Cook | A Greek-inspired culinary odyssey

We Jews are quite flexible. Plant us in a country and we will adapt to the native cuisine, tweaking it according to the laws of kashrut.

When times were hard and money scarce, the ancient Greeks rarely ate meat, and then mostly ground meat mixed with grains to stretch it. That suited the Sephardic Jews clustered around Thessaloniki (“Mother of Israel”) just fine. I imagine them happily embracing the Mediterranean diet, dining on stuffed vegetables and integrating greens and feta into their bread-baking habits. Maybe their meals even looked a little bit like the recipes below — served separately, of course.

Both dishes can be prepared in advance and reheated to suit busy lifestyles. Vegetables stuffed with grains (usually rice) and herbs cover the traditional fare, and kale and feta pinwheels are a modern riff on spanakopita or “spinach pie.”

 

Braised Peppers with Turkey and Mint

Serves 6

6 large (8-oz.) red bell peppers

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup chickpeas from can, drained

1⁄2 tsp. chile powder

1⁄2 tsp. paprika

1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon

1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice

2 Tbs. tomato paste

1⁄2 cup cooked quinoa, cooled

1 tsp. salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. ground turkey

1 large egg

1⁄4 cup mint leaves, chopped

1⁄4 cup parsley, chopped

11⁄2 cups tomato sauce

11⁄2 cups chicken stock

Cut off top 1⁄2 inch of peppers and reserve. Scoop seeds from cavities. Discard stems and chop pepper tops. Heat oil in heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic and chopped pepper pieces. Sauté until onions soften, about 4 minutes. Add chickpeas and sauté 4 minutes. Add spices, sauté 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and stir to distribute. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Mix in cooked quinoa, salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. Mix in turkey, egg and herbs.

Fill pepper cavities with turkey mixture. Stand filled peppers in single layer in heavy, large pot. Pour tomato sauce and chicken stock around peppers. Bring sauce to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer 20 minutes. Spoon some sauce over each pepper. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Uncover and cook 5-10 more minutes until peppers are tender and filling is cooked through and firm. Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat the next day in oven.

 

Kale and Feta Pinwheels

Serves 4-6

1 lb. whole-wheat pizza dough

2 Tbs. tomato paste

1⁄4 tsp. allspice

1⁄4 tsp. dried dill

3 Tbs. olive oil, divided

1 tsp. fennel seeds

1 Tbs. garlic, chopped

5 oz. curly kale, stems discarded, coarsely chopped

1⁄4 tsp. salt

plenty of freshly ground black pepper

4 oz. feta, crumbled

1 cup mozzarella, shredded

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If pizza dough is the refrigerated variety, bring to room temperature. In a small bowl, mix together tomato paste, allspice, dill and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add fennel seeds. Sauté 30 seconds. Add garlic and kale. Sauté 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Stretch out pizza dough until it is a large rectangle. Place on a greased cookie sheet and stretch out even more, taking care not to tear. Spread tomato paste mixture evenly over dough, leaving 1⁄2 inch clear at edges. Sprinkle feta and mozzarella evenly over dough, being careful not to over-pile in the middle. Distribute sautéed kale over cheese.

Roll dough up jellyroll style. Pinch seam together and flip so seam is on the bottom and touching cookie sheet. Pinch the ends of the roll closed.  Using a very sharp knife, make three 1-inch-long slashes in top of roll, about 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven 15-18 minutes until crust is brown and you can knock on it. Remove from oven and cool. You can even cool completely, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, using a serrated knife, slice in 1-inch thick slices. If you are slicing a cold loaf, toast slices before serving.

Josie A.G. Shapiro is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Her website is www.thechickencontests.com.

Josie A.G. Shapiro

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.”