The love of cooking

Sometimes people ask me what I like so much about cooking.. I always say it’s because I love food, but I thought about it and it’s a lot more than that alone. While food is survival for a lot of us animals, it can be many things to many people and cultures. I find it very therapeutic to put on music and start cooking something completely from scratch, in a time where you could order anything to your door or buy it frozen in a box. I find anytime someone does something more traditional in this modern world very amusing.. like knitting, woodworking, drawing or painting, there’s something very sexy about cooking and food.

When cooking for yourself you have complete control on what’s going in your food as opposed to additives that aren’t meant to be consumed or even digested by us humans but are added as preservatives in pre packaged food. Cooking is a very creative process as you all know I am an artist and enjoy this creativity, I also like the reward of taste. I like experimentation in the kitchen just as much as I like traditional cooking practices.
Food also has a health aspect for me as I like to think I take care of myself and in my culture my people have lived long healthy lives. Cooking for myself has also opened up my senses and I have tried many different things over the years from many different ethnic cuisines.. I love Asian food just as much as Mediterranean food. I was brought up in a family that was passionate about food and entertaining people and so I also really enjoy entertaining or just cooking for my family at home.

Try your hand at cooking and make something that takes up your afternoon, let me know what you cooked, post a picture and also let me know what inspired you and the music you listened while cooking and or who you were cooking for.

Health, love and happiness ❤🍷🍜

All the best for 2017

Jim Anastasopoulos 🍕

My top 10 fave kinds of bread

At a time when its “in style” to go gluten free, I’m letting everyone know how much I enjoy making bread and even better eating it. Seriously if you have a gluten sensitivity then of course stay away, otherwise enjoy the staff of life. Bread has been around in many forms for thousands of years, my grandparents all made it to their nineties except for one who died at 104… bread was a big part of their Mediterranean diet.

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Pita
Baguette
Ciabatta
Focaccia
Grecian olive bread
Pizza
Naan
Multigrain (but not the commercial grocery store kind)
Rye bread
Pumpernickel

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Why is my chicken breast so dry? and what can I do about it?

Weather you bake, fry, broil or grill chances are your chicken breast will be dry because it is so lean. The average size chicken breast roasted without the skin and boneless has approx. 4 grams of fat and about 30 grams of protein this is why it can easily dry out once cooked. There is not enough fat in the white meat to keep them moist.

To follow are five suggestions for tender juicy chicken breast.

For 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1. Brine your chicken breasts: brining is the number one most impressive way to get the best chicken breast. Add one tablespoon each salt and sugar mixed in cold water and submerge chicken breasts in it for about 30 minutes. After 30 min. Drain water and pat down chicken with paper towel and let it sit in a strainer for about ten minutes, now brush chicken with olive oil, your favourite seasoning and grill on BBQ or broil in oven.

2. Marinade: put 4 chicken breasts in a large zipper seal bag. Meanwhile in a mini food processor add 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, juice of half of a lemon, juice of a whole orange, pinch cayenne pepper, 2 cloves and 3 tablespoons curry powder; spin a few times and pour entire contents in zip bag with the chicken and seal, refrigerate for 1 hour or up-to 4 hours. When ready to cook drain out excess marinade and allow chicken to come to room temperature before cooking.

3. Braise; put chicken breasts in oven safe corningwear and add two cups low salt chicken stock, add vegetables of choice such as potatoes, carrots, onions, zucchini etc, add cracked pepper, couple sprigs rosemary, 3 cloves of garlic smashed. Cover and bake at 400* for about 20 minutes.

4. Baste; brush chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper or seasoning of your choice now put on a hot grill or under a hot broiler. In the meantime combine 3 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar , pinch salt, two tablespoons of olive oil and pinch dried oregano. As soon as chicken has cooked on one side, turn over now brush chicken with balsamic vinegar and oil mixture, once second side has cooked turn over chicken again and brush with more balsamic mixture turn off oven and let chicken sit for about 5-10 minutes and keep brushing with mixture. Take chicken out of oven when done and tent it with a piece of foil for another ten minutes.

5. BBQ trick: indirect heat method; brush chicken with your favourite BBQ sauce, chipotle sauce, Harissa sauce, sriracha sauce or any marinade of choice, heat your grill on high for about ten minutes, brush grates with oil and put chicken on grill, after about 4 minutes turn over chicken breasts which should have cooked with nice grill marks on that one side, after another 3 minutes on the other side, turn off the grill on that side of BBQ but leave the opposite burner on high, cover grill and let them cook for about another 10-15 more minutes, chicken breasts should be far away from the high heat side of BBQ… The grill marks on each side should have sealed in the juices.. Again as above it doesn’t hurt to tent the chicken breasts on a plate once ready.

Please comment and let me know how things worked out for you.

Note: Remember when brining chicken will not be salty if you allow then to drain properly and pat them dry with paper towel.

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My version of Sicilian pizza

I went to wine tasting years ago and I tried a slice of Sicilian pizza and I loved it. Sicilian pizza dough is thick and chewey, simple toppings of cheese, a vegetable and herbs, maybe slices of sausage or pepperoni. At the wine tasting I asked the guy about the pizza and then I did some research and then I started to make my own pizza with various toppings and this was the combination I liked most. I also brought this version to my workplace potluck.

