Greek Salad

I shared my brother-in-law’s tzatziki quite a while ago, so it’s about time I share another of his great recipes – Greek salad.  This is my go-to when I’m asked to bring a side dish to a cookout or party… I feel like there’s never enough healthy food at those types of gathering (just lots of chips, macaroni, buns, and sweets), so I love bringing this colorful salad chock full of veggies to balance out the meal.

I’ll start off by saying that I don’t actually make the original recipe.  The dressing is perfect the way it is – I don’t recommend any changes to that, other than doubling it for a larger salad!  But you can adjust the actual salad ingredients based on your taste.  I’m not a fan of raw onion (even purple, even using the soaking in ice water trick) or roasted bell peppers, so I just leave them out.  My sister doesn’t like cucumbers, but likes the onions, so she makes her own version.  So feel free to use the salad ingredients that you like, and leave out the ones you don’t – make it your own!

Dressing ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil (12 tbsp = 3/4 cup)
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced finely

Combine ingredients by whisking in a bowl or shaking in a Mason jar (my preferred method).  If you can let it stand at room temperature for a few hours before use, it tastes better, but if you don’t have time it’s still OK, just not as flavorful.  You can also make it the night before and store in the fridge, just put it on the counter to warm up to room temperature a few hours before use.

Salad ingredients, in proportions you’d like:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • English cucumbers, sliced and quartered
  • Purple onion rings (can be soaked in cold water to decrease potency)
  • Roasted red pepper, sliced (from a jar is easiest)
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half or sliced

My perfect salad has 2-3 heads of Romaine, about 6 Roma tomatoes, 1/2 an English cucumber, 1 tub of pre-crumbled feta, and 1/2 jar of sliced Kalamata olives, tossed with a double recipe of dressing.

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This is my giant 4 quart Pyrex mixing bowl, which conveniently comes with a lid for easy transport to a party

As with most salads, dress right before serving so it stays crisp and not soggy.  However, 2nd day Greek salad is also a favorite in our house – I’m not exaggerating when I say the dressing gets better as it sits!  Even though the lettuce starts to get wilted the next day, our family definitely doesn’t let it go to waste!  I know you will love it as much as we do 🙂

Garlic Ginger Egg Drop Soup

I am addicted to Trader Joe’s.  They just opened one here in Jacksonville, but it’s a 45-minute drive from my house, so I tend to go when I visit my parents in Naples instead.  Since I was there last weekend, I picked up some of my favorite staples – and a few new things.  One of my new purchases was their Miso Ginger Broth.

IMG_3474I have a new addiction!  I love getting egg drop soup when I order Chinese, but I’ve always been afraid to make it myself.  But this new product was just the inspiration I needed to give it a go, and boy, am I glad I did!  If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, I promise you won’t regret giving this recipe a try.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Trader Joe’s Miso Ginger Broth
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 clove garlic

Bring the broth to a boil in a small pot.  Ladle about a cup out, and whisk the corn starch into this little bit.  Return it to the pot and mix it in.  Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, and pour slowly in the pot while the broth is at a rolling boil.  Take off the heat and grate the garlic into the pot (a microplane works well for this); mix well and serve!  Makes 2 hearty bowls, and reheats well!

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Yummy soup!

You should also check out my bowl mitt tutorial so you can have a fancy holder to keep your hands from burning, too!  I hope this soup keeps you warm in the cold weather!

Knock Your Socks Off Caesar Dressing

One of my favorite salads is Caesar.  That shouldn’t be a surprise, as I LOVE garlic!  My grandfather invented this recipe for home-made Caesar dressing, and passed it on to my mom and then me.  It’s definitely not for someone who doesn’t like garlic – it really will knock your socks off!  But it’s one of our family favorites, so I knew I had to share it on my blog.  They used to grind the garlic with the salt in the salad bowl using a pestle, but one day my mom decided to use her Magic Bullet and we haven’t looked back since!

Knock Your Socks Off Caesar Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c lemon juice
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 4″ (about 1 tsp) anchovy paste (from the tube)
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until a uniform mixture is achieved; be sure all the garlic is chopped small!  Serve over Romaine lettuce with your favorite “stick cheese” (Parmesan, or Parmesan blend) and croutons.  Store in a glass jar (recycled from a store-bought sauce or Mason) to prevent garlic from getting into plastic; keeps for a week in the fridge.

Radar complains that my dressing is too lemon-y, because I also like lemons, so you can cut down on the juice if you prefer (although I already cut it back some for this recipe – I usually do a 1:1 ratio with the oil!).  When I’m by myself, like now with deployment, I tend to skip the cheese because I just don’t eat it fast enough; I’m also not a huge crouton fan, so I pretty much just eat lettuce and dressing – yum!

You’ll definitely want to keep some breath mints handy for after you eat this delicious dressing!

