Autism Awareness Pop up in O-town

WOW! What a week it has been! After several months of planning…then replanning, finding a space, getting plane tickets, shopping, and finally preparing, our dinner was a success! I’m not going to tell you it was easy, because it wasn’t, but I can’t tell you how good it felt to go above and beyond our goal and even after reimbursing food costs for what wasn’t donated we were able to give $800 to my nieces school’s special needs program. After fighting a bit with Mom about how much food we needed, we ended up running out a bit too early on a few things, but we did have enough rice to feed a few hundred more folks by the end…LOL! In all it went great, there are always annoyances, like those folks you expect to show up and support you that blow you off, I have a hard time not feeling snubbed. Continue reading “Autism Awareness Pop up in O-town”

Turkey and Summer squash Keftedes with Zucchini Tzatziki

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I was recently gifted several zucchini and Summer squash from my neighbor. They may have grown a bit larger than ideal for quick sauteing which is usually my go to for these veggies, so I decided to do a play on Greek meatballs (keftedes) with tzatziki, I had a lot of product to use so I figured I would use the zucchini and squash in both the meatballs and the sauce and the results were delicious! Continue reading “Turkey and Summer squash Keftedes with Zucchini Tzatziki”

Pork Souvlaki

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One of my very first memories of cooking is when I was about three and I was sitting on the large butcher block in my parents Greek food lounge on 27th St. in downtown Ogden, Utah. My mother would let me grab toddler-sized handfuls of dried Greek oregano and let me “make it rain” all over the cubed pork over the massive tubs my mom would use to make souvlaki for the restaurant. Salt,granulated garlic, pepper, lemon juice, I would watch as she would eye the amount needed for each 20 or so pounds she would season at a time. Continue reading “Pork Souvlaki”

Greek style cheese pies (Tyropita) and the plight of the lonely extrovert.

Life, it will kill ya! Well had some recent disappointments, reality cooking show redemption is on hold perhaps forever….don’t you love rejection emails? I sure do….not. But onward and upward…in all actuality, besides feeling sorry for myself and reflecting on what I lack, I’m not really that upset. I think life is more about learning to be resilient to rejection more than it is about celebrating success. Self-analysis is a less than stellar activity for most, myself included and I’ve done a lot of it in the last few years, and realized I am one of those people pleasing extroverts. Some folks can’t stand our kind, I think oh I am hilariously vocal, others might find this audible annoyance, but really we just yearn for love and approval. I just want everything to be fun! Is that so wrong? Continue reading “Greek style cheese pies (Tyropita) and the plight of the lonely extrovert.”

Kapama style Lamb Ragu with whole wheat orzo and rainbow chard and house hunting in Portland, Oregon.

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Over the weekend we went house hunting here in Portland. My husband and I have been wanting to get our own place here and feel like now is the time. Our family has been here for three years and my daughter will be going into the 2nd grade in the Fall and we want to hopefully have our own property and not be giving our hard earned dollars to rent. Currently we live in a great area, the Hollywood district, schools are good, it’s safe, but it seems like we just don’t quite “fit in here”. We did ask our landlord about selling his house to us, but he was not too keen on the idea, and it’s probably out of our price range anyway. Continue reading “Kapama style Lamb Ragu with whole wheat orzo and rainbow chard and house hunting in Portland, Oregon.”

Spanikopita Grilled cheese

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Spanikopita is a delicious spinach and feta savory pastry that is wrapped in crispy, butter laden, phyllo. Several different cultures have their own version of this treat, we are Greek so ours is very Mediterranean. A great thing for lunch or a snack, it isn’t always easy to find the time to make the whole pie, or work with the phyllo or even pre-heat the oven for that matter. I found a way to have all the flavor of the original with the ease of a sandwich, I was inspired by when I was in Rome and went into a panini shop where they had paninis filled with just cooked spinach and buffalo mozzarella, they were a cheap and delicious lunch on the go for the broke, American, back packer. With that in mind, I decided that Spanikopita grilled cheese would be a no-brainer for a recipe.
Makes two
You will need:
4 slices of good quality bread, I used a Sicilian loaf studded with sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon softened butter
1 10 oz bag of baby spinach, or if you buy in bulk two big handfuls
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
1 teaspoon dill
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
4 thin slices of provolone
pinch of salt
a few cranks of fresh cracked pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Plug in panini press, I’m ghetto fab so I use my default early 2000’s wedding gift “George Foreman grill”, you can also heat a skillet over medium heat and grill it that way your choice. Divide butter evenly between four slices of bread, spread thinly on one side of each slice. In a medium skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat, add garlic and shallots, cook four minutes or so till the garlic is golden brown. Add spinach, pinch of salt and pepper, cook a few minutes till spinach is wilted and most of the moisture is cooked out, add dill and feta, turn off heat, mix. Assemble sandwiches by placing two slices of bread butter side down on your press, or pan, add one slice of provolone to each, next divide spinach mixture in half and place on half on each slice, top with other slices of cheese and slices of bread, making sure butter side is up. Put the lid down on the panini press and cook about five minutes or until golden and bubbly or if using a pan flip after about five minutes, cook other side for three. These are a fun alternative to replace the usual grilled cheese and tomato soup you know and love.

