Greek Meat Balls (Keftedes)

Keftedes

Last week’s Greek soup led me to another Greek dish I have wanted to try: Greek Meatballs, or Keftedes.  Since a couple of family members are eating gluten free, I experimented with using Gluten Free bread crumbs and Gluten Free flour for dredging. The flavor was wonderful, but I think the gluten free items made the meat mixture a little looser, and also a bit harder to brown. I hope to try these again and see if my theory is correct. I will also try the optional cooking method, baking the meatballs in a very hot oven.

My favorite ingredients, and the things that added unique flavor to these meatballs were the fresh herbs added to the meat mixture (mint and parsley).  I also made homemade Tzatziki sauce which was a perfect addition to the plate of meatballs and warm flatbread.  Tzatziki recipe coming up next week!

Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

2 large onions, finely chopped in food processor

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 cup frresh mint, minced

2 heaping Tablespoons Penzey’s Greek seasoning (optional: 2 Tablespoons dried oregano)

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

 

Oil for frying

flour for dredging

Combine all ingredients except the cooking oil and flour in a very large bowl. Using your hands, mix the ingredients, folding over from the bottom and kneading for about 5 minutes. The mixture should be smooth and well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight or a minimum of 2-3 hours.  Shape meat into ball, dredge in flour and place on a parchment or foil covered baking sheet.  In a heavy skillet (I used 2 iron skillets), heat enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan, adding more as needed. Cook the meatballs in batches, uncrowded in the skillet, reducing the heat to medium during cooking. I found that 10-12 meatballs at a time worked best. Brown well on both sides, making sure they are well cooked through. Remove to paper towel covered baking sheet and repeat the process until all meatballs have been cooked. Serve as an appetizer, or on a platter with a stack of flatbread as an entree.  Makes at least 4 dozen meatballs. Optional method of cooking:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees and bake on a lightly greased baking sheet for about 20 minutes or well browned.

 

 

Herb and Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

These bites of goodness disappeared so fast I almost did not get a picture!

Herb and Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

8 ounces plain goat cheese

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (leaves stripped from stalk and finely chopped)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh mint, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or tot taste

1/2 cup crushed corn chips

15-20 Baby Bella mushrooms, stems and gills removed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small mixing bowl, blend goat cheese, herbs, and salt. Mix well to combine
Wash the mushrooms and pat them dry. Remove the stems and the gills. Scoop the  goat cheese mixture into the mushroom caps, sprinkle with crushed corn chips, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown on top. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt before serving.

 

 

Steamed Artichoke with Lemon Butter

We have one huge artichoke plant in our garden, planted with dreams of growing a crop of artichokes. So far, nothing but gorgeous leaves have been produced. My daughter in law, Kristen, planted and babied this and has watched it anxiously to see if there was anything to harvest. On April 1, my husband bought a small artichoke and nestled in the center of this plant with a small April Fool! note stuck to the bottom. Kristen pulled at it, only realizing the joke when it came out so easily!  She had a good laugh, and so did the rest of us.  So far, even this has not prompted the giant plant to produce.

Wanting to grow our own has nothing to do with enjoying an artichoke while we wait. This is a special treat, but it does not need to wait until we have guests for dinner or a holiday. In fact, I think we enjoy it more when we make it the star attraction. There is nothing hard about preparing and cooking artichokes, but it does take a little time, so it is a special occasion when we have one. You can find this recipe all over the internet and in many cookbooks, but they don’t have our April Fool story!

Steamed Artichoke with Lemon Butter

1 or more Medium to Large Globe Artichokes

2 Lemons, 1 sliced and 1 juiced.

1 Bay Leaf (optional)

2 Teaspoons sallt

4 Tablespoons Butter

Add about an inch and a half of water to a saucepan large enough to set the artichoke in and leave room to cover.  Add salt and bring to boil while geetting the artichoke ready to cook.

  1. Cut off a slice of the bottom and any stem so the artichoke will sit upright. Then slice off the top of the artichoke about an inch and a half down.
  2.  With sharp kitchen shears, cut off just the tip of all the leaves, going around the artichoke until all leaves have the sharp little point on the the edge of the leaves removed.
  3. Reduce heat enough for water to simmer. Set the artichoke into simmeringng water.  Lay lemon slices on top and around. Add bay leaf, if using.  Then cover.
  4. Steam the artichoke for 25 to 35 minutes, depending on size. When you are able to pull one of the leaves out easily, it is done. Remove to serving dish, sitting upright.
  5.  Melt butter and add lemon juice.

