Category Archives: Dinner

Arabic-Style Belly Dancing Chicken

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As mentioned in the “About” section of my blog, I am of Middle Eastern descent on my mother’s side. I enjoy the richness and the intense flavors of their cuisine. I love experimenting with food in my kitchen. Recently, I created this dish, made with Middle Eastern couscous, chicken thighs and some aromatic spices indigenous to the region. It is so delectable, it makes me want to do the belly dancing. Put on your apron, grab a glass of wine (if you drink) and follow me in Gina’s kitchen.

Serves: 6-8 as a main meal – Level of difficulty: Medium

Ingredients:
12 chicken thighs skinless, bone-in
Olive oil – Follow recipe
2 tbsp. sumac + more
2 tsp. 7 spices *
1 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
1 small red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups Middle Eastern couscous
32 oz. lower sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chickpeas, drained
1/2 red bell pepper cut in julienne
Flat leave parsley for garnish
16 oz. Greek 2% yogurt, sumac, olive oil to taste

Preparation:

1) Season the chicken with 3 tbsp. olive oil, sumac, 7 spices, salt and black pepper.  Let it marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

2) In a large Dutch pan, on medium-high to high heat,  cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil.  Sear the chicken,3 minutes on each side.  Be careful, as there will be some splattering.  Set aside. Do a second batch, and repeat. Set aside.
3) In the same pan, saute’ the onions for 2 minutes, garlic, 1 minute, add the tomato paste and stir until it caramelizes, another 2 minutes or so. Stir well.
4) Add the couscous, continue stirring for 1-2 minutes.  Add the chicken broth.  Layer all the chicken thighs on top, add chickpeas, bell peppers.
5) Bring to a boil. Lower the flame to med-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. It should come out nice and moist.  Garnish with parsley.
6) in a serving bowl, place the yogurt, sprinkle with sumac and olive oil to taste. Serve with the meal.

Arabic-Style Belly Dancing Chicken
Arabic-Style Belly Dancing Chicken

 

7 Spices
7 Spices
Couscous
Couscous

 

Greek yogurt, Sumac, olive oil
Greek yogurt, Sumac, olive oil

Cook’s notes:
1) The 7Spices contain, coriander, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and other spices as indicated on label.
2) The sumac and 7Spices can be found at Middle-Eastern/Arabic specialty stores.

I hope you have enjoyed this recipe, and will attempt to make this delightful dish.

Recipe developed and created by: Foodiewinelover
Photos taken by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

Gina Zarcadoolas
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
WSET-Level 2 Certified Wine Connoisseur
Culinary Aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines

Easy Pasta Primavera

As you know by now, I love eating pasta. It is definitely my favorite starch and one of the most versatile food to prepare.  For us South Floridian, it feels like summer already but for most of you, it’s still springtime. The flowers are blooming, and some veggies are in season.  It’s Pasta Primavera time, a simple pasta dish made with fresh vegetables in a cream sauce. It’s easy and delicious.  You can use any pasta shape of your choice, but today I am using a small farfalle. They’re commonly known as bow-tie, and the meaning stands for butterfly in Italian.

Serves: 6-8 as a main meal Level of difficulty: Easy – It takes about 20  minutes from start to finish depending how fast you prep your ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. small farfalle pasta
  • 1/2 head of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
  • 15 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup pasta water, (reserved)
  • 3-4 basil leaves, cut in chiffonade

    Preparation:

    1) In a large frying pan, on medium-high heat, heat up olive oil. Sautee onions for 2-3 minutes, add the garlic, and sautee until you smell the beautiful aroma. Set aside.

    2) Bring the pasta water to a boil. Add a handful of salt, and cook pasta according to package directions. About 5 minutes or so before the time is up, add the asparagus and cook in the same pot to save time. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup or so of pasta water.