Avgolemono chicken soup with quinoa and wild rice

Fall is soup season, so today I made a take on one of my family’s favorite. Avgolemono is a Greek way to thicken sauces or broths with eggs and lemon. When done correctly, the result is velvety texture with a kick of citrus. One of my early posts here explains how to make dolmathes with avgolemono sauce, and basically this is the same technique applied to soup. I used to work at a bagel shop back in High school and our most popular soup by far was creamy chicken with wild rice, so I figured if I married the two ideas it would be delicious. I used tru roots sprouted wild rice with quinoa and threw in some leeks, it turned out delicious. Give this a try and I think you will be glad you did!

You will need:
8 cups stock, I used a blend of veggie and chicken
1 cup wild rice blend or rice or quinoa of choice, orzo is also really good in this
1 carrot, peeled, medium dice
1 rib of celery, medium dice
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 leek, cleaned, and sliced into half moon shape
4 eggs
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper to taste
dill and parsley for garnish
2 cups shredded chicken, rotisserie works great for this or you can leave it out completely if you want a vegetarian friendly soup

In a soup pot add rice and stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, simmer 10 minutes, add veggies, cook 10 or so more minutes or until rice and veg are no longer crunchy. Crack four eggs into a medium bowl, add lemon juice, and whip well, you can use a blender if you prefer, make sure it is light yellow in color and foamy. Temper 2 cups of soup broth into egg mixture, by pouring it slowly, but continuously into eggs, once combined add back to soup pot and simmer until thickened.
I really like how the different rice turned out in this, the quinoa gave a great texture and next time I don’t think we would even need to add the chicken. Try this Greek diner classic at home tonight! It is a total crowd pleaser and is perfect for cold fall nights.

Greek salad “Horitaki”

Way back in 1999, the fall after I graduated high school, I got to go to Greece with my Mom, Dad, and sisters. We landed in Athens and stayed at a quaint little hotel right in the middle of the action. The plaka was full of life, exotic products, and restaurants. One thing I noticed at every restaurant was always a plate of horitaki next to carafes of delicious local wine. We later got to visit the town where my dad’s relatives lived called Akrata, it is a fisherman’s village on the coast and unencumbered by the mobs of tourist, full of culture it was like taking a walk back in time, the salad however was the same, Greek olive oil is so amazing, its fruity, aromatic and totally amazing, I remember wishing I could take home one of the five gallon drums they sold in the tiny stores where the even tinier widows would look at me with as much curiosity and I had for them. Until I actually went to Greece, I thought Greek salad had lettuce, I was mistaken. A proper Greek salad contains; tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, feta, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and usual dried oregano and maybe some fresh parsley. For my version today I used:
1 large heirloom tomato, any type will do as long as it is ripe, I sliced mine thin but traditionally it is chopped into large chunks.
1/2 English cucumber sliced thin, can also be chopped
a few thin slices of onion
2 oz of feta crumbled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 kalamata olives
salt and pepper
pinch dried oregano
tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley
1 pepperoncini sliced (optional)
Serves two
There are many variations on this classic, but I think it is best in its simplest and purest form, when the produce is fresh this salad is at its best and Summer is the prime time to serve this. Best really to not over complicate it, it can also easily be turned into a main if you serve it with some rustic bread or mix it with pasta for a great pasta salad. Want to send it over the top? Invest in Greek olive oil, as wonderful as Italian or California olive oil is, there is something special about the oil of my heritagegreeksal1….opa!

Faki (Greek Lentil Soup), also known as don’t “faki” with the old man’s soup!


