Greek Zucchini

If I didn’t love meat so much, I could easily be a vegetarian.  I love vegetables of all kinds, and especially fresh vegetables.  We eat a wide variety of vegetables, cooked in many different ways, all the time.  Maybe my love of all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables stems from growing up in Southern California, where fresh fruit and vegetables are always in abundance.  My husband did not grow up eating a wide variety of either, but after 18 years of being together, he has grown to love eating his vegetables too.  But then again, he really doesn’t have much choice if he wants to eat.  We still have to work on him with his fruits though, but at least he does eat his vegetables.  The climates in Southern California and Greece are very similar and are very friendly towards growing a wide variety of vegetables.  Zucchini is prolific in both areas.

People often ask me what is my favorite type of food to cook.  Because I am a very adventurous eater, I love cooking all kinds of foods.  I really enjoy planning “themed” meals the most though.  If I am cooking something Southwestern, then I want the whole meal to be Southwestern, or in this case, Greek.  When I made my Greek Chicken and Brussels sprouts and barley salad, It Looks Greek to MeBrussels Sprouts & Barley Salad, I also wanted some kind of Greek vegetables to accompany the rest of the plate.  Because I have so many cookbooks, and many different ethnic cookbooks as well, it is real easy for me to just go find something special  from my every-growing culinary library.  After a delicious researching expedition, I decided to make Kolokythia me skordoke ladi or braised zucchini with garlic and olive oil.  This simple and tasty recipe hails from the Greek Island of Corfu.  It is full of garlic and full of flavor; two of my favorites.

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Greek Zucchini

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1 1/2 lbs zucchini, sliced

1/3 cup olive oil

2 TBSP garlic

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup dry white wine

salt & pepper to taste

red pepper flakes to taste

1 TBSP Peruvian peppers, optional

1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped

 

In a hot skillet, saute the zucchini, garlic, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes and Peruvian peppers in the olive oil for about 5-7 minutes, or until the zucchini has softened a bit.  Then add the water and wine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for about 15 minutes, or until the zucchini is tender and the liquid has evaporated.  Mix in the oregano and serve.

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Brussels Sprouts & Barley Salad

Since I have become such a big fan of Brussels sprouts, I almost always have some on hand, which means I am always on the lookout for fun and creative new recipes for them.  I also like barley a lot too.   I was searching for some kind of creative side dish to have with my Greek chicken,  It Looks Greek to Me and voila, I found something intriguing, and then I tweaked it by changing this and adding that, to make it my own, just like I always do.  As I have said many times, the Mediterranean diet is my favorite style of food.  Grains play a very prominent role in the Mediterranean diet, as they are a great source of protein.  I love all kinds of grains, from breads to rice to barley and cous cous, and on and on.  The recipe I found called for farro and Brussels sprouts.  I could not find any farro, but I did have barley, which is similar, and thus, a new summer salad was created.  This Brussels sprout and barley salad is also very healthy as well tasty.  I love cooking like this.  I get inspired by the darnedest things.  I never know how or when my muse will step in with new creative ideas, but I’ve learned to just go with the flow and accept it when she shows up.  I don’t question her; I just follow her lead and go where she takes me.  I am just as adventurous with experimenting with different foods as I am with life in general.  My motto – “Bring it on!”

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Brussels Sprouts and Barley Salad

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The Barley

1 1/2 cups barley

3 cups water

a dash of salt

1 TBSP olive oil

 

Cook the barley just like you would rice.   Put everything together into a saucepan, bring it to a full, rapid boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is soft and plump.

 

1 lb Brussels sprouts, shredded

1/2 red onion, small dice

5 bacon strips, cooked then sliced or cut

1 TBSP garlic

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

salt & pepper to taste

3-4 TBSP olive oil

2-3 TBSP balsamic vinegar

I TBSP of fresh basil, chiffonade

1 TBSP lemon verbena, chiffonade, optional

2-3 TBSP Parmigiano cheese

 

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Combine the Brussels sprouts, garlic, onions, and salt & pepper and then saute in a hot skillet with olive oil for about 5-7 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts and onions are soft.  Once everything is cooked, add all the cooked ingredients, as well as all the rest of the ingredients, except the Parmigaino cheese, to the barley and toss everything together to thoroughly combine everything.  Top the salad with the cheese right before serving. This healthy and versatile salad can be eaten warm, at room temperature or even cold if you like that way.  Both the barley and the walnuts give this salad a very nutty taste.

