Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pita!


  • I used to buy my pitas at the super market. Panos, my son in law, asked me for a recipe for pitas and so I started looking for one. As I did my morning errands through the neighborhood, I would ask my Greek friends if they had a recipe for pitas.  They all said, "go to the super market, they're good and they're cheap".  I went for my daily swim at the little church, where the same people gather for the passed 20 years that I've lived here.  I asked the international crowd there for a recipe for pitas.  Finally, I was given two recipes, both from foreigners.  I tried them both and found the one from Georgia to be outstanding. The one from Bulgaria didn't have yeast, but both ladies told me the secret to soft pitas was using milk and not water.  Yannis made meatballs last night and I made a salad and yogurt dip and we piled it all on the best pitas I've ever tasted!  The recipe is so good that most of it was eaten right out of the pan, with a little salt and butter......nice! I'm so happy I can make fresh pitas so easily.... No matter what any Greek may tell you,. never get them at the supermarket !
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 teas. sugar
  •   let the above mixture sit for 5 minutes, in a large bowl put
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 Tables. salt
  • 2 Tables. olive oil
  • put the yeast mixtures in the middle of the flour and stir in 2 cups of warm milk; knead enough flour into the dough until it won't take any more, but is still elastic. Knead for about 10 minutes.  Place dough in a bowl and wipe with olive oil; cover and let sit for one hour.  Heat a griddle or fry pan and wipe it with olive oil or butter. ( I used butter), divide the dough into 12 balls and cover them with a moist cloth.  Press each ball with your hand into a 10 inch circle ;making the pita about 1/4 inch thick.  Fry over medium to low heat for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Remove and serve with most anything and everything you can think of!!When I say everything...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gazpacho

Gazpacho
1 clove garlic 1 medium onion, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
3 tomatoes, peeled
1 green pepper, seeded
4 raw eggs
1/4 teas. salt
1/4 teas. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup tomato juice

garnish:
1 cup bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cucumber, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped

Puree the first six ingredients in a blender and mix well with the beaten eggs.  Season with salt, cayenne, vinegar, olive oil and tomato juice and chill.
For the garnish, brown the bread cubes in olive oil with the garlic.  Add the croutons, cucumber, onion and green pepper just before serving.
Gazpacho is actually a liquid salad.  It is one of the most refreshing of soups and must be served ice cold!
Not to be Confused with Gaz-Pug-Cho

As our vegetables would ripen faster than we could pick them from our gardens, we would get out our 5 gallon ice cream pails and make gazpacho.  This soup has been around since ancient days, and has found its way to Minnesota, where we don't like to waste anything. Gazpacho is the  perfect way to enjoy the bounty of summer vegetables.  The ancients recommended the vegetables be pounded to keep the consistency from being too liquid.  We like to add a splash of olive oil and vinegar to give it a bit of a Mediterranean zip.  So get out your mortar and pestle and do some gazpacho with your harvest!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Washington Square Cookies


the wind does make cookie consumption somewhat
difficult for the uninitiated

I have so many wonderful memories of our years in Chicago.  We had great friends, hung out with my brother and his family, enjoyed spectacular fireworks with the kids, danced till sunrise in Greek Town with Yannis and had some of the best cookies ever at a lovely Greek restaurant.  I'm going to make a batch before it gets too hot to be baking. These freeze well and are absolutely the perfect thing to serve with sherbet, ice cream, pudding or yogurt on a hot summer night. They have the consistency of short bread and are crunchy to boot.  If you haven't been to Washington Square, you can make their famous cookies and serve up a bit of the WIndy City in your corner of the world.


Washington Square Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teas. vanilla
Cream butter and sugar till fluffy;add vanilla.

