Monday, December 14, 2009

Traditional Eggnog



Everyone loves eggnog, but not everyone has been lucky enough to have had a super-dooper eggnog recipe handed down to them from their family or friends. We’ve been given some fantastic ones from MaryAlice family (from Boston), and have also happened upon various delicious eggnog recipes over the years.

In fact, I get so many people asking me for eggnog, that I decided to share them with everyone. Lucky you! Now you, too, can make the tastiest eggnog – and not just at Christmas! Let me know how you go, and feel free to send me in any of your own tried and tested recipes. Enjoy! Ho ho ho…

Monday, December 7, 2009

Keik me Karota: Carrot Cake

In Greek: κεϊκ με καρότα, say: cake meh kah-ROH-tah

Western style cakes have been popular in Greece since the mid-20th century, but in Cyprus for ever due to the British that live there and this version of carrot cake with walnuts is delicious ... but different than most carrot cakes that have become popular in the US. It's a Canadian Version of it! The frosting is optional. But it's delicious!

The key to fabulous texture is in beating the sugar and eggs to a mousse-like consistency.

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Melomakarona: Honey & Spice Cookies

This is a great recipe of my Grandmother Despina!!!!


In Greek: μελομακάρονα (pronounced meh-lo-mah-KAH-ro-nah)

These honey-soaked cookies are a Christmas tradition all over Greece.

The recipe is very forgiving except in two areas: the dough should not be overworked or the cookies will become too dense; and the shape should be rounded, not flat or they will harden during baking. The baked cookies should have a texture slightly more dense than spice cake in order to absorb the syrup.

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Loukoumathes: Honey Puffs


In Greek: λουκουμάδες, pronounced loo-koo-MAH-thes

In many areas of Greece, Loukoumathes (also loukoumades) are a New Year's Eve tradition, and they are also made to celebrate the name day of St. Barbara (December 4). The Greek Jewish community also includes these small honeyed puffs at Hanukkah.

This recipe for loukoumathes calls for milk and a hefty helping of baking powder to create these small light fried balls of dough that are drizzled with honey and sprinkled with nuts.

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Eliopsomo: Olive Bread


In Greek: ελιόψωμο, say: eh-lee-OHP-so-moh

Olives and bread... what could be a more basic combination in a Greek bread? This recipe for Greek olive bread can be made with black or green Greek olives.

Prep Time: 1 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fasolatha: Bean Soup



In Greek: φασσολάδα, say: fah-so-LAH-thah

According to food historians, fassolatha has been around since ancient Greek times. It is the national dish of Greece, representing the best of the Greek way of cooking: legumes, vegetables, herbs, and olive oil.

It can be made with tomato (red version) or lemon juice (white version), and whichever way you choose, culinary tradition dictates that fassolatha be served with crusty bread, feta cheese (except during Lent and periods of fasting when eating cheese is restricted), and black olives.

Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spanakotyropita: Easy Spinach Pie with Cheese


In Greek: σπανακοτυρόπιτα, pronounced (take a deep breath) spah-nah-ko-tee-ROH-pee-tah

This is a family favorite because it's quick, and easier to make than some other versions. The spinach needs to be cooked the day before, but once the pita gets started, it takes a few minutes to get it ready, and about 30 minutes to bake.

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Htapothi Stifatho: Octopus & Onion Stew (Stifatho - Stifado)



In Greek: χταπόδι στιφάδο, pronounced khtah-PO-thee stee-FAH-tho

A delightful stew made with a large quantity of onions - but the dish wouldn't be the same without them. Use small pearl stewing onions if you can find them. In case you can't find them use medium-sized onions and slice them.

Cook Time: 1 hour

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Omeleta me Aginares: Artichoke Omelet

In Greek: ομελέτα με αγκινάρες, pronounced oh-meh-LEH-tah meh ahg-ee-NAH-ress

April is peak season for fresh artichokes, making this a springtime favorite, but this omelet is delicious with frozen artichoke hearts as well. This is a Greek country omelet, which means that it's a hearty pie-type omelet, packed with vegetables, and makes a filling main dish. So give it a try now that is fall with frozen hearts.

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hoirino me Selino: Lemon Pork with Celery



This stew is a favorite combination of tastes... meat, in this case pork, stewed with a green vegetable (celery), doused with lemon juice before serving. It's easy and delicious.

This is one of the few Greek recipes that calls for thick-stemmed celery, and not wild celery.

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Friday, October 30, 2009

Grilled Eggplant dish

Let me get straight into a great seasonal salad with a short introduction. One of my favourite appetizers is the Grilled Eggplant dish. This seasonal eggplant salad recipe is adapted from one of my recipes, and I have been making and enjoying it for well a decade now. My best friends, who ordinarily does not like eggplant all that much, is crazy about this dish.

I used eggplant, tomato, and parsley fresh out of my aunts kitchen garden for this Greek vegetarian recipe. When I cut the eggplant, it was “dripping its honey” as they say in Greece. The tomatoes were moments from the vine, and the parsley was simply redolent with the freshness of its immediacy to hand. I cannot adequately express in words the total satisfaction of cooking and eating fresh produce from one’s own garden; it is a true delight and one of life’s most indulgent pleasures.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chtapodi Ladorigani - Octopus with Oil and Oregano




Ingredients

· 1 kilo Octopus
· 1 bay leaf
· 2 – 3 whole black peppers
· 170 grs Olive Oil
· 1 tea spoon Oregano
· 100 grs Vinegar
· salt
· pepper
· 1 tea spoon caper

Directions:

· Wash the octopus and remove the ink bag.
· Place the octopus in a pot with the vinegar, bay leaf and the whole black peppers and a little water.
· Bring to a boil and simmer until tender.
· Cut the octopus into small pieces and add the salt.
· Beat the oil, vinegar and oregano together and pour over the octopus, garnish with the caper and serve.




Sweet and Sour Turkey



This recipe was given to me by my Aunt Rena, a few years back before I started blogging and I didn’t think back then to ask her where she got this recipe from. Will ask her next time I call her. This is one of my girls favourite recipes and it’s one of those meals that you feel that you don’t need a dessert afterwards.

If you have leftover salsa, it makes a delicious pasta dish the next day.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: about 1 hour
Serves: 5 - 6

Ingredients:

· 1 kilo turkey breast, cut into small pieces
· 1 can (330 ml) beer

Salsa (sauce)

· 1 big onion, finely chopped, or in cubes
· 1/3 cup olive oil
· 2 cups bell peppers yellow, red and green
· 1 tinned pineapple 300 gr., together with syrup
· 3 - 4 carrots, grated or sliced
· the juice of about 4 - 5 oranges (1 cup)
· 1 tablespoon of honey
· 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 1 tomato juice (500 grams)

For thickening:

· 1 tablespoon corn flour (optional)
· ¼ cup milk (optional)

Directions:

1. In a saucepan heat half the olive oil and sauté the onion. Add the bell peppers, the pineapple each slice cut in eight pieces as well as the pineapple juice, the orange juice, the honey, the vinegar, the tomato, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

2. As soon as it boils heat the remaining olive oil in a bigger saucepan and sauté the turkey on all sides.

3. Pour the beer and wait until alcohol evaporates and then add the sauce (no additional water is necessary).

4. Cook for about 1 hour until the turkey is tender and the sauce is thick.

5. If the sauce needs thickening stir the corn flour (starch) with the milk and add, stirring for a couple of minutes.

6. Serve with Rice (basmati preferably).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Revithokeftedes (Chickpea patties)



Ingredients:

· 1/2 kilo chickpeas, preferably without skin
· 1 big onion or 4 - 5 spring onions, finely cut
· 1 cup of parsley, finely cut
· 2 spoonfuls of dried mint or fresh
· 1/2 teaspoon of oregano
· salt
· pepper
· 2 eggs (optional)
· 2 table spoonfuls of flour
· Extra flour for dredging
· Olive oil for frying


Directions:

Soak the chickpeas in water overnight. Drain, add fresh water and bring to a boil. Skim all the foam that forms with a slotted spoon and then drain. Put them in the pot again and add water and remove any chickpeas skins which will float on the surface. Put them back on the heat and when they boil add salt and simmer until they become soft. This may take 1 - 2 hours depending on the quality of the chickpeas.

