Saturday, November 19, 2011

Benedict Eggs


Poached eggs... Somehow I've always considered them a very difficult task, something only a pro could make. I mean, properly poached eggs, in a pot with simmering water, not on a pan with the help of a ring that would hold the egg whites together. However, I always wanted to try. At the end, what's the worst thing that could happen? A couple of wasted eggs? Oh well, this is really far from a disaster. So, I thought I would give it a go and see. I googled a lot in order to find a perfect technique. Apparently, all of them involved adding some vinegar to a pot of simmering water and them pouring the egg inside. Well, doesn't sound too difficult, does it? Let's see what I could make...

I already had in mind an evil recipe which involved poached eggs. Benedict eggs! On one hand, poached eggs do not require any fat to cook. But, the Hollondaise sauce for the eggs is almost entirely made of butter! So it kind of ruins the healthy, low-cal profile of the dish. Therefore, I would not encourage you to make them your "usual" weekend breakfast. But once in a while, I guess there is no harm.

When I eventually manage to put the whole dish together, I realized that the only real difficulty was to make everything simultaneously. You really should have your eyes on the eggs while poaching. At the same time, the sauce requires constant stirring. So you either need an assistant that you can trust or a place where you could keep the sauce hot while poaching the eggs. I went for the second one (No offence! :P), placing the bowl with the sauce in the warm (about 50 degrees) oven. Worked pretty well :)

INGREDIENTS (2 servings):

4 large eggs
2 slice smoked bacon, either fried or just the way it is :P
2 slices of toasted bread (the original recipe requires toasted English muffins instead, but in Holland it is impossible to find them, so... bread it is!)
Slices of cheese and fresh tomato to serve
1/2 cup white vinegar

For the Hollonaise sauce:

150 gr butter
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Prepare the sauce. In a small sauce pan melt the butter and set aside
2. In a bowl beat the egg yolks with lemon juice, cayenne, salt and pepper.
3. Slowly start adding the melted butter and hot water, while constantly stirring.
4. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and cook over a VERY low heat, while CONSTANTLY stirring. It is very important that you keep the heat as low as possible and stir the sauce all the time. Otherwise, you risk cooking your eggs, so you will end up with pieces of cooked yolks swimming in melted butter. Be patient, it will take some time, but eventually the sauce will start thickening. It took me about 15 minutes!!! Remove from the heat and keep warm until serving.
5. Now poach the eggs. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Lower the heat, so that the water is simmering but not really boiling. Add the vinegar (it helps the egg whites to stay together istead of "dissolving" in the water).
6. Break an egg in a cup, taking care not to damage the yolk.
7. With a spoon swirl the water around to create a whirlpool. Bring the cup with the egg close to the water surface and very carefully pour it in the middle. Continue moving the water around. Cook for about 1-2 minutes, remove the egg with a slotted spoon and set aside.You eggs should be firm outside but still runny inside. Proceed with the next egg. Some people manage to cook all the eggs at once. I thought I would stay away from this at least at my first attempt. :P
8. Assemble your final dish: First place a toasted bread on a plate, next a slice of bacon, next 2 poached eggs and top with half of the sauce. Garnish with some cheese and tomato slices and enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cheese and Mushrooms Pie


Lately my man has been really stressed with his research and I can't do much to cheer him up. Although there is a little trick that almost always works. New, delicious recipes on our table! So, since he really likes pies, last weekend I made a completely new pie, a mushroom pie!

First I was thinking to make it the easy way, using phyllo sheets. But then I thought I could be a bit more creative, so I decided to make it with curu dough, which is a very typical Greek kind of pastry, used in many pies. It is soft and slightly sandy and it literally melts in your mouth! Of course this meant that I would spend at least one extra hour in the kitchen, but since I enjoy it anyways I don't really care!

INGREDIENTS:

For the curu dough:
800gr white flour, sieved
1 cup olive oil
1 full cup thick, Greek yogurt (Straggisto)
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp dry yeast

For the stuffing:
500gr fresh mushrooms, chopped
3 onions, sliced
150 gr yellow cheese, grated (Gouda worked just fine for me)
150 gr Mozzarella, grated
300 gr Greek feta cheese, crashed
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 eggs
1/2 cup thick Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
paprika and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. First prepare the curu dough. In a large bowl place the oil, yogurt, eggs and yeast and beat with a mixer.
2. Keep beating and slowly start mixing in the flour. Once the mixture is too thick for the mixer, continue adding the flour and mixing with your hands. Place the dough on a table and work it with your hands for about 20 minutes. You will notice that as you work the dough will become more elastic. Shape it in a ball, place in a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a worm place to rest.
3. Prepare the stuffing. In a large pan heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and onions and saute until the vegetables are soft. Set aside.
4. In a separate bowl beat the eggs (reserve a couple of tablespoons to brush the pie), add the cheeses and the yogurt and season with pepper and paprika. Fold in the mushroom mix and the parsley and mix well.
5. Take the dough and divide it in 2 pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. Take the bigger one an place it on greased table. Use a roller to flatten the dough into 5mm thick sheet, big enough to cover a large backing tray and its walls. Fold the sheet twice, transfer on the backing tray and unfold so that it would cover the whole surface and the walls. Fold all the stuffing on top and even out with a spoon.
6. Take the remaining dough and again using a roller flatten the dough so that the sheet is big enough to cover the tray. Fold it, transfer on top of the stuffing and unfold. Using a fork or just your fingers seal the pie by sticking the bottom and the top sheets together.
7. Brush the pie with the beaten egg and back in the preheated oven at about 180°C for about half an our, until the pie is golden from outside. Serve either warm or cold, as a main course or just a starter. Ah, it's also great for a quick breakfast, given, of course that you have it prepared from the previous night :P

Monday, November 7, 2011

Chocolate and walnut muffins


Last year I got a baking book as a birthday present for Zoe. She really loves all the "evil" cakes so it was an easy decision. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask the lady at the book store to wrap the book for me. So when I came home I went through the pages a bit and I got really jealous! The book was amazing, with great pictures, tips about decoration of the cakes and very clear directions for baking even very challenging cakes. So what do you think I did? The next morning I went back to the store and bought the same book for myself!

