A Little OPA, Means a Lot of Flavor

Salads / September 26, 2013

I’ve done it now. I’m officially Greek. Not just by marriage, although that seems to satisfy other Greeks that we meet knowing that living with a Greek has it’s own special set of milestones. However, once you have Tzatziki sauce under your fingernails, garlic embedded in your skin, ground lamb on your elbows, and lemon and mint taking over your kitchen, YOU ARE GREEK.

I mean this in the BEST possible way. It is wonderful to smell all the fresh herbs and tart pungent flavors of the Greek cuisine. They’re alive, colorful, and texturally so varied that it’s hard to know if you should use a fork, or just replace every utensil in your silverware drawer with a giant pita. I opted for plates and napkins, but it’s totally up to you!

I started the adventure with a recipe from Cooking Light; so fun and easy that I’m sure I will make this again and again. (The text of the recipe is below. If you want it fresh from the web, click here.) I changed a couple things, but overall, this is pretty fool proof. (If you’re a fool you have a lot of other problems but making this dish won’t be one of them.)

Start with FRESH ingredients. I cannot overstate how important this is for the full effect. Next, you will need lots of napkins, and a sink full of hot, soapy water to keep your hands clean in between steps.

Okay, a couple of tips. When you’re prepping the thyme, don’t be tempted to take a shortcut and just trim and mince. It is really better if you use just the leaves and only the pliable, green stems adjacent to them. Stay AWAY from the stalks. If your herbs are fresh, it’s easy to slide your fingers down the stalk, opposite of the growth angle, and just slide it until the leaves comes off. For the mint, it’s easy. Fold and cut into small pieces. Be sure and WASH both herbs. And no store bought lemon juice. JUICE IT YOURSELF. (Skip this step and you’ll have a war with those sitting around the table.)

Also, they really DO cook in only 7 minutes plus the 3 minutes under the broiler. Don’t do it any longer. They cook a bit more after you take them out.

(Serve with poppy seed french bread slices, toasted under the broiler with olive oil, and fresh pepper and cracked sea salt.)


Personal Greek Meat Loaves with Sauteed Root Vegetables

Serves 10 to 12


Ingredients:

2 lbs 85% lean ground beef
1 lb ground lamb
½ large white onion chopped finely
2 eggs beaten
1/3 C chopped
fresh mint
24 white pearl onions
½ C golden raisins
½ T coriander powder
1 t Moroccan seasoning (found in stores)
¼ C plain bread crumbs
2-3 T 2% milk
Salt and pepper
2 T of a fruity balsamic vinegar like fig


Method:

  • In a large bowl, blend by hand all ingredients except pearl onions. Set aside.
  • Boil a large pot of water. Add pearl onions without peeling. Let boil for 3 minutes. Remove and shock in ice water.Then by hand, squeeze each onion to pull off the skin. This method feels a lot like when you’re squeezing out a cooked garlic clove from the head after roasting. Some pop out clean, others require a little coaxing, but the skins will come off. Set aside.
  • Using two regular sized muffin tins, carefully divide the mixture evenly among the 24 openings,filling to the top of the opening.You can lightly grease if needed but there’s plenty of fat already.Top each with a pearl onion, and drizzle the onion with the balsamic.Cook in a 375 degree F oven for about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and serve with a sprinkling of fresh mint.
  • Sauteed Root Vegetables: Slice 5 carrots and 4 C fingerling potatoes into large pieces, saute in a large saucepan with olive oil and salt and pepper. Before almost done, add about 1 C of orange juice and simmer for another 10 minutes until tender and juice is gone. Serve.


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