Drain and mash with a fork. I do not mash them in a food processor as we want some small bits of chickpeas in the patties.

Grate the onion or finely cut the spring onions and the parsley, add all the remaining ingredients except the flour for dredging and mix well.

Shape them into round patties, dredge them in flour and fry in hot olive oil. Remove on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil and serve as a side dish.

I could not resist reserving some of those chickpeas with hoummous which I have allready posted.

The ultimate Caramel Apple Pie Recipe courtesy by my Aunt Eleni Antoniades




Ingredients

· 3 cups all-purpose flour
· Pinch salt
· 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
· 2 eggs separated, (yolks for the pastry, whites for the glaze)
· 3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed


Caramel Apples:

· 1 cup sugar, (190 gr.)plus 1/4 cup (50 gr.) for the top
· 3 tablespoons water
· 1/4 cup heavy cream
· 1/2 cup red wine
· 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped or vanilla essence
· 1 lemon, halved
· 8 apples (recommended: Granny Smith and Gala)
· 1 tablespoon flour
· 1 cinnamon stick, freshly grated
· ¼ (55 gr) cup unsalted butter

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180C degrees

2. To make the pastry, combine the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the chunks of cold butter with a pastry blender, a little at a time, until the dough resembles cornmeal. Add the 2 egg yolks and the ice water, and blend for a second just to pull the dough together and moisten. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

3. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.

4. To make the caramel sauce: place the sugar and water in a small pot and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the sugar has melted and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the burner and add the cream and wine slowly. It may bubble and spit, so be careful. When the sauce has calmed down, return it to the flame, add the vanilla bean and heat it slowly, until the wine and caramel are smooth and continue to slowly cook until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and cool until thickened.

5. Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze in the lemon juice. Peel the apples with a paring knife, cut them in half, and remove the core with a melon baller. Put the apple halves in the lemon-water (this will keep them from going brown). Toss the apples with the flour and cinnamon.

6. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, unwrap the plastic, and cut the ball in half. Rewrap and return 1 of the balls to the refrigerator, until ready for the top crust. Let the dough rest on the counter for 15 minutes so it will be pliable enough to roll out. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle (30 cm). Carefully roll the dough up onto the pin and lay it inside a 10-inch (26 cm) glass pie pan. Press the dough into the pan so it fits tightly.

7. Slice a couple of the apples at a time using a mandolin or a very sharp knife. The apples need to be thinly sliced so that as the pie bakes, they collapse on top of each other with no air pockets. This makes a dense, meaty apple pie. Cover the bottom of the pastry with a layer of apples, shingling the slices so there are no gaps. Ladle about 2 ounces of the cooled red wine caramel sauce evenly over the apple slices. Repeat the layers, until the pie is slightly overfilled and domed on the top; the apples will shrink down as the pie cooks. Top the apples with pieces of the butter.

8. Now, roll out the other ball of dough just as you did the first. Brush the bottom lip of the pie pastry with a little beaten egg white to form a seal. Place the pastry circle on top of the pie, and using some kitchen scissors, trim off the overhanging excess from around the pie. Crimp the edges of dough together with your fingers to make a tight seal. Cut slits in the top of the pie so steam can escape while baking. Place the pie on a sheet tray and tent it with a piece of aluminum foil, so the crust does not cook faster than the apples.

9. Bake the caramel apple pie for 25 minutes on the middle rack. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the freshly grated cinnamon. Remove the foil from the pie and brush the top with the remaining egg white. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar and return to the oven. Continue to bake for another 25 minutes, until the pie is golden and bubbling. Let the apple pie rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour to allow the fruit pectin to gel and set; otherwise the pie will fall apart when you cut into it.



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Friday, October 23, 2009

Lahanosalata… Greek Coleslaw Salad (Λαχανοσαλάτα)



One of the things that always amuses me whenever I see it on a menu or in an advertisement is the phrase “Greek salad”. Now, Greek salad is commonly understood as either one of two things: a combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and feta cheese (and sometimes peppers), or the same aforementioned ingredients with the addition of lettuce. The truth is, Greeks consume more vegetables (both raw and cooked) than all other Europeans, and the numerous “salads” one can find throughout the various regions of Greece are as varied as the terrain. The one thing, though, that never makes it into a “Greek salad” in Greece is lettuce!

Although North Americans are familiar with coleslaw as a side for fish and chips or pulled pork, few of us are aware that coleslaw salad was known to both the ancient Greeks and Romans, and although many regional variations exist today, the combination of shredded cabbage and carrot is as old as the hills. Of course, some things have changed - the colour of the carrot for instance. In ancient times, carrots were either white or purplish in colour. We have the Dutch to thank for the orange colour of present-day market carrots as they bred their national colour into the strain we commonly refer to as “carrots”.

So, the next time somebody asks you to make a “Greek salad”, try this one:

Recipe:

1/3 of a white cabbage
2 large carrots

For the Dressing:

1/2 cup of Greek-style strained yogurt
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or vinegar)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or dill
1/2 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
Salt & Pepper

1. Wash cabbage well and peel carrots.

2. Shred the cabbage finely with a sharp knife. Cabbage is a tough vegetable due to the density of its layered composition, so you may find it difficult/dangerous to achieve thin slices with a knife in which case you can use a mandoline. Once the cabbage is well shredded place in a large mixing bowl.

3. Shred the carrots into ribbons using a mandoline (or the large holes on a grater) and add to shredded cabbage.

4. Toss shredded cabbage and carrots well to ensure a good mixing.

5. In a food processor/blender, add all of the dressing ingredients (yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper) and blend together until smooth and creamy.

6. Pour dressing overtop of individual servings or mix well into the entire salad before serving.

Garnish with chopped parsley or dill and a Kalamata olive or two.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves: Dolmathakia Yialantzi



This meatless version of dolmathakia is a favorite both as a meze and as main course. The stuffing is a combination of rice and vegetables (yialantzi means there's no meat).

If anything, this version is more popular than others that include ground meat.
Serve stuffed grape leaves warm or at room temperature, and get creative with a condiment or sauce. They're great just drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil, or served with plain yogurt, tzatziki, or a béchamel sauce.

Preparation time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Servings: 5 - 6

Ingredients

· 60 - 70 vine leaves
· 2 cups of Carolina or Arborio rice
· 1 big onion, finely chopped
· 4 - 5 spring onions
· 1 cup of finely chopped parsley
· ½ cup of finely chopped dill (optional)
· 2 – 3 tablespoons of dried mint or 1/2 cup fresh mint
· ¾ cup of olive oil
· 3 - 4 grated ripe tomatoes
· 3/4 tablespoon salt
· Freshly ground black pepper
· 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
· 1 cup of water

Directions:


1. Wash the vine leaves and boil them for five minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain.

2. Wash the rice and place it in a big bowl.

3. Add the onions, parsley, mint, dill, salt and pepper, 1/2 of grated tomatoes and 1/2 of the oil and mix well. For instructions on how to wrap the dolmades you can see my step by step instructions given here.