Due to my everlasting diet plans I didn't bake many things from it though. So when last weekend I saw the book standing on the shelf, and having given up on the diet, I thought I would give it a go. After some "reasonable" pressure from Stratis' side I had to choose between chocolate cake or chocolate muffins. Somehow I decided in favor of the second one and we both really enjoyed it! I changed some of the proportions slightly to make it more chocolaty and brownie-like. Here it comes:

INGREDIENTS:

170gr butter
200gr plain chocolate (I used Toblerone and ... OH! MY! GOD!)
200gr caster sugar
60gr brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
150 gr self-rising flour
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
150 gr walnuts, chopped
1/3 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
12-15 muffin paper cases

1. Place the butter and the chocolate in a small bowl on bain-marie and let it melt. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
2. Stir in the caster and the brown sugar, the eggs and the vanilla essence and mix with a mixer until smooth.
3. Sift over the flour and cocoa powder. Add the baking soda and vinegar and mix, capturing the air bubbles inside the dough.
4. Stir in the walnuts.
5. Pour the mixture into the paper cases, filling them to 3/4. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for about 30 minutes or until an inserted in the center match comes out clean. Dust with some caster sugar and serve with coffee, tea or even better hot chocolate with cream!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cheese filled Tortilla toasts




In Greece we say: "A good day could be seen since morning". Well in my case it was the other way around. While I was biking to the train station in the morning, the chain fell off of my bike. I didn't want to become all messy while fixing it, so I dropped it there and walked. Of course I missed my train, the next one was cancelled (or at least I never saw it arriving) and the next one came with a delay of 10 minutes. So I came to the office about 45 later than I was planning. It would be great if the chain of bad luck would end there, but no! All kinds of issues during the day... Typical beginning of a month! The only good thing that happened was the lunch break at the new Surinamese place nearby. I think this place is totally gonna beat the Italian sandwich, the Turkish kebab and both of the Chinese restaurants that we usually go to!

Anyway, when I finally arrived home, well after 7pm I was totally wasted and super hungry. Of course there was no way I would cook anything too complicated. The most I would go for was a quick sandwich, after which I was planning to kick back with a book on the couch. Then I saw a half pack of tortillas and thought I could as well use them instead of bread. After a quick look at the fridge I came up with the following recipe. The result was crispy outside and with melted cheese inside! Definitely goes to my favorites! :)

INGREDIENTS:

2 corn tortillas
100gr Gruyere-type cheese, thinly sliced (I used Ladotyri, which is a hard-type of Greek cheese, traditionally produces on the island of Lesbos)
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan.
2. Place one tortilla on a pan. Arrange the cheese slices, pepper stripes, basil leaves and garlic evenly on top of the tortilla.
3. Cover with the second tortilla and fry on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes or until the lower tortilla is golden brown. Flip and fry on the other side. Cut in 6 pieces and enjoy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Savory pie with Spetzofai


Spetzofai is a traditional dish of central Greece. It is made of fried sausages with red sweet peppers, lots of onions and tomato. Very delicious!

Today me and Stratis were thinking what to cook for dinner. Stratis came up with an idea of a savory pie so I was googling around a bit to find a new recipe. The usual spinach an feta cheese pie is of course wonderful but sometimes you really want something different. When we saw a spetzofai pie, we both got excited. Normally, the stuffing is served separately, as a main course, so combining it in a pie was a rather interesting variation. I thought I might give it a try and it was very good! A bit spicy but really really good!

INGREDIENTS:

For the dough:
200 gr flour
100 gr cold butter, cut in cubes
1 egg
1 pinch safran
1/2 tsp salt

For the Spetzofai:
2 Greek "choriatiko" sausages, cut in 1 cm thick pieces (you could use bratwurst or something similar instead)
300 gr Pancetta, cut in thin stripes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large red onions, sliced
2 red horn peppers, seeded and sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp chilly flakes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup spring onions, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
salt to taste

1. First prepare the dough. Sieve the flour with the salt, add the cubes of butter and work with your hands. You should get "sand-looking" mix. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and work with your hands until the dough is smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and place in the fridge.
2. Prepare the Spetzofai. In a large pan hit the oil. Add the pieces of sausage and pancetta and brown over a strong heat.
3. Add sliced peppers, onions, garlic, tomato puree and chilly flakes, cover and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the wine, parsley, spring onions, season to taste and set aside.
4. Take 2/3 of the dough and roll out a sheet big enough to cover a baking tray about 25cm in diameter. Place the sheet on the tray, fold all the stuffing on top of it and spread evenly. From the remaining dough roll out another sheet, place it on top of the stuffing and with your fingers or a fork seal the edges. Brush with some oil and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 30 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Syrniki - Russian quark pancakes


- I'm hungry!
- ... (waiting)
- ... (sweet eyes)
- Do you want me to make you something for breakfast?
- Will you make me a toast? (sweet eyes)
- A toast? Sure! What do you want inside?
- Oh well, something not too difficult... Ham and mozarella?
- Hmmm, ok. (Pause) What if I make you syrniki?
- What?
- You'll see!

Syrniki. (plural from syrnik)... How do I explain this? Well it's something very Russian (I already hear a voice of G. saying "BACK to Russia!") and very breakfasty. They look like american pancakes but are made of "tvorog", which is the Russian word for quark, and very little flour. This combination makes them crunchy outside and soft and creamy inside. The taste is something between sweet, salty an sour. It might not sound very tasty, but you have to try in order to understand!

You could also make them with cottage cheese instead of quark. In this case you should first drain the liquid, then put the cheese in a blender and process until it is almost smooth.

INGREDIENTS:

500 gr fresh, thick quark or processed cottage cheese (it is important to use thick quark, otherwise your mix will be too liquid an it will require more flour)
1 egg
5 tbsp white flour
2 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 pinch salt
some extra flour for dusting
vegetable oil for frying

1. Place all the ingredients except for sugar in a bowl and mix well. You should have a very thick dough, that doesn't stick to your hands. If it is too liquid add some more flour, just no too much.
2. In a large, non-stick pan heat the oil. Once it starts "smoking" add the sugar and vanilla sugar to the dough an mix well.
3. Take once table spoon of dough, shape in a cake, dust with some flour and place on a pan. Continue with the next syrnik. Depending on the size of the pan, fry about 5-7 syrniki at a time.
4. Fry for a couple of minutes on both sides, turning carefully with a fork, until they are golden brown. Place on kitchen paper towel to absorb the extra oil.

