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Archive for February, 2010

Above is a picture of sauteed beef heart.  Just a little food-valentines humor.  🙂  I’m sure it tastes delicious too.

This will be a short and pathetic entry today! I just want to eat chocolates and drink champagne all day basically. Niko and I are actually going to Pil Poul AGAIN. So there will be no new restaurant review to offer up. (See review two entries ago).

Valentines is never a good night to judge a restaurant anyway- most usually serve set menus and they are never as good as regular nights. Nevertheless, I wanted to dress up and eat French food in this lovely building once more.

It might be too late to offer advice on cooking for two, you have probably already planned your menus. But if not, I recommend keeping it simple.  I used to make these extravagant, complicated 5 course meals. Then I realized that I spent half the night running into the kitchen to set things up last minute and plate everything beautifully, when we just wanted to be together.

A great 3 course meal can be done in very little time with little effort. If I was pressed on time, this is the menu I’d prepare:

1) Smoked Salmon with Freshly Whipped Lemon-Dill Cream

2) Seafood Risotto OR Sauteed Steak  with mushroom-truffle sauce (if youre dealing with a devoted carnivore like I am)

3) Cheese Plate with assorted cheese of your choice (Add fruit and nuts of your choice as well)

4) Chocolate Covered Strawberries OR Cherry Sorbet with a drizzle of Mint-Chocolate Sauce

The cheeses can be cut and refrigerated on each plate, and then you can  get to room temperature when you start eating the salmon.

The salmon is incredibly easy as well- just whip up some fresh cream (or buy creme fraiche) and add lemon juice, lemon zest, and freshly cut dill. Spoon a dollop of cream in the middle of a plate and drape the smoked salmon around it decoratively, then sprinkle more dill and lemon zest around. Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate- it will be ready when you are!

Any risotto can be started in advance, and finished in its last stages of broth stirring. So this can also be mostly done ahead of time, and needs only a 5-7 to finish. A steak is an easy option as well, because you can sear it and let it rest while you are enjoying your first plate. Sauces for steak can also be made quickly- with the juices and little bits from sauteeing the steaks in the pan, you add shallots or mushrooms or whatever, with some wine and simmer- reduce, and add a few tbs of butter. there is a sauce!

The desserts I mention are pretty easy. You can heat up chocolate fudge and dip strawberries in them if you want to make it even easier. Otherwise, melt bits of chocolate with heated heavy cream and a bit of butter. Dip strawberries and set on parchment paper in the fridge. Or, scoop a few balls of sorbet or ice cream with a drizzle of any sauce you like.

I prefer to make my own ice cream, but I know there is not always time to do this!!

Hope these tips help a little. No matter what you decide to make, know that it can be decadent and indulgant without having to take hours and hours of prep time.

If  none of this turns you on, there’s always beef heart! Yum.

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I’ve been extra busy lately. I’m basically in Subtitles Hell– every 5 seconds of the 90 minute film needs a new set of subtitles. Ugh.

When I know I’ll be stuck at my computer all week, I like to make a big pot of something one day to eat from for at least 3 more days. Does that sound boring? If it’s something I’m really in the mood for, I like it this way.. And I switch things up at dinner.

I’m back on the health kick, and making an effort to eat more vegetable and non-meat main dishes. Those who know me are laughing right now, because I am a true carnivore. In all of it’s bloody, artery clogging glory! But as much as I love me a steak, it really does feel good to eat veggies.

I thought a lentil was a grain, but it’s actually a “pulse”- a bean from the legume family of plants. There is a huge variety of them in many different colors. Lentils are a great source of protein and good carbs. They also carry iron,  fiber, Vitamin B1 and minerals.

In French, Meditteranean and American restaurants, I often see lentils in a salad, or as a side to salmon. In India, the Middle East, and South American countries lentils are often combined with rice in a stew, as they have a similar cooking time. A very common dish in Greek households is a lentil soup/stew. Every month or so, I get really in the mood for it and find it very comforting. So here is a comfort food that isn’t 90% fat. 🙂 Can it be?

Here is my grandmother’s Lentil Soup Recipe:

1 lb lentils

3 quarts water

1 -2 diced carrots

1- 2 diced celery stalks

1-2 diced onions

(the reason I write 1-2 for the veggies is because some like veggies in a higher ratio to lentils than others, your choice. I personally up the veggies a lot).

2 minced cloves of garlic

2 bay leaves

1 cup diced tomato with juices (can be from can if necessary)

vegetable broth/cube

S&P

1 can V8 juice-optional

dash vinegar-optional

  • Rinse Lentils in a colander to clean
  • Put lentils in a big pot with the 3 quarts water and let boil.
  • Once the water is boiling, reduce heat- skim any foam that appears at the top
  • Sautee veggies and garlic with bay leaves in a pan with a few drops of olive oil
  • Add veggies and diced tomato to the lentils, along with one veggie cube.
  • Let boil for 35-45 minutes. Add S&P to taste.
  • You can add V8 juice at the end for some extra oomph! Some add a dash of vinegar as well, although I do not like this.

