Greek Cooking for the Gods, Indeed

We’ve been a little distracted by Hannukah around here, but not too distracted to cook and eat, and oh-my-god, what delectables we’ve been devouring. Really.  And you, my lucky readers, will be able to benefit from all this feasting because I am now going to share a couple of recipes from Greece with you:  Sfougato, a baked omelette from the island of Rhodes (my husband, Beto, cooked this)  and Baked Fish A La Kalamata.  Tomorrow,  tune in for that famous Greek dish: “Mousaka” which I’ll be cooking tonight.

The following recipe is another delicious one adapted from Clifford A. Wright’s Mediterranean Feast:

Sfougata, baked omelette from Rhodes

  • 1/4 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 lb. ground veal, beef, or lamb
  • 1 lb. zucchini, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh dill
  • 1 c. hot water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 large eggs, beaten
  • Dried (gluten free) bread crumbs for sprinkling
  • Feta cheese for garnish

1) In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, then cook the onion until soft and yellow, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the meat, breaking it up with a fork and cook until it loses its raw color, about 10 minutes.  Add the zuchini, parsley, dill and hot water and season with salt and pepper.  Stir to blend, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the zucchini is soft and the sauce flavorful, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) Transfer the contents of the skillet to a large bowl to cool, using a slotted ladle to drain of excess liquid.  Beat the eggs into the bowl.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3) Sprinkle the bread crumbs lightly on the bottom of a buttered casserole (about 8x11x2 inches), then pour in the egg and meat mixture.  Bake until the eggs set, about 25 minutes.  Serve warm with feta cheese crumbled on top.

Makes 4-6 servings.

The next recipe is from a cookbook that Helen Fisher loaned me, called Greek Cooking for the Gods, by Eva Zane and it is full of wonderful recipes. I will have to get back to it after this week, because there are too many things to cook in one brief two-week period.

Baked Fish A La Kalamata

  • 4 halibut fillets or a whole white fish(I used cod fillets cuz that’s what we had in the freezer)
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of one lemon
  • 4 lemon slices
  • 1 cup seedless raisins
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 can whole tomatoes (12 oz)
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cup olive oil (I didn’t use this much)

Wipe fillets; sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Marinate raisins in wine.  Place sliced onions in skillet with 1/2 cup of water; cover and steam until the onions are soft (about 10 minutes).  Add tomatoes, olive oil, cloves, raisins, and wine to onions and cook over low fire until well blended.  Cover a baking pan with a light layer of the onion mixture; arrange the fillets, side by side, on top of this, and cover with the remaining onion mixture.  Place one lemon slice on each fillet and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

I served this with white rice and green salad and everyone loved it.  Eva Zane recommends white retsina wine with it.

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Ooops — a note to add to Bob Chorba Recipe

I’m so sorry but I forgot to mention one important detail that I added to the Bob Chorba which made a big difference in flavor; the water that you cook everything in should be flavored up with some kind of gluten free bouillion, or use broth instead.  I used two different chicken bouillion cube/powders that I keep handy.

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More Balkan Delights

Since my last posting, I’ve made Romanian chicken kebabs and added a lovely Bulgarian bean soup to our family favorites.  Boy was I surprised when everybody in my family liked a vegetarian dish!

But before I get to the recipes, let me make a brief announcement to my faithful readers:  I’m having hip replacement surgery right after New Year’s Day, so I may be a little distracted from doing a lot of cooking and posting in the next few weeks, and I will not be doing any cooking in January, at least for a while. But I’ll be back, because the next culinary sojourn will be to Italy and I can’t wait to plunge in!  And we still have another week of delicious Balkan recipes, including a baked omelet from the island of Rhodes, and a lamb stew from Greece.  Stay posted, friends. . . . . lots of delectable recipes to be revealed.

Bob Chorba (Monastery Style) White Bean Soup

  • 1 lb. white beans (I recommend cannellini)
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1/2 celery diced
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 tomatoes diced
  • 2 green peppers, minced
  • 1 chile pepper (optional)
  • several Tbs. fresh parsley, minced
  • pinch of mint or oregano (mint was yummy)
  • salt to taste

Soak the beans in cold water for 3-4 hours and drain.  Cover with fresh water and boil in a pot together with carrots, onion and celery.  Boil until the beans are soft, then add peppers, tomatoes and mint/oregano. Add salt to taste and boil for another 15-20 minutes.  Serve sprinkled with finely chopped parsley.

Note: The type of bean makes a big difference. Cannellini beans kept their firmness and also gave the dish a more visual appeal. Also, the original of this recipe called for 2 Tbs. of oil in the pot, but I did not add it.

