HAPPY OCTOBER! A COMFORT FOOD DISH – YOUVARLAKIA

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Happy October! Once I begin to feel a chill in the air, I yearn for comfort food. One of my favorite meals is a bowl of Youvarlakia. These meatballs are different than the type you would eat with spaghetti. Instead of breadcrumbs and grated cheese, these are filled with rice and herbs.

My mother would make them one of two ways – either in a simple tomato sauce that took on the flavors of the meatballs or in avgolemono sauce – my favorite.

Youvarlakia is one of the recipes included in my upcoming novel, “Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga.”

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read “Evanthia’s Gift” yet, this would be a good time. For food lovers, there are several recipes between the chapters, and for readers who enjoy a good love story that spans decades, this is the book for you. It was recently named a finalist in the Reader’s Favorites Awards.

Here’s how to make this comfort dish. When it’s ready, get cozy on the couch with a good read and a bowl of youvarlakia.

 Youvarlakia

2 pounds of ground beef

½ cup rice (not cooked)

½ cup fresh parsley

1 large onion, grated

1 egg

2 tablespoons dill

2 teaspoons salt

1 generous pinch of nutmeg

1 or 2 pinches of ground black pepper

Mix all the above ingredients together to form meatballs. I suggest a size a little larger than a golf ball. Place the meatballs in the refrigerator to set for 20-30 minutes. This way the meatballs will not fall apart when you drop them in the boiling liquid.

In a pot, add:

1 bay leaf

2 cups chicken broth (optional)

2 cups water

* If you don’t use the chicken broth then double the water to 4 cups.

Bring the liquids to a boil. Turn down the heat to a high simmer and carefully drop in the meatballs. Cover and cook for 25- 30 minutes. My mother would lay a dish directly on the meatballs to hold them down and keep them from falling apart. This is up to you. I’ve done it with and without the dish, both with good results.

Avgolemono Sauce

There are a few variations on the method to making this sauce. Basically, it consists of lemon juice and eggs, beaten together. Some cooks add a tablespoon of flour to thicken it. Others separate the egg whites and whip them until they are frothy, and then add it to the egg yolk and lemon mixture. I do it the way my mother made it.

3 eggs

Juice of one lemon (2 if you like the sauce extra lemony)

Put the eggs and lemon juice in a blender and run on medium speed until frothy. Take about one cup of the liquid from the meatballs and slowly add it to the egg-lemon mixture while the blender is still running. This will temper the eggs so they do not scramble.

Remove the meatballs from the heat and pour the avgolemono over the meatballs. Cover the pot and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Kali orexi!

Good appetite!

 

 

Chicken breasts with truffle infused apricot sauce

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Once the summer is in full swing, I tend to use my grill almost every day. Outdoor cooking and dining poolside is a treat after the cold, nasty winters. But although once Memorial Day is behind us, and we consider the summer season to have begun, it unfortunately hasn’t. Springtime on Long Island can be frustrating—teased by one day of sunny, warm weather, and followed by three days of chilling rain.

Today was not a day for outdoor cooking, yet I’m tired of the heavy foods I’d cooked all winter to keep warm. This is what I came up with today. The prep time was minimal and the result was sweet and tasty.

Chicken breasts with truffle infused apricot sauce

2 split bone-in chicken breasts (4 pieces)

½ cup apricot preserves

¼ cup honey

3 tablespoons black truffle infused balsamic vinegar

¼ cup truffle infused olive oil

2 cinnamon sticks

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon tarragon

Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400º

In a saucepan combine the apricot preserves, honey, vinegar, oil, garlic, pepper, tarragon, and cinnamon sticks. Heat on medium until it begins to bubble. Remove from heat and set aside.

Line a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with foil. Brush some of the glaze under the skin of the chicken and another layer of glaze over the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Baste with glaze and bake for an additional 20 – 25 minutes.

Reheat the remainder of the glaze and use it as a side sauce for the chicken. Alternatively, pour remainder of sauce over the chicken after plating.

 

 

 

VALENTINE’S DAY DINNER – FILET MIGNON IN CHAMPAGNE SAUCE

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Filet mignon in champagne sauce is a dish my mother used to make on special occasions. I’d watched her make it many times, and after I got married, I made it also. I never used a recipe. Observing Mom was enough for me, and the method was easy to remember without resorting to a recipe. But for some reason, I hadn’t made it in several years. Maybe because it’s on the rich side and calorie laden, or it could be simply that other favorites replaced this one.

