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September 2010

Greek Feast for Two Dinner Menu: Project Food Blog Challenge #2

I am excited to share my Greek Feast for Two Dinner Menu with you, but first want to extend my gratitude for voting The Cheap Gourmet blog through to Round Two of the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog Challenge. It means a lot that you are taking time to read my cooking blog and submit your votes and to that I say, Thank You!

This week's challenge is to "tackle a classic dish from another culture" and as you can see, I chose Greek food. I've been enchanted by the Greek Islands for as long as I can remember. A few weeks ago I watched the Grek Islands episode of Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations. I found myself fixated on the food and realized I knew very little about the classic Greek dishes.

Greek foods consist of local ingredients and include tons of fresh produce, fragrant herbs, olives, and olive oil. Research revealed lamb, pork, and seafood are the most common proteins. I based my menu selections on foods often served during Greek festivals.

The Greek Feast for Two dinner menu includes: Greek Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing, Greek Paidakia, Baby Lamb Chops with Garlic and Rosemary, Roasted Vegetables, and Cheese and Honey Filo Rounds.

This was, by far, one of the best meals I have ever prepared. My husband and I were intoxicated by the cooking aromas and the savory, salty, earthy flavors of the foods. Everything about this meal was fun and I am proud to share the recipes with you today.

The Greek Feast is relatively easy to prepare, but does require about 2-1/2 hours of time. Step-by-step directions are provided for ease in preparation. I think you will find the end result well worth the effort.

Preparing the Greek Feast for Two Dinner Menu

Start by preparing the Greek Paidakia. Marinate for 2 hours to achieve ultimate tenderness and intense flavor. Prep time is 15 minutes. Chops are broiled for 15 minutes. Total prep and cooking time is 2-1/2 hours.

Greek Paidakia
Adapted from Grilled Lamb Chops at GreekHomeRecipes.com

I was attracted to this dish because the original recipe stated, "Paidakia is to the Greeks as baby back ribs are to Southerners." Since I live in the South and LOVE baby back ribs, I figured I couldn't go wrong with Greek Paidakia.

The original recipe uses lamb, but I substituted with pork. This recipe is super easy to make and uses minimal ingredients. The flavor is incredibly savory and the meat melts in your mouth.

1-1/2 pounds Pork Rib Roast, frenched and cut into 4 to 6 individual chops. Frenched means the meat and fat is removed from the upper bone; providing a handle for ease in eating.
2 Tablespoons Dried Basil
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Lemon, cut into wedges

1. In a small bowl, combine basil, parsley, salt and pepper.
2. Rinse pork chops and coat each side with herb mixture.
3. Lightly brush each side with olive oil.
4. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours.


5. Broil pork chops 8 minutes per side.
6. Transfer to serving platter and garnish with lemon wedges.
7. Squeeze lemon juice over pork chops and devour!


Next, prepare the Greek Salad. The Vinaigrette dressing should chill for at least 1 hour prior to serving.

Tip: I bought the Kalamata Olives from the Olive Bar at my local grocer. It was less expensive than jarred olives and I could pick the best olives.

Greek Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
Adapted from www.GreekSaladRecipe.net.

Greek Salad Ingredients:
1 head Romaine Lettuce, washed, dried, and loosely chopped
10-ounce bag Baby Greens
1/4 Red Onion, thinly sliced
2 Roma Tomatoes, diced
1/2 English Cucumber, diced
4 ounces pitted Kalamata Olives
4 ounces Feta Cheese, crumbled


Greek Salad Vinaigrette Dressing Ingredients:
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice from 1 whole Lemon (use the zest of this lemon for the Baby Lamb Chops)
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
1 teaspoon Dried Basil
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/2 cup Red Wine Vinegar

1. Gently toss vegetables and olives together in a salad bowl. Top with Feta cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
2. In a small bowl, combine Vinaigrette dressing ingredients and briskly whip together using a wire whisk. Transfer to serving container and refrigerate for one hour.
3. Transfer to salad plates and add desired amount of dressing.


