Appetizers/Small Plates · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Crispy Greek Fries — Opa!!!

Greek Fries

I absolutely die for French Fries.

In fact, my headstone will likely read something along the lines of….

“Here lies Nam…
Loyal daughter, sister, friend…
Mother to puggle Bella…
Devotee of Jack Johnson…

And she LOVED French Fries.”

It borderlines obsession, People. But can you blame me? Crispy, crunchy exterior with a creamy, starchy interior.

Drools.

It goes without saying that if I see any variation of my beloved on a menu, I will order it. Truffle fries, poutine, carne asada fries….I love them all.

When I used to live in San Jose, I would often go to this little Greek restaurant in the neighborhood called Opa! They had these wonderful Mediterranean style fries on their menu with tons of Feta, garlic, and spices. Just sublime.

Since I’ve moved back down to SoCal, I often find myself with a hankering for those golden delicious, Greek inspired fries. And with just a few ingredients (and a little help from frozen French Fries), I can do a pretty bang up job recreating the Crispy Greek Fries in very little time.

While the potatoes crisp up in the oven, I whip up a simple vinaigrette that mirrors the flavors of a Greek salad. The vinaigrette adds a great flavor and acidity to help cut the richness of the fries and cheese. Once the fries are done, I toss them with a bunch of Feta, Mizithra (if I happen to have some), fresh herbs and bit of the vinaigrette.

And well…you can pretty much guess what happens then.

I black out in a French Fries frenzy and the next thing I know, the plate is empty with only a few specks of Feta as evidence that they ever existed.

I have no shame. Especially when fries are involved.

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Crispy Greek Fries
Ingredients:

1 pound frozen French Fries
cooking spray
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallots
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup quality extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
6 ounces crumbled Feta cheese (I used a garlic-herb blend)
2 tablespoons grated Mizithra cheese (optional)
2 tablespoons minced parsley

Cover a large baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange the frozen French Fries into a single layer on top. Coat the top of the fries with additional cooking spray and bake according to package directions until crispy. Be sure to flip and turn the fries a few times during the baking process. I often like to turn the oven on broil for the last minute or so to get them extra crispy. If you want EXTRA CREDIT, fry the French Fries in peanut or vegetable oil that has been heated to 350 degrees F. And if you want to go ALL IN, peel and cut whole potatoes and then deep-fry them.

While the fries bake, prepare the vinaigrette. In a small jar, add the garlic, shallots, oregano, red pepper flakes, mustard, vinegar and oil olive. Add ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Secure the lid tightly on the jar and shake vigorously for a minute until the items have combined and emulsified. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.

Once the fries have cooked through and are crisp, transfer them to a large bowl. Add the Feta, Mizithra (optional), parsley and a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Toss well and add additional vinaigrette if needed to lightly coat the fries. Plate and serve warm.

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Salads · Side Dish

Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad

June 2015 Family Dinner: Watermelon-Feta Salad

Y’all know what today is?

National Watermelon Day!

I swear–I can’t make this stuff up. My Hallmark calendar on the wall says it is— so it must be true.  And since I’m all about celebrating holidays, I wanted to share this delectable and light little number with you…

Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad.

June 2015 Family Dinner: Watermelon-Feta Salad

This type of salad appears to be all the rage this summer as I’ve seen various renditions all over the place. And how could it not be?

Peppery arugula leaves mixed with sweet watermelon cubes and piquant flavors of feta cheese. When we made this for our June’s Sunday Family Dinner, I opted to dress the greens with a Mint-Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette but it would also pair nicely with a thick balsamic reduction and extra virgin olive oil.

Need a couple other ways you could celebrate National Watermelon Day?

How about toasting the day with these bright Watermelon Soju-tinis? They are the perfect cocktail for warm summer nights.

Watermelon Soju-tinis

Want something booze-free? Then these Watermelon-Basil Aguas Frescas would be fantastic!

And if you’re looking for extra points, freeze some of it to make popsicles for your munchkins. Bright, refreshing, and you know exactly what’s in it.

Watermelon Basil Aguas Frescas

And with that dear friends, have a wonderful week and have a delicious National Watermelon Day!

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Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or agave
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches black pepper, plus more to plate
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 cups baby arugula leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
15-20 fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
3 cups cubed seedless watermelon
10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Prepare the vinaigrette. In a jar, add the shallots, mint, mustard, honey, vinegar, olive oil, pepper and salt. Secure the lid tightly on the jar and shake vigorously for a minute until the items have combined and emulsified. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.

