Frying

Zucchini & Eggplant Stack With Smoked Metsovone Cheese

IMG_0973-001This recipe riffs of one of favourite Greek appetizers, fried zucchini chips. Tavernas all over Greece serve this easy but delicious dish in the summer months, when zucchini are in season. They are often served with Tzatziki.

Another fave, although not as common are fried eggplant chips. I like combining both to make for a colourful stack of green and purple. Although fried, the vegetables are very thinly sliced with one of my favourite kitchen tools, the mandoline.

They are lightly dredged in my flour blend mixed with corn starch for an extra-crispy texture. There’s no Tzatziki here but I’ve concocted a thin but creamy garlic yogurt sauce that can be squeezed out of a bottle.IMG_0958

The surprise addition here is the use of Smoked Metsovone from the town of Mestovo, in the province of Epirus. This town is town is foodie-heaven with the many tavernas serving traditional Greek food, their local sausages and PDO/appellation Smoked Metsovone cheese. One of my favourite Greek cheeses!

This appetizer will leave wanting to make more batches: thin shavings/slices of Metsovone cheese are hidden in the stack of fried zucchini and eggplant, slightly melting and imparting a smoked cheese flavour. I’m off to make another batch!IMG_0967

Zucchini & Eggplant Stack With Smoked Metsovone Cheese

(serves 4)

1 medium,  Japanese eggplant

1 zucchini (of equal size)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. corn starch

1/4 tsp. sea salt

sunflower oil for frying

thinly sliced Smoked Metsovone cheese (or smoked Gouda)

  1. In a shallow bowl, add the flour, corn starch and salt and mix with a fork, set aside. Cut the stem ends of the zucchini and eggplant and discard. Now take a mandoline and thinly slice your vegetables into coins and toss in the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour.
  2. Heat your oil to 375F in a shallow pot or deep fryer. Fry the zucchini and eggplant in batches, reserve on a paper towel lined plate.
  3. Stack a quarter of the vegetables on a plate, then top with thin shavings of cheese. Now add another quarter of the vegetables followed by more shaved cheese. Repeat with remaining vegetables and cheese with some more cheese to top the stack of fried zucchini and eggplant.
  4. Drizzle some garlic yogurt sauce, garnish with sweet paprika and serve warm.

TIP: Add plain yogurt into a bowl along with some garlic powder and whisk to blend. Now gradually add evaporated milk and continue to whisk until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

 

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© 2013, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

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Zucchini & Eggplant Stack With Smoked Metsovone Cheese was first posted on July 22, 2013 at 7:53 am.
©2012 "Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at truenorth67@gmail.com

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Eva’s Touloumbes

IMG_3128More cooking adventures involving fried dough. Every cuisine has their version(s), everyone loves them and many deny themselves eating such pleausures. I’ve never been an advocate of making desserts lighter..does that mean I can three portion of the lighter version?

Desserts are desserts, they should be sweet, they should catch your eye, they should be fattening and yes, they should be delicious! Touloumbes fall into this category. No excuses, no clever Mediterranean diet postitive side effects here. These are made of a choux dough (flour, eggs, oil) and fried until golden then allowed to steep in a honey-syrup spiked with whole cloves.IMG_8664

The first time I tried Touloumbes were in Thessaloniki, Greece. Practically all the patisseries offer them and most people buy them, offer them as part of an array treats to a hostess. This recipe comes courtesy of a faimily friend, kuria (Mrs.) Eva Avramis. Hands down…the best Touloumbes I’ve ever tasted!

Equipment-wise, you will need a medium sized pot to make the choux in, a larger pot or wok to fry the Touloumbes, another medium pot to make the syrup and a wire rack to set the syruped Touloumbes on (and a tray underneath to catch and harvest leftover syrup).IMG_5983

Eva’s Touloumbes

(makes approx. 30)

2 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup sunflower oil

Choux pastry

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

splash of vanilla extract

5 large eggs

For the syrup

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup honey

3-4 whole cloves

  1. Make your syrup in advance so it has time to cool (syrup must be cool/room temp. and Touloumbes hot). Bring up to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the honey, stir in and take off the heat and allow to cool (room temp. is fine).
  2. Place a medium pot on your stovetop and bring up to a boil. In the meantime, measure out your flour in a large bowl. Crack your eggs into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. When the water comes to a boil, remove the pot from the heat and add the hot water into the middle of the flour and incorporate with  hand mixer.
  4. Add the vanilla extract plus an egg and use your hand mixer to blend in. Add and mix in the remaining eggs one at a time. Set aside
  5. Place a wide pan/pot on your stovetop and add about 1 inch of oil. Bring the oil up to a temperature of 300-325F.
  6. Insert a #6 star nozzle into a large piping bag and use a spatula to fill it.
  7. When your oil has reached 325F, squeeze the choux pastry out of the bag and cut into three inch length with scissors into the hot oil. Fry in batches.
  8. Fry gently until just golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and place in the reserved cooled syrup. Allow the Touloumbes to soak in the syrup for about 5-6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a fine mesh rack (with pan underneath to harvest leftover syrup). Serve on  platter or small plate with a dusting of cinnamon on top.

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Eva’s Touloumbes was first posted on April 4, 2013 at 9:24 am.
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Grilled Halloumi With a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

IMG_2824-1

Grilled Halloumi With a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

(appetizer for 6)

1/3 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic, smashed

1 roasted red pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup of hand-crushed plum tomatoes (from good quality canned variety)

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of Boukovo (chilli flakes)

1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

1 block Halloumi cheese, cut into 1/4 inch slices (makes about 12 slices)

Pita bread, cut into triangles (about the size of your Halloumi slices)

  1. In a small skillet, add your olive oil over medium heat and add your onions and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes to soften. Add your chopped roasted red peppers and crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce back to medium and simmer. Add some salt and pepper to taste and simmer for another 7-10 minutes or until thick. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit. Add the sauce to a food processor or blender and puree. Adjust seasoning, add your pinch of Boukovo and dried Greek oregano and keep warm.
  3. Pre-heat your gas grill or stove-top grill pan to medium-high heat. Brush your slices of Halloumi cheese with olive oil (but leave the pan dry). When the grill surface is hot, grill your cheese for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes a side.
  4. Place your pita triangles on your serving dish and them top with the grilled Halloumi slices and a ribbon or dollop of the warm roasted red pepper sauce. Serve immediately.

Note: If you have any leftover sauce, this is great with some pasta and shrimp.

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Grilled Halloumi With a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce was first posted on April 2, 2013 at 8:29 am.
©2012 "Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at truenorth67@gmail.com

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Loukoumades

IMG_9805One of Greece’s best known sweets/ desserts/snacks/street foods has to be Loukoumades. I knew that offering these sweet fritters up for my guests would be memorable. Every Greek has had them. Loukoumades are the Greeks’ answer to donuts and as one friend calls them…”the original Timbits”!IMG_2137

The first time I ate Loukoumades was during my introductory trip to Greece in 1974 at the Tottis cafe located at Thessaloniki’s Aristotelous Square. Every Greek’s had them, every Greek wants them but not every Greek can make them (or bother to make them).

Loukoumades can be found throughout Greece and although many good Greek home cooks can make them, most settle for simply buying them as a treat during the evening “volta” or walk.IMG_6442

Each cuisine has it’s sinful delights and Loukoumades are one of Greece’s sweet pleasures. Loukoumades are a deep fried dough which are then dunked in syrup, followed by a sprinkled of ground walnuts and dusted with ground cinnamon.

They are eaten warm or room temperature and the outside is sticky from the syrup but the delight in eating Loukoumades comes from the crunch one gets from biting into the walnuts, penetrating the fritter and then getting a little burst of the syrup which has penetrated the inside.

Anyone interested in trying Loukoumades?IMG_2141

Loukoumades (Λουκουμάδες)

(makes 30-40)

For the Dough

1 1/2 cups tepid water

1/4 cup sunflower/vegetable oil

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup corn starch

pinch of salt

Syrup
1 cup of honey
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of water

Topping
Ground walnuts
Ground cinnamon

  1. In a pot, add your water and sugar and bring up to a boil. Once aboil reduce to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the honey, stir in and take off the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. In another bowl, add the tepid water, sugar and yeast and allow to rise for about 5 minutes. In another bowl, add the flour, corn starch and salt and mix with a fork and set aside.
  3. When the yeast has activated, add your wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix with your hands until incorporated into a wet dough. Set aside and allow to rise for about two hours (the dough should be spongy with bubbles).
  4. Pre-heat your a large pot with vegetable oil (or a deep fryer) and you want the oil to reach approx. 325-350F. Set up a frying station of your bowl of Loukoumades batter, a glass with water, a teaspoon and the fryer.
  5. Take a handful of dough in your palm and then squeeze it out onto a waiting spoon that’s been dunked in water, then drop it in the hot oil until golden brown. Fry off in batches until you’ve fried all your batter.
  6. Now dunk your Loukoumades into the hot syrup and allow them to steep in the syrup a3-4 minutes before removing. Place them on a wire rack with a pan underneath to catch dripping syrup (add back into syrup pot). Repeat until all your Loukoumades are dunked in the syrup.
  7. Plate your Loukoumades and then sprinkle some ground walnuts and ground cinnamon on top and serve warm.

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© 2013, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.


Loukoumades was first posted on March 19, 2013 at 9:08 am.
©2012 "Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at truenorth67@gmail.com

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Piroski

IMG_8345There are about 11 million Greeks in today’s Greece and about another 11 million throughout the rest of the world. Greeks have long traveled beyond familiar land and have made their new beginnings in far off lands.

Eons ago, Greeks had settlements in Egypt, as far west as southern France and as far east as India when Alexander the Great traversed and conquered and Greeks co-habitated with locals.

Greeks, for ages, lived beyond the borders of today’s Greece and some the oldest Greek settlements were in Asia Minor. Of particular notice today are the Pontian Greeks who lived in Pontos or around the Black Sea. Earliest mention of Greeks in the Black Sea region is from Greek mythology when Jason and the Argonauts traveled here in search of the Golden Fleece.

Political upheavels between Turkey and Greece caused large populations of Greek and Turks to be expelled from respective territories. Greece saw an influx of Asian Minor Greeks from Smyrni, Constantinople and the Turkish interior and of course, Pontians from around the Black Sea.PowerPoint Slide Show - [salonika [Compatibility Mode]] 05022013 53443 PM-001

Like any refugee, you’re forced to leave your life behind, unable to think about what belongings to bring with you and most people simply came with their memories and local customs and dialects with them. Pontian Greeks have resettled throughout Greece but the majority live in Athens, Thessaloniki and in towns throughout the province of Macedonia.IMG_8334

Although my family is not Pontian we do have many family members (through marriage) that are Pontians and of course, many friends. This recipe comes courtesy of one my mother’s best friends, kuria (Mrs.) Eleni Abatzoglou, who shared her recipe for Pontiaka Piroski.

Piroski are fried dough with an array of filling from potato, to cheese and to meet. They are easy to make and through the miracle of fried dough – they are addictive and dangerous to have laying about as you just can’t get enough of them!IMG_8351

Pontiaka Piroski (Ποντιακα Πιροσκι)

For the dough

1 1/2 cups tepid water

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. fine seat salt

3 1/4-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Potato filling

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3-4 large potatoes, skins on (Yukon Gold or other yellow potato)

2 medium onions, finely diced

4 scallions, sliced

1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

  1. In  bowl or stand mixer, add the tepid water, olive oil, sugar and allow the yeast some time to activate, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and flour in increments as you knead-in or mix. Add flour until the dough is smooth and not too sticky. Drizzle with olive oil, cover and place in  bowl. Allow the dough to rise to at least double. (couple of hours).
  2. In the meantime, place your potatoes in a pot and fill with water and season with salt. Bring up to a boil and cook until just fork tender. Once they have cooled enough to handle, peel the skins off with the back of a knife and use a fork to coarsely mash the potatoes or use a potato ricer. Reserve in a bowl and allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, add your olive oil into a skillet over medium heat and add the onions and scallions along with a sprinkle of salt. Sweat the onions for about 12-15 minutes and allow the onions to caramelize for 3-5 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Add cooled onions to the bowl with potatoes, salt  and pepper and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula. Taste, adjust seasoning and reserve.
  5. When your dough is ready, uncover and dab your fingers in some oil. Grab a piece of dough about the size of a large walnut and flatten the dough in your palm or then place on a lightly floured work surface and continue to flatten and spread the dough until it opens up to the size of  tea/coffee saucer.
  6. Place a heaping tablespoon of the potato filling and place in the middle of the dough. Fold the the dough over to envelope the filling and form a half-moon shape. Pinch the edges with your finger (or fork) to seal and gently pat-down on the filling so it spreads evenly inside the dough (and remove air pockets). Repeat and form your remaining Piroski. Allow the dough to rest 15 minutes.
  7. Place a large heavy Dutch oven on your stovetop and add about 3 inches of olive oil the pot. Bring up to a temperature of 365F and fry your Piroski in batches ( flip to evenly fry both sides) until just golden (the filling is already cooked). Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on a rack. Repeat and fry the remaining Piroski.
  8. Serve warm or room temperature as a snack or meze. Try them with a dollop of strained Greek yogurt.IMG_8353

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© 2013, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.


