Grilled Greek Chicken

Chicken breast can be used in many dishes and it is great during the spring and summer seasons to be grilled. You can easily marinate chicken, which gives it lots of flavor, but a great way that gives a lot of flavor is by using a dry rub.
The first thing to do when using chicken breast or any meat in general, is letting it get to room temperature before grilling. It helps it cook evenly and efficiently. Another great way of having chicken breast cook evenly is pounding it out to the same thickness. Place the chicken breast in between two sheets of clear wrap and use the flat side of a meat tenderizer to flatten the chicken out.
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-Now the way I make the grilled chicken breast Greek is by three simple spices: Salt, pepper & dried Greek oregano. That’s it. Keep it simple! The Greek oregano itself bring such a beautiful, earthy aroma to the chicken and that’s what I love about it. One more thing you can do to add a little pop of freshness and acidity is lemon zest, which will only make this even better!
-So after you have pounded out the chicken breast, all you have to do is add the spices to both sides of the chicken breasts. You don’t have to rub it on, it will stay just fine.
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*Make sure you do not cross contaminate anything. Use the same tools for raw chicken when handling it and use a different tools for handling cooked chicken. You want to eat yummy Greek seasoned chicken breast, not salmonella!*
– When it comes to grilling the chicken I usually keep the fire on a medium direct heat. You want to make sure your chicken gets to 165 degrees, which is the recommended safe internal temperature. The best thing to do is invest in a thermometer for food. The total time to cook the chicken takes around 10-15 minutes. This honestly depends on your grill, whether you are grilling inside or outside and it you are cooking it with the grill cover closed. This is why it is important to have a thermometer because all appliances are different.
– After the chicken is done let it rest a bit. You want to preserve those beautiful juices on the inside. Use this over salad, side with rice and vegetables, you will love it!
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Pesto Greek Style!

Pesto is a fantastic herb sauce that can be used in many ways, but my favorite way of using it is in pasta. I always tend to have leftover pasta, so making a quick pesto to add more flavor and make a complete different dish the next day is the way to go.
Pesto is originally from Italy and usually is a combination of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. The way I have turned it into a Greek style pesto is by adding fresh Greek oregano, red pepper flakes and lemon juice.
The best way to make a pesto is using the most fresh ingredients! So this is what I did for my Greek style pesto:
– Ingredients –
1. Handful of fresh basil
2. Another small handful of fresh Greek Oregano
3. Juice from 1/2 a lemon
4. About 1/4 of a cup of pine nuts
5. 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
6. A punch of salt, pepper & red pepper flakes
7. 1 clove of fresh garlic
8. Olive oil

– Assembly –
1. Start by adding to a food processor the basil, oregano, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper & red pepper flakes. Blend them until everything gets chopped up evenly.
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2. Once everything gets chopped up nicely, while the processor is on, add a stream of olive oil until the mixture turns into a smooth sauce. It’s also a lot easier to mix into a pasta when it’s smoother and not chunky.
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– Last night we had made some manestra, which is orzo, and got a rotisserie chicken (which can be your best friend on weeknights, very useful in many recipes). So for a lovely lunch today, this pesto turned yesterdays pasta in a chicken pesto pasta dish for lunch today! Don’t ever think of left-overs just as that terms describes them. You can easily take yesterdays food into something different the next day. Don’t ever get rid of left-over food!
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Greek Pastichio

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Greek Pastichio is one of my favorite dishes and we make it very often in our house. I love when my mom makes us some pastichio and I learned everything for this dish from her.
Yes, many describe this dish as, “the Greek lasagna”, but we got a whole different flavor profile in this dish. Definitely give this a try, you will love it! To see this video demo of this visit my Youtube page & hit subscribe: DespinasGreekEats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV66tHUqLHE
*Recipe*
– Ingredients for the bechamel sauce –
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
Salt, pepper & fresh nutmeg
– Ingredients for the ground beef filling –
1 lb ground beef
1 onion mined finely
1 cup tomato sauce
Salt, pepper & olive oil
– Ingredients for the pasta filling –
1/2 package of Pastichio pasta (if you cannot find, you can use penne)
6 eggs
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt, pepper

