Bonus Food Pics: Gyro & The Mack Trucker Melt From P&G

gyroLast weekend, my wife, daughter and I went to the New Windsor Community Day event which was packed with various food vendors. If I’m in the vicinity of a good looking gyro (pronounced yee-ro), I’ve got to have one. I forgot to note the name of the place selling them, but I think they just do events like this and weren’t representing a restaurant. Anyway, this was a solid pita with meat carved from the spit and dosed with a good deal of tzatziki sauce and got the thumbs up. Even Lu dug the lamb, which was a bit of a surprise. p & g mack truck burger melt

The next day, we went to New Paltz to do some walking around. Before that, though, we stopped at P&G’s because I was jonesing for a beer or two with my meal. I decided on The Mack Truck Burger Melt which was described as, “8 oz. of freshly ground Black Angus beef charbroiled and topped with homemade macaroni and cheese, nestled in a grilled cheese sandwich.” This seemed like a good idea at the time, but didn’t mix well with the press of coffee I’d had that morning, the two beers during lunch and the coffee I had afterwards. Also, I’ve got to say, the sandwich was a tiny bit bland, which I wasn’t expecting. Still, I not only want to try this again, but also want to make one of my own. Finally, the onion rings were killer!

 

Cooking Chicken Gyro Salad

I recently started one food related project that spawned another. We’ve got stacks of magazine laying around that are chock full of useful recipes. I decided to clear some space and also add to my Big Blue Binder, so I started cutting out pages. That lead me to restructuring said binder because it was just a big hodge podge with no order. I’ve since re-organized and even gotten dividers. I feel so efficient!

Anyway, one of the recipes I came across during this process was Good Housekeeping’s Chicken Gyro Salad which fit in well with my criteria for meals these days: try not to make too much heat. This one only required the cooking of the chicken and some peppers which wasn’t too bad and a good deal of chopping.

Aside from the pita chips, I followed the recipe pretty strictly. Instead of using an outdoor grill, though, I went with an iron skillet on our stove. I got the dressing together first and marinated the chicken for the prescribed 15 minutes. While chicken absorbed that goodness, I got the peppers and other vegetables cut up. The peppers met the heat first followed by the chicken. The rest was pretty simple.

I enjoyed this recipe because there was a lot of flavors I already enjoy going in. Since it’s not lamb, it’s not a real gyro, but it’s a pretty good alternative that captures many of the flavors.

I do want to mention one idea I had while chopping olives, though. We have this egg slicer thing that you can see in the pictures. I rarely use it because I don’t really like hard boiled eggs. But, while chopping tiny olives, I realized we had this thing in our drawer of miscellany and made good use of it! So, if you’ve got a spare egg chopper and need to cut whole olives into sliced ones, think outside the box!

Cooking Mediterranean Chicken Salad

A few months back I started looking around for new recipe websites to check out for dinner ideas. One that I came across was Simply Recipes which posted a new recipe for Mediterranean Chicken Salad a few weeks back. That sounded not only like the kind of dish I’d like to make, but also one that wouldn’t heat up the house too much. Thankfully, it turned out to be both.

As usual, I don’t have cooked chicken breasts just hanging around, so one of the first things I did was get a few breasts cooking. I think I had two or three in the freezer and got them out to thaw a few days before making this dish. Aside from cooking those in salt, pepper and olive oil, the only other thing you have to do that involves heat is make some pasta which is more of a suggestion that necessary  I went that route to fortify it a bit though I would also suggest getting some pita and using that as a delivery system.

Aside from those two things you’re just soaking onion in some red wine vinegar (I had yellow on hand instead of red), chopping up some olives and getting your herbs together. Since it was still pretty early in the season I went with all dried, but I’d recommend going the fresh route if you can. I liked how the finished product came together, but there’s a different texture when you use dried over fresh herbs, kind of like you’re eating food that was out during a confetti shower.

Regardless of what ingredients you use, though, the process is the same. Shred the chicken when it’s done, drain the pasta and toss with all the other ingredients in a big ol’ bowl until well mixed. I’m a big fan of pickled type flavors, I like tart, sour things, so this was a big hit with me between the olives and capers. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that those flavors really developed between the first serving and lunch the next few days, so, if you have time, make this one in advance and let it sit. Next time, I think I’ll go with some pita, fresh herbs and maybe even a bit of feta to round things out.