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An Argentine Wedding In California

My dear friend Priscilla, whom you have all gotten to know through my posts, and her sister Kelly are featured as my guest chefs for July.  Priscilla and I have known each other for most of our lives, dating back to junior high school in Pasadena, California through Broomfield/Westminster, Colorado today.  Priscilla and Kelly are both fabulous chefs and cooks.  They both inherited this trait from their beautiful mother Ana.  Ana and Kelly used to own and operate The Tea Room, located in Sierra Madre, California, where Kelly and Ana used to make all the wonderful foods from scratch everyday.  The Tea Room was often frequented by celebrities, and was well loved by everyone.  The Tea Room is still going strong, but Kelly and Ana sold the business a few years ago and now enjoy their family life even more.

The Santo family (Priscilla and Kelly’s maiden name) emigrated to Southern California from Rosario, Argentina, which is not far from Buenos Aires, many moons ago, and all but Priscilla, have made Southern California their home ever since.  The Santo family is still very proudly connected to their Argentine heritage.  Priscilla made Colorado her home a few years before I did, and believe it or not, we still live only about 10 minutes away from each other, just like when we were kids.  Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Priscilla and Kelly, the two master pastry chefs for the Santo/Perez wedding.

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Priscilla and Ana, the Santo matriarch.  Te amo muchos mes Amigas!

IMG_0065Priscilla and Kelly’s niece Madison just got married a couple of weeks ago, at a ranch in Temecula, California.  It was a beautiful wedding with a very Argentine theme, complete with a Gaucho Grill.

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Priscilla and Kelly did all the decorating, made all the cookies, the flower arrangements and the wedding cakes.  The wedding cakes!!!!!!  OMG!  They are fabulous works of art.  Priscilla and Kelly did such an amazing job on these cakes.  They were truly a labor of love.

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There were three wedding cakes for this very special occasion.  Each one is a culinary work of art.  One cake was a lemon cake with an elderflower buttercream.  Yum!  Doesn’t this sound exotic?  Another cake was a chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream filling, and the third cake was a combination of a yellow cake with a dulce de leche cream filling and a banana cake with a chocolate chip buttercream filling.  Just writing about these delectable cakes has already made me gain at least 10 pounds.  I wish I was there to help celebrate, but also for the cakes.

The cake production line.  Priscilla and Kelly were very busy baking and decorating cakes.

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Though they were very busy, the end results came out truly spectacular.  Look at all this attention to detail, which is a trademark of both Priscilla and Kelly.  They are culinary artists.  They think of everything, and pay so much attention to all the details, no matter how small or minute.  They both have a gift for making every event, even a simple dinner, a truly memorable moment.  This cake is decorated with fondant that looks exactly like the macrame hanging in the background.  They are both so gifted and talented.  I don’t have either the patience or the talent to make anything like this.  Hats off to both Priscilla and Kelly for such a loving tribute to their niece Madison, and also for sharing their culinary masterpieces with all of us.

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I am always looking for guest chefs.  So many of you are very talented, creative chefs and/or home cooks.  I love to showcase all of your talents as well as my own creations.  Everyone is always welcome to submit their culinary masterpieces through pictures and details, with at least one picture of the chef as well.  You just never know who my next guest chef will be here at “A Jeanne in the Kitchen”.  It just could be you!

 

 

 

It Looks Greek to Me

Unless I am having guests over for dinner, or am having a party, I don’t normally plan out my meals ahead of time, but I have noticed that lately, there have been a lot more recent meals with a Mediterranean flavor and flair.  Maybe, I am subconsciously preparing for our upcoming trip to Spain, which will be next month.  Yeah, that must be it.  Oh and also because I just happen to love those kinds of food too. Or it could be that the Mediterranean way of eating just seems to go hand in hand with the warmer, summer weather.  Whatever the reason, I just know I love eating this way, and we are doing it more often than usual these days, which is perfectly OK by me.

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The other day, we had our hottest day of the summer so far, and I made some chicken kebabs with a tangy olive, lime and mayonnaise mixture.  I served the kebabs with Greek vegetables and a Brussels sprouts and barley salad, warmed chiabatta with an olive oil and balsamic dipping sauce and a glass or two of a nice, light chenin blanc.  It was a perfect summer meal to enjoy out on our deck in the cool of the evening on a hot summer day.

