Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Seared Halloumi & Sourdough Croutons

This is a great dish to make with wonderful September tomatoes. I used a blend of my CSA tomatoes with grape as well as Campari tomatoes. It may possibly be my daughter’s (and even my husband’s!) dream salad- loaded with tomatoes, cucumbers, sourdough and fried cheese?!?! It was well received. 🙂

The recipe was inspired by a Greek horiatiki salad and is also similar to an Italian panzanella. Incorporating halloumi cheese makes it hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main course. This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin.

Yield: 6 to 8 as an appetizer or side, 4 to 6 as a main course

For the Croutons:

  • 1 pound slightly stale sourdough or country bread, thickly sliced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

For the Salad:

  • 4 to 5 cups cucumber chunks, preferably thin-skinned, such as Kirby or Persian
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved, or ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks (I used a blend of orange cherry, grape, and Campari tomatoes)
  • 8 to 12 ounces halloumi cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup excellent quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 T thinly sliced red onion or scallions, plus more to taste
  • 2 to 3 T coarsely chopped fresh mint or basil
  • 2 T red wine vinegar, plus more as needed

To Make the Croutons:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut each slice of bread into 1-inch-wide strips. Tear each strip into 1-inch pieces, removing the crust as you go if it is very thick.
  3. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet (or use 2 sheets, if necessary to prevent crowding). Drizzle with olive oil and toss until evenly coated.
  4. Bake until golden brown and crunchy on the outside, 10 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet and turning the croutons halfway through so they brown evenly, and checking them every few minutes. (I baked mine for 12 minutes on convection.)
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning with a light sprinkling of salt, if needed. Let cool on the baking sheet.

To Make the Salad:

  1. In a colander in the sink, toss the cucumbers with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place a bag of ice cubes or an ice pack on top to chill and firm the cucumbers. Let drain while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes with about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Slice the halloumi about 1/4-inch thick, then cut into bite-size strips.
  4. Smash and peel the garlic cloves and combine with 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a measuring cup to steep.
  5. Pour off excess liquid from the bowl holding the tomatoes. Add drained cucumbers, red onion or scallions, fresh herbs and 2 tablespoons vinegar to tomatoes and toss well.
  6. Remove and discard the garlic cloves from the extra-virgin olive oil, add the oil to tomatoes and mix well. (If desired, the salad can be made up until this point and refrigerated for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain off excess liquid in the bottom of the bowl before proceeding.)
  7. When ready to serve, add about half the croutons to the salad and toss so they can absorb the liquid.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar.
  9. Cook the halloumi: Line a plate with paper towels and lightly coat a nonstick skillet with extra-virgin olive oil. Heat oil over medium-high until rippling. Working in batches, cook the halloumi strips on both sides until golden-brown and crusty, about 1 minute per side. Remove to the plate to drain.
  10. Taste and add more croutons to salad as desired. (If there are too many, the salad will be starchy; too few, and it will be wet.)
  11. At the last minute, toss in the halloumi, mix gently and serve immediately. (If desired, transfer to a clean bowl or platter for serving.)

Greek Shrimp, Farro & Greens with Feta

Greek One-Pan Pasta

I have one more Greek dish to share- for now. 🙂 I incorporated rotisserie chicken meat to make this a super-fast weeknight dish. The dill and lemon zest make it reminiscent of avgolemono. Cooking the pasta in chicken stock gives it wonderful flavor and adds creaminess to the finished dish.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I modified the proportions. Easy and great! We ate it warm but it would also be delicious served cold or at room temperature as a pasta salad.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • finely grated lemon zest, from one lemon (reserve some for garnish)
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds shredded rotisserie chicken meat
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  1. Combine stock, pasta, oil, lemon zest, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1 3/4 cups water in a large straight-sided skillet. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, 9 minutes.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Continue to cook, stirring, until pasta is al dente and chicken is cooked through, about 2-3 minutes more.
  4. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice and dill. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
  5. Serve immediately, topped with more lemon zest and dill, and a generous drizzle of oil.