Romanian Chicken Kebabs, (Frigarui) served with Romanian Garlic Sauce.

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 and 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 ounce mixed chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley)
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 ounces plain yogurt (I used soy yogurt because of dairy intolerance
  • 1 red pepper cut in large 1-2 inch chunks
  • 1 green pepper cut in large 1-2 inch chunks
  • 1 onion, cut from stalk end into eighths.

Combine herbs, pepper, lemon juice, sugar, ginger, garlic and yogurt and then place mixture in a plastic zip-top bag or other sealable container.  Add chicken cubes, covering all the chicken pieces with marinade, and refrigerate over night or at least three hours.

Heat grill. (You can also broil in oven, but be sure to turn them)  Thread chicken pieces on skewers, interspersing them with the pepper and onion pieces.  (If skewers are wooden, soak for an hour so they don’t catch fire on the grill). Grill kebabs on greased grates about 10 to 15 minutes or until done and serve with Romanian Garlic Sauce.

Romanian Garlic Sauce

  • 1 head fresh garlic, peeled and separated into cloves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or beef broth)
  • black pepper

1)  Put the cloves of garlic in a mortar with the salt and crush until they are a paste. (You can also crush them in a press or mince very finely and then add the salt later).

2)  Put the mashed garlic in a bowl and add the oil, beating with a fork until it is well mixed and somewhat fluffy.

3)  Add the sour cream or the beef broth and mix well.

4)  Serve with grilled meat, fish, or french fries, baked potatoes etc.

(This recipe was from Food.com, under the title of Mujdei De Ustoroi, or Romanian Garlic Sauce).

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Balkan Bounty

The Balkan countries really captured my imagination when I was teaching European history at the Waldorf School a few years ago, perhaps because I knew absolutely nothing about them, except for Greece.  Since then I’ve read some pretty horrifying books — borrowed from Lucas who was taking a history class on the region — about all the recent conflicts in these countries, but it has not lessened my fascination with them.  Romania, the country of gypsies, Count Dracula, the mysterious Carpathian Mountains, the Danube river delta, cherries, and the fifth romance language, is a place I’d love to go someday.

So, appropriately, my first recipe for this week is from Romania, and in the spirit of trying to be more careful with the budget, I’ve chosen something we can all relate to — grilled hamburgers Romanian style, called “mittitei.” Everyone in the family liked them and the ingredients were all familiar. While it is traditional to roll them into sausage-like shapes, we made them into American-style patties and put them on gluten free buns.

The second two recipes are from Bulgaria, the country to the south of Romania, and both are easy on the pocket book and delicious.

Mittitei, Grilled Romanian Hamburger

  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. crumbled dried thyme
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup beef stock, fresh or canned
  • Vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a deep bowl.  Knead vigorously with both hands until ingredients are well blended.  Then pour in the stock and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.  Taste for seasoning.  Divide the mixture into 18 equal portions and roll each one into a cylinder about 3 and 1/2 inches long and 1 inch thick, mostening your hands with cold water as you proceed.

Grill or broil on the highest setting about 3 inches from the heat for about 8 minutes, turning them with a spatula or tongs ever few minutes until they are crisp and brown on all sides.

(This recipe is from Cooks.com)

Bulgarian Lentil Stew

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs. savory or oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs. corn flour mixed with a little water

Boil lentils in slightly salted water about 20 to 25 minutes.  Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions, carrots, and celery for about 5 minutes and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the cooked and drained lentils, the tomatoes with liquid, and the garlic to the pan and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.  Add the corn flour mixture to thicken the dish, then season with salt, pepper and savory or oregano.  (Tastes great with sausages)

Bulgarian Shopska Salad

  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 long cucumbers
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/3 bunch parsley
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup Bulgarian cheese, or feta cheese. (We actually used a Spanish goat cheese and it was delicious)

Chop tomatoes, a little larger than diced, cucumber, and pepper and put in a bowl.  Add onions and parsley.  Sprinkle with oil and vinegar and mix it all together.  Grate the cheese on top.

 

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Drowning in Turkey, Already!

Somehow, we ended up with two enormous turkeys this year, and we’re not even cooking Thanksgiving dinner!  The first gobbler was one that I bought from a friend of mine who raised a bunch of turkeys herself on a small, urban lot in downtown Tucson.  When my friend told me about her project several months ago, I was so impressed that I pledged to buy one of her largest turkeys and plunked down several dollars in advance.  That turkey came home last week and we plopped it in the freezer.

