Summer is still playing hide and seek here in Montreal. Last weekend was hot and scorching, this weekend sunny but much cooler. As long as it is sunny I am happy. In Canada we had a long weekend too so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get some of my foodie friends together for a simple BBQ dinner. An excuse to have the seasonal BBQ baptismal.
I do feel bad a bit for my friends because they did not get to taste my earlier meal, my amazing grilled lunch. There just was not enough to go around. How a propos to submit this recipe for the Creative Cooking Crew’s June theme – “what are you bringing to the BBQ?”. Turns out I did not bring my Grilled Shrimp Saganaki Stuffed Tomato to the BBQ but kept it all for myself.
A few weeks ago I did not even know what the word whey meant. Do you know what it is? Milk consists of protein, fat and water. When you make cheese, the process of adding an acid makes the protein and fat curdle and forms a solid. The water that gets left behind in the whey. If you are a regular reader you know I have been a cheese making machine lately, check out my goat cheese and feta. So I have been left with a lot of whey. It seemed a shame to throw it out so I did a little research in hopes of finding a recipe.
It turns out whey is extremely healthy as it contains lactose, vitamins, protein, amino acids and minerals. Whey protein is believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties and appears to stimulate insulin release, in type 2 diabetics. Bodybuilders are fans of whey protein, sold in powder form, as a nutritional supplement.
You can use whey instead of milk in baking recipes and it is also popular in smoothies. There are actually quite a few uses for whey. But I wanted to make a recipe that made the whey shine. What I found was a delicious lemonade.
Here is a healthy beverage recipe for lemonade made out of whey leftover from cheesemaking
I am proud to say this post will be part of this week’s Wednesday Fresh Foods Link Up #18 over at Gastronomical Sovereignty, a link-up to encourage fresh food production, consumption, activism, and awareness.
Already another cheese. I am on a roll! When I joined Cheesepalooza I was cutting it close to the new monthly deadline plus I wanted to make the challenge on the prior month…so you are getting 2 cheeses in one week. Have you ever wanted to make cheese but are not sure where to begin? This group is for you.
My first cheese was a basic goat cheese. That was a relatively simple process. Now for Feta, in theory it is still simple but you have to follow the recipe to the letter. Feta involves heating, curdling, draining, drying and ripening in brine. This challenge pushed me a little bit farther and gave me confidence for the next cheese. Check out the goat cheese round-up here.
Every once in a while you discover an ingredient you just cannot get enough of. My current fetish ingredient is Israeli couscous. I L-O-V-E the stuff. I first discovered it in a farmer’s market in Toronto. On a following trip I went back to buy some more…I have yet to find some in Montreal. I just may have to order some online.
I wanted to make a casserole like dish with Israeli couscous for a dinner with a friend. Now this friend is not vegetarian but she is 100% all about sustainability and organic food…particularly meat. I applaud her effort but I won’t pay 12$ for 2 chicken breasts. Perhaps I just don,t know where to go shop for organic meat. Anyways, when she comes over I always do a vegetarian dish. This one if loaded with CHEESE!
She is also a foodie so my goal was to blow her mind, or should I say her taste buds. This recipe was absolutely astounding and amazing. It is full of intense flavors, especially garlic. We both had seconds.
Ξ Israeli Couscous With Spinach, Feta and Walnuts Ξ
adapted from KLHquilts on Food.com
1 1/2 cup Israeli couscous
2 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1 cup feta, cubed
1/3 cup walnuts
5 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Harvarti (or Gouda, Monterey Jack, Provologne)
Add couscous and salt to boiling water. Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes, then fluff with fork.
Heat oil in large skillet. Saute garlic and onion until tender and translucent.
Drain canned tomatoes, reserving 2/3 cup juice. Add drained tomatoes to garlic and onions. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir tomato mixture into couscous. Mix in half the reserved tomato juice, basil, feta, walnuts, 4 cups of the spinach, salt and pepper.
Spread half of the couscous mixture in a square baking dish. Sprinkle half the Havarti evenly, then top with remaining couscous mixture.
Spread evenly on top the cup of spinach left, pour remaining tomato juice over and sprinkle remaining Havarti.
Oh so looking forward to what everyone will make for this 5 Star Makeover. Our theme this month is Greek Meze, or appetizers. We all checked in to make sure no recipe will be made twice so watch out for the round up for amazing Greek fare inspiration. I chose a wonderful meze which can easily be transformed into a main meal as well. My meze is called Garides Saganaki, or Shrimp Saganaki.