4. Add the water and the remaining oil and tomatoes.

5. Place the lid on top and cook for half hour.

Wrap the rice mixture with the grape leaves. This is the most difficult and time consuming part, although after you are through it a couple of times you enjoy it the most. It is better if two people work on it simultaneously, talking, joking etc. You want to make them small in size (about 2 inches.) Discard the central stem of these leaves. You want to wrap the rice very tightly.

You place the rice in one end, fold from the wide end and the two sides and then roll while pushing the rice downwards to pack it really tight.



You have to do it a couple of times to understand. If they are not tightly packed they will unroll later. Also be careful to wrap totally, do not leave any holes.



You arrange the dolmadakia in a casserole, tightly. Make more than one layers. Add the lemon juice, the rest of the olive oil and 1 1/2 cups of hot water. Cover them with a plate or something to keep them in place. Let them simmer for 35 minutes.
Serve then cold, with strained yogurt or taramosalata. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Moussaka me Melitzanes: Moussaka with Eggplant



In Greek: μουσακά με μελιτζάνες, pronounced moo-sah-KAH meh meh-leed-ZAH-nes

Moussaka can be any dish of layered vegetables and ground meat, and dishes with the same or similar names are prepared in several areas of the world. Other Greek versions call for artichokes, potatoes, and zucchini, or a combination, but this is the classic known worldwide. Moussaka is generally served in large portions.
No one ever said it was easy, but it's worth the effort!

Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

· 5-6 medium Globe eggplants (about 5-6 pounds)
· sea salt
· olive oil
· 2 large onions, chopped
· 2 1/2 pounds (1 kilo) of ground beef
· 3 cups of chopped ripe tomatoes with juice (or canned tomatoes)
· 3 cloves of garlic, minced
· 6-8 whole cloves
· 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or a small stick (break off around 1 inch long)
· 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice
· 2 bay leaves
· 1 cup of grated kefalotyri cheese (or pecorino or parmigiano reggiano)
· 1 cup of breadcrumbs
· 1/2 cup of dry red wine
· 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
· freshly ground pepper
· béchamel with cheese

Preparation:


* See my recipes for Béchamel with Cheese

Build the Moussaka from the bottom up:

PREPARE EGGPLANT

Wash eggplants and trim off stems. Cut off 1/2-inch wide strips of the skin lengthwise, leaving about an inch in between, all around the eggplant, then cut eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Put slices in a large bowl or on a tray, sprinkle liberally with salt and let them sit for 30 minutes. Rinse well, drain, and pat dry. Brush slices lightly on both sides with olive oil and run them under the broiler on an ungreased cookie sheet until lightly browned and soft. Remove and set aside to cool.

Note: If you've never fixed this before, there are two reasons often given for salting the eggplant: (1) to remove any bitterness, and (2) to absorb some of the natural liquids.

PREPARE MEAT SAUCE

Preheat the frying pan or skillet over low heat.

When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil and increase the heat to medium low. Sauté the onions with a wooden spoon, until onions are translucent. Add the meat and continue to sauté until lightly browned. Add tomatoes, 1/2 the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, allspice, wine, and tomato paste, and mix well. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Note: If there is still liquid in the pan, continue to simmer uncovered, stirring to prevent sticking, until the mixture is as dry as possible. To prevent the final dish from having too much moisture, this step is crucial.

When dry, remove the cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick (if used), and set sauce aside uncovered until ready to use.

PREPARE BECHAMEL SAUCE

While the sauce is simmering, make the bechamel, cover, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

BUILD THE MOUSSAKA

Lightly oil a baking or roasting pan and sprinkle the bottom with the remaining 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs. Place a layer of eggplant slices on the breadcrumbs (it's ok to overlap) and spread the meat mixture evenly on top. Cover with the remaining eggplant slices, and carefully pour the béchamel sauce evenly over the top.
Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese over the top, and continue to cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the moussaka from the oven and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes. Moussaka is traditionally eaten warm, not hot, and can also be eaten at room temperature. Like many Greek dishes, this is even better the next day.

Yield: approximately 8 servings

Serving suggestions:

Moussaka is traditionally served in very large pieces and it is a heavy dish. Serve with a green salad, crusty bread, and a dry red wine. If anyone has room for dessert, a fruit sorbet or cheese with fruit is a light way to end on a sweet note.

Notes:

· In Greece, Moussaka is most often made with ground beef.
· Moussaka can be prepared up to the béchamel and refrigerated overnight. The next day, add the béchamel sauce and cook. It can also be completely cooked and cooled, then frozen and reheated.

Bechamel Sauce with Cheese



In Greek: μπεσαμέλ με τυρί (pronounced behs-sah-MEL meh tee-REE)

This thick version of bechamel it turns out thick and rich every time. It's made with fresh milk and contains cheese, and is just one variation of this popular sauce used with meats and vegetables. It isn't hard to make, and doesn't take long, but it has to be stirred the entire time.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

· 7-8 tbsp flour
· 6 tbsp butter or Olive Oil
· 4 tea-cups freshly-boiled milk
· 1/2 cup of grated kefalotyri cheese (or pecorino or parmigiano reggiano)
· 3 eggs
· salt and pepper
· cinammon
· 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
· pinch of grated nutmeg

Preparation:

For the béchamel make your best efforts. Put butter in a pot and melt it in medium heat. Then add flour, stirring all the time with wire, not to let it stick. When they are mixed and a bit golden in colour, add slowly the boiled milk and stir into a thick white sauce (add some more flour if not thick enough). After sauce is creamy, remove from heat and allow it 2 – 3 minutes to cool. In the meatime beat three eggs in a bowl and after the white sauce cools add them together with the nutmeg stirring with the wire and return to the heat, whisking briskly until well blended. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.

Yield: enough for one complete 11 x 14 x 3 pan of moussaka or pastitsio (about 7 cups).

Storage & Reheating

Béchamel can be refrigerated for one day (not more). It can be reheated using a double boiler (stirring constantly) or in the microwave, covered, vented, on medium power. Microwave time depends on the amount to be reheated and the microwave's wattage, so check every couple of minutes.

Where to Use Béchamel

On Moussaka
On Pastitsio

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gavros sto Fourno: Baked Anchovy Appetizer



In Greek: γαύρος στο φούρνο, pronounced GHAH-vrohs stoh FOOR-noh

Throw out any thoughts of very salty little fish that come in cans or packed in salt. This recipe calls for fresh anchovies baked with tomatoes, onion, garlic, wine, and tomatoes. Great as an appetizer or main dish.

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

· 1/2 cup of olive oil
· 1 onion, finely chopped
· 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
· 2 ripe large tomatoes, finely chopped
· 1/2 cup of white wine
· 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 teaspoon of sea salt
· 2 - 2 1/2 pounds of fresh anchovies
· 4-5 tomatoes, thinly sliced
· sweet paprika

Preparation:

Clean the fish: Remove head and intestines, rinse, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 355°F (180°C).

In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil. When the onion and garlic soften, add chopped tomatoes, wine, parsley, bay leaf, and salt, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Using a 15 3/4 X 13 3/4 inch roasting pan (or equivalent), distribute the sauce evenly over the bottom. Place the fish in a single layer, closely aligned. Arrange the tomato slices over the top, sprinkle with a little sweet paprika, and bake at 355°F (180°C) for 40-45 minutes.

Serve hot.

Mythia me skortho kai ouzo: Flaming Mussels with Garlic & Ouzo



In Greek: μύδια με σκόρδο και ούζο, pronounced MEE-theeyah meh SKOR-thoh keh OO-zoh

Once cooking starts, this fabulous dish of mussels with herbs and ouzo takes 15 minutes to make. The recipe calls for mussels, garlic, parsley, thyme or savory, and ouzo. If you have the opportunity to cook tableside, the ouzo added at the end will flame up, for an exciting treat.