The other turkey came from my husband’s work; they give one free turkey and one free ham to every employee every Thanksgiving.  I tried to convince Beto that we should donate the turkey to the food pantry, but that idea did not go over well.  Not that he doesn’t care about the poor — he’s just not convinced (at least on an emotional level)  that he’s still not one of them himself, even after all these years of being a successful professional!  So home came the ginormous turkey last Friday, along with the ham.

We cooked both turkeys over the weekend and have been eating turkey ever since.  Tonight I’m making Tortilla soup with bits of turkey meat — not Spain, but I promise that I’ll get back on track next week with food from the Balkans, including Greece.  Meantime, have a wonderful holiday and check in with me after the weekend!  (I promise, there will be no turkey in my recipes).

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Budget Crisis

At the risk of sounding like a total idiot, I’ve suddenly discovered that fancy, exotic cooking can be hard on the old pocket book.  Over the weekend and into early this week I made a couple of wonderful dishes from Spain and had fun chasing down genuine Spanish (hard) chorizo — good old A.J.’s came through again — and discussing the merits of various cognacs with the wine specialist — again at A.J.’s.  However, when I logged into my household account to check the balance, I was shocked to discover that I had only a few bucks to last me another two and a half weeks! (Finance has never been my strong point)  So I announced to the men folk that we would be eating out of freezer and pantry for awhile, and that I would put my cooking skills to the test by getting creative with whatever was at hand.  Gee, what a concept.

By the way, I’ve been reading some amazing books about food recently.  Did you know that Spain consumes more fish than any other European country?  It must be those Catholic Fridays — do they still have to eat fish once a week?   I highly recommend Mark Kurlansky’s Cod, A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. I do not recommend  Linda Civitello’s book, Cuisine and Culture. Very shallow. But of course, as a cultural anthropologist, I would be looking for something with a little more heft.  On the other hand, the text in Clifford Wright’s book, that I mentioned earlier — A Mediterranean Feast — is fascinating.  It appears that most of what my family gravitates to in  Spanish cooking has medieval Arab roots in Andalucia, where the Moors lived for several hundred years.

El Rape Mozarabe (Andalucia)                                                      A Mozarab Monkfish (or Swordfish) Ragout

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • One 2 lb. monkfish or swordfish fillet, cut into 8 pieces.
  • All purpose (gluten free) flour for dusting
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 2 Tbs. golden raisins
  • 3 Tbs. cognac
  • 1 cup fish broth

1)  In a large skillet, hat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over medium high heat.  Meanwhile, dust the fish with flour and salt, tapping off any excess flour.  Cook the fish until lightly golden, about 3 minutes per side, turning only once.  Set aside.

2)  In a medium size stove-top casserole [or big skillet] heat the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil over medium high heat, then cook the onion and carrot until softened, about 6 minutes, stirring. Add the fish to the casserole/pan along with the raisins and cognac and cover with the fish broth.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook until sauce is thicker, about 15 minutes, adding tablespoons of water if the sauce dries out.  Serve immediately.

Recipe from Craig Wright’s Mediterranean Feast.

This next dish was absolutely awesome — colors like a carnival and absolutely beautiful to set on the table in a big, rustic casserole dish.  By the way, I learned from Wright that “Flamenco/a” in the Andalucian dialect can mean the colorful cuisine of that region, as well as their famous dance form of that name, but it also can mean a well-stacked female.  !!!!

Huevos al Plato a la Flamenca Baked Eggs, Sausage, Ham, Peppers, Asparagus, and Peas

  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 10 asparagus tips, chopped
  • 10 green beans, ends trimmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 potato (about 1/2 lb) peeled and diced
  • 1/4 lb cured ham (jamon serrano or prosciutto), diced.
  • 1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 lb. commercially cured hard Spanish chorizo sausage or pepperoni, diced.
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste mixed with 1/4 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 14 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, slivered

1)  Bring a medium size saucepan of salted water to a boil and blanch the peas, asparagus, and green beans for 4 minutes. (If using frozen peas, drop them in for the last minute of cooking) Remove and plunge into ice water to stop their cooking.  Drain and set aside.

2)  In a large stove-top oven proof pan [I used two separate vessels — a skillet for the stove top and a casserole for the oven] heat the olive oil over low heat and cook the onion, potato, and diced cured ham together until the potato is almost soft, about 25 minutes, stirring a few times.  Add the tomato and stir together for 4 minutes.  Add the bell pepper, beans, peas, asparagus, chorizo, sherry and diluted tomato paste and season with salt and pepper.  Increase the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat.

