Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's Greek to Me!

Is it odd that I've been eating Greek food like it's going out of style lately? I don't know what it is but I am completely obsessed. Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, I'm carrying a Greek love child?

It all started with Ina Garten's Pastitsio. I got the recipe from this month's House Beautiful and OMG...it's SO GOOD! Rich, heavy, unhealthy, but SOOOO GOOD.


Serves 8


3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (1 large)
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground lamb
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 large cloves)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes in puree
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Kasseri cheese
2/3 cup Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage Total
12 ounces (3/4 pound) small shells
2 extra-large eggs, beaten

1. For the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the beef and lamb, and sauté over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until it's no longer pink, crumbling it with the back of wooden spoon. Drain off any excess liquid, add the wine, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and cayenne, and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

3. For the béchamel, heat the milk and cream together in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the warm milk and cream mixture into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until smooth and thick. Add the nutmeg, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the tomato and meat sauce, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Don't overcook, because the pasta will later be baked. Drain and set aside.

5. To assemble, brush a large (at least 12 x 14 x 2-inch) square or oval baking dish with olive oil. Add the pasta to the tomato and meat sauce, stir in the eggs, and pour the mixture into the baking dish. Spread the béchamel evenly to cover the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbly. Set aside for 10 minutes and serve hot.

Now I've transitioned into tzatziki, or yogurt sauce. This wouldn't be such a bad thing since tzatziki is extremely healthy. However, when consumed in the vat like quantities that I seem to be incapable of resisting, nothing can be all THAT good for you!

I would eat this stuff all day long. With pita chips for breakfast...on a greek salad for lunch...chicken gyros for dinner. I think you can even make some kind of dessert out of it. Lord help me.

This would all be fine and good were I not trying to lose about 10 (20) pounds. I've even gone so far as to join Weight Watchers online as a kind of food journal. (you should have seen the blip on the screen when I had to admit to scarfing almost two cups of tzatziki :))

For those of you who are capable of consumption in moderation, please enjoy this recipe!

From Ina Garten's cookbook Barefoot Contessa Parties! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties That Are Really Fun

1 pound (1 pint) plain yogurt (whole milk or low fat)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Place the yogurt in a cheesecloth or paper towel-lined sieve and set it over a bowl. Grate the cucumber and toss it with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt; place it in another sieve, and set it over another bowl. Place both bowls in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours so the yogurt and cucumber can drain.

Transfer the thickened yogurt to a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as you can and add the cucumber to the yogurt. Mix in the sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. You can serve it immediately, but I prefer to allow the tzatziki to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Stranded in Stepford said...

I've been known to get a little guilty pleasure out of shocking the WW points calculator myself. . .

Caroline said...

We have had a combination fo Greek and Middle Eastern food evry Easter for at least 10 years. Ina's lamb recipe is also fabulous - we've tweaked the marinade recipe. The tzatziki is awesome with fried cauliflower. We've served that as an Easter appetizer several years.

Maria said...

Yum yum! My mom has been making pastitsio for YEARS on end (because we are Greek, so she would make it at least twice a month) and still refuses to teach me how to make it, because "the cream took me 7 years to perfect" and she thinks I'm a horrible cook. I'll definitely try this version. AS for tzatziki - spot on. I was not that big of a fan as a kid, but it's great in the summer.

(Another great thing for the summer that is Greek is a nice, tall cold frappe. Great on a porch on a hot summer afternoon).

The Clearys said...

Mmmmmmmm, yummy! I'm (part) Greek, so bring on the spanakopita, souvlaki, dolmades, and feta :)

Can't wait until Lent ends next week!

Kalo Pascha!

Julie said...

When I was pregnant with Jane Harris I threw up everyday until I hit 26 weeks. It was awful. The only bright side was a fantastic restaurant just by our house, Nabeels. They have the best mediterranean and greek food and it was the only thing that I could eat more than a few bites of and not feel queasy. I think we ate there 5 out of 7 nights for the 35 weeks I was pregnant! Jane Harris' favorite restaurant? - oh yeah! Nabeels.

Adventures in Newlywed said...

Oh, my these both look good, especially the dip. Sadly, I too lack self control...