Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Vegan Mushroom Casserole

© Constantine William Spyrou

Over the course of the past 10-15 years, tons of new food movements have started springing up around the nation. There's been a huge street food movement that's swept across America, with food trucks becoming some of the new hip things around. Farm to table has been a huge one, with people being concerned about eating from local farmers to get the freshest ingredients. There has also been a large movement concerning vegan diets, with many people switching to vegan with the ideal that going vegan is much healthier for you (or other environmental reasons). Having tasted vegan food, I do notice that it is common to find vegan dishes that tend to lack in flavor. Even though vegan dishes don't have meat or dairy in them, that doesn't need to be the case. You can create delicious flavor in vegan dishes through technique and proper seasoning, as well as combining the flavors of vegan ingredients very well. 

This recipe takes on the vegan world and aims to give it a new level of flavor and deliciousness by taking some of the best things of vegan cuisine into one dish: earthy, rich mushrooms, rice, and herbs that just punch up flavors to that next level. Utilizing all of these flavors in a mushroom casserole will help give deep, rich, and delicious flavors into the vegan world. This dish is also made with a great vegetable stock, which is included in this recipe! 

Recipe will serve up to 12 people.

For the Casserole Base:

1 pound button mushrooms, chopped
1 pound shittake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped (save the stems for the vegetable stock!)
1 pound cromini mushrooms, chopped
1 pound oyster mushrooms, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups Homemade Vegetable Stock (see recipe below)
4 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
2 cups red wine (Merlot is the best for this, or any other full-bodied red wine)
2 large Spanish onions, diced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
Zest and juice of two lemons
6 cups long grain rice, cooked
Salt and pepper to season

For the Homemade Vegetable Stock:

(Note: For all of these vegetables, its okay to leave skins on if you want, as this stock will be strained out at the end anyways.)

1 gallon of water
3 large white onions, halved
1 bulb of fennel, roughly chopped
4 large carrots, roughly chopped
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
2 cups of roughly chopped leeks
Shittake mushroom stems from above
1/2 cup cracked black peppercorns
1/4 cup juniper berries
1/2 cup fresh parsley, bruised
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed

For the Topping: 

2 cups sesame seeds, toasted
1 cup chopped fresh parsley


1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Roast the onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and fennel for the stock in the oven for 40 minutes. Keep the oven around for the casserole baking.
3. Add the roasted vegetables (and any of the pan "drippings") to a large pot. Add the aromatics, mushroom stems, and water. Bring to a boil for 90 minutes, then strain.
4. Season the chopped mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add to a hot pan with olive oil and the diced onions, and cook until they are all browned and the onions are starting to caramelize, about 15-20 minutes.
5. Add the garlic and herbs at this point. Cook for another 5 minutes to let the flavors mix, then add the lemon juice and zest. Stir for 2 more minutes, then add the red wine, vegetable stock, and some more seasoning.
6. Bring the mushroom mixture to a boil and let the liquid reduce by half. Mix in with the cooked rice, and transfer to a casserole dish rubbed with olive oil. Sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
7. When the casserole is cooled, sprinkle the top with fresh parsley, and serve.

This dish is all about mushrooms and deep, rich flavors. Without meats and other animal products to help deepen the flavor of the mushrooms casserole, it is a challenge. However, this dish shows that even vegan dishes can taste absolutely delicious. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Triple Meat Asian Sausage

© Constantine William Spyrou

When I cook dinner, the typical breakdown goes like this: My mom (teacher and mentor in the culinary world) tells me she's going out for a bit and asks me to make dinner. She tells me what vegetables and meats we have in the fridge, and then leaves. I'm left to my own culinary devices for some time after that, and sometimes I just come up with some ridiculous ideas. I've done things like Greek Lemon Ground Beef, Asian Crispy Tofu, and other dishes that I can't name because I just put seasonings, sauces, spices, and proteins together to make something that hopefully tastes good. This time, I decided to write down exactly what I did so I could turn it into a recipe.

When my mom went out, she told me we had green beans, spinach, pork, and bison that I could potentially cook with. Hunting around, I also found green onion, cilantro, dried Chinese sausage, and some bell peppers. I felt like being in an Asian mood, so I decided to make Asian-flavored sausage patties using the pork, bison (because its lean and goes well with the pork as a result), and dried Chinese Sausage as the meats. Chinese sausage kind of tastes like a cross between jerky and bacon, and is really interesting. The combination of meats went together way better than I expected, and turned out to be really delicious. 

This sausage also has vegetables in it. Normally, you don't see vegetables in sausage unless they are ground up. However, I used a technique I discovered while in Holland swimming several years ago. The hamburger patties there had vegetables inside the burger, giving another level of flavor to the meat. I decided to apply this to the sausage patties, and it helped really bring more flavor out. I'm really proud of these sausage patties.

Recipe will serve up to 8 people.


