MELITZANOSALATA – GREEK EGGPLANT DIP

 

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Happy autumn! It’s been a busy but wonderful summer and I’m sorry to see it go. I’d love to rewind and do it all over again. I’ve neglected this blog a bit, but for good reason. But I’m back now and I have a few announcements to share with all of you!

At the end of June we went to Disneyworld. Now that isn’t uncommon for our family, but we went with my husband’s nephew and his family who had never been there before. The children, 7-year-old Sophia and 3-year-old Ryan had a truly magical experience—we did too, watching them enjoy every moment.

Between boat rides on the Long Island Sound, backyard gatherings by our pool with friends and family, day trips out East to wineries and the Hamptons, and the many Greek festivals we attended, it was easy to get distracted from finishing Book II in The Gift Saga. But I was rooted to the computer every evening and late into the night until it was time to leave for a long awaited trip to Greece.

We flew into Venice, Italy and stayed there until we boarded a cruise ship, which would take us to several Greek locations. Venice was so unique and beautiful, and the food was delicious. Our first stop was Montenegro—a country I never would have thought to visit, but I’m so happy I had the opportunity to experience it. It had so much history and the towns were charming. The food was similar to Greek and Italian food, but with their own unique spin. Again – delicious. Let me just say now that everyplace we went, the food was amazing. The next day was charming Corfu and the next was Athens, birthplace of my mother. Mykonos was heaven on earth – the food, the town – the beaches. Kefalonia was the last stop before heading back to Venice. That was a place I wanted to visit my entire life. It was where my grandfather was from. He would take my mother there every summer when she was a girl. Finally, we got to see all the places we had only known of only from her memories.

Now that the beautiful summer is over, it’s time to get back to work. I’m putting the finishing touches on the book while the editor has her finger on it. For those of you who read Evanthia’s Gift, you know that I added recipes between some of the chapters. I am currently gathering the recipes to place in Book II.

There’s a chapter that takes Sophia and Amy back to 1978 when they are at Sophia’s grandparents’ beach house in Aegina. They are sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine and snacking on melitzanosalata – a traditional eggplant dip. I’ve come up with my own recipe for this easy to make and delicious dip. I’m sharing it will all of you before it is even published in the book.

I invite you to check out my author Facebook page – Effie Kammenou – and my instagram –cheffieskitchen – if you’d like to see some of the pictures from my trip to Greece and Venice. It’s also a great place to keep updated on future events and promotions.

I’m announcing the title of the book here first:

 

Waiting for Aegina

Book II in The Gift Saga

 

Release date to be announced at a later time (fingers crossed – by Thanksgiving)

 

Melitzanosalata

3 Large eggplants

1 Head of garlic

¼ Cup seasoned breadcrumbs

½ Cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Juice from ½ of a large lemon

3 Tablespoons freshly snipped dill

1 Teaspoon sugar

1 Tablespoon paprika

Dash of cayenne pepper

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Pre-heat oven to 400º

Place the eggplant on the rack of the baking dish. Puncture each eggplant in several places so that excess water will drain as it roasts.

Place a head of garlic on aluminum foil. Slice off the top and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic and place it in the same baking pan as the eggplant.

Roast for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool for 45 minutes to an hour.

Peel away the skin of the eggplant and remove as much of the seeds as possible. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the skin.

In a food processor, pulse together the eggplant, garlic, breadcrumbs, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon, dill, sugar, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper, until fully blended.

*Keep in mind that each eggplant is different in size and water content. You may need to adjust the amount of oil or breadcrumbs to achieve the consistency you desire.

Serve on crostini, with crackers, pita, or with crusty bread.

 

Countdown To Thanksgiving!

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2007 Thanksgiving morning food craft project

With less than a week away, the countdown to Thanksgiving has begun, and along with it, a massive preparation to make the day a gastronomic success. For our family, the day doesn’t begin with the turkey dinner. Ever since our children were very little, we would start the day with brunch, the Macy’s parade occasionally catching our attention, and a food project for the little ones. Each year it was something new—decorating cupcakes, cookies or mini bundt cakes—not works of art, I assure you. But as the children got older, their final products looked more…shall we say—edible. They took on more difficult and challenging tasks—using marzipan to decorate the top of a cake or icing cookies a professional would be proud of. In our family, as you will find out as the week goes on, we don’t let go of tradition easily. The “kids” now range from the ages of nineteen to twenty-eight and they still expect to do their morning project on Thanksgiving. Last year my twenty-three year old niece asked me, “Aunt Ef, what’s our Thanksgiving craft this year?” I had to laugh. Naturally, I had one planned, but I told her that when they had their own kids, they would be pushing them aside, still wanting to do the craft themselves, as if they were still the children.

I guess it’s a given that most people will make a turkey next Thursday. I’ve been asked for suggestions for side dishes. There are always the obvious choices—mashed potatoes, stuffing and yams. It seems everyone has a favorite recipe, I know I do, but here are some vegetable suggestions that are easy and won’t consume too much of your time.

Carrots

  1. You can slice the carrots the day before and even prepare them a day ahead if time is short. Parboil 2 pounds of sliced carrots for 3 minutes. Dice an onion and sauté in 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add carrots, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until carrots are tender.
  2. Another variation is to eliminate the onion. Cook the carrots in the butter and add1/3 cup of brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of honey. Cook until tender. Add some thinly sliced almonds and remove from heat.

String beans

  1. Steam or boil 2 pounds of string beans with some sliced garlic until tender. While the sting beans are cooking, season ½ cup of panko bread crumbs with grated cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and garlic powder. Drizzle either 3 tablespoons of olive oil or butter on the string beans and toss. They should be coated but not dripping with grease. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and toss to coat.
  2. Or forget the breadcrumbs and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the zest and juice of one lemon. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat.

Asparagus

  1. Roast these with whole garlic cloves and a drizzle of olive oil in your oven for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Everyone’s oven is different, so adjust accordingly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Follow the above instructions, but sprinkle a generous amount of grated cheese and seasoned breadcrumbs on top before roasting.
  3. Another way to prepare asparagus is to steam or boil them until tender-crisp. Add olive oil, zest and juice from one lemon, a little crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

Brussels sprouts

Cut Brussels sprouts in half. In a bowl, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat. Lay them on a baking sheet and put in oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. The Brussels sprouts will caramelize and become tender.

Cauliflower

  1. Boil or steam until tender but still firm. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice on top. Season with salt, pepper, parsley and garlic powder.
  2. Boil until very tender with a couple of cloves of garlic. Drain and place in a food processor. Add salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Pulse until smooth. The consistency will look like mashed potatoes.

If you notice, I wrote very few exact measurements. I suggest you work by feel and taste. Be conservative with the oils and butters. You can always add, but you can’t take away. Each of us is hosting a different number of people at their table. The amount of vegetables I make will be different than what you will make. I will be cooking for twenty.