Serve either plain or with jam, honey or caramel syrup! Amazing for breakfast or just a snack with your coffee or tea. You could also add some dried berries to the dough for a little twist and some extra taste! Wonderful!

On the other hand, if your dough is too liquid even with the extra four you could do the following trick. Instead of shaping the syrniki and dusting them with extra flour you could just take some dough with a wet table spoon and place it directly on the hot pan. They will be a bit more flat but still very very tasty! Plus you avoid the extra calories from the flour :P

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Green salad with figs and walnuts


A bit more than a year ago my mom started working in another hospital, in Kastoria, about two and a half hours away from Thessaloniki. So now she spends about 4 days a week there and 3 days back home. At first I was a bit worried, you know, it's not easy to change your every day routine from one day to another and I guess age does not help much here. But after she settled down there I figured that she actually enjoys the lifestyle of a smaller city. Being there alone (my dad works in Thessaloniki, so he stayed there) she started new hobbies and sports. My dad generally is very conservative when it comes to food. So in the past, when cooking, my mom stayed within the limits of my dad's taste. And now she totally grabbed the chance and started experimenting with new ingredients and new combinations!

Last Christmas me, Stratis and my dad went to Kastoria. So my mom wanted to impress us with her new cooking discoveries. Among other things she made a really nice salad, which all of us liked a lot. Fresh lettuce blended with the sweetness of dried figs and a touch of balsamico was just wonderful and full of flavor, great during the winter, when the big, ripe tomatoes are impossible to find! There is no exact proportions of the ingredients, it really depends on your personal preferences. Here I post more or less the amounts that I used, but it's really a try and fail process! :)

INGREDIENTS:

5-7 large lettuce leaves, roughly chopped (enough to fill a large salad bowl)
2 handfuls fresh rucola leaves
3-4 dried figs, quartered
1 tbsp black raisins
1 small handful walnuts, chopped

For the dressing:
3 tbsp balsamico
1 1/2 tbsp liquid honey (I like thyme honey, but you could use any other)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a separate small bowl.
2. In a large salad bowl mix the lettuce, rucola, figs, raisins and walnuts. Pour over the dressing and add some extra black pepper if you like and it's ready! So simple!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken Fajitas


I don't know how does this happen, but every time I go shopping for something I finally buy something completely different! Like today for example, we went to buy candles and ended up in front of the stand with ingredients for ethnic food. So, eventually, we bought tortilla wraps, special spice mix and Mexican salsa and made Fajitas for dinner! Yum!

INGREDIENTS:

4 large corn tortillas
1 whole skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 medium onion, cut in wedges
1 green and 1 red bell peppers, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup spring onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
juice of half lime
1 cup canned red kidney beans, mushed
2 tbsp avocado oil for frying (I used chilly flavored avocado oil for extra spicy taste)
3 tbsp fajitas spice mix dissolved in 1/2 cup water
1 cup Mexican salsa (I chose mild salsa but it's totally up to you!)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp hot smoked chilly flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Guacamole or low-fat thick yogurt to serve (optional)

1. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper and grill it until golden outside and cooked through. Cut in small stripes.
2. In a heavy pan heat the oil. Stir fry the peppers, onions and garlic. Do not overcook the vegetables! They should be slightly cooked but still crunchy. Set aside.
3. Pour some more oil to the pan and add the chicken, diced tomatoes, salsa and fajitas mix and cook for few minutes until the most of the liquid evaporates.
4. Return the vegetables to the pan and add spring onions, parsley and lime juice. Mix well, season with coriander, chilly flakes, salt and pepper and set aside, allowing for flavors to mix.
5. Brush the tortillas with some oil and warm them in a pan.
6. Divide the mushed kidney beans in 4 parts and spread each part over one tortilla. Place some of the chicken mix in the middle of the tortilla, pour some guacamole or yogurt if using, and roll into a tight wrap. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Belgian Chocolate Mousse


World's best chocolate? Swiss! Second best? Definitely Belgian! Living just next door from the country famous for it's chocolate and beer it is very easy to get carried away! The variety is amazing and the quality... oh well, nothing to comment about the obvious!

Few weeks ago a friend of mine got me a birthday present. A cooking book about Dutch and Belgian cousin. Knowing how good Belgians are when it comes to desserts, I opened directly the relevant section and... oh dear God! Chocolate based desserts, waffels, pies and much much more! So my first option was a chocolate mousse. I only hesitated for a second, when I noticed the amount of calories per portion (no, no I'm not gonna reveal it!), but then again... who cares! We all deserve a little piece of heaven for a change!

INGREDIENTS:

150g semisweet Belgian chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used half butterscotch and half bitter chocolate. Yam!)
200ml double cream
75 gr caster sugar
2 eggs, separated, at room temperature
cocoa powder for dusting

1. Put the chocolate in a small bowl on bain-marie and let it melt. Remove the bowl with the chocolate and let it cool.
2. In a separate bowl whip the cream with 15gr of sugar until it stands in soft peaks. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and gradually add 50gr of sugar, until the mix is white and stiff. Be careful, when adding the sugar. If you add it all at once the egg whites may separate.
4. Finally in a small bowl whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until the mix is foamy. Fold the yolks into the melted chocolate and mix until uniform.
5. Next, mix in the cream and after that the egg whites.
6. Spoon the mousse into serving cups, dust with some cocoa powder and place in the fridge for at least one hour I know it is very hard to wait but it is really worth it! When cooled the mouse becomes more foamy and it tastes and feels amazing!

PS: This post is dedicated to a great lover of chocolate in all it forms! Zoaki this one is for you!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grilled salmon with yogurt and tomato sauce


You know how they say that kids don't like fish? I guess I was an exception. I would not eat many other "normal" things, torturing for hours my mom who tried to feed me. But I always loved fish. Growing up in Russia, salmon was probably the first fish I ever tried and the most common on our table. It didn't matter whether it was fried, grilled or most commonly just smoked, it was always a yum-yum :) Later on I tried of course other fish, but salmon always remained my all time favorite!