1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground bison (beef works too, but try to keep it at no more than 10% fat)
4 ounces dried Chinese sausage, diced
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced bell peppers
1/4 cup chopped green beans
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons red chili oil (spicy sesame oil)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil (or roasted garlic olive oil to punch up the flavor)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried sage


1. Mix all of the ingredients together except for the olive oil well into a mixing bowl. Go for uniform distribution of the veggies and meats together.
2. Form the sausage meat into 3-4 oz patties by hand. In a hot pan with olive oil on medium-high heat, sear the patties and cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Set on a plate to rest, then serve with rice.

This sausage is really simple to make once you get all of the ingredients together, and tastes truly delicious. For added flavor, make this a few hours before cooking to allow all of the flavors to marry. The Asian flavors really get punched up thanks to the Chinese sausage, and the bison deepens the flavor of the meat as a whole.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Friday, July 26, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Mexican Meatloaf

© Constantine William Spyrou

Meatloaf is a classic American comfort dish that is very rich and satisfying. Traditionally made with meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, and sauteed vegetables, this baked loaf is a staple in most diners across America, as well as in many other American restaurants in the US. Meatloaf also usually gets served with a rich, creamy gravy that complements the meatloaf perfectly. 

That is what happens to traditional American meatloaf. However, I'm going to put a Mexican spin on this American classic, which means almost entirely changing up what meatloaf is supposed to be. There are going to be no eggs and no breadcrumbs in this meatloaf. It will be held together with avocado instead, which also makes it creamy and even more rich, meaning you don't need any gravy! Because of this, instead of traditional beef and pork meatloaf, this will be a turkey and pork meatloaf (because turkey lends a lot more to traditional Mexican flavors and is more common in Mexican cooking anyways). Add some great Mexican seasonings to it, and you're set for comfort in a new, elevated way like you've never seen before! 

Recipe will feed about 12 people.


3 pounds ground turkey
3 pounds ground pork
2 whole avocados
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
2 ounces tequila
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 pound skinned tomatillos
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
2 jalapenos, whole
2 serrano peppers, whole
2 green bell peppers, diced
Zest and juice of 4 limes
Olive oil for cooking/sauteeing
Salt and pepper to season


1. Preheat a convection oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Start by making the tomatillo sauce that will be mixed into the meatloaf. Saute half of the bell peppers, red onions, and white onions in some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic. When the onions start to turn translucent, add chicken stock, water, jalapenos, serranos, and tomatillos. Cook down on high heat for about an hour, then blend the sauce until pureed and combined. It's okay if the sauce is chunky at this point.
3. In a separate pan, saute the rest of the bell peppers and onions with salt, pepper, and a small amount of the cumin.
4. Combine turkey and pork in a mixing bowl until well mixed. Add your tomatillo sauce, sauteed vegetables, lime zest and juice, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, garlic, tequila, cilantro, and avocados. The avocado acts as a binder for the meatloaf, so breadcrumbs and eggs are not necessary. Combine well, then form into a log.
5. Transfer the meatloaf to a greased sheetpan. Add water until it just covers the sheet pan to keep the meatloaf from drying out or burning. Cover the pan and meatloaf with tinfoil, and bake covered in the oven for 45 minutes.
6. Remove the foil, and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes to get a nice crust on the top. Serve!

This meatloaf is meant to achieve a great balance between richness and bright acidity, which is why the tomatillo sauce factors in. It takes on a whole new flavor thanks to all of the Mexican seasonings and sauces that are mixed in. The fact that turkey is used in the meatloaf helps to complement all of the flavors, and the avocado provides the fat that the meatloaf is missing otherwise, making it creamy and rich.

I hope you enjoyed reading this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Picadillo

© Constantine William Spyrou

Even though I am Greek and Chinese, my favorite foods to make and eat tend to come more from the Latin American area of the world, especially from Cuba and Mexico. I've had an obsession with being able to try Cuban food, which is hard to get around where I live. Almost nowhere sells or makes Cuban food of any kind, so I decided to go for broke and try making my own Cuban dish: Picadillo.

Picadillo is a traditional Cuban stew that is made with ground beef, olives (preferably Spanish olives), and sofrito, the traditional seasoning vegetable saute used in Cuban cuisine. The basic sofrito calls for onions, bell peppers, and garlic, though you can vary it to your liking. I also used cumin and oregano for the sofrito in this recipe. Sofrito is the base of most Cuban food, so a good Sofrito leads to a good Picadillo in turn.

Cuban food isn't necessarily spicy, but it is full of flavor and is good, hearty food. This picadillo embodies that, as the combination of the sofrito, beef, and olives harmonizes together well to make a full-flavored delicious entree. 

Recipe will serve up to 6 people.


3 cups Jasmine/White Rice or 2 lbs yellow potatoes, boiled and halved
1/2 large Spanish white onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
(Optional: 1 tablespoon roasted garlic olive oil, if you have it. Not necessary.)
1 pound ground beef
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 1/2 cups Mexican-style Beer (Any lager or light beer is perfect for this)
1 cup Spanish olives (with pimientos), halved and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to season


1. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil at medium high heat. Add in the diced onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until the onions sweat and turn translucent.

