Aloha from the island of Hawai'i. This food and culture blog is about living the luscious tropical life in Hilo, Hawai'i on a bluff over the ocean. Who am I? Food and Travel writer/artist Devany Vickery-Davidson. Join me on my Hawai'i adventures!
This recipe is so good that I revisit it every few months. It makes a great centerpiece for a dinner party and the leftovers are better than the first night’s meal. The noodles are difficult to find, but I get them on Amazon.com, buying 6 bags at a time.
Greek Lasagna Pastitsio
When teaching others to make this dish, I have often joked that the word pastitsio (pa-STEE-tsee-oh) translates to “messy kitchen” in Greek. I was only kidding, but there is a hint of truth to that statement. The Greek word pastitsio derives from the Italian pasticcio, which loosely translates to a mess or a hodgepodge.
Three essential components make up this dish – pasta, meat filling, and a creamy bechamel sauce which are layered in a pan and baked to a golden brown. Each stage will require dirtying some pots and pans, but I think you will agree that the end result is well worth the clean up!
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lbs. ground lamb
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 14 oz. can tomato puree or sauce
3 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (or Kefalotyri if available)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp. breadcrumbs plus 1/2 cup for topping if desired
1 pkg. #2 Macaroni for Pastitsio (500g)- available at Greek or ethnic groceries.
4 egg whites (reserve the yolks for bechamel sauce)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
For the bechamel sauce:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 quart milk, warmed
8 egg yolks, beaten lightly
1/2 of a whole nutmeg, ground
This recipe will yield about 24 servings depending upon the size of your pieces. I use a lasagna pan that is 9 x 13 x 3 inches deep.
Begin with the Meat Filling:
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add ground lamb and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes more.
Add wine, tomato sauce, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. While sauce is simmering put water on to boil for pasta.
Cook pasta noodles according to package directions and drain well. Rinse noodles in colander under cold water to cool them slightly.
Stir in 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs to meat sauce to absorb excess liquid and remove from heat.
Melt 1/2 cup butter in pasta pot and return cooked noodles to the pot. Stir in beaten egg whites and 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the noodles.
Brush the bottom and sides of the lasagna pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta noodles and press down so that they are somewhat flat.
Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta noodles and flatten top layer as best you can.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees while you prepare the bechamel sauce.
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Allow the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.
Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil.
Remove from heat and stir in beaten egg yolks. Add pinch of nutmeg. If sauce still needs to thicken, return to heat and cook over very low heat while continuing to stir.
Bechamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between. One way to tell if it is thick enough is to dip your wooden spoon in the sauce and draw your finger across the back of the spoon. If the sauce holds a visible line then it is thick enough.
Pour the bechamel over the pasta noodles making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. I even pull back th sides of the pasta to let some go down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs if desired. Bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the top is a nice golden color.
This fabulous recipe was inspired by the book The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces. The book explores the cuisines of Ecuador, Spain, Cuba and Mexico. This is one of the best cookbooks I have picked up in a while. In this recipe, I used fresh corn, but good frozen corn would work too. I also added some seasonings and chiles to the recipe. I make my own achiote paste, but you can buy it in Hispanic or Asian markets. Quinoa is an amazing chenopod, full of protein and fiber.
Crema de Quinoa de Zuleta; Quinoa Chowder with Sweet Corn
2 cups Canola Oil for frying
2 small russet potatoes, peeled and cut into match sticks or cut on a spiral cutter
I love French fries. I am constantly seeking a way to make the best ones. Sometimes I like them thin and crispy, sometimes thick and pillowy light inside (best done by roasting at a high temp.). Most often like Goldilocks, I like them “just right.” That means that they are medium cut fries, a little crispy on the outside and soft on the outside, full of potato flavor, not the grease they were cooked in. I like fries cooked in duck fat, but that is not always something I have an abundance of. Here is the method, it is simple and only requires a large pot (best for keeping splatters contained) a deep thermometer used for frying or cheese making, a spider (or other mesh spoon to retrieve your fries and some good quality canola oil. The thermometer is the only thing you may need to go out and buy. Here is an example. You need this because you will need to control the temperature of the oil.
Russet Potatoes, well washed
Canola Oil at least 3 ” deep
Smoked or Kosher Salt
Cut the ends off of the potatoes and then the rounded edges. lay flat and cut into 1/2 ” strips. Place in salted water till finished cutting.
Preheat the oil to 250 degrees.
Use either a salad spinner or a dish cloth to completely dry the fries. Once the oil is ready place fries into the oil. You should not be crowding them, you may need to do this in batches.
Cook until they start to look slightly golden, about 4 minutes, making sure that the oil temperature stays at 250.
Carefully remove to a straining tray (cookie sheet or steam pan) with a rack. I say carefully because the potatoes are very tender at this point and can easily tear.
Bring the heat of the oil to 365 degrees.
Add the potatoes in batches and allow to cook till they are perfectly golden with a subtle bit of brown on the edges. Remove to the draining tray again and salt IMMEDIATELY. Serve right away with home made mayonnaise, BBQ sauce or ketchup.
It is Meyer Lemon season. I have been in love with Meyer Lemons since I was a little girl. My great grandmother had an ever bearing Meyer. Coming from a citrus family has advantages. I wonder how that 60+ year old tree in Glendora, California is doing now. I do lots with the lemons on my tree and those I buy to supplement my habit. Here is what I did with some of them yesterday.
Meyer Lemon Focaccia
Makes 1 focaccia.
