Friday, February 6, 2009

Spinach Pie

This is my mother's version of Spanakopita.  It is slightly different that the traditional greek recipe in that she uses sour cream as a cheese and substitutes puff pastry for the phyllo dough.  I find that puff pastry is much easier to use than phyllo dough and it tastes much better.  The recipe I've given is the basic recipe.  It is my favorite.  At the bottom you'll find suggestions for things to add to the dish.  You can follow all the suggestions or just some.

  • 2 10 oz packets of frozen spinach
  • 2 1 lb packets of puff pastry (defrost in the fridge the day before)
  • 1 1 lb container of sour cream or ricotta cheese.  (Make sure you drain out any extra water/whey before using)
  • 2 medium onions (or more)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 375 farenheit
  2. Defrost spinach in microwave.
  3. Squeeze out excess water.  This is a very important step because you don't want the pie to be soggy.
  4. Dice the onions
  5. Sautee the onions in olive oil.  
  6. Add spinach and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg
  7. Continue sauteeing until spinach has wilted, onions are soft and any excess water is gone.
  8. Turn off heat.  Mix in sour cream (make sure that you've removed excess liquid from sour cream if there is any).
  9. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg if needed
  10. Butter/oil baking dish
  11. Like bottom and side of dish with puff pastry
  12. Add spinach mixture
  13. Cover with another layer of puff pastry.  Or alternatively, decorate top with criss-cross strips of puff pastry (this method makes it look prettier).  
  14. Seal edges and decorate with left over pieces of puff pastry
  15. Brush puff pastry with egg, milk or butter (this will make it nice and brown when it comes out of the oven).
  16. Bake for 1/2 hour or until puff pastry has risen
  • Add 1 cup or more of feta cheese like the greeks do (step 8)
  • Use ricotta cheese instead of sour cream.  You can also try using cottage cheese but make sure you use the small curd version.
  • Add 1/2 cup of chopped parsley and/or 1/2 cup of chopped dill (sautee with spinach - step 5)
  • Add 1 egg to spinach mixture (step 8)
  • Substitute one of the onions for diced leeks or diced scallions (step 4)
  • Add sauteed chicken breast pieces (step 8)
  • Replace spinach with another green such as kale (step 2)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The difference between cooking beef for stew and lamb for stew

In most of my recipes, I use the beef method because beef is more widely available in the U.S. where I am living right now.  To cook beef for stew, use the following technique:

  •  Sautee beef cubes in olive oil, salt, pepper and spices until brown
  • Add water
  • Bring to a boil 
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer covered until beef is cooked (45 min - 1 hour)
Lamb takes longer to cook so I use the following method

  • Sautee lamb cubes in olive oil, salt, pepper and spices until brown
  • Add water
  • Reduce heat to medium and simmer covered for maybe 45 min
  • Reduce heat to very low for maybe 10 min until meat is completely tender


This is a Saudi recipe that my mother makes a lot at home.  It is really simple to make yet it tastes delicious.  I don't know the exact english translation for mudallala.  It means a spoilt girl (i.e. spoiled by her parents) except for it has a more positive connotation.  If anyone can think of the exact translation please let me know!

  • 2 cups of basmati rice, soaked
  • dried dill weed (sbint/shbint in arabic)
  • 2 chicken breasts (around 1 lb)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Cardamom
  • tumeric
  • 1 maggie cube
  • 1 lb (or more) of greek yogurt or lebnah (you can also mix sour cream and lebnah together)
  • Sumac
  1. Preheat oven to 375 farenheit
  2. Chop chicken breasts into one inch pieces.  Place in water.  
  3. Add 1 bay leaf, some cardamom, some tumeric, 1 maggie cube and some salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low until chicken is done.  Take chicken out
  5. Cook rice in chicken broth.  (1.5 cups of chicken broth to 1 cup of rice if using absorption method.  Ratio doesn't matter if using strained rice method).
  6. When rice is done, add a lot of dill to the rice (alternatively you can add the dill when cooking the rice).  Rice should become a greenish color
  7. Take a casserole dish.  Line with olive oil.
  8. Place 3/4 amount of rice in dish.  Press to flatten
  9. Add chicken
  10. Cover chicken with more rice.  Press to flatten.
  11. Cover with lebneh or greek yogurt
  12. Top with sumac
  13. Place in oven for 1/2 hour. 

Chicken and Vegetable Casserole

This is a quick and simple dish that my mother used to make us when we were younger.   I still make it a lot.


  • 1 packet (or can) of canned or frozen artichoke hearts 
  • Fresh or frozen broccoli 
  • 2 chicken breasts (around 1 lb)
  • 1 container low fat sour cream (1 lb)
  • Whole wheat bread crumbs (from 1 slice of bread or more)
  • 3 medium sized potatoes or more
  • 1 maggie cube (or chicken stock)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • some grated parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 farenheit (I think thats 180 celcius)
  2. Boil broccoli and artichoke hearts in salted water until cooked but still crunchy
  3. Cut artichoke hearts into halves and chop broccoli into pieces as big as artichoke hearts
  4. Peel potato and slice
  5. Chop chicken breasts into pieces as big as broccoli and artichoke hearts
  6. Cook chicken in water until it is almost done (but not completely).  Add 1 bay leaf, salt, pepper and 1 maggie cube while cooking.  If you use chicken stock instead of maggie then omit water (obviously)
  7. Place all above into a casserole dish.  Add around 1/2 to 1 cup of the chicken stock (you can also use vegetable stock for this part)
  8. Cover completely with sour cream
  9. Top with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese
  10. Place in oven for half an hour
  11. Remove from oven and place in broiler for 5 min (optional)
  • You can use different vegetables for this - zuchinni, carrots, spinach, brussel sprouts etc.
  • Instead of boiling the chicken, you can fry it with 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper until brown.  You still have to add chicken or vegetable stock to the casserole in step 7 though.