Enjoy! Mine is boiling now. It’ll give me the healthy carbs, proteins, and nutrients I need for excersizing later! Jillian Michaels is gonna kick my butt with her DVDs…damn her and her squats.

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Niko asks me: Why is Valentines Day so special? Can’t I get you roses and take you to dinner any night? He has accepted that I’m never giving up this cheesy holiday- I consider it one more excuse to be indulgent, and any excuse is a good excuse, right? I always respond with “well, go ahead and surprise me with flowers and a dinner then-any night of the week!” This past Saturday he did surprise me, and pre- Valentines weekend showed me that he can be romantic any non-special night of the year.

Ok, I will stop gushing and discuss the food!

We went to Pil Poul– a French-Mediterranean restaurant in a stunning neo-classical building in the lovely area of Thissio in Athens. We had been here once before (2 years ago) and then-chef Jerome Serress was just amazing. Really. Amazing. The best foie gras I’ve ever had- with a stawberry gelee molded over the foie…oh, my, succulence…

Now there is a new chef- Konstantino Athinagora. He is young and described on the website < http://www.pilpoul.gr > as an enthusiastic, passionate, creative chef. Among other awards, he’s been honored in Greece as a Golden Chef of 2009 by the Athens Chef Club.

I arrived sceptical because of my past wonderful experience with Serress’ cooking, and also because of the new chef’s youth! But I admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

But before I get to the food, I need to describe the scene. (I’m so disappointed I didn’t have my camera).

A car, taxi or metro will only take you so far into Thissio. You walk from the road onto cobble-stone like pathways and approach a grandiose, white building. It is both ornate and understated. You enter, and a host greets you at the door. He takes you up to the third floor on the terrace, to enjoy the stunning view of the lit Acropolis. Genial small talk ensues. Then you are taken to the second floor to be seated.  The tables are simple and elegant.

Pil Poul feels like a historical home- which, I think, it is. Everything feels very stately. Some of the art on the walls do not match with the tone of the place. However, the art is interesting.

I cannot shower enough praise over the host, the manager, the server, and the sommelier. Each were incredibly warm, gracious and accommodating.

We really felt spoiled. In a country where the notion of good service is fairly recent, and still spotty, we relished this. I couldn’t choose between a few wines and the sommelier let me taste all 4! He also poured me extra big glasses…Ah, the road to my heart!

We started by sharing sweetbreads with red wine sauce and thinly fried potato strings. The plate was gorgeous and the sweetbreads were melt-in-your-mouth tender and velvety. The potatoes were crunchy and added a nice play in texture.

Next we each had foie gras since we both love it and wouldn’t want to share! Two sliced were served  with a grape sauce and greens. I don’t know the word for these greens in English- they are the green you see in the water that are on top of rocks. If anyone knows the word for this, let me know! I was underwhelmed by this dish. Niko loved it. Mine was underseasoned and just did not possess the silky texture or exclamation of flavor that I usually enjoy from foie. Niko is easier to please I think. 🙂

For the main plates, Niko had pork and pancetta with a violet-mustard sauce and sweet potato mash with truffle oil. I didn’t try the pork, but Niko really enjoyed it. This is probably a good choice for people who don’t want to veer to far away from the Greek palate. But let me tell you! The sweet potato mash was phenomenally good. I have never had better mashed potatoes in my life. The truffle oil seemed to underscore all the earthy flavor of the potato as well as its sweet undertones. Excellent. I was eating it off Niko’s plate.

I had an excellent duck confit wrapped in a homemade pasta, with two pieces of ravioli stuffed with squash, in a bitter cocoa sauce. Also Excellent. Wow. I really did not want this dish to end.  When I said this, Niko smugly reminded me of how I chide him when he complains of small portions at gourmet restaurants.

The desserts were just OK. We got pistachio panacotta and Espresso Cream with Marscapone, with a Orange-Rosemary Sauce. They were fine, but forgettable.

I believe this is excellent value for money. We ordered a la carte, but the degustation menu is 60 per person. For the setting and experience (on top of the food) it is worth it.

They are having a menu on Valentines with a glass of champagne included for 70 euros. Even though weve made other plans…we are considering going!

Pil Poul

Hours 8:30-00:30

Located:Αποστόλου Παύλου 51 και Πουλοπούλου (Apostolou Pavlou 51 & Poulopoulou)

Number:210 3423665

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