Sunday, October 26, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Barley Risotto with Crab, Peas, and Seared Scallops

© Constantine William Spyrou

A lot of people are scared of cooking what is known as some of the "tougher" dishes in culinary. These include dishes like souffles, Beef Wellington, and risottos. However, each of these dishes can be accomplished with the right amount of patience and practice. Risotto is a great example of this. It seems challenging to pull of this dish, but with an hour of spare time and a lot of patience for it to cook, anyone can turn rice into this amazing, luxurious dish.

However, it doesn't just have to be rice in a risotto. Over this past week, I've been testing out different so-called "ancient grains" in risotto. This up-and-coming trend in food involves the usage of more of the older grains that people in earlier times would eat, such as barley, farro, and freekah. From my "research," I've concluded that out of these, my personal favorite to utilize in a risotto is pearl barley. It has a similar shape and size to arborio rice but with a lot more nutrients and texture. Utilizing it in a risotto just perfectly contrasts the creaminess and luxuriousness of it. It's also kind of like fried zucchini as in you can say you're eating "healthy" when you make it. 

Lame jokes aside, this risotto is a seafood risotto that capitalizes on the sweetness of crabs, peas, and seared scallops to counterbalance the richness of the risotto. The result is an amazing combination of flavors and textures! 

Recipe serves 1 person.


1/2 cup pearl barley
1 finely chopped shallot
1/4 diced onion
3-4 cups water/chicken stock/vegetable stock
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/2 tablespoon parmesean cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 cup frozen peas (leave frozen until the risotto is done!)
1/4 cup lump crab meat (dungeness is my personal choice for this, but any crab will work)
3 sea/diver scallops
Salt and pepper to season


1. Add your chopped shallots, onion, and garlic to a pan on medium-high heat with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Season and add in your thyme, and saute for 2-3 minutes until the onions are soft.
2. Add in your barley and stir for about a minute. Deglaze the pan with half of your lemon juice, then start adding in your liquid, half a cup to a cup at a time.
3. Each time you add in liquid, continously stir until the liquid comes up to a boil and is 90-95% absorbed by the rice. Then, add in your next portion of liquid, and repeat. Continue until the barley is cooked and the grains are no longer white in the center, about 40-45 minutes.
4. After adding in the last amount of stock, stir in your mascarpone and parmesean, and season to taste.
5. Stir in the crab, then turn the gas off and stir in the frozen peas. As it cools on the burner, the peas will defrost but not gum up and turn to mush.
6. While the risotto cools, cook your scallops. Season lightly on each side, and place into a pan on medium heat with some olive oil. Cook for no more than 90 seconds on each side.
7. Add in your remaining lemon juice, and toss the scallops in the lemon juice and remaining olive oil for 20-30 seconds. Take off of the heat.
8. Plate your risotto in a flat circle, and lay the scallops on top. Serve!

This is a double whammy of luxury, with the amazing freshness and sweetness of large scallops and the richness of the risotto. The thyme, seafood, lemon, and peas serve to bring the two element of the dish together by creating a bridge to the sweetness of the amazing scallop meat. Meanwhile, the risotto has an amazing rich backdrop of flavor that is highlighted by the mascarpone and will make you want more! 

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! =) 

NEW RECIPE: Mongolian Lamb Shanks

© Constantine William Spyrou

There's been a very lamby theme to these past couple of dishes. That isn't necessarily by design, but being Greek, my love for lamb is huge, so cooking it in any form is always a treat. That me really happy this weekend at home. With the parents out of town, my mom left behind half a dozen lamb shanks and asked me to make something Mongolian-themed. 

Mongolian cuisine is quite similar to Chinese cuisine in terms of ingredients, but more like Thai cuisine in terms of style. It goes for a balance of the five flavors like Thai food does, but a lot more fermented products and sauces are used in comparison to the freshness of Thai dishes. This makes it a lot more optimal for braising because the sauces can reduce and enrich in flavor, whereas fresher ingredients would break down and give off undesirable flavors. 

This dish takes lamb shanks to a Mongolian side while still holding true to the Italian style of braising that the lamb shank is known for. The result is a rich flavor that can't be compared to in any other type of dish in my opinion. For best results, serve the shanks with rice that you cook in some of the extra braising liquid. It will take on the flavors just as well and make it amazing! 

Recipe serves 6 people.


6 lamb shanks
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
1 cup ginger, roughly chopped
3 cups carrots, roughly chopped
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 cups Passata tomato puree (very loose)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese 5 spice
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 tablespoon dried chili flakes
1 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sweet soy sauce
1 tbsp Chili bean paste
3 cloves minced garlic
Pepper to season (There's enough salt in the soy sauce already)


1. Marinate the lamb shanks in all but 2 tbsp of the soy sauce, half of the sesame oil, all of the ginger, 5 spice, coriander, sugar, garlic, and chili flakes. Mix well and let sit in the fridge overnight for the flavors to develop.
2. Add some vegetable oil to a large hot pan. Make sure the pan you use has some depth to it (unless you are using a Crockpot/slow cooker for this dish). Sear the lamb shanks for about 2 minutes on each side, then remove from the pan.
3. While the lamb shanks are searing, place your vegetable stock in the marinade container and mix in all of the ingredients from the marinade.
4. After the lamb shanks are done, add carrots to your empty pan, along with the remaining sesame oil and the chili bean paste. Cook for 2 minutes, then deglaze the pan with your soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sweet soy sauce, and hoisin.
5. Add in your chicken stock mix and tomato puree, then bring up to a boil. At this point, if you are using a CrockPot/slow cooker, place the lamb shanks in then cover with the liquid and turn on high for at least four hours. If not, simply add the lamb shanks back into the pan, and slightly cover. Bring down to a simmer for four hours.
6. Take the lamb out of the liquid. Serve with your starch of choice and some braising liquid over the top, as it makes an amazing sauce.

Lamb shanks in the slow cooker. Sorry it's messy.

This dish definitely has a lot going on, but everything contributes to getting a rich balance of flavors and intensity of the lamb. The lamb does a great job taking on all of the flavors, and it really does taste like a braised lamb shank from Italy- but with a spiced Mongolian kick.

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, October 23, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Smoky Black Cumin Stir-fried Lamb with Minted Sticky Rice

© Constantine William Spyrou

Over this past summer, I got the opportunity to travel to Minnesota and visit the Mall of America. While there, I discovered an amazing food store chain called Vom Fass*. With several locations across the nation, this food store specializes in oils, spices, herbs, spreads, vinegars, and spirits! They have the basics, but they also carry specialized products and ones that are hard to find. You can choose how much of a product you want in increments and purchase that way so that you can get a ton of these options without breaking your budget. It's a great deal! 

I purchased 4 different ingredients for personal use while at the store: Authentic Modena Balsamic Vinegar, Black Cumin Infused Olive oil, Ras el Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend), and pink peppercorns that work great as a way to spice up your desserts with their fruity but peppery punch. I haven't gotten the chance to use all of the yet, but I did make a dish today utilizing the black cumin oil. It is strong in cumin flavor, so it punches through and lifts the dish to a whole new level!

The dish I chose to make was inspired by a Chinese dish, but is Mexican in nature. Southern China has a popular lamb dish that is stir-fried with cumin and green onion. Instead, I stir-fried my lamb with black cumin oil, smoked paprika, and some other spices that gave it a more spicy, smoky, and savory punch! With a good balance of the spices to counteract, and an aromatic punch of mint in the lamb and the rice, it has all of the complexity that a tasty lamb dish should have! 

Recipe serves up to 2 people.


1 cup cooked and seasoned Jasmine Rice (or any kind of rice you have) (to make it sticky, simply add a 3/2 ratio of water to rice and a touch of oil and steam for 40-45 minutes)
8 ounces lamb flank steak, cut into small strips
1/4 cup chopped white onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp dried cumin
2 tsp black cumin olive oil
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup mint leaves, left whole
Salt and Pepper to season


1. Season the lamb strips and set aside, uncooked.
2. Add your olive oil to a pan on medium heat. When it starts to smoke, add in the onion and garlic. Lightly season.
3. Add in your cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, and oregano, and saute the onions for about 2 minutes.
4. Turn the gas up to medium high, and add in the strips of lamb. Cook until the lamb is colored nicely, about 3-4 minutes.
5. Deglaze the pan with lemon juice, then slightly pick at a small amount of the mint leaves to get large pieces into the pan. Toss for 30 seconds, then take off of the heat. Drizzle with the black cumin olive oil, then stir.
6. In the center of a plate, place your rice and line with the remainder of your mint leaves. Surround with the stir-fried lamb, and drizzle the deglazed sauce made from the lemon juice over it. Also pour some on top of the rice, and serve!

This dish has a ton of different aromatics contributing to it that give the perfect balance. Smoky hints are coming from the smoked paprika, while heat comes in from the cayenne. However, this is balanced out by the acidity of the lemon juice, the warmth of the cumin in two different forms, and the fragrance of the mint as it helps to refresh the palate, allowing you to get the same sensation with every single bite! 

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! =) 

*Recipe not endorsed in anyway by Vom Fass, but check them out anyways cause they're awesome.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Orechiette "Carbonara" with Italian Sausage, Carrots, and Leeks

© Constantine William Spyrou

A lot of the time at my apartment, I enjoy cooking things that are simple but pack a lot of flavor. Over the past week, I got to try this out on one of my favorite cuisines to cook: Italian. I attempted to make a carbonara sauce for the first time over pasta.

A carbonara sauce is pretty simple to construct: The basic flavorings for it are cream, pancetta, parmesean, and an egg mixed in right at the end. On its own, its a rich and luxurious sauce. But elevating it with the sweetness of carrots and leeks and some savory sausage will make it a true treat! 

The pasta I chose for this is orechiette, which is a small, curved, lid-shaped pasta. It takes creamy and chunky sauces well because of the curved lid shape, and goes brilliantly with all of the textures at play in this dish! 

Recipe serves 4-6 people.

For the Italian Sausage:

1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon sage
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

For the Carbonara:

1/2 cup chicken stock
3 oz pancetta, diced
1 leek, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrot, diced
Italian Sausage from above
1 package orechiette
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or Parmesean)
Salt and pepper to season


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine all of the ingredients for the Italian Sausage. Flatten out onto a greased cookie sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool, and crumble into small pieces
3. Cook the orechiette according to package instructions in seasoned water.

4. Add the pancetta to a hot pan on medium-high heat. Cook until the fat is rendered out, about 2-3 minutes.

5. Add in the leeks and carrots, and season with salt and pepper. Saute until soft, about 6 minutes.

6. Add in the Italian Sausage and mix to combine.

7. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock. Add in the cream, and bring up to a boil, stirring constantly to mix the sauce through the meat and vegetables thoroughly.

8. Simmer for 4 minutes, then quickly stir in the egg and remove off of the heat.

9. Mix with the orechiette, and serve!

This dish combines a large amount of flavors to get an even balance of savory, creamy, and a touch of sweetness. The egg is the binding ingredient that helps make everything rich, with the aromatics and savoryness of the sausage providing the herby notes needed to lift the leeks and carrot. The vegetables, in turn, complement the pork with the mild sweetness they provide to the dish.

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! =)