I found this recipe sitting among a large stack of Cooks Illustrated magazines. As usual, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted a spanakopita to be: crisp with a well-seasoned filling. Until stumbling upon this recipe, my spanakopita filling always seemed a bit bland and I wasn’t quite sure how to fix it. CI’s addition of mint, yogurt, and nutmeg is really nice. Those folks tend to take things to a whole new level. This recipe is incredibly easy to make, too!
If you’re like me, you avoided Greek food for many years after that week-long ouzo bender that ended with us waking up in the labyrinth at Knossos being chased by the Minotaur.
What’s more, ouzo is gross. Who ever said, “If only we could get rocked on 80-proof black licorice, then learn that while we were blitzed, our smartarse sculptor friends made statues out of us, only naked, and with no arms and tiny junk.” The Greeks did, that’s who.
So you can imagine my reluctance to try spanakopita. Well, I’m happy to report that it’s FANTASTIC. Absolutely no ouzo, but plenty of healthy spinach, feta, lemon juice, and filo dough (as in, “Filo it under ‘F’ for freakin’ delicious”). Not only was my spanakopita experience a taste awakening, but it was also happily free of both Minotaurs and nude statues.
PRO TIP: If you don’t want to make Bleu Legume’s recipe, and can’t find spanakopita in stores or restaurants, remember that the Romans were famous for changing the names of Greek things. So just as Zeus became Jupiter and Aphrodite became Venus, so spanakopita lives on today in many parts of the world as “flaky feta spinach sliders¹.”
¹ Epicitus’s Enchiridion, circa 125 AD
- 16 ounce frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
- 12 ounce feta, crumbled
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 4 medium scallions, thinnly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, minced
- 2 Tablespoons fresh dill, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 8 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 pound phyllo (14" x 9") thawed
- 1 - 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
- Pre-heat oven to 425F.
- Cook the spinach in the microwave until it's just warmed through, about 2 - 3 minutes. Place the spinach in a strainer, pressing down on the spinach to release as much of the liquid as possible. Mix the drained spinach and all other filling ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
- Line a 9 x 13 rimmed baking sheet or baking dish with parchment paper. Brush the parchment with butter and lay down the first sheet of phyllo. Brush the phyllo with butter, and layer on another sheet of phyllo. Repeat buttering and layering with 10 total layers of phyllo.
- Spread the spinach mixture over the phyllo, leaving a 1/4" border on all sides. Cover spinach mixture with 6 more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with butter and sprinkling each with Pecorino cheese. Finish layering the remaining sheets of phyllo on top, brushing each just with butter before layering the next.
- Starting from the center and working outward, use palms of your hands to compress the layers and press out any air pockets.
- Use a sharp knife to score the top three layers of phyllo into 24 equal pieces.
- Bake until phyllo is golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet 10 minutes to 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve.
She says: Folks, this one is super simple to make. It’s also super inexpensive, super healthy, and super tasty.
Since lentils and rice have different cooking times, we’re going to partially partially cook the lentils before adding them to the onions and rice.
The deep fried onion topping is a nice, crispy addition. But, if you are short on time or even if you just want to save the calories and fuss, feel free to leave them out. This dish will be just as delicious!
He says: Although his accomplishment was unfairly overshadowed by Sir Edmund Hillary in the mid-’50s, sherpa Tenzing Norgay was the first person to summit Mt. Mujadara without the use of supplemental oxygen. And while the mountain continues to claim lives (as depicted most famously in Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Tabbouleh), thousands gather at its base camps each year to test their mettle against Mujadara’s steep basmati slopes and unforgiving onion-scented winds.
Mujadara – Lentils, Rice, and Caramelized Onion
For the Mujadara:
- 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
- 4-5 medium onions, about 1 1/4 pounds, diced
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 cup basmati rice or coarse grind bulgur
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Sour cream or plain yogurt, for garnish
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
For the Fried Onions
- 1 medium onion
- 1/3 cup flour
- oil for frying
For the Mujadara:
- In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until caramelized, stirring occasionally to ensure they don't burn -- about 20-25 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, add 4 cups water with lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat
- When onions are caramelized, add lentils (and the remaining liquid), rice (or bulgur), and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the rice (or bulgur) are tender, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or burning. Add a bit of additional water if necessary.
For the fried onions
- In a small saucepan, heat about two inches of oil over high heat.
- Cut onion in half, from pole to pole. Slice onion into thin half-moon shapes.
- In a medium bowl, add the sliced onion and toss to separate the onion rings. Add flour and toss to coat.
- Fry the onions in batches, stirring a couple times to ensure even browning. When onions are golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
She says: A while back, I posted a recipe for Chicken Adobo. We’re going to use a similar technique here.