Yep another install of lentil soup, but this is no run of mill “something I think up” soup. This is the real deal Greek style lentil soup that is simple yet outrageously good. You need nothing particularly special for this, more important it is the process that deems the desired result. I have a little story for you… about this soup, my dad, Nick, he loves the stuff….we didn’t eat it that often growing up but when we would have it or eat it at a restaurant and it was done to pop’s specifications it was always a work of art, and seemed to bring him more joy than the most expensive steak house meal. Lentils, aren’t art you say? Well try this then decide that. One brazen afternoon after I had finished my tenure at culinary tech college I decided I would whip up a “new” and “improved” version that I was sure would please my dad and he would never want to go back to the “old” way again. Knowing his longstanding love affair with Campbell soup’s bean with bacon, I added BACON! Bacon makes everything better right? WRONG, dead wrong….he ate a bite and his face fell, “did you add bacon?” “Yep, I did”. “It doesn’t have bacon, it never has meat in it.” He turned his Grecian nose up at it and never asked me to make it again…I have since gone back to the original and even made a few batches for him to try and I finally came up to with right formula. This experience taught me a valuable lesson, not everything is better with bacon, in fact the really good stuff needs nothing superfluous at all. Some things are about tradition, culture, nostalgia, there are some things my friends that we just can’t improve on. So today is my faki style lentil soup redemption, and if you’ve never had them this way, you are in for a treat.

My dad on the right, with his uncles and my grandfather (middle in the plaid).  Never mess with tradition
My dad on the right, with his uncles and my grandfather (middle in the plaid). Never mess with tradition

1 lb bag of dried brown lentils, yep old run o’ mill $1 a bag kind
1 large onion, diced
5 yes 5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced
10 cups of stock or water or both, I used 5 cups chicken stock and 5 cups of water
1 6oz can tomato paste
6 whole cloves
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp red pepper flake
¼ cup olive oil, extra for drizzling
4tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano
In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic till translucent, add carrots, celery, red pepper flakes and tomato paste, cook 2 minutes, add all of your liquid, rinsed and inspected lentils (you don’t want tiny rocks in your soup), bring to a boil, then simmer 1 ½ hours. Add salt (adjust to taste, depending on how salty your cooking liquid is), pepper, and oregano, add vinegar. Drizzle with a bit more oil and serve, you can add chopped parsley to beautify it, but not if you are serving it to my dad…maybe just a bit more dried oregano and maybe a drizzle of hot sauce (go with personal preference). This is great with a rustic bread or even your pantry staple saltines.

Roasted Portabello Gyros

Growing up in a Greek restaurant I’ve met my fair share of gyros. Today’s version is one I have never done nor have I seen available anywhere. I love roasting or grilling portabello mushrooms, I use them all time to replace meat in dishes. I was totally craving gyros today and since it was meatless Monday I figured I would try my hand at a new version of this all time favorite. They ended up delicious and even my two year old couldn’t get enough.
For the mushrooms, I just make sure and use a pastry brush to remove any dirt or debris, I DO NOT rinse them. The one’s I found at my store today were local and huge! So I only needed two for four gyros.
I preheated my oven to 375, then on a sheet pan I placed my clean mushrooms, with removed stems. I dosed them heavily with balsamic vinegar, about a half cup, then sprinkle with sea salt, dried oregano, pepper, I used some springs of fresh time I had, and a few cloves of minced garlic. Drizzle lightly with good olive oil and roast 20 minutes or grill five to seven minutes per side. Done…I let them cool a bit then sliced them thinly.
For the pita, I purchased some that are made locally, of spelt flour and they are super delicious. I have made my own and they are great, but I didn’t have the extra hour and half today….so as long as you buying good quality, preservative free pita’s you will be fine. Trader Joe’s also makes a real tasty wheat “flat bread” that are cheap and would work great in a pinch. Ours are from Aladdin’s in Beaverton, OR.
I sliced some red pepper (you can use tomatoes), and a shallot thin to top with. Then I made my tzatziki, this is the crown jewel of any good gyro, I used 1 cup lebni (Greek Sour cream) but you can use Greek Yogurt, I wouldn’t recommend going the “fat free” route since they are basically filled with unnatural thickening agents and don’t give you the right taste…sorry….don’t like fat free dairy…totally gross. I crushed two cloves of garlic into a paste, shredded a local pickling cuc from Washington, and the zest of a lemon, added that to the lebni, chopped some baby dill, and used about half a tsp of dried mint that come from my friend Heidi’s garden. Stir together, and finish with a lil drizzle of good olive oil, can be made a day ahead. Easy, 30 minute, meatless Monday meal, Take that Rachel Ray! Yassou!