Sift together-
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teas. baking soda
1/2 teas. salt

stir flour mixture into sugar  mixture, add 1 cup oatmeal; blend thoroughly.  Chill for one hour and then shape into a roll. Chill again for an hour, slice into thin cookies.  Bake at 325F./165C. for 20-25 minutes.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Meat Sausages with Mint and Yogurt (Soutzoukakia)

yogurt is a great meat sauce
The first time I ate yogurt I was a teenager.  My friends and I would eat little plastic containers full of sweet, fruity yogurt to keep our figures like Twiggy's.  I didn't have real yogurt until I came to Greece. You haven't had the best yogurt in the world until you've eaten full fat Greek yogurt.  It has the consistency of sour cream and the tangy flavor of cream cheese.  I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in cookies, cakes, dips, and even meat sauces.  Now that I've tasted the combination of mint and lemon in yogurt, I highly recommend this as the flavor of the month.....try it and see if you don't agree.

Meat Sausages with Mint and Yogurt  (Soutzoukakia)

1 1/4 lb. ground beef
2 1/2 slices white bread, without crusts
4 Tbsp. ground bread crumbs
1 medium onion, grated and drained
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
juice of one lemon
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

Soak bread slices in 3/4 cup milk, squeeze very well and grate it into the hamburger; add the bread crumbs, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, onion and salt and pepper; mix thoroughly for five minutes; cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Shape the meat mixture into 2" oval sausages and place on a platter;  In a short, wide teflon pan heat the remaining olive oil and butter; place sausages in the pan and brown on all sides for 10 minutes.  Mix the yogurt, lemon and mint and pour over the sausages, shaking the pan gently till liquid is evenly distributed; simmer for 5 minutes and serve immediately over mashed potatoes.  I like to serve this with string beans or zucchini and a cucumber and onion salad  dressed with a garlic vinagrette, and of course plenty of rose wine.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cantaloupe with Feta

If you've read the title of the post, that's pretty much all you need.

the best way to eat this is on a balcony in Poros
Cantaloupe with Feta

1/2 cantaloupe, cleaned and chunked
1/2 cup or so feta

This is THE BEST thing you can eat when the temperature is skyrocketing.  It might sound like an odd mix if you've never tried it before, but the combination is di-vine.  It also works with watermellon (and I bet peaches, too)!

If you won't try your canteloupe with feta, at least try this


The difficult part of this recipe is getting to Crete to choose your melon.  These melons just came into their prime here in Greece.  We enjoy this perfect medley of flavors for breakfast, afternoon snacks and even dessert.  I'm sure any flavorful, firm cantaloupe will fill the bill for this recipe, so give it a try; it's really the perfect refreshing summer combination!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Galatopita -- Custard Pie

If all food values were the same; nutritionally, calorically, and fat wise, what would you eat everyday for breakfast, I asked Yannis this morning.  Without missing a beat, he replied,"bougatsa!" It used to be that every bakery in Greece served up hot bougatsa, or milk custard, in a pocket of filo and then splashed generously with powdered sugar and cinnamon.  My choice would be Sandy's caramel rolls or eggs benedict with asparagus, but since we live in Greece and it's Easter Week, we get to enjoy all the treats the season has to offer here.. We won't be eating bougatsa or milk pie every day, but we sure will enjoy it as long as it lasts.......that's why we're making the gigantic size...Easter Week is a long holiday in Greece!!

Galatopita   (Bougatsa) 

2 liters fresh milk
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup fine semolina  (farina or cream of wheat)
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 cup butter
4 teas. vanilla
6 eggs, lightly beaten

"I didn't eat all the galatopita"...
Bring the milk and sugar to a boil, add the semolina and cook till creamy; add the butter and vanilla and salt and allow to cool a bit before adding the beaten eggs.  Pour into a teflon or pyrex pan , with or without filo (2-3 sheets) on the bottom and then on top of the milk mixture.  Bake for about 1/2 hour  at 350.F/180 C.  Serve hot sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar...breakfast honestly just doesn't get any better than this!!!  Or Lunch.. or dinner.. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

--a note from your friendly neighborhood Editor on Greek Easter

--READERS you are so lucky that you get my parents' sweet recipes and that this isn't a blog about what their neighbor, Maro is cooking in her kitchen today:

--just sayin'...

the adorable Maro and her not so adorable friend.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Maro's Easter Cookies...Koulourakia

