GREEK DINNER AROUND THE WORLD – 2016

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On Friday, January 15th 2016, I participated in an event that was taking place around the globe amongst chefs, bloggers and authors. Greek Dinners Around The World. The purpose was to share and promote Greek food, culture and tradition, and to widen a network of individuals who do so.

Through this event, I’ve met, via social media, many interesting people—authors like myself who are either Greek or have written a book where Greece or Greek culture is the focus. Chefs and food bloggers and magazine publishers from the US, Greece, the UK, Australia, Canada and dozens of other countries participated, sharing their menus and photos.

Three years ago, Keri Douglas of 9 Muses News came up with this concept, and what a brilliant idea it was. This was the first year I was involved, but I hope to do it again.

Coming out of the holidays, I hadn’t planned what I was going to do until five days before. I was still taking down Christmas decorations, trying to arrange some additional promotions for my book, Evanthia’s Gift, attempting to take some time to work on the second book in the saga, and I do actually have a day job. I wrote a very ambitious menu, and prepared almost everything I’d planned on. But in the end, I had more food than my guests could eat.

I wasn’t even sure of my guest list. Only several days before, I made some calls, and my two sisters and the few friends I phoned were more than happy to attend.

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The menu

Meze

Greek cheese – kasseri, manouri, feta

Pastrourma (aged and spiced cured meat, sliced very thin)

Tiropita

Greek salad (the real Greek salad. No lettuce)

I wanted to make saganaki (my favorite) but time ran out. And I forgot to put the dolmathes on the table. No one noticed. Everyone was busy chatting and drinking wine and beer.

I bought two Greek table wines, and two dessert wines, along with Mythos beer. My non- alcoholic drink was visinatha (another favorite).

Dinner

Leg of lamb, stuffed with garlic and roasted potatoes

Chicken baked with lemon, garlic, olive oil and oregano

Youvarlakia in avgolemono

Youvarlakia in red sauce

Pastitsio

Green peas with onions and cinnamon

(I wanted to make spanakopita, but never got to it. In my defense, I cooked everything that day.)

Dessert

Revani

Kadaifi

(I never got to the galakteboureko)

 

Eleni, my daughter made delicious frappes for everyone, and by midnight, our evening was over.

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If you would like to see what others did for Greek Dinners Around The World, go to 9musesnews.com.

THANKSGIVING COUNTDOWN CONTINUES! ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND VEGETABLES

Photo credit to Alexa Speyer

Photo credit to Alexa Speyer

There are certain foods you make for holidays year after year. It may be something you only make once or twice a year, so your family and guests look forward to it. For instance, the stuffing recipe that I shared with you in my last post — if that didn’t make its way to my Thanksgiving table there would be a lot of unhappy faces and censure over breaking tradition. But as eating habits have changed over time, so must the menu.

The chestnut stuffing recipe makes no claims to be low fat. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. So to balance it out, this year I’m taking out a very beloved cauliflower recipe I’d made for years with another healthier one.

The one I’d made before had butter, cream and Swiss cheese. If I was eating nothing else, I could eat a large plate of it. However, with all the other foods, particularly that stuffing, which I crave, I only could manage a taste.

This year, I will be roasting the cauliflower, and no one will miss the fatty cream and cheese because I am seasoning with flavorful herbs and spices. I know my daughters will be happy. They don’t enjoy the fatty foods and prefer the vegetables in their natural state, and not drowning in a creamy sauce.

Please, don’t limit yourself to cauliflower. There’s a world of delicious vegetables available. You can roast broccoli, peppers, carrots, or any other root vegetable. It’s so easy and there’s no fuss.

Roasted Vegetables

1 large head cauliflower

2 pounds multi-colored potatoes, or any variety

1 pound carrots

Or the vegetables of your choice

Seasoning

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ tsp shallot salt

1 tablespoon dried parsley

2 tablespoons dried chives

Mix together in a small bowl the sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, shallot salt, parsley, and chives.

*I doubled the seasoning recipe since I was making cauliflower and potato and carrots.

Using two separate large bowls, fill one with the cauliflower and the other with the carrots and potatoes. Drizzle each with olive oil and toss thoroughly to coat. If the cauliflower is extra large, you may need to add another tablespoon of olive oil to coat evenly. Do not saturate with oil. Sprinkle the seasoning into both bowls and toss to coat. Place on a shallow parchment lined baking dish or cookie sheet. Roast for 40 minutes at 400º

** For roasting beets – wash the beets, cutting the tips off each end. Drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil on the beets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place in a baking pan. Bake at 400º for 40 minutes for medium size or one hour for large beets. After, unwrap the foil and cool. The skins will peel off easily.

Easy and Delicious Summer Dinners

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Summer is the best season for flavor. The fruits and vegetables are fresh, especially if you buy locally grown, in-season produce from your local farms. For me, walking outside to my herb garden and clipping sprigs of oregano, tarragon, and fragrant leaves of basil and mint makes a world of difference in the flavor of my food. Even for the timid cook, or the person who claims to cook only because they have to, seasoning with herbs can make creating a meal an easy and painless task.