Disney World Bonus Food Pics: And The Rest

My apologies to regular readers for the intense lack of posts the past month or so. Between the lead-up to vacation, vacation itself, getting back into the groove with work and being sick and not cooking for all of last week, writing about food unfortunately fell pretty low on the priority list. I know the Disney trip seems like it was pretty long ago at this point, but I wanted to finish things out (if you’re curious to see what else we ate either scroll down or read, this, this, this and this).

pizzafari lunch

The Wednesday we spent at Disney World — which also happened to be my dad’s birthday — was spent hanging out in Animal Kingdom. As happened last time we all went there, it was a rainy day, though not nearly as bad as the previous visit. For lunch we went with a counter service at Pizzafari. When I think about food like this I always think it’s going to taste like the box it was delivered in, but I’ve got to say it was a pretty solid little pizza. I mean, it was nothing like the places around us in New York, but it also wasn’t terrible. I’m always a fan of Cesar salads and also went with the pudding for desert. I have no problem recommending Pizzafari if you’re in Animal Kingdom looking for a good lunch place.

boma soup

To celebrate my dad’s birthday, we went to the African buffet dinner at Boma which is located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The last time we went to Disney World, this place was easily our number one favorite eating spot. I’ve got to say, though, that the experience wasn’t quite as enjoyable this time around. For one thing, the place was PACKED, so it was kind of hard to navigate the buffet line. Making matters a bit worse, the actual buffet is set up kind of poorly. People tend to line up for the carved meat, but are you supposed to get in that line before going after the other sections? Some people clearly think so while others did not. I went rogue when I needed to, as is my want.

But, the food was still really great. My personal favorite dish is the Coconut Curry Chicken Soup (above right). I’m also a fan of the Ginger Carrot Soup (above left). The interesting thing about eating at Boma this time around is that it wasn’t quite as revelatory. The food was still fantastic, but in the time since we ate there the first time, I’ve eaten and cooked a lot of different foods. Still, if you’re in Disney World, go eat at Boma, it’s worth it.

Croque Monsieur

Thursday was my daughter’s second birthday, so we tried to cater our dining choices to things she might get a kick out of. Since we were in Magic Kingdom that morning, we decided to try out one of the new eateries in New Fantasyland called Be Our Guest and as you might imagine, the place is Beauty And The Beast themed. This was the only place we ate at where diners could use a touch screen to order their food and while I love that idea, the practice was difficult because most people apparently can’t fathom how to use such a system just yet (even the helper at our station took longer to input our desired meal than it would have taken me). Anyway, my wife and I decided to split two different sandwiches because we couldn’t decide. So, we each had half of the Croque Monsieur (“Grilled Sandwich of Carved Ham and Gruyere Cheese and Bechamel with Pommes Frites”) and the Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich (“Served warm on a Baguette with Horseradish Sour Cream and Pommes Frites”) both of which would make fine choices for a hungry dining party.

Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich

To say a few more things about this restaurant, I really appreciate the theming they did. When you walk in you’re given a plastic spherical bar with a rose on it. You tap this to the screen when you order and then it acts like a GPS so the servers can find you. The servers themselves roll the food out in covered serving carts that both look neat and keep the food warm. Speaking of neat, the place is broken up into three different dining rooms, Belle’s Library, the West Wing and the ballroom. I’m actually not sure which one we were in, but one of the other rooms featured Beast’s flower and the other had windows set up to make it look like it was a dark and stormy night (though it was raining that day, so maybe that’s what it was). Anyway, if you have a BATB fan in your life, they’ll love eating at Be Our Guest.

