Posts Tagged ‘lamb’

This summer’s much needed vacation at the lake afforded a chance to connect with my “culinary roots” and my primary source of inspiration in the kitchen: Mom.  I continue to be amazed by her skill at consistently constructing beautiful and deeply satisfying meals. The first night we arrived, mom served grilled marinated lamb and vegetable kabobs, Israeli cous cous with fresh basil, feta and kalamata olives, and strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert.  A stunning outdoor dinner with the sun setting on the water.

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It all started during my year in New York City — and a failure to fulfill my yearning for spanikopita, tossed tomatoes and olives with feta, and salted, roasted whole fish at one of my favorite Greek restaurants, Elias’ Corner in Astoria, Queens. Then, having moved out of the Big Apple, I began working for a Greek boss who, just feet from my desk, loves to talk about her passion for Greek food and cooking.  Then, along comes Ina Garten — host of Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa” — who on a recent Saturday morning threw a Greek dinner party for friends at her Hamptons seaside digs.  !   Thus the inspiration for my Big Fat Greek Feast.


Making homemade spanikopita is a somewhat delicate and time-consuming process. But the crispy, spinach-feta-filled pockets are amazingly worth the effort. This was my first time making these filo pastries, and it did take me awhile to get the hang of buttering and layering the paper-thin filo sheets:  it’s a bit of trial and error to learn just the right amount of spinach/cheese filling to drop on the sheet before folding into a neat triangle shape (without tearing the filo!).

Kudos to GT for this authentic recipe.  She encouraged me numerous times to get creative with the filling, adding other cheeses and herbs besides feta and dill that you might have on hand at home.


1 box filo sheets, defrosted
2 bags frozen chopped spinach
1 large bunch fresh dill, chopped
2 bunches spring onions, chopped
1 ½ lbs Feta cheese
Small container cottage cheese
Any other cheeses you may have left over in the fridge – Romano, parmesan, etc.
4 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted

(1) Defrost and drain the spinach. Squeeze as much water out as you can.

(2) Combine spinach, dill, spring onions, cheeses, eggs in a large bowl.  Mix in the olive oil and some pepper to taste.  *The mixture should not be too watery, nor should it be too dry. If it seems dry, add olive oil. Add bread crumbs if too wet.

(3) Place one sheet of filo on a flat surface. Brush lightly with butter using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Add another layer of filo on top. Butter, sprinkle, etc. Repeat for 4 sheets, layered.

(4) Cut the filo into strips the long way. For each strip, at the end closest to you, add a dollop of mixture (about 1/3 cup) and gently fold into triangles — like you’d fold a flag.  Butter outside and place on baking sheet.

(5) Bake at 350 until brown.


Lamb is another wonderful staple of Greek cuisine.  For these kebabs, I deboned loin chops and marinated the meat in a yogurt-based sauce, with olive oil, fresh rosemary and oregano, garlic and lemon juice. Grill over a hot charcoal fire until medium rare.


Bright, colorful and zesty, Greek salad has always been a summertime favorite.  The vinagrette is so simple: olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano.  Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  We tossed with sliced ripe tomatoes, fresh out of the garden; red and yellow bell peppers; cucumber; red onion; and, kalamata olives.


The capstone of a Greek feast has to be the tzatziki sauce — creamy, thick, tangy Greek yogurt with dill, garlic, grated cucumber and a hint of lemon juice. I used Ina’s recipe as a guide but added some extra oregano and a little white wine vinegar for taste.  The sauce held together the entire meal, and these grilled pita breads — dusted in olive oil and sea salt — were perfect to mop up the excess and to dip on the side.


Now…. if only I had a ocean view and warm salty breeze of the Greek Isles!  Truth be told, this backyard setting worked just fine.  Greek craving fulfilled!


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What is it about food from a mother’s kitchen that always seems to make it so therapeutic, nourishing, satisfying, and delicious? Maybe it’s the evocation of memories of wonderful shared meals with family and friends.  Or, perhaps it’s the evident amount of love and care that went into a motherly preparation. At the least, I know those two elements are apparent in the culinary delights I enjoy at home.   On my most recent pilgrimage to mom’s kitchen, we feasted on grilled grouper tacos with fresh cabbage slaw and black bean-corn-tomato salsa, cheese enchiladas, and homemade guacamole.


Another highlight from the springtime visit to Minnesota:  grilled marinated lamb kebabs with homemade tzatziki sauce.  Oh, how I’ve missed charcoal grilling while in NYC!


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Sip Sak (928 2nd Ave near E 51st) is a great place to explore Turkish cuisine at a reasonable price. The unassuming restaurant was packed at 8:15 on a recent Thursday night, but the service was friendly and quick. More importantly, the food was fresh and flavorful. The ground lamb meatballs with middle eastern spices were chargrilled and served over rice. Chunks of spicy lamb kebab came atop a pita and onion salad. And the hearty Musakka, ground beef baked with tomato and garlic on top of roasted eggplant puree, was particularly tasty, topped off with a dollop of homemade yogurt.

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La Kabbr, on 9th Ave between W 47th and 48th, is known as New York’s only Iraqi restaurant, dishing up traditional Baghdad fare and other Middle Eastern classics. Inside, eclectic artifacts decorate the walls, including several Iraqi flags hanging between hookahs, Christmas lights and framed restaurant reviews.

The menu features Masgoof, Iraq’s national dish of roasted white fish topped with onion, tomatoes and green peppers; Tashreeb, and Iraqi lamb stew; Kibbee, a ground beef and lamb version of falafel; and other marinated, chargrilled kabobs.


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