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Caesar salad, “au naturelle”

Tzatziki

My sister’s husband’s mother (think about that… got it?) makes the world’s best tzatziki with home-made Greek yogurt.  I mean, it’s probably one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted in my life, it’s that good!  My brother-in-law and his family are from Albania, so they know good, home-made tzatziki!  He taught my mom, who taught me, how to make our own so that we aren’t always asking them to make it.  We cheat and use store-bought yogurt, but it still turns out pretty tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz plain Greek yogurt (nonfat or low fat are both fine)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic (about 4 large cloves)
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Stir up the yogurt and drop into a mixing bowl.  Finely mince the garlic and add it in.  Peel the cucumber and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then dice into cubes about the size of a pinky nail and drop it in the bowl.  Pick the dill off the stems, give it a quick chop, and add it to the mix.  Then add the oil, salt, and pepper.  Stir it up really well, and enjoy your fresh tzatziki!  Store it in the fridge for up to a week, if it lasts that long!

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It should fit right back into the original yogurt container for easy storage

A couple of tips: first of all, I know that English cucumbers aren’t supposed to have seeds, and their skin is edible.  But the seed-like stuff in the middle will make the tzatziki watery as it sits, so it’s best to remove it.  The skin also changes the texture of the finished product, so we prefer to remove it.

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The half on the left has the “seeds” scooped out; I’m about to do the one on the right

Also, if you don’t want to buy fresh dill and chop it, you can get the dill in the squeeze tube as an alternative.  My mom uses that kind, as she has some crazy allergies that push her into anaphylactic shock when she chops dill (she can eat it, just not cut it).  You can find it near the fresh herbs in the grocery store.

As far as how to enjoy it, well, that’s entirely up to you.  One of my favorite ways to eat it is instead of sour cream on a baked potato.  Talk about bumping up the volume on something generally very bland!  My mom makes a lamb roast every time I go home, and it’s great with that, too.  But I have to say my favorite application is instead of ranch dressing for dipping raw veggies in – yum!

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Snow peas and tzatziki make a healthy and delicious snack!

I hope you enjoy this simple, authentic-tasting tzatziki recipe!

Garlic Basil Mayonnaise and Meringue Cookies

I have to credit these recipes to my mom – she got me hooked on them!  One of my very favorite lunches is Boar’s Head roast beef and provolone cheese on a Publix hamburger bun (they’re super eggy and delicious) with garlic basil mayo slathered on it.  YUM!

When she started making the mayo, she didn’t know what to do with the egg whites.  She mentioned it to my Grandma one day (who is, I’m sure, the world’s greatest baker), who suggested that she make meringues with the whites – and voila, this pairing was born!  I guess they don’t really have to go together, but it’s nice to have a scrumptious sandwich with garlic basil mayo and finish your lunch with a light and airy meringue cookie.

Radar bought me a basil plant that we keep in our front walkway.  It’s the one plant I’ve managed not to kill!  I love having fresh basil when I want it, and I had my first “crop” ready to be harvested this weekend, so I immediately thought of my mom’s mayonnaise.

IMG_2436Garlic Basil Mayonnaise:

  • 2 large egg yolks at room temperature (NOT cold, or it won’t mix right)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • rounded 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup light olive oil (if you use all extra virgin, the flavor is just too strong – take my word for it on this one)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil

In a food processor, add egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.  Pulse to mix.  Drizzle in olive oil slowly (be patient… your arm will get tired, but just keep drizzling!) with the food processor on.  Once it has emulsified, add in the basil and garlic and whiz for about 30 more seconds (make sure the garlic is well chopped, you don’t want a hunk of it lurking in your mayo).  Refrigerate and use for up to a week.  Recipe doubles well (in fact, this is a half-recipe of the original).

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Plain mayonnaise, before the addition of the garlic and basil – this is how it looks when it’s emulsified

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Ready to enjoy!

Once you’ve made your mayonnaise, hold off on cleaning up the kitchen – use those egg whites to make some fluffy meringues!

Meringue Cookies:

  •  2 egg whites (still at room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla or other extract flavor
  • pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  In a glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy using an electric mixer on medium speed.  Put cream of tartar and salt on top of sugar, and sprinkle in a little at a time while continuing to whip on high speed.  Add in extract flavoring.  When the mixture becomes stiff and shiny like satin, transfer to a large pastry bag and pipe onto prepared baking sheet with a round or star tip (if you rub a little between your thumb and forefinger and it feels gritty, the sugar hasn’t dissolved and it’s not ready yet).  If you don’t have a pastry bag, use 2 tablespoons to make drops.  Place the meringues in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the meringues are dry, and can be easily removed from the pan.  Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature.

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See how it’s shiny and forms stiff peaks? That means it’s ready. It may take a while!

I use my fancy icing tool to pipe the meringues – I find it’s easier and wastes less than a piping bag.  But spoons work just as well, too!

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My cleanup crew – I know Monster looks angry, but he was too busy licking to smile for the camera!

It’s hard to be patient for the hour to pass before you can enjoy your delicious meringues!

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I didn’t want to waste even that last little dollop! I could have had more cookies if I’d made them smaller (these are pretty large).

I hope you give this mayo a try, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as our family does!  And the cookies are an added bonus!