This theme came up at a most appropriate time in an odd way for me. One of the things I do at my 9 to 5 job is write an online travel guide. I just happen to finish the country Greece, having written quite a bit about Greek food. Greek food brings back childhood memories of dinners parties at my dad’s old partner’s house. He and his wife where first generation Greek and they had a daughter my age. I remember being terribly impressed at the site of so many flavorful dishes when they invited us over for dinner. OK I rambling but basically I want to say how much I enjoy really good Greek food.
I am also a fan of anything seafood so I jumped at the chance to prepare this dish. I also go gaga for feta! This is a really simple and quick dish to prepare but it is so packed with flavor. I am always amazed at the simplicity of certain recipes which make my taste buds go crazy. I got a similar delightful surprise with the Boureki I made recently, a dish for the Greek Islands. There are two tips I can give you to prepare a successful simple Greek dish: the freshness of your ingredients and enjoy the smells as you cook. The smells are uplifting.
The word Saganaki refers to a cooking term in Greek cuisine where the food is cooked in a single-serving pan. The pan is also called Saganaki. The most popular dish is the Cheese Saganaki where a hard cheese is pan seared. If you want to get really fancy why not flambe it at the end with a shot of Ouzo! There are a couple of versions where shrimp and mussels are used. As you may have guessed it by now Garides is the phonetically written word for shrimp in Greek, γαρίδα.
We have 3 guest start ingredients in this recipe. The first is a hot pepper I picked up in Toronto last week in a Latin market. The Cascabel chili would be classified as medium heat. It is know for sounding like a maracas when dried as the seeds get loose in the bell shaped pepper. Next up is Mastic which I ground and added to some white wine. I did not have Ouzo so I improvised! Mastic is the resin of the Mastic tree on the island of Chios. It has a distinctive flavor close to pine or cedar. Finally to add a subtle touch of sunshine I used the O blood orange olive oil which I found on the Foodspring Marketplace. This is a cool website which was set up by a non-profit organization, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. You can find many natural, organic and exotic ingredients listed here but they do not sell them, instead they link you to where you can by the products.
Ξ Garides Saganaki Ξ
2 tablespoon blood orange olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon Cascabel pepper flakes (or any hot pepper)
1 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup ouzo (or mastic liqueur or white wine)
1/2 pound medium shrimp
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
chopped oregano for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent. Add the hot pepper flakes and garlic, saute for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and ouzo and simmer until the sauce thickens for 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer until just cooked, turning the shrimp once halfway. Transfer half the mixture to a souffle dish and top with half the feta cheese, repeat. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 F until the sauce is bubbly for approx 10 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh oregano. Makes 4 appetizer servings or 2 main meals.
Traditionally this meze is served with crusty bread. If you want to make it a meal than prepare pasta, or couscous and serve the shrimp over it.
Here is a great little dish to serve for a sophisticated brunch at home. This is actually the 3rd dish I said I would blog about from Mother’s Day. Sorry I have been busy. Last year I made a baked french toast dish which my mom loved. I thought I would stick to the idea but turn it into a savory dish.
Spinach came to mind and there are plenty of recipes out there for a Spinach Strata. My deciding factor was this recipe at The Flour Sack which used Feta cheese as well. A Strata is very similar to a quiche but instead of crust you soak the egg mixture up with bread, mix in cheese and bake it after leaving it overnight in the fridge to make sure the bread has completely absorbed the egg mixture. It is a very versatile dish as you can tried different kinds of cheeses or add sausage, mushrooms, whatever you like. This time around when I saw the spinach and feta version the first thing that came to mind was ‘Bingo!”
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (coating the pan)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
10 oz crusty day old bread
2 cups spinach leaves (coarsely chopped baby, 3 12 ounces)
1 cup feta, crumbled
1 Coat an 9-inch square baking dish with olive oil. Sprinkle lemon zest. Add the bread, spinach, and half of the feta. Gently toss the mixture with your hands until combined, then spread it into an even layer; set aside.
2 Whisk the measured olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until combined. Add the eggs and milk and whisk until combined. Very slowly drizzle the mixture over the bread and evenly sprinkle the remaining half of the feta over top. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3 Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake until the custard is set and the edges are browned, about 55 to 65 minutes. Drizzle olive oil and add chopped fresh oregano.