Thursday, February 28, 2013

Married Pilaf -- Garbanzo Beans and Rice

When we lived in Athens, Thea was just a baby. When we would pull up to the never-changing light at the corner of Souvlaki Kiffisias, she would point at the pig on their sign and shout "cute red pig!" This taverna was famous for their great souvlakia, flambes and pantremeni (married), or garbanzo beans with rice. It is the first and only place I've had pantremeni, and so I always think of "The Cute Red Pig"(that eventually became just "The Pig"), now that Yannis has told me how to make this recipe at home. I love serving pantremeni as a cold salad, adding more lemon oil ,and fresh spring onions just before serving. It may not be a marriage made in heaven, but it sure is the perfect combination of garbanzo beans and rice at The Pig and on our table tonight!

Married Pilaf -- Garbanzo Beans and Rice
6-8 servings
1 lb. garbanzo beans, soaked overnight in salted water
1 cup long grain rice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 Tables. butter
3 fresh onions, finely chopped
1 Tables. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Cook the beans in plenty of water, without salt. When they come to a boil, scrape off the foam from the top of the water. Add the bay leaf and continue simmering for 45-60 minutes, drain, keeping 3 cups of the water. In a large casserole, heat the olive oil over medium heat, saute the onion and rice in the oil for 10 minutes or until the rice is golden brown. Add the beans,salt and pepper, butter and 2 glasses of the saved water. Cover and cook another 20 minutes. This dish should be juicy, so if it gets dry, add more water. Add the lemon and parsley or oregano if you like. This dish is served room temperature as a side dish or cold as a starter/salad..adding more olive oil and lemon when served. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Allevropita Cheese Pie

Whenever I suggest to Yannis that I make a cheese pie he never says no.  Cheese pie, or tiropita, in Greece, is kind of like potato chips to us Americans.  They come in all forms, flavors,and shapes, are served at all get-togethers,and they go with everything.  When we first arrived in Greece in the 80's, there was only one brand
of potato chips on the market, and they were called "tsips."  Now, like in America, we can find a myriad of brands of chips. (My favorite is Hamburger Sauce...?)  Tiropitas can be found in just as many varieties as potato chips. I like to add zucchini , tomatoes, olives, different cheeses, onions...anything I have a taste for.  I made this recipe almost everyday last week and it was always something different. This is such a great standard recipe.  So when Yannis is served tiropita, he  never quite knows what he's getting....but he knows it's always good and always without hamburger sauce!

Cheese Pie
1 1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1 cup crumbles feta
2 Tables. butter
1 Tables. baking powder
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 cup parmesan or kefalotiri cheese, grated

     Beat the eggs and stir in the milk,butter, and flour mixed with the baking powder and salt.  Stir in the feta and pour into a 9x12 baking pan.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup parmesan or kefaltiri over and bake in a hot oven 375F./220C. for about 1/2 hour or untill golden brown.  Slice  into squares and serve as a snack, or as a bread substitute.  You can add 1 cup grated zucchini or slice and drain a tomatoe, sliced olives and onions, and add any herb you like and have a quiche-like main dish for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Artichokes with Lemon and Dill

To be fair though, if the goddesses hadn't been
dressing like artichokes in the first place,
 he would have never  gotten the idea.
It's almost March and soon we will see ladies with their arms full of green stalks adorned with purple thistles coming from their neighborhood markets.  It's  time to cook up some artichokes.  I had never seen or tasted so many ways to prepare artichokes untill living in Greece.  These extremely nutritious plants are native to the Mediterranean region where they are even celebrated in festivals. Yannis told me they are mentioned  in the writings of Theophrastus as far back as 300 B.C., and actually have their origin in Greek mythology. One day when Zeus was visiting his brother Posiden on the island of Zinar, he spotted a lovely girl named Cynara.  She was not afraid of him and that really pleased him, so he took her home to Olympia and made her a goddess. Well, she got homesick and would go back to Earth to visit her family.  Zeus found out about this ungodly behaviour and hurled her to the earth where she was 
transformed into the plant we know as the artichoke.  I'm quite convinced this is a true story as even the dictionary says artichokes are from the genus Cynara!  So whether you believe me or not, you really must try this traditional Greek's absolutely divine!

