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Archive for the ‘greek food’ Category

This post is dedicated to Teddy, who has my blog bookmarked on his computer and has checked it every week only to see that I have not updated since Easter! Unforgivable. This one is for you Ted!

I am very sorry for my long hiatus but sometimes life gets overwhelming…I forgot how relaxing and enjoyable discussing my culinary adventures is, and so- I’m back!! I hope you enjoy my summer posts…please continue to comment with any thoughts, suggestions, outrage, etc.

I just returned from Serifos Island. It is a special place, and an often neglected area of the Cyclades islands. It is quiet and retains much of its rugged beauty. We spent a lot of time at the beach of course and sitting on our veranda enjoying the view. One visit to a historical monastery ended up being one of the most memorable experiences of the trip- out of all of our island trips actually…

Taxiarches Monastery sits at the north end of the island. Built in 1572 and founded as a men’s monastery, it is dedicated to Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the patron saints of Serifos. The outside of the structure is unlike any monastery I have ever visited- the tall walls surrounding indicate how it served well as a fortress. The monastery used to be used as a fortress during pirate raids and Turkish occupation. There are small holes in the thick walls from which the monks could shoot.

The last monk living here greeted me and Niko warmly as we approached the entrance of the church. He offered us sweet caramels and explained the history of the icons we studied.  You could almost sense the painful history inside the dim church. The faded dark Byzantine icons still shone with thin outlines of vivid bright gold. I was not allowed to take pictures here.

This windy whitewashed architecture offered picturesque images from every angle.  One of the many charming sights were the monk’s onions and green beans drying in the sun.

I wondered what and how the monk cooks. But he had other visitors as well and I was embarrassed to ask him these types of questions in such a holy, historically significant place. Now in retrospect, I doubt it would have been inappropriate, but I felt shy at the time!

Drying and dehydrating vegetables helps with waste- if you find yourself with too many tomatoes, green beans or onions, and there is no more room in the freezer and you don’t feel like canning…sun drying is a great solution. In these economic times, nothing should be wasted…and not just when times are hard! It is never right to waste food.  I don’t know where you are, but here in Greece it is Hot as Hades. This is a prime time to test this technique.

Drying green beans is great when you want a crisper, crunchier texture. It is wonderful for Sichuan green bean-shrimp meat stir fries for instance. You can thread a sterilized needle through a row of green beans and hang in the hot sun for a day or two. If you are drying for preservation, make sure to blanch before drying to stop enzyme activity that makes the veggie go brown and taste kinda wierd. (Dunk in boiling water for 30 seconds and then shock with ice water to retain their green color).

Sun drying tomatoes is my faaavorite vegetable hobby. It just tasted divine and makes any salad or dip or meat/poultry dish shine.

Unfortunately I do not have a green thumb. I have the opposite of a green thumb- a red thumb….so I pick fresh tomatoes from our local farmers market. They are organic and have excellent flavor, especially now in this climate.

  • Pick firm tomatoes. Not necessarily under-ripe, but certainly not mushy or bruised! The less liquid they have, the faster they will dry.
  • I don’t usually take the skin off, but if you’d like to: blanch (dunk in boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock in ice water). The skin will peel off easily.
  • Cut tomatoes in half or in fourths depending on their size. Remove seeds, the tough stems, and any bruised or soft spots.
  • DRY. There are three methods: a dehydrating machine, an oven, and the sun! Since it is summer, and in honor of the sweet Monk I met last week, today I am discussing the sun method: Place the tomatoes on a cake rack and cover with cheesecloth, or any kind of mesh cloth that will protect the tomatoes from insects and mosquitoes. If you use a regular pan, then you will need to flip the tomatoes over every now and then. (Note- some people leave the tomatoes in the dashboard of their cars during the day, exposed to the most light during the day only- I have never done this but I am sure it works fine).
  • The time it takes depends on so many variables: the size of the tomatoes, the water content, the strength of the sun, etc…You can tell they are done when they are malleable and a little leathery with no water at all. Their color should be a deep red. It has taken me between 13 and 20 hours of sun exposure usually- around two full day times.
  • Of course, you may add salt, basil, or any other spice you like to infuse while they tomatoes are drying…I was thinking of using some exotic spices (maybe Indian) to use in some kind of fusion type recipe…they may accompany a nice yellow-split pea dal puree well…
  • You can store in olive oil and then the oil will be infused with tomato flavor. You can use the oil to flavor dressings, sauces, etc…Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

I am not sure why the Monk was drying onions. I have seen my grandmother used dehydrated onions in stews and braises before, but it can’t be better than fresh onion, right? If any of you know why dehydrated onions are good for more than preservation let me know!