    3) Turn the burner back on with the onions and garlic on low, drop the pasta, season with Italian seasoning and black pepper. Add the tomatoes and  asparagus. Slowly incorporate the ricotta, pasta water and basil.  Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Garnish with some veggies on top to make it enticing. Drizzle with olive oil.  Voila! It’s that easy!

    Wine pairing suggestions: Verdicchio , Gavi or a Sauvignon Blanc will work beautifully with this spring dish.

    Cook’s Tips

    You can use a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, green or red bell peppers. The choice is endless.  For a more flavorful version, roast the veggies in the oven, however, keep in mind, this recipe is meant to save you time. Put your own twist on it, and make it your signature dish.

    A recipe is to be used as a barometer, if you are on a salt-restricted or low-fat diet, cut back on the salt and use a part-skim ricotta cheese.

    Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Easy Pasta Primavera

Recipe by Foodiewinelover
Photo by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

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Aglio E Olio With Broccoli Rabe & Roasted Tomatoes

Aglio e Olio with Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Tomatoes
Aglio e Olio with Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Tomatoes

 

There are literally a thousand ways to make pasta, and I love to create dishes using different pasta shapes.  Sometimes, I plan ahead, but there are other times, I try to use whatever I have in the fridge and in the pantry. It’s a bit challenging but it can be fun.  I also get inspired while I am shopping, and I see the different ingredients. I start  visualizing how I can combine them together in a dish.  Today’s recipe is a perfect example of that. I grabbed the ingredients at the grocery store and put them together very quickly.  I fed my family, and everyone was smiling while savoring the pasta.  Aglio e Olio in Italian means garlic and oil, and traditionally used with spaghetti. I developed this dish, and take full credit for the recipe and the method of cooking.

Serves: 6-8  Level of difficulty: Easy – Medium 

Time: from start to finish 35 minutes (fast-paced) allow yourself 45 minutes in total. You will be juggling but you can do it, I promise you. You will have the oven and two burners going at one point. Just pay attention, and  do not use your cell phone. (LOL) 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 – 16 oz  pasta Gigi Flowers, (Flora’s Brand) *
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb of pancetta, chopped *
  • 1/3 cup of garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • sea salt and pepper to taste (pepper is optional)
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 head of broccoli rabe, rough chopped
  • 1/4 cup pasta water (reserve)
  • 1/2 -3/4 Grana Padano cheese for grating *Preparation:

    1) Place tomatoes on a tray, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree F. oven for 30 -35 minutes.  Give them one good stir, at the half-way point.

    2) In the meanwhile, bring the salted pasta water to a boil.

    3) On another burner, in a very large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil, sautee the pancetta for 2 minutes, add the garlic. Once you smell the aroma, set this pan aside. (away from the burner)

    4) The pasta should be in the boiling water by now. 5-7 minutes prior to pasta being done, drop the broccoli rabe in there to avoid using another pot.  Check for doneness, and drain the pasta and broccoli rabe. Be sure to reserve some pasta water.

    5) Place the large skillet with pancetta and garlic back on the burner on very low flame, drop the rest of the olive oil, the pasta, 1/4 cup pasta water, broccoli rabe, roasted tomatoes, grated cheese. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper. Season with more salt if necessary. Mix well, and serve at once.

    Cook’s Tips:

    1) Use any short pasta you have in your pantry
    2) you can substitute pancetta with bacon
    3) Use as much or as little cheese as you want. You can also use a different cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano, (parmesan)
    4) Always cook pasta according to package directions, unless you like it al dente. In that case, deduct 2 minutes from the cooking time.  The best way to know if the pasta is cooked to your liking is simply taste it.

    As you can see from my notes, pasta is very versatile and can be prepared according to your taste. You can use any meats, pasta shapes or veggies of your choice, and stamp your name on it!

    Wine suggestions: Any white wine of your choice. Make sure it’s nicely chilled but not overly so you can taste the aromas of the wine.