3)  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Break the eggs carefully into the pan over the vegetables, arranging nicely if possible.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, parsley, paprika, and the slivered butter.  Bake until the whites set, about 15 minutes.

4) Roll up the cured ham slices.  Garnish each quarter of the pan with a roll up of ham, a slice of chorizo, and a piece of bell pepper [I stacked them with toothpicks in little towers] Serve immediately from the pan.

Rich, delicious, beautiful and everyone in the family loved it.  A real winner on every front.

Recipe adapted from Clifford Wright’s Mediterranean Feast.

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¡Que Viva España!

We are all humming with happiness around here now that the weather is cooler and the food is spicier.  On Saturday I cooked a delicious Arab-Andalusian vegetable ragout deeply flavored with paprika, along with  a golden, crisp garlic chicken dish with saffron.  I will include those recipes and the promised beet and tuna salad, — an unexpectedly delicious  juxtaposition of flavors that we all really loved. (In fact, I had been fantasizing about having the leftovers for lunch on Friday, and spent a good fifteen minutes ransacking the fridge, only to discover the empty plastic container — still fragrant with wine vinegar and garlic — on Luke’s bedside table!)

But before I launch into the recipes, let me take a minute to thank Helen Fisher for a lovely afternoon in her kitchen hearing stories of her worldwide cooking adventures  and looking at cookbooks from around the world, most of which she and her family had published as HP books. She loaned me a grocery sack full of cookbooks and told me I could come back for more when I need them.  I have always loved her cooking and her cookbooks, so I can’t wait to dive in. (Helen is mother of one of my dearest friends from childhood — we all go back to the same little church in Palo Alto)

Remolachas con Atún / Beets with Tuna          Recipe from  Andalucia

  • 10 small beets, yellow or red
  • One 3 1/2 ounce can imported tuna in olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1.  Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the beets whole with a portion of their stems until easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool — then peel, trim and dice.

2.  Place beets in a bowl or platter, add tuna with its oil (I drained the oil — too greasy for my taste) breaking it apart.  Sprinkle some salt, the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and parsley on top of the beets and tuna. Toss gently but thoroughly and serve.

(Adapted from Clifford Wright’s A Mediterranean Feast)

Alboronia / Arab-Andalucian Vegetable Ragout

  • 1 large eggplant, about 2 lbs.
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. onions chopped ( I used 2 medium onions)
  • 4 green peppers (about 4 lbs) seeded and chopped
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 lb.) peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 1/4 lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (I confess that I used a large can of diced tomatoes because the tomatoes here in Tucson tend to be awful not to mention that I’m lazy)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs.  paprika

1.  Lay the eggplant pieces on some paper towels and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave to drain of their bitter juices for 30 minutes, then pat dry with more paper towels.

2.  In a large pot or casserole, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then cook the onions until translucent, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the eggplant, peppers, and zucchini and continue to cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.   Add the tomatoes, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. Sprinkle in the paprika and 1 Tbs. salt and cook another 15 minutes.  Serve a little warmer than room temperature, not hot.  (You really get all the flavors when it’s not hot).

Makes 6 servings                    (Slightly modified from A Mediterranean Feast)

Spanish Garlic Chicken

  • One 3 lb. chicken
  • 1 head of garlic, divided into cloves, unpeeled, lightly crushed.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. sherry wine vinegar  ( I used red wine vinegar)
  • 1 Tbs. white wine
  • Several strands of saffron, crumbled
  • Sea Salt

1.  Cut the chicken wings in two parts, discarding tips.  Hack off the bony end of the legs.  Divide the remainder of the chicken into quarters, then hack or cut with kitchen shears into 2″ pieces.  Sprinkle well with sea salt on both sides and let sit for 10 minutes.  (Some people don’t like chicken cut this way, because of bones, but it’s a method for cooking it fast and hot).

2.  Heat the olive oil (it should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep) in a large skillet or cazuela until it is very hot.  Add the chicken and the garlic cloves and cook over a high flame, turning the pieces frequently for about 12 to 13 minutes until the chicken is well browned and cooked through.  Drain the chicken in a meshed strainer and discard the oil.

3.  In the skillet in which the chicken has cooked, combine the minced garlic, vinegar, wine, saffron, and a pinch of sea salt.  Bring to a boil, add the chicken pieces, and toss until the liquid is absorbed and chicken is golden yellow in color.

Recipe adapted from La Tienda at tienda.com/recipes

 

¡Que disfruten!   Enjoy, Enjoy, Enjoy!


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