Piroski was first posted on February 19, 2013 at 10:29 am.
©2012 "Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at truenorth67@gmail.com

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Tsigarides – Fried Pork Chunks

IMG_7359 I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with family, friends and loved ones. Yesterday was one of the most memorable…for the company and of course, the food. Christmas for the Greeks goes beyond Christmas day and the tree at this household does not come down until after Epiphany. One of the mezedes I made yesterday were Tsigarides or deep-fried pork chunks -  a favourite of my Mom & Dad’s as they were growing up in towns in the Prefecture of Florina.

Much talk is made of Mediterranean diet and yes, by and large people of modern Greece like to eat lots of vegetables, legumes, fish & seafood, fruits and nuts and meat for special occasions. What many don’t know is that not all of Greece produces olive oil and even fifty years ago people mostly ate what was produced locally. In regions like Florina, Kastoria, Thrace and parts of Epirus, there are no olive trees.IMG_7425

My parents recall using most animal fat (from the pig) and butter for cooking. These people lived off of what’s local and they lived to tell us about it. I am here to tell you that I love Greek food, I cook using mostly olive oil but I also think there is a place for butter and fats in Greek cuisine. These were ingredients my grandparents used, their grandparents used it and I can with certainty that Yiayia did not cook with BITAM (Greece’s most popular/consumed margarine).

The name of this site is called Kalofagas…literally translated as good feeder, a gourmand. My goal is to feature Greek cuisine in it’s most correct form – what Greeks eat at home, be it in Greece or Diaspora. I showcase food I’ve been exposed to through my many trips to Greece and it’s many regions and I offer up dishes that inspire me through the wonderful Greek chefs of ago and the new wave that are putting Greece cuisine at the forefront of gastronomy.IMG_7355

I am not  doctor, not a dietician nor am I  preacher. I share dishes that look good, taste great and I leave you with the recipes that allow you to recreate these wonderful food memories. Greek cuisine is many things…it’s healthy, it’s balanced, it’s simple and it’s delicious. One thing Greek food IS NOT is boring or bland.

Time to buy some boneless pork butt, cut them into chunks and simmer them until tender then fry them until deep brown and crispy. Tsigarides are associated with another long-time Greek tradition – the slaughter of the pig. An animal that helped so many Greeks survive the winter months. Preserved meats like Kavourma were made, sausages, salamis and of course the good cuts for feast days.

Tsigarides are not something one should eat often but it is the Christmas season and there’s nothing wrong with eating the decadent, fried foods in moderation as well. Yesterday’s tasting panel of my Mother, Father, Aunt, Brother and other relatives love them! So, you ate 2-3 deep-fried pork chunks over the holiday? I doubt you’ll be checking-in for that triple bypass anytime soon.IMG_7378

Tsigarides (Tσιγαριδες)

(meze platter for 4-6)

1 1/2 lbs. of boneless pork butt, cut into 1 inch chunks

coarse sea salt & fresh ground pepper

approx. 2-3 tsp. sweet paprika

water

sunflower oil for frying

fine sea salt and dried Greek oregano for finishing

  1. After you’ve cut up your pork, season well with sea salt, ground pepper and sweet paprika and toss to coat well. Place in a large skillet or pot and turn the heat onto medium high. Brown  the meat on ll sides (occasionally stirring) and then add enough hot water to just cover the meat. Cover and reduce  heat to medium and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the meat is fork-tender.
  2. Now uncover the meat and continue to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Adjust the seasoning of the meat and allow to cool completely or wait a day or overnight until frying.
  3. Once cooled, remove the pork chunks from the fat (discard) and pour about 3 inches of oil in a deep fryer (or deep pot). Once the oil has reached a temperature of 360-370F, add the pork chunks in batches and fry for about 3-4 minutes or until crisp.
  4. Reserve on a paper-lined platter, sprinkle with sea salt and dried Greek oregano and served with good crusty bread. Try a Pavlou Estate Xinomavro Rose.IMG_7389

 

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© 2012, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.


Tsigarides – Fried Pork Chunks was first posted on December 26, 2012 at 10:21 am.
©2012 "Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at truenorth67@gmail.com

The post Tsigarides – Fried Pork Chunks appeared first on Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond.

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Feta & Leek Croquettes

IMG_7206-001A city in Europe that always caught my interest was Amsterdam. I liked that the Dutch had a historical tie to Canada from WWII, that the Dutch were tolerant and a diverse society, many spoke English and the sheer green beauty of the countryside and the gorgeous canals and steepled buildings of its cities, like Amsterdam. My first visit to Amsterdam was in 1990 and I have fond memories of the walking through the city, drinking my way through the pubs and bruine cafes.

Foodwise, I remember the fries and mayo offered by streetcarts, downing smoked herring with  Jenever chasers, fanstasic shawarma shops near Dam Square and the Indonesian dishes like Rijsttafel. One of the more peculiar food offerings were the fast food offerings found in large vending machines that were found on many Amsterdam streets with warm snacks in these coin operated vending machines (funny, read an article about the Automats in the US).

After  late night of beers, one gets hungry and these wall-sized vending machines would tempt you with snacks, the most famous one being the Dutch Kroketten (croquette). To this day, these croquettes have been my favourite and I’ve long wanted to try my hand at Almost Bourdain’s rendition. The day has come.

The neat thing about these croquettes is that the main binding ingredient is a thick Bechamel that holds up well to frying and the recipe is adaptable to making your own twists. Stick the ratio and you’ll be making an array of croquettes limited only by your imagination.IMG_7198

Today’s twist is Feta & Leek croquettes. Leeks are in season, relative to the onion and a delight with good, crumbled Greek Feta cheese. I’ve added some dried Greek oregano and some chopped parsley for colour and coated in flour, eggwash and some breadcrumbs.

The key to  successful croquette is to allow the bechamel cool before mixing your favoured ingredient (for flavour) and then mixing and chilling then coating and chilling and finally frying your croquettes. A little patience but otherwise and easy recipe offering best croquettes.IMG_7207

Feta & Leek Croquettes (πρασσοκροκέτες)

(makes about  dozen croquettes or 20  balls)

For the Bechamel

3 Tbsp. of butter

3 Tbsp. all purpose flour

1 cup of warm milk

pinch of salt

bit of grated nutmeg

Filling

1 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

1/2 cup blanched or slow-cooked leeks (or scallions)

1 tsp. dried Greek oregano

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Croquette Coating

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 cup milk

approx. 1 cup all-purpose flour

approx. 2 cups of fine bread crumbs

Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Add your butter into a small pot over medium heat and once it melts, add the flour and stir in with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring for  couple of minutes then add the milk in increments – add milk, stir in, add milk and stir in until you’ve attained  thick Bechamel. Add a pinch of salt, stir in and take off the heat and empty into a large bowl to cool.
  2. In the meantime, add some olive oil into  skillet and sweat your leeks for about 5-6 minutes or until translucent. Allow to cool and into the bowl with the Bechamel. Add the leeks, Feta, oregano, black pepper into the bowl and mix well with a spatula. Cover and place in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours.
  3. Prepare your dipping stations – a plate with all-purpose flour, the other with the eggwash and the third plate with breadcrumbs. Take the bowl out the fridge and form the mixture into little logs or balls with your hands (rub your hands with oil if sticky).
  4. Dredge in flour followed by the eggwash then a coating of breadcrumbs. Repeat with the remaining mixture and place on a large platter, cover and place in the fridge again for another 30-40 minutes.
  5. Pour about 2 inches of oil in  deep pot or deep fryer and heat to 360F. Carefully place 3-4 croquettes in the hot oil and fry for about 4 minutes. Place on  paper-lined platter and fry remaining batches (you may want to reserve in a warm 200F oven).
  6. Serve warm with an Ouzo or Tsipouro.

 

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© 2012, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.


Feta & Leek Croquettes was first posted on December 18, 2012 at 8:06 am.
©2012 "Kalofagas - Greek Food & Beyond". Use of this feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this article in your feed reader, then the site is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact me at truenorth67@gmail.com

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Makaronada With Fried Baby Eggplant

There are still lots of eggplants in the markets here and this year’s crop has been sweet with very few having the usual bitterness one finds in eggplants. Not all eggplants are the same: the usual big purple ones often have some seeds and bitterness and one sprinkles salt on the exposed flesh to draw some out. The Tsakonian and more familiar Japanese eggplants rarely have bitterness and they are usually sweet.

The baby eggplants are also wonderful in that you can count on them being sweet, containing few seeds and they are cook ready. This dish came around as I was looking for an alternative to meat and eggplant is filling, meaty – substantive. Eggplants are a sponge for flavour so I opted to lightly fry them in Greek olive oil. Nevermind the progaganda, you can fry in olive oil…the “low smoke point” that olive oil begins to break down at/around 500F…far above what you need for frying. Ideally I fry between 325 – 365F.

Another reason I used olive oil was to inject some flavour into the eggplant along with some salt, pepper. The eggplants are crisp on the outside, soft and flavourful on the inside. The sweet eggplant is complimented by this spicy tomato sauce, featuring local tomatoes still in season and another Autumn favourite, peppers.

This spicy sauce contains ripe, fresh plum tomatoes passed through a box grater, sweet onions, garlic, sweet red and green peppers and small hot chillis for that kick. Dried Greek oregano, grated Kefalotyri cheese and a final topping of Greek yogurt thinned out with a little vegetable stock complements this zesty, delicious sauce.

Makaronada With Fried Baby Eggplant

(serves 4)

For the tomato sauce

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 sweet banana pepper, sliced

1/2 cup diced red pepper

1 small chilli pepper, finely chopped

7-8 ripe plum tomatoes, passed through a box grater

pinch of sugar (if needed)

salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

For the eggplants

4 small eggplants

all-purpose flour

salt and pepper

olive oil for frying

Greek yogurt sauce

1/2 cup strained Greek yogurt

warm/room temperature vegetable stock

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500 gr. package of spaghetti

grated Kefalotyri cheese (Romano cheese is fine)

  1. Place a large skillet on your stovetop over medium heat and add the olive oil, onions and garlic and sweat for 5-6 minutes. Now add the peppers and stir-in, cooking for another 5 minutes. Now add the grated tomatoes and once a boil returns, reduce to a simmer, add salt and pepper and simmer uncovered until the sauce is thick. Adjust seasoning, add dried Greek oregano. Reserve/keep warm.
  2. In the meantime, place a large pot of water on your stovetop and bring to a boil. Season with lots of salt and drop the pasta in the water and cook for 7-8 minutes.
  3. Pre-heat about 1 1/2 inches of olive oil in a deep pot to reach a temperature of 350F. To slice your eggplant, place the handle end of your wooden spoon parallel to the eggplant and slice down (the wooden handle will prevent you from cutting all the way through).
  4. Mix salt and pepper into some all-purpose flour and lightly dredge your eggplants and reserve. In the meantime, stir some vegetable stock into your yogurt to transform it into a thick sauce consistency. Reserve.
  5. Now that your oil is hot, carefully place your eggplants in the hot oil and fry on both side for about 3-4 minutes or until just golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve on paper-lined platter.
  6. When your pasta is ready, drain and toss some of the sauce in the pasta then divide and plate. Grate some Kefalotyri over the pasta, top with fried eggplant and spoon some yogurt sauce over the eggplant. Sprinkle some more Greek oregano and serve.

 

 

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Makaronada With Fried Baby Eggplant was first posted on October 22, 2012 at 9:04 am.
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Lobster Eggs Benedict With Crispy Potato Pancakes & Bearnaise Sauce

One of the downsides (there are few) to going to Greece is that lobster prices are astronomical. If you find live lobster at the market it will go for 60 Euros a kilo and at a seafood taverna you will likely pay 80 Euros a kilo for this delicacy. Fast forward to Canada, back from vacation and yes…I can once again afford lobster from Nova Scotia (Atlantic Canada). Live lobster here in Toronto can be had for about $7.99/lb.

Another Canadian ritual I missed while I was in Greece was my Saturday morning fry-up…eggs, bacon, toast, OJ, coffee but in Greece I don’t have the urge as it’s too hot and I prefer a Greek breakfast with country bread, fresh churned butter from the Laiki (farmer’s market), local jams, coffee and Greek yogurt with honey and nuts.