I know that we Greeks are VERY spoiled when it comes to food (I think most of the people in my office figured that out after the first couple of weeks :P), but I refuse to cook chicken when it is just pouring water while being fried (typical when bought from AH)! That's why I was more than happy to discover that in Holland it is easy to find a good quality fresh salmon. I don't wanna become all negative again, but fish is actually one of the few things that is really worth eating here.

Anyways, I bought nice slices of salmon and was planning to grill them in the oven. But I thought it would be nice to improvise with the topping. So I made tzatziki-like sauce but something was missing. Hmmm, what goes well with yogurt? I guess tomatoes should be nice... Yes, that's it! Tomatoes and thyme! Veeeeery good!

INGREDIENTS:

4 large slices salmon

for the topping:

1 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a bowl mix all the topping ingredients and set aside for 5-10 minutes to allow the flavors to mix.
2. On a baking tray place the salmon and pour the yogurt sauce on top. Place in the preheated oven and bake util the fish is cooked through. Turn on the grill at the last 2-3 minutes, to make a crust on top of the sauce. Yummy!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ladero - Greek oily green beans


Today I went through some of the old posts and I realized that at least every 4th post starts with the words "I haven't been blogging for some time now" or something similar. It becomes annoying!

Anyways, the recipe that I wanna post today is traditional Greek. "Ladero" could be literally translated as "something oily" and it is being cooked all over the country as a main dinner course. Nothing fancy, but very healthy! It contains a generous amount of oil, but it is ALWAYS extra virgin olive oil, which is good for your health when used in moderation, so don't be afraid :)

Even though it is so popular, my mom never cooked it (probably because she grew up in a different country, with different food culture). So, the first time I tried it was actually at the university restaurant back in Thessaloniki. It was a a fixed part of the Wednesday menu, followed by a chocolate mousse! I liked it a lot and after some point started cooking it myself :) Here is one of the multiple versions of this dish. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

1kg green beans
2-3 carrots, sliced in circles
2 large onions, diced
3 large, ripe tomatoes, grated
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 cups water
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh parsley, finely chopped
2-3 large bay leaves
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp sugar salt and black pepper to taste

1. First prepare the beans. Wash them well and cut off the tips in case they are hard. If the beans are too long cut them in pieces of 4-5cm long. This could the annoying, but this is the only step that requires time, the rest is just piece of cake!

2. In a large pot heat half of the oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté on a medium heat until soft (not golden).

3. Add the beans, carrots, peppers and grated tomato, mix well and cook for few minutes, just until the beans turn bright green.

4. Add the tomato puree, water, half of the parsley, bay leaves, oregano and sugar, cover the pot and cook for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but still crunchy. If necessary add more water to the pot so that the sauce remains liquid.

5. Turn off the heat, add the rest of the parsley and oil, mix well, cover the pot and let it stay for about 15 minutes. Serve along with feta cheese (I prefer with grated Ksyromizithra) and thick slices of fresh bread to dip in the juices.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shrimp "saganaki" - Garides saganaki


More than a month of no blogging! That turns into a bad habit! This time I have a really good excuse though, I was on vacation. I went to my beloved Thessaloniki for 3 weeks, which sounds almost too good to be true. And as always it meant enormous amounts of food being consumed, completely disregarding any humanly possible limits! Well, since we moved to Holland whenever we find good food, we take good care of it :) Surprisingly this time no extra weight gained which probably proves once again that Greek food is awesome for another reason apart from great taste! Love it!

Anyway, I returned a week before my man and was too lazy to cook just for myself, which resulted in eating out every day. On the other hand, on Sunday, when Stratis came back I though it would be nice to cook for a change, if nothing else to make the transition from Greece to Holland easier for him. So I woke up in the morning planning to cook something really really Greek and really really summerish. That's when I came up with the idea of Shrimp "saganaki".

Saganaki is actually a type of small pan with two little handles. However, nowadays the word refers mainly to the type of food cooked in it. For example Feta saganaki is Feta cheese melted in a pan. Shrimp saganaki on the other hand is a delicious dish made with shrimps, feta and either tomato or white wine sauce. Both are truly amazing, but this time I went for the tomato one and it was properly appreciated. For the recipe I used small shrimps but you could use the same proportion of large shrimp as well. In this case you should not peel them in advance.

INGREDIENTS:

300 gr small shrimps, peeled
100 gr Greek feta cheese, in bite-size pieces
50 gr Ladotyri cheese, grated (you could use Parmesano-type cheese instead)
4 large ripe tomatoes, grated
1 onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a pan heat the oil and saute the onions, green peppers and garlic until they are soft.
2. Add the grated tomatoes and parsley, season with salt, pepper and oregano andcook until the sauce thickens.
3. Put the shrimps and feta pieces into an ovenproof saganaki pan or a little ceramic pot.
4. Pour the tomato sauce over the shrimp and feta mix and sprinkle with Ladotyri.
5. Place the pan in the oven and bake at 200°C until the Ladotyri makes a crust on top. Serve immediately and enjoy along with some freshly baked bread and ouzo!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Thai shrimp soup


The last few weekends we switched for fish and sea food, since we have time to go to the market and buy fresh fish there. So today I got shrimps and made a very nice Thai soup. And it actually smelled like Thai, cause other times I tried some recipes and even though they were nice it didn't smell authentic. Well this time it was great! :)

INGREDIENTS:

350 gr shrimps, peeled
1.5 liter fish stock
4 lemon grass stalks, chopped into 2 cm pieces
3 limes
2 chilly peppers
2 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
6 coriander stalks with leaves
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp oyster sauce
2-3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

1. Pour the stock in a large pot and bring to the boil.
2. With a vegetable peeler peel off 3-4 strips of lime rind. Squeeze the limes and reserve the juice.
3. Add the lemon grass, lime rind, chillies, ginger and coriander stalks to the stock and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove the lime ring from the pot.
4. Add the shrimps, vinegar, oyster sauce and half of the lime juice. Simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Remove the coriander stalks from the pot and discard.
6. Taste the broth and add more lime juice if necessary. Serve with some extra coriander.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Stuffed mushrooms


With all the fuss about the e.coli and the uncertainty weather it comes from vegetables or not, I realized that I've been cooking too much meat lately. Therefore, the dinner this weekend was almost completely vegetarian. However, I cooked mushrooms which are said to be the "meat of the poor".