*How to make the bechamel sauce*
1. In a pot melt the butter.
2. Add the flour slowly and once all is added keep stirring and cook for about 1 minute.
3. Add in the milk and stir until you get a slightly thick pouring consistency.
4. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper. Then grind in about 1/2 a tsp of fresh nutmeg.
*How to make the ground beef filling*
1. In a pan, pour about 1 tsp of olive oil and saute the onions until you start smelling them and they soften a little.
2. Add in the ground beef and cook until it browns.
3. Add in the tomato sauce, a pinch of salt and pepper and let the mixture cook down until there isn’t a lot of liquid left.
*How to make the pasta filling*
1. In a large pot, add water about 3/4 of the way up.
2. Once it boils, add a large pinch of salt.
3. Add the pasta in and cook for 11 minutes.
4. Strain the pasta and let it cool down for about 5 minutes.
5. Once the pasta has cooled slightly, add in the eggs, feta, a pinch of salt and pepper.
— Assembly —
1. In a baking dish, grease it and on the bottom add 4 sheets on filo dough.
2. Add the pasta filling over the filo dough.
3. Add the ground beef over the pasta.
4. Lastly, add the bechamel sauce as the top layer.
5. Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 50 minutes or until golden brown.

Carlo’s Bakery Officially Open in Atlanta!

So today is one of the greatest days of my life because I got to meet the one and only Buddy Valastro from Carlo’s Bakery, AKA CAKE BOSS! They opened up a spot at Perimeter Mall in Atlanta and it is amazing! Let’s just say that their food is just as great as it looks like on tv. If you live in the Atlanta area definitely stop by and get something.
Buddy is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet! Awesome seeing Mauro, Maurizio, Frankie, Marissa, Buddy’s kids.

Cannoli Sandwich Cookies!

Now you’re probably thinking, what do cannolis have to do with Greek food?
“Mia fatsa, mia ratsa” or “Una fatsa, una ratsa” are sayings that the Greeks and Italians have used with each country for many years. This quote means, “one face, one race”. Greek and Italians have many similarities with one another especially when it comes to the cultures and traditions.

Now you’re probably thinking, what do cannolis have to do with Greek food?
“Mia fatsa, mia ratsa” or “Una fatsa, una ratsa” are a saying that the Greeks and Italians have used with each country for many years. This quote means, “one face, one race”. Greek and Italians have many similarities with one another especially when it comes to the cultures and traditions.
A couple of weeks ago I was testing to make cannolis from scratch and my recipe didn’t go as planned. I rolled the cannolis out, the dough felt great and once I put them in the fryer they fell apart! Now I didn’t want to waste all of this beautiful dough, so since the cannoli shells were cut out in circles already I thought why not pop them into the oven and see what happens. They turned into amazing sandwich cookies, thin and crunchy!
So yes, I made up this recipe from another that had failed, but isn’t that how all amazing recipes come together??
Here is the recipe below for the cookies and filling!

– Ingredients for the shells –
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp shortening
4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sweet red wine
2 eggs

– Ingredients for the filling –
4 cups ricotta cheese, strained well
2- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Mini chocolate chips

– Directions –
1. In a big mixing bowl combine the flour with the butter and shortening until in resembles crumbs. Make sure the butter and shortening are cold.
2. Add in the sugar, cinnamon and mix.
3. Next add in the eggs, vanilla and wine and combine until a dough forms. If the dough is a bit sticky add a little bit of flour.
4. Roll the dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
5. You can cut these into whatever shapes you want, but I used a circle cookie cutter. Divide the dough and roll it out pretty thin about 1/4 of an inch. Bake in a 400° oven for 8-10 minutes or until the bottom begin to become golden brown.
6. Let the cookies cool completely.

For the Filling:
1. In a bowl combine the ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and mini chocolate chips.
2. Using a piping bag or just a spoon take 2 cookies, put the filling on one of them and then sandwich them.