One of my daughters pointed out that I hadn’t made it in a while and she would like to have it again, so I decided to make it for Valentine’s Day. Each year, I make a special dinner for the four of us, including a decadent dessert. I set a pretty table and we exchange token gifts. This year, my girls are off to sunny California, so we celebrated our Valentine’s Day a day early. Lucky for them, they get out of the zero degree New York weather and fly into a heat wave in L.A.

When my mom passed away, my dad gave me a box with my mother’s handwritten recipes and her “cooking bible” – The Tselementes. This food-splattered, masking taped repaired cookbook is a treasure. This was my mom’s go-to book for anything she needed to refer to. She brought this cookbook with her when she came to this country in 1953, and I think it was the ONLY cookbook I ever saw her open.

Mom never cooked with recipes. She instinctively knew what to add to her food and when, and how long to cook it for. This is how I learned to cook. She would hover over the stove, turn to me, breathing in the aroma and say, “You never rush your food. You must love it. Hug it and kiss it.” That is the secret ingredient to deliciousness!

So when I looked in the box with the handwritten recipes, I was not surprised to find lists of ingredients with no measurements! I remembered what was in the champagne sauce, but I wanted to refresh my memory on the amount of each ingredient. There was nothing to refresh. It was all done by feel. Recipe after recipe was written the same way—a list of ingredients, the method, but no measurements.

To share this dish with you, I made an effort to be aware of how much of each ingredient I was adding. It might be too late for Valentine’s Day, but try this for the next special occasion.

Filet Mignon in Champagne Sauce

 4 1-inch thick filet mignon steaks

8 large stuffing mushrooms, whole. Stems off

3 shallots, sliced

5 tablespoons butter

½ cup champagne

1 cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper to taste

Sprinkle meat with salt & pepper. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and pan fry the steaks on both sides until cooked to your preference. When you flip the meat, add the shallots and mushrooms. When the steaks are done, remove to a platter and cover to keep warm. Place the mushrooms on the same platter with the steaks.

Add the champagne. When it starts to boil, add the heavy cream. Lower heat and simmer for a minute or two. Shut off heat and add the last tablespoon of butter. Add the steaks and mushrooms back into the pan. To serve, pour sauce over steaks and garnish with two mushrooms.

 

 

GREEK DINNER AROUND THE WORLD – 2016

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On Friday, January 15th 2016, I participated in an event that was taking place around the globe amongst chefs, bloggers and authors. Greek Dinners Around The World. The purpose was to share and promote Greek food, culture and tradition, and to widen a network of individuals who do so.

Through this event, I’ve met, via social media, many interesting people—authors like myself who are either Greek or have written a book where Greece or Greek culture is the focus. Chefs and food bloggers and magazine publishers from the US, Greece, the UK, Australia, Canada and dozens of other countries participated, sharing their menus and photos.

Three years ago, Keri Douglas of 9 Muses News came up with this concept, and what a brilliant idea it was. This was the first year I was involved, but I hope to do it again.

Coming out of the holidays, I hadn’t planned what I was going to do until five days before. I was still taking down Christmas decorations, trying to arrange some additional promotions for my book, Evanthia’s Gift, attempting to take some time to work on the second book in the saga, and I do actually have a day job. I wrote a very ambitious menu, and prepared almost everything I’d planned on. But in the end, I had more food than my guests could eat.

I wasn’t even sure of my guest list. Only several days before, I made some calls, and my two sisters and the few friends I phoned were more than happy to attend.

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The menu

Meze

Greek cheese – kasseri, manouri, feta

Pastrourma (aged and spiced cured meat, sliced very thin)

Tiropita

Greek salad (the real Greek salad. No lettuce)

I wanted to make saganaki (my favorite) but time ran out. And I forgot to put the dolmathes on the table. No one noticed. Everyone was busy chatting and drinking wine and beer.

I bought two Greek table wines, and two dessert wines, along with Mythos beer. My non- alcoholic drink was visinatha (another favorite).

Dinner

Leg of lamb, stuffed with garlic and roasted potatoes

Chicken baked with lemon, garlic, olive oil and oregano

Youvarlakia in avgolemono

Youvarlakia in red sauce

Pastitsio

Green peas with onions and cinnamon

(I wanted to make spanakopita, but never got to it. In my defense, I cooked everything that day.)

Dessert

Revani

Kadaifi

(I never got to the galakteboureko)

 

Eleni, my daughter made delicious frappes for everyone, and by midnight, our evening was over.

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If you would like to see what others did for Greek Dinners Around The World, go to 9musesnews.com.

