Talk Food Festival: Cristina Ferrare

Posted on Sep 30, 2013 10:45am

Cookbook author and chef Cristina Ferrare stopped by for The Talk Food Festival.  She impressed the ladies with her simple and satisfying mouthwatering Greek-inspired dishes.

Recipes from Cristina's book "Big Bowl of Love," courtesy of Sterling Epicure.


4 servings


1 cup Greek Salsa, or 8 paper-thin slices of red onion and 8 (1/4-inch) slices of tomato

1 pound ground lamb

½ medium onion, minced

2 scallions, finely chopped

¼ cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

½ cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 tablespoons canola oil

4 pieces of Greek pita bread, or 4 pita pockets

2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

2 cups tzatziki

4 (9-inch by 9-inch) squares of aluminum foil set aside


Make the Greek Salsa first, and set aside.  You will have some left over.

In a bowl, combine the lamb, onion, scallion, parsley, mint, mayonnaise, bread crumbs, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together well.  Form 7 to 8 cylinders (about the size of a sausage), 4 inches long and 1 inch wide.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet on high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil and heat until it starts to smoke.  Add the lamb, and turn the heat down to medium.  Sauté, turning every minute, for about 12 minutes.  Remove from the skillet and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Brush the pita bread lightly on both sides with the remainder of the oil.  To heat the bread, using tongs, hold each piece over a gas burner set to low, and move it back and forth for 20 seconds on each side, until heated through.  Be careful not to burn it.  Place the bread on a plate, and cover to keep warm.

To assemble the gyros, slice the lamb into long, ¼-inch-thick slices.  Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of tzatziki spread over each piece of warm pita bread.  Add a handful of lettuce and ¼ cup of Greek salsa.  Place the sliced lamb on top.

Lay a square of foil in front of you on a cutting board with one of the corners at the bottom (so the square looks like a diamond shape).  Fold the top half over 3 inches.  Place folded gyro on the foil, leaving 2 inches of foil showing on the bottom.  Fold the bottom 2 inches of the foil over the bottom of the gyro.  Fold the sides over the gyro, first the left, then the right.  Now you have a leak-resistant pouch, just like the ones you get from the street vendors in New York.  Enjoy!


3 to 4 cups


2 quarts baby Roma tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1 medium cucumber, seeded skin on, diced into small pieces

2 tablespoons diced red onion

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

Cracked pepper

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

4 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled


Stir the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, and pepper to taste together in a bowl.  Let stand at room temperature until ready to serve.  Just before you serve, add the salt.  If you put the salt in too early, it will extract juices from the vegetables and will make the salsa runny.  Add the crumbled feta cheese.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.



2 cups


1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon, cumin

1 garlic clove, peeled

¼ cup tahini paste

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon plus a pinch of cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 pieces of pita bread, preferably the Greek kind, 8 inches across


In a food processor, place the chickpeas, 1/3 cup olive oil, cumin, garlic, tahini paste, lemon juice, pepper, and salt, and process until smooth.  If the mixture is too thick, add an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil and process until smooth.  Brush the pita bread lightly on both side with some of the remaining olive oil.  Heat a grill pan until hot.  Add the pita and grill for 30 to 40 seconds, then flip and grill the other side.  Remove the pita from the grill and cut into triangles using a pizza cutter.  Keep the pita slices warm in a cloth napkin.

To serve, place the hummus in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil over the top.  Sprinkle with an extra pinch of cayenne pepper, and serve with the warm pita.


12 servings


1 large cucumber

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh dill, finely chopped

2 cups Greek yogurt

6 pieces pita bread


Place cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, mint, and dill in a bowl and mix well.  Add the Greek yogurt and mix well.

Cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 hours before serving.

To grill the pita bread, brush both sides with olive oil. Place on a hot grill pan or use the burner on your stovetop (watch carefully so they don't burn).  Using a pizza cutter, cut the pita into quarters and serve with the tzatziki.


4 to 6 servings


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

2 zucchini, sliced paper-thin

2 cucumbers, sliced paper-thin

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup finely chopped roasted walnuts

Freshly cracked pepper


In a glass bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mint, dill, and parsley.  Set aside.

Slice the vegetables on a mandolin or a vegetable slicer that can slice paper-thin.  Arrange the zucchini and cucumbers, alternately on a large platter.  Sprinkle lightly all over with kosher salt.  Drizzle 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the top, add the crumbled feta, and sprinkle with walnut and cracked pepper to taste.  If you are not going to use the salad right away, do not add the vinaigrette, instead, cover with plastic wrap until you are ready to serve.



About 2 dozen cookies

I like to save dough for these cookies in plastic egg cartons.  Instead of throwing the cartons away, I thoroughly wash them in soap and water, and then I use them to hold my golf ball-size scoops of cookie dough.  I can stack the cartons in the freezer without taking up too much room.

This is an easy way to share these treats, and do your part to recycle, too. You can wrap pretty ribbons around the cartons and give them out as gifts.  I also use them as party favors.  When my guests leave, they leave with homemade cookie dough they can bake up themselves, fresh from the oven.


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, at room temperature

4 cups semisweet chocolate morsels

1 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup raisins


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper to fit the pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt.

With an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars for 2 minutes, until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, add the vanilla, and beat for 1 minute.  Scrape the sides of the bowl again.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Slowly add the flour mixture, and mix until blended.  Add the chocolate morsels, nuts, and raisins, and mix well.

Using a small ice cream scoop, place golf ball-size pieces of cookie dough on the cookie sheet.  Don't worry if you crowd them at this point, they need to be chilled first before they're baked.  Chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

When ready to bake, line another cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Place the chilled cookie dough balls at least 3 ½ inches apart on the cookie sheet, and bake in batches.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cookies are golden-brown on top.  Keep your eye on them; check them after 15 minutes.  Using a metal spatula, place the cookies on a rack to cool.  (I can only wait 10 minutes; then I go for it – while the chocolate is still melty – with a cold glass of milk.)

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