So, upon my return to Canada I found myself craving both lobster and a big breakfast and today’s decadence combines both these urges. I’ve swapped out the ham/bacon for lobster, switched English muffins with crispy potato pancakes and instead used cubed pieces of bread to replace the home fries.

So, imagine having a plate of Lobster Eggs Benedict arrive before on the table…crispy potato pancake followed by succulent lobster meat, topped by poached eggs with an oozing yolk and topped with a rich Bearnaise sauce (Hollandaise with tarragon) and garnished with chives and lobster roe. Don’t forget the side of toasted home fry bread that you can use to mop-up the sauce.

Making classic Eggs Benedict or any one of the riffs on this brunch classic takes some organization but it can be done at home. Here’s some tips I shared when I originally shared an Eggs Benedict recipe:

  • A shallow saucepan with large surface area is best for poaching eggs.
  • For poached eggs with a compact oval shape, use the freshest eggs available. Rapid boiling will cause egg to break up as it cooks.
  • A few drops of vinegar will keep poached eggs compact.
  • Poached eggs can be made ahead of time and held for up to two days. Undercook them slightly so that the yolks remain runny when reheated.
  • Refrigerate, covered, or store in ice water, deep enough to cover eggs, until ready to use. To complete cooking, immerse in barely simmering water for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Eggs can be poached in dry white wine, chicken broth or tomato juice.

Stove Top

  1. Melt the butter until bubbly but not browned and remove from the heat. Place yolks, lemon juice, salt and Tabasco in a blender container and start blending on high. Remove the lid and start pouring the melted butter in a slow but steady stream.
  2. Blend for another 30 seconds and serve warm over your poached eggs.
  3. Want to make your Hollandaise ahead of time? Once made pour into a Thermos and store until ready to use!

Lobster Eggs Benedict With Crispy Potato Pancakes & Bearnaise Sauce

(for 2)

the meat of 1 cooked/steamed lobster (I boil mine for 10 minutes)

For the Crispy Potato Pancakes

4 medium potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)

1/2 cup diced onions

salt and pepper

1 Tbsp. corn starch

oil for frying

For the Home Fry Croutons

2-3 slices of cubed country bread (crusts removed)

olive oil for frying

1 clove of minced garlic

salt and pepper

fresh thyme leaves

Poached eggs

4 large eggs

water

white vinegar

Bearnaise Sauce

1/2 cup melted butter

3 eggs yolks

1 Tbsp. white wine
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
pinch of salt
dash of Tabasco Sauce

1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon

Garnish

chopped fresh chives

sweet paprika or lobster roe

fresh ground pepper

  1. Boil your lobster for about 10 minutes then drain and place in an ice water bath to halt the cooking. Remove the meat from the shells, reserve.
  2. Peel your potatoes and with the side of the box grater with the largest hole, grate the potatoes into a sieve. Sprinkle some course salt and toss then allow to steep for 15 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, drizzle some olive oil into a skillet over medium heat and add the cubed bread and garlic and stir until browned and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  4. Back to the potatoes, use your hands to squeeze excess water from the potatoes and add into a bowl along with the diced onions, salt, pepper and corn starch and toss. Pour about 1/2 inch of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and place a handful of grated potato in the pan and press down with a spatula to flatten. Fill the skillet for 2-3 more potato pancakes and fry for about 3-4 minutes a side (flip the pancakes when golden-brown).
  5. Blot excess oil with paper towel and place your potato pancakes on your serving plates along with the reserved Home Fry Croutons in a warm oven (250F). Place your lobster on the stove to warm up using the residual heat of  the oven.
  6. Add about two inches of water into a large skillet and bring up to a boil over medium-high heat. Crack your eggs and place each one in a ramekin. Add a few drops of vinegar and swirl the hot water with a spoon. Now gently drop each egg into the water, turn off the heat and cover. Allow the eggs to poach for 3-5 minutes (as soon as the whites have cooked you’re safe to remove the eggs).
  7. In the meantime, prepare your Bearnaise by adding the yolks, lemon juice, wine, tabasco into a blender/food processor and whiz until well almalgmated. Heat your butter on your stovetop over medium heat.
  8. Back to your poached eggs: carefully remove with a slotted spoon and ensure excess water has drained from the eggs.
  9. Cut up your lobster meat, remove t he potato pancakes from the oven and place on top of your potato pancakes and then carefully place a poached egg on top of the lobster.
  10. Time to finish the Bearnaise, s-l-o-w-l-y pour hot butter into your running blender/food processor until the sauce has thickened and turned to a soft yellow colour. Add a pinch of salt, adjust seasoning and spoon over the eggs.
  11. Garnish with chopped fresh chives, sweet paprika or lobster roe and fresh ground pepper.

 

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Lobster Eggs Benedict With Crispy Potato Pancakes & Bearnaise Sauce was first posted on September 27, 2012 at 10:52 am.
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Yianni’s Loukoumades, Nea Kallikratia, Halkidiki

My family’s hometown is in Nea Kallikratia, Halkidiki, just 30 minutes south of Thessaloniki. There’s no shortage of Loukoumades in Greece but there are good ones, bad ones, mediocre ones and….great ones! Loukoumades are traditionally made with a yeast dough and they are dropped in hot oil where they puff up and once golden, get a syrup/hone bath and they may get a topping of chopped nuts.

I’ve eaten my fair share of Loukoumades, my favourite in Toronto are at Acropolis (Danforth, east of Pape) but the absolute best that I have tried are Yianni’s in Kallikratia. The man makes small batches of dough and fries them fresh before your eyes then dunks the fried dough in syrup and serves them to you warm with chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

Finding Yianni’s is really easy: the town of Kallikratia has a pedestrian walkway right up the middle of town and with the sea to your back, just walk up and as soon as you see the park to your left and the park ends, turn left on the road and walk about 50 metres and you’ll find Yianni’s…big deep fryer on the street, just for Loukoumades.

What makes Yianni’s Loukoumades special is that he uses his hands and spoon to scoop out the dough and plop it into the hot oil…no machines here and while you’re waiting for your order, he’ll chat you up, flash you a smile and quickly you’ll feel like a he’s your friend. The ultimate test to the best Loukoumades is tasting them.

To take a bite into Yianni’s Loukoumades is to feel the light crunch when you bite into them then you’ll notice they are light and airy and then…a burst of syrup that fills your mouth. It’s like the bugger has injected the Loukoumades with syrup!

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Yianni’s Loukoumades, Nea Kallikratia, Halkidiki was first posted on September 26, 2012 at 8:47 am.
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Best Beer Battered Fish Ever!

Last week I was given the opportunity to set-up a pop-up/vending stand for  Father’s Day apres-bike ride along Toronto’s scenic Don Valley. The event was held at the Evergreen Brickworks and the challenge for me was to step-in last minute to fill the shoes of another chef who couldn’t keep their commitment to cook for Fisherfolk.

Fisherfolk is a family owned and operated business based here in Toronto with roots in Nova Scotia (Atlantic Canada). They only sell Canadian fish and seafood, all seasonal, all sustainable with an eye to selling fish that isn’t caught without creating any detriment to the environment. Joel Solish who also co-organizes of Dead Row Meals asked if I would step-up to the task, I accepted and with delight and set out to perfect my beer batter for frying fish and seafood.

I was given fresh Nova Scotia haddock that smelled sweet and of the sea – perfect! This fish falls in the family of cod fish, delicate in flavour and texture, very flaky. This fish is perfect as you bite into the crispy fried batter and finish your bite into flaky, tender white meat. Peak season here in Canada for haddock is June to October.

If you want the best beer batter ever, use a dark beer – that will help with attaining the golden colour and, you won’t over-fry your fish. Another local company collaborated with the fried fish and the beer batter was made using Amsterdam Brewery (of Toronto) Big Wheel Amber Deluxe. The next component of making good beer-battered fish is the flour mixture: one part all-purpose flour, one part corn starch, some baking powder and sea salt. That’s it!

The temperature of your oil is also important and when it comes to beer batter, you want approx. 360-370F and the best way to attain that is to use a candy thermometer for accurate readings each and every time. You’re going have a light, fluffy and crispy coating, golden in colour and even after the fish has cooled, the fish coating stays crisp!

On sandwich day I made beer battered sandwiches with a tartar sauce made with mayonnaise, some Greek yogurt, capers, parsley, dill, red onions and pickles. Simplicity wins again when you have quality ingredients – let the product speak for itself and in this case, Nova Scotia haddock has a new fan in me.

Beer Batter Fish Sandwich With Tartar Sauce

(serves 4-6)

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup corn starch

1 scant tsp. of baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 to 1 1/2 bottles of cold (ideally dark/amber) beer or until slightly thinner than pancake batter

4 fresh haddock fillets, cut into 3 or 4 pieces

all-purpose flour for dredging

oil for frying

Tartar Sauce

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Greek yogurt
1 shallot, finely minced (or 1/4 cup red onion)
2 Tbsp. minced dill pickles
2 Tbsps chopped chive

2Tbsps chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp. capers, drained and finely chopped
lemon juice to taste
pepper to taste (salty enough from the capers)

  1. Add the flour and corn starch in a bowl along with the salt and baking powder and stir with a fork. Now add the cold beer in increments and mix with a whisk, scraping the sides of the bowl. Keep adding beer and whisking in until you have the constistency of slightly thinned pancake batter. Place in the fridge for an hour.
  2. In the meantime, make your tartar sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl, adjust ingredients to your tastes, cover and place in fridge.
  3. Rinse and cut your haddock fillets into 3-4 pieces, pat-dry and lightly season with salt and reserve. When you’re ready to dry, place your oil in a deep pot or dedicated fryer and bring up to 365-370F over medium-high heat.
  4. When your oil is ready, dredge the fish in flour then dip in the beer batter (let some of the batter drain off) then carefully place the fish in the oil (away from you). Fry for 3-4 minutes, turning occasionally with a slotted spoon until golden.
  5. Reserve on paper lined platter, season lightly with sea salt. Assemble your sandwich by smearing some tartar sauce on one bun along with some lettuce, place the fish in the bun and enjoy!

*Try this fish recipe and make fish & chips with my olive oil fries.

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Olive Oil French Fries

For as long as I recall watching cooking shows, we (consumers) have been told that one should not use olive oil for frying as it has a very low smoke point. Smoke point refers to the temperature an oil becomes unstable, burns and breaks down, giving off an unpleasant taste. With respect to olive oil, the smoke point depends on the quality of olive oil (another heated discussion) with the high quality extra-virgin olive oil (low free fatty acids) having the highest smoke point (of olive oils).

These high quality olive oils are also expensive and frying with these oils are prohibitively expensive for most so that leaves us with the other olives many of see in the supermarkets, which also have a lower smoke point. Extra-virgin olive oil’s smoke point varies between 365F and 400F (185 – 205C), well within the usual temperatures using for for frying and deep-frying.

Yes, it’s true that olive oils that often get mentioned/recommended for frying do in fact have higher smoke point than olive oil (400F for Canola, 410F for sesame oil, 480F for avocado oil and 485F for grape seed oil. All these oils including olive oil have a smoke point that is well within the temperatures required  frying but I’m going to opt for olive oil.

I have had no problems using less expensive “extra-virgin olive oils”…(you know the ones on sale at supermarkets) for frying and I opt for frying in olive oil for the most important reason in cooking: flavour. There is nothing wrong with using vegetable oils for frying (I like sunflower oil) and I am in no way recommending that you begin frying on a daily basis (DON’T) but  when you do, do it right – go for the gusto and fry with olive oil.

I use high quality extra-virgin olive oil for salads, finishing dishes or making “ladolemono” (an oil-lemon based dressing) for fish, seafood and grilled meats. Less expensive supermarket olive oils are what I use to fry…its more economical, I get great results frying and I don’t sully the well-prodcued extra-vrigin olive oils by frying with them.

One of the most delicious items to order in Greece is Patates Tiganites (fried potatoes) or French Fries as we know them in the west. The better tavernas will use olive for frying but many will use sunflower oil (a business decision). For me, the perfect French Fry is a crisp outer potato with a soft, fluffy inside. I invite you to try olive oil French Fries on your own, at your home using a deep heavy bottomed large pot or a dedicated deep fryer. I also recommend using a thermometer to monitor your oil temperature.

Frying foods in olive oil has been a method of cooking way before products like canola or corn oil were invented. My mother fried in olive oil, y aunts do, my grandmother fried in olive oil and I’m pretty sure many Greek friends who read this site can confirm having fried foods cooked in olive oil. Once again, the old ways are better.