(video to follow soon as I can get it edited...)
It's Big Friday and everything is ready to celebrate Big Fat Greek Easter in two days.  The red eggs are shining in their baskets, the candles for the Saturday night vigil are decorated, the lamb is ready for the spit and the Koulourakia (Easter cookies) have been braided and baked.  Everyone is waiting for midnight Saturday night when the fasting is over.  Everyone will return home after the midnight candle service to cries of "Christ is Risen!", to eat gut soup and start in on the koulourakia!     Anna , my daughter, and Maro and I  made a washtub of cookies!  As we were rolling the dough,it was quite a challenge not to nibble on the butter/ouzo/.lemon batter!!!   I haven't had sugar for 6 weeks,  so thank God we made such a  great batch..and alot of great memories!  Having Anna and Maro in the kitchen is almost as much fun as cooking with Yannis, but not quite as entertaining!!! Kalo Pascha!!!!

That awkard moment when you can't get your koulouri out of your mug
Koulourakia
1 1/2 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
5 eggs
1/3 cup ouzo
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 teas. vanilla
1 T. ammonia
1 teas. baking soda
10 cups flour

Beat butter (room temperature), with the sugar till light; and the beaten eggs and mix untill white and frothy.  Add the Soda diluted in the lemon juice, then the ammonia stirred into the ouzo.  Stir in the vanilla and the flour, mixing until the batter will not take any more flour.  Roll into desired shapes, placing on a cookie sheet , well spaced as they expand. Brush with 2 beaten egg yolks and 1 egg white and bake at 380f./180C. for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  This is half of the original recipe and it makes quite a big batch, so sit down and enjoy the rolling with some good coffee and some good company!!!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cauliflower Pan Fritter

cauliflower does some pretty weird stuff.
Cauliflower is one of the most versatile vegetables on the planet.  You can boil it,stir fry it, deep fry it, put it in soups and casseroles with any other vegetables, eat it raw, dip it and even make flower arrangements out of it!!!  You'd think with so many options for preparing cauliflower, Yannis and I could agree on one.  That would be wrong.  Yannis, like most Greeks, likes his cauliflower boiled to mush, slathered in olive oil and sprinkled with vinegar.   I like mine barely steamed and topped with a bit (OK, quite a bit), of butter, salt and pepper.  Yannis also loves deep fried cauliflower with cheese sauce on top.  I prefer my cheese to go au gratin in a casserole of cauliflower.  This winter as I started doing a lot of pitas, I hit on cauliflower and cheese and low and behold, Yannis and I both think it's a hit.  One less thing to disagree on in the kitchen!  Try it and let me know if you agree too.

Cauliflower Pan Fritter

1 1/2 cup cauliflower, chopped
1 leek, white part only, chopped fine
2 green onions, white only, chopped fine
2 slices bacon , chopped , optional
1/4 cup grated graviere cheese
4 eggs,
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teas. baking powder
salt and pepper
2 T. dill
frying oil

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Heat oil in medium size fry pan and cook as an omelette. Be sure to use plenty of oil and a good teflon pan. Flip once; sprinkle with additional cheese, if you like. This is great with tomato slices and olives, a little crusty bread and of course, a little rose wine; assuming this is dinner, otherwise, champagne if it's breakfast!!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shrimp Risotto

--other things that lay nicely on a bed of rice (non-vegetarian)
Rice may be the second most widely produced food in the world, but in our home it is the food we produce the most of! It is the one thing everyone in the family absolutely loves, except me.  That is, until I made risotto with shrimp. I enjoyed this dish so much that I had to hold myself back from seconds and thirds.  Tonight I will make risotto with shrimp for Yannis birthday celebration.  I like to make my family their favorite foods on their special day, but lamb chops are just too smelly and they don't lay nicely on a bed of risotto.  Shrimp, like rice, is another food the Karakalos family all enjoy.  It looks like I finally hit on a recipe I can make to please the whole bunch.  So we'll celebrate with risotto tonight, and  when Anna and Pano get here, and when Théa gets here, and when Ari and Ariane get here, and when the Swedes come over, and when the Dutch come up, and when the Norwegians visit,.and for my birthday party...yeah, oh yeah!

