Saturday, August 25, 2012

Greece is the word

How can I even put into words how amazing my two weeks in Greece were? I can't. In fact, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for almost a month, pictures without words. I hesitate to even share these pictures, because my trip was so special and amazing, that I sort of want to keep them for myself. Does that make any sense?

But, I have an obligation to show you some food. So here it is: What I Ate for Two Weeks in July in Greece.

There is a reason certain foods are considered Greek foods. Lemons, feta, eggplant, watermelon, tomatoes... they are all better -- fresher, plumper, more flavorful -- in Greece. And, as in other Mediterranean cultures, the Greeks don't over-season in the kitchen. Just a squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of olive oil is all you need.

grilled pepers made a regular appearance on my plate

eggplant, grilled and sprinkled with minced garlic and feta

When we ate at home or at a relative's house, it was lots of meats and veggies on the grill, doused with lemon juice and paired with a big hunk of bread to sop of the juices.

Trips to the fresh market were so much fun. Besides having the freshest ingredients for that night's dinner, there was excellent people watching, and really cool handmade needlework, hand-woven rugs, jewelry, etc. All of which I brought home with me. :)

you better believe I brought home some olives...

When we went out to eat, it was for the freshest seafood I've ever tasted. Octopus, calamari, sardines, fried to perfection. Restaurants along the river served river trout so fresh, it tasted as if they caught it when they saw us walking up to the door. Which may have been the case, actually.

Dimitri enjoyed the food, too, albeit second-hand (or second-boob)

Of course, there were the staples: traditional Greek salad with every meal, greasy gyros stuffed with fries, lemons by the dozens that were always squeezed dry at the table, and the richest, most delicious feta I had ever tasted.

seriously, to die for.

But I'd have to say, my favorite meals were always the ones cooked by friends and family. Yiayia's papoutsakia, Cousin Laki's souvlaki, Chris's grilled sausage, Aprodite's mussels in dill orzo and homemade ice cream sandwiches with homemade peach ice cream, to name a few.

"This is souvlaki country" -Cousin Laki

my only complaint: the plates weren't big enough.

And all of this framed by the Aegean Sea on one side...

...and Mt. Olympus on the other.


So there you have it. One of the most delicious parts of the most incredible trip ever. Maybe one day I'll share the other parts, too. But you might have to request those in person. :)


Monday, August 20, 2012

unlikeliest pair

Remember the sausage class I took at BU a while back? Well, I fiiiiiiinally decided to have a go at the roasted sausage recipe, and boy am I glad I did. Holy crow. So glad.

I started by melting a little butter, about 1T, over medium heat in a dutch oven. Then, I tossed in a couple cups of grapes, let them heat for a few minutes and making sure they coated with butter. I only had green grapes on hand, but red would work as well. In fact, next time I make this I plan on using both. Oh yeah, while all this is happening, the oven is preheating to 400 degrees.

After a couple of minutes, I added three hot italian sausages to the grapes. I didn't leave them on the stove for very long, maybe 5-7 minutes.

** I should clarify: Be sure to position the sausage on top of the grapes. Otherwise, your sausages will cook too quickly. Plus, you want them to help weigh down those grapes and squeeze the juices out!

When the oven is preheated, I added some balsamic, covered the pot and stuck them in for about 15-20 minutes. Then this happened, and I was very happy:

Everything should be nicely browned when it's finished. Once I was satisfied with the color, I transferred the sausage and grapes to a serving dish, and returned the pot to the stove. Over med-high heat, I added a high quality balsamic vinegar to the crusty bits in the pot, stirring them up and scraping the bottom until everything reduced and turned thick and syrup-y.

Finally, I poured my beautiful balsamic reduction over my beautiful sausage. Beautiful!

I served this with a super simple bowl of mashed red potatoes and some asparagus. Please, do yourself a favor and make this. It's so, so easy to make. But it looks so impressive and fancy. I would definitely make this for a special occasion and it would knock everyone's socks off. Then they would lift me over their heads and sing "For she's a jolly good fellow!" and I'd be the hero of the day. All because I cooked sausage with grapes.

Sausage with grapes, y'all. Do it.

Mambo Italiano

I came home from Greece to a broken refrigerator, and ended up not eating in my house all week. When we finally got a new one, we needed something cheap to offset our restaurant expenses, and decided on spaghetti and meatballs.