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All of you know, I love to be creative with leftovers.  Even if I only have a little bit left, I will do my best to find a creative use for them.  I just hate throwing food away if it’s not necessary.  I had just a tiny bit of my olive-lime mixture left from when I made my grilled Brussels sprouts Grilled Brussels Sprouts with Green Olive Sauce  The challenge for these leftovers was that I did not have much left over at all, but I still wanted to use them up in a creative way.  I added more olives, more lime juice, garlic and red pepper flakes and mixed everything together with some mayonnaise, then put it all into the food processor to make it into a sauce.  This was the marinade for my chicken.   When making sauces and marinades, I often interchange mayonnaise and plain yogurt.  It really just depends on what I have on hand at the time.  And if you like something a little zestier, like I do, Miracle Whip works just fine too.

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I cubed the chicken into large chunks then mixed it into the marinade/sauce and let it rest for about 2 hours, before skewering it and grilling it.

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The finished dish, with a little extra sauce (cooked down) as a topper, was a Mediterranean delight.

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Mediterranean Calimari Steaks

There are 20 countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, all with different cultures and different languages.   These countries include Gibraltar, Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece and Turkey from the Southwestern and Eastern parts of Europe; Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine (The Gaza Strip) from the Levantine Coast, which flows from North to South; and Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco from the Northeastern and Western parts of Africa.  Surprisingly though, with all their differences, these countries share a lot of similarities in their foods.  A lot of fresh vegetables, a wide variety of grains, nuts, olives and olive oil and seafood are very significant foods enjoyed in all the diets of the Mediterranean people.   Aside from being very delicious foods, these foods are also very healthy as well.  A Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest diets around, if not the healthiest diet.  It also just happens to be one of my favorites.  We eat and enjoy a lot of Mediterranean influenced foods.

Usually when people think of calimari, they think of the very popular and delicious fried version, that is found around the world.  I love this kind of calimari too, and we eat it quite often.  But this certainly is not the only way to eat calimari.  No, no.  There are many ways to eat this delicious, vitamin-packed gem of the sea.  Calimari is rich in protein (16 grams per 3.5-ounce serving), B vitamins and vitamin C, and depending on how it is cooked, it is very low in calories too.  I also love calimari steaks too, but here in the Denver area, they are not common and are often hard to find.  When I do see them though, I always buy some.  Calimari steaks are the circular pieces cut from the mantles of large squid.  They are usually tenderized while they are being processed, and are often used as a cheaper alternative to abalone, which is very expensive, and in a lot of places, illegal to catch.  The first meal I prepared in my newly painted kitchen was a delicious meal of Mediterranean calimari steaks over pasta, served with garlic cheese bread along with a dry and crisp chardonnay on the side.  My Newly Painted Kitchen

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I just love cooking with everything fresh, from my herbs to my vegetables.  I always try to put in as many vegetables into my recipes as I can too.

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Mediterranean Calimari Steaks 

4 or 5 tomatoes – as you can see I used a wide variety of tomatoes – if they are smaller tomatoes, just cut them in half, if they are larger tomatoes, cut them into a medium dice

1 lb calimari steaks

2 TBSP garlic

1 crookneck (yellow squash), sliced thin

1 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1 large shallot, sliced thin

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup olives, cut in half – again I used a variety of olives

1-2 tsp each of fresh oregano, basil, thyme and sage, chopped fine

1/2 cup dry white wine – preferably the same wine you are drinking with the meal

2 TBSP lemon juice

salt & pepper and lemon pepper to taste

olive oil

1/4 cup Parmagiano cheese

 

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Saute all the heartier vegetables in olive oil until they are tender.  Then add the tomatoes and wine. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to break down.  Then add the olives, lemon juice, fresh herbs and seasonings.

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While the vegetables are cooking, in a separate skillet or pan, cook the calimari steaks.  Lightly salt and pepper the calimari steaks on both sides and pan fry in olive oil for about 2 minutes per side, or until they are lightly golden on both sides.  DO NOT over cook the calimari or it will become tough and chewy.

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I like to layer my dishes.  I do it all the time.  So cooked pasta first, then some of the delicious sauce, followed by the calimari, and topped again with more sauce, finished with fresh Parmigiano cheese.  I cut my calimari into thin strips, but you can cut it however you like.  There is no real right or wrong way to cut it.  In case you have not figured it out already, I am all about the presentation of my foods, especially for the camera.  After all, we taste with our eyes long before we taste with our taste buds.  My husband teases about this all the time.  Presentation is great, but really the most important part of a dish, any dish, is how it tastes.  This one is a definite winner.

