Fall Garden Greens Spanakopita


It's not technically fall yet, but whatever.  I have the greens in my garden which state otherwise.  To accompany our meal of lamb kabobs, I made what would otherwise be considered a fairly standard spanakopita, using all the tender greens bursting forth from our vegetable garden.  And, what an outstandingly healthy Mediterranean-ish way to use such a garden melange.  Even the children were smitten with it.

With all sorts of new studies carefully looking at the synergy between leafy greens which are cooked in extra virgin olive oil, and the bodies ability uptake more nutrients from those greens, this is not only tasty but heart healthy to boot. 

Ingredients
8 cups washed and dried greens coarsely chopped in any combination such as:  kale, beet greens, collards, spinach, swiss chard etc., large, coarse stems discarded
1 pound package thawed phyllo dough
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons UP Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 8 oz. whole milk ricotta
1 teaspoon corn starch
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

Instrucitons
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Brush a 9"x13" baking pan liberally with olive oil.

In a large saute pan over medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Add the diced onion and saute until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute before adding the greens and saute until cooked down, about 3 additional minutes.  Add the feta and ricotta to the greens and mix thoroughly.  Add 1 teaspoon cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of water and add to the greens.  Continue cooking over medium high heat until the mixture thickens and season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Allow the mixture to cool until just barely warm.

Take the thawed phyllo out of the refrigerator. Unroll the sheets and cover with a clean barely dampened towel.


Liberally brush three sheets or spray three sheets with extra virgin olive oil and layer one on top of another, lining the bottom and part way up the sides of the baking pan. Add 1/3 of the spinach mixture and spread evenly over the phyllo.  Continue brushing each sheet with olive oil and layering three sheets at a time followed by two more layers of spinach and ending with three sheets of phyllo on top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is deep golden brown and crisp.   Allow to cool slightly and cut into squares.

A Tiffin For All Seasons



Dear fellow parents of school aged children who abhor the mindless, non-traceable, and unsustainable, processed food-like substances being served at cafeterias in public schools around the country,

 I would like to take this moment to shamelessly plug a product I've had the opportunity to test drive, yet gain absolutely no monetary compensation for endorsing.  I have no affiliation with Amazon, or the company that manufactures these containers.  I found these sturdy leak-proof, food grade, BPA free, dishwasher safe, stainless steel-lined lunch "tiffins" shown above to be the bomb! 

They hold ample amounts of food and keep the temperature even for about 4 hours. I was able to pack a salad in one of the compartments and turkey meatloaf and gravy over mashed potatoes in another for a nutritious homemade lunch for my kids.  Click the picture to go to Amazon where I found them on sale.

Panzanella with Mozzarella Fresca & UP Certified Southern Hemisphere Olio Nuovo Extra Virgin Olive Oil























It sounds fancy, but panzanella is the epitome of honest, straight forward comfort food with a nod towards thrift.  Literally panzanella means "bread salad". In Italy, traditionally, it was a way to use stale or leftover bread.  It's almost always a summer affair, as the star of the show are the plump vine ripened tomatoes that get slathered in peppery, throat catching, emerald green olive oil...

"BUT WAIT!", you say, "There's no dazzlingly fresh (olio nuovo) Northern Hemisphere extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over such a salad."  And you are correct, as this will not be the case until the Northern Hemisphere crushes its first olives in approximately 3 months from now.  By that time local, in-season heirloom tomatoes are just about, if not totally gone until next year!!!

Hold up, don't start hyperventilating into that paper bag just yet! Your panzanella can still be epic.  There's a whole other hemisphere that produces fresh nutrient laden extra virgin olive oil counter to the Norther Hemisphere.  The extra virgin olive oil coming from the Southern Hemisphere, countries such as Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Uruguay, etc.is the freshest olive oil that you can get your hands on right now.  The trick is making sure it is fresh; that means it's from the most recent harvest which happened anywhere between March and June of 2014. So, go forth and find a UP Certified Freshly Made Southern Hemisphere extra virgin olive oil.  Anything but the freshest extra virgin olive oil here would be sacrilegious... Tuscany, eat your heart out.