Simply brown the chicken, skin side down, rendering as much of the fat as possible. Add some aromatics. Braise it all in a liquid (water or chicken broth — your choice). Then, finish the sauce. If you can make Chicken Adobo, you can make this — and vice versa!
For this recipe, I have a problem with the sauce breaking. To keep things together and help the sauce to cling to the chicken, I use a tiny amount of xanthan gum. I prefer xanthan in this particular recipe because it adds no taste, can be used at any temperature, and doesn’t dull the flavors or cloud the sauce. It acts as a binding agent and emulsifier. A little goes a long way. 1/4 teaspoon is all you need — any more than that and the dish will start to take on a weird mouthfeel. If you can’t find xanthan or don’t want to use it, that’s fine too! A quick cornstarch slurry should do the trick.
He says: Hung[a]ry? Rock the Paprikash-bah!
Nothing says that you HAVE to serve this entrée on an ornate platter emblazoned with arcane medieval Eastern European runes etched to ward off evil bland-food spirits (as pictured here)*, but on the other hand, do you really want to risk NOT serving it that way?
* OK, I’ve been informed by Ms. Legume that this platter has no actual magical powers, but is instead a popular Wendell August pattern. I countered that Wendell August might actually be a benevolent centuries-old wizard like Gandalf, but I was further informed by Ms. Legume that I should dial back the crazy talk before she’s forced to throw the net over me again.
- 8 Bone-in chicken thighs, about 3 pounds
- 2 large onions, sliced into half-moons (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
- 1 1/2 cup water or chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- chopped parsley, for garnish
- Place chicken skin side down into a 12-inch non-stick skillet. Cook over medium low heat until skin is golden brown and fat has rendered, about 15 minutes.
- Move chicken to plate. Drain off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of fat.
- Increase the heat to medium. Toss the onions into the skillet and cook until they begin to soften and brown on the edges, about 10 minutes.
- Add paprika to the onions and cook just until it starts to become fragrant.
- Stir in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.
- Nestle the chicken pieces into the skillet, skin side up. Tuck in the bay leaves. Cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium-low and slowly simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Move chicken to serving platter, leaving onions and liquid in the skillet. Cover the chicken with foil to keep warm.
- If you're using cornstarch, make a slurry of 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Mix well, then add to the sauce remaining in the skillet, stir until thickened. If you're using xanthan gum instead of cornstarch, simply sprinkle it lightly over top of the sauce, stir until thickened.
- Take the skillet off the heat. Whisk in sour cream until combined.
- Pour sauce over chicken, sprinkle some parsley over top, and serve.
Feel free to use water instead of chicken broth in this recipe. We're using bone-in chicken, so it makes a sort of chicken stock as it's braising.
Quick fix: If you have leftover chicken sitting around in the fridge, chop it into chunks -- or even shred it. Instead of chicken fat (unless you have some in the freezer, too!), use butter or cooking oil to cook the onions and simply follow the rest of the recipe as-is. Serve over noodles!
We went to the Pittsburgh Irish Festival this past weekend, . The music was fantastic and we got to try a couple new dishes. One that piqued my interest was Dublin Coddle. From what I’m told, it’s basically a one-pot casserole that is typically made at the end of the week with leftover ingredients. As such, it doesn’t really need a formal recipe. At its most basic, it’s simply layers of onions, bacon, pork sausage, and potatoes.
Here’s a more structured recipe, but keep in mind that the amounts are only guidelines. If you have a little less or a little more of the main components, toss it in anyway. An added bonus is that your house will smell AMAZING!
And, you might as well serve it with some Irish Soda Bread because you’re going to want something to sop up all that delicious broth!
- 1 pound bacon
- 2 pounds pork sausage
- 3 large onions, halved and sliced
- 4-5 pounds of potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or Guinness
- Pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Cut bacon crosswise into about 1-inch pieces. Toss into a dutch oven placed over medium heat and cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the rendered fat in the pot.
- Brown sausages in the remaining rendered bacon fat, until golden brown on all sides. Remove sausages, cut into thirds or leave whole -- whichever you prefer.
- Add sliced onion to the Dutch oven, sprinkle a tablespoon of parsley over the onions. Add pepper, to taste.
- Add bacon over top of the onions. Sprinkle a tablespoon of parsley over the bacon. Add pepper, to taste
- Add sausages over top of the bacon. Sprinkle a tablespoon of parsley over the sausage. Add pepper, to taste.
- Add potatoes over top of the sausage. Sprinkle the remainder of the parsley over the potatoes. Add a bit of pepper, to taste.
