Archives for posts with tag: feta

I got down poured on yesterday. I wanted to use the dark stormy clouds as an excuse to not go to the gym. But, my inner dilemma and the impending guilt that would ensue made me get my act together and drag myself out the door. I wore my rain boots and took my husband’s heavy-duty umbrella and braved the dark skies. Neither of these two items would really help the upcoming downpour I was to face. Literally, the minute I stepped outside sheets of rain coming in at me from all directions soaked my entire body. I thought I should just go back up to my apartment, but no I kept going, all the way to the gym. When I arrived I must have looked like a frazzled lunatic. Hair all unkempt, wet clothes, and dripping arms.  As you can get my first stop was to the locker room to put the hair dryer into action.

When I was finished at the gym, believe me when I say I wanted to just order takeout. But, in the morning I took out chicken breasts to defrost. I’m sure we all know that we aren’t supposed to refreeze defrosted meat, I don’t know if this is true or an old wives’ tale. Either way, I was tempted to refreeze it, but decided to just cook it. My focus here isn’t the chicken though. I didn’t do anything that special with it. I tossed it with some mayonnaise, honey, herbs, harissa, then breaded it with panko and baked it. The main star of the meal was the pearl couscous that I made as a side dish. Usually, I make regular couscous and toss in whatever chopped vegetables I have on hand. This time, I basically did the same thing but amped it up a little.

I caramelized shallots and threw in some crunchy and crisp Napa cabbage. The Napa cabbage doesn’t have an overpowering taste yet adds great flavor and texture. I am all about the crunch, the crunch factor prompted me to add in cucumbers and almonds. I always add in dried cranberries to couscous and I did this time as well. I threw in some olives for saltiness. A dish isn’t made by me if there aren’t tons of herbs in it, so that’s what I did here; parsley and mint. A squeeze of lemon, some extra olive oil, and some crumbled sheep’s milk feta complete the dish.

I must talk about the spices here, I love adding cumin and coriander to couscous. Many times, I add a pinch of turmeric, but this time I didn’t feel I needed it. In addition, I threw in another flavor contrast; cane sugar and crushed red chilies. Everything balanced in the end. You might think I don’t know when to stop with ingredients and sometimes that may be the case, but usually it all works out.  Cooking calms me down, once I started preparing this dish I forgot about my rain fiasco.

Summer Pearl Couscous

Serves 4, as a side

Ingredients

1 cup dry pearl couscous (cooked according to package directions)

3 shallots, sliced

1/2 a head of Napa Cabbage, chopped

1 clove of garlic

1/4 of an English cucumber, in a small dice

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped (any variety you like)

1/4-1/2 cup crumbled sheep’s milk feta (or any mild variety)

2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted

10 sprigs of parsley, chopped

2 sprigs of mint, chopped

juice of half a lemon

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste

3/4 teaspoon of salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon cane sugar or turbinado sugar

extra virgin olive oil

Method

Heat a saucepan on medium-low with some olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Add in the shallots and allow them to caramelize, about 15 minutes. When the shallots are caramelized toss in the Napa cabbage and garlic and allow the cabbage to wilt down a bit and slightly pick up some caramelization. Add in all the spices and sugar and cook for 2 minutes. Next, add in the cranberries and allow them to plump up a little and rehydrate.

Remove the pan from the heat. Take the prepared couscous and add in the shallots and cabbage mixture. Put in the cucumbers, olives, parsley, mint, lemon juice, a little extra olive oil, and the slivered almonds. Toss everything together so that everything is evenly distributed. Crumble the feta on top and serve, slightly warm, at room temperature, or even cold, if you like.

Cheese strikes, yet again.  I love it when I make something and people love it and rave about it.  I especially love it when what I made was simple and easy.  I sometimes get insecure about making things that do not take a lot of time for guests.  Will they judge me because I made something that took me literally five minutes to make.  Me and my hang-ups, difficult to understand for my husband some.  I mentioned this before, I like guests to feel welcome and enjoy the experience of coming over, and part of this includes good food.

In Rhode Island, I helped my parents throw a party for their friends.  Party planning is something that gives me a high.  (On a small scale, large 500 guest parties might cause me to go over the edge, but that’s another story.)  The non-stop action and preparations that are required for a party are thrilling as well as terrifying.  To ease this extreme range of emotions, it is important to have a few tricks up your sleeve.  (Wow, I said a few tricks up your sleeve, am I becoming cliche!?)

