Maureen Fraîche

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Archive for the category “Mediterranean”

Baklava

Baklava

Want to know what I’m doing right now?  Well, aside from typing (duh), I’m eating the last piece of this baklava.  Good doesn’t even begin to describe it.  If you’ve never had baklava before, allow me to explain what you’re missing out on: crispy layer upon layer of buttery phyllo filled with sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts all topped (drenched?) in a honey-lemon syrup.  Simply amazing.

This particular recipe is an adaptation from The Complete Book of Greek Cooking.  Everything I’ve tried from this cookbook thus far has been excellent, but what would you expect?  How could you go wrong with the Recipe Club of Saint Paul’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral?  Church ladies know good food.

While baklava is not difficult to make, it is a little fussy and time consuming.  The very best advice I can give you would be to, first, make sure you have all of your ingredients, tools, and whatnot ready to go and within reach.  Make a little baklava station for yourself.  Second, don’t make this when you’ve got other stuff going on or if the wee ones are running mad all around you.  If you must, wait until nap time, bed time, or whatever other quiet time you have so that you don’t end up a stressed out, grumpy mess.  Third, keep whatever phyllo sheets you aren’t working with hiding under a lightly dampened paper towel or tea towel.  If those sheets dry out, they’ll crackle into pieces before your very eyes–and before you’ve had a chance to finish that baklava.  And last of all, if you’re going to make one batch, why not make two?  One package of phyllo dough will make two 8×8 pans of this glorious goodness and it freezes beautifully.  Trust me, once you’ve tasted this dessert, you’ll be glad you’ve got a whole ‘nuther pan stashed for a rainy day.

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Easy Greek-Style Shredded Chicken

Easy Shredded Chicken

Next time you have one of those frantic days that just won’t quit, give this recipe a whirl.  It’s a busy mom’s dream come true.  Just grab some chicken out of the freezer, crank up the ole Crock Pot, and forget about it.  Or at least for a few hours, anyway.  What I love best about this recipe, though, is that the chicken ends up both moist and packed with flavor–two attributes commonly lacking in Crock Pot fare.

My version down below has got some Greek flavors going on, though you could easily switch things up.  I’ve done this with citrus-y flavors, balsamic vinegar instead of wine, and all sorts of different herbs and spices–all good.  And I use this chicken in all sorts of ways: tacos, wraps, salads, pasta, panini sandwiches, you  name it.  I’ll often cook up a batch at the beginning of the week just to have it on hand for a quick lunch or dinner.  I’m all for easy these days, how about you?

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Beef Gyros with Tzatziki

Beef Gyro

I wish I could somehow post the smell of this marinated beef.  I need to dab my chin just thinking about it.  Of course, I’ve always had a thing for the smell of wine-soaked cuisine…though I’m more of a beer drinker than a wine-bibber.  Go figure.

So anyway, on to the recipe!  I wanted to do something particularly delicious for Valentine’s Day, so I thought I’d whip up something a la Grecque for dinner.  The menu?  Beef gyros with tzatziki dressing.  Homemade hummus.  Marinated goat cheese.  Tapas.  Everything turned out just loverly and I hope next time you’ve got the craving for a little Mediterranean cuisine, you’ll give these a try.  The great thing with a dinner like this is that it can be as easy or fussy as you want it to be.  Most grocery stores now offer all sorts of ready-to-eat tapas, from marinated cheeses to a variety of olives and preserved veggies.  Personally, I almost always have a huge jar of marinated artichoke hearts in the fridge for just such an occasion (though if I’m honest, I have them for an afternoon snack on an almost daily basis).  For this particular dinner, I happened to make the hummus, tzatziki, and marinated goat cheese, but you could put together a lovely meal with store-bought items and significantly less work.  Do what makes you happy and keeps the peace in your house, I say.

Allow me a small reminiscence here.

I very clearly remember the first time I had goat cheese.  I had just started working at the Pasta & Co. on Queen Anne and a co-worker offered me a bite of something on a cracker.  I’d describe the taste like a slap in the face, except I don’t think I’d enjoy being slapped in the face.  It was all at once tangy, pungent, savory, salty…purely delicious.  What my co-worker had given me was a bite of our house-marinated Chevre.  You’ll understand when I say I immediately purchased several slices of the stuff to take home after my shift.  The marinade was really an amazing thing–extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper.  Though the ingredients were simple, the flavors together somehow seemed greater than its parts.  Since I had some fresh goat cheese just waiting patiently in the fridge, I decided I would try to duplicate my experience from memory.  While I’m sure it wasn’t exact, the results were delicious just the same.  I will share that one with you in a separate post.  But for now, bring on the beef!

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Kotopoulo Riganato tis Skaras (Broiled Chicken Oregano)

Here is another great recipe from The Complete Book of Greek CookingAs you’ll recall, I’ve been cooking up and posting adaptations of these recipes and thus far, they have been great.  I definitely recommend it if you are looking for some seriously good, home-style Greek cooking.

If you’re like me (and many of my clients), you are always on the lookout for new ways to cram some flavor into chicken breasts.  Not only does this recipe deliver big garlic and oregano flavor, but it is also super easy.  Bonus?  You can add this one to your arsenal of heart healthy recipes.  A quick word regarding cooking method here:  While you can certainly broil the chicken, I’m always quick to fire up the grill.

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Souvlakia me Kota se Peta

Souvlakia me Kota se Peta

Though summer may not have officially started, Memorial Day weekend at the lake is definitely a great time to kick-off the grilling season!  As promised, here are actually 3 different combined recipes from The Complete Book of Greek Cooking.  I’ve only tweaked them slightly and have included my changes below.  These pitas are perfect for lunch or dinner and the tzatziki dressing makes them amazing.  When you take a look at the recipes below, don’t be put-off by the steps and ingredients.  Both the chicken and tzatziki are super easy to make and can be prepped several hours in advance, saving you that last-minute frantic rush before serving.

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In the mail: The Complete Book of Greek Cooking

Opa!

Yes.  So I am really excited about this cookbook.  Though I don’t even have a smidge of Mediterranean blood in my veins, I do love the food.  Immensely.  Plus–added bonus–Mediterranean cuisine is well-known for its health benefits.  As a dietitian and home-cook, I am always on the prowl for recipes that are delicious and packed with good nutrition.  I actually find it hard believe that out of my 100+ cookbooks, this is my first a la Grecque.  While I am in no way deluded in thinking that every recipe will beat cancer (I’m sure many are loaded with fatty deliciousness), I do anticipate a healthy dose of fresh ingredients loaded with flavor.

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