Avgolemono Rice

After sharing my friend’s Greek Meat Stuffing recipe, I realized that I have other Greek-inspired dishes to share. As avgolemono soup is one of my all-time favorites, I must say that the star of this dish is the creamy but cream-less egg-lemon sauce. It seems to bring brightness that should be served in springtime. 🙂

This dish was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Gabrielle Hamilton. I used chicken stock instead of lamb stock. The author states that it is easier to perfect the rice by cooking it pasta style, in seasoned, boiling water. She also suggests using the delicious sauce with asparagus, roasted salmon, or poached chicken. Nice.

  • coarse salt, for cooking rice and for seasoning the sauce
  • 1 ¼ cups jasmine or Basmati rice
  • 1 cup frozen small peas
  • 2 cups homemade brown lamb stock, turkey stock, or chicken stock
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 scallions, sliced in 1/3-inch rings, on a slight bias
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring 8 cups of water to a rolling boil. Season lightly with salt.
  2. Rinse the rice, and pour into boiling water, stirring well to keep grains from clumping. When the water returns to a boil, lower heat a little to a gentle boil, and cook the rice “pasta-style” until just done. (I cooked the rice 8-9 minutes.)
  3. Drain the rice through a fine-mesh colander, giving it a couple of hearty shakes to remove the last of the water.
  4. Immediately spread cooked rice out on a sheet pan lined with parchment to cool quickly. Do not pat down or pack the rice — you want it fluffy and to be able to cool and dry quickly.
  5. Rinse the peas under cool water briefly to remove any frosty crystals.
  6. Bring the stock to a simmer.
  7. In a stainless bowl, whisk egg yolks and lemon juice together until fully incorporated.
  8. In a slow steady stream, while constantly whisking, add half the hot stock into the yolks. Then whisk the egg-lemon mixture back into the remaining stock.
  9. Return the pot to the stove, and simmer (still whisking constantly so as not to cook the egg too fast and too hard), until the avgolemono sauce is full-bodied, approximately the consistency of buttermilk — a minute or 90 seconds more.
  10. Stir in the scallions, then the peas, and when they both turn bright green, turn off the heat, and stir in the rice.
  11. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The rice should be as soupy as risi e bisi (Italian rice and peas) and as creamy as risotto.

Greek Stuffing

I have gone to a hair salon owned by a lovely Greek family for many years. Beyond being a relaxing experience to just be there, we often discuss food and new restaurants- it’s great. After hearing about this Greek Thanksgiving stuffing for almost as many years, I finally got the treasured family recipe. 🙂

This dish is reminiscent of one of my son’s favorite rice and meat dishes, Thai One-Pot, with a Greek twist. It incorporates cinnamon, raisins, roasted chestnuts, as well as pine nuts.

My friends eat it as part of their Thanksgiving feast, but it is also hearty enough to be served as a main course. We ate it for dinner with roasted broccoli on the side. I modified the original recipe by using fresh mushrooms and ground turkey instead of ground beef. It was very unique and delicious!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup flat parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 24 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup white Basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • 13 oz organic roasted, peeled chestnuts, crumbled lightly
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pound ground turkey or ground beef
  • 1 turkey liver or 2 chicken livers, finely chopped
  • 1-2 T ground cinnamon
  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 T freshly ground black pepper
  1. Melt the butter in a 14-inch skillet.
  2. Add the chopped celery and onion; sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, add the parsley, and continue to sauté for another minute.
  3. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the rice: In a medium pot, bring chicken stock, rice, and 1/2 tsp salt to a simmer. Add the chestnuts, crushed tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins, and cinnamon stick; mix. Cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes. (I used an enameled cast iron pot so that I could use it to finish the dish.)
  5. While the rice is cooking, add the olive oil to the hot 14-inch skillet, followed by the ground meat and chopped liver.
  6. Season the meat with 1 T salt, 1/2 T black pepper, and 1 T ground cinnamon. Cook until no longer pink, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
  7. When the rice is tender, remove the cinnamon stick.
  8. Add the onion, celery, and mushroom mixture to the cooked meat, followed by the cooked rice mixture. Stir to incorporate.
  9. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Tomato-Braised Gigante Bean Gratin (Pizza Beans)

This dish could or should be a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen called the dish “pizza beans” to make it more appealing to her kids- so I did the same. 😉 She also had the genius suggestion of serving it with garlic bread, giving it even more appeal. Perelman described it as “a mash-up of a giant-beans-in-tomato-sauce dish from Greece and American-style baked ziti, with beans instead of noodles.” Heaven!

