Complete List of Recipes & Reflections

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Greek Cucumber Salad - Αγγουροσαλάτα

With the summer in full swing here in the northern hemisphere, many of us are seeking relief from stifling temperatures. In some regions new record seasonal highs have been recorded; here in Toronto the past week was a true scorcher. Fortunately, Greek food culture includes recipes that are perfectly suited to beating the heat.

A bird's eye view of my Greek cucumber salad, click to enlarge

When Greeks sit down to a summertime meal, they will invariably include a raw salad of one kind or another. One of the more popular summertime Greek salads in our family is the world famous Aggourosalata (ah-goo-roh-sah-LAH-ta), or, Cucumber Salad. There are a few variations on the theme, but it is a very basic dish and serves as a refreshing course alongside other summertime favourites.

The cucumber has been α part of Greek cookery for millennia. It is used in the famous Tzatziki sauce, and can simply be sliced into wedges, salted or not, and consumed without any fuss, much like a melon. Indeed, a little known fact about the cucumber is that it is not a vegetable; it is actually a melon.

Ancient Greek melon patches included the long green fruits alongside more recognizable spherical varieties. Today, alas, cucumbers are found among the vegetables in market produce sections, which can cause some confusion regarding their genus. Fortunately, a few of us are familiar with the old ways and can serve to remind others of our forgotten Greek food heritage.

For presentation purposes this salad makes an impression, click to enlarge

As refreshing as a cucumber salad can be during the course of the summer, there is yet another means by which this melon can bring relief from the heat. My grandfather taught me the trick, just as his father taught him, and I have now passed it on to my son. The technique requires only a small part of the cucumber and does not involve consuming it. I will reveal this family custom in a separate posting following this one, so stay tuned…

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium sized cucumber, chilled, washed but not peeled and sliced thinly
  • ½ medium sized red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons Greek wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano
  • Kalamata olives
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper; to taste.
Preparation:

In a large bowl, combine and toss all the ingredients together. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Kali Orexi! Bon Appetit!

Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand™
http://www.greekgourmand.com
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Macedonian Halva (Μακεδονικός Χαλβάς)

For those of you who are fasting for Lent or practicing vegetarian/vegans, this is your lucky day. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Irish eyes are smilin'! :)

Halva ready for service - Click to enlarge image

One of the hardest aspects of a fast or strict dietary regimen is avoiding tempting sweets and finding acceptable substitutes for dessert courses. This is especially hard on kids. Confections like this one are popular amongst Greek families during the Lenten period. I simply loved this stuff as a child. Still do!

There are probably as many variations on this recipe as there are Greek matrons with culinary opinions. My recipe is quite basic, feel free to add or substitute other elements like pine nuts, sesame seeds, walnuts, or whatever else tickles your fancy. A few drops of orange blossom water or even some lemon rind in the syrup could also be a nice touch.

I should mention that not only are there numerous permutations for this recipe, there are also alternative preparation methods involving the oven, for instance. To add to the complexity of the matter, Greeks apply the term halva interchangeably to flour or nut-based (i.e. ground sesame seed or pistachio etc.,) versions of this confection.

Thus much have I for you today on the topic of my Macedonian halva recipe. I hope you try it. If you know any Irish folk, give them a hug today. Greece and Ireland have a lot in common these days.

Ingredients

1 cup coarse semolina
1 cup Greek blossom honey (anthomelo, ανθομελο)
4 cups of water
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil* (vegetable oil may also be used)
¼ cup blanched almonds, chopped
¼ cup sultana raisins* (optional, but highly recommended)
Ground cinnamon

Note: for those of you with a keener sweet tooth, adding a ½ cup or so of sugar to the syrup is an option. I prefer the simple purity of the honey as my sweet tooth has dulled with wisdom... ;-)

Preparation:
  1. Combine honey and water in a pan, and set to boil as our syrup. When it has boiled, set it to simmer while you prepare the semolina mixture.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium to high heat
  3. When the oil is hot, add the semolina to the pot and mix it continuously with a wooden spoon to brown the semolina thoroughly; try to keep it from smoking much, keep it moving in the bottom of the pan. About 6 – 8 minutes. Do not burn it.
  4. Once the semolina has been browned, use a deep kitchen spoon or ladle and gradually add the still-simmering honey-water mixture to the pot. Be careful, do not add it all at once and keep your hands away from the pot opening.
  5. Mix the thickening semolina mixture well and keep adding the syrup until it is fully absorbed then add the almonds and raisins, lower the heat to medium low and continue mixing well for a few more minutes.
  6. Spoon the mixture quickly into 2 small 6 inch spring-form jelly/cake moulds which you have pre-greased with olive oil, and then use a spoon to pat the mixture down well and evenly into each mould; take care to ensure a uniform and level finish.
  7. Set the moulds to cool. Turn out onto a service plate and sprinkle with cinnamon before enjoying.

Total preparation time: 20 minutes

Desserts like this one are about getting back to the basics. Did I mention it is cholesterol free?

Pánta Kalá! Πάντα Καλά! (Always Be Well)


Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand™
http://www.greekgourmand.com
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Prasorizo - Leeks and Rice (Πρασόρυζο)

Many of you are likely already familiar with the Greek dish, Spanakorizo (spinach and rice), but how many of you have tried Prasorizo? Leeks have been a part of the Greek pantry for millenia. In ancient Greece, there were leek growing competitions and the largest specimens were awarded as offerings to the gods.

Prasorizo - served with a lemon wedge

The fresh green onions and garlic are excellent complements to the leeks in this dish as they are all part of the genus Allium. This dish is vegan and fast-friendly. However, for those of you who are not (or only partially) fasting, some real Greek Feta cheese also goes well with this dish, whether on the side, or crumbled over top as a finishing touch.

An easy and quick Greek recipe that is tasty and seasonal.

Ingredients:

3 large leeks sliced into thin discs
4 - 6 green onions sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cup long grain rice
½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup of chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, pressed/minced
1 heaping tablespoon full of dried Greek oregano
2 ½ cups of water
Salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over a medium heat.
  2. Add the leeks and onions to the oil stir well and sauté until soft (cover the pot for 3 -5 minutes).
  3. Add the rice and sauté for 2 more minutes mixing well to coat the rice with oil.
  4. Add garlic, pine nuts and parsley to the pot, mix and heat through for another minute.
  5. Add seasonings and gradually add 2 cups of water in stages, stir/shake pot to thoroughly incorporate.
  6. Once all the water has been added and the pot’s contents brought to a boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pot to simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Periodically uncover the pot and give the contents a stir/shake. At the 5-minute mark, uncover the pot, give the contents a stir and, if necessary, add the remaining ½ cup of water. Cover and finish cooking.
  8. When the cooking has elapsed, leaving the pot covered, remove it from the heat and set it aside to stand for 10 minutes.
  9. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve with a lemon wedge.
Makes 4 servings
Total preparation time: 45 minutes.

Kali Orexi! Bon Appetit!

Sam Sotiropoulos
Greek Gourmand™
http://www.greekgourmand.com
Greek Food Recipes and Reflections
Copyright © 2008, Sam Sotiropoulos. All Rights Reserved.