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Posts Tagged ‘greek’

Avgolemono Soup

This classic Greek soup reminds me of both my Mom and my late Yia Yia (Grandma), this is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. The perfect dinner on a cool night or when you have the sniffles. My husband, Mark, swears this is an acquired taste, I have been trying for 7 years to get him to like it, but he just isn’t a fan of the lemon. I personally think the lemon is what makes this soup and the more the better. Growing up in a Greek family, this soup was a winter staple and definitely something I would beg my Mom for when I was feeling under the weather.

I find some soups taste good enough made with store-bought stock, if you don’t have time to make your own, this soup isn’t one of those. It needs homemade stock, made from scratch, cooked for a few hours. It’s the only way. Whenever we make a whole roast chicken, I freeze the bones for stock, I love being able to make my own stock. I usually go very simple with the spices on my roast chicken so whatever is leftover is perfect for making stock with. I personally prefer to make each stock specific for each soup I make, since most times the ingredients that I add to the stock varies to each recipe. 

This soup is a very simple to make, only a few ingredients. I like mine with a lot of fresh ground pepper and the perfect amount of rice. Too much rice and it isn’t brothy enough, too little rice and it’s just not quite right. Some people prefer orzo to rice, but I like the classic white rice much better. If it were possible, I would always have a fresh pot of this soup in the fridge, ready to be warmed up whenever I wanted it. Thickened with eggs and brightened with the lemon, there is really nothing like this. This is my family’s recipe and honestly, have tried other people’s Avgolemeno before and it just isn’t nearly as good, in my opinion.

Chicken Stock

2-3 quarts of water
Bones from a whole roast chicken 3-4 lbs (I prefer organic, free range and without hormones or antibiotics)
1 large onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons pepper

In a large stockpot, (use the strainer that fits in your stock pot if you have one) combine all the ingredients and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam that forms on the surface. I added a bit more water as it was cooking to keep the chicken and vegetables covered. The longer you cook the stock, the stronger the flavor will be, but 2 1/2 hours was more than adequate and the stock had a fantastic flavor to it.

Remove the meat and bones and reserve, any meat on the bones can be separated and added back to the soup. If you didn’t use the strainer when making the stock, strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and other bits and add back to the pot. Throw out the bones and vegetables. Use the stock immediately or let the stock cool completely, and refrigerate overnight. Skim any fat that forms on the surface. Keep refrigerated in airtight containers until ready to use, up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Since I was using the stock immediately, I skimmed any visible fat off the top, made sure that it was strained of everything, and kept it on a low heat while I prepped everything for the soup. You will probably end up with about 48 ounces of stock when making it homemade (give or take). Use all of it.

Avgolemono Soup
serves 4-6

6 cups homemade chicken stock*
1/2 cup rice
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 eggs
juice from 2 lemons

Bring the stock to a boil, stir in rice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until peaks form. Add in the egg yolks, stir until well blended. Add lemon juice, barely mix, just enough to combine (you don’t want to break the whites).

Slowly ladle the hot soup into your egg mixture until the mixture is warm, stir constantly. You want to do this slowly so as not to cook the eggs to fast. Pour the mixture back into the pot of soup very gently. Taste the soup, salt and pepper to your liking. Ladle into large soup bowls with a lemon wedge on the side, top with freshly ground black pepper.

*If you absolutely must use store-bought chicken stock, you most definitely can. The soup is still very good.

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Greek Black-Eyed Peas Salad

Here is another dish I made out at the beach house for everyone. I am on a big black-eyed peas kick right now (and no, I am not referring to the terrible pop group). I made that Hoppin’ John Salad, not too long ago, which is an Southern tradition brought over from Africa, so, I was surprised to see the beans used in this Greek style salad, as I most definitely think of the South when I think of black-eyed peas. Being a Greek girl, that loves ALL Greek foods, I was excited to try this variation on the classic Greek flavors that I know and it really sounded like the perfect side for an outdoor dinner. Even my cousin Andrea, who doesn’t like beans typically, told me she liked this salad. SCORE!

I was also super excited about using the sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil, since I always buy them dry and have been looking for an excuse to experiment with these. You won’t want to use the dry ones in this recipe, as you need to be able to slice them and you need the oil in the salad. You can definitely use fresh tomatoes, if you have those on hand, just add a little bit of olive oil to the salad. Since I have so much fresh oregano in my yard, I did add a bunch of fresh chopped oregano to the salad, I really couldn’t resist as it was a perfect match.

I really would prefer to be cooking with dried black-eyed peas, but I have yet to find them locally, so I have been using canned beans. I went ahead and posted the recipe using the dried beans, since that is what I would prefer. If you are substituting canned black-eyed peas for the dry peas, use approximately two 15-ounce cans. Rinse thoroughly. Skip step 1 and step 3 in the instructions. Another tip from Elise on this recipe: Don’t add the lemon juice until you serve the salad: It helps keep the greens bright.

Greek Black-Eyed Peas Salad

Greek Black-Eyed Peas Salad
Serves 8-10
Adapted from original recipe on Simply Recipes by Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

2 cups dry black-eyed peas
Salt
1 package of feta cheese, about 7 ounces
1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, about 8 ounces, sliced
1 cup black olives, preferably Kalamata or oil-cured, roughly chopped
1 finely chopped green onion
1 finely chopped garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 large bunch of baby spinach, about 1 pound, washed, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add enough salt to make the water taste like the sea. Turn the heat down to low and add the black-eyed peas. Let them cook slowly, uncovered, until they are done, anywhere from half and hour to an hour, depending on how old the peas are. Don’t let the water simmer.

2. Add the spinach to a large bowl. Crumble the feta cheese into the bowl and add all the other ingredients except the lemon juice. Mix well.

3. When the black-eyed peas are done, pour them into a colander and spray them with cold water to stop the cooking. Pick through and discard any loose skins or mashed peas; you’ll find a few, but hopefully not many.

4. Add the black-eyed peas to the salad, mix well. Squirt some lemon juice over and top with freshly ground black pepper. Serve.

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This is a quick and delicious vegetarian dinner that is full of Greek inspired flavors, perfect for any weeknight. The salty tang from the feta, the sweetness of the tomatoes and the nutty chickpeas all pair together to make for a hearty pasta dish. I was so happy to be able to walk into the yard and grab a fistful of our fresh oregano that has been growing like crazy, it gives it such a fresh and peppery taste to the flavors. I made this with gluten-free organic brown rice penne, but you can cook it with whatever your favorite pasta happens to be.

Penne with Chickpeas, Feta & Tomatoes
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2010
Serves 4

8 ounces uncooked gluten-free penne (or if you aren’t gluten-free, regular penne)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can organic low sodium chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 cups halved cherry tomatoes
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Cook pasta according to directions, drain in a colander, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan, make sure it coats the pan. Add shallots and garlic; sauté for 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in chickpeas; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in pasta and reserved cooking liquid; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat and put in a serving bowl. Add feta, oregano, salt, lemon zest and pepper; toss to combine.

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