Saturday, December 19, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Maneschewitz Fruit Crumble (Vegan!)

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

Cooking a lot on your own and shopping for your own groceries really allows you to go for flexibility. This is especially the case when you can find cheap, new ingredients that you've never thought about using before. For me, this came in the case of Asian pears and Maneschewitz wine, both interesting but exciting new ingredients to cook with!

I've always been a fan of eating Asian pears whole, similarly to apples. However, I had never actually cooked with them, but wanted to give it a try because of the sweet but dense flesh that can hold up well to baking. My cousin and his roommate actually introduced me to Maneschewitz. It's a cheap, Kosher dessert wine with incredible flavor without being super strong or alcoholic. I decided to bring these two ingredients together in one of my favorite old-school desserts - fruit crumble.

Similar to a cobbler, fruit crumble has a thinner topping that isn't as dense or rich. It's incredibly easy to make vegan, so I went for that route, using simply nuts and some binding agents like flour and agave to bring it together. Combined with the fruity, sweet filling, it's an amazing warm dessert for the holiday season! 

Recipe serves 12-16 people.

For the Crumble Topping:

1 1/2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups almonds, finely chopped
(Tip: Use a food processor or blender on the nuts; a few pulses is all you need). 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or brown rice flour for gluten-free folks)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground star anise

For the Filling:

2 medium Asian pears, peeled and roughly diced
3 medium tart cooking apples, peeled and roughly diced (Braeburns and Galas are the best option)
2 cups raisins
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup Maneschewitz wine
3 tablespoons lemon juice
(Tip: Add this to your apples/pears once chopped to keep from going brown)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.

2) Combine the diced Asian pears, apples, raisins, sugar, wine, lemon juice (that you didn't use on the apples/pears initially), cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer to a baking/casserole dish (this recipe works on a 13x9 casserole dish).

3) Mix together the nuts, flour, cinnamon, and star anise. Work in the agave to get clusters within the topping mixture, then spread evenly over the top of your filling.

4) Bake for 35-40 minutes, then let cool slightly before serving!


This crumble has an amazing combination of textures and flavors. You get chewiness from the raisins, softness from the cooked apples and pears, and a crunch from the nuts on top. The pears and apples keep the dish from being too sweet, which is contributed by the sugar, wine, and raisins. The lemon juice also balances it out slightly, and the nuts on top bring a richness to the dish. The overall warmth of the dish makes it an ultimate comforting dessert! 

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! =) 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Spicy Spanish Shirataki

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

When I find a new ingredient to experiment with in stores, it usually ends up being a new flavoring, whether it be a spice like Szechuan pepper or a fruit like persimmon. However, when shopping a couple of weeks ago, a newer product came across my eye - shirataki - that is more of a base of a dish than a flavor. 

Shirataki is essentially pasta. It's got an interesting, pasta-like texture, warms through extremely quickly, and absorbs flavor extremely well - much like pasta. However, it is very low-calorie, at only 40 calories per pound! This is because the shirataki is actually made from a vegetable called Konnyaku, or "Devil's Tongue". It's got a special starch in it called glucomannan that humans can't digest, meaning we can't break it down into calories while it satiates our stomachs. The calories come from soy or other flavors that are usually placed into the shirataki (ie Tofu Shirataki has some soy in it). 

This is the perfect diet base food for anyone looking to enjoying pasta dishes at a lower calorie level. I went for a spicier Spanish-Meixcan style pasta for this dish, combining flavors like chili and toasted cumin with balsamic vinegar and fresh tomatoes for a bold but balanced low calorie dish! How low, do you ask? Using the My Fitness Pal recipe calculator, one serving of the dish below is under 50 calories, with 4 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and under 50 mg of sodium. Perfect for any type of diet! 

Recipe serves 4 people.

Ingredients:

2 8-oz packages Shirataki, drained
1 leek, finely chopped
1 tomato, diced (remove the wet pulp from the inside first!)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 Thai chile (or small chili with your preference of spice), finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper

Cooking/Assembling:

1. Add your cumin seeds to a pan on medium high heat. Toast for about 2 minutes until you can smell the cumin flavor from the pan.

2. Add in the olive oil and smoked paprika, and combine to get a reddish oil. Saute the leeks, chili, and garlic in the paprika-infused oil for 2 minutes, until the leeks turn soft. Season at this stage with your salt and pepper.

3. Deglaze the dish with balsamic vinegar, and mix well. Toss in the shirataki and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in the fresh tomatoes, and serve!


This dish is incredibly warming and tasty while maintaining a healthy profile. With very little extra fat or carbs being added in, the shirataki makes for a great low-calorie dish that is perfectly balanced with the smokiness of the paprika, acidity and freshness of tomato, richness of the balsamic, and creaminess of the leeks. The aromatic cumin seeds cut through all of it to provide a great background of flavor. This has to be one of my favorite healthy dishes I've ever made!

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, November 26, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Upside-Down Roasted Turkey with Trivet Gravy (Happy Thanksgiving!!

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.



I hope that all of you had a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!! Below was the abundant spread we had that was basically all cooked by the younger generation of the two families that came together for our Thanksgiving meal. How amazing is that? My younger sister made a pumpkin pie from scratch (not pictured here, but tasted amazing!) My older sister made the mashed potatoes. I helped out with two different kids of stuffing (regular and gluten-free!). Our cousin made sweet potatoes and toasted marshmallows! Of course, the centerpiece was the turkey - and the pressure was on for me this year. 

Last year, I did a smoked turkey that took a lot of prep work and time, but was worth it in terms of flavor. This year, I wanted to go for a simpler method that kept the turkey meat incredibly moist. I learned an interesting technique from British Youtube stars SORTED food - where they roasted the turkey UPSIDE DOWN. I know, it's crazy!! 

Using my mom's classic brine technique, I went for a similar method to SORTED with my turkey - and it worked brilliantly! The turkey meat was incredibly moist and juicy, and stayed warm even after over an hour of resting - which helped make it even more tender and delicious! Using a citrus and rosemary flavoring, this turkey is subtle in flavor but delicious and moist enough to grace any Thanksgiving - or Christmas - table! 

This recipe also comes with a gravy made from the roasting pan trivet (vegetable cooked underneath)- simple, but incredibly delicious! 

Recipe is good for a 10-11 pound turkey.

Ingredients:

1 10-11 pound turkey, neck and giblets removed if present
9-10 quarts water for the brine
4 oranges, halved
2 limes, halved
2 lemons, halved
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
4 tbsp cracked sea salt
2 tbsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
6 bay leaves
1 leek, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 large white onion, roughly chopped
1 small white onion, peeled
1 parsnip, roughly chopped
8 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 cup lemonade
2 tbsp clarified butter
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups water for the gravy
2 minced cloves of garlic
1 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp butter
4 cups turkey stock (or chicken stock)

Cooking/Assembling:

1. Pour the water into a brining container. Stir in 3 tbsp salt, all of the cracked black peppercorns, the bay leaves, and the rosemary. Squeeze in the juice of all of the citrus halves and add them in as well. Stir well to combine. Place in the turkey, and brine in the fridge overnight.

2. Preheat your oven to 355 degrees Fahrenheit (on convection bake if your oven supports that setting). In a roasting pan, toss together the leeks, carrots, onion, and celery with olive oil and some salt and pepper.

3. Remove the turkey from the brine and place it on top of the vegetables. Season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper before placing in some of the citrus halves (at least one orange and one lemon), the small onion, and some of the rosemary/bay leaves from the brine.

4. Place on top of the vegetables on the roasting tray, then pour the water and white wine into the roasting pan. Cover the turkey with tinfoil and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes (roughly 10-15 minutes per pound)

5. When the first portion of cooking is about done, melt 2 tbsp of clarified butter in the microwave and stir in warmed lemonade (to keep the butter from resolidfying).

6. Take the turkey out of the oven, remove the tinfoil, and up the temperature to 435 degrees F. Brush the turkey with the lemonade/butter mixture, then place back in the oven. Baste again every 10 minutes for another 20-30 minutes, until the thickest part of the breast reads 170 degrees F on a meat thermometer.

7. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan, cover with tinfoil, and let rest until ready to carve. Chop up the onion from inside the turkey, and place it and the squeezed citrus juice back into the roasting pan. Place your roasting pan on the stove on a high heat, bringing the liquid up to a boil.

8. Mash all of the vegetables up as much as possible, letting the liquid reduce by half. Add in the clarified butter, fresh thyme, and turkey stock, then bring back up to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes before straining into a pot and leaving to heat on low until ready to serve!


The turkey may not have the darkest skin, but it is beautifully cooked and moist on the inside. The gravy has a complexity of flavor from all of the roasted vegetables and layers of herbs that are added throughout the cooking process, making it the perfect complement to the most amazing, moist turkey!

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, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!! =)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Mongolian Pork Chops with Sweet Chili Persimmon Chutney

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

I go to a small church in West Sacramento that is vibrant, fun, and amazing. One of the coolest things about the church is the amazing garden our priest has constructed over the years. A wide variety of fruits, from grapes to figs to persimmons, grow throughout the year. 

Persimmons have been in season for the past couple of months, and my priest actually gave me a persimmon to take home, for which I was really grateful! They are great to eat on their own, but since I've never actually cooked a persimmon before, I was eager to give it a shot.

Persimmons are naturally pretty sweet, so I thought it would be a great idea to incorporate them into something sweet and spicy, like a sweet chili sauce. Although it ended up being more chunky like a chutney, this sauce - completed with shishito peppers - plays more on the sweet then spicy side and makes a perfect complement to the hotter Mongolian marinade used on the pork chops. Served with fragrant Jasmine rice, this dish is perfect for the late autumn season! 

Recipe serves 2 people.

For the Sweet Chili Chutney:

4 Shishito peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
1 Fuyu persimmon, diced into 1/4" cubes
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup water
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp Chinese Five Spice

For the Pork Chops:

1 lb pork chops, fat layer/rind trimmed off
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp chili bean paste with oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 cups Jasmine rice to serve with


Cooking/Assembling:

1) Combine all of the pork chops and ingredients for the marinade in a container, bowl, or plastic bag until well mixed. Leave to marinate for as little as 20 minutes and as long as overnight (the longer, the more flavor).

2) Add your sugar and water into a small saucepan on high heat. When the mixture begins to boil, add in the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and shishito chili peppers.

3) Stir quickly, then bring up to a boil before reducing down to a low simmer. Add in the chopped persimmons and Chinese five spice, combine well, and bring back to a simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool.

4) Allow the pork chops to come up to room temperature before cooking. Add them to a frying pan on medium high heat with some oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.

5) When serving, cover the pork chops with the persimmon chutney to get the perfect balance of sweet and spice!


This dish really brings together a wide variety of textures and flavors, from the chunkiness of the persimmon and the sweet heat the chili sauce provides to the bolder flavors of the pork chop that balance out its denseness as well as the sweet of the chutney perfectly. Overall, this is an amazing dish that uses persimmons from the priest's garden. Thanks Fr. Paul! 

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! =) 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Moroccan Spiced Chicken Drumsticks with Fragrant Cheat's Couscous

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

One of the greatest things I love about cooking is how much of a learning curve everybody has. You can always discover new ingredients or flavor combinations and discover fun and interesting ways to use them. I had such an experience with a new spice blend I found on the market shelves: Ras El Hanout.

Ras El Hanout is a traditional Moroccan spice blend that has a variety of powerfully fragrant ingredients, including multiple types of ground peppercorns, lavender, cinnamon, and many other powerful spices. Together, it has a wonderfully fragrant scent that goes perfectly with just about anything. I decided to use it to make a much cheaper version of a Moroccan classic - Chicken Tagine.

Tagines typically have a ton of different vegetables and spices, including the extremely expensive saffron and everything from squash to eggplant. This version is much simpler and cheaper. Everything can basically be cooked in the same pan (except for the cheat's couscous, which simply involves pouring the remaining hot liquid in with the couscous to make it) in the oven, which means they all flavor each other in the most amazing way. The herby couscous is a cheap but perfect counterpart to the chicken and vegetables in the final dish that will leave an amazing scent in your kitchen and a warm feeling in your belly. 

Recipe serves 4 people.

Ingredients:

4 chicken drumsticks
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers (multicolor if possible), thinly sliced
2 small mild chilies, roughly chopped (I used Shishito peppers, anything around that mildness works perfectly)
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon ras el hanout
1/2 tablespoon sumac
Salt and pepper to season
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry couscous
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Cooking/Assembling:

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine the chicken drumsticks, onion, bell peppers, chili, garlic, ras el hanout, sumac, and salt and pepper to taste in a baking dish. Pour the chicken stock over the mixed chicken and vegetables, and rearrange the drumsticks after mixing to ensure that they sit on top of all of the vegetables.

3. Cover the baking dish with tinfoil, and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove the foil and turn the heat up to 425 degrees for another 10 minutes to help brown the skin.

4. Combine the couscous and the mint in a bowl. Once the baking dish comes out of the oven, pour over enough of the chicken broth to completely and submerge the couscous, about a cup. Let the couscous sit for around 5 minutes until the broth is fully absorbed. Squeeze over the lemon juice, and fluff with a fork.

5. Serve the chicken with the couscous and plenty of the vegetables from the baking dish. Drizzle with any leftover broth to maximize flavor.


Using a cheap cut like chicken drumsticks as well as cheap vegetables and grains like couscous, onions, and bell peppers makes this dish very easily to pull off on a college budget, even with the sumac and ras el hanout (which don't cost more than most spices). It makes it incredibly easy to pull off a light, fragrant, and delicious meal for you and your friends!

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, October 11, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Tortellini with Tomato, Leeks, and Chili

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Italy last month and experience some of the greatest food spectacles in the world at the World Food Expo in Milan. In between that time, I also got to spend time in what instantly became one of my favorite food cities in the world: Bologna. Located next to major food cities like Modena (balsamic vinegar), Parma (prosciutto and parmesean cheese), and Emilio Reggia (Parmigiano Reggiano), Bologna (who is no slouch either as the birthplace of mortadella) has a lot of great, local food. From the eating experiences I had in Bologna, one of the key things I learned is that the chefs there prefer simple, clean, and fresh cooking over complex flavors and a bucketload of spices.

While my cooking style does rely on more spices than the traditional Italian style, I wanted to take on this clean style of cooking because of how fresh and amazing it tasted. Using some tortellini I brought back from Italy (but you can use fresh or dried tortellini from here to desired effect), I made a sauce to go with it that is simple with less than 10 ingredients! Using fresh ingredients over anything that comes out of a can or jar definitely makes a huge difference as well to the final dish, so I made sure that everything (with the exception of chili flake) was fresh. The result is a dish with clean flavors that harmonizes together perfectly! 

Recipe serves 6 people.

Ingredients:

2 packages tortellini
1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 leek, finely chopped
1 clove minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried chili flake
Salt and pepper to season
Fresh Basil and Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Cook the tortellini according to package directions in salted boiling water.

2) Add the olive oil to a saute pan on medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, and cook for a minute.

3) Add in the chopped leek, chili flake, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine, and cook until the leeks soften, about 2-3 minutes.

4) Add in the chopped tomatoes, and stir through for 30 seconds. Drain the tortellini, and stir into the sauce.

5) Combine for about a minute, then plate. Garnish with fresh chopped basil, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, and cracked black pepper.


This dish is very simple, but each element is crucial into making a perfectly balanced dish. The tortellini is cheesy and rich, which is balanced by the acid of the tomato and the heat of the black pepper and chili. The sweetness of the leek helps balance out the acid as well, as does the aroma of the garlic. Overall, each of the simple flavors can be tasted and combines into a beautifully composed 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! =) 

Monday, September 14, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Char Siu Barcelona

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

As a kid, one of the proteins I remember growing up with and eating almost all the time was Chinese BBQ pork. Usually made from the tenderloin or belly cut, this roasted meat is regarded for it's sweet, savory flavory as well as a trademark bright red color. This meat could be used in almost everything - egg scrambles, dim sum buns, fried rice, chow fun, noodle stir-fries... The list could stretch on for miles. 

I've always wanted to try and make my own version of this meat, known in Chinese as "Char Siu" ( 叉燒), which is Cantonese for "Fork Roast". The tricky part for me has always been the red coloring. I've done research and found that most of the time, an artifical red food coloring is used to get that color here in the US. Yuck. In China, traditionally a powder made from a red yeast rice is used, but it was very hard to find that. 

The best natural red food colorings I could come up with were paprika and annato, both of which are not spices typically seen in Chinese cuisine. However, I got an idea to bring paprika in because of its importance in Spanish cuisine, where balsamic does make an appearance (the Spanish make their own too!) I already have a huge appreciation for soy-balsamic combinations, so I figured I could tie paprika into the mix by using the balsamic as one of the sweeter sauce components traditionally used in Char Siu - Oyster sauce (helpful, since my mom has fish allergies). 

This resulted in a Spanish-Asian fusion of this popular Cantonese roast. Served alongisde some Asian sauteed peppers to counter the richness of the pork (and rice as a starchy accompaniment), this is a great meal to serve to a crowd of friends or for any special occasion! 

Recipe serves 5 people.

For the Pork:

1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
1 1/2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika
1/2 tablespoon Szechuan Peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger, with juice
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 
White pepper to season

For the Peppers:

3 large bell peppers, julienned
1 mild chili, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Combine all of the ingredients for the pork marinade with the pork tenderloin in a plastic bag. Seal, place in another plastic bag, then marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours. 

2) Let the pork slack out on a roasting tray lined with tin foil. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F, and bake for 30-35 minutes. 

3) Let the pork rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. In that time, add the garlic, ginger,  and sesame oil to a frying pan on medium heat. Let the garlic and ginger cook out for around 30 seconds before adding the chopped chili and bell peppers. Saute for 3 minutes before adding in the soy sauce, 5 spice, and lemon pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes until the bell peppers start to stew. 



There is definitely a lot going on in this dish, but it balances out to a sweet, mellow, and aromatic flavor that perfectly accentuates the flavor of pork tenderloin. The bell peppers retain enough crunch to provide texture, but take on the flavors of the pork and their own spices very well. Together, the pork and peppers makes the perfect fusion centerpiece to impress! 

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! =) 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Duck Fried Rice (Gluten-Free!)

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

I am a huge lover of meat, especially slow-cooked or shredded and used in various ways. My three top favorite meats cooked in this way are lamb shanks, pulled pork, and duck confit. Duck naturally has an incredibly gamey flavor that makes it a very rich meat. You don't need much of it to deliver huge amounts of flavor in natural ways. 

That gets amplified even more by duck confit, which is duck cooked in its own fat to the point where you can shred it fork tender. It is one of the most amazing meats humanity has ever conceived, but doesn't get much use because of the time and care needed. However, if you have a lazy weekend with time to spend over the duck, you can make a load of confit and then use it in quick, easy dishes during the week.

That's where the idea for this duck rice comes in. It's simple, very fast to make after the duck confit is done, and delivers on huge amounts of flavor! This version of duck fried rice contains aromatic, sweeter flavors to counterbalance the richness of the duck such as Chinese 5 spice, balsamic vinegar, and green onion. It makes for a great dinner that is done in minutes. 

Recipe serves 3 people.

For the Duck Confit:

10 oz duck legs and thighs, bone-in
1 tbsp salt
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp cracked black peppercorns
1 liter water
2 cups ice
6 oz duck fat

For the Fried Rice: 

8-9 oz duck confit meat (basically the amount you get from making the above duck confit)
1 oz duck skin, cut into small pieces (from the above confit)
3 cups steamed white rice, cooled
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1 clove minced garlic
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp Chinese Five Spice
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp white pepper

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Add your water, salt, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and thyme to a microwave safe container or a pot. Heat through to a warm temperature (2 minutes on a stove on high heat or 40 seconds in a microwave), then cool down immediately with the ice.

2) Add in your duck legs, and place in a fridge for 24-36 hours to brine.

3) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the duck legs and thyme sprigs from the brine and transfer to a deep roasting pan. Coat the duck legs with the duck fat, then cover the dish with a double layer of tinfoil. Bake for 90 minutes.

4) Let the duck cool, then remove the duck legs. Shred all of the meat off the bones, and separate the skin from the meat. You can use this meat and skin right away or let it sit in the fridge until ready to use, it'll keep for at least a week in the fridge. Save the used duck fat to make more duck confit in the future, it'll keep for months in the fridge.

5) When ready to make your fried rice, broil the chopped duck skin in a toaster oven or under the broil setting in your oven for 5 minutes to crisp up.

5) Add 2 teaspoons of your saved duck fat to a frying pan on medium heat. When the duck melts, add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the duck and half of the five spice, and warm through for a minute.

6) Add in the cooked rice, white pepper, sesame oil, balsamic, soy sauce, and remaining five spice. Stir to combine well (the rice should be completely brown from the soy and balsamic), and cook until the rice is hot, which should take roughly 3-5 minutes.

7) Stir in half of your green onion, and cook out for 30 seconds. Transfer the rice to a serving plate, and garnish with the remaining green onion and duck skin.


This duck dish has an amazing blend of textures and flavors! The duck skin and green onion add varying levels of crunch, while the duck gives richness to the dish that is balanced out by the acidity and sweetness of the balsamic vinegar along with the aromas coming from the 5 spice. The rice acts as a great canvas to take on all of these amazing flavor combinations!

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! =) 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

FEATURED RECIPE: Hot Cheeto-Crusted Quiche with Pink Lemonade Hollandaise - UC Davis Broke College Kid Meets Chopped Competition Winner!

During this past school year, I had the opportunity to help UC Davis' Food Tech Club organize a food challenge for a group of students from the northwest region of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). In town to compete in a College Bowl competition the following day, these students got to see and tour UC Davis and hear from some of its top professors the day before. The day culminated in this exciting challenge, which was done in the style of the hit TV show "Chopped"! 

There were six teams, with two teams responsible for an appetizer, two teams responsible for an entree, and two teams responsible for a dessert. For each category of dish, four different secret ingredients had to be used, and each team had about an hour and a half to cook and plate up four servings of their dish for judging. There was also a limited pantry and fridge supply available to students. 
Part of the Pantry provided to students, an abundance of fresh produce!

The judges were Cyn Leo, a local Whole Foods manager who provided an amazing winning prize of Whole Foods gift cards to the winning team and a feature on their own blog, as well as Matt Ford (the director of the Food Innovation Lab at UC Davis) and Evann Dufort (the president of Food Tech Club at the time of the competition, now graduated). 


Judges panel.

All six teams came up with amazing creations with pretty unique concepts. The winning dish came from an appetizer team, who had to use pink lemonade, Hot Cheetos, Mozzarella cheese sticks, and broccoli. They inventively came up with a mini-quiche appetizer with a pink lemonade Hollandaise sauce from the ingredients provided, which tasted amazing but was also extremely creative! All of the judges agreed that it was one of the top dishes overall in taste, presentation, and creativity. I got to taste the dish and agreed; the combination of spicyiness, richness, and flavor from the quiche was unique and amazing! Take a look at how they made it below. 

The winning team, comprised of students from 4 different universities!

Recipe makes about 6 mini-quiches.

For the Crust: 

1 cup Hot Cheetos
1 T mozzarella (ground in coffee grinder)
3 teaspoons egg 

For the Filling:

2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup of milk 
1/3 cup broccoli, chopped 
1/4 cup canned corn 
1/4 cup mushrooms, chopped 
1/4 cup onion, chopped 
1/4 cup cooked bacon, crumbled 
Black pepper to taste
Salt to taste 

For the Hollandaise: 

3 egg yolks
2 T pink lemonade
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 T bacon grease
3 T almond oil
1 1/2 t Hot Cheeto dust
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t salt

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Whip the egg yolks for the hollandaise with the pink lemonade until the volume roughly doubles. 

2) Add in the oil, bacon grease, and lemon juice slowly to the bowl while whisking over simmering water. 

3) Whisk in the cheeto dust, smoked paprika, and salt. Adjust the oil and lemonade/lemon juice ratios to taste. 

4) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. 

5) Make the crusts by combining the Cheetos, mozzarella, and egg until a paste is formed. Form around the inside of muffin tins for each quiche to be made.

6) Saute the bacon, onion, mushroom, and broccoli with salt and pepper until cooked. As it cools, combine the milk and 2 eggs together to form the quiche base.

7) Place roughly a tablespoon of the sauteed vegetables into the crust. Add cheese and corn, then fill with the egg and milk mixture.

8) Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. 

The final dish presented to the judges. Yum!

I personally love the dish idea because of all of the creativeness, fresh produce, and guts that went into the idea! Making a pink lemonade hollandaise for a challenge was an extremely bold move that paid off very well, especially with the Hot Cheeto dust giving it a kick! It tied in perfectly to the quiche. I couldn't be happier for this winning team and their prize, as it was awesome! 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think about this competition, and how these students performed! If you do attempt to make this at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Gluten-Free Chicken Teriyaki Handrolls

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

Growing up in California means I have a strong appreciation for an eclectic variety of food. Out of all of these foods, sushi is one of my family's go-to favorites. So much so, that when my mom and sister developed gluten and fish allergies that prevented them from eating most sushi, they resorted to making them at home.

However, their protein of choice was usually Spam, not the most healthy and quite salty. I came up with this chicken teriyaki recipe as an alternative, and it has been loved! It is extremely simple to make (marinating in the same dish you will bake in saves dishes, time, and water as well!) and absolutely delicious.

Sushi itself, particularly handrolls, is also incredibly easy to make. Hand rolls are even easier because they do not require the usage of a bamboo mat (which can be extra money you may not have) to make! This is a sushi dish that anyone can enjoy! 

Recipe makes up to 12 handrolls.

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked white rice, seasoned with salt
12 sheets dried seaweed
Water for finger dipping
2 avocados, sliced, and radish shoots for vegetable (we ran out of avocados for the picture. Also, you can add any other vegetables you like!)
2 pounds chicken breast
1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar/honey/corn syrup
2 tsp dried orange peel
1/4 cup minced ginger, with juice
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp Chinese Five Spice
1/2 tbsp Sesame Oil
1/2 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
2 tbsp fresh Lime juice

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Place your chicken breast into a baking dish with some depth. Add in the soy sauce, sweetener, orange peel, ginger, garlic powder, 5 spice, sesame oils, and lime juice. Combine well, cover the dish with plastic wrap, then marinate for at least 1 hour in the fridge (up to 24 hours).

2) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. As the oven preheats, remove the dish from the fridge and take off the plastic wrap so the chicken has a chance to reach room temperature to ensure even cooking. Bake for 25 minutes, then let cool.

3) Dampen your fingers, and use them to layer a couple of tablespoons of rice onto a nori sheet in a diagonal pattern in the center. Add in slices of the chicken and your desired vegetables, then roll into a cone. Serve!

This handroll is incredibly easy to pull off, and is very customizable, making it a quick and easy meal that everyone can have fun making! The chicken itself is the star, with the sweet saltiness of the teriyaki punctuating the whole dish and lifting the flavor of the chicken. The orange peel is unusual, but adds some interesting umami notes to the dish as well as perfuming it slightly. Overall, this dish is simply, cheap, and 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! =) 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Oven Sweet Potato Fries With Energy Drink Coconut Curry Sauce

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved. 

About a year ago, I was shopping in Costco when I discovered a relatively new brand line of energy drinks called Bai5. They are low in calorie but very high in antioxidants, but also have a small amount of caffeine to jumpstart whoever drinks it. I tried some and really enjoyed it. Since then, Bai has been my go-to brand for energy drinks.

Bai also does several challenges for its community to come up with interesting recipes using its beverages, which is pretty exciting! Recently, they did a superfood challenge in which a Bai beverage and at least one superfood had to be used in the recipe. 

I opted for a pair of superfoods - sweet potato and turmeric - to help create a side dish I had made before - oven roasted sweet potato fries. These are a healthy and delicious combo that I prefer doing with Asian spice to give it a twist. These Asian-spiced spuds pair well with the coconut curry sauce, which uses some of the coconut Bai energy drink to lend coconut flavor and sweetness to the sauce, which makes it pair incredibly well with the sweet potatoes! I also added a cilantro oil at the end to spike up the aromatic flavors in this dish, making it well balanced! 

Recipe serves up to 8 people.

For the Sweet Potato Fries:

500 g sweet potato, cut into French fry shapes
500 g Japanese purple sweet potato, cut into French fry shapes
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tbsp Himalayan Pink Salt
1/2 cup vegetable/avocado oil

For the Cilantro Oil:

1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup vegetable/avocado oil

For the Coconut Curry Sauce:

1/4 medium white onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp diced fresh ginger
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tsp dried lemongrass
1 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
1 cup coconut cream
1/2 bottle Bai5, Molokai Coconut flavor
1 cup water
Fresh cilantro to garnish

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Warm the cilantro in the avocado/vegetable oil for 5 minutes without the oil starting to bubble or fry the cilantro. Let cool, then blend together, leaving small pieces of cilantro intact.

2) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

3) Blanch the sweet potato and Japanese sweet potato wedges in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. Drain, then lay out onto baking sheets.

4) Coat with the Himalayan salt, turmeric, ginger, and oil thoroughly. Bake for 40 minutes, turning the fries after 20 minutes.

5) Fry off the onion, ginger, and garlic in a small saucepan on medium heat with the olive oil until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the turmeric, curry powder, and lemongrass, and stir to combine.

6) Deglaze with the Bai and water, then also add in the coconut cream. Bring up to a boil, and reduce for about 15 minutes.

7) Add in the soy sauce and lime juice, cook for 30 seconds, then remove from the heat.

8) Plate the sweet potato fries with a bowl of the curry sauce, Garnish the sauce with fresh cilantro and drizzle the cilantro oil over the fries.


This dish has a tone going on thanks to the balance of sweet and spicy in the coconut curry sauce, but also the sweetness and aromatics from the sweet potato fries. That sweetness brings everything together to make a uniquely delicious appetizer!

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! =)

Friday, July 31, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Pan-Roasted Halibut with Crushed Potato Salad

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved. 

Combining a rich and dense protein like fish always calls for something light yet tasty to balance out the rich sweetness of the protein. Halibut, for example, is a sweet, firm, and rich fish that loves the lighter citrus flavors to balance against it and create a great meal. This dish provides a light, citrusy side in a fragrant potato salad.

This potato salad has light flavors such as lemon and parsley to wake up the fish and keep it from being too rich. It also adds textures of crunch and softness! 

The fish is cooked in a special, fine dining style for this recipe as well. It is cooked with the skin on to add another crisp layer but to also protect the fish from getting colored too much and preserving its incredibly texture and flavor! You can eat the skin if you like, it adds a fishy crispness to the dish. Otherwise, simply remove it after cooking and enjoy the fish and potato salad without the skin! 

Recipe serves 3 people.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound halibut filet, cut into three equal filets
Salt and pepper to season
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds potatoes (fingerling or Yukon gold), washed
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 tbsp paprika
2 cloves minced garlic

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Boil the potatoes in salted water by starting from cold and then up to high heat. Once the water is at a gentle boil, cook for 15 minutes or until fork tender.

2) Crush the potatoes lightly with a fork, not mashing them but leaving large pieces. Toss with 3 tbsp olive oil, both kinds of parsley, the lemon zest and juice, green onion, paprika, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, then set aside to cool in the fridge.

3) Let the halibut slack out for at least 20 minutes to reach room temperature. Lightly score the skin with a knife, and season both sides with salt and pepper.

4) Start the halibut filets, skin side down, in a cold pan with the remaining olive oil. Start on a low heat, then gradually bring up to a medium heat over 5 minutes.

5) Use the halibut filets as a measure of cooking progress; they will turn white as that part of the halibut cooks. When about 75-80% of the halibut is cooked, and the skin is crisp, turn over and finish cooking for 2 minutes.

6) Let the halibut rest, then serve with the potato salad.



This is a brilliantly balanced dish of lightness, richness, and great flavors! It plays into many different textures as well, with the crunch of the herbs and spring onions, the firm delicate fish, and the creamy potato to make an overall dish yet light summer 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! =) 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Iced Orange Chia Seed Shortbreads (Gluten Free AND Vegan)

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved. 

Cookies are by far my favorite dessert to make. They are one of the first things I ever learned how to make back in culinary class in high school, and have stuck with me since. I have created cookies with key lime, holiday spice, and many other ingredients infused in them. 

Sadly, my sister was diagnosed with Celiac disease a couple of years ago. As such, she couldn't eat the cookies I made because they had wheat in them. I decided to try and come up with a recipe that involved the making of gluten-free cookies. However, I also decided to go with a vegan route to make cookies that could be enjoyable in any time of the year or fasting period. To ensure that they were vegan, I used soy-free oil sticks(non-hydrogenated, of course) in place of butter and a chia seed trick I discovered as a nifty egg substitute. 

These cookies are extremely surprising in that for a gluten-free, vegan, cookie, they taste almost nothing like one. They have almost identical feel and smell, and one of my friends had no idea they were gluten-free or vegan until after I told them! This flavor, iced orange, is my personal favorite because it has a perfect balance of sweet and citrus on it.

The icing is not a traditional thick icing, but rather a simple, clear paste that hardens on the cooled cookies to give them more texture and a boost in flavor. All in all, this is a delicious cookie that is easily one of my more signature desserts! 

Note: The recipe below is given in BOTH metric and US measurements, because I've developed it with both in mind. 

Recipe makes 18-20 cookies. The US version makes more than the metric measurements.

For the Cookie Dough:

225 g or 1/2 pound solid soy-free oil sticks (I recommend the Earth Balance brand for this)
225 g or 1/2 pound granulated sugar
450 g or 1 pound brown rice flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp chia seeds, ground
1/4 cup/2 fl oz water
Zest of 1 large orange or 2 small oranges (about 2 tbsp)

For the Icing:

Juice of 2 large oranges or 4 small oranges (about 1 cup)
1 cup powdered/icing sugar

Cooking/Assembling:

1. Mix the ground chia seeds and water extremely well, and let sit for about an hour for the mixture to thicken and take on a gel-like consistency.

2. Cut the oil sticks into small pieces and add with the sugar into a mixing bowl. Cream using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer until all of the oil is broken down and the mixture doubles in volume, about 3-4 minutes on high speed. (Start on a low speed for a minute first for optimal results).

3. Add in the chia seed mixture, the vanilla extract, and the orange zest. Mix slowly for a minute to combine well.

4. Slowly add in the brown rice flour in small portions until fully combined. Let the dough chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

5. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Evenly shape and space out 1 1/2-inch diameter cookies onto greased or parchment paper-covered cookie sheets.

6. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Let cool.

7. As the cookies cool, whisk together the orange juice and powdered sugar to make the icing. Once the cookies are cool, spoon a half tablespoon of the icing over each cookie, and let set before serving.


These shortbreads have amazing flavor from the fragrance and acidity of the orange combined with the sweetness of the sugar inside that balances it out perfectly. Brown rice flour has some of the best texture for gluten-free baking, and the chia seed mix acts like eggs would in normaly cooking dough, making these the most normal gluten-free vegan cookies you'll ever try!

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 12, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Eurasian Stir-fried Pork with 5-Spice Soba Salad

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved. 




One of the greatest things about not only making your own food, but trying food from new restaurants, is that you get to experiment with a variety of different flavor combinations and evaluate them. You can even come up with your own or take something you like and transform into something that you enjoy even more! 

One flavor combination I ran across in an Asian restaurant recently was soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. It combines the savory umami of the soy with a sweetness but depth of the balsamic to make an amazing sauce. It has increasingly become one of my favorite flavor combinations!

I decided to take it one step further in this dish and add an aromatic note to the flavor combination that already screams out "fusion." Using a variety of Asian and Spanish ingredients, I came up with this pork stir-fry. I accompanied it with a soba noodle salad in traditional Japanese style - only it was made using Chinese flavorings like 5-spice. This makes for a truly unique, fragrant, and delicious dish! 

Recipe serves 6 people.

For the pork:

1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced pork chops, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon black cumin oil (or 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns, ground
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh diced ginger
2 pinches saffron
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons Chinese 5 Spice
Fresh mint to garnish
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the Noodle Salad:

1/2 large package soba noodles, cooked and cooled (roughly 3 pounds of noodles)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice
2 cups bok choy stems, cut into diamonds
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 cup bok choy leaves, cut into strips
2 whole bell peppers, cut into thin strips(Julienne)

Cooking/Assembling:

1. Combine all of the ingredients for the noodle salad together well, and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

2. Combine the pork with half of the soy sauce, and all of the balsamic, cumin oil, fennel seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, saffron, agave, 5-spice, and sesame oil.

3. Add the olive oil to a large frying pan or wok on medium-high heat. When the oil is just starting to smoke, add in the ginger and garlic, and quickly saute for a minute. Add in the marinated pork and cook until colored nicely on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

4. Add in the remaining soy sauce and lime juice and toss the pork in it quickly to finish cooking. Garnish with picked fresh mint leaves.



This dish manages to be intricate and complex while being healthy and super easy to make at the same time! It takes less than thirty minutes to make the entire meal, and you get the depth of flavor of a complex dish because of the fragrance of the spices, the varying textures of the noodle salad, the hot-cold balance that is very popular in Japanese cuisine, and the overall richness of the pork that is boosted by the agave, balsamic, and soy sauce. This is a flavor combination done at its best! 

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! =) 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Soy-Glazed Seared Scallops With Quick Vegetable Fried Rice

© Constantine William Spyrou

One of the most popular seafood items in our family has to be scallops. When perfectly cooked, they have a rich, buttery texture and an amazing, sweet flavor that just can't be beat! It is definitely the seafood of choice for both my dad and little sister, and cooking them is a treat. 

It took me a while, but I learned how to make scallops and cook them to the right temperature, per Gordon Ramsay's instructions. I've incorporated these scallops into several dishes since then, and this has to be one of the favorites of both my little sister and myself.

This dish takes scallops to another level by glazing them with soy sauce, creating a rich umami flavor that pairs with the sweetness of the scallops and aromatics of Chinese five spice perfectly. It's paired with a light yet satisfying fried rice with sauteed vegetables that makes for a complete and tasty meal! 

Recipe serves 2.

For the Scallops: 

8 diver scallops, cleaned
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp Chinese 5 Spice
1 tbsp olive oil

For the Fried Rice:

1 tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
1/2 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups bell peppers, diced
2 cups baby spinach
2 cups arugula
1 tablespoon vegetable/avocado oil
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cups cooked white rice
4 eggs, scrambled

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Heat up the avocado oil in a wok on medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic, and cooked for 2 minutes.

2) Add in the 5 spice and vegetables, along with half a tablespoon of soy sauce and the sesame oil. Cook until the spinach and arugula shrivel, about 3-4 minutes.

3) Scramble the eggs into the mix. When fully cooked, stir in the rice and remaining soy sauce. Set aside.

4) Season each side of the scallops with salt and the 5 spice. Place in a clockwise order in a pan with the olive oil on medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute on each side.

5) Add in the soy sauce, and quickly toss the scallops in the soy sauce before serving with the fried rice.

When scallops have just the right amount of cooking, the firm, sweet flesh goes brilliantly with the rich flavors of soy sauce and the fried rice, making a perfect balance of delicious flavors!

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, May 10, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Farmer Market's Chitarra with Kale, Nectarines, and Truffled Turkey Meatballs

© Constantine William Spyrou

While it's always much cheaper and efficient to go and purchase ingredients from the supermarket, I love going to the farmer's market when I can during the week and on weekends. I've found there's no better place to get inspired to make a new dish or try something new than at the farmer's market. Not only will you find some of the freshest produce around, but people are coming up with new, trendy ideas and hybrid vegetables as well, making it a great place to have some fun with your food.

I was really fortunate a couple of weeks ago to run into a friend of mine at the farmer's market who was working at one of the stalls. I was looking through different varieties of kale at this stand, and wanted to get a bunch of the Lacinata Kale (which is amazing when cooked and isn't bitter at all when picked fresh). To my surprise, she gave me the bunch for free, but on the grounds that I had to make a dish out of it! 

This took me on an adventure through the farmer's market, trying to get ideas and ingredients to make something innovative with the kale and other fresh produce at the farmer's market. I selected some fresh caracara (kind of like blood orange), nectarines, spring onions, parsley, fresh cheese curds, and this amazing pasta called chitarra (basically fettuccine, but a thinner cut). Using this and some ingredients I had at home, I transformed the produce into an amazing pasta dish.

I really liked this dish because it had a balance that I hadn't thought possible with Italian cuisine and pasta before: a perfect mix of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy! The sauce was made using pureed tomatoes and cayenne for an Arrabiatta style sauce. The caracara, nectarines, and kale were tossed into it as well to add another level of flavor from their sweet and tart flesh. The sourness of the caracara also played in perfectly and kept the nectarines from being too sweet. 

I paired the pasta with cheese curds, fresh parsley, and some turkey meatballs I made with the caracara zest, spring onion, and some white truffle oil. It added so much to the pasta that it made perfect mouthfuls each time! This is probably one of my favorite recipes that I've made in a while, and I'm excited to share it! :D 

Recipe serves up to 3 people.

For the Meatballs:

1 pound ground turkey
Salt and pepper to season
1 tsp white truffle oil
1 1/2 cups chopped spring onion
1 1/2 tbsp caracara zest
1 egg

For the Pasta:

1 package (~10 oz uncooked) chitarra pasta, fresh
1 cup pureed tomatoes
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili flake
1 white nectarine, roughly chopped
1 yellow nectarine, roughly chopped
1 medium caracara, segmented
2 cups Lacinta kale, cut into strips
1 tablespoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to season
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cheese curds and parsley for garnish

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs together until well-mixed. Form into baseball-sized meatballs.

2) Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan on medium-high heat. Add your meatballs to the pan, and cook for 2 minutes until brown on the first side.

3) Turn over the meatballs, and cook for another minute. Add a small amount of water to the pan, then cover for 3-4 minutes to allow the meatballs to steam through and cook. Let the meatballs rest.

4) At this point, put the water on for the pasta, making sure to salt it.

5) Add the olive oil, kale, garlic, and basil to the same pan that the meatballs were in, cooking until the kale has shrunken down, about 4-5 minutes.

6) Make some space in the pan and caramelize the nectarines for about 1-2 minutes on each side. Add in the blood orange, and stir.

7) Cook the pasta for 3 minutes after it floats.

8) As the pasta cooks, add in the chili flake, cayenne, and tomato puree. Stir together the sauce.

9) Drain the pasta, leaving some of the water to add into the sauce, and stir the pasta and about a tablespoon of the pasta water into the sauce.

10) Toss in a handful of fresh parsley and stir before taking off the heat. Serve with the meatballs, and garnish with chopped cheese curds and more fresh parsley.



This dish is interesting because all of the flavors together work so well! The richness of the tomato sauce is cut by the freshness of the cheese curds and fruit (which is already a great combo). The caracara and nectarines have almost a sweet-and-sour effect on the pasta, which pairs well with the heat of the cayenne, aromatic notes of the parsley, and savoriness of the meatballs. All in all, it makes for a tasty meal of fresh farm produce! 

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! =) 

PS Thanks Jamie Bratman, you rock! 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Minted Patsitsio

© Constantine William Spyrou
As much as I love creating unique fusion dishes, there are times where I just want to sit down to traditional comfort food. As a Greek, Patsitsio is one of the ultimate comfort food dishes of my cuisine. It is hands down one of my all-time favorite dishes. It also is challenging to make at first, because it involves a custard-like savory topping that is hard to master. However, once you though, this is one of the creamiest, richest, and savoriest dishes around! This version of Patsitsio has a couple of little twists from the traditional by incorporating ingredients like tomato paste, fresh mint, and ouzo to add acidic lifts to keep the dish from being too rich. This is probably one of my favorite versions of Patsitsio that I have made, and one that I'm keeping in the recipe book for a long time to come. 

Recipe serves up to 15 people.

For the Bechamel Topping:

1/2 pound butter, cut into pieces
1/2 pound all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tbsp dried mint

For the Pasta Base:

1 package pastichio pasta (hollow spaghetti, essentially)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to season
1 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/2 oz ouzo
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp nutmeg
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano for the topping

Cooking/Assembling: 

1) Cook the pasta according to package instructions. After draining, mix with a tablespoon of the olive oil and some seasoning, and set aside.

2) In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Stir in the flour, and cook for 5 minutes until you can no longer smell the flour.

3) Add the milk into the pot a little at a time, making sure the mixture inside is smooth before adding more. When all of the milk is incorporated, add in the salt, nutmeg, and dried mint. Whisk continuously, scraping the sides down often with a spatula.

4) Bring up to a boil, then turn to a low heat for 10 minutes, whisking throughout.

5) Whisk in the Parmigiano Reggiano until melted, then take off the heat and let cool.

6) Heat up the remaining olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. Add in the garlic, some salt and pepper, and the meat. Cook the meat until browned throughout, about 5 minutes.

7) Make a hole in the center of the pan and cook out the tomato paste for 1 minute, then stir into the meat along with the nutmeg.

8) Deglaze the pan with the ouzo, and toss in the fresh mint. Once it's thoroughly combined, mix the meat with the pasta.

9) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a casserole dish, layer the pasta and meat mixture on the bottom, leaving at least 1/2 an inch to an inch of space. Cover that space with the bechamel, and then top with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

10) Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown.


This dish is comforting, rich, and flavorful all around. The spike of ouzo, tomato acid, and aromatic notes of the mint keep it from being too rich, and the dish itself is amazing, with a solid bechamel topping and a savory pasta base with lamb and beef. This is the top comfort food of the Greeks, without question.

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, April 13, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Red Beans and Rice

© Constantine William Spyrou
To a college student, some of the best food is made on a really cheap budget. Red beans and rice, a classic Cajun dish, follows that tradition. It uses very cheap ingredients throughout, and makes a hearty meal that can last for several days or even feed a crowd of people! This particular recipe fed 15 people comfortably, and is one that I'm keeping in my recipe book for when I need it! 

Recipe serves 15 people.

Ingredients:

3 cans kidney beans, with liquid
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock/water
Salt and pepper to season
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 bay leaves
4 cups uncooked rice
1 tablespoon avocado oil (or vegetable oil)

Cooking/Assembling:

1) Place the oil in a pot on medium-high heat and add in the garlic, bay leaves, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Let the onions soften, taking about 2-3 minutes.

2) Add in the paprika and cayenne pepper, and stir until well mixed.

3) Make a hole in the center of the pot for the tomato paste to cook down in for 30 seconds, then stir into the onions.

4) Deglaze the pot with the vinegar, then add in the cans of beans and tomatoes. Bring up to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes.

5) Cook the rice in a rice cooker, making sure to season it. Serve with the beans.

Again, this is a very simple yet effective recipe for any situation to cook in bulk, but to also impress!

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! =) 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Italian Baked Salmon with Tomato-Stewed Greens

© Constantine William Spyrou
Being in college at times can be extremely stressful (this is my lame excuse for not posting in over a month). However, spring break can be one of the most relaxing times because of time spent with family, friends, and a chance to let cooking be something fun and casual again rather than rushed! This is a recipe that is definitely inspired by meals that my mom makes, and even uses her method to make the perfect salmon.

Since my mom unfortunately can no longer eat fish, she passed the technique of how to make it on to me so I can try it out, and it works wonders! This particular baked salmon uses a Italian blend of seasoning and spices, and is served with an awesome side of sauteed spinach and arugula cooked with some tomato puree. It's an amazing combination that you have to try! 

Recipe serves up to 4 people.

Ingredients:

4 cloves minced garlic
1 2 pound salmon filet, boned (but skin on)
Salt and pepper to season
1/4 cup avocado oil, plus 1 tbsp for frying
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 lb spinach
1/2 lb arugula
1/2 cup tomato puree

Cooking/Assembling:

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the slamon filet on top. Cover with salt, pepper, 2 cloves of the garlic, the parsley, the oregano, and then finally the quarter cup of avocado oil.

3. Top with a second sheet of parchment, and fold into each other to make a parcel. Use metal skewers to hold the parchment package together, then bake for 18 minutes. Let rest after cooking.

4. Add some avocado oil to a saute pan on medium heat. Place in the remaining 2 cloves of garlic, lightly season, and cook for about 30 seconds.

5. Add in the spinach and arugula along with a little more seasoning. Stir well to keep the garlic from burning and cook for about 3 more minutes until all of the vegetables have wilted.

6. Add in the tomato puree and stir well to combine. Cook down for about a minute, then serve! The salmon and greens both go well with steamed rice.


This dish, once you get the parchment parcel down, is incredibly easy to pull off and quick, making it a great for parties and get-togethers! The fish is incredibly moist and tender because it gets to steam in the parchment, like a healthier version of a salt crust. The richness of the spinach and tomato also adds a great backdrop to the silky, intense salmon flavor.

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! =) 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Merguez and Egg White Frittata

© Constantine William Spyrou
In college, one of the easiest and cheapest things to cook is eggs. There are a ton of things that can be done with eggs - scrambled, poached, fried, turned into quiches, etc. However, I discovered through my time in college that my favorite recipe to do with eggs has to be the frittata.

Frittata is traditionally a baked egg casserole with almost anything ingredient that you want to put in it available. The way I make it is in a frying pan rather than a baking dish, and for me is quicker because I get to start the cooking process on the stove and just quickly broil in the oven. 

This frittata version is one made during a cooking session on campus with a few people, and is one of my favorite ways to get protein after a workout session. This frittata just uses egg whites to get the optimal protein you need. For this version, I also chose to incorporate one of my favorite sausages - merguez. This spicy North African lamb sausage has amazing flavor and goes well with tons of aromatic flavors, which this frittata showcases extremely well! 

Recipe serves up to 3 people.

For the Merguez:

1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup red bell pepper, pureed
1 clove minced garlic
1 teaspoon ras el hanout (see my recent recipe for how to make your own if you want!)
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper to season

For the Frittata:

2 cups/5 egg whites
1/2 pound merguez
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup diced leeks
1/4 cup diced bell peppers
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons goat cheese (refrigerate first until firm)
Parmesean Cheese for grating
Salt and pepper to season
Olive oil for the pan

Cooking/Assembling:

1. Combine all of the ingredients for the merguez together. For optimal flavor, let it marinate for up to 24 hours in the fridge.

2. Add the merguez to a hot pan with olive oil on medium heat. Add in the garlic, and cook the merguez through, about 2-3 minutes.

3. Add in the leeks and cook for about a minute before adding in the mushrooms. Cook for another minute before adding in the bell peppers. This ensures proper cooking of each of the vegetables. Lightly season the vegetables in between adding each.

4. Add the goat cheese in in small clumps around the pan, then pour in your egg whites. Stir to ensure that the egg whites get to the bottom of the pan.

5. Once the egg whites start to bubble, grate Parmesean cheese over the top of the frittata. Transfer to an oven on high broil for 7-8 minutes.

6. Remove from the pan, and serve!

This frittata really serves as a great canvas to the spicy contrast of the merguez, the aromatic notes of the vegetables and flavors within the merguez, and the tangy creaminess of the goat cheese. It makes an exciting and fun take that is easy enough to make in college! If you can't lamb, beef works just as great for this as well.

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! =)