Our Big Fat GREEK Sunday Family Dinner – OPA!!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

As it turned out, the only Sunday we could have our June Family Dinner was on the same weekend of our big seester and B.I.L.’s wedding anniversary party………..

The same event that we were slated to cook/bake the entire menu as well as prep the decor and floral arrangements.

No big deal right? Good thing we’re robots.

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

 

But our monthly Family Dinners have become a tradition and I was determined to still make it happen without having to add any extra stress.

An easy, low-key menu was a must…..especially if we could prepare things in advance.

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

Enter Ina Garten to save the day!

I happened to catch an old episode of hers on TV where she was fixing up a Greek/Mediterranean spread to enjoy at one of her friends’ fabulous new homes. Nearly everything was made in advance and she just carted it over to the house when it was dinner time.

PERFECT!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

And on another note, that woman has some pretty spectacular buddies in some amazing industries! Lighting specialists, florists, chefs, cheese makers,  vintners —I need to run in her crowd!!

But I digress….back to the food.

So with a loose Greek themed menu, we were off to the races.  For appetizers, we snacked on flaky, buttery, golden Spanakopita. I actually made them 2 weeks beforehand and stored them unbaked in an airtight container in the freezer. The day of our dinner as we sipped on chilled vino, I put them directly from the freezer into a preheated oven. 35 minutes later, our tummies were doing a happy dance.

 

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

As for the main menu, what’s easier than grilling? Especially if we can task the boys to do the grill work!

MAN LIKE FIRE. <insert curmudgeon caveman voice>

And since we were going Greek, we marinated chunks of lamb and chicken in Greek yogurt with tons of lemon juice, rosemary and garlic. The proteins bathed in the marinade overnight which I think helped to reduce any extra gaminess lamb is known to have as well as keep the meat tender.

Of course, the recipe is Ina’s and can be found here but I added about 1/4 cup of minced garlic to the recipe. No garlic?! Not me!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

We served the chicken and lamb with an easy cucumber and fresh dill tzatziki sauce.

 

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

And how could we have a Greek outdoor feast without Pita Bread? Pita is something that is surprisingly easy to make (despite my first apprehension) and also can be made in advance. We ended up grilling the Pita to warm them but I think next time it would be better to toast them lightly in the oven because they got a tad crunchy for my liking. The recipe I used can from The Kitchn  can be found here.

I’d also be doing a disservice to the sis if I didn’t talk about the light Greek Salad she whipped up with feta, cucumbers, olives, fresh dill, tomatoes and red onions –it was our MUCH needed veggies!

 

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

As for dessert, we kept things relatively light –especially since we all inhaled a TON of desserts at the anniversary party the night before. So we opted for a simple Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta and topped it with a fresh fig & berries compote.

The panna cotta was a cinch to make and had similar tart flavors to Vietnamese yogurt. As for the compote, it was nothing more than cooking the figs, strawberries, and raspberries down with about 1/2 cup white wine, sugar and a bit of vanilla.

Truth be told, I was surprised how much I did enjoy dessert considering it was a last minute addition to the plate but it was  yuuuummmmmyy!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

All in all, despite how crazy tired we were from the night before, Sunday Family Dinner was quite the success.

Lounging in the backyard, dangling our toes in the hot tub, sipping on vino, naps in the sun and good food with the family. The perfect way to spend a Sunday FUNday and nothing to it but a bit of work ahead of time.

Until next month - OPA!!!!!!!!!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

 

Chimichurri Skirt Steaks for ‘Murica!

Chimichurri Skirt Steak

Okay gang…it is that last minute push to scrub down those grills….. stockpile on hotdogs, hamburgers, coleslaw, ribs and bust out your RED WHITE and BLUE…..

Because tomorrow the country will be celebrating ‘MURICA!

Chimichurri Skirt Steak

But if you’re looking to grill up something different to please your crowd, try throwing some flavorful skirt steak smothered with THE BEST chimichurri sauce. It’s super easy to make and is dang delicious with some lightly grilled tortillas.

And with that folks, enjoy the fireworks, some BBQ goodness, and have a fantastic 4th of July!!!

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Chimichurri Skirt Steak

 

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh cilantro
½ small white onion
4 large garlic cloves
1 jalapeno pepper
zest of 1 lime
½ cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon honey or agave
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¾ tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup olive oil
2 pounds skirt steak
vegetable oil
1 cup chimichurri sauce

In a food processor or blender, add the first 14 ingredients. Pulse several times until the fresh aromatics have broken down. Place the skirt steak into a gallon size resealable bag. Pour the marinade over the steak and massage it through. Be sure to get most of the air out of the bag before sealing it. Put the steak in the refrigerator and marinate 4-6 hours.

