Greek Taco Salad

Greek Tacos?  Is that possible?  Is that against the rules? Who ever heard of that and what exactly is it?

Yes, let’s hope so, no (What rules? There are no rules!), and keep reading!

I certainly never heard of Greek Taco Bowls before so I have created them right here. My son and daughter-in-law sent me a Christmas gift with a card saying they hope their gift will inspire me for my blog.

It did! They gave me a set of special pans to make fluted taco or tortilla bowls! You put the soft taco or tortilla into them and bake and you get a free-standing bowl to fill with your ingredients.

I enjoy Mexican food but I wanted to start with something different. What else could be shaped into these cool bowls?  Phyllo dough!

GREEK TACO BOWLS (Serves 4)

  • frozen whole wheat phyllo dough (sometimes spelled “fillo”)
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cup diced, seeded cucumbers
  • 1 cup diced, seeded tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup diced red onions
  • 15-20 pitted, chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese (or non-dairy cheese if you don’t eat feta)
  • 1 cup white Navy and/or garbanzo beans (cooked or canned)
  • mint leaves (Parsley can be substituted if you don’t have or want mint)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Preserved Lemon Rinds

Make Your Phyllo Bowls

Follow the directions on the package for using the phyllo dough.  It is necessary to defrost frozen phyllo dough in the refrigerator for about 7 hours and then bring it to room temperature which takes 1-2 hours.  The unused dough can be re-frozen. I used eight sheets of phyllo dough. Phyllo dough is thin as paper and dries out fast. Once you have gotten your sheets out, keep them covered with wax paper and work fast.

You’ll need at least eight layers in each pan to make a bowl that can stand up to being filled. If you don’t have special taco bowl pans, you can use individual pie pans, ramekins, oven-safe soup bowls, tart pans or even a muffin tin. You may need to do a little more shaping to get the bowl looking the way you want it to.

I used the back of a baking sheet to work with the large sheets of phyllo. I oiled the surface of the sheet with olive oil and folded it in half, then oiled the exposed surface and folded in half again. That made four layers. I repeated the process so I had two sheets–eight layers in all–for each bowl. Tuck the edges under to help shape them.

OIL THE PHYLLO 2

Once you’ve got your pans layered, bake them (unfilled) as directed on the package.  Mine baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  They are done when they are firm and lightly browned.  Let them cool completely before carefully removing them–they are delicate!

UNFILLED BOWL PAINT

Prepare Your Salad

Wash the cucumbers and tomatoes.  I don’t peel my organic cucumbers.  I do like to remove the seeds for this dish, because I don’t want the extra liquid making my phyllo bowl soggy.  To do this, slice the cucumber in half the long way and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.  To remove the tomato seeds, cut the tomato in quarters and use your fingers to gently push out the seeds and extra liquid.

Dice the cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. Chop up some olives. Drain the beans. Slice the lemon rinds.  If you don’t have these, check out how to make them and you’ll have them for next time.  For this time, use a bit of lemon zest instead.

Wash and dry the lettuce and break into bite-size pieces.  If you are making this with small bowls such as an individual muffin cup, break the lettuce very small or shred it. Set the lettuce aside.

Wash the mint leaves and remove the stems. Pile the leaves on top of each other and roll them up lengthwise.  Use a sharp knife to thinly slice the roll and you get a nice pile of thin slivers of mint.  This method is called “chiffonade.” and is also useful for slicing things like basil leaves. If you used parsley instead, just wash it and give it a rough chop.

Crumble your feta cheese. Mix the cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, beans, olives, feta, mint and preserved lemon rind or lemon zest together (Not the lettuce).  Dress the mix with a simple combination of 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1-2 crushed garlic cloves, salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the salad.

Assemble

Plate your phyllo bowls.  Fill the bowls 1/3 full with lettuce, then pile the dressed salad mix on top. Garnish with mint leaves and a little extra feta.

GREEK TACO SALAD

Obviously there is an infinite variety of ingredients for this kind of dish!  Our thoughts wandered way, way off track toward ice cream with espresso or dark chocolate balsamic vinegar on top. What combination would you like to try?

Patty’s Pico Di Gallo

If I had to name one type of condiment that I love the most, it would be “Anything Pickled!”

I am famous (or maybe that should read “infamous”) in my family for serving up peanut butter, onion and pickle sandwiches.  Not that I’m a big Pickling Aficionado.  I don’t have a pantry lined with pickling crocks and barrels. (Though I drooled over some that I saw in a Williams-Sonoma catalogue this summer!)

I love Mediterranean cuisine and recently discovered a traditional fermented dish, Preserved Lemons.  These are basically pickled lemons and mostly you use the rinds. The directions for making these is here: https://mycookinglife.com/2012/07/08/preserved-lemons-a-tradition-in-moroccan-mediterranean-and-indian-cuisine/

These took one month to pickle and the result was outstanding!  I have made many things with my pickled lemon rinds.  I have slivered and added them to salad, I have included them in sauteed escarole with olive oil and garlic.  I enjoyed couscous and garbanzo beans with veggies and lemon rinds.  I have made a dessert with melon balls and a few blueberries drizzled with expresso flavored balsamic vinegar and garnished with slices of pickled lemon rinds.  All so, soooo good!