YIAYIA’S LEMON CHICKEN AND POTATOES

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Comfort food—nothing soothes the soul better. For me, comfort food is anything my mom made for me growing up when I was under the weather, or needed warmth. For my children, it was the same—Yiayia’s cooking was what they craved. Yiayia is no longer with us, but her spirit lives on in her wise words, the traditions she taught us, the advice that still rings in our ears, and in her delectable food.

This lemon chicken and potato meal has always been one that I’ve made in my home, just as my mom had. Yet, when my children would have it at her home, they would savor every bite. I think this might have been for two reasons. First reason – her gas stove. Even though I would cook the food exactly the way she did, it never came out quite the same. The natural juices came out pulpier when she made it. She never used chicken broth – only water. I add the chicken broth in hopes of replicating the flavor she achieved with her gas stove. Don’t get me wrong. Mine comes out tasty. We all enjoy it. But it’s not exactly like my mom’s. Which brings me to the second reason. I call it the Yiayia Effect. Everything she did or made was special to her grandchildren—even more so now that they only have their memories to draw on. And I suppose this is why certain foods are comfort foods. Not only for the delicious flavor but also for how they make us feel inside.

Yiayia’s Chicken and Potatoes

4 split chicken breasts, bone in

3 pounds of medium sized potatoes, quartered

1½ cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

5-6 cloves garlic, sliced

2 large lemons

2 tablespoons dried oregano

Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven – 350º

Place the chicken breasts in a roasting pan. Pour the chicken broth in the pan and arrange the quartered potatoes around the chicken. Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken and potatoes, and add a pat of butter on top of each breast. Squeeze the juice from 1½ lemon over the chicken and potatoes, reserving ½ to be sliced and placed over the dish before going into the oven. Sprinkle the garlic, salt, pepper and oregano evenly and place in the oven. Bake until the chicken is tender and the potatoes are crisp, about 1½ hours. Flip the chicken over once or twice during while roasting for optimal moistness.

IF IT’S HALLOWEEN, THEN STUFFED PEPPERS AND TOMATOES ARE IN THE OVEN

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                        YEMISTA

Like most families, there are certain events we look forward to year after year. In our family, any deviation from what has become one of our traditions is not an option. As we enter the holiday season this fact will become crystal clear as I share my stories.

Each year on Halloween, I would make stuffed peppers and tomatoes for dinner. Afterwards, my husband and my brother-in-law would take our children out to trick-or-treat in the dark, and then come back home to the smell of warm apple crisp and hot cocoa. The “kids” now range from 20 to 29, yet we continue to do this. Let me clarify. Their dads don’t take them out in the dark to trick or treat, but I still cook the yemista. (Greek for stuffed peppers or tomatoes)

But now, we have a new generation in our family. Sophia and Ryan look forward to coming to Aunt Effie’s house to trick or treat. The older cousins take them through the neighborhood and they love all the attention thrown their way.

So why does it have to be stuffed peppers? It was actually a practical decision. I needed to prepare a meal ahead of time. When the children were young, I would rush home from work to take the kids around the neighborhood. Cooking at that point would have been impossible. I would prepare them the night before, and then pop them in the oven while we knocked on doors for candy. During the fall, I can find peppers and tomatoes that are very large and perfect for stuffing. It’s the perfect dish for a chilly night.

For years, I observed as my mother made stuffed peppers. It was one of my favorite dinners. I cannot recall one time where she pulled out a measuring cup or spoon. I learned what to do from watching her—no recipe needed. So please, don’t get caught up in measurements. A few years back, a neighbor stopped by to chat. I was engrossed in her conversation and she was engrossed in my culinary activity. I wasn’t even aware that she was paying attention to what I was doing as she’d often mentioned that she didn’t cook. Two days later she called me to review everything she’d observed while she was seated at my kitchen counter. I was stunned that she’d remembered every detail of what I’d done. Without a written recipe, this friend who claimed to never cook, made the peppers for dinner. The next day, she called me, feeling quite accomplished that her meal had come out delicious!

Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes

4 peppers

4 tomatoes

2 lbs. lean chopped meat

Extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 large chopped onion

1 cup white wine

1 ½ cup water

Salt, pepper, parsley

½ rice

8 ounces tomato paste

1 large can crushed tomatoes

Breadcrumbs (seasoned)

Potatoes (optional)

In a large roasting pan, coat the bottom with a little olive oil. Prepare the peppers by cutting the tops and removing the seeds and membranes. For the tomatoes, cut the tops and hollow out the middle. Find the largest tomatoes available. Use any peppers you enjoy. I like a mixture of red, yellow and orange. I find green peppers very strong and overpowering, so I don’t use them. Arrange the peppers and tomatoes in the roasting pan. In a large, deep skillet add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In a large skillet, sauté the onions and garlic for one minute. Add the chopped meat. When the meat is fully browned, add the wine, water, salt, pepper, parsley, tomato paste and the rice and crushed tomatoes. My mom always added the rice by feel. I pour about two handfuls in the skillet, just as she did. I’ve estimated that to be ½ cup. Let the mixture simmer for about fifteen minutes on medium heat. That will give the rice a chance to begin to cook. If you feel you need more fluid, add a little more water. If the reverse is the case, let the mixture simmer a little longer. Remove from heat. Fill the peppers and tomatoes. Sprinkle breadcrumbs generously on top and drizzle with olive oil. Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. Place the potatoes between the peppers and tomatoes. The potatoes help to support the tomatoes and peppers, but they serve as a nice side dish as well. Don’t forget to season them. Bake for 1½ hours at 375°. After the tops have browned (about 45min.), you may want to lay a sheet of tin foil over pan. Do not cover tightly or seal. You want to bake the peppers, not steam them. I usually double this recipe. I like finding the leftovers in my fridge on a busy day. They heat up in the microwave easily without compromising the taste, or you can eat them the way I like them—cold.

* Try this meatless alternative

Vegetarian/Vegan Stuffed peppers

6 peppers

2 celery hearts, sliced thin

1 large Vidalia onion, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

1 cup white wine

½ cup pignoli nuts

1 cup rice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Oregano

Parsley

Grated cheese

1 cup bread crumbs (seasoned)

Cut the tops off the peppers and take seed and membranes out. Arrange in a baking dish. Heat a large skillet and sauté celery, onions and garlic with ¼ cup of olive oil until soft and tender. At the same time, boil 1 cup of rice in 3 cups of water for 10-12 minutes. Drain the rice and set aside. Add salt, pepper, oregano and parsley to the celery mixture. Add wine and cook on high heat to burn off liquid. If making a vegan version, use vegetable broth or coconut water. Remove from heat. Add the rice, breadcrumbs and pignoli nuts, and stir well. Fill the peppers. Generously sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. (Vegans can skip the cheese and add a little more seasoning) Bake at 350º for 45 minutes.

KEFTETHES & TZATZIKI SAUCE, AND AN EXCERPT FROM EVANTHIA’S GIFT

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IN THIS CHAPTER OF EVANTHIA’S GIFT, ANASTACIA IS VENTING TO HER MOTHER ABOUT HER JOB, AND NOT BEING OFFERED THE POSITION SHE WAS TRAINED FOR.

Anastacia added spices to the chopped meat as Yiayiá grated onions into a bowl.

“I wouldn’t know about these things. I never worked. My work was my children. That was enough for me.” She added the onions to the meat mixture, the strong odor wafting up and causing tears to well in the corners of her eyes. Ignoring the sting, Yiayiá added two eggs and dug her hands into the meat, mixing the ingredients thoroughly. She walked to the sink, washed her hands and turned around to face her daughter.

“Ana,” she said hesitaantly, worried to bring up the subject. “I spoke to Irini, right before your babá and I came to see you. She asked about her niece.”

Ana gave her mother a hard, stern look. “Mamá, we’ve been over this. I know you want to fix everything — make all the problems disappear as if there weren’t any to begin with. But that is not possible. Do you really think she cares about Sophia? She only cares about one person, herself and how to get what she wants. I understand that she’s your daughter, and that you hope that she will somehow become a better person, but she won’t. You are always making excuses for her. She’s the younger one. She has always been different from you. She doesn’t mean what she says. I won’t hear it anymore.”

“She came from me too. She’s my child. What can I do but love her and hope?”

“I’m sorry, Mamá. I am. I know this is hard on you, but she is not welcome here. She needs to pay for her actions.”

“The past is past. Start fresh. It is no good to have hate in your heart,” her mother cried.

“I don’t want to hate her. But I am angry and hurt. She will never change. I begged you and Babá not to let her stay in the States. You know she needs to be watched closely and Uncle Tasso had no idea what he was getting himself into when he agreed to let her stay. Babá can’t even control her himself.”

