a huge impact on the taste of your intended meal.  Green plantains are fantastic as a savory dish, as they are only slightly sweet; yellow and black plantains are more suited for sweet caramelized dishes.  

When I make tostones I choose a green plantain with almost no black spots.  When I make platanos maduros, I prefer a ripeness somewhere between yellow and black, although many traditional Latin-American dishes suggest using a completely black plantain.  Generally, I buy them green and store in a bowl on the counter for future use.  A green plantain can take up to a month to turn black, so its an easy fruit to perpetually have on hand.

INGREDIENTS:
1 green plantain
1/4 inch corn oil in a cast iron skillet
1 small dinner plate
Sea salt to taste
Lime wedges

DIRECTIONS:
Peel the plantain by cutting off each edge and then slicing lengthwise on both sides. Peel away the remaining peel. Slice the fruit at an angle into 1 1/2 inch chunks–slicing at an angle (rather than creating a flat surface) will help with smashing later in the process.

Heat 1/4-1/2 inch of corn oil in a cast iron frying pan. When a small drop of water sizzles in the pan, the oil is ready for frying. Carefully add plantain chunks to pan and fry both sides for approximately 3-5 minutes–until tostones just begin to brown.

Remove chunks and drain oil on a paper towel.  Using a small plate, flatten the tostones one at a time. The idea is not to make them super-flat, but just mash them down.

Return to oil and fry an additional minute or two flipping halfway through, until tostones are golden brown.

Remove from frying pan and drain oil once more onto paper towels.  Sea salt to taste, and serve with Lime-Garlic Mayonnaise and some extra lime wedges.


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.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Hummus

I make hummus practically every week, so I have to vary the recipe a bit in order to keep myself interested in my own cooking!

This hummus has a hint of brown sugary sweetness with the richness of a peanut butter and pumpkin combination–and is still justifiably healthy!  If you are serving it in a dish, garnish with a cinnamon stick, caramelized walnuts, or a drizzle of honey.  It tastes best with celery sticks, graham crackers, buttery crackers, or wrapped in crepes with potatoes and greens.  

INGREDIENTS:
1 16 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzos)
1 C pumpkin (cooked or canned)
1/2 C peanut butter
1/8 C olive oil
1 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
4 T brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2-1 C water

DIRECTIONS:
Add all ingredients to food processor except water.

Begin blending.  Slowly pour 1/2 C water through the feeder tube in your food processor. Blend 10 seconds, or until hummus reaches a smooth consistency.  Taste and adjust spices.  Blend again, pouring in the remaining water until hummus becomes fluffy and smooth.  You might not need all the water–or you might need a little more than 1 C–just stop pouring when your hummus reaches the consistency you prefer most.

Garnish with a cinnamon stick, some caramelized walnuts, or a drizzle of honey.