For one more time, I tried recreating my mom's recipe of stuffed mushrooms. I can not remember when particularly this recipe made it's debut on our dinner table, but it was reoccurring from time to time, each time with a little twist.

So, since the weekend was all about vegetarian food, I thought these mushrooms would be just a great idea. Unfortunately, I could not get mom on the phone since she had a long shift at the hospital. So, the only solution was to improvise. I think, I managed to remember most of the ingredients and the result resembled quit closely the original thing. I could not resist adding some bacon to the stuffing, but you could skip it for a vegetarian version.

INGREDIENTS:

15 large (about 4-5cm in diameter) champignon mushrooms, washed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small zucchini, very finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 red paprika, very finely chopped (optional)
5 slices bacon or smoked ham, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt, ground black and red pepper to taste

1. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, set the caps aside and finely dice the stems.
2. In a heavy sauce pan heat the oil.
3. Add the onions and cook on average heat until soft.
4. Stir in the diced mushroom stems, zucchini, paprika and bacon or ham (if using) and cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
5. Add the creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
6. Using a spoon stuff the mushroom caps with the filling and place in an ovenproof deep caserole dish, stuffing facing up.
7. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the mushrooms and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Serve either hot or chilled, as a starter or a part of a main course. Also very good for party food, a bit more complicated than pop corn and tortillas with salsa :P

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rice with grape leaves, sun dried tomatoes and raisins


It's amazing what you can find in the freezer when defrosting it. Tiny boxes with baby corn, diced onions and chopped parsley, leftover cookie dough and ... what's that? Grape leaves?! How long have they been in there?! Stratis found them at a Turkish store and thought it would be cool to make dolmadakia (little grape leaves rolls with rice stuffing). However, after the first, not very successful attempt there was more than half pack left, so it ended up lying pointless in the freezer, until I discovered it yesterday.

Luckily, a couple of days ago I was browsing through one of my most favorite cooking blogs dedicated to Greek food, owned by Peter Minakis. Few months ago he posted a recipe for a rice-based side dish which really intrigued me when I first read it. It was pretty much a fuss-free version of dolmadakia. The idea was to prepare the stuffing and then mix in the chopped grape leaves. Smaaaaart! You get all the flavor of dolmadakia without having to spend hours in the kitchen rolling them! Great!

I changed a bit the proportions of the ingredients, used slightly different herbs and added a sun dried tomato. I think it was one of those rare times when Stratis was not complaining about the plain rice for side dish :)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup long grain rice, washed
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp chives, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup black raisins, washed and soaked in hot water
2 tbsp pine nuts
1/3 cup canned sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup canned grape leaves, washed and chopped
2 cups hot chicken stock or water
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large pan heat the oil and saute the garlic and onions until soft.
2. Stir in the rice and cook together for a couple of minutes.
3. Add the parsley, chives, raisins, pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, grape leaves, lemon juice and chicken stock, cover with a lid and cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the rice is soft. Add more water if the rice looks dry.
4. Season with salt, pepper and extra lemon juice and ready!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jambalaya


About 2 weeks ago a couple of friends moved just next door. The first day we had a dinner at out place. The men really wanted something meaty, while the ladies were craving for fishy. So we compromised on the mix of the two (if you could call meat the chicken and fish the shrimps :P ). Was a nice dish, easy to cook and very tasty! And it also looks just great (well this picture is probably not th best :P)!

INGREDIENTS:

1kg chicken fillet, chopped in pieces
30 large shrimps, peeled
300 gr raw smoked ham, diced
1/2 cup flour
3 medium onions, sliced
2 sweet green peppers, seeded and diced
400 gr ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried thyme
350 gr long-grain rice, washed
1 large cup water
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil

1. In a large flameproof casserole heat the oil and brown the chicken. Remove the chicken from the casserole and set aside.
2. Lower the heat, sprinkle the flour onto the fat in the pan and stir continuously until the mixture turns golden brown.
3. Return the chicken to the pan, add the ham, onions, pepper, tomatoes, garlic and thyme and cook for about 15 minutes, then add the shrimps.
4. Add the rice and the water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Add more water if necessary.
5. Once the rice is cooked, mix in the spring onions and parsley and serve hot.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Red Bean Chilli con Carne


Last weekend I really wanted to cook some new, saucy Mexican dish. As I was turning the pages of the cooking book I saw the following recipe and it was so colorful that I immediately felt my mouth getting wet. It was really hard to resist, especially given that I had all the necessary ingredients in my kitchen. The only alternation that I made was to use canned beans instead of dried once (more or less double amount compared to the dried once). This way I avoided the overnight soaking part of the recipe so I could start directly.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups dried red beans
500 gr lean beef steak, chopped in bite-size pieces
2 tbsp avocado oil (you could use any vegetable oil as well)
2 large onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh green chilli, seeded and finely chopped (you could use dried chillies as well)
1 tbsp paprika
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 can (400gr) chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups beef stock or water
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp hot pepper sauce or tabasco
1 fresh red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3-4 tbsp fresh coriander and some extra to garnish, finely chopped
salt to taste

1. Wash the beans well and soak them overnight in a large amount of water. The next day cook the beans in water for about 2 hours or until almost soft.
2. Heat the oil in a large, flameproof casserole pot. Add the onion, garlic and green chilli and cook over a medium fire until soft. Transfer to a plate.
3. Increase the heat, add the meat to the pot and brown on all sides. Season with paprika, cumin and coriander.
4. Return the onion mixture to the casserole, add the tomatoes, beef stock or water, chilli flakes and hot pepper sauce or tabasco. Drain the beans and add to the pot.
5. Bring to simmering point, cover and cook in the preheated oven at 180°C for about 2 hours. Stir occasionally and add extra water if the casserole gets dry.
6. Season the casserole with salt, add the chopped red pepper and chopped coriander and continue cooking in the oven until the beans and the meet are tender. Garnish with some chopped coriander and serve with steamed white rice.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Couscous


Since I started working I obviously have much less free time, which during the weeks means pretty much that I have to either cook on everyday basis something fast and easy or otherwise prepare something from the previous evening, preferably something that would last for a couple of days. Yesterday I made Stratis' favorite burgers with potato puree. Today we still had few burgers left but there was no side dish since we finished all the puree yesterday.