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My Newly Painted Kitchen

The painters have finished and now I am in the process of getting the house put back together again.  It is a slow process, but everyday a little more gets done.  The kitchen, however, was the first room to be put back in order.  After all, the kitchen is my main room in the house.  I had to set my priorities, right?!.  🙂  A lot of you have been asking for pictures of the newly painted kitchen, so here they are.

This is what the kitchen looked like while the painters were busy.  Previous to painting, the whole house was two-toned, with cream on the walls and white trim all around.  We added color.  Lots of color.  New carpeting will have to be next year’s home improvement project.  We have already spent the budget, and then some, for this year.

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This is our kitchen nook area.  The teal accent wall is the color we chose as an accent color for all of the downstairs area.  We love it.  Upstairs, in our room and master suite, we went with a light greyish blue.

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Other than the painting, the rest of the kitchen stayed the same.  No new appliances or anything.  We have a big house, and according to the painters, we have a VERY big house.  Our downstairs area is very open and just flows together.  Our kitchen opens up directly into our family room, so I thought I would include this picture as well.  You can really see the teal in this picture.  It just makes everything pop.

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I hope you enjoy our new color and new kitchen.  I already have lots of good meals that have come from my new kitchen to share with all of you.  Be patient.  They’re coming your way shortly.

Dinner at the Diner

One last post about our latest Colorado adventure,  A Colorado Adventure – Part 1  and A Colorado Adventure – Part 2 and then I am back in the kitchen where I live most of the time (when not in the water), once again.  That is, back in my newly painted kitchen, as well as the rest of the house.  🙂

As I mentioned in both of my earlier posts about our rafting trip, it was a long full day.  We left the house at 10:00 AM and did not return home until about 11:30 PM.  It was a long day for us, but an even longer day for our fur babies.  They were really glad to see us when we got home, though they were also mad at us because it had been such a long day, and their tummies were long overdue for dinner.  In retrospect, we should have stayed the night rather than trying to get it all done in one day, but live and learn.

After rafting down the river, we still had to eat something for dinner.  We had one more meal on the road before heading home.  We stopped at the Eagle Diner, in Eagle, Colorado, which was only about 1/2 hour or so away from where we were rafting.

The Eagle Diner is an icon in Eagle County, with a loyal and sometimes famous fan base.  It is located in Eagle County, where a lot of our top notch ski resorts are located, and there are a lot of big, well-known celebrities that own homes up in that area too.  So when dining at the Eagle, keep your eyes open.  You never know who may walk through the doors next.

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The Eagle Diner is a unique and fun place to eat.  It is a step back in time; back to a time of innocence, rock ‘n roll and milkshakes.   It is completely decorated in retro 50’s style decor.  There are pictures of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and many other 50’s icons and items all over walls and throughout the diner.  It is brightly colored in pink and turquoise, with black and white checkered floors.

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The menu at the Eagle is pretty extensive, with a wide range of good comfort foods that will satisfy just about everyone.  Their “goal is dedicated to bringing you a wide variety of delicious food at a reasonable price”.

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Larry is a rib eater, and he saw ribs on the menu, so he just had to have them.  He was disappointed to learn that they had just run out.  But his disappointment only lasted for about a minute.  To compensate for not having ribs, he was given a big, thick, old fashioned milkshake, on the house.  He was a happy camper (or rafter) once again and he enjoyed every little bit of that thick shake.  Larry had his shake and I had a delicious salad instead.  Shakes and ice cream have never really been my thing.

I guess Larry worked up an appetite while rafting down the river.  He was going for the gusto when it came to calorie consumption.  Along with his shake, he decided to add a big plate of loaded chili cheese fries and have that as his dinner.  I guess I was just in a fishy kind of mood for the day, since I went for the fish & chips, after having a tuna sandwich for lunch.   Oh well, it was all good, and we enjoyed every bite before heading home.  Our server was a lot of fun too, with loads of personality.  All in all, it was a good finish to a fantastic day.

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*** The Eagle Diner is located at 112 Chambers Ave, Eagle, CO 81631 and their phone number is  (970) 328-1919.