An hour before you start cooking the skirt steak, pull it from the refrigerator to take the chill off of it. Heat your grill to medium-high. Brush the grates of your grill with the vegetable oil. Cook the steaks for about 1-2 minutes on each side –depending on the thickness of your steaks. Remove to a platter and cover with foil for 10 minutes.

Once rested, slice the steak thinly across the grain of the meat. Spoon the chimichurri sauce over the steak and serve with warmed tortillas, if desired.

Sunday Family Dinner turns Steakhouse!

May 2014 Fam Dinner

I am a bit behind on our Sunday Family Dinner recaps — and not because the menus weren’t memorable. But late spring-early summer is always a crazy time.

But SHAME ON ME because May’s menu was my choice — Steakhouse inspired fare!

Now I have to admit that we were all over the place that day and were running so behind on dinner. We usually get together around 3-4 pm to prep/cook/drink together before dinner is actually done. But our niece had her semifinals (that turned into finals) lacrosse match (GO PIONEER!!!) so we didn’t get to big seester’s casa until after 6:30.

Things were a bit rushed when we finally got home so we definitely needed a moment to breath and enjoy a cocktail. And my go-to at steakhouses are always an extra dirty Grey Goose Martini followed by some red vino.

A MUST!

 

May 2014 Fam Dinner

For appetizers, I had initially wanted to go with roasted shrimp with homemade spicy cocktail sauce. But when we had gone to the store that morning, we saw these GORGEOUS and GI-NORMOUS Alaskan King Crab Legs –so the poor shrimp were scratched off the menu.

Big seester steamed the incredibly sweet crab and we dunked them into cocktail sauce and liquid love (aka melted butter).

I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

For the main course, I convinced the sis to make Thyme Popovers because I’m obsessed with popovers. They were so light, crisp and buttery –just lovely. Popovers aren’t too difficult to make but they do take some time to bake and you need to inhale them straight from the oven. And since we don’t own a score of popover pans nor have multiple ovens to bake them all at once, you don’t see them too often at our dinners.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

And let’s face it….we needed a bit of greens–even if we drenched them in cheese and dressing. Since the majority of the fam aren’t fans of blue cheese, we opted for Caesar Salads instead of a Wedge Salad.

My niece, Nina, used Martha Stewart’s dressing recipe that can be found here. That’s right kiddies—there’s anchovies in traditional Caesar dressing! It’s what gives off the briny, salt, deep flavor.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

Since baked potatoes and mashed potatoes are standard fare at steakhouses, I decided to combine the two and made a huge bowl of The Ultimate Loaded-Baked-Mashed-Potatoes!

Red potatoes, roasted garlic, sour cream, cream cheese, butter, heavy cream, garlic salt, cracked black pepper–all topped with tons of crispy bacon and chopped scallions.

Don’t ask the calorie count because I don’t want to know. But needless to say–it was worth the mini heart attack.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

And the heart of our steakhouse themed menu? Our seester’s black pepper/fresh rosemary/salt crusted standing rib roast studded with whole garlic cloves.

DROOLS!

Now despite what most folks do, I almost always order the prime rib at a steakhouse. And you better believe I go to town at The House of Prime Rib in San Francisco. MAN- can my seester make a friggin’ mean  Prime Rib!?

May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

I seriously wish I had this plate in front of me right now…..

 

May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

As for dessert, I requested that Nina make our favorite chocolate layered cake topped with berries. I kid you not, it’s one of the best cakes ever!!
May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

So despite our limited prep time, our Steakhouse Dinner was an incredible success. Here’s hoping my siblings will let us do the same menu again soon! :)

Slow Cooker Kālua Pig

Kālua Pig

 

It’s ALOHA FRIDAY and what better way to kick off the weekend with some island grindz? And it sure doesn’t get any easier or more ono-licious than Kālua Pig made in a Crock Pot!

 

Sure, you could go traditional and dig an imu in your backyard to channel the Hawaiian spirit. And heck – I would definitely be the first to give you mad props if you did! But as my family have continually denied my pleas to dig a large hole in their yards, I’ve had to settle for conventional methods and use slow cookers.

Kālua Pig

It really is a fool proof method of creating delicious Kālua Pig since you throw everything into the pot and then twiddle your thumbs for the next 10 hours. But the secret is the addition of banana leaves and liquid smoke which truly impart the authentic flavors an imu provides.