***A lot of you have asked for my grandmother’s Karpathian Baklava recipe. I have only made it when I am with her and do not have anything written out, but I can ask her to write everything down for me when I see her in Karpathos in August. I will report back!

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Today is a special day here in Greece. It marks the 1821 uprising against the Ottoman Empire. Every March 25th, when I was a little girl, I dressed up in traditional costumes like the one below and said Greek poems and danced in our Church! But I’m not posting the pictures my parents have of me…no way 🙂

This day we also celebrate the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary-when she was informed by Archangel Gabriel that she would conceive and bear Christ.

This celebratory day falls during Lent, when we are supposed to be fasting from meat, fish, and dairy. Not everybody chooses to fast all of these food items, but for those that do- today is the exception!

The traditional meal is Fried Salt Cod, Skordalia (a very garlicky garlic potato mash- that is an understatement), Boiled Beets with vinegar, Tarama (Carp Roe smooth spread made with bread and lemon juice and oil), and some type of Sautéed Greens.

At the market yesterday, everyone was picking through the huge selection of beets and cod and I was excited usually one of my family members hosts on this day (and it’s always great!), but this year I wanted to try it myself in my own way.

Now I love traditional cooking as a means of connecting with my heritage, family, and the warmth of familiarity and memory. BUT I just love to put my own spin on dishes. And there are some dishes I just don’t like. Here is my own riff on each traditional plate:

* These recipes make 4 servings*

The Cod– I stuck with tradition by buying the heavily salted fresh cod. For two days I kept it in water in the fridge, and changed the water 3 or 4 times a day to release the salt.

I am not deep frying it for caloric reasons- but I will make a batter and fry it lightly in a non-stick pan. It will still get crispy and scrumptious, it just won’t be drowned in oil. For 1 & 1/2 lbs of cod, mix 1 cup of flour,  1/8 tsp baking powder, 1 tsb lemon-pepper seasoning, and 1tsp cayenne

Warm 1 cup of milk and mix in a package of yeast- mix this into the flour mixture- cover and leave it for an hour or so.  (I think the addition of yeast makes the batter extra light and crispy-especially since we won’t be deep frying).

Then dip the cod into this mixture, shake off excess, and fry when oil is hot. Do NOT fidget with the fish. Let it crisp up nicely and then turn over- around 4 minutes per side.

Skordalia- I love garlic, but I really don’t like how garlicky traditional Skordalia is. If you want it with that intensity, just add more garlic cloves than I have in my recipe below:

Boil 1 lb potatoes until tender and save the cooking water. Mash the potatoes or put through a ricer to make super fine.

Mash two or three cloves of garlic with some salt to make a paste.

Use an electric mixer to mash the potatoes with the garlic, and add 1/4 cup olive oil  1/2 cup thick Greek yogurt, and 2 tbs aged sherry vinegar- then add as much of the potato cooking water to make your desired consistency.

(This recipe was inspired by a skordalia recipe from 7 seas restaurant in Thessaloniki)

Tarama (Roe Spread)- My Aunt Anna makes the best Tarama I have ever had in my life! I asked her for her recipe. Tarama can never be distilled into a concrete recipe though, because it is one of those things you just have to keep tasting and mixing and deciding for yourself. I hope I can get it close to hers!

You need 300 grams (10 ounces) of good quality white roe, 10-12 slices of country bread (without crust) soaked in water, 1 cup fresh lemon juice, and 2/3 cup oil. (I use olive oil but it is lighter with corn oil).