- Add the chicken broth. Tuck in the bay leaves. Cover the Dutch oven with a lid. Bring to a boil on the stovetop. Then place the covered Dutch oven in the oven to bake for 2-3 hours.
- Check the level of the liquids every now and then to make sure it doesn't dry out. Add more liquid if necessary. An inch or two of liquid is fine, but the potatoes should sit above the liquid so they can steam instead of boil.
Be careful if you decide to add salt to this recipe. The bacon and sausage typically have enough salt content to season the entire dish.
The reinitiation of the Great Tuna Cake Project of 2006 (or thereabouts) was not met with much enthusiasm. To be fair, previous failures were bland, dry, and barely edible. The groans were well-justified.
Thankfully for my test tasters, my culinary skills have improved over the past 10 years. Groan no more! These are both crispy and full of flavor. The sriracha adds a nice touch of spice. This time, my crew even asked for seconds. It’s a good thing I was able to capture photographic evidence of the endeavor because even the styled plate was devoured not a minute after finishing this photo shoot.
Tuna Cakes with Sriracha Aioli
For Tuna Cakes:
- 4 5-ounce cans solid, white tuna -- drained
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 Tablespoons mayo
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup minced shallot
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro (or parsley)
- 1/2 cup matzo meal
- 1/2 cup panko
- 6 Tablespoons olive oil
- For Sriracha aioli sauce:
- 1/4 cup mayo
- 1 Tablespoon Sriracha Sauce
- 1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
- In a medium bowl, mix together drained tuna, eggs, mayo, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, Old Bay, cilantro, and matzo meal.
- Mix ingredients well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- While the tuna mixture is refrigerating, mix together the aioli ingredients.
- Once the tuna mixture has chilled, heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.
- Remove tuna mixture from refrigerator and form into 8 patties.
- Place panko into a shallow dish. Lightly press each tuna cake into panko crumbs.
- Place tuna cakes into heated oil and lightly fry until brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes each side. This may require cooking in two batches. When cakes are finished browning, place on plate lined with paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
- Serve tuna cakes on a bed of greens. Drizzle with Sriracha aioli.
If you’ve had traditional barbacoa, this is not that. Traditional barbacoa is cooked in leaf-covered pits. I have neither a cooking pit (yet) nor access to leaves from [somewhat] far away lands. The truth is, I’ve never even eaten traditional barbacoa. All the same, here’s my version for those of us who remain pit-less. We use a pressure cooker here. However, it can also be braised on the stovetop in a Dutch oven. A slow cooker may also be used.
While the recipe calls for a chuck roast, I’ve also used cuts such sirloin tip — or even bottom round if it’s on sale. Or… how ’bout some venison barbacoa? Whoa.
This can be served various ways: Inside a burrito or taco. On top of a warmed corn tortilla, tostada, or fresh tortilla chips (my preferred delivery system). On a salad. On its own with a side of beans and rice. Or mixed in with rice as a sort of quick, Latin biryani. Gasp!!
- 2 Tablespoons cooking oil
- 4 pounds beef chuck roast
- 1 recipe Red Chile-Chipotle-Sauce (makes about 5 cups)
- 1 bay leaf
- Sour Cream
- Lime wedges
- Corn Tortillas
- Heat oil in 12" skillet (or Dutch oven) over medium-high heat.
- Add roast and brown on all sides.
- If using a Dutch oven: Add 3 cups of Red Chile-Chipotle Sauce and bay leaf to beef to Dutch oven. Cover and simmer about 4 hours, until tender.
- If using a pressure cooker: Place beef in pressure cooker. Add 4 cups of Red Chile-Chipotle Sauce and bay leaf. Set to high pressure cook for 90 minutes, using a quick release.
- When the beef is finished cooking, transfer to a large bowl and shred using two forks. Mix in remaining Red Chile-Chipotle Sauce, to taste.
- Serve with sour cream, guacamole, lime, and warmed corn tortillas.
“If this is what vegetarianism meant in most of the places that practice it in the West, I’d be at least half as much less of a **** about the subject,” — Anthony Bourdain
Continue reading Dal Makhani (lentils and butter)
♫ duxelle, ma belle… son des aliments qui vont tres bien ensemble … tres bien ensemble♫
Duxelles (dook-SELL) is a simple mixture of minced mushrooms, shallots, and garlic, sauteed in a bit of butter, and reduced to somewhat of a paste — depending on how fine the mince.
Continue reading Individual Beef Wellingtons
My son recently spent a few weeks in San Marcos visiting family. During his time there, he was led to Churchill’s Pub and Grille where he ordered tikka masala. A few days after returning home, he was feeling a bit of fernweh. So, I decided to make a batch of tikka masala for him. Continue reading Tikka Masala