COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN! SWEET CORNCAKES

 

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It’s that time of the year again! Fall is upon us and we begin our marathon of holidays and entertaining—for me that begins with Halloween. Ever since my children were very young we made a huge deal of every occasion, and now that they are full grown adults that hasn’t changed on bit.

Each year I would prepare stuffed pepper and tomatoes, take the children trick-or-treating with their cousins, and then our two families would have dinner together. Afterward, the dads would take the children back out to trick-or-treat in the dark.

The dinner became a tradition, and as the children grew to adulthood it seemed more people began to join our ‘ritual’. Lucky for us, we have our niece and nephew who now bring their children to our gathering – I’ve been told it’s the highlight of their Halloween! And my daughter and her co-teacher bring their dogs, dressed in costume, to beg for candy.

Our group of eight has now gone to sixteen. A simple meal of stuffed peppers doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Last year I came up with this recipe for sweet corncakes and they were a hit! So, since I’ll be making them again, I thought I’d share the recipe once more for anyone who might have missed it.

Sweet Corncakes

 

 2 cups corn (preferably fresh off the cob, or thawed frozen)

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1½ cups panko breadcrumbs + another 2 cups for coating cakes

¼ cup dried chives

1 tablespoon cilantro (substitute parsley if you don’t care for cilantro)

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

In a food processor, pulse the corn into a puree. Do not over process. There should be some texture to the mixture. Transfer to a medium sized bowl. Add the cheese, breadcrumbs, chives, cilantro, Greek yogurt, honey, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. To make the patties, form into balls a little larger than golf balls and flatten. Place the remaining panko breadcrumbs in a plate and coat each cake.

*Place in an airtight container and freeze, separating each layer with wax or parchment paper. Spray oil spray on grill or brush oil on the grill grates. Grill until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side.

*I recommend freezing before grilling. This will ensure that the patties will not fall apart during the cooking process.

GREEK PANZANELLA SALAD

Photo by Alexa Speyer

Photo by Alexa Speyer

With the warm weather finally upon us, my cravings have shifted to lighter and fresher foods as opposed to the heavier sauce laden meals of winter. Salads made with fresh corn, tomatoes, and cucumber for example. And the herbs! Freshly snipped from my container garden. A while back I posted this recipe for panzanella salad, but with everyone planning outdoor parties, I thought this would be a good time to share it once again for all my new followers. It’s definitely been a favorite around here.

Panzanella salad is a bread salad that is traditionally Italian. But, what can I say? I have to put my spin on it and Greekify it. We can say it’s a fusion of sorts—like my family. My husband is Italian so this salad has a bit of both our culinary cultures.

Buon Appetito & Kali Orexi

 

Greek Panzanella Salad

Party size

4 – 5 large tomatoes cut in thick slices

2 cucumbers cut in chunks or thick slices

1 small red onion thinly sliced

2 red, yellow or orange peppers cut in chunks

1 round Tuscan bread with crusts removed and cut into 1-1/2 cubes

1 pound slab of feta cheese

1 cup basil leaves

(Fresh dill, chives and parsley may be added also)

Heat a large skillet and coat with olive oil. Add the bread cubes, constantly turning as each side browns. This can be done a day ahead.

Cut up all the vegetables and place in a very large mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, tossing until coated. Add salt and pepper to taste, a teaspoon of sugar and 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Mix well. Add the basil and any other fresh herbs you like. I always add oregano, but I also add fresh dill, chives or parsley if I have it on hand. Break the feta into chunks and add to the salad. Add the toasted bread cubes. Toss to coat. Transfer into a large salad bowl. There should be little or no excess dressing left in mixing bowl. If you would like to make the dressing ahead, I recommend mixing the fresh herbs in with the vegetables, not the dressing. If you only have dried herbs on hand you can add the herbs to the dressing. Below is a Greek salad dressing using dried herbs.

