Moussaka-mmmm

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moussakaIf you like lasagna then you are going to love this 3 layered Greek casserole. The layers include eggplant, meat (lamb or beef), bechamel (a white sauce made with milk). Sometimes there might be zucchini or potato added to the recipe. Any way you make it, you are going to have a nice comforting meal. Add a Greek salad and you are all set. Continue reading

Greek Week~OPA!!

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Purple Potatoes, White Japanese Eggplant, Carrots, and PepperYou may have heard of “GREEK WEEK” on many college and university campuses which basically is a blitz on fun, frivolity, and food among the sororities and fraternities. For me, it’s Greek week too- an energetic and concerted effort to cook a lot of Greek foods in my last week of January.

Here’s the down low- get all my food items made (and blog about it), listen to awesome Greek songs, offer prayers for the Greek people, and try to get some Greek reading in. It is going to be a busy week and I look forward sharing what will be coming down the pike as I attempt Greek Week- fun, frivolity and food!

Menu for the next 7 days:

Shrimp with Feta and Tomato, Greek Salad

Macedonian Rice Stuffing with whole Chicken

Moussaka, Once  A Year Bread

Roast Lemon Potatoes, Honey Cakes

Cabbage Rolls, Fried Tomato Fritters

Baked Lamb with Rice Shaped Pasta

Spinach Rice, Olive bread

Fisherman’s Soup, Sesame Pistachio Snack

OPA!!! and don’t forget to check back as I reveal the 16th country that I plan to cook and learn about in February.

 

Two Greeks walk into a bar…

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Actually there is a saying “when Greek meets Greek, they start a restaurant.” Well, maybe not so true, but it is true that when a Greek meets a friend, they sit down to eat. I tested this out just last week. (see end for bar joke)….

There’s this local Greek restaurant right down the road from where we live, and it is not unusual for the owner to serve you the food himself. There is an immediate sense of family the minute you walk in -bound together by the love of food. As we were dining, the owner came to the different tables to greet the guests and on more than one occasion he brought the food out himself. Nothing stuffy here, just friendly people eating in a family-like restaurant. Continue reading

January is all things Greek

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I am excited for 2017! It means a new month and new cooking adventures. I really love international cooking and learning new things about countries that I might get to visit or not.

In December, I gathered all the family for January’s country culinary pick. Greece won and here we go- cooking all things Greek in January. Not only do I like to cook, I also like to get to know the country. I do that by reading about Greece. In the news right now is about refugees from Syria, Iraq and Aleppeo currently coming in and finding safe haven from dire home situations. Continue reading

Asparagus with Garlic and Paprika~Espárragos Amargueros

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NapkinsI learned all about cooking asparagus while I was a caterer during my days at Whole Foods. Roasted Asparagus, Steamed Asparagus, and Vinaigrette Asparagus are just a few that I have under my belt. Here’s a new asparagus dish from my cookbook The Foods & Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas- Espárragos Amagueros. I adapted this recipe to my liking (See recipe below). When it calls for breadcrumbs- I added them to the end of the cooking process instead of adding them in the middle. Enjoy it as much as we did. cropped-asparagus.jpg

Asparagus with Garlic and Paprika- Espárragos Amagueros Serves 4

1 pound thin asparagus

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 style French-style bread

1 clove garlic, peeled

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon vinegar

Salt

1 tablespoon parsley

Snap off the ends of the asparagus. Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the bread slice until it is golden. Remove to a blender or processor. Saute the garlic clove in the oil until it is golden and remove it to the blender also. In the same oil, sauté the asparagus for 3 minutes. Add the paprika and stir the coat. Pour in the water, cover, and cook until the asparagus is almost tender. Meanwhile, [process] the bread and garlic. (Here is where I change the recipe and did not add vinegar or cooking liquid but added the breadcrumbs to the finished asparagus dish). Add vinegar to the processor and a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the asparagus. Pour the mixture over the asparagus. Salt to taste and continue cooking 5 minutes more, or until the asparagus is tender. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. 0408161918

 

 

 

 

Escarole Salad with Tomato and Cumin Dressing~ Ensalada A La Almoraina

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SaladMy youngest daughter loves a good salad. As a matter of fact, sometimes I wonder if she is a rabbit. She can smell a cut cucumber several rooms away. She loves, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, celery, and her favorite-cucumbers. I once made her a tiered birthday “cake” with only cucumbers.

When she asked me the other day to revisit some of my Spain recipes, I decided to look at some recipes that I had not prepared. I found a “gem” in this little salad dressing. It was odd sounding at first -cumin in the dressing is not your typical salad dressing ingredient. But I am doing as the Southern Spaniards are doing- “when in Spain…..”

I am looking more forward to this salad come tomato season. There are few recipes that I like to make over and over and this is definitely one that I will keep close by. It is simple and complex, yet light on the tongue.

