Monday, March 25, 2013

What do you mean he don't eat meat?...that's ok. I make Lamb!

I absolutely love that scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", when the family is blown away that someone has come to dinner and does not eat meat.  But no worries, there is lamb.  I am by no means a vegetarian, however on a weekly basis I really don't eat that much meat.  My sister has been a vegetarian for the last 7 years, and has taught me a lot about eating balanced plant based meals, while being careful to include all necessary nutrients that can be missed in a meatless diet.  In looking back at previous posts, I have not been vegetarian conscious.  In tonight's post, I wanted to celebrate the fun and versatility a big basket of veggies can provide.

For this particular meal I was inspired by my friend, Bridgett.  She posted an array of greek/mediterranean inspired dishes on Facebook.  It took me a mere 10 minutes before I whipped out the grocery list and headed out to recreate the spread.  So fresh and delicious.  Thanks Bridgett!

Hummus or Hommos or Houmous or Hommus...I could keep going, trust me. 
In my search for delicious hummus recipes I began find more spellings for this one seemingly simple dish than there are ingredients in the thing.  Hummus is actually one of the earliest known prepared foods, with a long history in the Middle East.  However the earliest found use of its commonly known spelling hummus, wasn't until 1955 (which was actually translated from the Turkish form of the word humus.  According to Webster's Dictionary, Hummus means chickpeas in Arabic.  If this wasn't enough about the creamy delight, you can find more than you will ever want to know about it here.

I posted a different recipe for hummus earlier, which is similar to this one.  The biggest difference is that this recipe uses dried chickpeas that are soaked overnight and cooked, as opposed to canned.  The difference in texture is unbelievable.  If you think about it far enough in advance, I would definitely recommend this one.  

Israeli Hummus

Inspired by Food and Wine
1/2 pound dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon baking soda
7 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup tahini, at room temperature
 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Paprika and cayenne, for garnish
Pita bread, for serving

DIRECTIONS In a medium bowl, cover the dried chickpeas with 2 inches of water and stir in the baking soda. Refrigerate the chickpeas overnight. Drain the chickpeas and rinse them under cold water.

In a medium saucepan, cover the chickpeas with 2 inches of fresh water. Add the garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until the chickpeas are tender, about 40 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Rinse the chickpeas under cold water. Peel the garlic cloves. In a food processor, puree the chickpeas with the reserved cooking water, the olive oil and garlic cloves. Add the cumin along with the tahini and lemon juice and process until creamy. Season the hummus with salt and transfer to a serving bowl.

Sprinkle the hummus with the red pepper and paprika. Serve with pita bread.

This salad is a great summer recipe.  Light, fresh, and filled with great summer produce.

Greek Salad

Recipe inspired by "Dad's Greek Salad"

6 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dill weed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large plum tomatoes, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
1/4 red onion, peeled, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
A heaping half cup crumbled feta cheese

 Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, vinegar, oregano and dill weed together until blended. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewhisk before using.)

 Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, olives in a bowl. Toss with dressing. Sprinkle cheese over and serve.

Fresh, Hot Pita

Lately, I have been experimenting with recipes from the book, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  One of my favorites is the pita.  The cool thing about this book is there are a few master recipes that you can choose from, and from there create a variety of breads.  I chose the classic boule recipe and then turned it into pita.

This recipe will make up to 16 good size pitas.  It can easily be halved.
3 cups luke warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6  to 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour

1.  For the luke warm water, I use hot tap water.  It should register around 100 degrees F.  Warm water will rise the dough to the right point in 2 hours.

2.  Add yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl, or preferably in a resealable, lidded (but not airtight) food container.

3.  Mix in the flour-KNEADING IS NOT NECESSARY! Add all the flour at once, measuring it by scooping in a dry measuring cup and leveling the top with the back side of a knife.  Don't pack the flour in the cup or the measurements will be off.  Mix with a wooden spoon, high-capacity food processor fitted with dough blade, or heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  You're finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches.  This will be done in a matter of minutes, and will yield a dough that should be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.