Baked Feta definitely qualifies as a crowd pleaser.  The night of the party, it was a big hit and was the first starter to be wiped clean.  Some people do not love cheese in the same way as I do (my husband grrrr, though I must admit he has come a LONG way).  But, even people who do not share in my enthusiasm for cheese enjoy this Baked Feta.  Feta is known to have a salty pungency, but the baking process really mellows it out.  I use a sheep’s or goat’s milk feta of good quality because I have tried this with average supermarket feta and it does not have the same consistency or smoothness.  The sundried tomatoes, and nuts, capers, and thyme ooze together in perfect unison.  I also add a drizzle of honey to cut the saltiness and though most could not discern the honey in the baked feta, they could certainly notice its absence if I did not include it.  The honey and almonds caramelize together, almost forming a candied crunch on top.  Enjoy this with some crusty bread, Greek pita, or crackers.

Baked Feta with Sundried Tomatoes, Almonds, Capers, and Thyme

Serves 6 (as a starter)

Ingredients

10 ounces of food quality Feta, sliced into 1/4″ thickness

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, julienned

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

10 springs of thyme, left whole

2 tablespoons honey

2-3 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil

juice of half a lemon

black pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Use a quiche dish and lay the feta slice son the bottom and assemble the sundried tomatoes, almonds, capers, and thyme on top in an attractive way.  Drizzle with the honey, extra-virgin olive oil, and the lemon juice.  Add a few cranks of freshly ground pepper over the top.  Bake the dish in the oven for about 15 minutes or until bubbly and oozing.  Switch the oven to broil for about a minute, stay near the oven because the thyme can burn easily.  Remove from the oven and serve hot with warmed Greek pita.

There are just some foods you always use.  If I am eating a sandwich, 9 times out of 10 it has arugula in it.  I do not usually buy steaks, but this day I was feeling it.  I mean I love red meat, juicy, tender, and flavorful, but I am not that confident cooking it at home.  Therefore, it is usually reserved for restaurants.  This should change.  After making this steak sandwich I realized it is not hard at all.  Yes, this should be reserved for an occasional splurge, but I had to share it for the times you are feeling carnivorous.  (Sorry, vegetarians and vegans).  Yes, you can substitute chicken or eggplant, or tofu, but in this case I choose not to!  Yes, that was a little mean.  I promise, I am not mean.  All in good fun!

I used strip loin steak, which served its purpose well here.  I smothered it with a chipotle, feta, herb, and roasted garlic dip.  I realized this is a signature move of mine: making a dip full of herbs in my mini food processor.  I swear, it is so easy and so yum!  Plus, the combinations are endless.  I must say, I love making dips.  I am a mad woman with my food processor.  Honestly, I do not know what i would do without it.

I should stop gushing about my food processor, you might get the wrong idea.  This post is supposed to be about my steak sandwich!  I caramelized onions (another “habit” of mine) with yellow peppers, jalapenos, and mushrooms.  This steak sandwich does have a few identity issues.  Does it want to be Southwest, Philly, Mediterranean style?  Does it really matter?  I do not think so.  All the combinations taste good together and that is what is important to me.

Also, be warned, this sandwich is messy!  I love to eat messy.  It is more fun.  There is a time and place is be civilized and dainty, but not when it comes to a steak sandwich.  I will leave the proper decorum to the finger sandwich and scone crowd.

New York Strip and Caramelized Onion, Mushrooms, Peppers and a Chipotle Feta Dip Sandwiches (what a mouthful!)

makes 3 Sandwiches

Ingredients

extra virgin olive oil

1 pound Strip Loin Steak

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 a red onion, sliced thinly

3 sprigs of thyme

handful of cilantro leaves

1/2 a bell pepper, sliced (any color you prefer)

1 jalapenos pepper, seeded and julienned

10 mushroom caps, kept whole (any variety you like)

fresh baby arugula leaves

1 avocado, sliced

1 multigrain baguette

For the dip

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons lite mayo

1-2 chipotle peppers (1 for medium spicy, 2 for extra hot)

10 sprigs of chives, roughly chopped

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

5 cloves of roasted garlic (Take the cloves of garlic, add salt, pepper olive oil, wrap them in foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until they are soft and spreadable like butter)

1/4 cup feta cheese

juice of half a lime

dash of extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

kosher salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Heat an oven safe pan on medium heat.  Add a little olive oil to the pan.  Season the steak generously with salt and black pepper.  Sear  the steak for about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer the pan to the oven for 8 minutes for medium-rare.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.  After resting slice on a bias against the grain.

In a pan on medium-low heat sauté the onions with the thyme for about 10 minutes until they begin to caramelize.  Add in the mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add in the bell peppers and some cilantro and allow the peppers to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  Set aside.

For the dip, in a mini food processor add all the ingredients and pulse until combined.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread the dip on the baguette, lay the steak, avocado, caramelized onions, peppers, mushrooms, top off with the baby arugula and dig in!