Monday, March 25, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Red Curry Seared Ahi Tuna

© Constantine William Spyrou

I work out quite a bit and play a lot of sports, so having good amounts of protein is vital to me. I'll try to make sure I get a good amount of protein in every meal and snack, whether it be through peanut butter, chicken, buffalo, jerky, tofu, or just about any other meat or seafood you can think of. My personal favorite protein, however, has to be seared ahi tuna. It has a nice slightly roasted flavor but has the freshness of the sushi, making it a really delightful treat when I can get it. Many people treat seared ahi tuna as a starter or part of a salad, but I like to have it as a main course. People think that tuna prefers very bright and acidic flavors, which I personally love. However, the richness and fattiness of ahi tuna filet can take on bolder and bigger flavors, and make it a fun and enjoyable dish to enjoy. The bold flavors of a red coconut curry are a perfect example of this, balancing the bright flavors tuna normally likes with some creaminess and richness. Served over Cilantro Rice (click here to see my recipe), this is a great main course to enjoy! 

Recipe will serve 4 people.

For the Tuna: 

4 6-ounce portions of ahi tuna filet
Salt and pepper to season
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons sessame oil
1/4 cup toasted black sesame seeds
Chopped green onion for garnish

For the Curry: 

4 cups coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock
(Optional: 5-6 fresh curry leaves)
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped carrot
1/4 cup red curry paste
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons curry powder
Salt and white pepper to season
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon red chili oil


1. Whisk together the light soy sauce and sesame oil, then rub lightly onto the ahi tuna filets.
2. Combine all seasonings and rub gently onto the tuna filets for the marinade.
3. Lightly sprinkle on the toasted black sesame seeds, and let marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, plenty of time to make the curry sauce. At this time, you should also make the cilantro rice from the above link.
4. In a hot sauce pan, place the canola oil and chili oil. You may want to stir to combine the oils together.
5. Add the garlic, ginger, onion, and carrot. Cook until the onions and carrots begin to soften and the onions turn translucent.
6. Deglaze the pan with the vegetable stock. Add the dark soy sauce, lime juice, and lime zest.
7. Let the stock slightly reduce, then add in the coconut milk and curry powder. Season with the salt and white pepper to taste, and whisk until all of the curry paste is dissolved. Let reduce for about 5 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
8. Take out your tuna. In a hot pan on high heat, place a small amount of canola oil. Cook the ahi tuna for about 90 seconds per side so that it comes out a nice rare. Make sure every side is cooked!
9. Place the chopped cilantro in the curry sauce as soon as the tuna is done, and stir.
10. In bowls that you will serve in, place the cilantro rice in the bottom of the bowl. Pour in some of the red curry sauce. Slice the tuna filets and layer lightly over the top. Garnish with fresh chopped green onion.

The tuna goes over the top of the dish rather than inside the curry to prevent it from cooking further and losing that richness associated with great seared rare ahi tuna. Adding the green onion at the end and not stewing down the cilantro flavor allows the freshness to come out front, especially with the lime juice in the curry to tie it all together and the cilantro in the rice.

Let me know what you think of this dish, and try to make it at home and see how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Recipe: Spicy Tofu Griddle Cakes with Jasmine Rice and Soy Aioli

© Constantine William Spyrou

Tofu is a really under-appreciated ingredient in the modern cooking world. People tend to avoid it because it is bland, really watery, and doesn't taste too great on its own. To me, however, tofu is a great canvas for flavor. Just like rice or bread, tofu can absorb flavors extremely well and become quite delicious if done right. I tend to eat tofu a lot, especially marinated or in stir-fries with bell peppers and green beans. My mom also makes a good tofu and edamame (soybean) stir-fry with rice. This is a new spin, however. This takes tofu and really amps up the flavor through a length marination to really let the flavors combine. Add in some crunch from pan-frying the tofu, and you're good to go! Served with a savory sauce and rice, this makes a great vegan dinner.