1 package (1/4 ounce) instant yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons if you use bulk
5 cups all-purpose flour, preferably organic
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Olive oil, for bowl and baking sheet
1/2 cup mozzarella or pecorino toscano thinly shredded
2 lemons, very thinly sliced crosswise
about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary
1-2 meyer lemons sliced thinly and seeded
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to grate over the top
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (more if you like a kick)
thinly sliced sweet onion
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I use smoked)
*Note: It is best to use very fresh lemons for this, as older lemons rinds become difficult to chew.
In a large bowl, or in a bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast and 2 1/2 cups flour with 2 cups water; whisk to combine. Let stand 15 minutes.
Add remaining 2 1/2 cups flour and salt; mix until well combined. Change to the dough hook if using a stand mixer. If using the mixer, knead with the mixer. If doing by hand, turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead until wet and tacky, but not sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until doubled in size, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Scatter semolina on a large rimmed baking sheet and press dough evenly into baking sheet. Let rise until puffy, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
“Dimple the dough with your fingers Drizzle some olive oil on the dough. Cover dough lightly with Pecorino or Mozzarella and lemon slices, then sprinkle with rosemary and pepper; drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil. Gate a little Parm over the top.
Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, and continue baking until lemons and crust are golden brown, about 15 minutes more.
Remove bread from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
I make a big batch of tamales several times a year. Yesterday I made a batch of pork and green chile tamales. They are not at all difficult to make and they freeze really well. They are also easy to re-steam. Here is the recipe, but keep in mind the filling can be any number of things, from chiles and cheese to chicken, pork, crab, beef etc. Once you get the rolling technique down you will be able to make them with anything. I often triple this recipe. This recipe makes about 20 good sized tamales. You can make them smaller if you are using them as an appetizer.
You will need:
Cornhusks or banana leaves for wrappers
4 cups of Masa para tamales (this can be found in the Hispanic aisle of most large grocery stores.
Cut lengths of string long enough to wrap the tamales. There are different ways of folding and wrapping the tamales, but this is my favorite way to do it. You can also tie just the ends or you can fold it so there is one side open and don’t even use strings. If you do this, you must place them upright in your steamer. Some people use parchment paper instead of corn husks or banana leaves.
Soak the corn husks in hot water, weight them down so they are immersed. Just before making the tamales, pour out the water. If you are using banana leaves they need to be heated to soften. I blanch them and place them on a wet towel.
In a stand mixer (or bowl with a beater) whip the cold lard for about 3 minutes on high speed till it is fluffy
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir. Fold that and the stock into the lard. Mix until a very moist (but not sticky) dough forms. Chill for about 20 minutes while you prepare the filling.
In a large skillet melt the lard and add onions. Stir and cook till the onions are translucent, add garlic in a hot spot and stir, then add the chiles and spices and finally deglaze the pan with the stock and allow to simmer till the stock is absorbed, then cool.
Set up a station on a table or counter top. You will need the masa, the cheese, the filling, the string and a platter to stack the finished tamales on.
Start with about 1/2 cup of masa on a corn husk. Fold the sides of the husk where you will want the ends of the tamales to be and spread the masa with the folded husk. Do the same thing with the top and bottom of the husk so that the dough is spread out and you end up with a square of dough about 4″ X 4″. You will need to select the husks that are large enough to accommodate this size of tamale. You should have at least an inch of exposed husk on all sides. Place the filling in the center of the masa and lightly push down on it. Then take the bottom end of the husk and roll it forward to meet the end of the dough. Pull the dough forward making the two ends of dough meet. Then fold in the sides and roll the tamale. Place the string under the tamale and tie like a package. Repeat till you have used all of the dough or filling.
In a steam pot, place the tamales on a rack, cover and boil vigorously for 40-50 minutes. While you are steaming make the sauce.
You can use New Mexico Red or Green Chile powder for this. I used red this time, but my next batch of corn, cheese and chile tamales I am making green sauce.
Make a roux of the masa and lard, stir till slightly brown. Add the chile powder and stir, then whisk in the stock. Allow to simmer and thicken slightly. Keep warm till ready to serve.
To serve, open the husks and remove the tamales to a plate. The masa should be soft and supple, yet firm enough to hold together. Spoon the sauce over and add additional cheese, crema and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!
Please visit my other blog where this post originated, it is all about Food! www.sassyspoon.wordpress.com
Put the cilantro, parsley seeds, garlic, pepper berries, crushed red pepper, hickory powder if you are not smoking and the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse till you have a thick paste.
Put on latex gloves if you have them, this gets messy. Cut 1 1/2 inch slits into the meat on all sides. Stuff the slits with the paste. If you have any paste left over, smear it on the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 12-24 hours. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Meanwhile set up your smoker and turn your grill on high.
Sear the meat on all sides on the grill. Then place in the smoker at about 200 degrees over a drip pan and smoke for 6 hours. If you do not have a smoker, go directly to the slow cooker or roaster but cook for 8-10 hours on low.
Prepare the roaster or slow cooker by placing a bed of Yukon Gold potatoes (small ones or cut larger ones in half) and the onions. Sometimes I add other root vegetables too. Place the meat directly on the bed of veggies. pour two cans or bottles of beer over the meat. Sprinkle the sweet onion sugar all over.
Roast at 350 degrees covered with foil or in a dutch oven. Or you can use a slow cooker on high for 4 hours (either method). It is just that easy. The leftovers are sometimes my favorite part… tamales, tacos pulled pork sandwiches.