Sep 11, 2014

Greek yogurt panna cotta, and baked figs with honey and walnuts

  



   My grandfather planted a fig tree in the garden of our cottage that, despite its age, has never stopped producing fruits year after year. Fig trees, like olive trees, live long. They are commonly found in the Greek country side next to old houses or ruins, still in perfect shape and full of fruits every August, as if time for them is an endless youth.
     I’m sure you have had that ‘feeling’ when visiting an older relative’s house after many years, a sense that you remember it being bigger and suddenly you realize that houses usually keep their shape and that it is you who, like Alice in Wonderland, grew larger. I had that sense the other day with the fig tree in our garden. As a child I used to climb on its branches to pick more figs and back then I used to think it was huge.
      Our figs are yellow, the variety used for sun dried figs. Every August my grandmother would lay them on thatch on the terrace under the hot summer sun to dry and after the sunset every evening we would help her to carry them into the house to protect them against humidity. That ritual would be repeated for as many days as needed until the figs would dry out and be ready for storage. My grandmother stored them in cookie boxes layered with laurel leaves as a preserving agent.     
      Figs are usually consumed fresh, but in Greece we make a wonderful emerald sweet preserve in June with unripe figs, and of course as I said before, some varieties can be dried and used all year in other confections.   





Aug 14, 2014

Greek salad with rotini pasta





    Hot summer weather provides us with the tastiest fruits and vegetables for the flavorful dishes that make cooks so happy. And when I say dishes I don’t necessarily mean complicated techniques and time consuming recipes. Who wants to spend time in a hot kitchen in the middle of August?
    All you need is a good variety of seasonal veggies and a little imagination to prepare a nutritious and filling salad. If you also add pasta you can turn any salad into a full, impressive, and no fuss meal. A classic Greek salad, for example, paired with rotini pasta makes a wonderful summer dish that everyone loves. It is easy to make and can be served chilled or at room temperature, making it  ideal for a picnic. 




Jul 30, 2014

Lemonáto - Lemon flavored chicken stew

  


   Lemon flavored casserole stews, or lemonáta (λεμονάτα) as we call them in Greek, are very popular because of the refreshing and slightly sour taste that the lemon juice and peel give to these dishes. Although lemon flavored dishes are cooked all year long, summer is the most popular season for lemonáta. Hot weather calls for light flavors! Poultry and beef are the most popular meat choices for this dish. 
Lemonáto can be served with pasta, rice or most preferably with homemade fried potatoes.



Lemonáto 

1 chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
100gr olive oil
1medium onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and ground pepper to taste
1litre of hot water or chicken stock
Juice and the peel from one lemon


In a large skillet over medium heat pour the olive oil and when hot add the chicken, skin side down, and brown quickly for 3 minutes. Turn the chicken over, add onion and the garlic, reduce the heat to medium- low and let the onion soften for  about 4-5 min. Season with salt and pepper, add the water or chicken stock, cover and let the chicken cook for 40-50min checking occasionally if the liquid is enough; add some more hot water if needed.
When the chicken has cooked, add the lemon juice and peel to the pot and cook for 2-3min more so that the flavors combine.
Serve hot with homemade fried potatoes or, if you prefer with pasta or rice.




Jun 26, 2014

Visináda - Sour cherries refreshing beverage

    


 Visináda (βυσσινάδα) is one of the favorite beverages in Greece. It is made with the juice of sour cherries and sugar, cooked until it’s concentrated into a thick, deep purple syrup. Though sour cherries are not usually eaten raw, they taste just wonderful when cooked with sugar. 

In my little village we have only wild sour cherry trees; I never found out who first cultivated them here but they must have loved this place. And even if you plant only one tree, in a few years you end up with a small wild sour cherry forest because they tend to expand like crazy. Though you need to pit twice the amount of the wild fruit for a recipe compared to cultivated sour cherries, the wild variety has a superb taste. Sour cherries can be found in farmer’s markets at the end of June and early July in Greece; in July and even August in more northern countries.

To enjoy visináda, pour in a glass, one part of syrup and four parts of ice cold water or club soda and fill with ice. Sour cherry syrup can also be used over ice cream and desserts or in cocktails for color and taste.







Jun 7, 2014

Tyropitákia - feta and phyllo, mini cheese pies

  



 When I was in college cooking was not my forte so, to save me from eating junk food, my mother would load my freezer with dozens of small homemade cheese pies (tyropitákia) for my meals. I would fry them for a few minutes straight from the freezer and immediately had a delicious, crunchy and flavorful snack, - a snack that I have not stopped loving ever since. 
They are great with a glass of beer as a meze, or with some salad for a filling and fast meal, or as a handy snack at work or school. We serve them at the restaurant as a first course or for meze dishes.