 

Greek Salad Dressing

1 cup olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cloves crushed garlic

Combine all ingredients and whisk well, shake in a cruet or emulsify in a blender. Drizzle over salad, mixing and tossing to coat. Do not overdress. You will not use all the dressing. Keep in the fridge for later use.

 

 

 

 

 

MUSHROOM AND SHALLOT QUICHE

 

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Food is one of the great joys in life—all the different tastes and cuisines—the possibilities are infinite. But at times, our choices are limited due to restrictions we either place on ourselves for personal reasons, or because our bodies are warning us in some way.

This week, the Orthodox lent began, and if followed in the strictest sense, no meat or dairy products are to be consumed for the forty days leading up to Easter. Not even fish is allowed at this time. Crab, lobster, clams and seafood of that sort is fine, though. My ninety-three year old father, God bless him, still fasts like a cloistered monk in a monastery.

For me, with no protein options other than beans and tofu (yuck), it’s impossible. And no one wants to see the violent reaction I have when seafood crosses my lips. So I do the best I can. I can easily give up meat, but don’t take away my cheese! Holy week, I hold the fast as strict as my father—no meat, no dairy, no olive oil—I’m fine for the one week. But by the end of that week, get between me and that platter of assorted cheeses on the dinner table, and we have a problem!

Fasting is a religious choice, and it seems, every faith has its holy period to cleanse the body and mind. But there are other choices to be made regarding food, like the one my good friend made to be vegan because of her love for animals and respect for all life. Each year after my lent is over, I always give her credit for keeping this way of life all year long. She certainly has more willpower than I do.

Then there are the health issues people have to deal with. Some people gravitate to fatty foods and have eaten them all their lives. They go to the doctor and find out they have high cholesterol or heart issues. Or maybe they have diabetes. Now they need to learn to eat differently than before. But the love for food does not have to be stripped from them. There are so many delicious options, and with a few small changes they won’t feel deprived.

Healthy eating has become a priority in our home, but at the same time, I don’t want to totally give up the all foods that I love. There is nothing more refreshing than fresh vegetables, fruits and salads. Nice lean cuts of meat, grilled with flavorful spices and healthy grains are delicious and nutritious. But sometimes I need a slab of pastitsio, or a piece of quiche!

Everything in moderation, right? My strategy is to cook healthy all week but to make one decadent meal. Today, It’s a mushroom and shallot quiche with Swiss cheese and a bit of truffle oil.

*The pastry is basic pastry dough. Nothing unusual. Nothing I invented. If you are pressed for time, by all means, use a good readymade shell. The filling is my brainchild. I hope you like it.

 

Mushroom and Shallot Quiche

1 pound sliced white or baby bella mushrooms

2 large shallots, chopped

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons truffle infused olive oil or 1 tablespoon pure truffle oil

1 tablespoon fresh or dried tarragon

Salt & pepper to taste

2 cups freshly shredded Swiss or gruyère cheese

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1½ cups half & half

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Dash of nutmeg

Flakey pastry dough (recipe below) or a good quality store bought

Pastry Dough

1¼ cups flour

1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

¼ salt

3 – 5 tablespoons ice water

With a pastry blender, mix together the flour, salt and butter until it resembles course meal with pea size butter bits. You can also do this in a food processor if you choose.

Slowly add 3 tablespoons of ice water, mixing gently until fully incorporated. (Or pulse in processor)

Test a handful of dough by squeezing together. If it doesn’t adhere, add the remaining 2 tablespoons. Do not over mix the dough.

Press the dough into a disc, wrap in clear wrap and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Roll out dough and place into a two-piece quiche or tart pan.

Preheat oven to 375º

Place the baking dish containing the pastry dough on a baking sheet to prevent possible oven spills.

In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the truffle oil. Add the mushrooms and shallots and sauté on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms have browned.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, salt & pepper, and the nutmeg.

In the bottom of the pastry shell, layer half of the shredded cheese. Lay the mushroom mixture on top and top off with the remaining cheese.

Carefully ladle in the wet ingredients.

Bake for 40 minutes