Olive Oil French Fries (Πατάτες τηγανιτές)

(serves 4-6)

4 large Yukon Gold (other yellow variety) potatoes

approx. 1 litre of extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt

  1. Peel your potatoes and cut into thin or thick we batons or sticks. Pour about half the olive oil the pot and bring up to a temperature of 300F (use that thermometer). Carefully drop the cut potatoes in the oil (there should be just enough oil to cover the potatoes) and do not stir or disturb them. Fry for about 15 minutes or until you just see the tips begin to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer the potatoes to bowl to cool completely.
  2. You may finish frying your potatoes once they have cooled or reserve until later when you want to serve your fries (great prep tip for entertaining). Add the remaining olive oil and bring up to a temperature of 365-375F and once you’ve reached that heat, carefully place your reserved potatoes in the hot oil and fry for 5-10 minutes or until just golden and crisp.
  3. Remove the fries with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-lined bowl or platter and sprinkle fine sea salt, some dried Greek oregano and toss to coat. Serve immediately and taste the difference with olive oil French Fries.

Note: You can fry in the same olive for up to 4-5 times.

Further Reading:

*Frying with olive oil

*Myths about cooking with olive oil

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Tyler Florence’s Fried Chicken

I read just last week that fried chicken is “trending”…did it ever go away? I think what is really happening is a movement to fry more at home rather than rely on restaurants and fast food eateries to handle what some consider “heavy lifting” in terms of cooking. Frying food is intimidating, it’s messy and if you don’t know what you’re doing it may result in terrible food.

Fried chicken at home is one of the easiest and most satisfying dishes and my last venture occurred  late December when I shared Art Smith’s (of Oprah fame) fried chicken recipe. At the time of posting that recipe it was the best fried chicken recipe I had ever tried at home – until this one. The new “go-to recipe” for fried chicken is Tyler Florence’s.

It seems that many blogs with a bent towards SEO optimization have relied on “catch words” to drive traffic to their recipes with “best ever” or “greatest” recipe proclamations. This fried chicken recipe comes from Tyler’s Ultimate TV series and like most of the dishes he presented – they were slightly over the top, comforting dishes that definitely were worthy of “ultimate” status.

I present to you Tyler’s fried chicken recipe, similar to Art Smith’s but different and in my opinion, better: both recipes brine the chicken pieces, both use a similar seasoning for the flour, both use buttermilk and both fry the chicken in shallow oil for about 7 minutes a side. Paula (Dragon’s Kitchen) and I once again fried chicken together and we agreed that: where the two recipes differ is subtle yet very important with the two resulting fried chicken: Art Smith also has the chicken soaking in buttermilk then the chicken is dredged in seasoned flour followed by another dredging of flour before hitting the hot oil for frying.

The result garners crisp, flavourful fried chicken but it’s a little thick for my tastes. Now take the Tyler Florence recipe: after he brines the chicken they get dredged in seasoned flour, dunked in butter milk once and then there’s a second dredging of seasoned flour – less buttermilk and less flour  clinging to the chicken. The coating on the chicken leaves a thinner crust without sacrificing crunch, flavour or juicyness.

The fried chicken still gets fried for 7 minutes/side, the coating holds up well to the time in the hot oil and you’ll get a lovely golden, crispy skin. Manna from the southern US! Where Tyler’s recipe is a little off is in placing the fresh herbs in the oil while frying the chicken. The result was blackened herbs that did little to flavour the oil and definitely not for use as a garnish. I recommend frying bunches of herbs after the chicken and placing on top as crisp garnish.

If you want to add your own touch to the dish, choose your favourite herbs & spices in the flour mix: could be lemon-pepper, oregano, sage, Old Bay, paprika or Szechuan peppercorns, pinch of curry blend or cumin. Your choice of hot sauces abound but my fave is Sriracha. This Ultimate Fried Chicken was accompanied by some corn bread from another Food Network star, Ina Garten. It is my favourite cornbread recipe with its balance of sweet and savory.

Ultimate Fried Chicken by Tyler Florence

(serves 4)

1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces

Brine

cold water

1/4 cup salt

Seasoned flour

3 cups all-purpose flour

2-3 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. garlic powder

2 Tbsp. onion powder

2 Tbsp. sweet paprika

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. dried sage

 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary

approx. 2 cups buttermilk

2-3 Tbsp. Sriracha (or your favourite hot sauce)

oil for frying

handful of fresh thyme, fresh sage and rosemary

  1. Place your chicken pieces in a bowl and enough enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Remove chicken pieces and add salt and stir until dissolved. Now add back the chicken, coveer and place in your fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, drain your chicken and pat-dry. In a large bowl add the flour and seasonings and stir with a fork. In another bowl add the buttermilk and Sriracha and stir until blended.
  3. Dredge your chicken in the flour then dip in the buttermilk and dip once again in the flour then reserve while you heat your oil. Add about 1 1/2 inches of oil in a deep skillet or cast iron pan and bring up to a temperature of 350F.
  4. Gently place about 3-4 pieces of chicken into the hot oil and fry for about 7 minutes per side then reserve on a cooling rack (important to do this so that the coating doesn’t soften). Fry the remaining pieces of chicken in batches and finally fry-off your fresh herbs until just crisp and serve alongside/on top of your fried chicken with some lemon wedges.
  5. Ina Garten’s cornbread is a perfect accompaniment to this southern fried delight.

Next up: may try Thomas Keller’s fried chicken recipe from his Ad Hoc book.

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Octopus Meatballs

The first time I saw or heard of octopus meatballs were from Maria’s blog at Kali Orexi (BonAppeti. Maria is a Greek blogger resided in the NYC suburbs and she shares dishes she’s created or ones inspired by her ancestral homeland of the island of Kalymnos. For those not familiar with Greek geography, Kalymnos is located in the east Aegean, near Turkey and the closest major Greek island being Kos. Kalymnos is also famous for its sponge divers, traditional local cooking with includes Easter goat stuffed with rice, herbs and organ meat.

Before the Kalymnians celebrate their Easter feast, there has to be a fasting period and one of their unique dishes has to be these meatballs made of ground octopus meat. One simply grinds-up cooked octopus, adds onions, garlic, herbs and some binder to hold everything together. Many recipes call for using whole octopus but I’d rather use the tentacles whole for grilling.


sun-dried octopus, Naxos

Before any octopus can be enjoyed it must be cooked and it must be tender. My favourite way is to braise slowly in its own liquid. About half of the octopus’ weight is water and after you’ve braised it you’ll easily see that it has shrunk to about half. This braising process takes anywhere from 45 minutes for a small octopus to over two hours for the largest beasties. Once the octopus is fork-tender – it’s good to eat and then one may grill, pickle or enjoy the octopus in any one of the many ways I’ve enjoyed this delicacy from the sea.

The octopus consists of 8 tentacles and the head. All are edible but the head usually is not served – the chef or host/hostess get to eat this part. The head isn’t that attractive but it is every bit as edible as the esthetically appealing tentacles. Another reason why I chose to share this octopus meatballs recipe is because I learned that many simply discard or throw out the head…a sin to throw perfectly edible food!

My solution is to keep the head, grind up the meat in your food processor and use the mince to make these meatballs. If you’re not fasting you may use egg and breadcrumbs as binder, some scallions of sweated onions for flavour and the usual Greek herbs like oregano and mint. Dill would also work wonderfully here.

If you’re fasting, you can avoid egg and use more breadcrumbs or take my advice and use a medium-sized boiled potato that gets grated into the mixture with the octopus mince. The starches from potatoes make for a wonderful binder and your meatballs with have a hint of seafood flavour (I like the taste of seafood) and when fried, they remarkably taste like “meatballs”. Love octopus? You’ll love these octopus meatballs, a fantastic morsel that’s ideal for your meze table with Ouzo on ice. Kali Orexi!

 

Octopus Meatballs (χταποδοκεφτεδες)

(makes 15-20 small meatballs)

approx. 1 lb. of braised octopus (I used the head of a large octopus), roughly chopped

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

 splash of red or white white wine

1 medium starchy potato, boiled OR 1 slice of stale bread

1 tsp. dried Greek oregano

1/2 tsp. chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

all-purpose flour for dredging

oil for frying

  1.  Dice your onion and place in a small skillet with a splash of olive oil and sweat for about 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Add the minced garlic, stir in the minced garlic, wine and take off the heat and allow to cool. Parrallel to the onions, place your potato in a pot of salted water and boil until just fork-tender. Allow to cool and peel off the skin and grate the into a bowl and reserve.
  2. Place the cooled onion mixture in a food processor along with the octopus meat, oregano, mint, parsley and pulse into a homogenous mixture. If the mixture is too wet, add some breadcrumbs to help bind the mixture.
  3. Empty the contents into the bowl with the grated boiled potato, add a little sea salt and some fresh ground pepper and mix with your hands. Roll a small meatball and fry-off to to taste-test then adjust flavourings accordingly.
  4. Use  your hands to roll the mixture into small meatballs then lightly dredge in all-purpose flour and place about 3/4 inch of oil in a deep pan and bring up to about 350F. Fry both sides of the meatballs until just golden (about a minute a side) and reserve on paper-lined platter.
  5. Serve warm or room temperature with a wedge of lemon and some Ouzo on ice.

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Lemon-Pepper Calamari

When you’re hungry (especially during Lent) your belly can inspire you to create the simplest and most delicious dishes. One of the easiest dishes to prepare is fried calamari. One need only find fresh or thawed from frozen squid, mix a bowl of seasoned flour and have the confidence to fry in hot oil. Not so bad is it?

No rocket science here but I’ve taken my basic fried calamari recipe and I amped it up to become my own KFC…Kalofagas Fried Calamari! I’ve flavoured the flour with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and lemon zest…lots of lemon zest. A whole two lemons were zested for this recipe so that the bright citrus flavour comes through in the coating.

This method is great as you get all that lemon flavour without having to worry about your crispy calamari going mushy once the lemon juice hits it at the end. Here, one only add a small squeeze of juice and still enjoy crisp calamari, imagine yourself at a seaside taverna Greece, light wind tousling your hair and the sun setting below the horizon and Greek blue sea.

Lemon-Pepper Calamari

(meze for 4)

1 lb. of squid tubes (plus tentacles)

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1/3 cup corn meal

2 Tbsp. of corn starch

zest of 2 lemons

1 Tbsp. fresh ground pepper

2 tsp. fine sea salt

sunflower oil for frying

fleur de sel for finishing

lemon wedges for garnish

  1. To clean your squid, pull the head from the tube and ensure the flimsy plastic-looking spine is removed from each tube. To trim the tentacles, cut off the heads (just below the eyes) and discard. Remove any other matter in the tubes and rinse everything well under cold water.
  2. Strain your calamari and pat-dry. In a large bowl add the flour, cornmeal, corn starch, lemon zest ground pepper and salt and mix well with a fork. Add the calamari into the bowl and toss in the flour to coat and reserve.
  3. Place about 3 inches of oil in your fryer and bring up to 350F.  Shake off excess flour from your calamari and carefully place in the oil. Fry in 2-3 batches until golden brown and place on paper-lined plate.
  4. Season with fleur de sel, serve with lemon wedges and enjoy with a Kechri Pine’s Tear Retsina or Ouzo on ice.

 

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Fried Octopus

How many ways are there to prepare octopus? There’s grilled, boiled, baked, I recently tried “sous vide” (and it was fantastic) and now there is fried. Regardless of how you’re going to eat octopus the key is to tenderize it. The old-school way in Greece was to bash it on rocks at the beach, some swear by freezing it the beastie will soften, another old method is to sun-dry it…this removes much of the water, concentrates the flavour and breaks down some of the fibres – leaving you with tender octopus that need only be grilled (watch for this recipe in the summer).

My favourite way and the method available to all is to braise the octopus in its own liquid- which then allow you do do whatever you wish with it. Like any living organism, octopus is mostly made of water and when I braise it, I do not add any water into the pot as the octopus itself will release its own liquid. All I add is some aromatics like bay, maybe some allspice berries, splash of wine vinegar, parsley stems and a few cloves of garlic.

Depending on the size of the octopus, it may take anywhere from 45 to around 120 minutes (for the mammoth octopi) to become tender. How does one know when the octopus is cooled enough and tender? Simply stick a fork in one of the tentacles and it should easily slide in with little resistance. Do not overcook as the octopus becomes mealy (like an old apple) and the skin and tentacles will fall. I like the colour of octopus and especially the tentacles!


beauty and the beast

Much like grilled octopus, I liked the fried method as the outer layer is crisp and the meat is tender – so tender than one can slice the tentacles with a butter knife! One of the more popular Greek dishes is fried calamari so why not try fried octopus? I lightly dredge the octopus in a flour and corn starch combo then simply fried it about 1 inch of olive oil until just crisp.

Since it’s early Spring there are no good sources of summer vegetables but the cauliflower toursi I made last week is a wonderful contrast to tender octopus that just scream for some acidity. Fry the octopus, served alongside your favourite pickled veggies (like a jardiniere) and enjoy with some Ouzo on ice. This meze is a great offering for those looking for crispy octopus but either you don’t have a grill or you’re not up for grilling. Fried octopus to the rescue!