I could imagine a combination of finely diced pickled lemon rinds, roasted and sliced almonds and a bit of chopped parsley as a topping for broiled tofu.  Or take the sliced almonds, diced lemon rinds and parsley and add some vinegar, a little orange juice, olive oil and a bit of something sweet like mirin or brown rice vinegar as a dressing for steamed fresh green beans or cauliflower.

I have also entertained the idea of margaritas made with preserved lemon pulp and garnished with the rind or a smooth martini garnished with a pickled lemon rind. I don’t drink margaritas or martinis but I bet it would be excellent.  I’m sure any of you who are good at cocktails could come up with some fabulous creations.

Cover of "The New Food Lover's Companion&...

Cover of The New Food Lover’s Companion

Today I’m making a Pico Di Gallo using preserved lemon rinds.  And what is Pico Di Gallo and why is this different from salsa you ask?  (I did ask.) According to one of my new favorite cooking references, The New Food Lover’s Companion, Pico Di Gallo means “rooster’s beak” and refers to eating it out of the bowl with your fingers.  Pico Di Gallo is made with raw ingredients while salsa can be cooked or raw.  Usually Pico Di Gallo is not as liquid-y as salsa and it often has ingredients not found in salsa such as cucumbers or tropical fruits.  In this recipe, I used pickled lemon rinds, kiwi and fresh mint.  This is strictly experimental, so you and I may both be on the cutting edge of a new culinary delight.

Patty’s Pico De Gallo

  • Plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • Red onions, diced
  • Celery, diced
  • Jalapeno pepper (for medium hot) or green pepper (for mild), diced small
  • Kiwi, peeled and diced
  • Pickled lemon rinds, thinly sliced
  • Fresh mint, chopped
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Salt

There is nothing fussy about this, just put in the quantities you think are right.  Celery is also not a common ingredient for Pico Di Gallo but I like the added crunch and since I like only a little Jalapeno, I find the celery cools the overall dish down for me.  Sometimes garlic goes in Pico Di Gallo but I didn’t want to try a dish with garlic and kiwi together.  The kiwi makes for incredible color and I like the taste combination but you could go with more traditional mango instead. And finally, you can certainly use cilantro but it isn’t my favorite taste and I thought the mint would be very refreshing.

The verdict is in! This Pico Di Gallo is refreshing and delicious.  A sublime twist to a popular dish.

Preserved Lemons – A Tradition in Moroccan, Mediterranean and Indian Cuisine

I’ve been longing for preserved lemons and their uniquely intense flavor for months now.  What a wonderful flash of zing!  What a refreshing, piquant, tart highlight to bring simple dishes alive!

You will find recipes using preserved lemons from Northern Africa, the Middle East, from India and even in some Caribbean cuisines.  They are extremely easy to make, too!

Step One:  Gather up your ingredients.  You’ll need fresh, organic lemons.  Pick ones that look good and don’t have a lot of blemishes.  You may choose Meyer lemons or regular ones.  Wash these thoroughly.  You’ll also need course sea salt.  Do not use regular commercial salt as this has additives and it is too harsh for this use.  You’ll also need a clean jar in which to put your lemons while they preserve.  I chose a Kerr one-quart jar with  tight-fitting two piece top.  You can also use the kind of jar with the rubber seal in which the lid clips on.  Some recipes I saw online recommend sterilizing the jar first but most do not.

You need lemons, course sea salt, a jar and of course a good sharp knife and a cutting board.

Step Two:  Hold the lemons stem-side up and cut them into quarters but without going all the way through the lemon.  You want to end up with a lemon that is quartered and can open like a flower, but is still all in one piece.  If you have a good, sharp knife this is easy.  And to make it even easier, you can place the lemon between two wooden spoon handles or anything else wooden that will stop your knife from going all the way through the lemon. And, should you accidentally cut all the way through the lemon . . . no worries!  Just carry on and use those pieces too.

The wooden spoon handles prevent the knife from slicing all the way through.

Step Three:  Salt those babies!  Open the lemon up and generously salt each cut surface with course sea salt.  You don’t need to rub it in or do anything else to it.  But, you can experiment with adding other spices and herbs to your salt and mixing them in before you salt your lemons.  Hmmm, what about coriander, fennel, cloves, cinnamon stick, peppercorn, bay leaf . . .?

Thoroughly salt the lemon surfaces with course sea salt.

Step Four:  Close up the salted lemons and pack them as tightly as possible into your jar.  Fill the jar with spring water and secure the lid.  The lemons will take about thirty days to preserve and then they will last for a year or more.  I have my jar sitting right on my kitchen table because I think it looks beautiful and I enjoy the anticipation of all the wonderful recipes I’ll come up with when they’re ready to use.  (And I’ll be sharing those with you, my friend!)

Close the lemons and pack them into the jar tightly.

Add spring water, seal the lid and wait thirty days.