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

· 1 pound of cleaned shelled mussels (about 35 medium)
· 10-15 mussels in shells, cleaned of beards
· 1/2 cup of olive oil
· 7-8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
· 1/2 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
· 1 teaspoon of sea salt
· 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
· 1 tablespoon of fresh crushed thyme or savory
· 1/3 cup of ouzo
· 1/3 cup of water

Preparation:

Prepare mussels: Clean well to remove all traces of sand. Dump into a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until shells open. Drain, rinse, and either remove mussels (for the shelled), or leave in shell for the 10-15 pieces.

In a deep nonstick skillet or frying pan, bring olive oil to high heat and sauté the garlic quickly to soften. Add all mussels (those with and without shells) and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes. Add parsley, salt, pepper, thyme or savory, and water. As soon as the liquid cooks down, add ouzo - carefully, because the food will flame up.

Douse the flames and serve.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kydonia sto Fourno: Sweet Baked Quince



In Greek: κυδώνια στο φούρνο, pronounced kee-THOHN-yah stoh FOOR-no

Quince is a greatly underappreciated fruit in many countries, but if anything can change that, this recipe might be it. The raw fruit is pale yellow and astringent, but cooked with sweeteners and spices, quince turns wonderful shades of red and is delicious as a dessert, preserve, and spoon sweet. This dessert is as beautiful as it is tasty.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients:

* about 3 1/2 pounds of whole quince
* 2 cups of sugar
* 1 stick of cinnamon
* whole cloves
* 3 cups of water

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Wash the quince well, remove and discard stem, and cut in half. Remove seeds and tough fiber surrounding the seeds and set aside. Place quince halves in a bowl of water until ready to use to prevent the fruit from darkening.

In a pot, combine the water, sugar, quince seeds, and tough fiber, and boil for 8-10 minutes. Strain into a bowl.

Stick 2 cloves in each half quince, and place in a baking pan. Pour the strained liquid over the quince and add the cinnamon stick. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until quince are very tender.

Serve warm or at room temperature with the sauce (optionally with yogurt or whipped cream).

Notes:

- The number of servings will depend on the weight of the quince; 1/2 quince per person.
- Quince contain a lot of natural pectin so the sauce, when cooked will gel.

Quince



Name in Greek and Pronunciation:

kythoni (or kydoni), κυδώνι, pronounced kee-THOH-nee

Ancient Provenance:

It is believed that the quince long preceded the apple, and that many ancient references to apples were, in fact, references to quince, including the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Greek mythology associates the quince with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and many believe that the golden apple given to her by Paris was a quince.

Ancient Greeks associated the quince with fertility, and it played an important role in wedding celebrations where it was offered as a gift, used to sweeten the bride's breath before entering the bridal chamber, and shared by bride and groom. These associations have resulted in the quince becoming known as the "fruit of love, marriage, and fertility."

Improved on Crete:

In Kydonia on the island of Crete, which is the origin of the botanical name, Cydonia oblonga, the ordinary quince of old was transformed into the fruit as we know it today in the Mediterranean area. The shape is somewhere between an apple and pear, it has a rich yellow exterior, and a strong pleasant fragrance.

The quince is hard, acidic, and astringent before cooking, but once cooked and sweetened, it turns red, tastes divine, and takes on the color and flavor of love, in addition to the name.



Availability:

Quinces are ripe and ready for eating in late autumn.

Cooking with Quince:

Quinces are used to make marmalade, spoon sweets, and jellies (they have a lot of natural pectin), pies or as additions to apple pies, and are delicious cooked with meats. In Greece we have favorite pork dishes with quince, and it's also good with lamb, turkey, and duck. Quinces can also be baked, much the same as apples.

The Orange-to-Red Color:

Aluminum cookware will deliver the deepest red color in cooked quince.

The "Fruit of Love":

They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon.

~ "The Owl and the Pussycat," by Edward Lear

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fassolakia Freska me Domata: Green Bean Casserole with Tomato



In Greek: φασολάκια φρέσκα με ντομάτα, pronounced fah-soh-LAHK-yah FRES-kah meh doh-MAH-tah

This Theban version of a classic Greek recipe is deceptively simple to fix, combining fresh green beans with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and parsley, and delivers a sophisticated taste. It can be served as a main dish, or as a side.

Note: This dish works well with all kinds of "string" beans, depending on which type is freshly available.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

· 2 pounds of fresh green beans or other long "string" bean
· 2 cups of tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
· 2 big red onions, finely chopped
· 1 cup of olive oil
· 1 small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
· 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
· 1/4 cup of water
· bay leaf
· sea salt
· cinammon powder
· fresh ground pepper

Preparation:

Wash the beans, cut off the tips and remove the stringy piece of fiber along the seam. Rinse the beans.

In a soup pot, sauté the onions in olive oil with a wooden spoon until they turn translucent. Stir in the garlic and sauté a few minutes more. Add all the remaining ingredients and the water. Stir well, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 50 minutes or until the beans are tender. (Add more water if needed during cooking - boiling water.)

Serve warm. On the side, consider tzatziki or feta cheese, and certainly some great country bread.

Yield: 4 servings as a main dish, 6-8 as a side

Note: For a more substantial dish, add 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks and 2 carrots sliced in rings.

Moshari Yiouvetsi: Beef & Pasta Casserole


In Greek: μοσχάρι γιουβέτσι, pronounced mohs-HAH-ree yoo-VET-see

This is one of my girls favorites, and a great way to start with oven-baked casseroles that are so common in Greek cooking. Whether you use a traditional yiouvetsi (fired clay casserole pot) or another type of oven-proof casserole dish, this oven-to-table main dish is sure to please.

Yiouvetsi is the name of a fired terracotta casserole pot in which dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood are traditionally cooked with pastas, however any oven-proof covered casserole dish can be substituted. An easy one-pot oven-to-table dish. This recipe doesn't require any special cut of beef; cheaper cuts do quite well.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Ingredients:

· 3 - 3 1/2 pounds of stew meat, cut into serving-sized chunks (not bite-sized)
· 6 tablespoons of olive oil
· 2 large onions, minced
· 4 cloves of garlic, diced
· 1 pound of ripe tomatoes (chopped) or 3 cups of canned stewed tomatoes
· 4 cups of beef broth or water
· 1 pound of small or medium orzo pasta
· 2 teaspoons of sea salt
· 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
· 1 small stick of cinammon
· grated kefalotyri or pecorino cheese or regato or parmesan (parmigiano)

Preparation:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, sauté the meat in 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until browned on all sides (about 10 minutes). Remove the meat with tongs or a spoon (do not pierce with a fork) and set aside. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion softens. Add the water or broth, cinammon, tomatoes, pepper, and meat (using tongs or a spoon). Stir to mix and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender (about 1 hour). With a wooden spoon, stir in salt and orzo, cover and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 355°F (180°C).

Spoon the meat into a an oven-safe covered casserole dish, and pour the orzo and liquids around the meat. Cover and bake for approximately 50 minutes, until the orzo is cooked and there's still some liquid sauce.

Remove from oven and let rest, covered, for 30 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

Yield: serves 6

Serving suggestions: Divide and bake in 6 covered oven-proof terracotta or ceramic bakers for individual servings. (The small bakers can be covered with foil during cooking if they don't have lids.)

Variations:

· Lamb can be substituted for the beef.
· Short macaroni-type soup pasta (ditali or tubetti) can be substituted for the orzo.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taramosalata: Fish Roe (Caviar) Dip or Spread



In Greek: ταραμοσαλάτα, pronounced tah-rah-mo-sah-LAH-tah

This easy to make, no-cook meze is one of the classic Greek dips, and a favorite served with ouzo. The roe comes in plain and smoked varieties, as well as a paste. Smoked cod roe is a whitish color, while carp roe is generally light (uncolored with no additives) to dark (coloring and soy meal added) pink. The lighter color, without additives, is the higher quality.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

· 3 1/2 ounces of cod or carp roe (plain or smoked)
· 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
· 2-3 slices of bread, crust removed
· juice of 2 lemons
· warm water

Preparation:

Run the bread under water and squeeze dry.
Put all ingredients except oil and lemon juice in food processor and blend (setting 2) until mixed. Add oil and lemon juice slowly and continue on pulse until creamy and thick. (Use water to dilute if it gets too thick.) Chill.

Serve well-chilled with wedges of lemon and pita wedges or slices of crusty bread. Garnish with a black olive or green herb leaves.

Alternative preparation:

Using a standing mixer or hand mixer, combine roe and bread in a bowl. With the mixer on low, add oil slowly and build up speed. Add lemon juice when the oil has been absorbed, and warm water if needed to bring it to the consistency of a thick spread (it should not be stiff). Mix to reach desired consistency. The taramosalata in the picture was mixed for a total of 50 seconds until light and airy: 30 to add the oil and lemon juice, 20 to correct taste (with more lemon to increase tartness, more bread to decrease) and achieve desired texture.

Skorthalia (Skordalia): Greek Garlic Dip and Sauce



In Greek: σκορδαλιά pronounced skor-thal-YAH

My older family members would fix this using a mortar and pestle to first degrade the garlic with salt, then add other ingredients to create the purée texture desired. Today, I often use a food processor or hand mixer which makes things a lot easier and takes a lot less time! Skordalia (skorthalia) can also be made with bread, but the potato recipe is more versatile since it can double as garlic mashed potatoes.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

· 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes for boiling
· 6-12 cloves of garlic, minced or grated (to taste)
· 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
· 1/3 cup of good quality red or white wine vinegar
· 1 tablespoon of salt
· 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Add the salt to a large pot of water. Peel the potatoes and boil in salted water until well done (easily pierced with a fork). Drain.

Sprinkle the potatoes with pepper and mash.

In the blender bowl of the food processor (or with a hand mixer), purée the potatoes and garlic until well mixed, about 30-45 seconds. Still puréeing, slowly add the olive oil and vinegar, alternating between them, tasting as you go, until the mixture is smooth. Skorthalia should be creamy and thick. If it gets too thick, add a little cold water (not more than 1/4 cup).

Yield: About 2-3 cups

To prepare by hand

Mash potatoes with garlic. Drizzle in the olive oil and vinegar slowly, alternating between them, mashing well. Add pepper. This version may be grainier, but the taste is wonderful!

Note: Skordalia is a matter of taste. Some prefer a mild garlic taste, while others prefer a strong garlic taste. If the taste is too strong, adjust the quantities of potatoes or bread up a bit. If the taste is not strong enough, increase the garlic.

Melitzanosalata: Eggplant Dip Appetizer



In Greek: μελιτζανοσαλάτα, pronounced meh-leed-zah-no-sah-LAH-tah

I have friends who try to save time and make this in a blender or with a hand mixer, but it's very easy as is and gives a much more authentic texture and taste when mixed by hand. The key to a great tasting result is a well-charred eggplant. If possible, cook it over a wood-burning fire or grill with wood chips added.

Cook Time: 15 - 20 minutes

Ingredients:

· 1 Kilo eggplants
· 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
· 4 teaspoons of wine vinegar
· 3 cloves of garlic, minced
· sea salt
· freshly ground pepper

Preparation:


Pierce the eggplants with a fork and char on the grill, or over an open flame (alternatively, cook in the over at 180 - 200°C) until the eggplants turn black and are very soft. Set to cool and drain on a rack with paper towels underneath.

As soon as they can be handled, peel by hand (the skin will come off easily), and transfer to a bowl. Chop the pulp into small pieces with a knife, and mash with a fork. With a wooden spoon, stir in oil and vinegar slowly, alternating between them, until well blended. Stir in garlic, salt, and pepper.

Serve chilled or at room temperature, with pita wedges, slices of crusty bread, and/or fresh vegetables, garnished with black olives and a sprig of parsley. This goes well with salty cheeses and fish mezethes like anchovies.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Baklava Pastry (Baklavas)



In Greek: μπακλαβάς, say: bahk-lah-VAHS

Sheets of wafer-thin phyllo dough are sprinkled with a sweet nut mixture to create one of Greece's most famous dishes. A wide variety of nuts can be used - alone or mixed - and this recipe calls for walnuts and almonds. The pastry is baked, then covered with a sweet syrup. Syrups can be honey-based, sugar-based, or call for a combination. However it's made, the small pieces of flaky pastry are packed with sweetness.

Baklava is the most famous of the Greek pastries, and every area of Greece - and sometimes every family within a region - has a favorite recipe. Enjoy this favorite of mine, made with walnuts, olive oil, cinnamon, and cloves. The recipe is a modified version of a Cretan specialty from Roman times.

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

· 1 pound of large (14 x 18 inch) phyllo sheets (20 - 22 sheets)
· 5 cups of chopped walnuts
· 1 cup of breadcrumbs
· 2 cups of sugar
· 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
· 2 tablespoons of ground cloves
· 1/2 to 3/4 cup of olive oil
· 4-5 tablespoons of bottled soda water

· Syrup:

· 2 ½ cups of sugar
· 1 cup of honey
· 3 cups of water
· juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
· 1 big stick of cinnamon
· 5 cloves

Preparation:

Defrost phyllo dough according to package directions.

In a large bowl, combine the walnuts, breadcrumbs, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Mix well with hands or a large whisk until thoroughly blended.

Preheat oven to 350-355°F (180°C).

Oil the bottom and sides of a 17 X 13 inch (or equivalent) rectangular baking pan. Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush with a little oil (or butter). Allow any overlap to hang out the sides. Repeat until there are 4 sheets on the bottom. Spoon one third of the nut mixture evenly over the pastry. Add two more sheets of pastry, brushed with oil (or butter). Spoon a little of the nut mixture over the pastry and repeat until all but 4 sheets of phyllo remain. Top the pastry with 4 sheets, each brushed with oil (or butter), except the top sheet. Tuck any overlapping phyllo dough under itself, on top of the filling.

Score the pastry in pieces using a razor blade, and follow up with a sharp knife, cutting all the way through. To make triangles: cut the pastry into squares, then, cut squares in half diagonally to make triangles. To hold the pastry on place I usually put a clove on each corner of each triangle.

Sprinkle just the top of the pastry with 4-5 tablespoons of soda water (to get best results, use a spray bottle). Bake on the rack just below the middle of the oven 350-355°F (180°C) until golden (about 45 minutes).

Note: The cooked baklava may have white spots on top. These are from the soda water and will disappear after the syrup is added.

Unlike many other baklava recipes, hot syrup is poured over the hot pastry:

· Bring the syrup ingredients to a boil.
· Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
· Pour the hot syrup carefully and evenly over the hot baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven, making sure to cover the sides and corners.
Allow the baklava to cool thoroughly and absorb the syrup before serving (at least 3-4 hours).

Yield: 60 small pieces

Notes About Butter: I don't recommend using butter, but if you must, substitute 1 1/2 cups of melted unsalted butter for the olive oil. If there is any butter (not oil) left after making the baklava, omit the soda water spray and pour it over the top before baking.