princess dinner

For dinner that day we hoofed it over to Epcot’s World Showcase for the Princess Storybook Dining at Akerhus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. Lu absolutely loved getting to meet and have her picture taken with Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella and Belle so it was worth it for that alone. It was also nice that they had a great drink menu and rad food like Traditional Kjøttkake also known as, “Norwegian Meatballs served with Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Lingonberry Sauce.” It’s like that stuff they have at Ikea, but roughly 7 billion times better, plus you get the added bonus of knowing you don’t have to put frustrating furniture together after eating. They also do a complimentary buffet called “Taste of Norway,” but I don’t remember much about it aside from a sweet brown cheese that half the table enjoyed and half was not into at all.

kat korra dinner I din't eat

Unfortunately, I was not feeling very well for our last full day at Disney. I had some weird stuff going on with my stomach that was probably compounded by drinking more coffee and beer than water while on vacation. Not smart, people, be sure to stay hydrated. I really wish I had because we went to Kouzzina by Kat Kora for dinner and it was one of the restaurants I was most interested in checking out going back to the early days of planning this trip. Unfortunately, the strong Greek smells and flavors did not work well with my wobbly tummy, so, even though I ordered the Briami — “Oven-roasted Vegetables with Oregano, topped with Greek Cheese, served with Herbed Orzo Pasta” — I was only able to look it, sigh and go back to the room to take a nap. So while the Disney trip didn’t end on a high culinary note for me personally, I’ve got to say that, overall I probably haven’t had a better week of meals ever. Also, get the Dining Plan if you can!

Cooking Spinach Rice Pilaf Pie With Chickpeas & Black Olives

Sometimes a goof in the kitchen can lead to some good results. A few weeks back I intended to make a recipe I found in Hannaford’s Fresh magazine that they give you for free if you spend a certain amount of money. It was going to be the simple Spinach Rice Pilaf Pie, but I wound up accidentally reading the wrong recipe’s ingredients (which I strangely had most of in my pantry). I only realized this after I drained a can of black olives and chickpeas for the other recipe. Even though those two things weren’t included in the original recipe I wanted to make, I worked them in and think the results were pretty solid.

I made this work by adding the olives and chickpeas to the egg/cheese mix that you incorporate the cooked spinach/rice mixture after that’s all cooked. I should have also baked this new, bigger mixture in a larger container of some kind. As such, I had a little spillage in the stove and it took a little longer to cook, but otherwise, I thought the added chickpeas and olives made the flavor a lot more interesting in this dish. Give it a whirl and see how it works for you!

Pizza Party: Mama Theresa’s Eggplant Appetizer & Greek Pizza

This past Sunday, after attempting to hit up a few other places, we found ourselves at Mama Theresa’s for dinner. Since we didn’t order ahead of time and wanted a full pie, we decided to eat there and actually sat in the really nice back room that we’d never been in. As always, the food there was excellent. We started off with a special eggplant appetizer whose name I can’t quite remember, but think it might have been something like Eggplant Pie or Eggplant Stack or something along those lines. Basically, among slices of cooked eggplant there was also healthy doses of mozzarella, pesto, their awesome red sauce and prosciutto. It was all around delightful, the kind of thing I’d like to figure out how to make myself.

Of course, that was the opening act to the main event: pizza! When my wife first suggested getting the Greek Pizza, I vetoed that because I was thinking it would focus on the somewhat overpowering combination of feta and olives that mark such things when cooked by people without much knowledge of Greek cooking. I decided to give it a try and it was delish! The key here was not using too many olives or too much feta, but there was also great grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, onions and yellow peppers that weren’t too hot for my wussy tongue.

Bonus Food Pics: Kalamata Olive Oil From Scarborough Fare In New Paltz

Last weekend my wife and I decided to take our daughter and walk around the nearby town of New Paltz. It’s a great little town that’s equal parts old hippie and young hippie college student that makes a great environment for food. It’s the first place I ever had Soppressata, where I found Northern Italian Cooking by Francesco Ghedini and the home of restaurants like The Main Course, The Taco Shack and the Japanese place I can’t quite remember the name of.

As I discovered that weekend, it’s also the home of a place called Scarborough Fare (8 North Front Street, New Paltz, NY 12561; 845-255-0061) that has specialty olive oils and vinaigrettes on tap. You can go through and taste each one and walk away with whatever size bottle you want filled with your preferred flavor. One of the women who worked there also told us that you can bring in any bottle that has how many ounces it holds on the bottle, so you could theoretically go in there with a Mason jar and walk out with it filled to the lid with Jalapeno olive oil. I went simple with a smaller bottle of kalamata olive oil imported from Greece. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if my palette is quite refined enough to taste all the differences in the flavored versions, but I liked this one and even used it to pan fry some chicken which I’ll post about next week.