Shrimp Risotto

1/2 cup butter
1 carrot, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup risotto rice,  Arborio
1/2 cup white wine, slightly warmed
5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
20 medium shrimp, peeled and cleaned
2 Tables. butter
2 Tables. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper

In a large skillet, sauté the onion and carrot in the butter for 2 minutes; add the rice and sauté until golden brown; add the warm wine and cook until the wine evaporates.  Add enough broth to cover the rice, stirring frequently; keep adding broth for the next 20 minutes, just covering the rice, untill you use all of the broth.  Meanwhile, sauté the shrimp in the butter, oil and garlic untill browned, add the sprig of rosemary and simmer for 2 minutes; remove the rosemary and add salt and pepper.  When all the broth has beenadded to the rice, remove from the fire and stir in the parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately, putting the shrimp over the rice as you serve it.  This amazingly tasty dish is nice with a simple green salad and a nice white wine!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cheese Cake

A biiiiirthday treat for the Aries
The argument continues.  This time Yannis and I are both wrong.  We both thought for sure that cheese cake originated in New York.  Cream cheese didn't arrive in Greece untill recently, so we, like most Greeks, think cheese cake is an American delicacy, which the Greeks call tseezkek.  I found out that in absolutely every corner of the world people are making some version of cheese cake.  I was very surprised to learn that the first recorded mention of cheese cake was by the ancient Greek physician Aegimus.  He wrote on the art of making cheese cakes and he included two recipes for making cheese cakes for religious uses in his writings.  I'm going to make my sister's recipe for cheese cake, which I think is the best one on the planet, for Yannis birthday treat.  I'm sure it's not even close to the original Greek's recipe, but I know it will taste divine!!

Cheese Cake

crust-
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup graham cracker or vanilla cookie crumbs
2 Tables. brown sugar
mix crust ingredients and press into a 9" pie plate, put in freezer


Batter-
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 8 oz. packages cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1 cup sour cream or full fat yogurt
1 teas. vanilla
1 teas. lemon juice


Beat the sugar, butter and cream cheese together till smooth and fluffy; blend in the cream, flour, vanilla and lemon juice; beat in the eggs, one at a time; stir in the sour cream or yogurt and pour into pie crust.  Bake in 350 F./180 C. oven for one hour.  Turn the oven off, leave the door open a little and let the cheese cake remain in oven for 5 hours.  Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.  The cheese cake tastes better the longer it sits before eating. Serve with your favorite fruit, sauce, syrup and whipped cream.  Take a good long walk after eating for digestion so you can come back for seconds.....

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pork and Celery Egg-Lemon

I have had to change alot of my ways of thinking and doing things since moving to Greece, especially when it comes to food. Years ago when we would go out to eat, I would keep sending main dishes back to be heated up; the Greeks think the flavor of food is better at room temperature.  I would also return vegetables and salads swimming in olive oil, not realizing that copious amounts of oil on a dish reflected the chefs generosity toward us.  One can never have enough oil to dip the fresh bread in at a Greek table, whereas when I grew up we only served bread for special occasions and with spagetti.  And then there's celery. I used to think celery was only used for dipping, or in soups and salads, never as a main dish.  (I never knew the Greeks used to make garlands out of celery for the sacred games either).  I must say that my life has become much more flavorful and full of really useful information, now that I've learned to eat and think like a Greek!



Pork and Celery with Egg Lemon Sauce

3 lbs. of lean pork, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
2 Tables. flour
1/2 cup white wine
1Tables dill, finely chopped
10 celery stalks, leaves  included
salt and pepper
juice of 2 lemons

2 eggs
The Celery preferred by The Ancient Greeks.

Saute the pork, onions and garlic in the butter till golden brown, stir in the flour till dissolved, add salt and pepper, dill, wine and enough water to cover; (2 potatoes, wedged may also be added), simmer, covered for about one hour or until the pork is tender. Cut the celery in half lengthwise and add to the pork mixture, simmering until tender. Meanwhile, separate the eggs, beating the yolks and whites.  Stir the whites and yolks together and beat in the lemon juice; slowly stir the egg/lemon mixture into the meat, cover and remove from fire; allow to sit awhile before serving.  Your favorite salad and plenty of bread for the great sauce is all you need to make this one terrific meal.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Minnesota Fudge Cake

Fudge baths make you look approx. 30 years younger
(give or take a few minutes).
Minnesota is consistently rated as one of the best educated and healthiest poplulations in the U.S.A. Minnesotans are also expected to live the longest.  I'm convinced the reason for these statistics is the fact that every mom, aunt, uncle and grandmother makes Minnesota Fudge Cake on a regular basis. You will find this cake at every birthday party, family reunion, coffee morning and dessert table in Minnesota. We all know that chocolate decreases the risk of a stroke, increases insulin sensitivity, is full of antioxidants, is a great mood elevator, improves vision and even quiets coughs.  Chocolate consumption even improves blood flow and makes you smarter.  So the next time you're tempted to go see a doctor, do what the Minnesotans do and bake a fudge cake...guaranteed to make you feel better!!


Minnesota Fudge Cake
5 eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 1/2 squares (oz) unsweetened chocolate
1 3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 teas. red food coloring
1 1/2 teas. soda
1/2 teas. salt
3 cups flour

In a small saucepan beat one of the eggs, add one cup of the sugar, the chocolate and 3/4 cup of the milk. Cook, stirring, over low hear, until the chocolate melts and the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Mix the butter and remaining sugar until it is fluffy; add the vanilla and coloring. Add the remaining eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the dry ingredients (mixed together), alternately with the remaining milk, beating until smooth. Blend in the chocolate mixture. Pour into 3 buttered and floured layer pans. Bake at 350F./180C. for 25-30 minutes. Cool and frost with your favorite frosting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cream of Tomato Soup

Solving the age old
soup-in-the-'stache problem
For years I knew what I would be eating for lunch every Friday.  In elementary school our cafeteria would get simmering tomato soup every Friday and fill the school with it's wonderful aroma.  When I got to Catholic school they made a pretty good version of tomato soup too, and at home my Mom would serve Campbell's Tomato Soup with fried egg sandwiches every Friday till the Pope let us off the hook from fasting meat once a week.  
Now I make tomato soup from the beautiful fresh tomatoes available all year in Greece.  I always think of my daughter Anna when I make this soup. It is her all time favorite!!  
So, since it's Lent,  it's almost Friday,  I'm thinking of my Anna, and I have a sack of tomatoes, I'll get cooking up some good memories... and a great soup!


Cream of Tomato Soup

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
5 large tomatoes
1 T. tomato paste
3 cloves garlic
3 cups chicken stock
1 t. sugar
salt and pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
fresh basil leaves for garnish


Saute the onions, celery and carrots in the butter for 10 minutes.  Add all of the rest of the ingredients, except the cream and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to simmer the soup for 35 minutes, uncovered.  
When the tomatoes are very soft, put the soup through a sieve.  Gently heat the soup with the cream.  Serve with croutons, fresh basil leaves and a dab of sour cream or yogurt.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spetses Island Baked Fish

Summer is almost here. It's time to start island hopping again.  Yannis and I love to travel and going to the neighborhood islands is one of our favorite things to do with friends and family, or just the two of us.  Every island has it's own landscape, myths, heroes and flavors. Today I'm making a wonderful recipe from Spetses, an island just around the corner from us in Poros.  
Booboo got 'tude
Spetses is a pine-covered island with secluded coves, clear waters with superyachts and traditional wooden fishing boats. It attracts an upmarket clientele from all over the world.  I always think of Bouboulina, the only woman to be given the staus of admiral of the navy, the re-enactment of the torching of the Turkish flagship in the harbor and the famous Baked Fish when I visit Spetses.  You'll have to go there yourself to experience all the delights it has to offer, but you can enjoy a little taste of this beautiful island when you bake their famous traditional fish. So put on a little Greek music, open a nice bottle of wine and take off for an island adventure!