Chiffonade + Veggies = Spanakopita!

Chiffonade: knife technique that simply means to cut into long, slim strips *pictured below*. The reason I bring this up today is because this post will be all about the well known, Greek savory dish called Spanakopita (spinach pie)!

Chiffonade: knife technique that simply means to cut into long, slim strips *pictured below*. The reason I bring this up today is because this post will be all about the well known, Greek savory dish called Spanakopita (spinach pie)!

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Greek Spanakopita is a favorite for many Greeks. I grew up with my yiayia (grandmother) making Spanakopita and I have learned over all these years how to make a stunning spinach. The thing that makes our spanakopites the best (yes, I’m bragging), I think is the greens we put into it and of course quality feta cheese.
This recipe is very easy to assemble. The only thing that takes longest in honestly the preparation of the greens. We also put just a tablespoon of trahana. This is a dry grain, couscous like. We mainly put this into the spanakopita to help absorb any extra moisture. You should be able to find this at most international, Mediterranean stores or even online.

 

Preparation is very important. The spinach and leaks need to be cleaned and let to dry as much as possible. The best way to get the leaks cleaned, of all the dirt, is filling a large bowl with water, splitting them stalks either in half or in quarters, and letting them soak for at least 30 minutes. All the dirt will drop to the bottom of the bowl. The spinach should be cut using the chiffonade technique, the leaks should be cut thin, the parsley, dill and green onions should also be cut thin and even. The time you spend preparing and cooking, do it efficiently. All you need is mis en place! This is a French term meaning to have “everything in its place”. This is why preparation is so important. When it comes to putting it all together, it will be so much quicker.

Here’s the recipe:
– Ingredients –
About 10 cups of spinach *chiffonade*
2 leaks or about 2 cups
6 stalks of fresh green onions
1 cup of  fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
3 eggs
2 tbsp trahanas grain
3 cups of crumbled feta cheese (the feta that is still in it’s brine liquid is best)
Butter
Oil
Salt
Pepper
Filo pastry sheets
– Directions –
Preparation is very important. The spinach and leaks need to be cleaned and let to dry as much as possible. The best way to get the leaks cleaned, of all the dirt, is filling a large bowl with water, splitting them stalks either in half or in quarters, and letting them soak for at least 30 minutes. All the dirt will drop to the bottom of the bowl. The spinach should be cut using the chiffonade technique, the leaks should be cut thin, the parsley, dill and green onions should also be cut thin and even. The time you spend preparing and cooking, do it efficiently. All you need is mis en place! This is a French term meaning to have “everything in its place”. This is why preparation is so important. When it comes to putting it all together, it will be so much quicker.
1. Clean the greens and put them to dry.
2. Chop them in the forms I have spoken about above.
3.  Now for the assembly, add the spinach, leaks, green onions, parsley and dill in a large bowl and mix.
4. Mix the eggs in a separate bowl slightly and add them into the greens and mix.
5. Add the trahana, mix.
6. Add the feta cheese, mix.
7. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper and mix it all thoroughly.
8. Keeping the filling aside, now it’s time to prepare the base.
9. Melt some butter and add some olive oil to it and keep it aside because you need it for the filo pastry.
10. In a baking dish or tray, using the butter/oil mixture, butter the dish well and begin adding a sheet of filo dough making sure it covers the bottom. With a silicon brush or regular one, brush some of the butter mixture on that piece of filo dough. Put another piece on top of that one and repeat until you have 4 sheets on the bottom.
11. Once you have that base, add a handful of the filling and then add 2-3 sheets on filo on top of the filing. Continue making these layers until the filling is finished. Make sure to always add butter between the layers of filo dough so they don’t get too dry.
12. Add a layer on 4 sheets of filo on the top and brush with the butter mixture.
13. In a preheated oven at 400 degrees, bake for 55-60 minutes or until the filo is golden brown and crispy.
14. Any questions? Email me at despinasgreekeats@gmail.com
15. You can also visit here for the link to my Youtube demo video for this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQfBVrtxOV4