Saturday, January 31, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Roasted Squash and Harissa Hummus

© Constantine William Spyrou
Growing up in a Middle Eastern church, I got exposed a lot to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food. As such, one of my favorite dips/appetizers has always been hummus. This blend of chickpeas, lemon, tahini, and spices has always had a very nostalgic feel when I eat it nowadays. 

Recently, I discovered an awesome recipe from Gordon Ramsay that incorporates roasted butternut squash into hummus for a unique sweet yet tangy flavor. I decided to take it one step further and incorporate some heat, which follows one of my favorite philosophies from Thai cooking: balancing each of the five flavors of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and bitter. To do that, I incorporated a North African paste known as harissa.

Harissa is a fiery hot but flavorful bell pepper paste that is also used in making one of my favorite sausages: Merguez. To me, it's the perfect complement to the sweetness introduced from the butternut squash in this dish, which takes hummus to an amazing new level! 

Recipe makes about 3 pounds of hummus, enough to serve 20 people at a party.


1 pound butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
10 whole cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon Ras el Hanout seasoning (If you can't find it in stores, a custom blend is below)
1 1/2 pounds garbanzo beans/chickpeas
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 pound bell pepper, ground/pureed
1 tablespoon dried chili flake or ground up red chilis (bird's-eye is good for this one!)
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper to season

Ras el Hanout mix:

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 star anise pod, ground
1/2 tablespoon ground clove
1/2 tablespoon ground bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon pink pepper
1 tablespoon turmeric

Simply mix well to combine.


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Scatter your butternut squash cubes onto a baking tray. Coat with 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to season, and 3-4 of the garlic cloves (crush them with your hand first to let the flavor spread!). Roast for 30-40 minutes until soft.

3. As the butternut squash roasts, combine the pureed bell pepper with one minced clove of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, the chili flake/ground chili, cumin, coriander, and salt and pepper to taste. This is your harissa paste. Set half of it aside for garnish.

4. Once the butternut squash has cooled, add it into a food processor along with the rest of your ingredients EXCEPT for the lemon juice and olive oil and half of the harissa paste.

5. Blend the ingredients together on pulse, slowly adding in the olive oil and lemon juice until you get a smooth, creamy paste.

6. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl, then top with the remaining harissa. Serve with pita bread and cold-cut vegetables for dipping!

This dish is all about balancing the flavors out to your liking, so use however much harissa you'd prefer for the hummus depending on how spicy you want it. Keep in mind that it does balance out the sweetness of the butternut squash too! This is a great dish to have for any upcoming gameday parties! (wink wink nudge nudge)

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! =) 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Greek Feast Trio (100th Recipe Special!)

© Constantine William Spyrou
I haven't been posting on this blog for a while, but it's not because of a lack of time or business. I've actually been working really hard on a special surprise for you guys, which you can see at the end of this post. But for now, let's talk about this amazing trio of Greek dishes!

Being Greek, I have a strong passion and love for the foods that come from there, and is one of my favorite cuisines to cook. As such, I developed a trio of recipes that can work for any occasion, as an appetizer or an entree! 

The first dish I will showcase is a Grilled Halloumi and Courgette Orzo Salad. This is a very summery dishes, with ingredients like fresh cherry tomatoes, sauteed zucchini, and a lot of bright citrus notes from lemon (lemon and fresh tomato is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and that really gets to show off in this dish). However, the unique star here is the incorporation of Halloumi Cheese. This is a brined cheese that can be grilled and won't melt! With a uniquely salty flavor, this cheese goes brilliant with the other flavors in the orzo! 

I also put in a simple recipe for one of my personal favorite Greek dishes: Chicken Souvlaki. This recipe style isn't grilled and doesn't utilize skewers, but it still has a great flavor from the traditional Greek ingredients that go into it. This one is done in a saute preparation, but you can definitely put this on skewers and grill it if you want to! 

Finally, I touched on a dish that to me is one of the best comfort dishes out there: Stuffed Bell Peppers. This dish was made to be completely vegetarian but still have some amazing flavors. The rice is cooked similary to a paella in that it gets slightly toasted before the water is added, allowing it to pick up some of the great flavors from the pan in the process. The cooking time for this bell pepper recipe still retains some crunch (which was desired), but you can cook it longer if you want a completely soft, delicious bell pepper! 

Recipe 1: Grilled Halloumi and Courgette Orzo Salad

Recipe will serve up to 8 people.


1 package orzo
6 oz halloumi cheese, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
4 cups summer zucchini squash/courgettes, sliced into half moons
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 clove minced garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to season
1 tablespoon Olive Oil


1. Cook the orzo in salted boiling water according to package specifications. (In our case, it was 10 minutes.)

2. Drain the orzo, and transfer to a serving bowl for the salad. Add in your olive oil and some black pepper, then stir to loosen up the orzo.

3. Let the orzo cool. As it cools, place your halloumi slices into a dry pan on medium-high heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until the cheese is fully colored. Cut up into 1/4-inch cubes when fully cooked.

4. Saute the zucchini with some olive oil, salt, and pepper until it softens, about 10 minutes on medium heat.

5. Add in the remainder of your ingredients to the orzo, and stir well to combine. Serve!

This dish has a lot of balance, from the freshness of the tomato to the richness of the halloumi, which gets balanced out by the citrus notes of the lemon. The orzo makes a great canvas to all of these flavors to be enjoyed! 

Recipe 2: Sauteed Chicken Souvlaki

Recipe will serve up to 5 people.


1 1/4 pound chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried mint
2 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to season


1. Combine all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and let marinate for about 20-30 minutes. 

2. In a dry pan on medium-high heat (the oil from the marinade will grease the pan), cook the chicken a few pieces at a time, roughly 2-3 minutes each side. Serve when all of the pieces are cooked through! 

This recipe is awesome because of how incredibly easy and fast it is to prepare. Once it's marinated (which takes less than 5 minutes), all the chicken has to do is cook whenever you are ready! This recipe is optimal for a college student to pack some great flavor into their diet! 

Recipe 3: Stuffed Bell Peppers

Recipe Serves 4 people.


4 large bell peppers, cores and seeds removed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups Jasmine Rice (or any other rice you have)
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/2 cups baby spinach
2 cloves minced garlic
5-6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 cups water
4 tablespoons grated Parmesean Cheese
Salt and pepper to season


1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees on Convection Bake.

2. Add your olive oil into a medium-sized pot on medium heat. Saute the garlic with a touch of salt and pepper for 1-2 minutes until soft. 

3. Add in the spinach, and saute. While it softens and shrivels for 3-4 minutes, add in your cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. 

4. Add in the tomato paste, and let it cook for about 30 seconds before stirring it into your spinach. 

5. Add in the rice, and stir until it is thoroughly mixed with the spinach-tomato base. Add in your water, bring up to a boil, and steam for 25-30 minutes until tender. Fluff the rice when done by running through it lightly with a fork.

6. Season the inside of the bell peppers with salt and pepper. Add in enough rice to fill them up, and cover the top of each bell pepper with a tablespoon of the Parmesean. 

7. Bake for 30 minutes to get a slightly crunchy but soft bell pepper. For fully soft bell peppers, cook for around 40 minutes. 

This bell pepper dish is about as Greek as it gets. With the cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, it gets an aromatic punch that harmonizes with the tomato in a unique way, making this dish almost irresistibly comforting. 

Now, before wrapping up, I'd like you all to see the entire process of how this is made, so... I actually made a video for all three recipes combined! Please watch and tell me what you think of this video format! 

And as always, let me know what you think and what you would change in this recipe. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)