Spetses Island Baked Fish


One 2 1/2-3 lb. sae bass or snapper
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup butter
1 T. tomato paste, diluted in 2 T. water
1/2 cup white wine
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped tomatoes, without skin
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
2 T. fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 small onion, chopped
salt and pepper


Clean the fish very well, place it on a baking pan and sprinkle the belly with salt and pepper. Mix the diluted tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and green pepper, dill, wine, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture over the fish; sprinkle with half of the parsley and half of the bread crumbs; lay the sliced tomatoes over the fish, sprinkle with the rest of the parsley and bread crumbs.  Bake in a medium oven for one hour, checking occassionaly to see that it has enough juice; baste with the juices from the pan if necessary or add a little wine. It is done when a nice crust has formed over the fish.  Serve with a salad, potatoes or rice.  A good white wine goes perfectly with this island meal.


Friday, March 29, 2013

spiced Fillets of Salmon with Fennel Root and Olives

You thought you were the only one
confused about Easter this year
Easter is such a wonderful holiday. The winter is finally over, flowers are blooming, it's time to wear flipflops and bright colors again, dye the eggs, make elaborate Jell-o's and fancy dishes, and to decorate your Easter baskets. We still have five weeks left of Lent in Greece, and when it's over, every Greek in every village, city and island will be eating the same meal. There will be lamb on the spit, potatoes, salad, cheese and lots of wine. No fancy Jell-o's or gourmet delights...like spiced salmon fillets.  This is a lovely lenten dish, and if I were celebrating Easter with my family in America, I would serve this.  So if you're tired of the same old ham and standing roasts, put some salmon in the frying pan.  Like salmon returning to their home by their olfactory senses, the delightful aroma of fennel and orange will have your guests coming back for more.

Spiced Fillets of Salmon

2 1/2 lbs.salmon fillet
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
3/4 cup white wine
1 fenel root, cleaned and sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup sliced green olives
1 teas. fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 teas. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 T. balsamic vinegar
juice of 2 oranges
grated zest of 1 orange
salt and pepper


In a hot frying pan saute the almonds for one minute. Salt and pepper the salmon.  Add the olive oil to the pan and saute the salmon, skin side down for 4 minutes; flip the salmon and saute 2 more minutes; pour wine over the fish and when it evaporates add the herbs, vinegar, olives, orange juice and zest; simmer over low fire until the sauce thickens.  Remove the pan from the fire and dd the butter, swirling the pan until it is evenly distributed through out the sauce.  Serve over your favorite rice with a green salad and white wine... kai kali oreksi!!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fig Bars

WARNING: midwesterner viewing the fig outside
of the newton for the first time may
display signs of confusion and dread
Figs have been a staple in the Greek diet since ancient days.  They were brought from Egypt to Crete and then from Crete to Greece.  They never were brought to the American midwest, but did make it to California eventually.  When my Minnesotan family came for my son's wedding in September they were astonished to find ripe figs hanging from the trees, with no resemblance what so ever to dried figs.  Fresh figs have smooth skin, chewy flesh and crunchy sweet seeds; a really remarkably tasty combination.  The ancient Greeks held the fig in such high esteem that they created laws forbidding the export of the best quality ones.  Every fig I've ever eaten has been super high quality to me.  The only problem with fresh figs is that they perish so quickly and are available for such a short time.  Thankfully dried figs are available all year round, and can be easily transformed into fig bars, a sweet readily recognizable to all!

Fig Bars

Filling:
1 pound dried figs, cleaned and chopped
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup water
1 teas. vanilla

Crust:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teas. baking soda
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

1 cup butter

In a medium saucepan, cook all the ingredients of the filling till sugar is dissolved and the mixture is thick. Set aside and allow to cool.Preheat oven to 350F./180C. Grease a 9x13 in. baking pan. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together, using your hands to mix the butter in until course crumbs form. Spread half of the mixture in the baking pan,pressing firmly to sides of pan. Pour filling over crust, spreading evenly. Sprinkle remaining crust mixture evenly over filling. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fish & Shrimp Chowder

 "of all fish the daintiest is a young shrimp in fig leaves."(Athenaeus, 3rd Century Greek author) 

I didn't have shrimp and fish soup till I met Yannis. Not only is it so tasty, but it is very healthy...high in calcium, iodine and protein. Fish soup is a staple in almost every Greek taverna and in almost every Greek home, and is a favorite in our home too. Yannis doesn't want to cook fish in the house because the "ocean aroma" stays and stays.  So I've adapted a cream soup that is relatively "fragrance free".  The shrimp and fish flavor is mellowed by the splash of ouzo at the end... I disagree with Atenaeus. Shrimp is must tastier in cream than in fig leaves!

