Wednesday, September 25, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Sweet Potato Latkes

© Constantine William Spyrou

Most of the best ideas you get in your life come from talking to people. Especially if it's your family. My mom and I are both huge foodies and love watching food shows. Recently, we were watching one about latkes and we started getting ideas about how to make them with sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are extremely nutritious, which is why we had the idea (my mom is huge on health food, and it's rubbing off on me a bit as well). 

Now, making something savory with a sweet potato isn't something that is extremely tough to accomplish. Sweet potato fries are a great example of that, as they take on an amazing flavor when deep-fried and crispy. It adds a great level of umami to the dish (umami being savory flavor). However, transforming it into a latke is a bit harder because it utilizes more ingredients than just the sweet potato, so you have to make the ingredients work together. I think I have found a way, however. 

The bridge for this recipe between the sweet potato and the more savory ingredients is black pepper. It really spikes up the flavor of sweet potato fries already, and would do just the same for the latkes. It seems simple, but the complexity of the dish will blow your mind as you take a bite! 

Recipe will make 10-12 latkes.


2 cups shredded and peeled sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoon grated white onion
3 eggs
2 tablespoons matzah meal (if you can't get this, all-purpose flour works just as well)
1 tablespoon schmaltz (chicken fat. To keep it vegetarian, use vegetable shortening or margarine in place of this.)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
Peanut oil for frying (schmaltz and butter also make great alternatives for this.)


1. Wash the sweet potatoes and wring them out with a cheesecloth before shredding to extract as much moisture as possible.
2. Combine all of your ingredients in a mixing bowl well.
3. Add some of your fat of choice to a hot pan. Add a good spoonful (about 3-4 oz) of your latke mixture into the pan, and flatten into a circle (no more than 1/2 inch thick). Brown on each side for about 2 minutes.
4. Drain your latkes, then serve piping hot with applesauce or another condiment of your choice.

This is basically a traditional latke but done with sweet potatoes. The cinnamon and parsley are additions I made because of how well cinnamon and sweet potatoes go together and how the freshness of the parsley helps to contrast the sweetness a bit as well. Schmaltz is the fat of choice here because of tradition, but you can always use other fats as well to keep it vegetarian. And, of course, sweet potato latkes definitely go well with applesauce (thanks to the cinnamon) and sour cream (that contrasts perfectly with the black pepper and sweet potato)! 

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! =) 

Monday, September 16, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Watermelon Agua Fresca

© Constantine William Spyrou

Summer is about to come to a close for me, and it's been a crazy wild one, doing all different kinds of things, working full-time, landing an internship, helping to run a Sea Cadet boot camp, etc. It was a lot of fun, though, and although I am looking forward to heading back to school, I am definitely going to miss the relaxation that summer provides. This drink is kind of a tribute to the summer, as it is very refreshing - just like summer has been with my mind - and packs a lot of punch with just a few ingredients. This is my take on a popular drink known as agua fresca, which is usually made with just fresh fruit and some herbs that combine together to create a great, fresh flavor. This particular one is extremely simple, with just watermelon, lime, and some fresh mint. It packs a lot of flavor, and is a great way to send off the summer. 

Recipe will serve 4 people.


4 cups fresh watermelon, chopped (you don't need to remove the seeds, but can if you want).
Zest and juice of 1 lime
8 fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cups crushed ice
2 cups water

Making the Drink:

1. Add the ice to the bottom of a blender, then place the watermelon on top of that.
2. Fully zest the lime into the blender. To get the maximum juice out of your lime, roll it on the counter first to help release the juices before you cut it in half and squeeze the juice into the blender.
3. Roll the mint up into a cigar-like bundle, chop into ribbons, and add into the blender.
4. Pour in the water, it should be enough to just cover the watermelon.
5. Blend on high until everything is combined and smooth. No large chunks should remain.
6. (Optional) If you want to strain the drink, feel free to do so. Some people like leaving it "dirty," however, which just means that the blended up seeds and leaves still remain in the drink.
7. (Adults only) Add a small shot of tequila to your glass before adding in the agua fresca to make a nice "margarita" of sorts.

This drink is extremely healthy since its literally made with just fruit, citrus, herbs, and water. No sugar, no cream, no yogurt, no nothing. It's simple, delicious, and great on a hot summer's day. No better way to send off the summer than with this great beverage!

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! =) 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Turkey Ouzo Poblano Meatballs with Risotto de Posole

© Constantine William Spyrou

One of the great things of cooking at home is that there are no restrictions on what you can make - literally, the world is your oyster when it comes to what you want to make in the kitchen. All you need are the right ingredients to create anything you want. It's the ultimate lab for me, because you can experiment with so many things and figure out just how you want it. 