Recipe developed by Gina over at Foodiewinelover
Photos: By Gina for Foodiewinelover

Buon Appetito From My Kitchen to Yours!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

 

Back To My Roots, A Delicious Greek Cookbook

Back To My Roots
Krystina Kalapothakos is a chef with a Greek soul, as she puts it. She blogs over at Kouzounas Kitchen.  Kouzouna is her grandmother’s maiden name, and not to be confused with Kouzina, which means kitchen in Greek. I met her online a little over a year ago, via a Twitter friend.  She is the founder of a wonderful group on Facebook called: Foodify.  We follow each other on social media, and share each other’s recipes with our audience.  Krystina is inspired by her yiayia, (grandma in Greek), who left her legacy, along with some traditional Greek recipes. That’s where Krystina gets her passion for cooking, and baking.  She has some delectable recipes on her blog, but recently decided to put together her first cookbook. Although, it’s been a lifelong dream of hers, it took her a little less than 3 months to put it together. I admire her commitment, determination, and love for Greek cuisine.  I got a copy of her cookbook, and was pleased with the heartwarming story she shares with us, along with some delightful, and authentic dishes. It didn’t take me long to try her Spanakorizo, Rice with Spinach. I made it in my kitchen, and it was an instant hit with my family. Today, I will share with you, this delicious Greek dish from her newly published cookbook, Back To My Roots, Sharing Recipes From The Villages Of Greece.

Spanakorizo (Spinach & Rice)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of fresh spinach (If you are using swiss chard, you can do half swiss chard & half spinach)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped fresh onion
  • 1 leek finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 lemon (reserve juice and zest)
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
  • 1.5 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Pinch ground cumin
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • Balsamic Vinegar (Reserve for the finish plate)

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in large pan over medium heat.

2) Saute onions and leeks until they become translucent. (About 5 minutes.)

3) Add garlic, and sauté for 1 minute.

4) Add lemon zest, dill, basil, mint, oregano, cumin, swiss chard, and spinach. Cook until the spinach has wilted down.

5) Stir in the rice, and water. Bring to a boil.

6) Reduce the heat, and place the lid over the pan. Let the rice cook for approximately 20 minutes.

7) When the mixture has cooled, stir in the lemon juice and balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy with some fresh Feta over the top.

I highly recommend this cookbook, and Krystina is in the process of getting it on Amazon. In the meanwhile, if you are interested in owning one, please email her, at kouzounaslive@gmail.com, write “cookbook” under subject, and she will get back to you. This would make a lovely Christmas, Hanukkah, or birthday gift.

Krystina Kalapothakos
Krystina Kalapothakos

Meet Krystina Kalapothakos, the name behind the lovely blog, Kouzounas Kitchen.

Follow her on Twitter: —–> KouzounasKitchen
Follow her on Facebook: —>KouzounasKitchen

I want to thank her for her generous contribution to the culinary world, and for featuring my shrimp Saganaki in her cookbook. I hope you will try this recipe, and get her book.

Update: 3/11/2016 – Since this blog post, Krystina has published her book on Amazon and you can obtain a copy by clicking on this link: http://www.amazon.com/Back-My-Roots-Krystina-Kalapothakos/dp/0692638679/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456905437&sr=8-1&keywords=krystina+kalapothakos

Spanakorizo

Kali Orexi (Bon Appetit) in Greek

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

With today’s busy lives, people are pressed for time, and need quick and easy recipes for weeknight meals. These Chicken Lettuce Wraps take no time, and are delightful. This is my creation, and I am happy to share my passion in the kitchen with all of you.