Recipe will make about 18 cakes and serve up to 6.

For the Tofu:

3 packages soft/silken tofu, drained and mashed up
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin (rice wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon togarashi (Japanese red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon white pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup sriracha hot sauce
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce

For the Rice:

8 cups Jasmine Rice, washed and cooked
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons Mirin
1 tablespoon curry powder


1. Combine all of the marinade ingredients for the tofu cakes with the tofu and mix well, letting the tofu mash up and get to an almost ground meat consistency. The tofu will naturally bind to itself, so you don't need to add breadcrumbs. Let this mixture sit for at least 1 hour to let the flavors marry
2. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic powder, ground ginger, Mirin, and curry powder for the sauce (seen in the Rice section). Whisk well and let sit for 30 minutes before using. since this is technically an aioli, you may want to mix again in 30 minutes so the sesame oil is not separate from the rest of the sauce.
3. Form small cakes of tofu like patties out of the mixture. You should get a minimum of 18 cakes out of this recipe, possibly more. Cook for about 90 seconds on each side so the sides get nice and crispy in a nonstick pan.
4. Place the tofu cakes over your cooked Jasmine rice. Drizzle the sauce over the top.

The heat from the Sriracha goes quite well with the Asian flavors of the marinade. Since there is so much going on in the marinade as well as tofu and rice to balance out the heat, this won't be too spicy, but it will have some kick for sure. The aioli also adds some richness that can cut down the spice.

If you try making this at home, let me know what you think! Enjoy! =) 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

PAST RECIPE: Savory Stuffed Kohlrabi

© Constantine William Spyrou

One of the cool things here that goes on here at Davis is the Green Chef challenge. Held at the Dining Commons every quarter for the past two years, students have the chance to show off their culinary skills and turn a vegetable from UC Davis' student farm into a stunning dish! There's no meat involved in the dish so it is very vegetarian-friendly. I've competed in this challenge twice so far, each time with some awesome friends from my hall (Ashley, Kirat, Hannah, Roy, and Rebekah, you guys rock! =) ). We've come away with winning the dish once, which should mean the dish should go up on the DC menu. The DC did do an extreme variation of our dish, but we did get credibility for what we did, so I'm happy.
The secret ingredient for our winning challenge was kohlrabi, this odd vegetable that has a massive fleshy white root like a radish or beet (purple skin too) and leaves that taste a bit like swiss chard. Our challenge was to turn this ingredient into a cool dish, and boy, did we deliver. Under a sous chef from Dining Services, we transformed this odd vegetable into a dish that wowed the judges and secured us the victory. That awesome recipe is featured below:

Recipe makes one dish.

For the Stuffed Kohlrabi:

2 kohlrabi roots, hollowed out and roasted lightly (350 degrees for about 12 minutes)
1 cup brown rice
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 ounces peas
1 ounce crushed garlic
2 ounces butter
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Panko breadcrumbs
Mozzerella and parmesean cheese, shredded/grated
2 ounces shaved red onion
1 ounce olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

For the Pesto:

4 ounces Kohlrabi leaves
4 ounces fresh basil
2 ounces walnuts or pinenuts
3 ounces Parmesean cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

For the Flatbread:

4 ounces pizza dough, rolled out into a circle
1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano

For the Persimmons:

4 ounces roughly chopped persimmons
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Prebake the hollowed-out Kohlrabi roots using the above mentioned temp and time (350 F, 12 minutes.)
2. Combine the red onion, 1 ounce of oil, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Add the Kohlrabi leaves, basil, nuts, cheese, and salt and pepper to a blender. Begin to puree, and add the olive oil in slowly until fully incorporated and the pesto is creamy. Set aside.
4. Place 2 ounces of butter into a medium-high heat pan. Add the mushrooms and saute off with the garlic and seasonings for the Kohlrabi filling. Transfer to the rice, and mix well. Add the peas, then lightly mix so to not crush the peas.
5. When the Kohlrabi is done baking, let it cool so it can be handled, and fill each of the kohlrabi roots with the filling. Lightly sprinkle the panko, then the mozzarella and parmesean mixture over the kohlrabi. Bake at the same temperature for about another 10 minutes.
6. Roll out the pizza dough. Combine together the melted butter, minced garlic, and dried oregano, and lightly brush over the dough. Bake in a pizza oven for about 5 minutes, then cut into long strips.
7. In a medium heat pan, add the honey and let it start to reduce. Add the persimmons, lemon zest, and salt. Cook until the persimmons are coated in the honey and thoroughly candied, about 4-5 minutes.
8. Brush the pesto over the midline of your plate. Placed the stuffed kohlrabi on top, and garnish those with the marinated red onion. Place the candied persimmons on either corner of the plate, and add the strips of oregano flatbread.

The final dish should look something like this!

This is intended to be a full course meal on one plate, and it definitely accomplishes that. The judges gave us the victory by a commanding 30 points, so we were quite happy. If you can get a hold of kohlrabi, try making this at home, and tell me what you think! Enjoy! =) 

Monday, March 4, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Greek Lucy Burger

© Constantine William Spyrou

I love burgers. The combination of beefy goodness with melty cheese just works so well together. Burgers don't have to be just cheese melted over a beef patty, however. Many places have their own variations of burgers. The Juicy Lucy burger is arguably one of the greatest burgers ever created. This Minneapolis creation is made by stuffing the cheese into the burger. Traditionally, this is made with ground beef and American or Cheddar cheese. However, since I'm Greek and I love my gyros, I decided to make a burger that's a combination of beef and lamb! Stuffed with feta cheese, served with a homemade tzatsiki sauce (Greek yogurt sauce that is tangy and delicious) and other popular Greek toppings, this is one Greek spin on an American regional favorite that you have just got to try!

Recipe will make 2 half-pound burgers.

For the Burger:

1/2 pound ground beef (use a fatty grind such as 80/20 to help flavor the lamb a little more, you will have about a 90/10 meat to fat ratio at the end with this blend regardless)
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/4 pound feta cheese
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
(Optional: 1 teaspoon misthica/ gum mastic)
Salt and Pepper to Season

For the Tzatsiki:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup diced cucumbers
2 teaspoons mint
Salt and pepper to season

Bread and Condiments:

4 slices Greek Psomi bread (If you can't make/get this, 2 ciabatta rolls - 1 per burger - will work just as well.)
4 strips applewood smoked bacon
Thinly sliced cucumber
Thinly sliced Roma tomato
Thinly sliced bell peppers


1. Make the Tzatsiki by mixing together all of the tzatsiki ingredients well. Let it chill until it is ready to serve.
2. Combine all of the spices into the ground beef, ground lamb, and chopped kalamata, and mix well. Form into four patties (two patties should be bigger than the other two).
3. Take the two larger patties and place some feta cheese on each to your liking, but not too much so that the burger may explode. Form the smaller burger patties around the large burger patties to seal the cheese inside. Create a small dimple on top to keep the burger from exploding. Let it setup in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
4. Grill or pan-sear the burger in olive oil in a hot pan for about 2-3 minutes each side. To prevent the burger from burning, finish the cooking process in an oven at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes. Let the burger rest for 5 minutes afterward to allow it to absorb its juices.
5. Grill up the bacon in the same pan the burger was in, and remove it. In the same pan/grill, toast the Psomi bread/ciabatta slices.
6. Generously spoon the tzatsiki sauce on the bottom slice/bun. Place the burger patty on top, then place 2 bacon strips over each patty. Add the thinly sliced vegetables over the top to your liking. Repeat for each burger you make.

This is what the finished product should look like:
This burger should definitely invoke a lot of powerful Greek flavors and taste meaty yet delicious. Let me know what you think of this burger, and try to make it and tell me how it goes! Enjoy!