Salad

1 sweet or sour baguette  (torn in to pieces)
2 pounds sweet, perfectly juicy heirloom tomatoes, diced 1"
1/2 cup pitted olives, your choice on variety
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
1/4 cup torn flat leaf parsley leaves
8 oz. mozzarella fresca (you guessed it... torn)
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino
 2 tablespoons freshest UP Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the planet

Dressing
1/3 cup freshest UP Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the planet
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves super finely minced
fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Directions
Preheat the grill or your broiler.  Toss the torn bread with fresh UP EVOO, and either grill it until nicely browned on the edges and crisp, or place on a sheet pan and broil until well toasted.

Arrange the bread on a nice serving platter or in a large bowl. 

Make the dressing by thoroughly whisking all the ingredients together well in a large bowl.  Add the cut tomatoes and gently toss with the dressing.  Spoon the tomatoes and the dressing lovingly over the top of the toasted bread.

Scatter the mozzarella, olives, parsley, and basil leaves over the top of the tomatoes.  Just before serving top with grated Pecorino and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Serve immediately while the bread still has a bit of crunch.  

Serves 6-8     

Toasted Coconut & Macadamia Nut Baklava with Persian Lime-Honey Syrup

















It all started with a dream one night... I'm on a tropical island, the warm breeze gently lifts the wide brim of my sunhat as I lounge in dappled shade beneath the coconut trees.  Strangely, instead of sipping on the prerequisite tropical drink with an umbrella, I'm eating sticky, honey drenched baklava... yes, baklava.  Leave it to my dozing brain to come up with such an non sequitur.

In my attempt to rationalize this odd mash-up of food and locale, I decided that what I was really eating under those coconut trees was a tropical version of baklava complete with coconut, macadamia nuts, and hints of lime.

Toasted Coconut, Macadamia Nut & Persian Lime Baklava


Ingredients
1 pound package of phyllo dough, thawed and trimmed to fit a 9"x13" baking pan
1 cup raw, good quality local honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups + 1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 Persian limes zested
3 cups macadamia nuts
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1 pinch of salt
1 cup extra virgin coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F and set the rack to the middle position in the oven.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the macadamia nuts and coconut flakes for 5-7 minutes until just barely golden brown and fragrant.  Allow the nut-coconut mixture to cool, combine with 1/3 cup of sugar, pinch of salt, and finely chop in a food processor or by hand.

Heat the honey, remaining sugar, lime zest, and 2 cups of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, strain, add the vanilla, and reserve.

Heat the coconut oil to bring it to a liquid state.

Cover the phyllo sheets with a slightly damp tea towel

Grease a 9"x13" baking pan with coconut oil.  

Begin assembling the baklava by layering 5 phyllo sheets, brushing each with coconut oil before covering with the next.  Add two tablespoons of the coconut/macadamia nut mixture, cover with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with coconut oil, and then another layer of coconut-macadamia nut mixture, and so on.  The last layer at the top should consist of 5 sheets of phyllo each brushed with coconut oil before layering on the next, including the final sheet on top.

With the sharpest knife in your possession, cut the pan into 2"x2" diamond or square shapes, being sure to cut firmly through to the bottom and all the way to the sides of the pan.

Bake the baklava for 35-40 minutes until deep golden brown and toasted.  Immediately pull from the oven and pour the reserved honey-lime syrup over the top of the still hot baklava.  Make sure to drench ever cut and corner of the pan evenly.

Allow to cool and serve sprinkled with addition toasted coconut, candied lime zest, and or macadamia nuts if desired.  

Traditional Portuguese Vinha D'Alhos AKA "Portuguese Carnitas"




















You've probably heard of Mexican style carnitas, but have you heard of the flavor explosion that is Portuguese Carnitas (aka Vinha D'Alhos)?

One of the most obvious deviations from the process of making traditional carnitas, is that the preparation for Vinha D'Alhos calls for the cubed pork shoulder to take a dip for no less than four days in a spicy, vinegary, wine, olive oil, and garlic laden marinade of flavor-love. 