Artichokes with Lemon and Dill

5 green onions, chopped
4 medium red potatoes, peeled and halved
4 carrots, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
2 Tables. flour
2 cups water
1 chicken stock cube
juice of two lemons
10-12 artichokes (cleaned bottoms)
1/2 cup fresh dill
salt and pepper

Saute the onions in the olive oil and butter; add the carrots and the potatoes, simmer for a few minutes and then add the flour, stirring till well mixed.  Add the boullion and water, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the artichokes, dill and lemon, cover and  simmer for 1/2 hour.  Add salt and pepper and serve as a main dish, in bowls, or as a vegetable side dish; either way, the sauce will need lots of crusty bread to enjoy every drop of it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Minnesota Oatmeal Bread

The Johnson Girls before the world invented color
This bread could be called My Aunt's Oatmeal Bread-but since there were six Johnson girls, it wouldn't be fair to name it after just one.  My Mom and her sisters were known for their beauty, great smiles, love of gardening and fun and their talent at throwing a dinner together for how ever many people would show up at their door. These sisters could cook and bake! Everything was whole, fresh food, probably from their gardens or  farms; or their neighbor's farm. They all lived in Minnesota and our families would visit back and forth almost every week.  I am so blessed to have a legacy of music, fun, gardening and great recipes in my life.  So, whatever you want to call this oatmeal bread, I call it one of the best breads in Minnesota, and probably even in the whole wide world!!!

Minnesota Oatmeal Bread
2 cups milk
2 Tables. butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 teas. salt
2 packages yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water, 
pinch of sugar
2 cups rolled oats
5-6 cups flour

Scald the milk and stir in the butter, brown sugar, molasses, salt and rolled oats; stir all together till dissolved and allow to cool.  In a large mixing bowl soften the yeast in the warm water and add a pinch of sugar. Let it stand several minutes and then add the milk mixture and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. (dough will spring back when pressed with the finger). Place the dough in a greased bowl, grease the surface, cover and let stand in a warm place for about two hours or until doubled in bulk.  Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, divide into thirds and shape into loaves. Put the loaves in 9x5 inch bread pans.  Brush the tops with melted butter, cover and let rise again for an hour. Bake at 400F./220C. for 45 minutes. Remove from the pans and allow to cool . I can never let them cool too much before cutting off a hunk and enjoying it with butter....just smells too wonderful!!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Spinach Pie

sisters on the hunt for the greatest spanakopita on poros
My sister Sandy likes to come and visit me this time of year.  When she finds cheap tickets, she hops on a plane in Minnesota and comes to Greece just for a chat and spanakopita!  We usually don't do much traveling, but where ever we go we have spanakopitas for breakfast or lunch.  It's kind of like bread in Greece; it's hard to find any that are not really good! Maybe it's because we were brought up on canned spinach; which is so disgusting and bears no resemblance at all to the fresh kind, that we are making up for all of those years without one of the most nutritious and delicious greens on the planet. Spinach Pie can be prepared with phyllo, puff pastry (home made or store bought), most any combination of cheeses and herbs, olive oil and or butter.  So if you can't get your hands on any cheap tickets to come to Greece for some super spanakopita...create your own! Here's the basic recipe:

Spinach Pie1 package phyllo (unthawed) or 2 sheets of puff pastry (9x12)
2-3 lbs. fresh spinach
3 tables. olive oil
1 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 leek, finely choppped
5 scallions, green part and all, finely chopped
1/2 cup salted butter
6 eggs
1/2 lb. feta, crumbled
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup dill, fresh
salt and pepper
1 cup sweet butter (if using phyllo)

Wash the spinach very well, dry and cut into 2 inch pieces.  Cook the spinach in oil until just wilted; drain. Lightly brown the onions, leeks and shallots in the salted butter. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, slightly beaten, cheeses, onions, shallots, leeks, dill, spinach(cooled) and season with salt and pepper.  Butter a 9x12 inch pan and place one pastry sheet or 6 phyllo leaves (buttering each leaf as you layer them in), spread the spinach mixture over  and cover with 6-10 more phyllo leaves or a puff pastry sheet.  Slice the top layer to mark the spanakopita into 2 inch squares, using a sharp knife or a razor. Brush the top layer with butter and bake at 350F./180C for about 1 hour or untill the top is golden brown.  This dish can be eaten hot or cold as a main dish or a vegetable side dish, but should always be served with tomatoes and olives, (according to a dear old
Greek chef). It really is the perfect flavor and color combination!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mari's Famous Brownies

Yannis is always telling me about the great contributions Greece has made in the world.  In fact, almost all good things come from Greece; democracy, Western civilization, poetry, and even most words. Well, I agree with him on most things but have to remind him of America's gifts to mankind. Like apple pie, Chevrolets and brownies! Yannis never enjoyed any of these lovely things till he went to America. The brownie was invented in the 1800's for a woman's luncheon party . The ladies wanted something between a cookie and cake that could be wrapped and put in a lunch box.  So, the talented Americans came up with brownies; that wonderful, chewy, chocolate treat.  OK, the Greeks have a version of apple pie and even a make of car, but nothing comparing to the all American brownie; after all, they aren't called caffies, or chocolatopitas!!