Squeeze as much liquid out of the soaked bread as you can. Blend it with the roe with a blender or electric mixer. Add lemon and olive oil alternately and little by little otherwise the ingredients will not incorporate. Just keep mixing, adding, etc. I think it tastes amazing with a lot of acidity so I add more lemon juice than oil. But this is really up to you.

The Beets I love beets but I just cannot stand them boiled to mush and drowned in vinegar. Until last year I thought I hated beets because this is the only way I had tasted it!

I love beets either raw and juilliened in salads, or roasted. I am experimenting with Niko today because he also claims to hate beets. I am preparing them two different ways for him to see if he might eat them the non-traditional way. So the first way is just by simply cutting the beets in half after cleaning their skins well, and roasting in a 200C/375F degree oven until they are tender but still have some bite. I will sprinkle some olive oil, sea salt and pepper and that is it! Other times I let them cool and top with yogurt and walnuts, or goat cheese or feta cheese, but for today I will keep it simple.

Greens: I enjoy wilted greens but I was in the mood for uncooked greens for a brighter flavor next to these rather heavy dishes. So I made an arugula salad with matchstick slices of pear, fennel, and raw beets with an orange vinaigrette. (I recently read that beets are most healthy and anti-carcinogenic when they are raw! And I thought maybe Niko might like the taste this way as well- so we shall see…)

The orange vinaigrette is just a mix of a few tbs of fresh squeezed orange juice, 1 tbs vinegar, 1 tbs dijon mustard, 1 tbs minced garlic, and then 5 tbs olive oil- blended together very well. This salad really adds a bright and light component to the meal.

For dessert- again, I want something light after all the potato and bread and oil in the side dishes- so I am mixing fresh raspberries with lots of chopped fresh mint leaves and a dash of amaretto- this is an idea I got from my Aunt Ven. The amaretto with strawberries is one of the best fruit salad combinations I have ever tasted!

Niko brought a nice barrel Assyrtiko Santorini wine and I can’t wait to crack it open and enjoy this meal.

These recipes of course can inspire you at any date or any day of the week-doesn’t have to be March 25th.  I hope you enjoy them. Let me know if you do! Xronia Polla!

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I’m sorry. I’ve been traveling and working extra hard and feeling lethargic and…ok just go ahead and call me lazy. 😉

I have a lot to cover- I still owe you my New York restaurant reviews! And I also just returned from another great food city in Greece- Thessaloniki! That is a serious food destination, and I’ll get into all the gluttonous details another day…For now, I want to tell you about my lovely simple plate of peas I made for lunch.

Any change of season rejuvinates my desire to cook. Spring may technically still be a few days away, but as far as I’m concerned- it’s here. The sun is shining, and strawberries are overflowing at the local markets!

No offense to my parents, but the only way I ever ate peas as a child was from a can. I was happy to find fresh and bright green pea pods today. Instead of eating leftovers I made one of my favorite traditional Greek dishes: Stewed Peas with Tomato, Onion and Dill.

When I lived in America, it seemed peas were only used for side-dishes, or additions to salads. But I suggest you try this recipe. Not only is it healthy, but it is so flavorful and a perfect spring dish. If you must take the peas from a can, well, ok…but frozen is better and fresh is even better than that. This is also a great recipe for vegetarians and vegans. I had many vegan friends in San Francisco when I went to school, and my best friend’s fiancee Khalpeah is vegan! Even Gary, the familiar commenter on this blog who shames me every time I let some time go by without posting…:)  So I always try to catalogue these kinds of dishes with them in mind.

Some may find removing the peas from the pods boring, but it is meditative for me. I’ve discussed before how long I sit in front of a computer all day editing, researching, and writing. This tactile process is relaxing and energizing at the same time.

This recipe is super simple: After I rinse 1 & 1/2 cup peas in a colander, I cut up 1 large onion and 2 scallions, 2 big, ripe tomatoes, and chop a cup of dill- yes a cup! Loosely packed. Adding a few cut up potatoes and/or carrots is optional. You can also add some fresh parsley if you like. I usually add some at the end right before eating. (This is for 1-2 servings- multiply the ingredients depending on the size of your dinner table).