Cooking Jeff Mauro’s Greek Tacos

As anyone who read my early posts about Next Food Network Star, I was pulling for Jeff to win. I liked him as a person, he seemed to make good food and I didn’t want Penny to win. However, I’ve only seen a few episodes of his show and haven’t made any of his recipes just yet. Why’s that? Well, the show’s on at an odd time and I tend not to make sandwich type things for dinner. I worked in a sandwich shop for years and don’t find putting them together as relaxing as cooking more traditional meals. However, when I stumbled upon his recipe for Greek Tacos, I figured that was far enough away from my job and enough in my wheelhouse to give it a try.

As you can see from following the link, he breaks the meal down into three parts. You’ve got to cook the lamb and then also make the Feta Mint Tzatziki and the Cucumber Tomato Relish. In an effort to pace myself well, I decided to do them in reverse order of that, starting with the easiest part: making the relish. You’re basically just chopping up vegetables, putting them in a bowl and mixing with olive oil, red wine vinegar and pepper, so I got that done and put it in the fridge.

Next up, I tackled the tzatziki sauce which was a bit more labor intensive, but not by much. I’ve never grated cucumbers before, but that’s what the recipe said and that’s what I did. Once finished, those went into my pasta strainer and sat for the designated amount of time. While that dripped, I chopped the mint and garlic and put those in a bowl with the yogurt and feta. Once the cukes were a little more dry, then went in. Mixy mixy and you’re done.

Lastly, I went after the ground lamb. You cook it in a pan, then, once it’s brown, take it out and cook onions in the juices for five minutes before adding oregano and garlic. Follow that up with some tomato paste, let things caramelize and then put the meat back in the pan. Deglaze with red wine and you’re good to go.

I set the table up the same way I would for regular taco night which meant lots of bowls filled with lots of things. I also toasted the small non-pocket pitas on the fire and we had a really tasty meal. I think this might be a fun way to get kids who might be skeptical about trying new foods to try something new. It’s familiar (if taco night is a staple in your house like it has been in mine since I was a kid) but with some fun new elements. I’d never cooked ground lamb before but I thought it turned out well and my wife–who generally doesn’t like ground lamb–even like it, so there’s that.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Couscous-Stuffed Peppers With Basil Sauce

With the weather much nicer last week, I thought it would be nice to eat some lighter food. I went looking around FoodNetwork.com and came across Giada De Laurentiis’ Couscous-Stuffed Peppers With Basil Sauce. It was a great decision. I only went with a very few changes because I wanted to make sure I got it right. Instead of normal couscous, I used the Israeli variety which I’d never worked with before. I think I might have also used vegetable broth instead of chicken, but it’s been a few days and I can’t tell from the shot I took measuring it out. Ah well, not a big deal.

I first set the oven to 400, got the couscous going, boiling the broth with cumin and then adding in the couscous. I wasn’t really sure how that that was going, so I wound up letting it cook longer than normal with results I wound up liking. Anyway, while that went on, I threw together the sauce (whose ingredients aren’t pictured) and then got the filling ready which was pretty simple. Once the couscous was done I added that in with the rest of the filling. At some point, I cut the tops off the peppers and then cleaned them out.

With everything ready, I put the peppers in a baking dish, added the water to the bottom and then distributed the filling amongst the edible containers. That went into the oven for almost an hour and dinner was served! By cooking the couscous longer, some of it got a little burnt and it actually tasted really great. It reminded me of an episode of No Reservations I saw where Tony was in a Middle Eastern country (I think) and one of the guys he was talking to cooked in a giant pot and said that burning parts of the food is actually important to their cooking process. That seemed to really benefit this meal and made an interesting counterpart to the feta and spinach.

I’ve made traditional stuffed peppers with ground beef, but I actually think this recipe might be more prominent in the rotation!