If you have to shoplift the fish, it's best to wear pants.
Fish & Shrimp Chowder
1/2 lb. cleaned shrimp
1 lb. cod (in small pieces)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup butter
2 cups chopped celery
2 potatoes, diced
1 carrot, sliced
3 cups water
1 vegetable boullion cube
salt and pepper
1 cup cream

1 teas. ouzo

Cook the vegetables in the butter and then add the water and vegetable boullion cube for 10-15 minutes. Add the fish and shrimp and simmer another 10 minutes. Add the cream and ouzo and reheat gently without boiling. Serve with crusty french bread and salad; fig leaves are optional.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Apple Struesle

 "I throw the apple at you, and if you are willing to love me, take it and share your girlhood with me, but if your thoughts are what I pray they are not, even then take it, and consider how short lived is beauty". -Plato                                                                                                                              

I took several theatre classes when I went to University.  One of those classes was Greek Mythology.  The stories of the Greek gods and their dealings with mankind were so captivating to me and I remember even back then that I thought it would be so wonderful to visit the land that inspired such drama!  Now that I live in this beautiful country I am reminded of my university classes almost every day....drama, drama, drama...even when it comes to apples.  Apples were sacred to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  Back in her day, to throw an apple at someone was to declare one's love and to catch it was to symbolically show one's acceptance of that love.  I wonder if it would have the same significance if one would throw apple struesle?  I served it after our dinner party last night..... without drama, except for the boisterous compliments.



Apple Streusel
1 1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 teas. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teas. salt
1 teas. cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 c. butter, melted
2 apples, sliced , squeeze the juice of 1/2 orange over to keep from turning brown.

Topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 Tables. butter
dash of salt
HELPFUL HINT: If you are buying Apples from these guys,
don't make streusle out of them.

(First Apple computer recently sold for $374,000)

Preheat oven to 350F./180C. In medium mixing bowl, stir all of the dry ingredients together; mix the wet ingredients together and stir into the dry ingredients (do not over stir). Stir the apples into the batter and spread into an 8" square pan.

Mix together with your hands till butter is distributed evenly throughout.  Sprinkle on the batter and bake for 25-30 min., or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Eat this a bit warm; I like it with butter for breakfast, or with cream or whipped cream for dessert.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Octopus Mezé

Growing up in Minnesota, I always considered myself quite an adventurous eater. I would eat onions, garlic, lots of spices and even fresh fish! Like most Swedes and Germans, anything with a lot of flavor or with a strange consistency was considered dangerous. So when I finally decided to go out for lunch with Yannis at Zorba's, I almost fell off my chair when they brought us a plate of octopus! That was before the moussaka and squid! I didn't want to seem squeemish and let Yannis know just how uncultured I was in the culinary department, so I tried the Octopus. If I didn't think of the suckers and the disgusting color of the octopus the taste was actually pretty amazing, and the texture really pleasing. Octopus is now one of my favorite starters. I love it grilled, boiled or smoked. I'm so glad that Lent is here and you can see octopus hanging from almost every taverna. I'm also glad I've become so adventurous!!


Ocotpus
CONSUMER WARNING: If your octopus dish turns out looking like this...
...you might be from Minnesota.

