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Monday, April 14, 2014

Rizogalo (Rice Pudding)

I think it would be safe to say that Rice Pudding could be one of our world's ultimate comfort food.  You can find variations on this luscious treat in nearly every part of the world.  A creamy delight, of rice, some form of milk or water, spices and/or flavorings, and some sort of sweetener.  The Greek version is sprinkled with cinnamon and flavored with vanilla or mastic (A resin from the Mastic Tree. It has a slightly pine or cedar like flavor.)

My mother would make this dessert quite often because it always brought about good childhood memories of her life in Greece.  I've tried to recreate her recipe here.


4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
A pinch of nutmeg
2/3 cups arborio rice (a short grain rice)
3 egg yolks
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract


It is best to use a heavy bottom pot to make this dessert but if you don't just stir a little more often to
make sure the rice doesn't get lumpy or stuck on the bottom.

Pour milk, sugar and the salt into the pot and heat until it is nearly boiling.  Stir the milk and don't leave it unattended.   Add the rice and pinch of nutmeg.
I like to grate it fresh into the pot.

Once the rice mixture comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium low.  Cook for around 30 minutes until all the grains of rice have cooked and absorbed the sweet milk.

Turn the heat off and allow it to cool slightly.  
Next separate eggs, save the whites for another dish.

3 egg yolks
Whip the eggs until creamy.   Next you must temper the eggs with the warm milky rice so they do not curdle.   One ladle full while whipping, add another ladle full of the milky rice and then pour into the pot and stir to mix thoroughly.

Turn heat back on, keep stirring until thickened and it coats the back of the spoon.
 Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
 Add vanilla extract.
Pour into small bowls or a large glass container.  Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and cover to cool in the refrigerator.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Giouvetsi (Lamb and Orzo Casserole)

Giouvetzi or Youvetsi (yoo-VEH-tsee) is a traditional Greek casserole baked in a clay pot that can be made with any meat though traditionally it is made with lamb or beef. The meat is cooked in a rich tomato sauce together with orzo pasta and finished with grated cheese on top, in this case I used Kasseri.
For my version, I added more vegetables and used less oil for a healthier balance.  It makes a wonderful meal on a cold evening along with some steamed green beans or peas.  The traditional seasonings of sweet cinnamon and aromatic oregano give this dish a robust flavor sure to please most everyone.   
I used a dutch oven to bake this casserole.  

Ingredients:  Serves 4
1 pound boneless leg of lamb
1 small onion
1 leek

2 or 3 carrots
2 small shallots
3 small stalks celery, preferably the heart
3 clove garlic
1 14 oz can chopped or crushed tomato
1 cup (8 oz) chicken broth
1 cup orzo
1/3 cup red wine
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp allspice
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese (kasseri, kefalotyri, or parmesan)
Preparation: preheat oven to 350 degrees
Start off by chopping your vegetables - onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, celery and carrots.  A rough chop should do the trick.  I like bite sized pieces.
Put them in a bowl and set aside. 

Next step is to trim your meat of any excess fat and then chop into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes. Generously salt and pepper the meat.

Put your dutch oven on the stove and heat up - I used a 4 quart round dutch oven.

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pot, add meat and brown on all sides.   Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.

 Drain the pot and then add the rest of the olive oil and bring up the heat.  Pour the bowl of vegetables into the pot and scrap the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to get the meat bits up.  Salt and pepper to taste, add fresh parsley, allspice and oregano.

Once the vegetables start to glisten, pour in the 1/3 cup of red wine.
Cook for a few minutes, return the browned meat to the pot.  Add the can of tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon stick and chicken broth.

Bring to a boil.

Cover the pot and place in the preheated oven.  Cook for around 40 minutes.

Add orzo and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Serve the Giouvetsi with grated cheese.

My favorite is kasseri but traditionally kefalotyri is used which is similar to parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Briani (Mixed Vegetable Casserole)


Greeks do like their greens and my mother was no exception.  She would usually cook dandelion greens or broccoli and douse them with olive oil and lemon, to her that was ambrosia.  She also would make stuffed vegetables (yemista) when they were in season using eggplants, zucchini and large tomatoes.  In my research to find another dish to add to my blog I came across this vegetable casserole in which you can use most any combination of delicious in season vegetables.  Instead of using a lot of olive oil (I do love a good quality extra virgin olive oil but it's nice to have alternatives!)  


1 large can diced tomatoes (28-ounces)
4 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. dried oregano or 1/4 fresh
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil  (one recipe called for 1 cup)  I used an oil mister and used my favorite olive oil.

Vegetables -  carrots, eggplant, okra, squashes (zucchini or yellow varieties), potatoes, onions, string beans, fresh tomatoes - whatever tickles your fancy and is in season.


Preheat oven 350 degrees

First peel your garlic then dice to desired size,  the smaller you dice it the stronger the taste.  It is your preference.  Add it to the opened can of tomatoes.
Stir to incorporate
If you are going to use okra, you will need to prepare them by first cutting the tops off and rinsing them off, scrubbing light to remove fuzz.      Then dry them on a paper towel.
Put them in a bowl and cover with vinegar and let them soak for around 30 minutes, the greeks prefer red wine vinegar.  Before you use them, drain well.              

Begin slicing your vegetables as finely as you wish.  I recently purchased a mandoline which will slice all kinds of vegetables or fruits!  It's fabulous.   Today I did zucchini, onions, okra, yellow squash, eggplant and a large tomato from my garden. 
Spray or drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of the casserole.   Start with a layer of vegetables - I used onions first.  Drizzle or spray olive oil, grind salt and pepper, add the herbs and then the diced tomato and garlic mixture.  

Keep layering in that fashion until you use up your vegetables, finish with the diced tomatoes.  

Cover with lid or foil and bake in the over for 75 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  Take lid off and bake for another 10 minutes.    

Remove from oven and let cool at room temperature before serving.  It's great as a side dish or with a slice of crusty bread or rolls.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)

I remember when I was young my mother would make these meatballs for guests.  They are flavorful and great with catsup or a marinara sauce.  If you make them small, they are a perfect appetizer, roll them larger for a main dish.  My version is not fried mostly because I like the flavor better when you bake them in the oven.


1 lb ground lamb
1 lb ground beef
3 slices bread (optional)
1 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
large handful each fresh mint & parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preparation:   Heat oven to 375

Quarter the onion add it to a food processor along with the garlic cloves.  If you don't have a food processor, finely chop or mince the onion and garlic.  Add the herbs and pulse.

Put bread slices in a flat bowl and pour a little water to wet them.

You will need to squeeze the excess liquid before adding it to the meat.

I have also made these meatballs without bread for dietary reasons, they are tasty this way too.

In a large bowl with the ground meats:  1.) crumble the wet bread over it.  2.) add eggs 3.) add onion, herb, garlic mix 4.) salt & pepper.

Mix well.  Now you are ready to ROLL!

1 to 2 inch balls should suffice, smaller for appetizers and larger for a main dish.  Whichever you prefer.  Larger ones will take longer to bake.

There are two ways you can do this.  I prefer a large pan fitted with a rack.

You can also put parchment on the bottom of the pan and do it that way.

Brush or spray the meat balls with olive oil.

Bake in oven for 45 minutes and turn them halfway through the cooking process.  May sure they are nicely browned on the outsider.

We eat them with catsup drizzled over the tops or add them to a pasta dish with marinara.

Also try putting a few in a pita with lettuce leaves, tomato slices and a couple spoonfuls of Tzatziki     YUM!