I like to serve my Kālua Pig over sticky rice with mac salad or sandwiched in my beloved Kings Hawaiian rolls with a tangy slaw. However you choose to serve it, your loved ones will adore you for channeling the flavors of the islands onto their plates.

Alohas!!!

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Slow Cooker Kālua Pig

Ingredients:

5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
sea salt (Hawaiian sea salt if possible)
black pepper
3-4 banana leaves
½ small white onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 dried bay leaves
4-5 dashes liquid smoke
Using paper towels, dry off the pork and generously season with the sea salt and black pepper.

Line the bottom of the slow cooker with banana leaves, setting aside one to top off the pork. Place the seasoned pork shoulder in the cooker and top with the onions, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. Wrap the remaining banana leaf over the top and cover the slow cooker. Cook the pork on low heat for 10 – 12 hours.*

Once done, carefully remove the pork from the slow cooker and place on a platter or large dish. Using two forks, shred the meat into pieces.

Skim and discard the fat and oil from the liquids left in the slow cooker. Pour the liquid over the shredded pork and stir in the liquid smoke. Taste and season with additional sea salt as needed.

Serve over rice or my favorite Kings Hawaiian sweet rolls.

*You can also cook the pork over high heat for about 5-6 hours but I prefer the texture of the low and slow method.

Cobb Salad – Taste the Rainbow

Cobb Salad

I made a Rainbow.

Well….a huge salad that looked like a Rainbow.

Cobb Salad

And the thing is….I wasn’t intending to write about it but after I assembled everything, I said to myself:

“Damn. That is a good-looking bowl o’ goodness.”

Cobb Salad

So here it is.

My Cobb Salad.

Nothing crazy, nothing shocking but darn delicious. And like all great Foodies and Nutritionists will tell ya –each meal should cover the Rainbow.

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Cobb Salad
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Salad
5 cups roughly chopped Romaine lettuce
1 cup arugula leaves
1/2 cup diced cucumbers
1 small avocado, diced
1/2 cup diced bell peppers (I like to use orange and yellow peppers)
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup diced grilled chicken
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
3 crispy bacon strips, roughly chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients of the vinaigrette. Taste and add more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. (I also like to add the ingredients into a mason jar and shake it up–it’s a wonderful alternative to emulsify the vinaigrette but it serves as the perfect storage vessel for the remaining dressing.)

In a large bowl, add the Romaine lettuce and arugula. Add enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens. Toss to evenly cover and plate between two bowls.

Divide the remaining ingredients between the two bowls. Serve additional vinaigrette alongside each bowl. Enjoy!

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Cá Nướng is a really common Vietnamese dish of roasted fish. And although it’s most often made with catfish because of its firm and somewhat fatty flesh, you can use any fish that can hold up to high heat while still staying moist.

When given the choice, I recommend roasting a whole fish. Not only does it help retain moisture but you’ll almost always get a better flavor when you cook your proteins bone-in.

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

This is when it’s so nifty to have a trusted fishmonger — or in my case, an Asian grocery store, nearby. The latter almost always has live catfish on hand (so you’ll know it’s super fresh) and both options can do the dirty work for you –which I totally appreciate as I hate cleaning fish.

And don’t be surprised to see your once silver/black catfish “turn” white when it comes back cleaned for you. Many fishmongers will scrub the catfish skin to remove the dark outer layer. Although it’s completely edible, the darker skin does make your fish taste a tad “fishier” so the extra scrub down is a good thing.

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

I’ve adopted my eldest seester’s method of preparing Cá Nướng which is not only easy to do but is rather simple when seasoning the fish. A lot of folks will use a variety of aromatics and spices to marinate it. But since you’ll typically dunk the roasted fish into a nước chấm (dipping sauce), you can stick with a minimal preparation before cooking the fish as the sauce will provide the extra flavor punch.

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Cá Nướng can be served over rice, with vermicelli noodles, inside a bánh mì (sandwich) or how we typically like it –cuốn bánh tráng (wrapped in rice paper).

The rolls are filled with tons of fresh herbs and veggies that when combined with the roasted fish, is absolutely amazing. They have tons of different textures, knock-out flavor and are deliciously light on the tummy.

Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Serving your Cá Nướng as spring rolls is also a fantastic way to entertain family-style and would be a prefect al fresco dining option during the upcoming warm months. Your guests will love making their own rolls and adding their favorite items inside.

And don’t let the ingredients list and recipe fool you. It may seem like a lot of different components but it’s not difficult at all. You can also prepare many of the components in advance to cut down on prep time.