Serves: 4   Degree of difficulty: Easy

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Ingredients:

  •  3 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup canned water chestnut, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • 1.5 – 2 tbsp. Soy sauce, low sodium
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup carrots, grated, + more for garnish
  • Salt, optional
  • 1 head of bib, or butter lettuce leavesPreparation:  
  1. In a large skillet or wok, over medium-high heat, heat oil, add onions, peppers, water chestnut, garlic, ginger. Saute’ for 5 -6 minutes, stir occasionally.
  2. Add chicken, stir fry for 5 minutes. Add soy sauce, carrots, fry  while stirring for another 5-7 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. (Do not attempt to taste unless you are certain chicken is cooked, and has an opaque color)
  3. Fill the lettuce with the chicken and serve with a peanut, soy or any sauce of your choice. Serve with brown or white rice on the side for a complete meal. Try this easy and delicious meal, and your family will appreciate your love for them, through your cooking.
    Chicken Lettuce Wraps
    Chicken Lettuce Wraps

    Happy Stir Frying from My Kitchen to Yours!

    Gina 
    Super-High-Res-with-White-BG

Rustic Style Pasta with Veal, Porcini Mushrooms and Spinach

This flavorful dish is inspired by the mountainous region of Abruzzo, where you will find an abundance of porcini mushrooms.  The recipe was developed, and written by Mario Batali. I have followed his method, and prepared it many times in my kitchen. He recommends using Farfalle, a pasta shape, commonly known as bow-ties, but it literally means, butterflies in Italian.  You can also use other short pastas, such as Rotini, corkscrew-shaped as shown on my featured image. They both work well, and absorb the sauce nicely.  It’s always a big hit in my kitchen, and perfect for feeding a small crowd.  The name of the original recipe is: Farfalle Abruzzese With Veal, Porcini and Spinach.  Mario brilliantly combines veal, double concentrated tomato paste, and porcini mushrooms to create this culinary masterpiece. Make sure you caramelize the tomato paste to get a rust color, and the result will be a stupendous rustic dish packed with layers of deep flavors. Make it for a dinner party, and your guests will think that the sauce has simmered for hours.

Farfalle Abruzzese with Veal, Porcini and Spinach

Excerpted from “Molto Batali” (ecco, 2011)

Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 as a main
Level of difficulty – medium

Ingredients: 

3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water for 10 minutes

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 ½ pounds ground veal shoulder

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup double-concentrated tomato paste *

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup basic tomato sauce (for quick results, try my Mario Batali pasta sauces)

1 ½ pounds farfalle pasta (butterfly shaped pasta)

8 ounces baby spinach, trimmed

½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Preparation: 

1. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, and coarsely chop the porcini. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, and set it aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is lightly toasted. Add the veal and the chopped porcini, and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the meat is well browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the tomato paste. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until the paste turns a rust color, 5 minutes. Then add the wine and 1 cup of the strained porcini soaking liquid, and cook for 5 minutes, until the wine has almost completely evaporated. Add the tomato sauce and reduce the heat to a very low simmer.

3. Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large spaghetti pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.

4. Drop the farfalle into the water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle ¼ cup of the cooking water into the veal mixture. Stir the baby spinach into the veal mixture.

5. Drain the pasta in a colander, and add it to the veal mixture. Toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated. Pour into a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately, with the grated pecorino on the side.

From “Molto Batali”

* You can find the double concentrated tomato paste at Italian specialty stores. If not, use 1/2 cup of regular tomato paste, but remember, the secret is to caramelize it on high flame to obtain that deep rust color. (My notes)

My wine suggestion: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a delightful red wine from the Abruzzo region of Italy.

Rustic Style Pasta with Veal, Porcini Mushrooms and Spinach
Rustic Style Pasta with Veal, Porcini Mushrooms and Spinach

Recipe: Adaptation of Mario Batali’s:  Farfalle Abruzzese With Veal, Porcini and Spinach

