Ok, so somewhere in my house is the camera that a dear friend lent me after I had posted too many picture-less posts here. Perhaps it’s in M’s train or lost in the shuffle of what has become my endless kitchen reorganization project. Wherever it is, I can’t find it right now (worry not, dear lending friend…it’s here and I will find it!) and right now is when I have time to post so, you know, pardon the fact that there’s no picture.
About a month or so ago, there was this marinated feta on sale at the grocery store. At a steal, we bought it on a whim and promptly devoured it. Everywhere we went people were talking about this incredible marinated feta. This got me to thinking. Maybe I should try marinating feta on my own! And so I went to buy feta and try my hand at this nifty little concoction.
Did you know that there are like, no joke, a million different kinds of feta? Because there are. And I think that I had known this before and just refused to become ensnared in an endless inner debate about which one to buy, but not on the day that I went to pick up feta to marinate. All of a sudden the stakes felt BIG.
So I bought French feta. I think I usually buy French when I’m not sure what my options really indicate. French folks make good food so I figure I’m in safe territory. I brought it home, put it in a little bowl, and doused it in olive oil. I smashed a clove of garlic and put it in along with a big bay leaf. Some chives, fresh rosemary and cracked pepper finished the mixture off. I wrapped the bowl in saran wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. We had friends coming over and about an hour before they arrived I set the cheese on the counter to let the oil return to its liquid state. Everyone kept exclaiming about how wonderful the cheese was and I’ve made it a few times since for John and me.
It’s so simple, right? Marinate some feta! But it makes it feel that little bit special that can go such a long way sometimes.
Janet here: It’s hotter than Hades here in the Northeast, a distinct difference from the Bay area in California where the top temperature last week was about 75 degrees. I have to say I did not miss the heat and humidity of the Northeast. But here I am and so I decided to offer up something on the cool side for a hot night. Yes, you have to cook the orzo and quickly roast the shrimp either on the grill or in the oven, but that’s temporary heat my friends. Add a little bread and you’ve got a complete (and delicious I might add) meal.
Roasted Shrimp and Orzo Salad
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa at Home
salt and olive oil
1/2 pound orzo
1/3 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (I am kind of a fanatic about this part)
1/2 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced in medium pieces
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
Heat oven to 400 degrees
Fill a pot with salted water with a splash of olive oil. Bring the water to a boil and add the orzo. Simmer for about 10 minutes until al dente. Drain and put in a large bowl.
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over hot pasta and stir well.
Place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine and then spread in a single layer. Roast about 5 minutes. Don’t overcook.
Add the shrimp to the orzo. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well. Add feta and stir. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow flavors to blend or refrigerate overnight. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
Janet here: When I want to make a fast guilt-free dinner that’s nutritious, I make my favorite kind of pizza: broccoli pizza with cheese. I prefer my pizza without red sauce and love making up different concoctions of goodies to put on top. The options are as vast as your imagination. As I’ve noted before, broccoli is my absolute favorite vegetable; I only allow myself to serve it twice a week so there isn’t a family mutiny, but if I lived on my own (and cooked, which is another story), I would eat broccoli all the time.
Anyway this pizza makes use of pre-made pizza dough from the store — I said this was an easy meatless meal, remember? — but if you prefer to make your own, go for it. I have done it, but with pre-made dough (I like Trader Joe’s) so ubiquitous these days, I’d rather put my time into something else. Anyway, this meal literally takes minutes, which means your Monday can be meat-free and easy.
serves 2 with a little left over
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium head of broccoli cut up into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, diced but not too finely
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or more if you like garlic)
spices: I use everything from red pepper flakes to oregano, basil, salt and pepper, all to taste
3/4 cup crumbled feta
1 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
Let the dough sit out for 20 minutes to reach room temperature. While that’s happening, saute the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minutes. Add the broccoli and seasonings. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is just cooked (I like my veggies crunchy and remember you will be baking this so it will be cooked further). Put aside.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface to roughly a 12-inch diameter. Place the dough onto your sprayed cookie sheet or pizza stone. Add the broccoli saute. Top with the cheeses. Bake for about 10 minutes, depending on how crisp you like your pizza crust.
Janet here: One of the stories of my childhood that was told repeatedly around family gathering dinner tables — sometimes to great embarrassment, depending on my age and who was at the table — was of me and my grandmother Doree’s potato salad. I really loved my grandmother’s potato salad. I mean really loved it. One day while visiting my grandmother when I was around 4, I decided I didn’t want to wait until it was time for dinner to dig into this delicious concoction. So I wandered out to the kitchen, climbed up on a chair and dug in, using the serving spoon that was already in the salad. I was a happy camper … until my grandmother discovered me and put a stop to the dining — and promptly told all the relatives who were there what I was doing. And so a family tale is born.