Now, it's time to work on the Cheese and Honey Filo Rounds. This recipe was the most challenging dish to prepare due to the delicacy of the filo (phyllo) dough. The original recipe cut the dough into rounds. I didn't have much luck with that method and ended up cutting the sheets into quarters. This dish is intended to be served at room temperature. Makes 16 rounds. Prep time is 15 to 20 minutes and bake time is 12 to14 minutes.

Obtain the original Cheese and Honey Filo Rounds recipe and watch a preparation video at www.Greek-Recipe.com.

8 sheets refrigerated Filo dough, cut into quarters
4 ounces Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil for basting
1-1/2 Tablespoons Honey

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place filo dough on large cutting board. Carefully cut sheets into quarters and stack into a pile.
3. Use 2 sheets of filo dough for each cheese-stuffed round. It is important to work quickly so the dough doesn't dry out.
4. Place 2 sheets of dough on cutting board and lightly brush with olive oil. Place 1/2-teaspoon of cheese near the end of the square. Gently roll and lightly baste with olive oil. Carefully roll one end toward the center to create a snail shell. As you can see, I need more practice.


5. Place on baking sheet and lightly baste each round before placing in oven.
6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until light golden brown.
7. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to serving platter. Drizzle with honey. Serve at room temperature.

Next, prepare the roasted vegetables. These require 10 minutes to prep, 30 minutes to marinate, and 16 minutes to cook.

Roasted Vegetables
Adapted from Rachel Ray's Lamb Chops with Roasted Vegetables and Spring Pea Risotto

The original recipe roasts the vegetables in the oven for 15 minutes. I marinated the vegetables for 30 minutes and broiled them with the Greek Paidakia.  Either method will provide great results.

1/2 pound fresh Green Beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 dozen Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
2 Green Onions, thinly sliced diagonally
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated

1. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss green beans, tomatoes, and onions with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
2. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.


3. Broil at 500 degrees Fahrenheit on lower oven rack for 16 minutes. The Greek Paidakia should be placed on the top oven rack while veggies are roasting.
4. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with cheese.


Finally, it's time to prepare the Baby Lamb Chops with Garlic and Rosemary. It is recommended to serve lamb chops medium-rare. This recipe requires 15 minutes prep time and 8 minutes to cook. Start preparing the marinade 5 minutes before placing the veggies and Greek Paidakia in the broiler.

Adapted from Michael Chiarello's Lamb Chop recipe

1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use 1/8 cup for marinade and 1/8 cup for cooking lamb chops)
2 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 Tablespoons fresh Rosemary leaves
1 Lemon, zested
4 Baby Lamb Chops
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

1. Heat 1/8 cup olive oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until light golden brown. Add rosemary leaves and cook until crispy.
2. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.
3. Transfer to small bowl, add lemon zest, and mix well.
4. Heat remaining olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.
5. Season both sides of lamb chops with salt and pepper.
6. Cook lamb chops in skillet 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.

7. Transfer to serving platter and spoon rosemary-garlic marinade on top.

This is my Greek Feast for Two dinner menu. I hope your family and friends enjoy the meal as much as we did. I welcome and appreciate your votes. Each one helps launch me to the next level of the Project Food Blog Challenge. Voting is open from 6 a.m. PT Monday, September 27th through 6 p.m. PT Friday, September 30th. Thank you for your support!

P.S. If you missed the first challenge, click here to read, Defining The Cheap Gourmet Blog


Project Food Blog Voting is Now OPEN!

It's official! Project Food Blog Voting is now open! If this is your first visit to The Cheap Gourmet blog, allow me to fill you in. I am competing in a food blog competition hosted by FoodBuzz.com. Over 1800 food bloggers are competing to win the first Food Blog Star award that is accompanied by a $10,000 grand prize.

Project Food Blog consists of 10 challenges. In order to make it through each round, FoodBuzz will compile votes from the panel of judges and Featured Publishers. The general public can cast votes as well. Public votes can help bloggers win the Reader's Choice award which will propel them into the next competition.