The recipe has Moorish influences from the Andalucian Region of Spain (Southern Spain) and comes from my cookbook “The Food & Wines of Spain” by Penelope Casas. Although, this one does not have cucumbers in it, you can definitely add what you like to make it yours. I think the highlight here is the dressing. I also used butter lettuce instead of escarole. Do what feels and tastes good to you. Best to you~denise

Ensalada A La Almoraina~ Escarole Salad with Tomato and Cumin Dressing

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed or ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 escarole, cut in pieces
  • Cured black olives and hard-boiled egg slices or wedges for garnish

Directions

In a blender or processor beat the tomato, cumin, garlic, paprika, and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Blend until smooth. Gradually pour in the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, the vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Arrange the escarole on individual salad plates. Spoon on the dressing and decorate with the olives and eggs.

Additional options: I added artichokes.

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Tortilla Española-Olé!

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Tortilla de espanola

Tortilla de espanola

(This is an old repost from my Spain cooking days and since we plan on being there soon, I’ve decided to resurrect some old recipes and try some new ones).

Olé-definition-Excited approval! This is the way my daughter, who is in Spain, reacts to this Spanish dish.

Looks easy to make this egg, onion, potato combo-but don’t let the simplicity of the ingredients fool you. It is an art in Spain to get this tortilla out of the pan and into the mouth. Continue reading

Apple, Cinnamon and Almond Cake- A Shabbat Cake

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Apple CakeIf there is one thing we have every Shabbat, it’s gonna be a cake or pie. So every Friday, I entice my family to get excited about sitting down to Sabbath dinner with the smells of the sweet challah (bread) that I make every week. If that doesn’t do it, then it’s going to be the wafting aromas of cinnamon and sugar.

Now that the apple season is nipping at our heels, I am all about making anything with apples. Apple pies, strudels, and cakes. Every family I know has a recipe for an apple cake. It’s one of the simplest desserts to make. Last night’s dessert was no exception-cause the husband was able to throw one down.

Here is the recipe:

Apple, Cinnamon and Almond Cake

Serves 8

3- 5 large baking apples, peeled and cored

2 cups of flour

1 tsp of cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

1/2 tsp of salt

3/4 cup oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sliced almonds ( you can also use walnuts, pecans)

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the apples and dice. Save one apple and slice into wedges and set aside. You can put a spritz of lemon juice on it to keep from browning. Sift flour with cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until thick but do not over mix. Add oil and flour mixture to the eggs and sugar. Then add nuts and apples and gently mix in. Place in a greased pan and place apple wedges on top in a circular pattern. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Check after 30 and stick with a butter knife. If it comes out clean take out, if not, continue baking and check every 5 minutes until knife comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or even warm caramel syrup. Hint- eat it warm. I like to eat it with a pat of butter and a cup of coffee.

Shabbat Shalom- Peaceful rest to you.

Eggplant, Eggplant Parm, Eggplant Dip and Blessings

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eggplant ParmHere is a lovely dish to make for a weeknight meal, Shabbat dinner or Sunday after church dinner-Eggplant Parmesan. It’s fast, easy and filling.

Eggplants are in abundance right now, here and abroad but especially in Middle Eastern Countries where one can find lots of Turkish dishes and Israeli recipes using eggplant. I made an Italian dish this time. But if you want a traditional Israel/Middle Eastern eggplant dish- try roasting eggplants with red peppers-2 roasted eggplants, scoop the flesh out, add 2 cloves roasted garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, and salt with 2-3 roasted sweet red peppers to the eggplant flesh. (from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur). That’s next on the menu.eggplant

I made and adapted a recipe (meaning I did not add as much basil or oregano) from Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan. It’s fast to assemble and pretty tasty.

Here is the recipe:
Eggplant Parmesan
Serves 4 or 5 as a main-course

3 medium-large eggplants, cut crosswise into ½-inch slices
Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 28-ounce can no-salt plum tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup (packed) fresh basil leaves (or not)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or as needed
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves, optional

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with oil, and place in a single layer on two or more baking sheets. Bake until undersides are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes, then turn and bake until other sides are lightly browned. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add onion. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and dried oregano and sauté another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juices, breaking up whole tomatoes with your hands. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Add vinegar, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Into a 9-by-9-inch, 10-by-5-inch or 10-by-6-inch baking pan, spoon a small amount of tomato sauce, then add a thin scattering of parmigiano, then a single layer of eggplant. Repeat until all ingredients are used, ending with a little sauce and a sprinkling of parmigiano. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and oregano, if using, with just enough olive oil to moisten. Sprinkle on top. If desired, recipe can be made to this point and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking.

4. Bake until eggplant mixture is bubbly and center is hot, 30 to 45 minutes depending on size of pan and thickness of layers. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Recipe can also be reheated.

Shabbat 5

Just as a reminder, these recent posts are about observing the Jewish Shabbat as a Christian family and how we live that out each Friday. I also continue to write about international foods as this is a food blog. Currently, I am learning to cook Middle Eastern, and Israeli foods. Let’s see how all this intersects as I work through a new tradition/observance with my Christ-walk, while at the same time, sharing food and blessing around the table with friends and family.