Place the arugula, red onions and torn mint leaves in a large bowl. Drizzle a few spoons of the vinaigrette over the greens and toss well. Try not to overdress the greens as it will wilt and become too soggy. Plate the dressed greens on a large platter. Top with the watermelon cubes and feta cheese. Sprinkle the platter with additional black pepper and serve.

Salads · Side Dish · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

I’ve received a bunch of recipe inquiries about the salad we gobbled up during our last Family Dinner.

And I can’t blame ya because it was DEE-LISH!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

My niece and seester prepared the dish using Ina Garten’s recipe for a Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad and it was a WINNER! It packed a huge punch of flavor from the abundance of herbs, feta cheese and citrus. It was extremely bright and would be a fab dish to enjoy on a warm day with a glass of pinot grigio and chunk of freshly baked bread. MMMMM!

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

We didn’t have fresh basil on hand and ended up omitting it. Truth be told, I didn’t really miss it—but I’m sure it would be wonderful with it.

Oh that Ina…..she knocks it out of the park—AGAIN! Think she needs a new bestie in the form of a quirky Vietnamese gal?

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Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad
Serves 6

Ingredients:

10 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded, cored, and 1/2-inch-diced
1 hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and 1/2-inch-diced
1 can or jar (12 to 16 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil
8 ounces good feta cheese
Place the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, mint, and basil in a large salad bowl and toss to combine.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion.

Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing gently to coat all the vegetables. Add the feta, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss gently.

Recipe from Ina Garten

Appetizers/Small Plates · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Spanakopita….Phyllo Perfection.

Spanakopita

I’m pretty much under the belief that you can wrap anything in buttery, flaky phyllo dough and it would be delicious.

Meat, veggies, fruit….a leather shoe. Whatever you can grab.

Spanakopita

Now Spanakopita is on a whole different level. Suprisingly “simple” but utterly perfect. Crispy layers of phyllo stuffed with spinach, feta, onions, and spices…..Yum. I’ve even added mushrooms or sundried tomatoes to the party depending on my mood.

The key to working with phyllo is to cover the sheets with damp paper towels during assembly so that the sheets do not dry out or break. And you just can’t skimp out on the butter either. But why would you? 🙂

Formed as full-sized triangles as entrees or smaller bites for appetizers—-either way, your tummy will love you.

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Spanakopita

¼ Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Chopped Yellow Onions
3 Scallions, chopped
2 (10 ounce) Packages Frozen Chopped Spinach, defrosted
4 Eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Plain Dry Bread Crumbs
1 Teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
2 Cups Feta Cheese, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons Toasted Pine Nuts
24 Sheets Frozen Phyllo Dough, defrosted
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook for another 2 minutes until the scallions are wilted but still green. Meanwhile, gently squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and place it in a large bowl.

When the onion and scallions are done, add them to the spinach. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs, the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Gently fold in the feta and pine nuts.

Place one sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface with the long end in front of you. Brush the sheet lightly with butter and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of bread crumbs. Working quickly, slide another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first, brush with butter, and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. (Use just enough bread crumbs so the layers of phyllo don’t stick together.) Pile 4 layers on top of each other this way brushing each with butter and sprinkling each with bread crumbs.

Cut the sheets of phyllo in thirds lengthwise. Place 1/3 cup spinach filling on the shorter end and roll the phyllo up diagonally as if folding a flag. They fold the triangle of phyllo over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding first diagonally and then straight until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed. Continue assembling phyllo layers and folding the filling until all of the filling (or all of the phyllo) is used.    Place on a sheet pan, seam sides down.   Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with flaked salt, and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until the phyllo is browned and crisp.

From Ina Garten, Back to Basics

Salads · Side Dish · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Refreshing Greek Salad…..Opa!

Greek Salad

It’s been unusually warm these past few weeks — not your typical fall weather at all. Not that I’m really complaining but it does make me turn to lighter dishes instead of slaving away in a hot kitchen.

The other day I picked up a bunch of produce at my weekly farmer’s market and decided to make a refreshing Greek Salad for lunch.

Greek Salad

The salad is full of bright flavors from the fresh veggies, feta and the olives. Delish! And the leftovers were the perfect accompaniment to the Spanakopita I made the next day.

Up next, flaky and buttery Spanakopita!

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Greek Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Cups Cucumbers, diced
2 Cups Grape Tomatoes, diced
2/3 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped
½ Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cup Feta Cheese, cubed or crumbled
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
½ Cup Quality Olive Oil
¼ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced
¼ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, garlic, and oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to coat.