I don't think I've ever made meatballs myself before, but how hard can it be? We decided to make a healthy version, and picked up some ground lean turkey from Publix. I remembered the sage growing in my yard, and realized this would be the perfect dish for it.

I mixed 1lb. turkey with:
about 3 sprigs sage, finely chopped (probably came to a couple tablespoons)
fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
~1tsp red pepper flakes
splash worcestershire
1 egg
any other herbs you like... I added a little dried oregano

garden herbs
I rolled them into about 1" balls, rolled them in breadcrumbs and fried them in a little olive oil for a few minutes, and then finished them off in the oven.

We used whole wheat angel hair pasta, and doctored up a Publix-brand sauce with some fresh garlic, herbs and parmesan reggiano. This time, I remembered to add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water to the sauce, which made a big difference. When the meatballs were done, I threw those in...

Not to toot my own horn, but these were some pretty awesome meatballs. Cheap and healthy too. I'm looking forward to playing around with this recipe.

Have you ever made homemade meatballs? Any secrets you want to share?

p.s. The Greece post has been pending for a while now. I'm honestly having trouble putting my experience into words. Maybe I'll just post food pictures? I'm not sure. Thanks for being patient while I figure it out :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

PFW: Market Fresh

Before I left for Greece, my mom, sisters and I enjoyed another Party Food Wednesday/Downton Abbey night.

My mom and I decided on a menu while perusing the farmer's market a few days earlier. We picked up some local orange blossom honey, a few pears, leeks, asparagus, and green tomatoes. I decided to repeat the leek toasts with bleu cheese that I got from Smitten Kitchen, and try out a few new recipes.

The first crostini recipe I found in a Weight Watcher's cookbook. I sauteed sliced pears in a little drizzle of olive oil. Then I topped them with a crumble of bleu cheese, prosciutto and a drizzle of honey. Delicious!

With the rest of the prosciutto, we wrapped some asparagus and tossed them into a grill pan for a few minutes. I hadn't had any sushi since moving home, so mom picked up a few rolls to lighten our cooking load. Then she started on the fried green tomatoes.

Her recipe has a little kick to it, which I love. 

Our next PFW will come from my Grandmother's house. Get ready for that craziness.

p.s. Meet the newest member of my household. Amos! I named him after a character from one of my favorite children's books.

I hope he never stops sitting like this

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"A" for effort?

I started having Indian withdrawals about a month ago, and so decided it was time to attempt something on my own, without Susie ji. I looked to old FeDish posts to make dal and potato cutlets, and had a pretty much all-day textversation with Susie. 

For the dal (which is lentils), I needed the following:
cumin seeds
chopped garlic
chopped jalapenos
chili powder
chopped tomatoes

I started by sautéing the tomatoes, ever so slightly, along with the cumin seeds. By the way, Publix had about 4 different brands of ground cumin, but no cumin seeds. I'm pretty sure I've seen them at other locations, but it might be something you would need to go to a specialty store for. Susie recommended lightly toasted the lentils in oil before adding water, so I did that too. Then, I added a healthy dash of salt, a TON of turmeric and chili powder for kick. I let that simmer for a while.

In a separate pan, I sautéed the garlic and jalapenos in a little oil, and added them to the dal. I left it simmer for a while longer, tasted it, and ended up adding more salt, turmeric and chili powder.

While the dal simmered and tried to become Indian despite me, I started on the potato cutlets. For this, I needed:
red potatoes, quartered and boiled
coriander powder
red chili powder
garam masala
onions, finely chopped

Now, I couldn't find garam masala without making a special trip. So I googled it, and found that with a mortar and pestle, I could easily make this myself. I ground together: 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

smells like heaven

Then I just mashed the potatoes and mixed in all the spices. Dip them in egg, breadcrumbs, and then fry in a little oil. Don't forget salt! I think that the spicier these are, the better.

I tested these out on my sisters and our friend Lauren. Luckily for me, they don't know what real Indian food tastes like, and so they liked mine. My kitchen smelled like old times, and my pots and pans were very happy to have Indian food in them again, as was I.

It wasn't the best, by far. But it did taste 100x better the following day, which was encouraging. I won't give up easily!

I have a few exciting foodie things on the horizon that I can't wait to share!

Also... I just got back from Greece this past week, and I have to say, the food was probably the best I've ever had. I'll be sharing those pictures with you soon, so stay tuned!