After the initial marinating, the rest of the process follows a fairly similar trajectory for making Mexican style carnitas.  However, I must confess, as much as I adore traditional carnitas, Vinha D'Alhos has been a game changer for me as the depth of flavor is spectacular.  As if that wasn't enough, this recipe has made me the popular kid among those in the know.  When I make it, I obtain a sort of rock star status, especially among my Portuguese friends who claim it's difficult to find anyone who knows the recipe.  They state that if their grandmother isn't making it, they're simply forced to suffer without it.

1 cup really good quality barrel aged red wine vinegar - Pinot Noir wine vinegar would be excellent
1 cup good quality dry white wine
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup (optional) UP Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil
12 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup sweet or hot paprika (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 dried bay leaves torn
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
fresh ground pepper to taste
3 Pounds boneless cubed pork shoulder cut in 1" cubes, trimmed of excess fat

Place all the ingredients except the bay leaves, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and pork in a blender or the bowl of a food processor.  Process until well combined.  In a large sealable container, place the pork and add the marinade and bay leaves to it.  Mix the pork with the marinade to coat well and refrigerate for 4 days.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Arrange the marinated pork cube in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Roast the pork in the upper part of the oven for 1 hour, flipping the pork after 1/2 hour so that all sides brown and caramelize.  Lower the heat to 350 F. and cover the pan with foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes until the pork is fork tender.

Optional Step - with the remaining 1/4 cup of UP Certified Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you can re-fry the pork.  This results in a mind-boggling and absolutely spectacular crispy-crust on the exterior of the pork that is akin crisp bacon.  However, the cracklings will have all the flavor of linguica.  To take it this extra step, add the drained, oven roasted pork to a pan with evoo set over medium-high heat.  Brown the pork in batches until crispy. <=== This is like insanity here, so be prepared for your reality to be forever altered. 

 Serve with crusty bread and/or mashed potatoes slathered with all the lovely pan juice.

Alternatively, (because this is summer after all) you can wrap the pork in foil and cook it over medium indirect heat on the grill.  Uncover the pork after 45 minutes and allow it to brown on all sides.

Serves 6-8 generously

Spicy Baklouti Chili Gumbo



Ingredients
1/2 pound smoked spicy sausage, such as Andouille sausage, cut into 1/2" slices
1/2 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 large celery rib, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 red pepper finely diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 green onions finely sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 dried bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large tomato diced
2 cups sliced okra (optional)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Baklouti Fused Chili Olive Oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Rice to serve

Directions
In a large, heavy pot heat the Baklouti chili oil over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown on both sides.  Set the chicken aside and add the sausage to the pot.  Saute the sausage slices until browned, and set aside.

In the same pot, set over medium heat, add the flour to the oil and pan drippings stirring and scraping to incorporate.  Cook the flour over medium heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until it turns a deep rich brown.  Be careful not to go overboard and cook it until it burns!

Add the remaining two tablespoons of Baklouti chili oil to the flour mixture along with the garlic, peppers, onion, celery, and okra.  Saute over medium low heat until the vegetables start to become tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock, tomatoes, and Worcestershire sauce to the pot and stir to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until  until the gumbo thickens.  Add the Chicken and sausage back to the pot.  Lower the heat and simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes. Add the shrimp during the last two minutes and cook through.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.   

To serve, ladle the gumbo over rice and top with the sliced green onion and chopped parsley.

Serves 6-8      

Traditional Style Oxtail in Clay Pot - Recipe to follow!


Zucchini Gingerbread with California Toasted Almond Oil

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ingredients
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup wholewheat flour
4 large eggs
2 cups freshly grated zucchini and/or carrots
1 cup California Toasted Almond Oil
1 cup molasses 
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated cane sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons dry ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Grease two standard loaf pans, or one 9"x13" pan.

Whisk the oil, molasses, sugars, eggs, and zucchini in a large bowl.  Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix just until no dry spots of flour remain. 

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in to the center comes out clean.  Cool and serve with whipped cream.