The current revival of iconic American diners stirs my teenage memories, when I spent as much time as possible in my father’s restaurant which had its beginning as a small diner. A local landmark in our town, it grew into a large upscale dining establishment complete with banquet facilities, catering to many special events.
As a diner his menu consisted mainly of American favorites with a sprinkling of Greek and Mediterranean dishes. One of the most popular luncheon specials was a phyllo crusted meat,spinach,feta cheese pie similar to spanikopita, baked and served in an oblong dish. This is a revision of that dish which includes eggplant, fresh tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. The filling can be made and frozen in advance for a time when a quick emergency meal may be needed.
Meat and Spinach Pot Pies
For the filling
- Brown and crumble meat in olive oil. Add onions, eggplant, seasonings and cook till tender 12 to 15 min. Then add spinach, garlic, tomatoes and fresh herbs, simmer for 5 min. Pour in sauce, simmer until all ingredients are well blended.
For the puff pastry topper
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Flour a work surface and lightly roll out the puff pastry. Cut the size and shape of 1 large casserole or up to 6 individual bowls or large ramekins, using sharp paring knife. Place the dough on a nonstick baking sheet and wash with egg.
Place the hot filling into selected baking dishes sprinkle cheeses over all- top with crust and bake til golden...
I finished hanging up my wet laundry on the clothesline and paused to take in one more moment of this idyllic scene around me before returning to my room. I was on the island of Crete during a Gloriae Dei Cantores choir tour staying at a conference center situated on rocky white cliffs overlooking the bluest water I’ve ever seen. This was, without a doubt one of the nicest accommodations of the trip where we were made to feel so welcomed and at home.
The clothesline we’d been encouraged to use for our handwash was outdoors in the backyard garden of the building. It was fastened to a sturdy lemon tree heavily laden with gorgeous fruit just like the lemon trees under which we had enjoyed our dinner the evening before.
I had grown up savoring the flavors of fresh lemon juice and zest in my food long before it had become as popular as it now is, but never until this moment had it occurred to me why Greeks love and use it as much as they do in their cooking. Now I could clearly see the reason why. These fresh lemon and oregano potatoes are a typical example of the many ways in which these ingredients are regularly used in Greek cooking.
Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Put the olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, oregano, and parsley in a food processor; to blend; season with salt and pepper.
- Toss potatoes with 1/2 cup of the prepared vinaigrette in a large bowl and spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Reserve the remaining vinaigrette.
- Roast potatoes until tender and golden brown, 20 – 30 minutes.
- Transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with some of the remaining vinaigrette. Season with salt and garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette on the side.
Some meals can be almost as enjoyable to prepare as to eat. Short ribs are an example of this, especially in cold blustery weather as we have been having this winter. Cooking them is a most pleasurable culinary experience, engaging all the senses from start to finish.
Thick well cut ribs are a joy to handle while rubbing in the seasonings. Then there is the visual thrill of watching them beautifully brown before your eyes in the sizzling hot skillet. This begins to produce a mouthwatering aroma to savor, while slowly nursing them along to desired tenderness.
As a final treat to the senses, I hear the sound of delighted exclamations from those coming to dinner whose appetites are peaked from shoveling snow out in the cold. Could anything be more heartwarming and rewarding than that? Well yes….sitting down and eating one of my most favorite meals with them!
- Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
- Season short ribs with salt and pepper
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch.
- Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3 Tablespoons of drippings from pot.
- Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red, 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in wine, Worcestershire and then add short ribs with any accumulated juices.
- Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 25 minutes.
- Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.
- Cook until short ribs are tender, 2–2 1/2 hours.
- Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup.
- Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with onion salt and pepper.
These short ribs are even better when they are cooked the day before.