2. Add in your ground beef and season once again. Break up the ground beef into small pieces to ensure that it browns quicker and better. Cook until all of the ground beef is browned, which should take another 5 minutes.

3. Deglaze your pan with the beer, and bring up to a boil. Turn down to a simmer once you reach the boil and let the beef simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with rice or boiled halved potatoes (if you use the potatoes, stir in with the beef before serving for the traditional Cuban picadillo experience!)

The dish is very simple to make, as you can see from the small amount of steps, but packs a huge amount of flavor into each bite. The long and slow cooking allows all of the flavors of the sofrito, spices, and beef to really combine and make a stunning dish. The beef stock just adds that extra depth to the flavor, and the olives help to balance it out.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Duck Linguini with a Cilantro-Red Wine Sauce

© Constantine William Spyrou

For me, duck was always this seemingly luxurious, fancy, and delicious meat that I could never get my hands on without spending a good deal of money to get it. However, I have been able to try duck a couple of times, and really enjoy the wild gameyness it provides in flavor. It can go well with sweet or savory bold flavors. I've tried it in risotto, with fruit, and even smoked. It's been delicious and a real treat every single time.

I haven't been able to find a good place to purchase fresh duck breast yet, but when I do, this is one of the recipes I want to make utilizing this fresh duck. I've made the sauce for this dish at home before, and its richness and boldness should go extremely well with the duck, which can take on the flavors really well. The sauce combines the freshness of cilantro with the body of red wine. Normally, you wouldn't think of cilantro mixing well with red wine, but by utilizing the cilantro in a pesto, you can bring the two ingredients together in ways unimaginable. 

Recipe makes 4 servings.

For the Duck:

2 skin-on duck breasts
Salt and pepper to season
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of thyme

For the Pasta and Sauce:

2 packages of linguini pasta, cooked to instructions
1/4 cup red wine (cooking red wine is best for this, but any red wine is fine) 
1/4 cup button mushrooms, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons parmesean cheese
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper to season


1. Score the duck breast skins in a criss-cross fashion to create diamonds. Don't score too deep into the duck, you should not see any red meat through the score marks. 
2. Smash each of the garlic cloves to release their flavor, and rub them across each of the duck breasts. Season the duck. 
3. Add olive oil to a pan on medium heat. Sear the duck breasts skin side down to release their fat for about 5 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Add the sprigs of thyme and rosemary to the pan to help infuse the duck with their flavor. 
4. Once the skin is crisp, flip the ducks over and quickly bake in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes. Let the duck cool and rest, then dice it into cubes. Preserve some of the rendered duck fat to be used again. 
5. In a food processor, add 1 clove of garlic, the cilantro, basil, red wine vinegar, parmesean, and some salt and pepper. Puree the mixture to form a pesto, adding olive oil throughout until you have a creamy, delicious pesto. 
6. Cook the pasta to package specifications and drain. Make sure to season the water! 
7. Add the saved duck fat to a hot pan on medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and some salt and pepper. When the mushrooms are browned, add the garlic and the duck. Combine for about 30 seconds, then deglaze the pan with the red wine. Add the pesto you made, soy sauce, cayenne, and chicken stock.
8. Let the sauce reduce for about 2 minutes, then toss in the pasta and combine well. Serve, and garnish with fresh basil and cilantro if you wish.

This dish is a unique combination of fusion by introducing cilantro into Italian cuisine and making it shine through and take the bodied richness of red wine and pesto to the next level. 

I hope you enjoyed reading this! Let me know what you think and what you would change! If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Monday, July 1, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Elk Flank Stir-fry with Chinese Black Moss

© Constantine William Spyrou

I'll admit, this isn't the most tasty-sounding recipe title or dish I've probably come up with. But when you work with strange and new ingredients, you've got to branch out and try new things. That's what came up in the Ethnic Mystery Box challenge for MasterChef, where contestants had to deal with greens, Spanish cured tuna, Chinese black moss, and other ingredients. Since I was familiar with the pickled daikon and the Chinese black moss and recognized them on the show, I decided to do a stir-fry with the elk with the Chinese black moss acting as noodles. My mom has cooked Chinese black moss before with noodles and it is literally just like a more flavorful pasta, so I do think it can work with the gameyness of the elk and the pickled daikon. We'll see how this turns out! 

Recipe makes one serving.


1 package Chinese black moss, dehydrated
1/2 pound elk flank steak, sliced into strips
1/4 cup pickled daikon, diced
1/2 cup collard greens, raw
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove chopped garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
Salt and pepper to season


1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Chinese black moss and cook for 15 minutes until it is al dente. Drain, and set aside.
2. Marinate the elk flank strips in the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper for 10 minutes. While that is going on, blanch off the collard greens in the slated water and chop roughly.
3. Add canola or sesame oil to a hot pan. Quickly saute the greens and toss in the marinated elk flank steak. Mix into the noodles, and serve in a bowl. Garnish with the pickled daikon.

This dish really plays to my Asian roots and is meant to be simple and homey but delicious, a more home-cook spin on taking tough ingredients and turning them into a masterpiece.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make this, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)