Tag Archives: Greek

Pastitsio

This is the second installment of the Greek inspired recent dishes, which has always been my favorite Greek dish.  Pastitsio is often described as a Greek lasagna which is fairly accurate.  This was a combination of a few recipes as they all differed quite a bit.  Either way, it is not a beginner recipe but it seriously may have been the best thing we have ever made!  I even met a new cheese in the process.

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Restaurant Review: Greek Islands Grill (Silver Spring)

Greg and I found the Greek Islands Grill restaurant via a penny saver type magazine several years ago and have been enjoying it on occasional Sundays ever since. They were advertising a Sunday brunch Greek buffet. What could be better we thought. We were pleasantly surprised with the buffet’s offerings- though there were not countless dishes available, the ones they did offer were fabulous and hit the spot for the Greek food craving we have so regularly. According to their website the buffet is also offered on other days besides Sundays-  “All you can eat buffets Wednesday (5 to 9 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) are $13.95. Thursday’s lunch buffet (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is $9.95.” . It’s a slight hike out there to the restaurant (technically it’s in Cloverly) but we have found it to be very worth it! Almost every time I go, it’s the only meal I eat all day.

On my plate pictured above (last crappy iphone photo I swear!),  I have Greek Salad with feta and house made Greek dressing, Gyro meat w/tzatziki, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves with a creamy sauce), pastitsio (yum if you love bechamel as much as me), house made hummus, and spanakopita. I’m not going to go into details, but trust me, everything was divine! Also on the buffet were meatballs in a tomato broth, orzo and vegetables in tomato sauce , a chicken dish, and probable a few others I can’t remember. They also have a couple of sweet offerings, which I never get to because I am always so full, that include baklava and one other pastry offering. (as you can see I sort of lost focus on what else was offered once I started eating 🙂 )

For the Marylanders out there, Greg and I definitely recommend this place. We have never ordered anything off the menu so I can’t speak much for that.  However, the buffet gives you the chance to try several different things at once and it has always been very fresh and hot. They change out the food regularly and the service is friendly and prompt.

I hope you like it as much as we have– we will miss it!

Greek Islands Grill

15410 New Hampshire Avenue

Silver Spring, MD 20905

Restaurant Review: Cava (Rockville)

For my birthday dinner Greg took me out to Cava in Rockville. Cava is a cool little spot to get some really great Greek mezze (small plates like tapas). I really enjoy the idea of small plates versus large entrees because you can get a little taste of several different dishes and it can be a little less filling. Can be. We ended up ordering 4 mezze (I think they recommend like 2-3 per person) and I left feeling VERY full. Cava, which means cave in Greek, has a really cool interior and chic lounge-like feel to it. The lighting is low and the decor is wine cellar-esque. The food is modern Greek, so it’s fun and different but also doesn’t veer off too much from the traditional Greek dishes that everyone loves. It’s a nice balance and a really great idea for a restaurant! The Rockville location is in a strip mall so parking was abundant and easy.

Cava does not take reservations, but we were able to get a table right away (by the time we had finished, around 8 or so, people were waiting). Once we sat down, the server brought over a basket of toasted flat bread and a trio of olive oil, sun dried tomato tapenade and some kalmata olives. Everything tasted fresh and delicious and I always love when restaurants give you something to munch on while you peruse the menu.  We went on a Monday night, which was half price martini night. As I mentioned, it was my birthday so there was no excuse not to get one! I got the “Van Gogh Mango”, which was Finlandia mango vodka, mango liquor, and orange juice. It was super tasty, but not very strong so I only got one. I’m glad it was only half price.

As we began to look at the menu a waiter lit a plate of cheese on fire at the table next to us (/practically on our laps– the restaurant is tiny!). We knew immediately that we’d be getting that. Flaming cheese, yes please! It must be one of their most popular dishes as we saw cheese being set on fire several more times throughout our dinner. I definitely recommend this dish. I can’t remember exactly what type of cheese it was, possibly cypriot, but it had a mozzarella-type consistency and so it was creamy, slightly stringy, and maintained a nice golden brown “crust” upon being engulfed in flames. It was really, really good.

We decided upon three more mezze and thought we could order more if needed. As mentioned previously, this was not needed, though we did eat up everything we were given. We ordered lamb stew, braised beef, and scallops mushroom risotto. The lamb stew was lamb that had been, you guessed it, stewed, in a tomato broth and was served over orzo. The braised beef was served over french fries with a sprinkle of feta cheese on top and the scallops were served over mushroom risotto. The stewed lamb and braised beef had similar flavors and textures. They were both perfectly cooked and tasted traditionally Greek with cinnamon hues throughout. They weren’t particularly amazing, but tasted good and homey. The scallop dish was a little disappointing as the scallops appeared to be deep fried as opposed to seared. Though I usually enjoy deep fried foods, scallops are not so good prepared in this way. I ‘d much prefer a good sear to a deep fry for my scallops and they were a little on the dry/rubbery side. They were served atop a delicious mushroom risotto that was creamy and soft, which made it all better.

All of the food served to us  was very tasty but also extremely salty. We went through a lot of water! There were also very few mezze options that included vegetables. It’s more of a meat and starch focused menu. Though the plates are labeled as “small” the portions are actually very respectable and pretty big. The scallop dish, for example, came with four scallops and a large bowl of risotto. Overall, it was an enjoyable dinner though and was certainly a special treat.

Greek Feast!