For the dough

1 1/2 cups of warm water
4 cups all−purpose flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons ground flax seeds
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar

For toppings

300 ml passata (strained tomatoes)
2 ripe tomatoes sliced
1 large red bell pepper sliced
2 cloves of garlic slivered
1 sprig fresh rosemary
10 leaves fresh basil torn
400 gr mozzarella cheese grated
50 gr Pecorino Romano cheese grated
1 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed
Pinch sea salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
Olive oil
100 gr deli pepperoni sliced (optional)

Put the warm water in a bowl with the brown sugar and dissolve, add the yeast, allow it to sit for about ten minutes in order for the yeast to foam.
In another large bowl combine the flour, salt and flax seeds and mix. Make a well in the flour add olive oil and stir in the foamed yeast water, mix well and turn dough on a floured surface and begin kneading for about 7-10 minutes until a soft dough forms. Put dough in another oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a tea towel, let it rise for at least one hour.

Punch down dough and allow to sit covered again while you prepare the toppings. In a small pot warm a bit of olive oil and sauté the garlic add the passata, rosemary, fennel seeds and simmer on low heat for about ten minutes, remove from heat and allow sauce to cool down before spreading on dough. Preheats oven at 450*. Stretch dough out to fit a 12 x 20″ cookie sheet using a rolling pin, oil cookie sheet and dust with corn meal. Lay out dough on cookie sheet and using your fingers, try to develop a thicker edge. Spoon sauce all over pizza dough, add basil and cheese, top off with the peppers, tomato slices and pepperoni. Put pizza in oven and use convection if available. Cook pizza for about 18-25 minutes. Ovens vary so check under crust after 15 minutes for doness. I hope you try this one out and again please comment below.

Pinot noir was great with this pizza

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Oven Roasted Leg of Lamb with veggies

This dish is dedicated to my Dad. My uncle and Dad liked to drive out to a farm in southern Ontario and select their own lamb of which the farmer would catch and then slaughter. Sometimes the kids went on the trip too except my sister never went, she doesn’t eat red meat and especially couldn’t stand the thought of a little lamb being killed. At least us kids knew where are food came from. I personally prefer local lamb even though it’s more expensive, if all you can find is New Zealand lamb then that would do just fine.

Ingredients

1 leg of lamb bone in
bunches Swiss chard
4 large carrots cut into 2″ long
3 lb. potatoes cut in half or quartered
5 sprigs rosemary
Juice of one lemon
1 cup dry red wine or could use water
3/4 cup olive
12 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp dried oregano
1.5 tbsp kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

Get out a large roasting pan large enough to hold the lamb leg, pour in the two cups of wine if using, otherwise water. In a small bowl prepare the merinade; chop up and combine the rosemary with 1 tbsp salt, oregano, olive oil, garlic, and ground black pepper, mix and brush entire leg of lamb on all sides including the bone.

Place leg in roasting pan, cover and roast in preheated 450* oven for 30 minutes. Now prepare potatoes and carrots, after washing them, mix them together with a bit of olive oil and remaining salt and set aside. Wash the swish chard, trim thick stem and set aside also.

After 30 minutes of lamb cooking at 450, turn heat down to 350 and add potatoes and carrots surrounding lamb. Baste the lamb lemon juice and again in 30 minutes with juices from bottom of toasting pan and cover and continue to cook for another 45 minutes. When time is up, take the top off the roasting pan, turn on convection if it’s an option and let roast another 10-15 minutes, after that add the Swiss chard, turn oven off, cover again and leave in oven another 15 minutes. I know that the lamb will be over cooked but we Greeks do not usually eat meat medium rare, and I promise it will melt in your mouth.

When all done, slice off meat, prepare serving plates with veggies on the side, serve with more lemon, oregano, pita bread and red wine for drinking.

Note: if feeding a large group, prepare more potatoes, carrots and Swiss card and also have Greek salad, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers etc around the table.

Thank you for checking out my blog.

Please enjoy, and comment below, letting me know the results or just any questions you may have.

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Salmon Bruschetta

This was a recipe I’ve been thinking about for a while, then I decided to try it out with my best buddy Ian. You will be amazed at how tender and juicy the salmon will be. Don’t cut corners on the garlic, this is what it’s all about.

4 portions salmon fillet about 3oz each
4 cloves garlic minced
2-3 large tomatoes diced
Olive oil
2 sprigs fresh basil chopped
Pinch dried oregano
One lemon
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
One bunch asparagus

Heat oven on high broil and make sure rack is about six inches from the broil element. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. In a bowl add three quarters of the garlic with the tomatoes, some basil, oregano, salt, pepper and about a 1/4 cup of olive oil and mix altogether bruschetta. Cut the tough stem end off the asparagus and add two tbsp olive oil and remaining garlic. Preheat an oven safe casserole pan large enough to hold the salmon and asparagus together in the oven for about 5 minutes. Spoon bruschetta mix on top of each piece of salmon and carefully put the fish in the heated casserole pan skin side down,
add in the asparagus and cook in broil for about 8 minutes. If salmon is a thick cut may need a few more minutes cooking time. When salmon is ready plate each fillet with asparagus side and squeezes of lemon on fish and asparagus.

Serve with crusty bread or pita and drink with Pinot Noir or any dry white wine will work well.

Enjoy and please comment.

Thank you

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