My husband and I enjoyed this dish very much. We are already big fans of Greek Gigante beans, by the way. 🙂 With the name “pizza beans,” my kids were expecting pizza, but the flavors in the dish were more like minestrone soup. It may have been more well-received if I had simply called it by the original title, Tomato & Gigante Bean Bake. 😉

This dish would also be wonderful as a cold-weather comfort food casserole. The recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites by Deb Perelman, via smitten kitchen.com. I used a pressure cooker to cook the dried beans, incorporated the pressure cooker bean liquid as well as beet greens, and increased the amount of garlic. I plan to make it again in the winter and give it a different title. I’m sure it will be more well-received. It will be served with garlic bread, of course.

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 large or 2 regular carrots, diced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white or red wine, optional
  • 4 ounces (115 grams) curly kale leaves, beet greens, and/or mixed baby greens, coarsely chopped
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 grams) crushed tomatoes (28-ounce or 800-gram can minus 1 cup; reserve the rest for another use)
  • 1 pound (455 grams) giant white beans such as Italian fagioli corona, Greek gigante/gigandes, Royal Corona, or large lima beans
  • 3/4 cup (175 ml) vegetable broth or pressure cooker bean liquid, as needed
  • 1/2 pound (225 grams) mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons (5 grams) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish, optional
  • garlic bread, for serving, optional
  1. To use a Pressure Cooker to “Soak” the Beans: Place 12 cups of water, 3 tsp of coarse salt and the dried beans in a pressure cooker. Raise to high pressure (2nd ring) for 2 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans.
  2. Cook the Beans in a Pressure Cooker: Place the drained beans with 9 cups of fresh water in the pressure cooker. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Cook on low (1st ring) for 3 minutes. Release pressure using the natural (water) method. Drain the beans reserving the bean liquid.
  3. Heat the oven to 475 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. In a 2 1/2-to-3-quart (ideally oven-safe) deep sauté pan, braiser, or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season well with salt and black or red pepper. Cook, sautéing, until the vegetables brown lightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.
  6. Add the wine, if using, to scrape up any stuck bits, then simmer until it disappears, 1 to 2 minutes.
  7. Add the kale/greens, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until collapsed, then add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  8. Add the beans, and, if the mixture looks too dry or thick (canned tomatoes range quite a bit in juiciness), add up to 3/4 cup broth/bean liquid, 1/4 cup at a time.
  9. Simmer the mixture together over medium for about 10 minutes, adjusting the seasonings as needed.
  10. If your pan isn’t ovenproof, transfer the mixture to a 3-quart baking dish.
  11. Sprinkle the beans first with the mozzarella, then the Parmesan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned on top. If you’re impatient and want a deeper color, you can run it under the broiler.
  12. Finish with parsley, if desired. Serve with garlic bread.

Shortcut Avgolemeno (Greek Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce)

This soup is truly season-less, but especially perfect on a cool and rainy autumn day. That’s today for me. 😦

A soup like this is the exact reason to have homemade stock in the freezer! This recipe is from Food Network.com, contributed by Cat Cora. I modified the recipe to use a rotisserie chicken (such a shortcut!) and homemade stock. Loved it. Delicious.

Yield: about 8 servings

  • 1 (approximately 3 pound) rotisserie chicken
  • 12 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups finely diced onion (I used 1 large yellow onion)
  • 2/3 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarse salt
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. To Prepare the Chicken: Pull the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Coarsely shred or dice the meat into large cubes; refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Warm the stock over high heat, add the rice and onion and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken and reduce the broth to a low simmer.
  6. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the lemon juice and eggs.
  7. Ladle 2 cups of hot broth into a measuring cup with a pourable spout. While whisking, slowly pour the 2 cups of broth into the egg mixture.
  8. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot, add 1/2 tablespoon salt (less if using store-bought stock) and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. Stir well to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning, as necessary.
  9. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.

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