Yiayiá knew her daughter would not change her mind and she couldn’t blame her. Ana was a kind and giving person, loved by all who knew her. She never uttered a harsh word to a soul, even if they treated her unfairly, but Irini had pushed her too far. Anastacia cut her sister out of her life, plain and simple. It was self-preservation. Aside from their difference of opinion over Irini, Ana and Yiayiá treasured the time they spent together and would miss each other terribly when she returned to Greece. They continued to roll and fry the keftethes in silence, both of them too stubborn for further conversation.

Keftethes

1 pound chopped meat

1 egg

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, grated

4 slices of white bread, dampened in water (no crust)

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tablespoons of fresh

¼ cup of fresh mint or basil or combination of both

Splash of milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Form each ball to the size of a golf ball. Roll in flour and press down gently. Fry in a combination of half vegetable oil and half olive oil until brown on each side. Serve with tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

2 cups Greek yogurt                                                3 large cloves garlic, crushed

4 Tbs. white wine vinegar                                    2 Tbs. fresh dill or 1Tbs. dried

3 Tbs. olive oil                                                            salt and pepper to taste

½ tsp. paprika                                                            1 tsp. sugar

2 cucumbers- peeled, cored from seeds and finely grated. Press through strainer to dry. The cucumber will make the sauce loose and runny if you skip this step.

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk. Chill before serving. Serve with souvlaki or keftethes. It also makes a refreshing dip. Make this a day ahead and the flavors will intensify.

CHICKEN AMARETTO

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Today was one of those days that I had no idea what I would cook for dinner until I got home and looked in my fridge. After work, I’d run a few errands. Well to be truthful, I went shoe shopping. By the time I left the stores, I wasn’t in the mood to stop at the grocery store. I usually make several trips a week because I like to buy my food fresh, so I was sure there was something in the house I could make a meal from.

I love wine in my food, and many of my recipes require it, but I wanted to do something different – something a little on the sweet side. I swapped out the wine for Amaretto, and came up with this. Anything with mushrooms and shallots can’t be bad. Plus, it took less than an hour to prepare from start to finish.

Amaretto Chicken

 

2 Pounds chicken cutlets, sliced thin

3 Shallots, sliced

½ Pound of sliced mushrooms

2 Eggs

1 Tablespoon milk

1 Cup flour

Dash of salt and pepper

1 Teaspoon dried parsley

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter

3 Tablespoons olive oil

½ cup Amaretto liquor

3 Cups chicken broth

1 Tablespoon dried tarragon or 2 tablespoons of fresh

1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

Prepare two separate shallow dredging bowls. In the first, whisk together the egg and milk. In the second, mix the flour, parsley, salt and pepper.

In a large heated skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and add the olive oil.

Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour, then the egg, and then the flour again. Add the dredged chicken into the skillet and brown, about 5 – 7 minutes per side.

Transfer to an oven safe dish and place in preheated oven (325 degrees) while the shallots and mushrooms sauté. Add the mushrooms and shallots to the skillet and sauté in the same butter/oil used to brown the chicken. Stir often, lifting any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Sauté until tender, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Add the Amaretto. When it comes to a boil, add 2 cups of the chicken broth. Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Add the tarragon. Season with a couple of dashes of pepper.

Make a slurry from the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the remaining chicken broth. Whisk it into the Amaretto sauce and bring to a high simmer. If the sauce is too thick, add the remaining broth. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. Add the last tablespoon of butter and whisk.

Remove the chicken from the oven and add it to the skillet with the sauce.

Yummy Marinated and Grilled Spare Ribs, Uncle Scotty Style

Photo by Alexa Speyer

Photo by Alexa Speyer

Let me tell you about Uncle Scotty. Uncle Scotty is my brother-in-law. The very same one who each year lovingly prepares my Thanksgiving turkey, and then poses for the “kiss the turkey” picture. One day recently, he was scrolling through my blog and was insulted to find that I had taken down the recipe I had posted a few years back for Uncle Scotty Spare Ribs. “No, I didn’t,” I insisted. “You are looking at the wrong blog.” Previously, I had written my posts on a livejournal domain. I switched over a few years ago and slowly, I’ve been reposting those recipes in addition to many others. So far, I’d not reposted the spare rib recipe onto the wordpress blog.

So, this past weekend I purposely made the ribs in order to take some photos and share this tasty recipe with you.

Originally, when I asked Scott what was in the marinade, he only said, “duck sauce, bourbon, and soy sauce.” He gave me no amounts, or any indication that he added seasonings. So, I played with the amounts and the recipe and this is what I came up with.