Generally, I really enjoy the idea of couscous as a really fast yet delicious side dish. You could flavor it with spices and herbs or by using chicken stock instead of water to soak it in. Mixing in chopped vegetables like tomatoes, onions, paprika, cucumber, broccoli, mushrooms etc is also great.

So on my way home I already knew what I would cook. A friend of mine cooked a similar recipe few years ago at our ethnic dinner party. I changed it a bit mainly by adding zucchini and olives and using less lemon juice but the main idea is same. It's a great side dish and if you increase the amounts of veg and use less couscous you could make a wonderful salad too!

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups couscous
3 large ripe tomatoes
1 zucchini, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp black olives, finely chopped (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the couscous in a large bowl, add lightly salted boiled water enough to cover, cover with a lid and let the couscous absorb the water.
2. Meanwhile in a non-stick pan heat the oil and stir-fry the zucchinis for 3-4 minutes, until they get a light golden color.
3. Dice the tomatoes trying to keep the juice and set aside,
4. Once the couscous is soft, mix it with a fork to make it fluffy.
5. Add the fried zucchinis, tomatoes, olives (if using) and the lemon juice and mi well. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bacalao a la catalana


It's been a month since my last post :( To be honest I haven't been cooking much lately. We sort of switched to salads for some time so there wasn't anything worth posting anyways.

Tonight I felt like healthy food but a bit more complicated than just a salad. I remembered that I had a cod fillet in the fridge. On the other hand a couple of weeks ago I bought a Spanish cooking book, so I thought I might as well try something from there. I always buy cooking books with pictures. When you see how the result looks your motivation to cook something new is doubled! Well this time my eye stopped on a cod fillet with spinach which looked pretty amazing. Luckily I had spinach in the freezer. According to the recipe I was supposed to used fresh but even with the frozen one it was still delicious!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup black raisins
1/3 cup pine nuts
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
10 cups fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
4 cod fillets
freshly ground nutmeg
salt and ground black pepper to taste
some lemon juice

1. Soak the raisins in hot water for 15-20 minutes.
2. Roast the pine nuts in a heavy pan over high heat until golden.
3. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and fry for few minutes. Remove and discard.
4. Add the spinach to the oil. Do not add extra water, the spinach has enough juices. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. The spinach will decrease in volume. Remove the lid, add the drained raisins and pine nuts, season to taste and cook until the liquids evaporate.
5. Meanwhile place the cod in an ovenproof dish, brush with some olive oil, season with salt pepper and nutmeg and place in the oven for about 15 minutes. Once the fish is almost cooked through turn on the broiler and continue cooking until the fish is gold brown. Drizzle the fish with freshly squeezed lemon juice and serve along with the spinach.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chocolate fondue


I wrote already about our new fondue set that we loved. Since we tried the cheese fondue, the next obvious option was the chocolate one. It's really catastrophic for your silhouette but boy was it delicious!!! A thick, chocolaty sauce with just a touch of vanilla and cherry liqueur. If this does not wet your mouth, then what does?!

PS: Avoid low fat or soy chocolate. It won't melt properly and the result will be only frustration. Generally when making a fondue, either chocolate or cheese, it is essential to use good quality base ingredients (chocolate and cheese).

INGREDIENTS:

150 gr milk chocolate, in small pieces (you could substitute it with any flavored chocolate, like hazelnut, amaretto, cappuccino or whatever you like)
150 gr bitter chocolate, in small pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 pinch vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup cherry liqueur (you could use any alcohol you want, like amaretto, vodka, brandy, kirsch or even Kahlua.

1. In a heavy pan simmer half of the cream. Once it starts boiling, lower the heat and add chocolate pieces.
2. Let the chocolate soften and then mix it well with a spoon until you get a uniform sauce.
3. Keep constantly stirring and mix in salt,vanilla and alcohol.
4. Transfer the mixture to the fondue pot and keep it war and liquid but not intensively boiling. If the sauce thickens, mix in some of the rest of the cream.
5. Serve the fondue with bite size bananas, strawberries, pineapples, mangoes, vanilla cake, butter cookies, biscotti, brownies etc. You could also place on the table small bowls with finely chopped nuts, cookie crumbles or flaked coconut to coat your chocolaty bites! Mmmm, wonderful!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lobio - Georgian Bean and Walnut Soup


My mom is a wonderful cook. I think this happens also because of all the amazing recipes she knows from my grandma, who is the top cook in my opinion.

My mom loves special dishes, which blend the ingredients in not-so-obvious combinations. That is why one of her favorite cuisines is Georgian. Generally, Caucasian people have a very tasty food. Georgian cuisine is particularly popular, due to it's diverse character. It is famous for cheese, like suluguni, and cheese pies, khachapuri, various meat dishes, with the most famous - khinkali, a type of meat-filled dumpling and of course multiple appetizers. The flavors vary from very spicy to sweet and satisfy even the most demanding food-lovers.

One of my favorite soups (yes I know, I am supposed not to like soups, but this is changing the last years) is Lobio, a thick soup made with red beans and walnuts. This is exactly a not-so-obvious combination that I was talking about before. Few days ago I was planning to cook a bean soup, however I was a bit bored to cook a typical Greek Fasolada, so I decided to go for Lobio. It was the first time I cooked it for Stratis and, to be honest, I was not sure if he would like this mix. But, luckily, he loved it and I am not surprised. This is a really great example of traditional Georgian food.