The only requirement for public votes is that individuals become a member of the FoodBuzz community. There is no fee to join and the rewards are bountiful. With over 4,000 food bloggers, members are certain to find a wide range of recipes from around the globe.

The first FoodBuzz challenge was to write about why I should be the first Food Blog Star. Take a walk down memory lane with me as I share how The Cheap Gourmet blog was born in my first PFB Challenge blog post.

To cast your vote, click on the profile button below, on the right sidebar, or at the bottom of the PFB challenge post. I hope I move on to the next challenge and appreciate your vote as it will help me arrive at the destination of the first Food Blog Star!


Project Food Blog Challenge #1: Defining The Cheap Gourmet Blog

Today is the day! The FoodBuzz Project Food Blog Challenge has begun and I am excited! The Cheap Gourmet blog is about to receive a new level of exposure and the sky is the limit. I'm so glad you're joining me on this adventure.

The first Project Food Blog challenge is to define my blog and what it offers. I invite you to join me for a virtual cup of coffee (or margaritas) as we stroll down memory lane.

The Cheap Gourmet food blog was born on February 18, 2007. The first post was a recipe for grilled gourmet lunch meat sandwiches. That's an oxymoron, wouldn't you agree? Gourmet lunch meat. How can that be? But, that is what this blog is all about. Turning the ordinary into something extraordinary, for cheap.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s in the traditional suburban Leave It to Beaver household. Mom took care of the family and dad worked two jobs. We didn't do without, but we rarely had extras. And, we never went out to eat except for very special occasions.

Sister, Dad, Mom, Baby Brother, and Me

Fortunately, my mom was an amazing cook. Although she had a tight budget, she always managed to serve three homemade meals every day. Mom made a lot of crock pot meals, meatloaf, casseroles, fish and chicken. She baked fresh bread or yeast rolls daily and we always had some type of homemade dessert.

It wasn't until I moved away from home that I realized how much time mom spent in the kitchen. Although I "assisted" with cooking as a child, I think I was more of a nuisance than a help. I had no clue how to cook for myself and spent hours on the phone finding out how to make potato soup, roasted chicken, or that yummy pasta casserole with bacon and tomatoes


Secret pasta casserole recipe handed down from my grandmother

As an adult, I spent several years working in food service. In the 90s I worked as a vegetarian chef at a health food store. The Executive Chef, Leslie, took me under her wing and opened up a brand new culinary adventure. As a girl who grew up in the Midwest, I had never eaten tofu, tempeh, seaweed, or vegan "beef" jerky. But, once I learned how to prepare them I really enjoyed them - except for the seaweed.

Leslie encouraged us to create one new vegetarian dish every day. If it turned out well the item became the Special of the Day. It was fierce competition in the kitchen and serious trash-talking took place. To this day, I still remember when my recipe for Spring Vegetable Soup beat out the reigning chef.

Sadly, Leslie encountered serious health problems and could no longer work. The store hired a new kitchen manager who ruled with an iron fist. So, I packed my knives and went to work for a private country club.

That was a life-altering experience. I discovered true gourmet food and fell in love with the succulent delights only the wealthy could afford. Black truffles, Kobe beef, lamb chops, and Osso Bucco. My saliva glands are gearing up into overdrive. How about yours?


Osso Bucco with creamy mashed potatoes, sauteed veggies, and demi glace

Every day was a learning experience. We served food from morning 'til night and accepted special requests. We frequently hosted private parties with over 200 guests. In order to survive in that kitchen we had to constantly be on top of our game. It was challenging, but extremely rewarding at the end of the day.

Every dish had to be meticulous with foods precisely positioned on the plate. There could be no drips, drops, or fingerprints on the plate. The Executive Chef was a highly-charged man who took his reputation seriously. Although I learned a great deal from him, he sucked the joy out of cooking and we parted ways.

I went on to open a small catering business and had the time of my life. As I got older, the demands of the job were more than I wanted. So, I packed up my knives and traded them in for a keyboard.

The Cheap Gourmet is a culmination of my culinary experiences. My mother taught me how to cook tasty, affordable meals. She was a penny-pincher, coupon clipper whom I lovingly referred to as "cheap."