Cooking relaxes me. I love playing with flavors and combinations, but I also savor the foods I grew up with. The tried and true. The recipes handed down from yiayiá to mamá and now to me. I watched my mother cook, throwing in a little of this and a little of that, never measuring. Tasting as she went along. That is how I learned to cook. So read your cookbooks with an open mind and with your taste buds in consideration. If a recipe calls for an ingredient or a seasoning you don’t care for, don’t discard the recipe; tailor it to your liking.

This past Monday, Memorial Day, I announced I would have a lazy day by the pool. The rest of the weekend was fun, but filled with commitments and I wanted to do absolutely nothing – a rarity for me. I told my family that I would just grill some hamburgers and make a quick salad when we were ready for dinner. My niece said, “A lazy day by the pool. I could use that. I’ll come over.” Then her mother, my sister, said that her husband would be working on getting the boat ready for the summer and she wanted to come over, too. Then, I called my friends who live across the street, because, after all, they’re not company, and why shouldn’t they join us for a “lazy” day by the pool. Next thing I know, my niece texts me and asks if my husband’s nephew is coming because she has a present for his children. Now why didn’t I think of that? Sophia and Ryan would love to swim.

Well, needless to say, my lazy day by the pool and hamburgers for dinner turned into a little bit more.

Jack Daniels hamburgers with pretzel buns, lemon-tarragon grilled chicken, olive oil and herb rubbed lamb chops, Greek salad, grilled corn salad, lemon roasted potatoes, and tomato bruschetta.

Actually, it was a simple dinner for the 13 of us. I kept it as uncomplicated as I could and restrained myself from making more side dishes and appetizers. I don’t think I could have sat around doing nothing for too long anyway. Watching everyone have a good time at my home gave me joy. A trait passed down from my mother.

 Olive Oil and Herb-Rubbed Lamb chops

8 – 10 Lamb chops, rib or round bone

1/3 cup Olive oil

2 Tablespoons dried oregano, or ¼ cup loosely packed fresh, snipped

2 Tablespoons dried basil, or ½ cup fresh, shredded

2 Tablespoons fresh dill

4 – 5 mint leaves, shredded

2 – 3 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ Teaspoon each of salt and pepper

Juice and zest from 2 lemons

Combine all the ingredients (minus the lamb) in a bowl and mix together. Rub the herb mixture onto each lamb chop. Place in a marinating bag or container and add the rest of the mixture. Marinate overnight. Grill or broil.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Marinade

2 Pounds thin sliced chicken cutlets

1/3 cup olive oil

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

¼ cup Dijon mustard

¼ cup of honey

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon dried tarragon, or several sprig of fresh, leaves pulled off stems.

Combine all the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and marinate at least 4 – 5 hours, overnight if possible. Grill.

Lemon roasted Potatoes

5 Pounds of potatoes.

1/3 cup Olive oil, or enough to coat potatoes

Juice and zest of 2- 3 lemons

3 – 4 cloves of garlic, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

3 Tablespoons dried oregano, or 1/3 cup fresh

2 Tablespoons dried parsley, or ¼ cup fresh

Fresh basil if you choose

2 Tablespoons semolina

* Note on the herbs – the amounts are estimates. Add as much or as little as you like. More of something you love, less or not at all of something you don’t care for.

**This is a recipe that can be played with. For another variation, skip the lemon and add grated cheese. Or keep the lemon and add tarragon and shallots, omitting the oregano.

Peel and quarter medium sized potatoes. Place in a roasting pan and add the olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly. Add the lemon and zest and toss again. Add the herbs, garlic and seasonings. Add the semolina and once again, toss to coat. The semolina will give the potatoes extra crispness. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn the potatoes and roast for another 20 minutes.

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Throwback Thursday – Asian Noodle Salad

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With all the summer parties, picnics and boat outings, finding food that is “sun friendly” is sometimes a challenge. When refrigeration is not available, look for recipes that are dairy free. Forget the same old potato and macaroni salads that are drowning in mayonnaise. Try a Southwest bean salad, a Mediterranean lentil salad or the Asian noodle salad I am about to share with you. I originally posted this dish four years ago on my Livejournal blog and it’s still a favorite with my family and friends. Make it a day or two ahead when entertaining, or make a batch to keep in your fridge for an easy lunch or a side to any meal. It’s quick and easy!

Asian Noodle Salad

Dressing

2Tbsp. sesame oil                                       ¼ cup vegetable oil

1/3 rice wine vinegar                                     ½ cup soy sauce

juice & zest of 1 lime                                    2 cloves crushed garlic

1Tbsp. minced ginger                                    1tsp. black pepper

1Tbsp. cornstarch                                    2Tbsp. brown sugar

2Tbsp. plum wine (optional)

Whisk all the ingredients together and set aside.

Salad

1 lb. spaghetti (white or whole wheat)            1-cup julienned carrots

1-cup small broccoli florets                                    ½ cup scallions

½ cup red onion sliced thin                                    2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

1 ½ cup red, yellow & orange peppers julienned

Mix dressing into spaghetti. Add the vegetables. Mix well. Add sesame seeds. The dressing will take a little while to absorb into the pasta.