Photo credit: Foodiewinelover

Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant

Chicken cutlets
Chicken Cutlets

San Marzano Tomatoes San Marzano Tomato Sauce

Eggplant & Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana
I know what you’re thinking!  Is she out of her mind to do all that work. Ok, I got some “splainin” to do. When I don’t cook during the weeknight, I feel like I let my family down, because they enjoy my cooking for the most part. I had class one day, and by the time I got home, I looked at the chicken cutlets, and said to myself, what am I going to do with them? I decided, I wasn’t going to cook, and order in. That’s what we did. The next day, I still had to come up with an idea for the chicken. I wanted to dress it up, and make up for not cooking the night before. I found an eggplant in my veggie bin, had plenty of eggs, olive oil, and seasoned breadcrumbs. The lightbulb went on in my head, how about making a Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana combo. It was crazy but I had my mind-set on it. I normally make eggplant parm or chicken parm separately, but this time, I decided to combine them. This dish was a big hit, and when I saw the smile on my family’s face, I knew I had redeemed myself. I must admit, I was happy with the result. Of course, my kitchen was a mess, but it was worth all the work. I suggest you make this on the weekend when you have some time to spare, and I promise you, your family will adore you for it.

This is a recipe that I created in My Kitchen, and I’m excited to share it with all of you.

Serves: 4-6
Level of difficulty: Medium-difficult
Total time from start to finish: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Ingredients: (1st set)

  • 1.25 – 1.5 lb. chicken cutlets (thinly sliced)
  • 1 eggplant, sliced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Lots of seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Lots of extra virgin olive oil, or regular olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. fresh Mozzarella, sliced
  • Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

1) Season eggplant with salt and pepper, let it sit for at least 10-minutes. Dip the eggplant in eggs, then hold it for a second to remove any excess, drench in seasoned breadcrumbs. (always shake of excess) . Do it one at a time, (eggs, +breadcrumbs) Place them on a dish.  Time to pan-fry them.

2) On medium-high heat, cover the bottom of a large pan with olive oil, pan fry the eggplants in a single layer, 3 minutes on one side, and 3 minutes on the other side. Remove, and repeat the same method over.  It’s ok, if oil is a little dirty, add more oil, if necessary. Set the eggplant aside. If you feel like the burner is too hot, just lower the heat a little.

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 1 large can of whole tomatoes, (San Marzano)
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large basil leaf, torn
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup or so of extra virgin olive oil

    Preparation:

    1) In a medium-sized saucepan, on medium-high heat, heat up the oil, sauté the garlic for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, and crush them using a potato masher.  You can also use your hands to crush them before putting them in the pot. Drop the basil, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for about 15 minutes. While the sauce is simmering on low, you will be preparing the chicken.

    2) Season chicken with salt and pepper, dip in eggs, and seasoned breadcrumbs, set aside. In the meanwhile, clean up the pan you fried the eggplant in, (just drain old oil, and wipe clean with a paper towel. Start with some fresh olive oil. You will be using the same method as the eggplant. Pan fry for 2 minutes on one side, and 1 minute on other side. Do not taste the chicken at this point, as it may not be fully cooked. It will finish cooking in the oven. Work in batches, then repeat the same process over.

    3) By this time, the eggplant, the sauce and the chicken are ready to be assembled in a large casserole baking dish.  Spread some sauce on the bottom of dish,  arrange the chicken, (as much as you can fit) add some sauce, grated cheese, Mozzarella, layer with eggplant, and repeat. You may end up with an extra piece or two of chicken, just fit  them somewhere, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You are not building a house, LOL!  Finish with Mozzarella on top.

    4) Bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 15 minutes and broil for 5 minutes.

    Tip: Always make sure oil is hot before frying, otherwise, the eggplant will come out soggy and drenched in oil.

    I hope you will try this delicious dish. If you are on a budget, you do not have to use expensive brands. Any canned tomatoes will do the job, and some regular parmesan cheese. If fresh mozzarella is too expensive, just use the packaged ones.

    Pairing suggestions: A lovely Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. You can find the last one reasonably priced.  They are all Italian wines, as I like to pair the cuisine and the wines from the same country together. Sometimes, it can even be broken down by region, especially in Italian cooking,  where many dishes are very regional.  Ideally, you would pair the dish with a wine from the same region.

    Buon Appetito!

    Gina, from Foodiewinelover