How Do You Like Your Baklava? Some love a chewy baklava. If this is your preference, refrigeration is the secret. After cooking, cool the baklava completely. Cover well and refrigerate for a day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Beet & Garlic Salad - Pantzaria Salata



Greek menus include a wide variety of cooked vegetables we call "salads," and this cold beet and garlic salad is just such a dish. It's delicious, simple to make, healthy, and adds a strong shot of color to the table.

In Greek: παντζάρια σαλάτα, pronounced pahnd-ZAH-reeyah sah-LAH-tah
This cold salad is easy to make, and delicious. The combination of beets and garlic is a Greek favorite.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

· 2 pounds of fresh red beets or 2 cans of sliced beets (discard liquid)
· 2 - 3 cloves of garlic, minced
· 1/2 cup of olive oil
· 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
· sea salt (optional)
· fresh ground pepper (optional)

Preparation:

If using fresh beets: Remove leaves, leaving about an inch of stem, and don't cut the taproot. Wash gently (don't break the skin), and place in a pot of cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until done (firm but cooked, about 40-50 minutes). Drain the beets, cool under running cold water, and remove skin with fingers. Slice.
Combine beets, garlic, oil, and vinegar in a bowl and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate covered for several hours before serving.

Notes:

· Try this salad with a dollop of thick yogurt on top or on the side. It's delicious!
· I prefer this salad well seasoned with salt and pepper but it tastes delicious even without.

Watermelon & Feta Salad



The combination of watermelon and feta cheese is a Greek favorite in summer. It's eaten as a snack or a light meal. This variation includes paper-thin slices of red onion, and a touch of balsamic vinegar to turn this fabulous taste combination into a summer salad.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

· Per serving:
· 3/4 - 1 cup of cold watermelon, cubed
· 1/4 cup of feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
· 1/4 medium red onion, cut in paper-thin slices
· 1/4 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette

Preparation:

Place the watermelon in a bowl, top with most of the onions, then the feta cheese. Place remaining onions on top. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, and serve.
This recipe can be made in individual servings or multiplied and served in a large salad bowl.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oven-Roasted Pork Chops with Potatoes




In Greek: μπριζόλες χοιρινές στο φούρνο, pronounced bree-ZOH-les hee-ree-NES stoh FOOR-no

Pork chops are roasted with potatoes and a sprinkling of chopped tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and garlic. This is an easy and delicious dish to prepare. Just add a salad to complete the meal.
Cook Time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

* 6 pork chops (approx. 3 3/4 - 4 pounds, each about 3/4 inch thick)
* 7 large potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise
* 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped (with juice)
* 1 green bell peppers, stem and seeds removed, chopped
* 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
* 1 big red onion in rings
* 1/2 cup of olive oil
* 1/2 cup of lemon juice
* salt
* pepper
* Greek oregano (rigani)
* water

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 480F (250C).

Rinse the pork chops well to remove any debris. Drain but do not dry, and salt on both sides with 1 tablespoon of salt.

In a large roasting pan, place the pork chops in a single layer. Add potatoes on top and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oregano. Add tomatoes, green bell pepper, onion and garlic. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour lemon juice and olive oil over the top and add 3 1/2 cups of water, or enough water to make 1 inch of liquid in the pan.

Roast at 480F (250C) until the liquid comes to a boil. Reduce heat to 425F (220C) and cook for 1 hour or until the potatoes are slightly browned and soft (test with a fork). Move the pork chops from the bottom of the pan to the top, laying them over the potatoes. Add 3/4 to 1 cup of water and continue to cook for 1 hour longer, until the pork chops are well-browned and very tender.

Make it a meal with Maroulosalata (Romaine Salad), a slice of feta cheese, tzatziki and some crusty country bread.

Yield: serves 6

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Souvlaki: Grilled Pork Kebabs



It's time to fire up the grill (if you haven't already) - and get your souvlaki on! Last-minute souvlaki is best made with pork or chicken. They are tender meats and just need a short time in the marinade. Lamb and beef are tougher and need a long time to marinate.

Souvlaki (say: soov-LAH-kee) - skewered kebabs - is one of those foods that have become synonymous with Greece, as popular with Greeks as they are with non-Greeks. Souvlaki is a favorite street food on the skewer or in pita wraps, and a family favorite at home, cooked on the grill. A quick marinade of herbs, spices, oil, is all that's needed.

Ingredients:

· Pork Loin
· Garlic, finely chopped
· Olive Oil
· Lemon, fresh juice
· Red Onion, finely chopped
· Green bell pepper
· Tomatoes
· Salt and pepper
· dried Greek oregano (rigani)

Prepare the meat and cut in bite size pieces and place them in a bowl. Add the garlic, onion, oregano and olive oil and season with the pepper and salt. If making bigger quantities, use plastic bags and place the meat with the marinade in each bag, shake well and store in the fridge overnight or at least for a few hours. Make sure to shake the plastic bags several times so that the marinade can distribute evenly. If marinating the meat in the bowl, turn it with a spoon several times (that’s what I prefer and you can actually prepare that 2 days in advance it becomes more tender).

When ready to make, put the meat pieces on the skewers (with or without thin slices of onion, tomatoe and green bell pepper between) and grill them for a few minutes. Don’t overdo it since pork loin gets harder when extensively grilled.

Of all the versions of souvlaki, pork is the most frequently used meat in Greece. This is an easy recipe to make, and even easier to eat. Make the skewers with small pieces of meat to recreate a classic Greek street food, or make them large for a meal.

Favorite taste combinations: When fixing this recipe for Pork Souvlaki at home, I always figure on at least ½ killo of meat per person because these are such favorites. But that's a lot of meat - so side dishes are kept pretty minimal. We enjoy these with fried potatoes, a classic Greek salad, some great crusty country bread (or grilled Greek or Cyprus pitta bread if available), and tzatziki.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pastitsio



If you've never tried Pastitsio, you're in for a real treat when you experiment with this recipe. This is a rich meat and pasta casserole that is a wonderful one-dish meal for a chilly winter evening. It requires several ingredients, but is quite easy to make. This definitely isn't a low fat or low calorie dish, but it is a terrific treat to enjoy on special occasions. Hearty and delicious. The beauty of this recipe (besides great taste) is it's ability to freeze (and defrost) so well, with no loss of flavour, making it ideal for once a month cooking.

To prepare Pastitsio, you will need to make a meat sauce, a white sauce, and prepare the pasta before combining everything to bake.


Prep Time: 1 hours, 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

· 1 kg beef mince
· 1/2 kg macaroni for pastitsio (Traditionally, Greek macaroni no. 2 pasta is used but ziti or other tubular pasta, long or short, can be substituted)
· 1 large red onion finely cut
· 1 – 2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
· 3 big ripe tomatoes, grated
· 2 tea-cups grated cheeses (caseri, kefalograviera, parmesan or halloumi)
· 1 tea-cup white dry wine
· 1/2 tea-cup olive oil
· salt, pepper
· 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinammon
· 1 cup finely chopped parsley


For the béchamel sauce (white sauce): In Greek: μπεσαμέλ, pronounced beh-sah-MEL
· 7-8 tbsp flour
· 6 tbsp butter or Olive Oil
· 4 tea-cups freshly-boiled milk
· 3 eggs
· salt and pepper
· cinammon
· 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs

Preparation:
Boil macaroni in salted water (don't let them boil too much), drain and return to the pot (but not over any heat) toss with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside. Meanwhile put the finely chopped garlic and the onion in a frying pan saute them and when they wither, add mince, broken in pieces, along with salt, pepper and the ground cinammon. When it’s almost cooked sprinkle with wine and add the tomatoes and finally the parsley. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid has been absorbed. Mmmm...fragrant!