If you are a fan of Greek food I am pretty sure you will really like this meal. It is relatively easy to prepare and the flavors are intense and extremely satisfying. We made gyro burgers, which were composed of ground beef and lamb as well as some traditional Greek spices. We also prepared homemade tzatziki sauce and  a Greek salad of tomato, cucumber, red onion and fete cheese. It all went well together and you could also serve the burgers in a pita or flatbread if you so desired.

I will begin with the tzatziki sauce, which is a traditional sauce served with gyros that is made with yogurt and cucumber and is awesome.

The key ingredient here is mint. Luckily mint grows like weeds and we have plenty growing outside!

I just combined all the ingredients and let it chill in the refrigerator while we prepared the rest of the meal. Below is a pic of the final product. Not only is this a great sauce to put on whatever you please, really, but can also be served as a dip with pita or veggies. It is so good.

Along with the burgers we also prepared a Greek salad. I love this salad, especially in the summer when the vegetables are nice and fresh. It is a great accompaniment to any meat, really, and goes particularly well with the strongly flavored lamb.

Now, on to the burgers! I’ll let the pictures do the talking here….

The meat had a gyro like consistency as you can see below (sorry, it’s a bit blurry) and of course the flavor was right on.

Give this one a try!

Recipe for Gyro Burgers

Tzatziki

Greek Salad

Restaurant Review: The Big Greek Cafe (downtown Silver Spring)

We have been wanting Greek food for a few weeks now and decided to go out for lunch this weekend and try a new Greek place in the area. I remembered that there was a place in downtown silver spring that could possibly cure our gyro craving: The Big Greek Cafe.  We decided to go for it and give it a shot.

It was a little tough to find at first, as their sign is on the small side. I was pretty sure we passed it when we saw a blue and white facade. There is another Greek restaurant about two block north on Georgia Avenue as well, but we stuck to our original plan to go to this one.  The set up is such that you order at the counter and they have a good amount of seating for you to choose from. It was very clean and inviting and the guys behind the counter were really friendly and attentive.

and check out  my eating partner! Look at this guy…

Anyway, back to the food. The menu was nice and large but we both wanted gyros. I went with the gyro salad (a “big greek salad” with gyro meat) and Greg went with the Gyro platter- which came with a gyro, salad, and choice of sides (he picked fries). Once we sat down I took a further look at the menu and found another 5 or 6 things I wanted. Guess I will have to go back!

The food was as impressive as the menu.

Here is my salad. It was huge! It had so many herbs and spices and it was absolutely perfect. They served it with a house  “opa” dressing (which was garlicky delicious) and I also asked for tzaziki on the side, which was equally delightful and no extra charge. I saved the pita for the birds and squirrels in our backyard and ended up taking half of the salad home. I couldn’t finish this salad, despite my Saturday afternoon appetite, but it hit the spot!

Here is the gyro platter- also a nice, big serving. The fries were soooo good! They had that beer battered crunch on the outside and they put tzaziki on top, which is genius. Our only complaint was that the gyro meat was a little dry. Believe me, we still ate it, happily, but that would be the only critique. We assumed that maybe we got meat  from the end of the rotation and wasn’t as fresh as it could have been.  For both of our meals and two drinks it was $22.00, which is pretty ridiculous for the quality and size of the meal.

Overall we were pleasantly surprised by this place as we have sort of come to expect the worst from many local places we try. I would definitely come back here though and try some other menu items! Check it out and let me know what you think!

Valentines Day Surf and Turf

For valentine’s day dinner we decided to make something we don’t eat often and make something that would be a special treat for us. We went with surf and turf, lobster and lamb.

We got two beautiful lobster tails from Harris Teeter.

We did not want to alter the natural flavor of the lobster and decided to steam them and serve them with melted butter for dipping. Greg put a little Old Bay on his, but my lobster tail went au naturale. Both were steamed in water that was infused with Old Bay and vinegar.

Talk about simplicity! Simple food, done well. The “surf” was a great way to kick things off.

Now on to the turf portion of the meal. We bought two racks of lamb from Whole Foods, that were conveniently frenched already. We have made lamb before, but never rack of lamb. We’ve learned that when making lamb at home it’s important to spend a little extra money and buy a nice cut. The cheaper cuts are grizzly and much more gamey in flavor, not good things. We tried two different recipes, so each rack had a different preparation, set of ingredients, and taste. Both sets were first seasoned with salt and pepper before going on their unique paths.

For the first rack we decided to tap into some Greek flavors, involving mint, lemon, and rosemary.

Greg combineded these ingredients with some olive oil to create a marinade.

Before actually baking this rack, we heated a glass dish in the oven for about half an hour. The rack was placed in the hot dish to sear it. Greg brushed on the marinade and baked it for about 15 minutes or so.

We made the second rack in a more traditional French way, using dijon mustard and bread crumbs.

We began by searing the rack in a pan with a little hot oil.

Once it was seared, we coated it with dijon mustard.

The next step was to cover the rack with bread crumbs (which had been mixed with oil).

Once it was well coated, it went back into the pan for the final leg of cooking. We covered the tips with tin foil so they did not burn.

It cooked for a few more minutes in the pan and then it was ready.

We tried both versions and they were both SO good. Very different from one another and it’s hard to say which one was better!

The bread crumb version is in the back, the lemon/rosemary/mint variety in the front.

This was a delicious meal and I love when we make two (or more) versions of things to try them out and then we also to get to eat a nice variety within the same meal. I really loved them both!

Recipe for Mediterranean Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

Recipe for Bread Crumb Rolled Rack of Lamb