Fried Octopus (Χταπόδι Τηγανητό)

(makes a meze for 4)

1 uncooked octopus (thawed from frozen is fine)

3 bay leaves

4-5 allspice berries

splash of wine vinegar

handful of chopped parsley stems

2-3 cloves of garlic

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. of corn starch

oil for frying

  1. Rinse your octopus and divide the octopus but cutting off the tentacles from the head into 8 equal parts. The head is also very edible, just check to see if the beak is still attached – just use your finger to pop it out and discard.
  2. Now place the octopus in a pot with the bay, allspice, vinegar, parsley and garlic and cover. Turn the heat on to medium to medium-high and don’t touch for 5-7 minutes. Now uncover and check if there’s a bout an inch of water in the pot. If so, reduce the heat to medium to medium-low and cover and braise for about 45 minutes (for smaller octopus) to about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours for most large octopus. Slide a knife into the tentacles to test for doneness (much like checking a potato if its cooked). Once tender, remove from the heat, take out of the liquid and allow to cooled completely.


    braised, tender octopus

  3. To fry the octopus, no seasoning is required as its already briny in taste. Mix your flour with corn starch in a bowl and place about 1 inch of oil in your fryer or cast-iron pan. Dredge the tentacles in flour (slice the head into rings they resemble calamari rings) and once the oil is hot, fry until just golden and crispy.
  4. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-lined plate. Serve with caulflower toursi, some good crusty bread and Ouzo on ice.

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© 2012, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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Tsaitia

href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG_4549.jpg" rel="lightbox[11480]" title="IMG_4549"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-11484" title="IMG_4549" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG_4549.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />Here in Toronto, we have Greeks from all over Greece, much like other cities in the Greek diaspora. The origins of where those Greeks came from can (and will) vary depending on immigration patterns of that region in Greece. If a certain relative or villager went to say, Australia then more folks from that part of Greece would follow suit. For some reason there are alot of Greeks from Kefallonia that settled in Montreal.

Here in Toronto, I’ve been told about 40 % of the Greeks are from northern Greece and the rest mostly from Crete, Peloponnese and from the islands. You can see this diversity in our churches, at Greek festivals, the Greek parade and in the announcements of “syllogi” (Greek associations) and their annual dances.

Our family has made friends from all over Greece and through church, we’ve become close friends with these Greeks from all corners including those from the South, Laconia in particular. A new friendship was made last year through this blog when I was contacted by an avid reader of this blog, John Danakas who’s family emigrated to Winnipeg (parents from Laconia).

We met, enjoyed dinner at href="http://www.malena120.ca/our_story" target="_blank">Malena then watched the hockey playoffs in the patio of a pub that had set-up an outdoor TV screen. We talked about food, prior visits to Greece, the current situation in the homeland, life in Winnipeg, how Toronto has changed and conversation came full-circle and we talked more about food!

I vividly recall John relating his memories of his mom making Tsaitia when he was young (well she still makes them for the extended family) and I was intrigued by this food memory. Mama Danakas would knead some dough and roll it out into a type of phyllo and make this pockets of goodness filled with spinach and Feta cheese and fried on the stove-top and served. Having shared some photos of Tsaitia evoked fond memories for other friends with roots in Laconia.

With the swell of emotions and positive feedback I received, I knew I nailed the recipe and I’m delighted to share this Spartan recipe for my Laconian friends and to the rest who adore Greek cookery and all her regional dishes. Enjoy! href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG_4558.jpg" rel="lightbox[11480]" title="IMG_4558"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-11487" title="IMG_4558" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG_4558.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

 

(makes 6)

Phyllo Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp white vinegar

approx. one cup tepid water

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Filling href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG_4529.jpg" rel="lightbox[11480]" title="IMG_4529"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-11485" title="IMG_4529" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG_4529.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

1  cup blanched spinach, chopped (thawed from frozen is perfectly fine)

1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 chopped fresh dill

1 tsp. chopped fresh mint ( 1/2 if dried)

1 large egg

salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a medium bowl, add the flour, salt and mix with a fork then make a whole in the middle of the flour and add the water, vinegar and oil and begin bringing the flour into the middle and begin kneading the dough untilall the flour has been absorbed. Add flour and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and no longer tacky (not sticky). Roll into a ball and sprinkle some flour on the bowl and place inside and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for an hour.
  2. In the meantime, add a Tbsp, of olive oil into a small pan and sweat your scallions for 2-3 minutes and remove from the heat and allow to cool. Take your thawed from frozen spinach and use your hands to squeeze the excess water and then chop the spinach and place in another bowl with the scallions, crumbled Feta, dill, mint and egg. Mix with a spoon then have a little taste, add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep cool.
  3. Take your ball of dough out of the fridge and sprinkle some flour on your work surface then flatten the dough with a rolling pin and roll it out into a flat that resembles a pita bread. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a plate and allow to rest for another 30 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and place the flat of dough on your work surface and from the middle – roll out the dough until you have a large (preferably rectangular) thin sheet of dough.
  5. Cut into approx. 6 squares, divide and spoon the spinach filling into the middle of each square and fold-up the corners like an envelope and gently press with your fingers to seal.
  6. Add some olive oil into a large non-stick pan over medium heat and place as many Tsaitia in the pan and fry each side until crisp and golden-brown (about 3 minutes a side) and reserve on a paper-lined platter.
  7. Serve the Tsaitia immediately as a lunch with a salad, a snack or offering as part of a meze table. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG_4541.jpg" rel="lightbox[11480]" title="IMG_4541"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-11486" title="IMG_4541" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/IMG_4541.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

 

 

 

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style='text-align:left'>© 2012, href='http://www.kalofagas.ca'>Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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Salad of Smoked Eggplant Dressing With Graviera Croutons & Roasted Peppers

href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_3563.jpg" rel="lightbox[11050]" title="IMG_3563"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-11057" title="IMG_3563" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_3563.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="468" />I love eggplant and it especially excels when its given a smoky flavour. The best way to do that is by blackening or charring it – ideally over a charcoal grill but a gas grill or stove-top works pretty good too. Broiling eggplant in the oven doesn’t do the job, save your time. When charring eggplants, I always prick them with a fork or a knife because often (but not always) they burst if you do not pierce them. Tough this cooking business, huh?

Since the eggplant is charred I also blackened some red peppers because I love them with crusty bread and Feta cheese and in this instance, they are going to join the smoky eggplant doing double-duty in this hearty salad that becomes creamy with the use of eggs or mayo. Eggplant is like a sponge and in this case they are absorbing garlic, chives, extra-virgin olive oil and good red wine vinegar.

This salad is rounded-out with some ground walnuts and topped with some fried Graviera cheese, the Gruyere of Greece. A firm Kasseri, Kefalograviera or Halloumi cheese would also work in a pinch! I’m using a slender Japanese eggplant because it is sweet and rarely any bitterness. Japanese eggplants are similar to the title="Leonidio, Tsakones and Eggplant" href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/2009/11/19/leonidio-tsakones-and-eggplant/">DOP Tsakonian eggplants from Leonidio, Arcadia.

Salad of Smoked Eggplant Dressing With Graviera Croutons & Roasted Peppers href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_3564.jpg" rel="lightbox[11050]" title="IMG_3564"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-11058" title="IMG_3564" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_3564.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="564" />

serves 4-6

1 Tsakonian or slender Japanese eggplant

1 clove of garlic, minced

 approx. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2-3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/4 finely chopped chives (or scallions)

1 cup of cubed Graviera cheese

water

all-purpose flour

1 cup of bitter greens (arugula), rinsed & pat-dried

1 head of Romaine lettuce, hand-torn, rinsed & pat-dried

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

2 roasted red peppers

fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper

  1. Pre-heat your gas or charcoal grill (or gas stove-top) and poke the eggplant a few times and char/blacken the entire surface of the eggplant. Simultaneously char/blacken the red peppers in the same fashion (you do not have to pierce the peppers). Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic and place the charred eggplant on a plate to cool.
  2. Once the eggplant has cooled, slice it open with a knife and remove the smoky meat with a spoon and roughly chop and place in a bowl. Add the minced garlic, chives, pinch of salt and the olive oil and vinegar in stages while stirring. Adjust with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Remove the cooled peppers from the bowl and peel the charred skins and discard along with the stems and seeds. Slice and toss in some sea salt and olive oil and reserve.
  4. Dip your cubes of Graviera cheese in a bowl of water then dredge in all-purpose flour and then place some oil in a pan and fry the cheese for a bout a minute a side or until golden. Fry in batches and reserve on paper-lined platter.
  5. To assemble your salad, add about 1/4 cup of the dressing to the greens and toss until incorporated. Add more dressing to taste, some ground walnuts and toss and divide and serve or present in a large bowl or platter. Arrange the ribbons of red peppers on top along with the fried Graviera cheese and serve. Serve with a chiiled href="http://www.winealign.com/wines/19032-Boutari-Moschofilero-2010" target="_blank">Boutari Moschofilero. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_3562.jpg" rel="lightbox[11050]" title="IMG_3562"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-11056" title="IMG_3562" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_3562.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="451" />

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style='text-align:left'>© 2012, href='http://www.kalofagas.ca'>Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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Red Mullet Savoro Style

href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_0341-1.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10892" title="IMG_0341-1" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_0341-1.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />In Greece, there are big fish and there are little fish. The big fish are usually grilled and the small fish usually get fried. There are always some exceptions but one fish that’s usually fried is the red mullet – prized for its firm but sweet meat that also holds up well to frying. Red Mullet (barbouni or barbounia) are rosy with gold iridescence and a straight fronted head. The ancient Greeks regarded them as sacred and Romans paid steep prices to watch their colour turn from red to gold. Here in North America you may find the goat fish, a relative of the red mullet but more gold in colour and with lots of pin bones – fussy to clean.

Red Mullet are found throughout the Mediterranean and on occasion found here in North American markets. When I found this fish at one of the fish mongers I frequent, I had to pick up a kilo and fry them off just as I remembered from summers past in Greece. The usual way to cook red mullet is to salt them then dredge in all-purpose flour and fry them in olive oil and simply serve on a platter with wedges of lemon.

id="attachment_10891" class="wp-caption aligncenter" style="width: 610px"> href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_0325-1.jpg"> class="size-full wp-image-10891" title="IMG_0325-1" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_0325-1.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />
class="wp-caption-text">fried red mullet

Today’s dish goes one step further with the remaining oil being used to make a sauce that’s poured over the fish upon serving. The sauce is finished with wine vinegar and it was a means of preserving fish in the old days when there were no fridges. Savoro dishes were also popular with fishermen who would preserve a glut of fish with these means (pity to throw perfectly good fish away) and if this method sounds like “escabeche” you’re right – same method!

I first had Savoro in Crete two summers ago and the lady of the house used bogue but red mullet is the most commonly used fish. I’ve recipes that appeal to those seeking instant gratification (eaten immediately) and the more drawn-out Savoro dishes where the fish pickles in the sauce for a few days before being eaten. There’s Savroro from the Ionian Islands, Aegean and even Cypriot! Few will argue that the word Savoro came from Savoy and likely brought over from Venetian sailors through a dish called “Pesce in Saor” – marinated/preserved fish carried on the ships.

My approach to Savoro is clearly in the direction of the “instant gratification” crowd with the fish being eaten immediately after the sauce is poured on top. After the fish are gutted, scaled and rinsed I salt them and allow to sit for 20 minutes so the fish gets seasoned well. After I dredge them in flour then shallow fry in olive oil…only extra-virgin olive oil. After the fish is fried I set them aside and in the same skillet goes the whole sprigs of rosemary then garlic and as soon as you see the garlic starting to change colour, the vinegar is added and then reduced until the sauce becomes tangy, slighty sweet. Pour the Savoro sauce over the fish along with the garlic and crisp rosemary.

Get some good crusty bread, each the fish with your hands and slip some garlic and crisp rosemary needles in with a mouthful of fish. This is a delightful fish dish that’s becoming a fave for me. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_0345-1.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10894" title="IMG_0345-1" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/IMG_0345-1.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

Red Mullet Savoro Style

(served 4)

1 kg. of whole red mullet, scaled & gutted

sea salt and fresh ground pepper

approx 1 cup of all purpose flour

1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

6-7 sprigs  fresh rosemary

7-8 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

2/3 cup red wine vinegar

  1. Season the cavity of of fish and both sides with sea salt and some ground pepper and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Add your olive oil into the pan over medium-high heat and dredge the fish in flour. When your oil is hot (the handle of a wooden spoon should bubble), add the fish in batches and fry for about 4-5 minutes a side or until just golden and reserve on a serving platter.
  2. In the same pan, add the sprigs of rosemary and fry until just crisp and they’ve turned to an olive green. Now add the garlic and swirl around and as soon as you can see the garlic turn colour and you can smell it – add the wine vinegar and stir and reduce until the sauce has become slightly sweet (shouldn’t be sour).
  3. Pour the sauce over the fish (along with garlic and rosemary) and serve immediately. Serve with a potato salad, some title="Amaranth Greens (βλήτα)" href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/2008/01/27/amaranth-greens-%ce%b2%ce%bb%ce%ae%cf%84%ce%b1/">boiled vlita (wild greens) and a crisp bottle of href="http://domainegavalas.gr/en/winery.html" target="_blank">Domaine Gavalas Malvazia from Crete.

