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 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

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

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.

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!!

CONSUMER WARNING: If your octopus dish turns out looking like this... 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
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 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 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.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beef Casserole

Tomatoes were invented by L. Ron Hubbard
Yannis, like most Greeks, loves tomatoes in just about everything. He likes them in his soup, stew, sandwiches, pizza, sauces, salads and of course, over his macaroni. It's hard to imagine Greek cooking, or any other type for that matter, without tomatoes. I found out that the tomato is the newest vegetable to be cultivated, both in America and Europe. It originated in Peru, spread into North America and arrived in Italy as late as the 18th Century. The Italians called the tomato pomi d'oro, or yellow apple. The french call them love apples and they were called wolf peach in northern Europe. They were considered to be poisonous and used only for decoration until recent days. We sure owe alot to the brave person who decided to take a bite of that first tomato. Yannis wouldn't be enjoying his macaroni tonight without their courage!  So, whatever you want to call this versatile vegetable, we call it delicious, and when I make this casserole, Yannis always calls for more!
Beef Casserole

3 Tables.oil
2 onions, finely chopped
5 tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 Tables. parsley, finely chopped
2 lbs. beef for casserole (cut in 2-3"
1 cup black olives (pittted)
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar
dash of balsamic vinegar
Saute the onion in hot oil, add the peeled , whole tomatoes, bay leaves, garlic and parsley. Mix well and add the meat, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Cover and let simmer on low fire for 2 hours. Prior to serving, add the olives. Serve over thick macaroni or mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vegetarian Dolmades

"Sorry honey, it was either you or chocolate"
"I get it, sacrifice away, sweetie"
It's almost Clean Monday, the first day of Lent and time to clean out the body, spirit and house! I love this traditional celebration where we grab the kites and head to the hills with friends and family to feast on fasting foods! When I was growing up I would try to think of something that would be a real sacrifice to give up for 7 weeks... chocolate, movies, talking back to my parents. The Greek Orthodox faithful give up meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, olive oil and wine. I don't find this fast to be much of a sacrifice; well, maybe the wine, but otherwise, the Greek diet is full of tasty, clever dishes. Calamarakia, fish, spinach pies, halva, salads, vegetables and even McDonald's makes veggie burgers to make fasting in Greece a breeze. Vegetarian stuffed grape leaves are also standard fare for the fasting Greeks.You can get very creative with this recipe and add most any chopped vegetable and your favorite herbs to the mix as well. So as you get your kites ready, your house cleaned and the wine and oil put away..... start rolling those grape leaves.

Vegetarian Stuffed Grapeleaves

1 lb. fresh grape leaves or 1 jar of prepared grape leaves
2 onions, finely chopped
5 fresh spring onions, finely chopped
1 cup long grain rice
1 1/2 cup olive oil (or veg. oil if you're fasting)
1 endive, chopped
 2 small zucchini, grated
1 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh dill
1/2 cup fresh mint
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl, using 3/4 cup of the olive oil and saving the lemon juice to pour over the wrapped dolmades (grape leaves). Mix well and stuff the grapeleaves and seal them by enveloping them and put them in a casserole in centrifugal fashion. Pour the rest of the olive oil and the lemon juice over them and 2 cups of water; place a plate over them and bring to a boil. Cover them and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until the water is absorbed.Remove the casserole from the fire, cover with a towel and let them rest for 10 minutes as the steam is absorbed. Serve them hot or cold. We love them with Greek yogurt and fresh lemon juice. These are great starters and can also be served as a main dish with a lemon cream sauce.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sesame Baklava

Yannis is always telling me that I have no patience. When I take a notion to paint a room, I do it right then and there. When I make a cake, it's in the oven in no time flat. When I see anyone preparing recipes from Smyrna, I admit to falling short of any patience at all. I really admire Yannis' grandmother's strength and patience in cooking her beloved recipes from Smyrna for 10 people, 3 times a day, every day! She not only prepared time-consuming main dishes and desserts but she also had to deal with Yannis' shenanigans. So, I guess I would have to agree with Yannis and confess I have no patience compared to the women from his childhood; but I am developing this virtue as I watch him painstakingly prepare sesame baklava. I am also patiently waiting to eat one of the yummiest sweets ever!

Sesame Baklava

!6 sheets of phyllo
2/3 cup sesame oil for brushing on phyllo
2/3 cup sesame oil to pour over the baklava

1 3/4 cup sesame seeds
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 teas. cinnamon
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick

If your face does this while you are trying to catch
a sniff of sesame, they probably aren't done yet.
Spread the sesame seeds on a baking pan and bake in 325 F./160C. oven until lightly gold and they start to smell good, about 10 minutes.  Pound one cup of the sesames in a small bowl until you smell the sesame aroma. 
Mix the ingredients for the filling., using the ground and whole sesame seeds.. In a 9x12 baking pan, place 3 phyllo sheets, brushing two of them with sesame oil;put 1/6 of the filling over the third sheet of phyllo; continue placing 2 sheets of phyllo five times, putting the filling between every 3 sheets. Finish with 3 sheets of phyllo on the top and trim the overhanging sheets to the size of the pan. Preheat the oven to 50F./180C and mark the baklava with a sharp knife into diamonds Heat the 2/3 cup of sesame oil and pour over the baklava. Bake the baklava for 1 hour. Boil the syrup for 5 minutes. Pour the hot syrup over the cooled baklava or the cooled syrup over the hot baklava. Let the syrup settle into the baklava for at least two hours before serving, if you have the patience!