I aimed to do that after my mom made a dish a few years ago for my friends and I. For dinner, she made Turkey, Ouzo, and Jalapeno burger patties that were extremely delicious. I've always wanted to create my own spin on it, and I was able to find it. Using Poblano to keep the heat at a lower level, and adding in the richness of a risotto, this makes a truly comforting but delicious meal. The turkey meatball recipe is my own, but it was inspired by my mother's recipe from all those years ago. The risotto is also my own recipe, and has its own innovative Mexican spin on it: the stock used to cook the risotto in is actually posole-style stock, which is a traditional Mexican dish. It contains Guajillo chile normally, and the soup itself is served with hominy (a type of corn) and chicken. This dish won't have the chicken, but it will have corn to play off those hominy notes and add another level of sweetness. 

Recipe will serve 4 people.

For the Posole Stock: 

6 cups chicken stock
2 cups dried guajillo chillies, steep in warm water to be reconstituted
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
Salt and pepper to season

For the Meatballs:

2 pounds ground turkey meat
1 whole poblano chile
2 shots ouzo (about 2-3 fl oz or 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons dill
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season

For the Risotto: 

2 1/2 cups arboreal rice
1/4 cup diced shallots
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup fresh corn off the cob
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Parmesean cheese
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season


1. Start by making the posole stock. Combine all of the ingredients into a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Cool, then blend together to make a uniform stock. Set aside.
2. Roast the poblano chile on an open flame until it is charred on all sides, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a plastic bag, then rub to remove the skin off of the poblano. Dice up the poblano chile afterward.
3. In a mixing bowl, add the turkey, spices, ouzo, and diced poblano. Combine well, then form into about 2-oz meatballs (no more than 1/2 inch in diameter).
4. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Place the meatballs onto a greased baking sheet. Add a small amount of water to keep the meatballs from sticking. Bake for 40 minutes.
5. In a hot pan at medium-high heat, add the olive oil to the pan. Add your shallots and the minced garlic, and quickly sautee for about 1 minute. Add the rice, and quickly toast for another minute until the rice turns a light golden color.
6. Add your posole stock about 1/2 cup at a time until the rice has fully absorbed all of the stock, constantly stirring throughout. This process will take about 20 minutes.
7. When the rice is fully cooked, add your corn, butter, Parmesean cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir and combine well until the butter and Parmesean are melted into the risotto.
8. Serve about 4 meatballs each on top of your plates of risotto for each person.

My favorite part about this dish is that there are so many cuisines working together here! You've got the Mexican notes of the poblano chile and the posole stock, richness from the Italian risotto, and some licorice-like notes from the dill and ouzo in the meatballs that evoke a Greek flavor. Having all of these cuisines work together makes the dish exciting and fun to make too! 

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! =) 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

NEW RECIPE: Pork Chile Verde

© Constantine William Spyrou

I love tons of different cuisines of food because each has their own intricate flavor and innovative style to do food. The Greeks are huge fans of the basic combination of lemon, garlic, oregano, and olive oil, for example. Thai cuisine is infamous for having the perfect balance of all five flavors: spicy, sweet, salty, sour, and tangy. French food is known for refined technique and delicate cooking processes. However, I'm pretty sure that the cuisine that takes the cake for me is Mexican. It's got a great balance of not only marinating meat (one of my favorite attributes of cooking), but also able to do slow cooking very well, from dishes like carnitas and machaca to one of all my all-time favorites: Pork Chile Verde. 

Pork Chile Verde consists of slow-cooked pork that simmers with acidic tomatillos, warm chiles, and plenty of spices for hours and just gets this amazing flavor that is hard to replicate in other dishes. This is my version of Pork Chile Verde, which is extremely slow but has an amazing taste to make up for it. This goes great with rice, tortillas, or a rainy day. It's sure to warm and fill you up while destroying your tastebuds with flavor! 

You can also easily make a vegetarian version of this dish by replacing the pork stock with vegetable stock and not utilizing pork. Slow cooking the chilles and tomatillos creates an amazing green chile sauce that you can put over anything and make taste great! 

Recipe will serve up to 20 people.


5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into about 1 inch-thick cubes
5 cups tomatillos (Blanch them first to remove the skins, then blend into a puree before adding.)
1 cup serrano chiles, chopped
2 cups Anaheim green chiles, chopped
1 quart water
1 quart pork stock (If you can't get it, vegetable stock works just as well)
2 large Spanish white onions, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried Mexican Oregano
10 cloves of minced garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
3 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons black pepper


1. Take a large pot (about 4+ gallons should suffice) and place it on high heat. Add olive oil once the pot is hot, then add the chopped onions and garlic. Add about a third of the spices at this point as well.
2. When the onions turn translucent, add in the pork and sear on all sides, cooking for about 10-15 minutes to ensure all of the pork is colored. Also add in another third of the spices.
3. When the pork is all seared off, add the water and pork stock. Stir in the remaining spices, your tomatillos, and the chiles. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 2 1/2 hours or until the pork is fork tender (falls apart when you touch it with a fork).

Like with most Mexican dishes (the mole being one of the few exceptions to this), this pork chile verde is simple to make. You just have to wait for the cooking to finish, but once you do, this dish has a great balance of acid, heat, and rich pork flavor that goes together so well!

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