Food, Wine, Rock & Roll

Part food blog, part jam session

Moussaka

Posted by Becca On January - 21 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

This is not a recipe for someone who is new to cooking or isn’t willing to spend a significant amount of time in the kitchen; be prepared to spend around 2 hours working on the prep & another hour in the actual cooking.  In the end, though, the time and effort are worth it, especially if you love Greek food (like I do) and can’t always go out for it.  Though it would be more “Greek” to use ground lamb in this recipe, I most often use ground beef and have found it to be just as tasty as it is with lamb.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1 qt. milk
  • 3 eggs
  • nutmeg
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs (I like to use the herb & garlic)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

Peel the eggplants and cut them into slices about 1/2 inch thick.  Brown the slices quickly in 4 tablespoons of the butter.  Set aside & cover to keep warm.

Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet and cook the onions until they are brown.

Add the ground meat and cook 10 minutes.

Combine the tomato paste with the wine, parsley, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.  Stir this mixture into the meat and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Remove the mixture from heat.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Make a white sauce by melting 8 tablespoons of butter and blending in the flour, stirring with a whisk.

Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add it gradually to the butter/flour mixture, stirring constantly.

When the mixture is thickened and smooth, remove it from the heat.

Cool slightly and stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg, and ricotta cheese.

Grease an 11×16 inch pan and sprinkle the bottom lightly with bread crumbs.

Arrange alternate layers of eggplant and meat sauce in the pan, sprinkling each layer with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Pour the ricotta cheese sauce over the top and bake one hour, or until top is golden.

Remove from the oven and cool 20-30 minutes before serving.


Mediterranean Chicken

Posted by Becca On September - 1 - 20102 COMMENTS

I got this recipe from one of my husband’s former co-workers who was also an avid home-chef.  It’s simple, quick, and very filling (oh, and it makes great leftovers…are we seeing a pattern yet?).  The sauce is creamy with just a hint of bite because of the feta, which balances very well with the basil, artichokes, and olives.  The sun-dried tomatoes give the dish just a touch of sweetness that rounds out this wonderfully delicious dish.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly torn
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup artichoke hearts in water, quartered and drained
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
  • 6 oz. low fat feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup fat free half & half
  • 1/2 lb angel hair pasta
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preparation

Boil water for pasta and cook until tender

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Brown chicken until no longer pink – about 3-4 minutes.

Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic to skillet. Saute for 2 minutes.

Add the basil, artichoke hearts, olives, and feta cheese to the skillet.  Saute for 1 minute then stir in the cream.

Strain the pasta and transfer to a large pasta bowl.  Add the chicken saute to the pasta and toss.  Season with oregano, salt and pepper before serving.

Drinks

I recently discovered an incredibly inexpensive wine that is really quite good (it’s made by the same folks who make Two-Buck Chuck) at Sprouts Farmers Market.  Crane Lake’s Chardonnay goes very well with this dish because it has just a hint of sweetness that complements the fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes and has a very smooth finish that goes well with the creaminess of the sauce.

Music

In the past, I have listened to a fairly wide array of albums while making this dish.  My current favorite album to throw on while making this yummy dish is the self-titled album released by the collaborative effort band, Broken Bells (composed of Danger Mouse & the lead singer of The Shins).  It’s an amazing album that, at times, seems inspired by some music from the early 80s (The Cure, Modern English, etc).  It’s great to listen to while making this dish because, while it is mellow & easy to groove to, it has some rather surprising moments that just sweeten up the whole experience.


Spanakopita

Posted by Becca On August - 12 - 20101 COMMENT

Spanakopita is a Greek pastry that is very similar to quiche.  While this is not a difficult recipe, it is quite time consuming and can be a bit frustrating if you have never worked with phyllo dough before.  It takes delicate hands and a great deal of patience but, like anything, the more you work with pyllo, the easier it becomes.  This is such a satisfying dish that it is completely worth the time it takes to make it.  If you have leftovers, warm it in the oven as opposed to the microwave because the microwave just makes it a bit soggy.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh spinach
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1/2 pound phyllo pastry sheets
  • Butter, melted (for brushing on the phyllo)

Preparation

Thaw phyllo dough (still rolled in the package) in refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for a few hours.

Wash spinach and discard stems; dry thoroughly.  Chop spinach into course pieces.

Saute onion in 4 tablespoons of butter until soft.  Add spinach and saute a few minutes longer.  Allow to cool.

Add cream sauce, eggs, cheese and seasonings.  Mix well.

Unroll thawed phyllo dough.  Place 7 layers of phyllo pastry sheets (these are very thin and tear easily.  Make sure your hands are dry and work slowly) in an 11×14 inch pan, brushing each sheet well with melted butter.  Add spinach mixture, then place 8 phyllo pastry sheets on filling.  Again, butter each sheet well.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Cut into small squares before serving.