I’ve basically been trying to recreate that potato salad ever since. I pay attention to potato salads at restaurant and am quick to dismiss the substandard mayo-y glop that passes for potato salad after one bite. My mom made a good version, but nothing has quite equaled the ambrosia I remember from my childhood. I’m not sure I’ve recreated Doree’s version, but I’m pretty happy with the one I have created. I hope you enjoy it too. As with many of my recipes, these measurements are approximations. You should feel free to add or delete, depending on your taste. After all, isn’t tasting what you’re making part of the fun of cooking?
makes about 8 side servings
4 Russet potatoes, skins on, and diced into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, diced
3 celery stalks, slit lengthwise and diced
2 kosher dill pickle spears, slit lengthwise and diced
1 tablespoon kosher dill pickle juice
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2-3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Boil the potato pieces until just done, about 5-10 minutes. You don’t want them overcooked or you will have potato mush
While the potatoes are cooking, dice the onion and celery and place into a large bowl. Add the other ingredients except the salt and pepper.
When the potatoes are done, drain and rinse immediately in cold water to stop the cooking. Add the cooled potatoes to the other ingredients, toss and add salt and pepper to taste. I like my potato salad crunchy so at this point, I take the first of a few (okay maybe several) bites to make sure I’ve got enough celery in there. If not, I add another diced stalk.
This is best served cold so make it ahead of time. I always taste again before serving to see if I want to add more caraway, mustard or mayo — at least that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
Rachel here: Ok, so before I go any further, I just have to say that my ma makes seriously grubbing potato salad. Growing up, I used to eat it with my fingers out of the fridge when I’d walk through the kitchen. I think I’m going to have to make her make it for me when she comes out to visit and meet the baby.
But anyway, I didn’t make potato salad and so, though I’m dreaming of my mom’s, I guess I’d better share the salad that I did make. I’m calling it Spring Bean Salad, though if you live in a less temperate climate it might really be a summer bean salad depending on when the various ingredients I use come into season. Regardless, it’s a super easy and delicious dish. And, though it’s not my ma’s potato salad, I’ve still been picking at it when I walk through the kitchen all day.
3 c. cannellini beans (if using canned, rinse and dry well; if cooking them yourself, be sure not to overcook)
1/2 c. kalamata olives, halved
2 medium cucumbers, chopped
1 smallish red onion, diced very small (but not minced)
4-5 large basil leaves, torn (I tear basil instead of cutting it because cutting it releases its delicious oils onto your knife and cutting board. When torn, everything ends up in your food.)
2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 c. feta, crumbled
8 oz. mozzarella, chopped
juice from 1 large and 1 small lemon
salt and pepper
apple cider vinegar
Put all of the ingredients from the beans through the mozzarella in a large bowl. Toss by hand (this is a gentler way to combine ingredients and will help everything hold up since there are largely soft foods involved). Add lemon juice, salt and pepper, olive oil and apple cider vinegar to taste. Toss well and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate for a few hours so everything settles. Enjoy!
Rachel here: The other night I made, for the very first time, my favorite childhood meal: my mom’s Greek pizza. Growing up, this was what I asked for for my birthday dinners and the leftover I hoped would be mine when my brothers and I ate leftovers for dinner. I remember feeling like I had sophisticated taste buds because I was eating spinach and feta cheese, foods that weren’t staples per se due to the fact that I shared meals with G and S who, as has been mentioned before, weren’t always game for eating food that didn’t come in cute shapes. Anyway, since my mom did a post featuring this dish a few months ago, I’ve been craving it. The day that I was going to make it I felt a little bit excited all day. I don’t think I’d eaten this meal since I lived with my parents and I was nearly giddy by dinner time at the prospect of revisiting my favorite childhood food. If you haven’t made your favorite meal from growing up in a long time, I highly recommend that you do so. Cooking and eating this Greek pizza left me feeling all warm and fuzzy and nostalgic for dinners in my parents’ kitchen, talking with my brothers and my mom about our days. It was fun to share it with John, too, since he had never had it. He dutifully ate seconds and totally understood why I was so excited to make this meal. This is a recipe, for sure, that I can’t wait to make for our kid in a few years. After all of these years of missing this meal, I’m glad I finally incorporated it into my kitchen. I didn’t make it quite as well as my mom, but I still felt like she was there by the stove with me and that, in and of itself, is just the kind of nourishment we all need sometimes.
Janet here: It’s funny to read Rachel’s post because I really didn’t realize as she was growing up, that this was such a big deal meal for her. I knew she liked it, of course, but I had no idea it was infused with so much emotion.