 

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style='text-align:left'>© 2012, href='http://www.kalofagas.ca'>Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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Art Smith’s Fried Chicken

href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9847.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10811" title="IMG_9847" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9847.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />I’ve always been in awe of southern American cooking – both high & low country, born of rustic beginnings and absolutely delicious! There’s corn bread, macaroni & cheese, biscuits, meatloaf, hush puppies, ribs, roast ham and one of my favourites, fried chicken. My very first fried chicken came out of a bucket by way of Col. Sanders and I’ve tried the odd Popeye’s and I’ve even made my own fried chicken at home with mixed results.

My approach to cooking to seek genuine recipes that come from folks who know about a particular cuisine and in this instance I’m the wisdom of Art Smith, one-time chef to Oprah Winfrey. At href="http://www.tablefifty-two.com/#" target="_blank">Table 52, Art Smith’s restaurant in Chicago, he serves his fried chicken only on Sunday’s for href="http://www.tablefifty-two.com/menu/brunch.html" target="_blank">his Southern Brunch.

Art Smith’s Fried Chicken is first placed in a brine solution over night then place in a buttermilk/Tabasco  for a day then, it’s dredged in flour and buttermilk twice, giving you lots of that delicious crispy skin and juicy, succulent chicken meat underneath. This isn’t health food but it’s delicious and everyone should make and offer it on occasion for family or friends. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9831.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10807" title="IMG_9831" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9831.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

Brining is a method of making meat (often poultry or pork) moister by soaking it in a basic solution of water and salt (sugar and other flavourings may be added) then the meat is cooked. I was first introduced to brining when I heard about how this method will guarantee my roast turkey will turn out moist & juicy each and every time. Chicken is moister than turkey so you know how the results are going to be here!

The second step in Art Smith’s Fried Chicken is to allow the brined chicken to then soak in buttermilk that’s been spiked with some Tabasco sauce. I used my href="http://www.huyfong.com/no_frames/sriracha.htm" target="_blank">favoured hot sauce, Sriracha and I got the heat I wanted plus more flavour. The enzymes in buttermilk tenderize meat and don’t think that the buttermilk is going to get dumped – no, NO! You see, during the third step in making the best fried chicken ever is to remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk then dredge it in an Old Bay seasoned flour then dunk the chicken once more in the reserved buttermilk and finally dredge one more time in the flour. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9811.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10806" title="IMG_9811" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9811.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

My previous attempts at homemade fried chicken failed because they were dredged in flour just once and what I ended up getting was either a fried chicken with a coating that looked unappetizing and burnt or just golden but the chicken meat inside was not fully cooked. I’m convinced the double coating of buttermilk and seasoned flour protects allow the coating and chicken meat to endure the 12 minutes cooking time in the fry pan.

The flour here is seasoned with href="http://www.oldbay.com/" target="_blank">Old Bay seasoning, a mixture that’s often used for seafood boils in the South and now very popular throughout Canada and the US. Old Bay is named after Chesapeake Bay where this seasoning mix was born. Many fish mongers now sell it, many grocery stores and high-end food shops will also sell it. There’s always mail-order and you could always href="http://busycooks.about.com/od/homemademixes/r/oldbaymix.htm" target="_blank">mix your own batch of Old Bay seasoning. Everyone should add Old Bay into their pantry and everyone should make Art Smith’s Fried Chicken. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9845.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10810" title="IMG_9845" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9845.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

On the day I first sunk my teeth into this dish from the heavens, I collaborated with href="http://www.thedragonskitchen.com/" target="_blank"> Paula of Dragon’s Kitchen to make a southern-style dinner. We settled on the fried chicken, some macaroni & cheese, cheddar & chive biscuits and collard greens with smoked turkey or ham hocks. Collards are a loose large leafed plant with long stalks that belong to the broccoli and cabbage family. The collard greens were a dish I thought of including after having this delicious side dish while having lunch in Harlem, New York at title="Heads & Tales: Uptown and Downtown" href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/2008/12/01/heads-tales-uptown-and-downtown/">Sylvia’s, Queen of Soul Food.

Collard greens are not difficult to prepare but they do require some time: cut the stalks off (I discarded them) then soak and rinse them free of any dirt/grit then add them into a large pot with some diced onions, garlic, stock (or bouillon cubes with hot water) plus a leg or thigh or smoked turkey or a smoked ham hock. The collards are then simmered until tender, taking on the flavours of the melting onions, garlic and smoked meat. A fantastic side dish that/s perfect for fried chicken. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9836.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10809" title="IMG_9836" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9836.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

The other key to perfect fried chicken is to shallow-fry them. I used a heavy-bottom Dutch oven to fry them and when one says shallow-fry, you’re talking about frying in about 1-inch of oil. The chicken is fried in batches and for about 6 minutes /side. You’ll see the flour coating turn a lovely golden-brown and after making this fried chicken a few times, I can say with confidence that the chicken is also cooked through! Don’t you feel like fried chicken tonight? href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9853-1.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10812" title="IMG_9853-1" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9853-1.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

Art Smith’s Fried Chicken

(serves 4)

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (thighs, legs, wings, backs), trimmed of any excess skin

1/2 cup salt

enough water to cover chicken by 1 inch

enough buttermilk to just cover chicken (approx. 4 cups)

2 tablespoons Tobasco (I used Sriracha sauce)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil, for frying

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  • In a pot, dissolve 1/2 cup of the salt in the water. Submerge the chicken in the brine; refrigerate overnight.
  • Drain and rinse the chicken. Rinse out the pot. Add the buttermilk and hot sauce (to taste), submerge the chicken in the buttermilk and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  • In a shallow bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, Old Bay, cayenne, black pepper and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Run your fingers down each piece of chicken to remove excess buttermilk then dredge in the flour. Dip the chicken back into the buttermilk and coat again in the flour.
  • Meanwhile, in a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 350-365°. Fry the chicken in batches until golden and cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a pre-heated 250F oven until ready to serve.
  • Collard Greens

    (for 4)

    1 bunch of collard greens

    2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil

    1 large onion, peeled & sliced

    2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed

    1 smoked turkey leg or ham hock

    chicken stock (or 1/2 tsp. of chicken bouillon (cube) + hot water)

    1. Lop-off the stalks from the collard greens and discard then place the leafy greens in a your sink and fill with water. Allow to soak for a few minutes then drain. Repeat until sand/grit is removed.
    2. Now add the olive oil/butter into a large pot and add the onions, garlic, smoked meat sweat for 6-7 minutes. Slice/chop your collards and add into the pot and cover. The steam will render the water in the collards and after about 5 minutes, stir and cover and steam for another 5 minutes. Now add enough stock (or water plus seasoning) to just cover the collard greens and simmer on medium heat with the lid ajar for about 30-40 minutes or until fork tender. Remove the smoked meat and cut up and stir-in. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve as a side with your fried chicken along with some title="Nacho Macaroni & Cheese" href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/2011/12/13/nacho-macaroni-cheese/">macaroni & cheese and title="Roasted Cornish Hens Stuffed With Goat Cheese & Figs" href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/2011/10/11/roasted-cornish-hens-stuffed-with-goat-cheese-figs/">biscuits. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9866-1.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10813" title="IMG_9866-1" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_9866-1.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="412" />

     

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    style='text-align:left'>© 2011, href='http://www.kalofagas.ca'>Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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    Fried Batzos With Makalo & Kefte

    href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_1551.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10603" title="IMG_1551" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_1551.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />I figured I better squeeze in all the fried cheese while it’s still December and we can splurge on some richer foods (and eat them too)! I have just one thick slab of Batzo cheese left in the fridge – a cheese from northern Greece that I brought back this past summer. To title="Batzos Saganaki" href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/2011/11/09/batzos-saganaki/">refresh your memories, this cheese is indigenous to central and western province of Macedonia, it’s made of sheep or goat’s milks, firm but spongy in looks with the holes evident when you slice into a slab.

    I love Batzo because it’s briny but  not that forward or as sharp as a Kefalotyri cheese, it’s holds up well to heat and it’s one Greece’s many cheeses ideal for frying. Saganki? OPA!! href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_1555.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10604" title="IMG_1555" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_1555.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

    Today I’ve pulled together three Greek dishes into one: frying cheese, a Greek meatball called a “keftede” and another northern Greek specialty – title="Makalo (Μακάλο)" href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/2008/05/13/makalo-%ce%bc%ce%b1%ce%ba%ce%ac%ce%bb%ce%bf/">Makalo: a sauce made from drippings in a pan or fat of some sort, flour and liquid. It could be water, stock and spiked with spices or some tomato purée. The consistency of Makalo is much like a gravy and it’s great for dipping fries in it, bread or in this case…cheese and meatballs.

    My dad often mixes some ground beef with onions, herbs, binder and hand-rolls some keftedes with which he then dredges in flour and then fry in a heavy-bottomed pan. The keftedes are reserved then pours off the oil and adds some more followed by some flour to make a roux then hot liquid like water or stock, some tomato paste (or juice) and while he’s stirring he’ll add some sweet paprika, a pinch of smoked paprika from his home town of Amynteo and salt to taste. Some Boukovo (chilli flakes) usually were sprinkled at the end.

    The meatballs would go into the thick Makalo to heat through and the dunking of bread and nibbling keftedes would ensue. My friend href="http://www.amazon.ca/Glorious-Foods-Greece-Diane-Kochilas/dp/0688154573" target="_blank">Diane Kochilas shares a Vlach dish from nearby Nymfaio where they would fry-up some Batzo cheese then make a similar Makalo and add the cheese back in. Here, you get two-for-one….fried cheese and meatballs to make a fabulously rustic dish that’s as a far removed from the pretentious eateries of Kolonaki that i can think of.

    It’s time for a return to “village dishes” me thinks. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_1550.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10602" title="IMG_1550" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_1550.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="510" />

    Fried Batzo With Makalo & Kefte (Μπάτζος με Μακαλο και Κεφτες)

    (makes 1 appetizer portion for two)

    1 slab of Batzos cheese, about 1/2 inch thick (kefalotyri, kefalograviera or a firm kasseri could be used)

    olive oil for frying cheese

    1 Tbsp. unsalted butter or olive oil

    1 heaping tsp. all-purpose flour

    1 tsp. of sweet paprika

    1 tsp. tomato paste

    1 small clove of garlic, minced

    approx. 1/3 cup hot water or stock

    pinch of smoked paprika

    salt and pepper to taste

    1.  This dish came about with some leftover keftedes that I added at the end of frying the cheese and making the Makalo, so use whatever leftover meatballs you have or make a batch of title="Keftedes" href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/2007/07/11/keftedes/">my family’s keftedes. Place a heavy-bottomed skillet or cast-iron pan on your stove-top over medium-high heat. Slice a slab of Batzos cheese to about 1/2 inch thick and wet it under some running tap water then dredge it all-purpose flour (shake off excess).
    2. Add a turn of olive in the hot pan and once hot, add the cheese and fry for a couple of minutes a side or until crisp and golden. Remove from the pan and reserve. Drain off the oil, wipe the pan clean (so your sauce doesn’t become too dark) and add the butter and as soon as it’s melted, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon for a minute. Now add the tomato and stir in then add some water, the minced garlic, paprika and stir and gradually add more water until the sauce is thick, creamy.
    3. Adjust seasoning with salt, some chilli flakes and a pinch of smoked paprika and gently place the reserved fried Batzo and keftede and allow to warm through for a couple of minutes in the sauce (Makalo).
    4. Carefully carry the pan to the table and serve “as is” along with some good crusty bread and a chilled href="http://www.chrisohoou.com/en_sites/product_detail.asp?productID=10" target="_blank">Chrisohoou Petritis Rose from Naoussa.