Drinks

Because this dish is so delicate and light, most wines will overpower it.  However, I have found a Portuguese wine that is incredibly delicate which complements the Spanakopita very well.  Vinho Verde has a hint of lemon and just a bit of bubble (it’s not fully considered a sparkling wine; it’s “fizzy”) that makes it a great match to this delicate dish. Jose Maria da Fonseca [pictured] and Famega Wineries (both from Portugal) offer up beautiful versions of this cool “kinda fizzy” wine.

Music

Since working with the phyllo sheets can get a little frustrating and requires some  patience, I like to listen to music that helps me stay mellow and calm.  Music that is too frenetic just doesn’t seem to work well while making this dish.  For that reason, I turn to my #1 favorite band of all time, Pink Floyd.  I generally turn to two of Floyd’s later albums (A Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell) to help create the necessary environment for the execution of Spanakopita.

Souvlaki

Posted by Becca On July - 19 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

This is a perfect meal for the summer because it is light, healthy, and grilled (which is great when it’s too hot to turn on the oven).  It is simple to make but is full of flavor and incredibly filling.  The fresh vegetables used in this recipe add a crispness that never fails to satisfy.  I typically use pork loin as the protein in this dish but it could easily be switched out with chicken, lamb, or beef and be equally tasty.  It also makes great leftovers.  I serve this dish on warmed flat bread (which can done on the grill or in the oven), tzatziki, and hummus (recipes for both are posted separately).

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 pound boneless pork tenderloin
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, halved (I use baby portobellas because they are larger than standard mushrooms)

Preparation

In a large plastic or glass bowl, mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, oregano, and garlic.  Add pork, onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms; stir to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat grill to medium high heat (about 350-400 degrees).  Slide pork, onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms onto skewers and place on skewers on grill.  Cook about 10 to 15 minutes total turning the skewers frequently.

Serve on pita or flat bread with tzatziki spooned on top.

Drinks

This dish works well with both red & white wine, as long as they are mellow; I don’t like wines that overpower the delicious flavors of this dish.  Rene Barbier’s Mediterranean Red is an excellent compliment to the sweetness of the peppers, the bite of the garlic, and the mellowness of the pork and mushrooms.  I also really like Messina Hof’s (an awesome Texas vineyard located in Bryan) Muscat Canelli or Riesling.

Music

This is a dish for mellow, yet slightly funky, music because of its combination of ease in preparation with slightly exotic flavors.  I think my all time favorite band to turn on and jam out to while making this meal is Portishead.  I’m particularly a massive fan of their live album, Roseland NYC Live in which they pair up with the string section of the New York Philharmonic orchestra.  I also really enjoy putting on just about any album ever released by Dave Matthews Band, especially if it is a live album.

Tzatziki

Posted by Becca On July - 19 - 20102 COMMENTS

I found this recipe when I first made Souvlaki because they are meant to be served together.  However, I have since discovered that it goes well along side other Greek/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes, as well as on its own as a dip with pita bread or flat bread.  The shredded cucumber in the dish makes it incredibly refreshing, the crushed garlic gives it a hint of spicy bite, and the yogurt smooths all the flavors out.  This dish is a little more involved and takes a bit of planning ahead.  However, it can be kept refrigerated for up to a week and makes a nice afternoon snack when you are looking for something a little different.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain low or no fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon course salt
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated on large holes of grater
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preparation

Drain yogurt for 1 hour in a cheesecloth-lined strainer to remove some of its water.

Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt over the grated cucumber and drain, 10-15 minutes, to extract excess water.

In a bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Add drained cucumber to yogurt, along with pepper, and mix well.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Hummus

Posted by Becca On July - 15 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Hummus is made by blending chickpeas (garbanzo beans) with other various ingredients.  Traditionally, it uses tahini (a paste made from ground sesame seeds).  However, when I decided to learn how to make hummus I couldn’t find tahini anywhere.  So, I started searching for a way to make hummus without tahini and found this incredibly quick recipe.  It became a staple in my household and, anytime there is a party, I bring my hummus.  It requires almost no time to make, there is very little clean-up after, it travels well, and can be eaten with pita bread as an appetizer or as a side dish with other meals (see Moroccan Chicken and Souvlaki).

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

Preparation

Drain water from chickpeas, reserving 2-4 tablespoons.

In a food processor, blend all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.  Add chickpea water to hummus slowly (tablespoon at a time) until desired consistency is reached.

Serve with pita bread, flat bread, pita chips, or bagel chips.

Keep refrigerated.