For the béchamel make your best efforts. Put butter in a pot and melt it in medium heat. Then add flour, stirring all the time with wire, not to let it stick. When they are mixed and a bit golden in colour, add slowly the boiled milk and stir into a thick white sauce (add some more flour if not thick enough). After sauce is creamy, remove from heat and allow it 2 – 3 minutes to cool. In the meatime beat three eggs in a bowl and after the white sauce cools add them to it stirring with the wire and return to the heat, whisking briskly until well blended. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use. Butter a roasting pan and lay out half of the macaroni and put on top half of the grated cheese. Add mince (see that it goes everywhere), the rest of macaroni, the rest of cheese and carefully pour the home made béchamel over the top and use a spatula to spread evenly. Springle with cinammon and breadcrumbs and cook in the heated oven for about an hour at 180 C or until the sauce rises and turns golden brown.

Remove pan from oven and allow to cool before serving (Pastitsio is served warm, not hot). Cut into rectangular pieces

Eat it with your family or friends.

Notes: This dish can be prepared the day before, all the way to the béchamel sauce, refrigerated overnight, and cooked the next day after adding the sauce.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gemista (stuffed tomatoes)



Gemista, means “filled” or “stuffed” vegetables such as, peppers, eggplants, courgettes, onions etc. The filling can be a meat based one, usually with minced beef and rice but I sometimes prefer to make them vegetarian (or some of them) as I cook meat but I don’t eat it.

Gemista fall under the category ladera or “oily” food, as we call them but my version is a much lighter one, using not too much oil and are mostly “saucy” than “ladera”. The normal amount of oil used would be at least twice the quantity I use.
Gemista is a summer food, since it is the time when the tomatoes are ripe and as they are a light food they can be consumed during hot Mediterranean temperatures, as a slightly hot or cold dish. I really don’t mind baking during summer and if it’s unbearably hot, I prepare them in the evening and bake them early in the morning or just have the air-conditioning on. Although there are tomatoes year round now with the green houses, I seldom make them during winter, except maybe during Lent when we need to eat a variety of vegetarian dishes or whenever the girls ask for them.
Sometimes, I add thin slices of potatoes in between the gaps but as potatoes usually take more time to cook, I end up by over baking them, so now I prefer to half bake the potatoes separately in parchment paper, adding the same seasoning, and then add them to cook together or cut them in small cubes from the very beginning.
Gemista are one of my favourite dishes as it is a combination of so many tastes and aromas. Vegetables, oil, rice, potatoes, parsley and mint are mingled in our palate and all the sweet juices from the fresh ripe tomatoes should be mopped off the plate with fresh hot bread.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 4 - 5

Ingredients:

· 9 large, ripe, tomatoes
· 1 large red onion finely cut
· 1 – 2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
· 1/3 cup top quality extra virgin olive oil
· 3 green bell peppers
· 150 grams short-grained rice (Carolina)
· 1 cup finely chopped parsley
· 2 tbsp dried Greek Mint or fresh if available
· salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 2 large Potatoes (optional), cut into thin wedges, seasoned with salt, pepper and dried oregano

Preparation:

Wash tomatoes and cut a horizontal slice off the bottom side of the tomato (not where the stem is) but do not cut entirely.
With a teaspoon, scoop out the contents of the tomato into a food processor and then blend them.
Wash the green bell peppers and cut horizontal the top side where the stem is entirely and cut out the seeds.
Put the tomatoes and peppers in a baking dish and sprinkle some salt inside their cavities.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick sautéing pan and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent then add the rice and mix.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the blended tomatoes, lower heat and mix for five minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the parsley and mint, mix in and remove from the heat.
Fill in the tomatoes and peppers by ¾ full, leaving room for the uncooked rice to expand. Cover the tomatoes and the peppers with the lids.
Add the potatoes, the remaining olive oil and some tomatoe juice. (No water should be added)
Preheat oven at 180 degrees C.
Bake for about 1 hour thirty minutes. Baste the vegetables at least twice, in order to keep them moist on the top or cover with a silver foil and have it removed after the first hour.
In case no potatoes are used the baking time is less.

Horiatiki Salata: Greek Salad




On the menu in every Greek restaurant and many non-Greek restaurants as well, this salad has many individual variations, but here are the basics to work from. This is the traditional version that does not include lettuce.
Note: Many cooks peel the tomatoes if the skins are tough; it's a personal call.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

· 4 large, ripe, tomatoes
· 1 large red onion
· 1 cucumber
· 1 green bell pepper
· 50 gr of Greek feta cheese, sliced or cumbled
· dried Greek oregano (rigani)
· sea salt
· top quality extra virgin olive oil
· 1 dozen Greek olives (Kalamata, green Cretan olives, etc.)

Preparation:

Wash and dry the tomatoes, cucumber, and green pepper. Clean off the outer skin from the onion, wash, and dry.
Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized irregularly shaped chunks. Slice the cucumber into 1/4-inch slices, cutting slices in half (whether or not you peel the cucumber is a personal choice). Slice the pepper into rings, removing the stem and seeds. Slice the onion into thin rings.
Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper and onion in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, pour olive oil over the salad, and toss. Just before serving, place the feta on top of the salad, either as a slice or crumbled, and toss in some olives. Sprinkle the cheese with oregano (and pepper if desired), add the olive oil and serve.
Yield: Serves 4-6

Tzatziki: Traditional Yogurt, Cucumber, and Garlic Dip



Tzatziki is traditionally served as an appetizer and can be left on the table as an accompaniment to foods throughout the meal. The key to great tzatziki is the thick creamy texture that allows it to be eaten alone, as a dip, as a spread, and as a condiment.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

· 16 ounces (2 cups) of thick Greek yogurt
· 4 cloves of garlic grated
· 1/2 cup of diced or grated cucumber (Kirby or "English")
· 1 tablespoon of olive oil
· 1 - 2 teaspoons of dried Greek mint
· ½ teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Prepare all ingredients in advance. Fold the yogurt in slowly, making sure it mixes completely with the oil. Add the garlic, according to taste, and the cucumber. Stir until evenly distributed. Garnish with the dried mint and serve well chilled.

Shopping Tip:

The thick, full-fat yogurts available at Greek, Middle Eastern, and specialty food markets - or a commercial full-fat strained yogurt - will give the best results

Preparation Tips:

· Kirby or "English" cucumbers work best (usually wrapped in plastic wrap at the market). If not available, peel and seed the cucumber before dicing or grating.
· After dicing or grating the cucumber, pat it dry with absorbent toweling to remove excess moisture.
· The longer the tzatziki is refrigerated before serving, the more intense the garlic taste will become.

Storage:

Tzatziki will store safely in the refrigerator for several days. If excess liquid accumulates on top, just pour it off.

Serving Suggestions:

Friends who are passionate about tzatziki serve it with non-Greek foods as well including fried chicken, lunch/dinner omelets, and in other ways suited to their tastes.

Kolokythanthoi Yemistoi me Ryzi: Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Rice




Zucchini blossoms (and blossoms from other squash) make a delightful appetizer, and they are often stuffed with mixtures similar to fillings used in stuffed leaves and vegetables. This vegetarian version calls for a mixture of rice, tomatoes, and herbs, and is served at room temperature.
Blossoms can be used from winter and summer squash. If picking your own fresh blossoms, pick early in the morning while blossoms are open. Separate from stalk.
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

· 20 zucchini blossoms
· 1 1/2 cups of long grain rice
· 1 medium onion, grated
· 3 tomatoes, grated or finely chopped
· 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
· 1/2 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
· 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
· sea salt
· freshly ground black pepper
· 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
· 1 cup of water
· 1/4 cup of olive oil

Preparation:

Rinse the zucchini blossoms individually, removing any external green leaves and internal pistil and stamen, using a sharp knife. Take care not to tear the blossoms. Once rinsed, place the bottom of each blossom into the opening of another to prevent from closing, and set aside to drain thoroughly. Pat dry before using.
Note: The pistil and stamen do not need to be removed, but most Greek cooks do take them out.