Serve the artichoke with lemon butter on the side.To eat the artichoke, pull off leaves, or petals, one at a time. Dip in lemon butter, Tightly grip the stem end of the petal. Place in mouth, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal .

With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the “choke”) covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat. Continue until all of the petals are removed.

With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the “choke”) covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat. Many think this is the best part of the artichoke!

Cook’s Note: An alternative dipping sauce is mayonnaise with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Lime Marinade and Herb Salad for Steak

herbs

This lime marinade has become my new favorite. Couple with the fresh herb salad topping and hit a homerun  with those at your table!.  The fresh brightness of herbs and tangy lime juice adds layers of flavor to grilled meats, fish or chicken. I use Mexican Mint Marigold in my herb mix because tarragon does not grow well here, but if you have tarragon, use that. We will have this again tonight with sides of baked potato and crispy lettuces, also from our garden. This is my version of Danny Boome’s, used when grilling flank steak on his Food Network show Rescue Chef.

lettuce

Lime Marinade

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
1 orange, juiced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in a large Ziploc bag. Add the steak and refrigerate for 30 -45 minutes, turning occasionally.  Remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature before grilling or pan-searing steak.

Herb Salad

1 small bunch Italian parsley
1  small bunch sweet basil
1 small bunch cilantro
1 small bunch Mexican Mint Marigold  (or use fresh Tarragon if you have it.)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 limes, juiced
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Wash the herbs and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Remove the leaves from stems and chop slightly. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Add  to chopped herbs a few spoonsful at a time until mixture is lightly coated with dressing.  You may not need all the dressing, but serve any remaining to pass with a small spoon at the table.

 

Smoked Gouda Bites

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Savory often trumps sweet for little bites of something for any gathering. These goodies remind me of cheese and crackers, almost as simple but with a touch of fancy!  My almost 13 year old granddaughter loves smoked Gouda cheese, so I will make these for her at our next family gathering.

Smoked Gouda Bites

1 9 inch purchased refrigerated pie crust

4 slices smoked Gouda cheese

garlic salt, or your favorite seasoned salt

1 24 count miniature muffin pan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Set refrigerated pie crust out for at least 15 minutes prior to preparation. Cut each cheese slice into 6 pieces, making 24. On a lightly floured cloth or pastry sheet, unroll crust then roll out very thin from center, leaving a rectangular shape rather than circle. Using a paring knife, cut  into 24 squares. They don’t have to be perfect squares.  Put squares into ungreased muffin pan, gently pushing down but leaving edges sticking up..  Place in  oven for 3 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and put one small cheese piece into each crust.  Return to oven for 8 minutes, or until crusts are golden brown and cheese is melted.

Remove Gouda bites from pan and serve. These are delicious when they are hot, but serve well at room temperature.

Baked Antipasto Ring

IMG_1815There are so many recipes that use crescent roll dough as the ingredient which makes the recipe both quick and delicious. This antipasto ring is simple enough to make for supper on a busy night and just right  for an appetizer for guests. Everyone loves antipasto, and you can stuff this pastry with a variety of antipasto ingredients.

Baked Antipasto Ring

2 cans crescent roll dough (I like to use Immaculate Baking Company’s product

1/2  cup well drained roasted red bell peppers, about 4 pieces

8 slices provolone cheese, halved

1/4 pound sliced peppered salami

1/4 pound prosciutto

1/4 pound sliced deli ham

pickled yellow hot pepper rings

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped

optional:  sliced black or kalamata olives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 8 rectangles. On ungreased 12-inch pizza pan, arrange rectangles in ring so short sides of rectangles form a circle in center. (Dough will overlap and part of the ends will hang over edge of pan. Dough ring should resemble a sun.)

Spread roasted red bell peppers towards center of ring on bottom halves of rectangles. Top with half of the cheese. Layer salami, ham and prosciutto slices over cheese. Arrange pepper rings over top. Sprinkle with olives if desired. Cover with remaining half of cheese.

Bring each dough rectangle hanging over side of pan up over stacked filling, tucking dough under bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around sandwich until entire filling is enclosed. Sprinkle with black peppe and chopped fresh rosemary. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes before slicing.