Uncle Scotty Spare Ribs

 Approximately 4 pounds of country style pork spare ribs

3 cups duck sauce

1 cup bourbon

½ cup soy sauce

2 cloves crushed garlic

1Tablespoon fresh ginger or 1teaspoon ground ginger

¼ brown sugar

¼ cup vegetable oil

Whisk all the ingredients together until well blended. Marinate spare ribs overnight or for at least 5 hours. Grill.

Easy and Delicious Summer Dinners

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Summer is the best season for flavor. The fruits and vegetables are fresh, especially if you buy locally grown, in-season produce from your local farms. For me, walking outside to my herb garden and clipping sprigs of oregano, tarragon, and fragrant leaves of basil and mint makes a world of difference in the flavor of my food. Even for the timid cook, or the person who claims to cook only because they have to, seasoning with herbs can make creating a meal an easy and painless task.

Cooking relaxes me. I love playing with flavors and combinations, but I also savor the foods I grew up with. The tried and true. The recipes handed down from yiayiá to mamá and now to me. I watched my mother cook, throwing in a little of this and a little of that, never measuring. Tasting as she went along. That is how I learned to cook. So read your cookbooks with an open mind and with your taste buds in consideration. If a recipe calls for an ingredient or a seasoning you don’t care for, don’t discard the recipe; tailor it to your liking.

This past Monday, Memorial Day, I announced I would have a lazy day by the pool. The rest of the weekend was fun, but filled with commitments and I wanted to do absolutely nothing – a rarity for me. I told my family that I would just grill some hamburgers and make a quick salad when we were ready for dinner. My niece said, “A lazy day by the pool. I could use that. I’ll come over.” Then her mother, my sister, said that her husband would be working on getting the boat ready for the summer and she wanted to come over, too. Then, I called my friends who live across the street, because, after all, they’re not company, and why shouldn’t they join us for a “lazy” day by the pool. Next thing I know, my niece texts me and asks if my husband’s nephew is coming because she has a present for his children. Now why didn’t I think of that? Sophia and Ryan would love to swim.

Well, needless to say, my lazy day by the pool and hamburgers for dinner turned into a little bit more.

Jack Daniels hamburgers with pretzel buns, lemon-tarragon grilled chicken, olive oil and herb rubbed lamb chops, Greek salad, grilled corn salad, lemon roasted potatoes, and tomato bruschetta.

Actually, it was a simple dinner for the 13 of us. I kept it as uncomplicated as I could and restrained myself from making more side dishes and appetizers. I don’t think I could have sat around doing nothing for too long anyway. Watching everyone have a good time at my home gave me joy. A trait passed down from my mother.

 Olive Oil and Herb-Rubbed Lamb chops

8 – 10 Lamb chops, rib or round bone

1/3 cup Olive oil

2 Tablespoons dried oregano, or ¼ cup loosely packed fresh, snipped

2 Tablespoons dried basil, or ½ cup fresh, shredded

2 Tablespoons fresh dill

4 – 5 mint leaves, shredded

2 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ Teaspoon each of salt and pepper

Juice and zest from 2 lemons

Combine all the ingredients (minus the lamb) in a bowl and mix together. Rub the herb mixture onto each lamb chop. Place in a marinating bag or container and add the rest of the mixture. Marinate overnight. Grill or broil.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Marinade

2 Pounds thin sliced chicken cutlets

1/3 cup olive oil

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

¼ cup Dijon mustard

¼ cup of honey

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon dried tarragon, or several sprig of fresh, leaves pulled off stems.

Combine all the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and marinate at least 4 – 5 hours, overnight if possible. Grill.

Lemon roasted Potatoes

5 Pounds of potatoes.

1/3 cup Olive oil, or enough to coat potatoes

Juice and zest of 2- 3 lemons

3 – 4 cloves of garlic, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

3 Tablespoons dried oregano, or 1/3 cup fresh

2 Tablespoons dried parsley, or ¼ cup fresh

Fresh basil if you choose

2 Tablespoons semolina

* Note on the herbs – the amounts are estimates. Add as much or as little as you like. More of something you love, less or not at all of something you don’t care for.

**This is a recipe that can be played with. For another variation, skip the lemon and add grated cheese. Or keep the lemon and add tarragon and shallots, omitting the oregano.

Peel and quarter medium sized potatoes. Place in a roasting pan and add the olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly. Add the lemon and zest and toss again. Add the herbs, garlic and seasonings. Add the semolina and once again, toss to coat. The semolina will give the potatoes extra crispness. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn the potatoes and roast for another 20 minutes.

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