1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup flour mixed with 1/2 teas. salt , 1/2 teas. baking powder and
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teas. vanilla

Pre heat oven to 350F./180C., place 1 cup of butter in  a 9x12 " cake pan; stir in sugar and then add the eggs. Stir in the dry ingredients only till moistened and then add the vanilla.  If I have a good dark chocolate candy bar handy, I break up several pieces of it and stir it in.   Bake for 30 minutes, or untill you smell the awesome chocolate aroma.  It is better to under bake these rather than bake till dry. This is such an easy recipe-no pans, bowls or mixers to clean either!  These brownies are super moist and chewy. They can be frosted with butter cream frosting with 3 Tablespoons of cocoa stirred in, and a splash of kalua.  Walnuts can be sprinkled on top and if you're in a hurry, just dust the brownies with powdered sugar.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Baked Leg of Lamb and Potatoes

true story.
Every day life can be traumatically real for newcomers to Greece; especially life in the villages.  Yannis had taken me to the countryside to enjoy a lovely spring day with friends and family shortly after arriving in Greece. We arrived with our two small children, the appropriate gift of sweets and hungry stomachs....that is untill I saw the men sitting around a small table sipping their ouzo's and plunging their forks into a grilled skull's eye balls, tongue and brains!!! We were invited to sit down to a dinner of the rest of the lamb and  I politely professed that I was a vegetarian.  Back then most Greeks couldn't fathom that anyone would or could ever go without eating lamb, their national favorite food!  So I kept giving my lamb to Yannis, who was more than happy to take it off my hands..or plate,rather.  We make Yannis favorite roasted lamb whenever it's time to celebrate., but we go to the butchers and come home with only it's leg!

Baked Leg of Lamb with Potatoes
6-7 lb. leg of lamb, with bone and no spices
6 cloves of garlic, quartered
2 Tables. oregano
coarse grain salt
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
8 large potatoes
1 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
salt and pepper
2 Tables.oregano

the kind of meal you wanna eat in photoshopped skivvies
Wash and dry the leg of lamb.  Place it in a baking dish and poke holes into the meat on all sides..Put the quartered garlic into the holes.  Rub the meat with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Squeeze 2 lemons over and cover with saran wrap.  Put in the refrigerator to marinate at least 2 hours..and up to 3 days; the longer the better.  Take out and let it sit at room temperature for 1/2 hour before baking in a hot oven for 15 minutes, or until dark on the bottom of the pan. (450F./220C.)  Stir in one cup of water and stir very well, mixing the dark drippings into the water.  Roast for one hour.  Prepare the potatoes by cleaning and cutting them into wedges.  Place in a bowl and pour 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 Tbsp oregano, salt and pepper and 1/4 cup butter over the potatoes, mixing with your hands till they are nicely coated.  Add the potatoes to the meat and continue roasting, uncovered for another hour.  Let the meat stand for 15 minutes  before serving with a Greek salad, lots of bread and lots and lots of red wine!  This is a great meal for your Greek Valentine's Day Feast!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mari's Basic White Cake

someone gets grumpy if there "doesn't is anything sweet"
After every meal Yannis asks "do there is anything sweet?"  I usually offer him some fruit as I've quit baking sweets for the two of us.  If he shakes his head in disappointment I'll whip up a white cake and in a half an hour he's enjoying his dessert.  I think this is the recipe I've prepared more than any other throughout my baking  years!  The secret to it's wonderful dense consistency is the butter and whole milk, and  we love the taste of coconut mixed in. So.  I'll be making one of these for Valentine's Day.  I'll serve it with whipped fresh cream and juicy strawberries, so when Yannis asks for something sweet, I'll tell him he can have his cake..and eat it too!

Mari's Basic White Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs

Beat the above ingredients together, add alternately...

2 cups flour with 2 1/2 teas. baking powder, 1/2 teas. salt
3/4 cup milk
1 teas. vanilla or 1 teas. fresh lemon juice

stir well and add 1 cup of coconut (optional)
pour in round cake pan, bake at 350 F./180C. for 25-30 minutes

I use this cake to serve with fresh fruit and ice cream or whipped cream (or both)- I also frost this cake with white butter cream frosting, or chocolate cream frosting, or just sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Plaki--Baked Fish

"What a tender fish I had, how perfectly did I serve it.  Not drugged with cheese, nor decked on top with herbs.  But even when baked, it looked exactly like when it was alive" 
--Deipnosophistae, 200 A.D.
Provider of Crappies
When I first visited Yannis home in Greece and was served grilled mullets with their heads on, I was absolutely astonished.  I even got up on top of the refrigerator to take a picture to show my family back in Minnesota!  You see, Minnesota is called the land of 10,000 lakes and probably 95 % of the population are fishermen.  My Dad was part of that percentage and brought home vast amounts of crappies and walleyes.  When they arrived on our table they were fried or broiled, fillets, served with tartar sauce and copious amounts of Land O Lakes Butter.  Yannis family ate alot of fish when he was growing up too as fish was a very cheap item back then.  His grandmother would prepare it in many different ways, but plaki, or baked fish was always one of his favorites.  Greeks want to know that their fish is fresh so they prepare it with the heads on to show the eyes which reflect the state of the meal!   I prepare it with frozen fillets...I'm sure Deipnosophistae wouldn't approve, but I'll bet these would go over big in Minnesota! 
you can caaaall me Al!

2 lbs. fish fillets
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup celery (optional)
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine
2 lemons
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Wash and clean the fish;( you can use most any type of fish for this dish mackerel, cod, snapper or haddock are a few suggestions).  Dry the fish well and place them in a well oiled baking dish.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the fish after sqeezing the juice of one lemon over them.  Put the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well; pour over the fish fillets.  Bake at 350F/180C for 45 minutes or until fish is done.  Serve with a salad and boiled potatoes.  Yannis Yiayia would put potatoe rondells in with the fish and you could actually add any thinly sliced vegetable you like to this recipe.  This is such an easy way to prepare fish and is really, really good!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bran Muffins

When we first lived in Greece in the 80's, there were alot of things I didn't dare to dream of having. I didn't dream of having a telephone, (it took ten years to get a telephone after making an application!). I also didn't dream of renting a video, going out for fast food, buying a car or making bran muffins. Not only couldn't you find muffin papers, the cereal aisle consisted of Corn Flakes, Weetabix and Wheetabix Flakes.  I loved so many things about Greece back then when it was so Greek, but I do appreciate the fact that I have a phone, car, internet and can dream about making Bran Muffins any time I feel like it!!

Bran Muffins

1 cup hot water
1 cup 100% Bran
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tables. molasses
2 cups buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 teas. salt
2 cups All Bran
1 cup rolled oats or granola
walnuts and raisins (optional)

I may/may not have had too many muffins

Mix water and bran and let stand till cooled; cream shortening, sugar , eggs and molasses till smooth.  Sift dlour, soda and salt and stir into batter;  Fold in All Bran until moistened.  Walnuts, raisins and small apple bits are optional.  Bake in muffin tins 20 minutes at 350F./200C.  The batter may be kept in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks.  You can also double this recipe to have a batch of muffins ready for big groups.  I love these warm, with butter, maybe even honey, with my morning coffee; and they aren't too bad served for dessert either!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I asked Yannis if he had any suggestions for a recipe this morning.  He said, "Yes, why don't you do something healthy, like carrot cake?"  I laughed as Yannis is known for choosing flavor over nutrition every time!  Ok, I know that carrots are full of carotene, which turns into Vitamin A, and we all know that helps us see better...even in the dark!  I also know carrots are full of fiber, anti oxidants and minerals. I know walnuts are a good soure of protein, as are eggs. So, I guess I'll take Yannis advice and get grating some carrots.  I also know eating carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is a real joy!!!  And we all know joyful people are really healthy!!!

Carrot Cake 

3 cups flour
1 teas. baking powder
3 teas. soda
1 tes. salt
2 teas. cinnamon
2 cups sugar (I use mainly light brown sugar)
1 1/2 cups oil
3 cups grated carrots
4 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cp sultanas

sift dry ingredients; beat sugar and oil very well; add eggs one at a time; add flour mixture and then fold in carrots, nuts and sultanas. I sometimes add 1/2 cup crushed pineapple if I have it on hand.  Bake in 2 round pans or a bundt pan at 350F/180C for 40-45 minutes.
When cool frost with.....

M.J.'s first attempts at skin whitening
involved copious amounts of Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
6 Tables. butter , softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teas. vanilla extract
juice of 1/2 lemon
dash of salt.

Cream together the butter and cream cheese; slowly beat in the powdered sugar till smooth and lump free; add the vanilla, lemon juice and salt.  Frost a 2 layer or  drizzle over a bundt ice cream required for this awesome dessert!