4.  Allow to rise.  Cover with a lid (not airtight) that fits well to the container you are using.  Do not use screw-topped bottles or jars, which could explode from trapped gasses.  Allow mixture to rise at room temperature, until it rises as much as it can and begins to flatten on top, approximately 2 hours.  The dough is ready to use at any time now!

HOWEVER, the longer the dough rests in the fridge, the better it gets.  I have kept unused dough in the refrigerator for up to a week.  It begins to develop a delightful sourdough flavor.


1.  Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with a baking stone.  When you are ready to bake the pita, cut off a grapefruit sized piece of dough, about 1 pound. This will make 4 pitas.  If you want to bake only one pita, you can cut off a piece the size of a lime, about 1/4 of a pound.

2.  Dust the surface of the dough with flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter of a turn as you go.  Place the dough on a floured cutting board.  If using the 1 pound size, cut the dough into four equal pieces. (Or keep it large for an extra large pita!)

3.  Using a rolling pin, roll the pieces out into a round with a uniform thickness of 1/8 inch.  You will need to keep adding flour and rotate to prevent sticking.

4.  Depending on the size of your stone, you may need to bake one or two at a time.  Place the round(s) on the stone and quickly close the oven door.  Bake for about 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed.  This is the exciting part!  It blows up like a balloon!
5.  When you remove the pita, wrap it in a clean cotton dish towel and set on a cooling rack.  The pitas will deflate slightly as they cool, and soften.  The space between the crusts will still be there, but may need to be nudged apart by a fork.

(see the greek salad recipe picture for a look at the deflated pitas)

As I said before, just pull from the dough throughout the week for freshly baked pita everyday.  So easy!


Lastly, I got really brave and decided to create my own Dolmades, or stuffed grape leaves.  This recipe was AMAZING! I will definitely make it again.  However, I will make it when I have a lot of time on my hands.  It is time consuming.

Dolmades or Dolmas

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence's recipe found here.

 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored and diced
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup long-grain rice
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) jar grape leaves, rinsed and drained (I couldn't find a jar, but found a vacuum pack at a Mediterranean Grocery)
2 lemons, juiced

 To make the filling, coat a large saute pan with 1/4 cup of the oil and place over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel and lemon zest and stir until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the pine nuts and rice, saute for 2 minutes, stirring to coat.

Pour in just 1/2 cup of the chicken or veg. stock and lower the heat. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente (not fully cooked, being a little chewy), about 10 minutes. Scrape the parboiled rice mixture into a bowl and add the dill and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

Now on to the grape leaves. Bring a big pot of water to a simmer. Blanch the grape leaves in the hot water for 5 minutes until pliable. Drain, then trim the stems and any hard veins from the leaves. Pat dry with paper towels.

To assemble the dolmades, lay a grape leaf on a work surface, shiny-side down. (The original recipe didn't say to do this, but I found it was easier to roll if I laid two leaves end to end as below, as opposed to one leave only).  Put 2 tablespoons of the rice filling near the middle of the leaves.

 Fold the end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and roll up into a cigar – it should be snug but not overly tight because the rice will swell once it is fully cooked. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the roll. 

Repeat with remaining grape leaves and filling. Place the dolmades in a large Dutch oven, or wide deep skillet, seam-side down in a single layer. Pour the remaining cup of broth, remaining olive oil, and the lemon juice over the dolmades, the liquid should reach halfway up the rolls, add some water if necessary. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the dolmades are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool.

 After a meal like this, no one can say being a vegetarian is boring. Nobody.


  1. Thanks for the background information on hummus. Very interesting!

  2. Omigosh! You know I don't eat gluten, but the hummus, salad, and grape leaves look AH.MAZ.ING! I LOOOOVE stuffed grape leaves. Maybe Andrew and I will tackle this whole meal together soon. So excited!