    * You can substitute Batzo with Kefalotyri, Kefalograviera, Halloumi, or a firm Kasseri. href="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_0142.jpg"> class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-10608" title="IMG_0142" src="http://www.kalofagas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/IMG_0142.jpg" alt="" width="600" height="450" />

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    Pan-Fried Cajun Rainbow Trout

    For those familiar with Toronto, you might remember the Whistling Oyster. Although I’m not a fan of basement establishments, this once used to be innovative, had an open kitchen, one could sit at a table or eat casually at the bar. I’ve been told it has since closed but I hold dear memories of eating and drinking…alot there! Their happy hour menus were a great way to try new dishes, most with a Pan-Asian and seafood slant.

    I still like a good deal when I dine – looking for value, good quality food with wholesome and seasonal ingredients and it’s always fun to try new and may an ethnic dish here in multicultural Toronto. There’s a great new web site called DiningDateNight where you can 30% off your bill from Toronto’s top restaurants and eateries. Click here to see how it works.

    One of my favourite dishes was the Pan-fried Cajun Rainbow Trout. Canada boasts of having lots of rainbow trout. I love trout for its flaky texture, it has a pink, almost salmon colour and it’s a versatile fish as it’s great grilled, broiled or in this case, pan-fried. Below is my Cajun spice blend good for chicken or fish. Mix the ingredients in a jar and shake well. I’ve omitted the salt so that you may control seasoning and the batch is good for a few recipes before you have to mix another batch.

    The pan-fried trout is easy to make and I love it paired with this simple mushroom pasta-ideal with linguine or you could used fettucine. Here, you can easily multi-task and start on the pasta sauce then finish the meal off with pan-frying the trout. This makes for a satisfying weeknight meal giving you that restaurant feel right in your own kitchen.

    Pan-Fried Cajun Rainbow Trout

    (serves 4)

    4 boned rainbow trout fillets, skin on

    olive oil

    fine sea salt

    all-purpose flour for dredging

    oil for frying

    Cajun seasoning

    2 Tbsp. of garlic powder

    2 Tbsp. of onion powder

    1 tsp. ground white pepper

    2 Tbsp. ground black pepper

    2 tsp. cayenne pepper

    4 tsp. of dried thyme

    1 tsp. dried oregano

    1/4 cup all purpose flour

    1 Tbsp. cornmeal

    Mushroom Linguine

    (serves 4)

    500 gr. package of linguine

    1/4 cup olive oil

    1 medium onion, diced

    3 cloves garlic, minced

    2 cups of sliced Cremini mushrooms

    1 shot of dry white wine

    1 cup heavy cream

    salt and pepper to taste

    2 tsp. of thyme leaves

    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

    lots of freshly grated Romano cheese

     

    1. Place a large pot of water on your stovetop and once aboil, add good amount of salt and the pasta and cook according to package instructions. In the meantime, add your olive oil and mushrooms in a skillet with some salt and pepper and cook the mushrooms until just browned. Now add the onions, garlic, thyme and stir in and allow to sweat for five minutes. Add the wine and reduce for a couple of minutes and then add the cream. Simmer for another 5-6 minutes or until thick. Add some grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Divide and serve with your pan-fried Cajun trout.
    2. In a jar, add your Cajun seasoning ingredients, seal and shake in a jar. Brush your fillets with olive oil and season with fine sea salt then sprinkle a good amount of Cajun seasoning on both sides of the fish then dredge them in all-purpose flour.
    3. In a large cast iron pan or non-stick skillet add a couple of turns of olive oil over medium-high heat. Place your fillets in the pan skin-side down for about 4 minutes or until you see the flesh of fish turn opaque halfway up the side view of the fillets. Carefully flip the fish and fry on the other side for another 2-3 minutes or until a deep golden colour and crisp (add more oil while frying if needed)
    4. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice and a side of rice or try a linguine with a mushroom-cream sauce…just like at the Whistling Oyster used to!

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    Batzos Saganaki

    One of the cornerstones of Greek cuisine has to be it’s cheeses…varied in taste, texture and many offerings coming from all parts of the country. I brought a cheese from Greece is called Batzos – not Batsos (Greek slang for Police/Cop). Batzos come from northern Greece and more specifically from central to western Macedonia (Naoussa to Kastoria) and northern Thessaly. Batzos gets its name from the Vlach word for the mountain huts in which this cheese used to be made in and it’s also a PDO-protected product (since 1996).

    This is a firm cheese, a little spongy and porous, made of sheep’s or goat’s milk and briny with a back-end tang on the palate. It has a colour that ranges from egg-white to yellow. The cheese is in essence a Kefalotyri (salty) that’s shaped like a large head after being strained in cheesecloth then it’s sliced into slabs and place in metal containers with coarse sea salt sprinkled in between each piece and topped with the whey ( or a brine).

    Batzos is often enjoyed in the style of “saganaki”, that is to say it’s fried in the two-handled vessel and often flambeed with Tsipouro (local eau de vie) or brandy and finished with a good squeeze of lemon. Fried cheese is enjoyed by most Greeks and those who patronize Greek restaurants order this favourite all the time. You won’t find Batzos here in Toronto but it’s certainly avaialable in Thessaloniki and surrounding regions.

    Batzos Saganaki (Μπάτζος Σαγανάκι)

    1 piece of Batzo 1/2″ inch thick

    1 generous Tbsp. of olive oil

    all-purpose flour for dredging

    optional for flambe: 1/2 shot glass of Metaxa (brandy) or Ouzo

    wedge of lemon

    1. Pre-heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (a cast-iron pan works very well) to a medium-high heat. Place your slab of cheese under running tap water then dredge in all-purpose flour. Shake off any excess flour.
    2. Add your olive oil to the skillet. Add a sprinkle of flour into the pan to test if the oil is hot enough. As soon as it sizzles, add your cheese to the skillet and sear for a couple of minutes. Carefully flip the cheese with a spatula and allow to sear for a couple of minutes on the other side.
    3. Turn off your heat source and carefully carry your cheese saganaki to your table and pour the brandy ( or Ouzo) over the cheese and ignite with a lighter. Move your head back, shout “OPA” and squeeze the wedge of lemon over the cheese.
    4. Serve immediately with crusty bread, some Ouzo on ice.

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    Red Pepper & Feta Pseudokeftedes

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    When I visit Greece I also head into Thessaloniki to have a lunch or dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in the city, “Kourdisto Gourouni” (Wind-up Pig). The Kourdisto Gourouni has old world charm, serving lots of beers, a good choice of Greek wines and lots of great food to be served with the booze.

    The Kourdisto Gourouni is located across from Aghia Sophia Church at the southwest corner of Ermou on the main floor of the beautiful “Kokkino Spiti” (Red House). The Kokkino Spiti was completed in 1928 and built by a wealty textiles merchant from Naoussa called John Loggos. The Red House currently houses The Kourdisto Gourouni, a cafe and clothing store. The Red House is also said to be haunted with vampires, cursed with some suicides occurring in the building.


    Aghia Sophia, Thessaloniki

    The Red House of Thessaloniki is a protected as a “heritage building” in 2006 as it’s unique red bricks and ceramic detailing on the outside make it different from the rest of the preserved buildings in Thessaloniki. The Culture Minister in 2007 (Voulgarakis) approved a move for the State to buy/acquire the building with the purpose of protecting and maintaining the building and hosting various cultural events in it. The Culture Minister who followed Voulgarakis is now the Leader of Opposition (Antonis Samaras) and possibly Greece’s next Prime Minister reserved Voulgarakis’ order – deeming the building “not justifiable to the public interest to protect the building”. So, although the building is safe for now, the Red House is in a slow state of decay and open to be privately sold and be at the whim of those who may buy it.

    Each time I go to Greece I come back with a new dish that I haven’t tried nor heard of before – this past year was no different as I tried an appetizer of roasted red peppers and Feta cheese in the form of croquettes. The Kourdisto Gourouni served me “soutzoukaki” shaped (oblong) croquettes with a cooling strained Greek yogurt, perfect balance for the sweet, roasted red peppers and the briny Feta cheese.

    The recipe list for this meze/appetizer is remarkably short but what counts here is quality ingredients: roasted red peppers, Feta cheese, flour, herbs, spices and a cool, thick strained Greek yogurt. First the red peppers: each year my family blisters bushels of red peppers then we allow them to cool then place in zip-lock bags and place in the freezer for the winter. The charred skins protect the peppers from freezer burn and one simply has to thaw them, peel away the skins and serve with salt and olive oil. I love smoky flavours in food and roasted peppers are one of the finest examples of it.

    The flavourings here are simple, finely chopped scallions or chives, a combo of dried Greek oregano and fresh basil, some heat added with Boukovo (chilli flakes) and crumbled Feta cheese. The only real Feta cheese is made in Greece and for those of you living here in Canada, you can buy Epiros Feta (yes, made in Greece) at your local Costco. I decided to form these croquettes into the shape of a keftede or a Greek meatball. Keftedes are like Greek meatballs and often vegetarian keftedes are made for fasting periods and Greeks will call these “pseudo-keftedes” (false meatballs).

    The Pseudo-keftedes are binded simply with all-purpose flour, some baking powder to lighten the mixture and simply dredged in flour then fried. Everything in the mixture is edible so a long cooking time isn’t required -  just enough time to fry these delicious bites until just golden. The roasted red peppers are sweet and this magnifies in flavour when they are fried. I spooned a big dollop of Oikos strained Greek yogurt in the middle of the plate and the combo proved to be both refreshing and delicious.

    Red Pepper & Feta Pseudo-keftedes (Ψευτοκεφτεδες με Πιπεριες Φλωρινης & φέτα)

    (makes approx. 8/appetizer for 4)

    4 roasted red peppers, peeled and seeded, stems removed

    1/2 cup fresh chives or scallions, finely chopped

    1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

    1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

    1/2 tsp. of chilli flakes (Boukovo)

    6-8 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

    1 level tsp. of baking powder

    approx. 1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

    sunflower oil for frying

    1. After roasting your peppers, peel, seed and remove the stems (do not rinse away with water). Chop/dice the peppers and place in a bowl along with the oregano, basil, chives and baking powder and mix. Now add the flour and chilli flakes and mix again until you can form a meatball.
    2. Now add the crumbled Feta and mix again and form into palm-sized balls and place in the fridge for an hour. Then add enough oil into a deep pan to come up about 1 inch. Dredge your balls lightly with all-purpose flour and as soon as your oil is hot (about 360F), fry on both sides until golden ( about 2 minutes).
    3. Transfer to a paper-lined plate to blot excess oil then transfer to a platter along with a dollop of strained Greek yogurt and chopped chives as garnish.

    *Special thanks to “I Love Thessaloniki” blog for background info

    ** Aghia Sophia in Thessaloniki

    *** Kourdisto Gourouni

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    Crispy Fried Onions

    I love this garnish as it adds height to a dish, it’s easy to make and you’re damn right they taste good! The key here is to thinly slice the onions and I use my mandoline. Serve with a steak or any other meat & potatoes dish or even a big bowl for friends to snack on. Crispy fried onions – easy to make and here’s how:

    Crispy Fried Onions

    1 medium onion, thinly sliced

    fine sea salt

    2 tsp. of corn starch

    oil for frying

    1. Peel your onion and then caredully slice it with your mandoline as thinly as possible. Tear the onions so that you have individual strands and place in a bowl with some salt and the corn starch and toss with your hands until well-coated. Shake off excess corn starch.
    2. Heat some oil in your fryer (about 2 inches in the pot) and place the onions in the hot oil and fry until golden and crisp. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and place on paper-lined plate. Sprinkle a bit of salt and toss and allow to cool. Serve as garnish with any meat and potatoes dish (like Salisbury Steak).

    © 2011, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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    Fried Peppers

    Almost everyone in Greece will have a garden of some degree. Even the apartment dwellers (there are many) will dedicate part of their balcony to some herbs, a tomato plant or some chilli peppers. My grandfather used to collect discarded Feta tins, fill them with soil and place the plants on the rooftop of the apartment. Others have more space and they will cultivate a plot of their land and plant tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet and hot peppers, zucchini, eggplant and an array of herbs. Those are the usual vegetables in the summer months…winter time is a whole other gamut of vegetables, leafy greens and that requires a post dedicated unto that.


    garden or jungle?

    My family’s home in Halkidiki also has a garden and as we speak, my parents are there and I can picture them now picking the ripe vegetables and using them for salads, vegetarian Greek dishes (ladera) and even giving some of the bounty to family and friends! The subject vegetable today is the pepper. My parents are originally from Florina and the people of this western Macedonian region just love their peppers…especially hot ones! We use peppers in stews, salads, grilled, baked and one of my favourites…fried.

    Frying peppers is a quite easy…if you adhere to some simple tips:

    1. Poke the peppers with a fork. This is done so that hot oil doesn’t pop and hit your skin. DO IT.
    2. Shallow fry the peppers in oil, which means about 1/2 inch.