Right now, our family received some eggplants from friends- and what a treat. We are glad to have people around us who share their bounty with us. In the south- we often say “it’s a real blessing, or we sure have been blessed.” Blessings are good- it’s just a way to acknowledge good things happening. Shabbat and Sunday’s are also good days to remember blessings.

If you are observing the Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath Rest) this Friday- one thing I like to do to get ready for Shabbat- Sabbath- is I like to set the table with my best china, get special wine glasses out and get the candles ready for lighting. It’s an evening set apart from other evenings. I try a little harder to do special things or say special sayings. I am learning to memorize in Hebrew the Candle lighting blessing. It’s hard but I think I have it memorized after 8 months. (see below for blessing).

In my local church on Sunday, at the closing of service, the light from the candles on the altar/table in Christian worship is the light of Christ and we figuratively take that light out into the world. It means in a nutshell, we are called to be lights/blessings to others. Usually what follows is a Sunday luncheon and many times in our family we use this as our blessing – “Come Lord Jesus, Be our Guest, May all these Gifts to us be blessed. Blessed is God who is our Bread, May all the World be clothed and fed.”

If you are interested in an interfaith collection of table blessings check this out: Interfaith Collection of Blessings

Shabbat Shalom- Peace be with you.

Shabbat CandlesHere is the Shabbat Candle Lighting blessing which begins on Friday a few minutes before sunset and the female head usually brings in Sabbath.

  •  Extend your hand over the candles, draw them inwards three times in a circular motion, and then cover your eyes.
  • Say the blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אַדֹנָ-י אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל שַׁבָּת קֹדֶשׁ

Transliteration: Baruch a-ta A-do-nay Elo-hei-nu me-lech ha-o-lam a-sher ki-di-sha-nu bi-mitz-vo-tav vi-tzi-va-noo li-had-leek ner shel Sha-bat ko-desh.

Translation: Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the light of the Holy Shabbat.

Getting Ready for Shabbat- One Family’s Shabbat Observance

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Shabbat 4How do you get ready for Shabbat? Let’s start out by just resting. Can you do it?

Resting is one of the hardest things to do in a world that tells you to keep going. Are you able to put aside the doing and going? Do you feel guilty resting your mind for a few hours without wondering if you need to get up and do something, anything? Do you need a reason to pause? Do you need to put a stop to the running around? Do you feel weary and heavy laden? Then this blog is for you.

If you are following this blog, you may or may not know that I am writing about Shabbat. We are a Christian family that celebrates the Jewish Shabbat. In this part of my blog, I invite you to follow us as we live out what it means to live a life of Shabbat keeping and since this is primarily a food blog, follow me as I try out some new Jewish and Middle Eastern food recipes.

I just got through reading the book “Sabbath as Resistance- Saying No to the Sabbath as ResistanceCulture of Now” by Walter Brueggemann. It’s a great treatise on Sabbath rest and celebration. One of the main themes throughout the book is about helping Christians understand what it means to resist the demands of a society which says that we need to consume more, do more and accomplish more. Here’s my takeaway from the book-keeping the Sabbath allows for things that are really important, like God, family, other people and just as important, how to live a more fulfilled life practicing Shabbat.

In getting ready for Sabbath rest, you need to know that God rested. Here’s how I know-“For six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day and consecrated it.” Genesis 20.11. So rest, cease, stop, enjoy, listen, and laugh. Sing songs, pray prayers, cook food, and bless one another.

I love to cook and gather with friends and family. For me, my practice of ceasing starts early in the week with a meal plan for our Friday Shabbat. I love cooking international foods. In keeping with the international theme, I chose a while back to learn to cook foods from Israel and the Middle East.

Matzoh Ball Soup

Matzoh Ball Soup

I bought a few cookbooks to help me in my cooking and I have started to collect a few recipes that I have made for our Shabbat these last 8 months. One of the first things I learned to make was Matzoh/Matzo/Matzah Ball Chicken Soup. A simple, yet flavorful dish. I bought a box of Matzo Ball mix. Matzoh is basically unleavened bread traditionally eaten by the Jews during Passover (more later on Passover). Matzoh ball is like a dumpling-basically floating in soup. I made a basic chicken stock and added some carrots, celery and onion along with the chicken pieces. You can pick up a box of Matzoh soup mix, which you can find in the Jewish section of your grocery store and follow the directions. This soup is a great starter soup before your big meal. It’s also a meal in itself to have along with your challah for your Shabbat.

In the coming weeks, I will add some more great amazing recipes to the blog- foods like Lamb dishes, roasted chicken dishes, cassoulets, chicken liver and onions, salmon dishes, Israeli salad, hummus, and more.

So, follow me and look for how we celebrate Shabbat, Jewish festivals and observances. See how these practices intersect with living out our Christian faith. Also, I will get more into what to do to get ready for Shabbat Friday’s. But in the meantime, won’t you join us in ceasing, and resting?

-Shabbat Shalom.