Crab Puffs

crabpuffs

A recipe given to me by a neighbor whose name I sadly can no longer remember stayed with our family long after the neighbor (or we) moved!  This is a treat we often make at Christmas, but it is delicious for brunch or a light lunch anytime of the year. The English muffin halves don’t need to be cut if it is more than an appetizer. It is one of my most often requested treats. I like to keep a Ziploc bag of Crab Puffs in the freezer this time of year to pull out when needed

CRAB PUFFS
1 5 ounce jar of Old English cheese spread

1/2 cup soft butter

1 can king crab meat

2 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 tsp. seasoned salt

1 teaspoon garlic salt or to taste

2 Tablespoons chopped Parsley

1 Tablespoons lemon juice

6 count package English muffins

If you want to make these more colorful, add 2 Tablespoons chopped pimiento.

Combine ingredients and spread on English muffins. Place on flat surface in freezer for 30 minutes or longer.  When ready to serve, remove from freezer and cut each muffin half into fourths. Bake for 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Crab Puffs may be made ahead and stored in Ziploc bags in the freezer.  .

Caprese

IMG_0465One of the simplest summer salads is this most beautiful and flavor filled Italian favorite It is a family favorite, and I can (and have!) eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Insalata caprese (salad of Capri) consists of freshly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella topped with basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  In Italy it is usually served as antipasto rather than as a side salad. The classic recipe has only olive oill, but we enjoy adding a splash of aged balsamic vinegar.  Home grown tomatoes and full fat mozzarella guarantee a satisfying, refreshing plate of goodness.

Caprese

3 large, ripe tomatoes.

3-4 slices mozzarella

fresh basil leaves

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

balsamic vinegar, optional

Slice tomatoes thinly and arrange on large plate. Cut mozzarella into triangles or slice if using ball of mozzarella.  Add to tomatoes and garnish with whole basil leaves.  Drizzle olive oil over the top and add salt and pepper. Pass balsamic vinegar.

 

 

Zucchini Bites

002We enjoy zucchini in a variety of ways because I think this squash is one of the most versatile as well as easy to prepare vegetables. Usually I slice the zucchini lengthwise before adding some toppings and baking. Here I have simply applied the principle “less is more” by making it a finger food.  These bite sized rounds (well maybe 2 bites) are a perfect appetizer as well as a side.  I think they would make a nice addition to a holiday dinner.

Zucchini Bites

2 medium zucchini squash

1/2 cup jarred marinara sauce – your choice.  We like spicy!  Save the rest of the jar to add to spaghetti sauce or chicken parmesan!

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

shaved parmesan cheese

Panko bread crumbs

Italian seasoning blend – I use Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset, or you can buy Italian Seasoned Panko

Heat oven to 375. Wash zucchini and pat dry.  Trim ends and stems, then slice into thick rounds (an inch or so).  Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Top each round with marinara (a little goes a long way).  Add a few parmesan shavings and sprinkle Panko crumbs on top. Bake for around 20 minutes, until squash is tender but not mushy.  Tops should be golden brown.

Cheese and Sausage Puffs

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These savory goodies just may be more popular than any sweet treat my family requests. I think it may be just that – because there seems to be such an overload of sweet things showing up at family gatherings and holiday parties between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the savories are particularly welcome.  I made these for our January 1, 2013 meal which our oldest son and his wife hosted.  This is the recipe used for our bunch for so many years.  And yes, you absolutely can make your own biscuit mix if you like.  I just happened to have Bisquick because I had used it in a different dish, but the mix you make yourself works equally well.

Cheese and Sausage Puffs   aka Sausage Balls

2 1/2 cups Bisquick

1 pound hot pork sausage

10 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese

For a spicier version, add finely diced jalapenos (2 or more) and 1 teaspoon Tabasco.  I used some homemade sauce given to us by our son and his wife.  She grew a bumper crop of Tabasco peppers this year, and he brewed them into a fine hot sauce. Please note: any time you are handling hot peppers, it is wise to cover your hands with food handler’s gloves or a sandwich bag.

Allow ingredients to come to room temperature.  Squash everything together (hands needed for this) and roll into balls about the size of a walnut. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 -400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.  Makes about 5 dozen.

I store these in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator if there are any left!