You saute the onions and tomato in olive oil. The onions do not need to be browned, just a little translucent. Then add the dill and the peas (and potatos or carrots if using). Stir. Pour in 1/2 cup water. Cover the pot and let it all simmer until the peas are cooked to your taste and all the flavors meld- around 25 minutes. I personally like a little bite, but others prefer them more mushy. Check it every now and then to see if it needs more water. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Totally simple, and very tasty. Add some crusty fresh baked bread to dip into the juices. Mmmmm.

Tomorrow I am making a traditional Greek Salt Cod meal that is eaten every 25th of March. I’ll include my recipes and discuss what this day means for us religiously and culturally. It’s a national holiday, so no computers for me! Niko and I are going to cook this meal together and hopefully sit on the balcony while eating if the weather stays this beautiful…Wow I better clean the deck chairs, they are looking dusty…or maybe well just pull out some chairs from inside…(I’m making my Mom proud, I’m sure…)

See you tomorrow!

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Ohhhh my. I’m sorry for the long absence. In case you haven’t consulted the “about me” section, I’m a filmmaker and have been swamped finishing a documentary for a deadline. I’m happy to say I made my deadline and now I have more time to enjoy food and enjoy writing about food!

I also visited my parents’ home in northern Virginia and made a trip to New York over the holidays. I brought my boyfriend on his first visit to the States and we had a fabulous time! People ask me about his impressions of America. All I can say is, he is STILL talking about how wide the roads are and how big the cars are. Still.

But he also loved the food! Poor thing, I basically dragged him on a gastronomical tour. Rather than rushing from site to site, we rushed from restaurant to restaurant. 🙂 Whatever, he loved it.

I’ll post reviews of the many incredible (and some not-so-incredible) restaurants we visited with lots of pictures, and some recipes.

For now, here are some pictures and a description of my family’s New Years Day meal.

At the top of this page is the “Vasilopita:” a Greek (and Balkan) traditional sweet bread baked with a coin inside. “Vasili” references St. Basil, whose life is celebrated on January 1st. “Pita” means pie. As you can see, a cross shape is made with extra strips of dough.

The first piece cut is for Christ, the second for the Virgin Mary, the third for the House, and then each family member or person gathered at the time it is cut. (Other families may include to cut a piece for St. Basil, the Church, etc). Whoever gets the coin has great luck for the year. I have never, ever gotten the coin! But I feel blessed in life, so that’s OK. 🙂 This year, the coin was found in between pieces as we were cutting. This means it goes to the house, and everyone in it.

We roasted a whole pig. It was fork-tender and scrumptious. Everyone picked at it all day.

The appetizers were spanakopitakia (little spinach pies wrapped in phyllo) and a non-Greek addition- salmon roe on creme fraiche.

This dessert is always a show-stopper in my book. Mizitropites!! Homemade dough in crescent shapes is filled with a soft Greek cheese and deep fried. Then a decadent syrup of sauteed onions in honey is drizzled over the little pies. The onion may sound like a strange addition, but it is not. I’ve been eating this since I was very young and I always forget that there are onions involved. I will try to get a recipe from my aunt Anna or grandma. They make them the best. I am not biased, it’s true!

I also made potato gratin and chocolate mousse, but those are recipes I’ve discussed before. I was a little grumpy while cooking because I had a late night obviously. But once we started tasting, all was rosy again!

I wish everyone a happy new year! I resolve not to leave from the blog for such a long time again!

…I’m also resolving to eat healthier so get ready for some more fish and light dessert posts!

Next, though, I’ll discuss the most amaaaaazing restaurants in New York.

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As you can see, Niko and I were pleased at the end of our meal, clinking our complimentary after dinner drink. 🙂 Please ignore the chipped nail polish.

On a lazy Saturday, I decided I was in the mood to try a new restaurant and Niko offered to take me anywhere I wished. I’d heard a lot about Ta Kioupia, a restaurant in Kolonaki known for upscale Greek food and also for its quantity of food! The creative cuisine appeals to me, and the great big portions appealed to my dining partner.