INGREDIENTS:

500gr red kidney beans
1 cup walnuts, shelled
1 tsp mustard (optional, it eliminates the whatever effects of the beans on your intestines :P )
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced (I like it with a lot of onion, so I use 2 big ones, otherwise you could use 2 medium)
1 medium carrot, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Wash the beans very well and soak them overnight. Do not through the soaking water, as it contains a lot of vitamins.
2. In a large pot place the beans together with the soaking water, coriander seeds and mustard if using. Add about 4 more cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and continue cooking until the beans are soft.
3. Meanwhile, in a heavy pan heat the oil and stir-fry the onions, carrot and garlic until the vegetables are soft and lightly golden.
4. Place the walnuts with some water in a blender and process until they form an almost uniform paste with only few pieces of walnuts. Set aside.
5. Place two cups of soft beans from the soup together with 1 cup of the liquid in a blender and process in a smooth paste. Return to the pot.
6. Add the walnut paste, the onion mixture salt and pepper to the pot, mix well and let cook for about 15 minutes. At this stage if your soup is too think add some more water until it reaches the desired consistency.
7. Add all the herbs, season with extra salt and pepper if necessary and cook for few more minutes. Garnish with some fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cheese fondue


A couple of months ago we got a fondue set. An electric one. It's not so atmospheric as those with the little candle under the pot, but the good thing about it is that it is easy to regulate the temperature. This way whatever is melting in the pot is not burned.

Anyway, I was planning to use it once my sister would come to visit, but finally when she came we totally forgot about it. But today I took a big decision! It was very nice! So here comes the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

300 gr, Emmental-type cheese, preferably not very salty, shredded

1 cup white wine

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp dry mustard
some ground nutmeg

1. In the fondue pot mix the wine, paprika, lemon juice, mustard and nutmeg and bring to the boil.

2. Reduce the heat and start slowly stirring the cheese into the wine mixture.

3. With a wooden spatula constantly keep stirring the cheese until it melts.

4. Transfer the fondue pot to the base and set the heat on low. It should not be boiling, but rather stay liquid and creamy.


Serve it with various pieces of veg, ham, shrimp, crackers, bread etc. Have fun!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Buckwheat kasha or porridge


Two days ago the weather was sunny again so it was a great opportunity to go out, ride a bike, take some beautiful pictures of the city and not to think at all of what I would cook later. Unfortunately, a hungry man, returning from the office probably would not share my joy. So when I realized that it was already 6pm so I had to go with something ultra quick. While I was switching between pasta and... well pasta... my eye stopped on a pack of buckwheat that I bought a couple of days ago.

A pack of what?! Buckwheat? What the hell is that? If you never lived in Russia or other countries of ex USSR, these are probably the questions going through your mind, as this "pseudograin" is not very common outside these areas. And I really don't know why this is the case, since it is really tasty and it reminds me a bit of my childhood. So I was really happy to discover it in the Turkish store (what would I really do without it!) in my neighborhood.

When you open the package you see brownish little grains, pyramid-shaped. You don't have to soak it overnight or do anything else. Just rinse it a bit with some water and it is ready to be cooked.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups buckwheat

2 tbsp butter or in worse case margarine

water for cooking

salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Wash the buckwheat and put it in a medium pot.

2. Add enough water to cover and through the butter in. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Place the pot on a strong heat and bring to boil, then lower the heat, cover and continue cooking for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. If necessary add some water.

4. At the end the buckwheat should be tender and non sticky. You could probably compare it's consistency to steamed rice. Place it on a plate and serve as a side dish along with steak, chicken, meatballs, sausages (that's what I did. I know, LAZY!) or anything else you like.


I know that this is not a real recipe, it doesn't even involve cooking as such, but it is veeery delicious! Funny thing, the first time I ever cooked it Stratis was staring at his plate, as if asking "What the hell is THAT?!". Now he actually seems to enjoy it, yesterday he even asked for some extra! :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Red-cooked Beef with Shiitake Mushrooms


Again I haven't been a good blogger. No particular reason this time. I was cooking mostly usual everyday food, soups, salads, meatballs you know. Nothing too impressive. Sometimes my cooking mood goes together with the weather, which was not exactly great these days. But today it was really amazing! After a short rain in the morning the sun came out and the whole city looked so wonderfully optimistic. I took a long ride across the canals of Amsterdam. It felt almost like spring. To be honest, each time I see sun in the sky I hope that it could be a start!

Well anyway, the day was nice and on my way home I stopped at a Turkish grocery store for supplies. Fruits, vegetables, couscous, cheese, olives... hmmm... black Shiitake mushrooms. Haven't bought them for quite some time actually. Maybe today I'll go with Chinese food.

Well the original recipe was vegetarian and required 225gr of tofu. But since I don't like tofu I substituted it by 300gr lean beef and it was very very tasty! It's nice to cook something different for a change! :)

INGREDIENTS:

300gr learn beef
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh root ginger, finely chopped
8 canned Shiitake mushrooms
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup spring onions, chopped
black pepper to taste
egg noodles, cooked

1. Cut the beef in small, slices about half centimeter thick.
2. In a bowl mix the soy sauce, sherry, sugar, garlic and ginger. Place in the beef slices in the mixture and leave to marinate for about half an hour. Drain reserving the marinade.
3. Squeeze the mushrooms, reserving the can liquid, and slice them.
4. In a small bowl mix the soy marinate, 6 tbsp of mushroom liquid and the cornflour.
5. Heat a wok and add the oil. Stir-fry the beef slices for about 5 minutes then remove from the wok and set aside.
6. Add to the wok he mushrooms and the spring onions and stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes. Pour in the marinade mixture, season with black pepper and cook until the liquid thickens.
7. Return the beef to the wok and simmer for a couple of minutes, letting the flavors to mix. Serve over the egg noodles

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gemista - Stuffed tomatoes and peppers


Two days ago Stratis had a birthday and of course the plan was to go out with friends and have lots of drinks. But I thought it would be nice to have a good dinner at home before, just the two of us, as a part of his "special birthday treatment". So while Stratis was at his after-work squash game I kicked myself to the kitchen and prepared a lovely meal consisting of a huge salad, grilled vegetables with special marinade (recipe coming soon), Gemista and of course good Greek wine. For dessert I made an amazing Apple pie that I stole from kalofagas.ca (another "coming soon" post). So for now I'm posting the Gemista which were slightly different from what I usually cook but I think the change was for good :) Btw, Gemista is literally translated as "something stuffed".