Leslie introduced me to the simplistic beauty and bountiful flavors of fresh, organic vegetables and taught me that healthy doesn't have to be tasteless. The country club introduced me to gourmet cooking and the artistic side of food presentation. Catering helped me meet the needs of a wide range of people in a variety of settings.

This blog lets me share vegetarian, vegan, gourmet, and old fashioned home cooked meals. There are recipes for appetizers to entrĂ©es and cocktails to holiday dinner parties.  Visitors can locate cooking contests, money-saving coupons, gourmet samples, and kitchen product sales. There is something for everyone.

If anyone had told me I'd be competing in a Food Blog Star contest when I started this blog, I doubt I would have believed them. Of course, I never realized that I would make so many friends, rub elbows with celebrity chefs, attend private food blogger parties hosted by popular restaurants, or have the opportunity to have three renowned culinary geniuses read my words. Just goes to show extraordinary things really do happen to ordinary people.

Hanging out with Hell's Kitchen Winner, Danny Veltri (center) at his restaurant, Flip Flops
in New Smyrna Beach, FL


I greatly appreciate you taking time to read my Project Food Blog challenge post. Take a moment to join FoodBuzz.com so you can cast a vote my way (wink!). Voting begins Sept. 20th and I will post a reminder announcement on that day.

To cast your vote click on the profile button below. Thanks so much for your support!

FoodBuzz.com Project Food Blog Contest

The Cheap Gourmet is participating in Project Food Blog contest presented by FoodBuzz.com. Nearly 2,000 food bloggers will be competing in a series of 10 culinary challenges in hope of winning the title of Food Blogger of the Year and the grand prize of $10,000.

I am excited to participate in Project Food Blog and hope I make it to the end. The competition is stiff, but FoodBuzz has leveled the playing field so that every contestant has the opportunity to advance to the next round. The challenges are exciting and provide the opportunity to engage in culinary activities I have not yet tried.

The first challenge begins today and voting will begin on September 20th. In order to keep voting fair, FoodBuzz requires all voters to register as a FoodBuzz community member. There is no fee to join and members have access to thousands of delicious and unique recipes from passionate foodies. I would greatly appreciate your vote and encourage you to join the FoodBuzz community today by visiting www.FoodBuzz.com

Members of the FoodBuzz community are allowed to vote for their favorite contestants. The food blogger who receives the most community votes is given the Reader's Choice award which allows them to move into the next challenge. Reader's Choice is similar to winning immunity in a reality TV show competition.

Additionally, Project Food Blog contestants will have their blog posts critiqued by a panel of three judges including: Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief of FOOD & WINE magazine; Nancy Silverton, Founder of LaBrea Bakery; and Pim Techamuanivit, Author of ChezPim.com and The Foodie Handbook.

Honestly, I'm a little intimidated to be in the company of these food stars, but my mom always said if you want to get ahead in life you have to get out of your comfort zone. Unfortunately, my mom is no longer here to offer support and words of wisdom, so I'm counting on my fans to help me through and offer my sincere gratitude to those who help by casting their vote.

Voting for the first challenge begins on September 20th. Only 400 contestants will move into the second challenge, so I really need your votes during the first challenge. If you feel my blog post is worthy of your vote, simply click on the profile button which will be published at the bottom of each Project Food Buzz blog post.

Thank you for helping me work toward becoming the first FoodBuzz Food Blogger of the Year. I hope I make you proud! Please bookmark this page or subscribe to the mailing list by entering your email address in the subscription box on the right sidebar under the FoodBuzz ad to receive notification of upcoming Project Food Blog challenges. Each competition post will have the following profile graphic attached to make voting for The Cheap Gourmet quick and easy.


This blog post is not part of the Project Food Blog challenge. It is intended for informational purposes so you will know what to look for. I will be publishing my first challenge on Wednesday, September 15th and you will be allowed to vote between September 20-23rd. If all goes according to plan, I will be on the winner's list, which will be announced on September 24th, and allowed to move on to the second challenge. Wish me luck and thanks again for your support!