    Fried Peppers (Πιπεριές Τηγανιτές)

    approx. 1lb. of long, slender peppers (red, green or hot)

    olive oil for frying

    sea salt

    wine vinegar to taste

    1. Rinse your peppers and pat-dry. Poke the peppers with a fork a few times all over and pour enough oil into a large skillet to come up about 1/2 inch. Bring the oil up to a medium-high heat and fry your peppers in batches until the skins are just golden-brown.
    2. Transfer the peppers to a paper-lined platter and season with sea salt. Serve on plate with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and squirt of good wine vinegar. Serve warm or room temperature as part of a meze offering.

    © 2011, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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    Grilled Shrimp & Manouri Salad

    Toronto’s been having some of the hottest weather in years and today we’re expected to reach the hottest temperature EVER for the city. We complain it’s too cold to grill or eat outside and now the flipside…it’s too hot! The A/C is on, I have the stovetop at my disposal and one must eat. Chalk up this pretty dish as being a salad and a meal. One portion is certainly a meal even for the hungriest of “hungry men” and for the more civilized, this makes for a wonderful shared salad for two.

    The dressing here is my basic go-to blend of 3-to-1 oli to acid ratio, a squirt of mustard, some honey, salt and pepper and on this occasion I used oregano. Mint, basil or tarragon would also work well here. There’s mixed salad greens,  whole shrimp, some crispy fried zucchini, eggplant and green beans (yes) and the centerpiece – the grilled Manouri cheese.

    Manouri cheese is a by-product of making sheep’s milk Feta. When making cheese, the whey is leftover and Manouri is made. This cheese is soft yet dense – will crumble if you want it to yet firm enough to remain intact if you slice it carefully. I usually eat Manouri for breakfast with some toast, it’s great as a dessert with poached fruit and many creperies in & around Thessaloniki serve crepes with Manouri & ham.

    I also like to grill Manouri. I’ve featured a few recipes grilling another fave – Halloumi which is also very forgiving over heat but Manouri is even easier to grill! Rub some oil on both sides and grill over medium-high heat for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes a side and you’ll have a warm cheese with gorgeous grill marks.

    This salad relies on the ingredients’ flavours and different textures. back to the fried vegetables: zucchini, eggplant and grean beans. I had all three in my fridge and I wanted a sinful component to the salad…fried vegetables. I simply sliced the zucchini and eggplant wafer-thin with my mandoline, trimmed the beans and double-dredged them in seasoned all-purpose flour. Try this: dredge veggies in flour, quickly dip in cold water then dredge a second time in flour. Fry ’til golden and crisp and blot on paper, sprinkle some salt and enjoy!

    This whole salad came together indoors: vinaigrette emulsified in a bowl then tossed the salad, a couple zucchini and eggplant strips fried in about an inch of oil and finally, I pulled out the grill pan and seared the Manouri cheese then cooked-off the shrimp. Once again, make dressing then fry veggies then grill Manouri and shrimp. Assemble.

    This salad is about textures and flavours: tangy dressing with peppery mixed greens, the crunch of fried veggies and the sweet, succulent shrimp and buttery grilled Manouri cheese that should be broken-off and placed in the mouth with each bite of the salad. Is it lunch yet?

    Grilled Manouri and Shrimp Salad

    (for two)

    4 whole shrimp, peeled & deveined

    2 tsp. olive oil

    1/4 tsp. of sweet paprika

    sea salt and ground pepper

    pinch of garlic powder

    1 – 1/2inch slice of Manouri cheese

    3 cups of loosely packed mixed greens, washed and dried

    1/2 cup sweet cherry tomatoes

    2 Tbsp. sliced red onions

    Dressing

    3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

    1/4 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

    1 tsp. red wine vinegar

    squirt of honey

    2 tsp. chopped chives

    1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

    Fried Veggies

    1-2 strips of zucchini

    1-2 strips of Japanese eggplant

    6 green beans, trimmed

    all-purpose flour

    salt and pepper

    cold water

    oil for frying

    1. Peel t he shells off your shrimp, leaving the tails in tact (leave the head on as well). Devein your shrimp (use my toothpick method) and rinse and pat-dry. Toss the shrimp with oil, garlic, paprika and salt and pepper and reserve.
    2. Wash your greens and pat-dry or pass through your salad spinner and set aside. Take a large bowl and add your mustard, honey, and vinegar and whisk. Now slowly add the olive oil while whisking until emulsified. Add the salt and pepper to taste and chives and oregano then reserve.
    3. Thinly slice your zucchini and eggplant lengthwise with a mandoline and trim your beans. Place some flour in a plate and season with salt and pepper. Dredge the vegetables in flour, then dip in cold water and once again dredge in flour. Add enough oil into a fry pan to fill it to 1 inch and when hot, add the vegetables are fry until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve on paper-lined towel. Sprinkle sparingly with sea salt.
    4. Place a grill pan on your stove-top over medium-high heat and add about a Tbsp. of olive. When the pan is hot, add the Manouri cheese and grill for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes a side. Carefully remove and reserve. In the same grill pan, add your shrimp and grill for 1 minute a side or flip when pink.
    5. Time to assemble the salad. Add the mixed greens, tomatoes and onions into the bowl with dressing and toss to coat the greens. Place the zucchini and eggplant strips in a cross pattern on your plate then top with your salad greens. Place the Manouri cheese on top of the salad and place the shrimp around the cheese.  Place the fried green beans upright leaning on the cheese and serve.
    6. Pair with a chilled bottle of Gerovassliou Chardonnay.

     

    © 2011, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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    Phyllo-Wrapped Shrimp With Three Sauces

    Sometimes I make a recipe that leaves me with some leftover store-bought phyllo and I can usually make some Baklava with the rest or Tyropitakia (cheese-filled phyllo triangles). The other alternative is to take some sheets of phyllo, cut them into triangles and roll some shrimp in them and fry them up!

    This idea is inspired by the Asian shrimp appetizers that use wonton wrappers to roll. This appetizer is easy on the eye, easy to prepare and simply delicious! A different meze if you will! Most of the commercial phyllo out there is thinner than wonton wrappers but this recipe still works…just ensure the shrimp are wrapped tightly, the oil you use is good (I like sunflower oil for frying) and simply use your eyes to gauge when the shrimp are ready – when golden.

    This is a fun dish and let your imagination get the best of you – play with some sauce combos to accompany the phyllo-wrapped shrimp. On this occasion, I made one sauce made of tomato confit, honey, olive oil and some Boukovo (Greek chilli flakes), the second sauce was made of garlic, yogurt, splash of cream, mustard, chives and honey. The third one is made with good red wine vinegar, a little water, honey and some more Boukovo. You can try one of these (or all) or try making your own sauce(s).

    The basics for dipping sauces is that they should be made with what’s already in your pantry or in your fridge. The KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle is in full effect here. Let’s wrap some shrimp!

    Phyllo-Wrapped Shrimp With Three Sauces

    (appetizer for 4)

    12 medium-sized shrimp, fresh or thawed from frozen

    12 triangles of phyllo pastry, approx. 6″ X 4″ X 4″

    1 tsp. of cornstarch diluted in 1 tsp. of  tap water

    2 Tbsp. olive oil

    salt and pepper

    2 cloves of garlic, minced

    1/2 tsp. sweet paprika

    vegetable oil for frying

    1. Take your phyllo out the fridge (assuming it’s already thawed) and leave on the counter to return to room temperature. Rinse your shrimp, peel & devein leacing the tails in tact. Now most importantly, slit the inside curve of the shrimp in 3-4 spots so that the shrimp is no longer curved and the shrimp is now freely straight (it’s important that your shrimp aren’t curved or your phyllo will unravel when fried). Rinse the shrimp and pat-dry then place in a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and paprika and toss.
    2. Pour enough vegetable oil in your frying pan/skillet to come up about  1 1/2 – 2 inches up the pan. Heat your oil to a temperature of approx. 360F. Add the corn starch with water and mix until you have a paste, reserve. Lay your phyllo out on your work surface and cut into triangles.
    3. Place your shrimp near the left corner of the phyllo with the tail exposed and the body of the shrimp just laying inside the phyllo. Fold the phyllo over the shrimp and tuck tightly under the shrimp then fold the top part of the phyllo to cover the top part of the shrimp (now only the corner to the far0right is the only pointed side of the phyllo. Now roll the phyllo up until your roll is complete. Dab your finger into the corn starch paste and seal the phyllo roll. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
    4. Fry your phyllo-wrapped shrimp until just golden and then blot on paper-lined plate. Serve immediately with your favourite dipping sauces. Pour a glass of Ouzo with some ice and enjoy!

     

     

    © 2011, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.



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    Potato Croquettes “Metsovone”

    Growing up in a Greek household here in Canada (immigrant family), I remember not always having the toys other kids had, didn’t wear the trendy clothes nor did we go to Disney for vacation but (the family) always were clothed, had plenty of toys, things to occupy my time with and we went on vacations to Greece! Disney….or Greece? Yeah….Greece is better.

    Our family also always had plenty of food on the table and I never sensed that we were lacking in this area. Bountiful spreads at the dinner table, seconds (and thirds) could be had and there was always enough food if someone dropped-in unannounced (no, Greeks aren’t expected to call in before arriving). Even though food was never an issue in our home we also never were wasteful with food – eating leftovers or reinventing them into new dishes.

    One such leftover that we’ve all experienced is mashed potatoes. One can reheat the leftovers and serve as a side to another dish but that can become an issue if there isn’t enough leftover mash to serve the whole family. Do only two people get mashed potatoes or does everyone get a miniscule portion (unlikely) or make some more (maybe).

    The other way is to simply turn them into another dish and my solution is to turn mashed potatoes into croquettes – little cheezy potato balls. You can turn leftovers into croquettes or simply make a batch of mashed potatoes, allow them to cool and then form into balls and fry them. The potato croquettes are simply mashed potatoes spiked with some Greek oregano and they are mixed with a Smoked Metsovone cheese. This cheese comes from the town of Metsovo, located in Greece’s northerwestern province of Epirus.

    There’s more to Greek cheese than just Feta and one of my favourites has to this Smoked Metsovone (from Metsovo). This town is a food haven with its long tradition of making sausages, wine, phyllo pies and its Metsovone cheese (smoked). I remember my mom bringing back from of the smoked variety from Greece years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Metsovone appears in a long cylindrical shape with a thin wax rind and the smoked Metsovone has a visible brown hue on the outside and an intoxicating smoked aroma that most can’t resist.

    Metsovone is made with 90% cow’s milk and the remaining 10% coming from goat’s milk, it’s aged for a minimum of 3 months and naturally smoked from natural local woods. Metsovone is sold in 1.5, 2.5 and 4.5kg sizes. Metsovone is nowhere to be found here in Toronto but some shops in the northeast US do sell it and even offer mail-order! I brought a sizeable piece of Metsovone back from my shopping spree at Ergon but it’s going fast. If you can’t find Metsovone a smoked Gouda will work just fine.

    These potato croquettes are simply rolled into balls, dipped in eggwash then rolled in cornmeal (another traditional ingredient of Epirus and neighboring Thessaly that specialize in making a savory pie with cornmeal). The croquettes are shallow-fried in oil and served warm as part of a meze/appetizer array. These potato croquettes are a perfect excuse to pour some Ouzo, add ice or water and watch as the Ouzo turns milky white and beckons you to take a sip, tell stories or reminisce.

    Potato Croquettes “Metsovone” (Πατατοκροκέτες “Μετσοβονε”

    4 Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes

    4 cloves of garlic

    4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter

    1 cup of warm milk

    salt and pepper to taste

    1/2 cup chopped fresh chives (or scallions)

    1 cup of grated Smoked Metsovone cheese (smoked Gouda works well)

    1 tsp. dried Greek oregano

    1 egg beaten with 2-3 Tbsp. of milk

    1/2 cup corn meal

    vegetable oil for frying

    1. Peel your potatoes and cut into smaller pieces and place in a pot with tap water and the whole cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil and season lightly with salt. Lower to a simmer and boil until the potatoes are fork-tender. Drain well and return the potatoes (and garlic) back into the pot along with the butter and mash Gradually add milk until desired consistency achieved and then add the chives, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Allow the mashed potatoes to cool or place in the fridge to cool faster.
    2. When the mashed potatoes have cooled, add the grated smoked Metsovone and mix well. Form the mashed potatoes into balls and place on a platter. Mix your egg and milk in a small bowl and fill a concave plate with cornmeal. Coat your croquettes in the eggwash then roll then in thee cornmeal.
    3. Place a large skillet on your stove-top over medium-high heat and add about 1 inch of oil into it. When the oil gets to about 350F, add the croquettes and fry until golden (fry in batches if necessary). Transfer to a paper-lined plate to blot excess oil then transfer to a serving platter or smaller meze/appetizer plates and serve warm.*

    * Fry until just golden – over-fry them an they may burst.

     

     

    © 2011, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

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