INGREDIENTS:

5 large tomatoes
5 large red bell peppers
2 cups risotto rice (short-grained, kind of roundish)
2 onions, diced
2-3 handfuls black and white raisins
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and ground pepper to taste

1. Slice the tops from the tomatoes and the peppers and keep them aside. Remove the seeds from the peppers.
2. With a spoon remove the seeds from the tomatoes and place them in a food processor together with the sugar and tomato paste.
3. In a medium pot heat the oil and fry the onion until soft and lightly golden. Add the tomato mixture, raisins, pine nuts and rice. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1-2 cups of water and cook on low heat, adding water if necessary and stirring occasionally so that the rice does not stick to the bottom. Cook until the rice is almost cooked.
4. 2-3 minutes before the rice is ready add the parsley.
5. With a spoon stuff the tomatoes and peppers with the filling.
6. In a deep casserole dish place all the leftover filling and spread it over the bottom. Place the tomatoes and peppers on top of the rice, one next to the other close enough so that they stay vertically. Cover each vegetable with it's own top that you sliced off at the beginning.
7. Add 1 glass of water to the dish and bake the Gemista in the oven at 180oC and serve with some extra filling along with Greek yogurt and Feta cheese.

You could serve them as a main course or a starter, both hot or cold. Gemista are good in all the ways. Some people also add minced meet in the filling but I prefer raisins instead. If you wanna try them with minced meat you substitute 1/3 of the rice with the minced meet and remove the raisins.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cod fillet with fresh tomato sauce


Sadly the Christmas vacation is over. And as always it involved a lot of eating :) But when the food is good it's almost impossible not to exceed the limits. So unfortunately, what is left from the holidays, apart from the wonderful memories, are some extra kilos. And the summer will come... And I won't be happy... So better now and slowly than in May and in panic. Diet it is!

The first thing I do when going on diet is trying to cut on carbs like rice and potatoes and substitute them with vegetables. So today when I prepared a crunchy fish fillet, I combined it with steamed green beans instead of usual rice. Actually, it feels good to be eating properly for once in weeks.

INGREDIENTS:

1kg cod fillet (or any other white fish), cut into 5-6 pieces
400 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

5-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar

1 tsp dry thyme

2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and ground black pepper

1. In a medium pot heat 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, thyme, basil, sugar, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Place the sauce in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Press through a fine sieve, pour back to the pot and warm up over a medium heat.

3. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

4. In a heavy pan with a non-stick surface heat the rest of the oil and fry the fish until it is crunchy on the outside and cooked through. Serve with the tomato sauce on top of the steamed green beans.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oven-baked giant Greek beans


Yesterday I posted a recipe of Greek superburgers that I served with oven-baked giant beans. Well, as I promised, here is the recipe of the beans.

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 kg giant white Greek beans
1 can (400 gr) diced tomatoes
200 gr tomato puree
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 allspice grains
1 tsp dry basil
1 tbsp white sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup water

1. Soak the beans in abundant water overnight. There should be a lot of water, as the beans will absorb it and if you only add enough to cover them after a couple of hours the ones on top will be uncovered.
2. The next day cook the beans for about 2 hours (or until the beans are soft) in unsalted water, taking care that there is enough liquid in the pot so that the beans don't burn. 10 minutes before the end add 1 tsp salt to the pot. Drain the beans and set aside.
3. In a large sauce pan heat half of the oil. Add the onions and carrots and stir fry until lightly golden. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic, allspice, basil, sugar and the rest of the oil, lower the heat and let the sauce cook for about 20 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick gradually add the water.
4. Return the beans to the pot and mix well.
5. Place the mix in a baking pan, cover with foil and bake in the over at 180°C for about 10-15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Done!

I like serving it with some grated Parmesan or Myzithra (Greek cheese) as a side dish accompanying either grilled chicken breasts or burgers. A green salad is also a nice addition. If you decrease the amount of oil a bit, these beans are also nice for dieting as the carbs that they contain are the good, slow carbs that keep you full for a long long time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Greek burgers


Ok, it's not a secret, I am a meat fan. Anything would do! Few days ago I was craving a burger. But not just any burger, nothing even close to McDonalds or even Burger Bar, an amazing fast-food restaurant in the center of Amsterdam. I was craving what Stratis calls "THE best burger ever". You prepare it in no time and with appropriate minced meat it could be considered the ultimate healthy burger!

INGREDIENTS:

1kg of minced beef meat (preferably low fat)
2 average-size onions, grated (very finely diced is also fine)
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup bread crumbles
1 cup fresh milk (YES, MILK! Very typical for a Greek burger)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sweet cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin

1. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Shape into burgers.
3. Place on an oiled baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 40 minutes or until cooked through but not dry.

I cooked this amazing burgers yesterday for dinner and served them with giant Greek oven-baked beans (recipe is on the way) and pickled silverskin onions on the side. I think both me and my man enjoyed them a lot!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spinach omelet


Again no blogging for quite some time, because of my trip home. The vacation was wonderful. I spent Christmas at Kastoria, a beautiful city in the north of Greece. Then a long drive to Thessaloniki, a week of drinking and a traditional new year's night at friend's place where we traditionally played Black Jack (I lost 1 whole euro :P) and had a traditional Vasilopita pie (my mom's recipe of the pie is coming). The pie contains a lucky coin inside and the person who gets the piece with the coin is supposed to be very lucky in the coming year. Well this year I won 3 coins, so I am very optimistic about this year!

Anyways, now I'm back to Amsterdam and cooking again. However, I didn't have time to upload the pictures so I will post another omelet recipe (too many eggs lately), which I made just few days before going home.

INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 zucchini, diced
30-40 gr feta cheese, crashed
1/2 tsp dry oregano
salt, ground black pepper to taste
olive oil for frying
1 tbsp parsley for garnishing, finely chopped

1. In a pan with non-stick surface heat the oil. Saute the onion with zucchini until softened.
2. In a bowl beat the eggs. Add tomatoes, spinach, feta and oregano and spice up with salt and pepper.
3. Pour the egg mixture over the onion and zucchini, cover, lower the heat and cook until the omelet is hard but still juicy. Garnish with parsley and serve along with cheese or ham or both.
4. Alternatively, instead of frying you could pour all the ingredients into a baking pan and bake in the oven.

In fact you could use any vegetables you have in your fridge. When I cook it for lunch I some times use potatoes instead of zucchinis or add some ham as well. I would guess that chicken must also fit nicely. Hmmm, I might try it soon :)