Thursday, July 31, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Dolmades with Goat Cheese Dip

© Constantine William Spyrou

Even though I've made a lot of recipes here and have a ton of culinary knowledge, there's always something knew to learn. This past week, I learned how to turn goat cheese into a delicious, creamy, and thick sauce that be utilized in many areas. That gave me the idea to utilize it almost like a tzatsiki sauce. Tzatsiki is a traditional Greek yogurt sauce with cucumber, mint, lemon, and seasoning. 

I didn't want to exactly mimic the flavor of tsatziki, however, as I wanted the goat cheese to really shine through. So, I decided to use it as a balance for homemade dolmades, which are traditionally steamed in lemon juice and have a sour note. The richness and tang of the goat cheese sauce helps bring back the flavor of the dolmade and balance it.

Dolmades are also known more commonly as stuffed grape leaves. The recipe here is a version with ground beef, rice, and spices from both Greece and the Middle East. To make it vegetarian, simply remove the ground beef and parboil the rice in water and a touch of lemon juice and seasoning while mixing with everything else. 

Recipe will make 20-30 dolmades to feed 4-5 people.

For the Goat Cheese Dip:

1/3 cup chevre goat cheese (chosen for its creamy texture)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup diced cucumbers
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano

For the Dolmades:

40-45 grape leaves, rinsed individually
1 1/4 pounds ground beef
2 cups uncooked white rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice ( + enough to steam the dolmades, about 2-3 cups)
Salt and pepper to season
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons dill
1 teaspoon sumac
1/2 tablespoon zatt'ar spice


1. Combine the ground beef, rice, olive oil, lemon juice, spices, onion, and garlic until completely mixed together. Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavors come together.
2. Line the bottom of your pot with 5 grape leaves to keep the stuffed ones from burning.
3. Add about 1-2 ounces of the filling mixture to the rough,veined side of a grape leaf where the stem would be (most jarred grape leaves come with the stem on as a point of reference, trim it off before rolling though!) 4. Roll the grape leaf forward first to surround the filling, then tuck in the sides and finish rolling to seal the grape leaf. Layer the stuffed grape leaves as they are made into the pot.
5. Fill the pot halfway with lemon juice. Cover with another layer of 5 flat grape leaves, then weigh down a plate on top of the dolmades to apply slight pressure (about 2-3 pounds of weight should suffice at least).
6. Cover the pot and steam at a medium-low heat for 45 minutes. As the dolmades steam, make your goat cheese dipping sauce.
7. Whisk together the goat cheese and heavy cream until fully combined into a smooth, thick mixture. Add in the cucumber, salt, pepper, and oregano, and stir to combine. Serve with the steamed grape leaves.

The goat cheese dip really is the star that brings everything together for this dish. It's an amazing sauce that counteracts brilliantly with the sour yet savory notes of the grape leaves, making an all-around balanced flavor that bounces off of every part of your palate!

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, July 28, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Hot Indian Spiced Elk with Broccolini

© Constantine William Spyrou

When I go grocery shopping, I'm always looking for those interesting ingredients that I've heard of but never tried, because I want to try making dishes out of them. This has led me to venture to several different food stores in a single grocery shopping trip sometimes, but it has led to some amazing results. This weekend, I was able to pickup not one, but two great ingredients that I've always wanted to test out from two different stores- savory and slightly salty curry leaves, and robust and gamey ground elk meat. I decided to make a spicy Indian-style curry dish out of the elk and curry leaves, and chose broccolini as a vegetable because... well, I had it. 

The result was an amazing dish that had a variety of textures and really deep delicious flavors. Not too spicy, but totally flavorful and delicious!

Recipe serves 2 people.


2 cups broccolini, roughly chopped
2 small chilies, thinly sliced (I used thai chilies for this, but any small hot chili that is as spicy or spicier than chile de arbol works for this)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
6 ounces ground elk
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons curry leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon avocado oil (or another neutral vegetable oil)
1 cup rice to serve with


1. Add your oil and fennel seeds to a hot pan on medium heat. Toast for 30 seconds, then add in the finely chopped chili. Let it cook out for about a minute.
2. Add in your ground elk in small peaces, followed by the salt, pepper, garam masala, garlic powder, cardamom, and cumin. Combine and cook until the elk is cooked through, in about 5 minutes.
3. Add in the sugar, broccolini, and curry leaves, and stir in so the sugar melts. Then, deglaze the pan with the chicken stock. Bring up to a boil, then steam for 5 minutes to help cook the broccolini.
4. Add in the heavy cream, then bring back up to a boil and cook out for about a minute. Serve over rice.

This dish is spicy but also creamy and has a ton of aromatic flavors from the garam masala, cardamom, and curry leaves. It creates a balanced feeling in the mouth thanks to the sugar taking out some of the potency of the chili (but not ruining its flavor) and the curry leaves adding a great savory note to the dish. The gameyness of the elk plays in perfectly like lamb or goat would in a traditional Indian curry.

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 27, 2014

NEW RECIPE: The Orzo Power Bowl

© Constantine William Spyrou

I've become a lot more conscious about the nutrients in my food and what goes into the foods I'm eating since taking a nutrition class at college this past spring. It's important to get a good balance of every single nutrient in the recommended daily values throughout the day. This means eating a mix of proteins (or 31 grams of egg every day and you'll be good), high-fiber grains and vegetables, fruits for water-insoluble fiber (which is just as important as the fiber in grains and veggies), and choosing healthy fats such as unsaturated and omega-3 fats. 