We really are so clueless aren’t we? We work so hard to make a moment special — cooking a special meal with all the right ingredients and candlelight, say, for a significant other — and yet so often it’s the little every day moments that actually make it all matter. While cooking with phyllo dough, a major ingredient in Greek pizza, was not something I did every day, I certainly never thought the nights I served it were “special,” and yet those moments apparently were. I guess the message is we should try to remember it’s all special because you never know the moment that’s going to “count” in someone else’s memory. Good to be reminded of that, I think, don’t you?
Janet here: Rachel and I decided to go our own ways on this week’s entree entry and you’ll be able to see in a heartbeat the basic difference between our cooking: mine is vegetarian and hers involves eating a once-cute little baby sheep. Now I never liked lamb even before I pictured it in my head, but the cute fuzzy lamb part made it an easy red meat to give up 30 years ago. (Now the smell of a burger on the grill or bacon cooking, that’s a different story! I’ve been known to pop a piece of bacon in my mouth from time to time. Heaven!)
Anyway, enough of the whole vegetarian vs. carnivore thing. You’re going to love this Greek pizza from Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook because it’s just good. I first heard about the Moosewood phenomenon when I became a vegetarian and was searching for a good vegetarian cookbook that wasn’t too hippie-dippie. I mean, I was giving up red meat, not good food. Moosewood did the trick; my copies of the Moosewood Cookbook and the Enchanted Broccoli follow-up are ripped, dog-eared, stained and just generally reflective of the use and loving they’ve received. I’ve made one flop from these cookbooks in 30 years — zucchini pancakes, but that’s another story.
If you’ve never worked with phyllo dough, Katzen eases you into it with detailed instructions. While a little time consuming, it’s not hard, and the buttery, flaky goodness that is the end result is totally worth it. Enjoy!
1/2 pound phyllo pastry leaves (defrosted, all day ideally)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
juice from 1/2 large lemon
1 pound fresh spinach–cleaned, stemmed and chopped (or, if you hate dealing with spinach like I do, one frozen 10-ounce package chopped spinach, defrosted)
black pepper to taste
1 pound grated mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta
2 medium tomatoes, sliced thin
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
For the phyllo: defrost the package, still wrapped, all day. Unwrap just before using, unroll and what you need if your package is not wrapped in 1/2 pound increments. Then rewrap the part you’re not using in wax paper and seal in a plastic bag and refrigerate or refreeze until you need it next.
Melt the butter and 1/4 cup oil.
In a large skillet, saute the onions and garlic with salt in 2 tablespoons oil until the onions are clear and soft. Add the herbs, lemon juice and spinach. Cook over high heat until the spinach is cooked and the liquid is evaporated.
In a 13X9 inch backing pan, begin layering the phyllo dough, brush each surface with a generous amount of the melted butter and oil combination. Do this until you’ve used up all the phyllo layers. Brush the top surface with the remaining butter/oil. It will look like it’s too much butter but it’s not!
Place the spinach mixture on top of the phyllo dough evenly. Sprinkle on feta and half the mozzarella.
Dredge the tomato slices in the bread crumbs and then arrange them on top of the pizza. Add remaining mozzarella. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees.
Rachel here: The photo for this meal was taken with haste, as neither John nor I were able to muster the patience to take several pictures due to the unbelievably good smells emanating from our plates. Seriously? This recipe is delicious. While meat loaf has always seemed sort of boring to me, this recipe has changed this association forever. I would eat this regularly. Scratch that–I will eat this dish regularly. This stuff is so simple and so satisfying, I’d be a fool not to. Anyway, give it a try and let us know what you do with your meatloaf. This recipe has gotten me thinking that the possibilities just might be endless.
Balsamic-glazed Lamb Meat Loaf
from the February 2010 “Real Simple”
2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces (I used part of a fresh loaf of rustic country bread instead)
1 lb. ground lamb
1 large egg
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T. fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)
2 T. balsamic vinegar (I used closer to 3 T.)
2 T. olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
30 oz. canned cannellini beans, rinsed
1 T. fresh lemon juice (I just squeezed half a small lemon)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the bread and 3 T. of water. Add the egg, 2 cloves of the garlic (chopped), half the thyme, 3/4 tspn. salt, 1/2 tspn. fresh cracked pepper. Mash these ingredients and then add the lamb, mixing everything together.
On a foil-lined baking sheet (which I would recommend spraying with cooking oil, though I didn’t, because my loaf got a little stuck during cooking), shape the meat mixture into a 6-inch loaf that is about 3 inches thick. Bake, brushing with balsamic vinegar several times during cooking, for 30 to 35 minutes or until a thermometer registers the center at 150 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.
While the meat is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper, onion, and remaining garlic and thyme, tossing periodically and cooking until vegetables begin to soften. Add the beans, 1/2 tspn. of salt and 1/4 tspn. of fresh cracked pepper and cook until the beans are heated through. Stir in the lemon juice. Serve with the meatloaf.