Easy and delish……Total Nguyen-Win!

 

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Cá Nướng {Vietnamese Roasted Fish}

Ingredients:

¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped scallions
1 whole catfish (2-3 pounds), cleaned/scaled with head removed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 scallions stalks
½ cup fried shallots
¼ cup roughly chopped peanuts
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves

For Nước Chấm dipping sauce:
¼ cup nước mắm (fish sauce)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup  fresh lime juice,
2 tablespoons warm  water,
1 finely minced garlic clove
1 teaspoon chili paste, more to taste

Serve with:
1 package bánh tráng (dried rice paper sheets)
lettuce leaves
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup đồ chua (pickled carrots and daikon slices)
fresh mint leaves
fresh Vietnamese cilantro leaves
fresh Thai basil leaves
whole Thai chiles
lime wedges

Prepare scallion oil (hành mơ):  In a sauté pan, slowly heat the vegetable oil over low. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions until they are wilted but still bright green–approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and allow the scallion oil to cool until room temperature.

Rinse the fish with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Coat the fish with the scallion oil and season the exterior and interior with the garlic powder, black pepper and kosher salt. Stuff the fish cavity with the scallion stalks and prop it upwards on a baking tray. Allow the fish to marinate for 20 minutes.

While the fish marinates, prepare the nước chấm.  Whisk all the items together in a small bowl. Add chili paste to taste. Set aside.

Roast the fish in an oven heated to 400 degrees F for approximately 25-30 minutes or until the flesh is opaque and cooked through. Turn on the broiler of your oven and broil the fish for about 60-90 seconds to slightly crisp & brown the skin. Remove the fish from the oven and transfer to a platter. Top the fish with the fried shallots, chopped peanuts and cilantro leaves.

To serve the fish as a spring roll (bánh tráng cuốn), dip one rice paper sheet in warm water and place on a plate/flat surface. The rice paper will slowly become pliable. Lay one piece of lettuce in the middle of the sheet and top with some of the fresh herbs, đồ chua, cucumber slices and pieces of the fish. Spoon some of the peanuts and fried shallots on top. Tightly roll the bottom of the rice paper over the mound and then fold the sides in. Continue rolling the rice paper up until you’ve created a secured roll.

Serve the rolls and fish with the nước chấm. Ăn ngon!

 

Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus

Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus

A few years ago, he and I had a terrible fight….

Trader Joe and I–that is.

What can I say?

He broke my heart — the day he stopped carrying their Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus. Herby, a bit spicy, rich and creamy. I L-O-V-E-D it and would slather it over just about everything.

Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus

Then one day when I came in to grab a tub, it was gone. Sure, T.J. offered a three layered hummus that claimed it had my beloved Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus inside. But once you opened the container, it barely had a dollop of the green goodness in it.

What’s a girl to do?

Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus

It was then time to take matters into my own hands and make my own version so that I could have my fill of whenever I wanted.

I threw a little bit of this and A LOT of that into the food processor and within a couple of minutes, I had something amazing that I dare say, love even more than the original.

True story.

Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus

Just like the original, it’s delicious over breads, to dip all kinds of goodies in, and to use as a sauce.

So T.J., I forgive you for cutting off my hummus supply and still love you for everything else you fill my kitchen with. And let’s face it, who cannot adore that you have your staff wearing Aloha gear? :)

Side note: T.J. is now carrying a version of Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus but trust me when I say this–it’s not the same. I don’t know how they altered the recipe but it’s missing some of the old KA-POW the old hummus did.

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Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus

Ingredients:

1- 2 bunches fresh cilantro, approximately 4-5 loosely packed cups (more to garnish)
1-2 jalapeño peppers, roughly chopped (depending on your heat preference)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (more to garnish)
1/3 cup tahini
4 garlic cloves
1 can garbanzo beans (15 ounces), drained with juices reserved
2-4 tablespoons juices from the garbanzo beans
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika (more to garnish)

Add the cilantro, jalapeñopeppers, lemon juice, olive oil and tahini into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the items have broken down.

 

Add in the garlic cloves, garbanzo beans, 2 tablespoons of the reserved garbanzo beans juices, kosher salt, black pepper, and paprika. Blend until the hummus is smooth but still thick. If needed, add in the remaining garbanzo bean juices until you reach the desired consistency. Taste and add additional kosher salt if needed.

 

Plate the hummus and garnish with a drizzle of additional olive oil, sprinkle of paprika, and chopped cilantro. Serve as a spread or as a dip.