In a mixing bowl, combine rice, onion, tomatoes, parsley, mint, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to help bind and mix thoroughly.
Carefully fill each blossom with 1 teaspoon of the mixture. Fold the open end of the blossom inward and turn underneath, and place in a wide pot or deep skillet. Continue until all blossoms are filled, and placed snugly in a single layer in the pot.

Add 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of olive oil.
Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.
Yield: 20 pieces

Spetzofai: Country Sausage with Peppers & Tomato



The choice of peppers is yours, but unless the sausage is extremely mild, red bell peppers are always a good choice. For mild sausage, try Greek pepperoncini or other mildly hot pepper. In this recipe, I used our local handmade sausage (loukaniko) which has enough spice to make my eyes water, so I chose red, green and orange (sweeter) bell peppers. Note: This is delicious on the second day as well!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

· 2 pounds of spicy country sausage
· 2 medium onions
· 1 red bell peppers
· 1 yellow bell peppers
· 1 green bell peppers
· 1 large ripe tomato, finely chopped with juice
· 1 clove of garlic, sliced
· 1 tablespoon white or red wine
· 3 tablespoons of olive oil

Preparation:

Cut sausage into slices. Peel onions and cut into chunks. Trim peppers and remove seeds. Cut into chunks.
In a heavy-bottomed frying pan or skillet, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about 5-8 minutes stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add sausage, peppers, chopped tomato and juice, and garlic, and stir until all ingredients are well mixed. Stir in wine and cover. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Spoon onto serving plates and serve warm. A favorite with rice.
Yield: serves 4

Keftedakia (Meat Balls)



Keftethakia are a favorite dish and easy to make. I usually make up large batches of the meat mixture and use some for these cocktail meatballs, and others for hamburger patties or meatballs in sauce.
Tip: When buying the ground meat, ask the butcher to grind it twice. The grind used in the originals is finer than that usually found in grocery stores.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

· 1 Kilo of lean ground beef
· 2 large onions, grated
· 5 tablespoon of Greek Mint
· 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
· 1 tablespoon of sea salt
· 2 eggs, beaten with a fork
· 2 slices of white bread, crust removed (best if slightly stale)
· 1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
· 3 tablespoons of olive oil
· 1/4 cup of toasted breadcrumbs
· 2 big potatoes thinly grated and squeeze out the juice
· 1 teaspoon BP
· olive oil for frying
· some flour


Preparation:

Wet the bread, squeeze out the moisture. Mix all ingredients for 10 minutes by hand until soft and well blended.
Form the meat into slightly flattened balls with a diameter of about 1 3/4 inches at most (about the diameter of a golf ball)and roll them in the flour.
Pour about 1/3 inch of olive oil into the frying pan and heat until hot. Add meatballs, and fry over medium heat until brown on all sides (about 15-20 minutes). (A 10-inch frying pan will hold about 25 meatballs.)
Serve with lemon wedges.
Yield: 40 cocktail meatballs
(if the micture is more than you wish to use for the day you can always safe the rest in a special freezer bag for another day to use!!

Hummus with Tahini



This dip is quick and easy to make, delicious, and healthy. No cooking involved. Just grab the blender and go. Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) and tahini (a paste made from roasted sesame seeds) combine to make a tasty appetizer to serve with wedges of pita bread. A favorite in Greek restaurants outside Greece (see note below the recipe).

The key to great hummus is to let the flavor of the chickpeas come through, rather than be overwhelmed by the lemon (it's easy to get too much lemon taste).
Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

· 2 1/2 cups of canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
· 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
· 1/4 cup of tahini
· 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
· 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
· 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
· 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
· pinch of freshly ground black pepper
· 1 teaspoon of salt
· 1/3 cup of water
· parsley and olive oil to garnish

Preparation:

Put 1/2 the lemon juice and all ingredients into the blender except the chickpeas (and the parsley and oil for garnish) and blend for 5 seconds. Add the chick peas and blend on high until it reaches the the consistency of sour cream, but granular, about 10-15 seconds. Blend in remaining lemon juice to taste. If the dip is too thick but you don't want to add more lemon juice, add a little water slowly and blend until it reaches the correct consistency.
Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. (It can be eaten immediately, but becomes even more flavorful if left to chill well.)
Drizzle of olive oil over the top and add a garnish of parsley or black olives before serving. Serve with pita wedges or slices of whole grain breads.
Note: Be sure to rinse the canned chickpeas well to clear away the taste of any ingredients used in the canning process.
About Hummus and Greek Food: Hummus is a dip/spread that is made from chickpeas. In fact, hummus is the Arabic word for chickpea. You may notice that many hummus recipes call for garbanzo beans, not chickpeas. Don't worry, garbanzo is the Spanish translation of chickpea. They are called cece beans in Italy.

Hummus is one of the oldest foods dating back to ancient Egypt. We know that chickpeas were used quite frequently over 7,000 years ago.

Dakos: Rusks with Tomato and Cheese from Crete




A traditional meze or light meal on the island of Crete, dakos (also called "koukouvayia") is often called "Greek bruschetta," and is easy to make with few ingredients and no cooking. You can find rusks at online Greek food shops, make your own, or use a thick slice of grilled or toasted crusty country bread (without the water).

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

· 1/2 of a large round barley rusk (about 5 inches diameter)
· 1 large or 2 small ripe tomatoes, coarsely grated (discard skin)
· 2-3 heaping tablespoons of feta cheese or aged myzithra, crumbled or grated
· extra virgin olive oil
· freshly ground pepper
· Greek oregano (rigani)

Preparation:

Run the rusk under a spray of water (about 4-6 tablespoons) to moisten. Grate the tomato with a vegetable grater (or the large grate on a multi-grater) into a strainer over a bowl so most of the liquid drains off.
Spread the grated tomato on the rusk and top with cheese. Sprinkle with pepper and a good amount of oregano, and drizzle with olive oil.
Yield: One rusk serves 1 as a light meal, 2-4 as a meze.

Fava




Fava is an easy dish to make and its bright yellow color is a pretty addition to any table. It can be served as an appetizer, meze, or a side dish. Fava goes particularly well with dark leafy greens, salty dishes, and fish. Look for the peas at a Greek grocer, or try an Indian market and look for yellow daal (moong). Last choice: check your local grocery store for yellow split peas.

Ingredients:

· 1 3/4 cups of yellow split peas
· 4 1/3 cups of water
· 1 tablespoon of sea salt
· 2 tablespoons of olive oil
· -----------
· chopped red onion to garnish
· extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Preparation:

Put the peas in a pot with water to cover generously. Bring to a boil and cook 5-10 minutes until froth rises to the top. Drain the peas and rinse well.
In a pressure cooker, add the 4 1/3 cups water and peas. Bring to a boil, seal, and when pressure reached, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Use fast-release of pressure, and open the pot.

Puree the peas and liquid in a food processor bowl, and return to the pot. Add oil and salt. Cook uncovered over lowest possible heat for 15 minutes until it becomes the texture of thick cream, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent from sticking.
Serve at room temperature in shallow bowls topped off with olive oil and a tablespoon of diced onion.

Yield: serves 8-10 as a side dish, more if combined with other mezethes or appetizers.

To store: Cover and set aside for 12 hours, then refrigerate in an air-tight container.