3-4 lb. octopus   (frozen if necessary!)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar or red wine
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
lemon
1 Tables. oregano
salt and pepper



Rinse the octopus and put it wet into a pot with the vinegar,and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer untill the octopus is tender. Poke it with a fork and test the octopus; when tender put it on a plate to cool. When you can handle it, clean the suckers off the octopus, slice into bite size pieces and put on a platter. Drizzle the octopus with olive oil and fresh lemon, salt and pepper. Serve as an appetizer,;with salad and bread it's a great full course. Put any leftovers in a covered bowl with olive oil and vinegar to cover....it just gets better and better! You can make this recipe with Mavrodauphne wine instead of red wine vinegar, and you can also cook the octopus in it's own juice on very low heat until tender. When I have lots of time I like to put a whole head of garlic in tinfoil and bake it in the oven for about 1/2 hour; squeeze the tender baked garlic into the simmering octopus...very nice!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Onion Soup

this recipe becomes harder to make the more quality time
you spend with the ingredients.
We live up on a mountain, overlooking the sea. We have a really beautiful view, but we also have to climb up eighty-five stairs to enjoy it! We also have to climb these stairs with our groceries, run up them when we forget our keys, and then back down again and then back up again. Some days I go up and down six or seven times.Today has been one of those days where I feel like I'm training for the Marathon. I'll have to make a batch of onion soup. I have a big bag of strong, red onions that will be sure to raise the dead! That's why the Egyptians worshipped onions and buried them with the dead; they thought they would prompt the dead to breathe again! In ancient Greek days the doctors noted several uses for onions. They would use them to fortify athletes for the Olympic Games.  Athletes would consume several pounds of onions, drink vast amounts of onion juice and even rub onions on their bodies. This soup may not prepare me for the Olympics, but I sure will enjoy eating it and hopefully it will fortify me for a few more trips up and down the mountain.

Onion Soup

6 large onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 quart beef stock
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup rose wine
3 T. flour
salt and pepper
pinch of cumin
1 cup parmesan /mozzarela cheese (mixed)
sliced french bread or croutons
     

DISCLAIMER: not ALL onions
will raise the dead...
Preheat oven to hot (400F/220C); Saute the onions in 1/2 cup of the butter until golden brown; stirring often; slowly stir in the flour and the beef stock, bring to a boil, add the wine and seasonings and simmer for 1/2 hour. Place the toasted bread or croutons in casseroles, add the soup and sprinkle with cheese. Dot the top with bits of the remaining butter. Bake until the top is golden. The secret to this soup is a good rich beef stock, and very strong, raise the dead onions!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Melitzanosalata; (Eggplant dip)

Some days are just stay in bed and listen to the cat play yukelele days.
These are also good days for decorating your room with melitzanosalata.
Yannis has recently quit smoking! The time he used to spend smoking, he now uses to eat and create painstaking, time-consuming recipes, like moussaka. He'll spend hours salting, soaking, draining, patting, frying, drying and layering the eggplants. I prefer to make salad or dip out of these vegetables. We have several varieties of these nightshade specimens at our markets, so I looked up the different kinds on the internet. I was surprised to find out that the semi-wild variety grows up to 7 feet..so I can't possibly bake that in my oven. The white ones from Santorini aren't in season now, so I'll use the purple aubergines that are common all year round . I also learned that the egg plant is the closest relative to the tobacco plant and contains nicotine. So that's why Yannis is always wanting to cook with vast amounts of egg plants! I wonder if he knows that it takes 20 lbs to get the nicotine that's in one cigarette? I wonder if he knows about the wild ones?

Eggplant Dip

 1 large eggplant, or 2 medium eggplants
 1 clove garlic, mashed
 1 medium onion, grated
 1 Tbsp. parsley
 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
 1 tsp. oregano
 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
 salt and pepper
 olive oil
 fresh green onions for garnish, chopped

Poke the eggplant with a fork several times and bake at 350F/180C for one hour. Peel and chop the baked eggplant; add garlic (more may be added), onion, chopped tomato, parsley and salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to moisten;add the vinegar, mix well and chill. I like to add a little mayonaise to this recipe, but traditionalists would say forget it! This is a zesty dip, served on a bed of lettuce, with tomato wedges and olives. You can also put this in the blender before chilling and then serve with crackers, bread sticks or fresh bread.