Now, working full-time, its definitely a challenge to be able to cook all the time and spend a lot of time making sure I have the nutrients I need. To remedy this, I developed this recipe that contains the majority of the nutrients that are needed in your diet, but can easily be cooked in bulk. There are many different versions of the power bowl I have created. This one happens to be a savory Italian option with orzo, tomatoes, spinach, and multiple kinds of protein to ensure I'm getting what I need in my diet. This is a dish I can just put everything into a pot and leave on for a couple of hours, making it much easier to cook and enjoy! 

Recipe makes up to 10 bowls of food.


1 package high-fiber orzo (Nutrients: Zinc, Iron, B Vitamins, Water-Insoluble Fiber)
1 1/2 cups spinach (Nutrients: Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Niacin, Zinc, Vitamin B6, Manganese, Magnesium, Copper, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Water-Insoluble Fiber)
1 cup kale (Nutrients: Vitamin A, Potassium, Calcium, Iron, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Water Insoluble Fiber)
4 cups chicken stock (Nutrients: Sodium, Iron, Riboflavin, Niacin.)
1 pound ground bison (Nutrients: Protein, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Zinc, Selenium)
1 pound chicken thighs, cut into pieces (Nutrients: Vitamin B6, Niacin, Protein, Phosphorous, Zinc, Selenium)
1 can crushed tomatoes (Nutrients: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Water-Soluble Fiber, Thiamin, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Niacin, Potassium, Copper, Iron)
2 cups water (Nutrients: Water)
3 cloves garlic, minced (Nutrients: Calcium, Phosphorous, Selenium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Manganese)
1/2 tablespoon basil (Nutrients: Vitamin E, Niacin, Phosphorous, Zinc, Water-Insoluble Fiber, Vitamins A, C, K, and B6, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, and Manganese)
2 tablespoons avocado oil (Nutrients: Unsaturated Fat)
1 tablespoon flax seed oil (Nutrients: Omega-3 Fatty Acids)
1/2 tablespoon oregano ( Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper, Water-Insoluble Fiber, Vitamns A, C, E, and K, Folate, Iron, Calcium, Manganese, Magnesium)
Salt and pepper to season (Nutrients: Sodium, Iron)


1. Combine all ingredients except for the spinach, kale, and orzo into a pot. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
2. Add the spinach and kale, and cook for another 15 minutes. Then, bring to a boil, and add in your orzo and cook to package instructions (about 10 minutes), stirring continuously so that the orzo doesn't stick to the pot. Once the orzo has doubled in size and absorbed 90-100% of the liquid, its ready!

This recipe is really simple to do because its quick to setup and it just stays on the pot until your vegetables and orzo get added. It lasts a long time, and has a lot of deep flavor from the bison, chicken, spices, and tomato. It has a great balance overall! 

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 13, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Italian Orzo and Turkey Casserole

© Constantine William Spyrou

It's always better to eat food that is home-cooked when you're working rather than going to the nearest fast-food restaurant and picking up something quick. This is because you have control of what goes into your food, and you can customize your dishes to the flavors you enjoy. The easiest way to make dishes at home is to make ones that last a while and you can cook easily in bulk. 

Casseroles are a classic way to do this, because you can bake off a large amount and have it last for a while. This is what I did with this dish - I took the flavors of turkey, tomato, and orzo that I really like and turned it into a casserole. I utilized an eggy bechamel - similar to what goes into a patsitsio or moussaka - and placed it over the top with pepper jack cheese to create a great balance of flavors that works great, and kept me happy over a few meals! 

Recipe serves up to 12 people.

For the Turkey and Orzo Base:

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1 14-18 oz jar marinara or canned tomatoes (if you use canned tomatoes, added extra garlic, basil, salt, and oregano to make up for the herbs that you miss otherwise)
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 dried bay leaf
1 package orzo
Salt and pepper to season

For the Bechamel Topping:

2 cups milk
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season
12 slices pepper jack cheese


1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Just as it all gets melted, stir in your flour to make a roux. Cook it out for 3-4 minutes on medium heat to get a blond color with all of the flour flavor cooked out.
3. Whisk in your milk in slow batches to keep the roux from lumping and making a clumpy sauce. When its all in, bring up to a boil and then down to a simmer immediately for 5-6 minutes.
4. Whisking rapidly, slowly add in your egg to ensure it all is equally incorporated and no scrambled egg pieces form. The sauce should begin to tighten up even more at this point.
5. Stir in your basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, then set aside to cool.
6. In a large pot, sear off all of the turkey meat with your basil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.
7. After about 10 minutes, all of the turkey should be colored and cooked. Deglaze your pot with the Worcestershire sauce, and add in your liquids and combine well.
8. As the mixture comes up to a boil, add in your bay leaf and lemon pepper, then bring down to a simmer and cover for about an hour.
9. Add in your orzo and bring the mixture up to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently so the orzo doesn't stick to the pot. If needed, add more water. The final product should be thick with no runny liquid, as the orzo should absorb all of it.
10. Add the orzo mixture to your baking tray, making sure to remove the bay leaf at this point. Evenly spread the bechamel over the top of the orzo, then layer with the pepper jack slices.
11. Back for 40 minutes, let cool, and serve!

This dish combines warmth and richness with the bechamel, sweetness and savory from the orzo base, and rounds out with a touch of heat and sharpness from the pepper jack. Everything really comes together to make something delicious!

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! =)