The taxi dropped us in front of a neo-classical, white corner building. Upon entering, we were led up a flight of stairs by smiling staff, and seated in a romantic table by the french windows, overlooking the lovely neighborhood. I was impressed by the decor. Nothing garish, clean lines and symmetrically arranged charcoal drawings.  I think it was the best table in the space. This is  a setting not only for couples, but also groups of friends, and business dinners.

Ta Kioupia means ceramic pots. Some of the framed drawings were of “Kioupia” from an older time. This artistic choice underscores the balance of sophistication and tradition. I appreciated the overall impression of chic yet warm, homey dining. In fact, this is the angle of the famous New York restaurant Craft: upscale family dining with shared plates. Celebrating and re-inventing traditional dishes.

The server explained to us that we could order a la carte or pay one set price for the chef’s selection of 11 dishes. We wanted the real Kioupia experience, and ordered the 11 dish menu. We were informed the courses begin with a soup. Niko turned to me after the server left with a disapproving look. “You can eat my soup, I don’t want soup.” Niko basically wants meat all the time. I responded with an annoyed glance, knowing that I would encourage him to try it, and that he would probably like it. And he did! We both did.

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The soup was beef broth with several herbs, veggies, and halloumi cheese. There was parsley, pepper, mint, lemon…The halloumi cheese, which usually has an almost plastic texture, melted in your mouth. It was the best preperation of halloumi I have ever encountered. This soup was light and brothy, but depthfully flavored and comforting.

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The next course offered a wonderful surprise. Our eggplant salad (melitzanosalata) was assembled in front of us before serving! The eggplant was freshly grilled on charcoal. Olive oil, white vinegar, and a “secret sauce” was added to the vegetable and mixed together. In the sauce I tasted tahini and lemon, and I’m not sure what else was incorporated.

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I almost didn’t post this picture of the eggplant salad because it’s not very pretty and does not do justice to the incredible flavor. I have eaten eggplant salad my whole life in a million different places, and it has Never tasted like this. The tahini, lemon, vinegar, olive oil ratio was perfect. I couldn’t put my finger on what the transcendant factor was. The ingredients tasted familiar, but it was certainly very special.

Fresh and warm pita bread accompanied our meal to scoop up all the dips. They also brought a bean dip with caramelized mandarin slices. This was wonderful, and in each bite the mandarin added such a bright dimension to the bean flavor. There should have been a bigger portion other than the 7 slices offered, because without it the flavor was a little boring.

We were also served salad with a rich honey vinaigrette that was great. They gave us a huge portion of the salad and we barely ate half because there were so many other distractions.

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This lemon pork dish is a traditional Greek meal. There was not much innovation here, but it was not necessary. I ate very little of it, because I was already getting full and we weren’t yet halfway through! Niko relished it and finished it quickly.

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The meatballs were a mutual favorite for us. They were so tender that they melted in your mouth. (This is the second melting sensation after the halloumi!) The seasoning was perfect, the mint, onion and parsley flavored the meat well, and the tomato sauce was divine. I definitely think they put butter in their sauce. I could have eaten them all myself, but I was fair and shared.

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There were a few dishes that were not so great. There was a lasagna-like dish filled with an orange flavored minced meat mixture. The meat was nice, but the homemade lasagna layers were too thick and incredibly dry. After 8 “appetizer” courses, we were each offered a choice of a meat dish from a short list. I chose a medium rare steak and Niko chose pork chops. They were both good. Just good. Nothing phenomenal here. And it really wasn’t necessary since there were so many other great dishes that were so filling.

But the night ended on an absolutely glorious note! Two great desserts! Mille-feuille and Kataifi Ice-Cream!

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The mille-feuille is a new addition to the menu. The servers were very curious to see what we thought, since the chef is experimenting with new recipes. It was fluffy and creamy and tasty, but the Katifi Ice Cream stole the show. I think the server was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t as impressed with the Mille-Feuille. This indicated to me how much pride and care there was for the quality of the food.

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From a massive bowl of ice cream brought upstairs, we were served two scoops on each plate. It was incredible. Katifi is a traditional Greek pastry, made with honey, cinnamon, almond, cloves, and kataifi, which is similar to angel hair pasta. It tasted just like this pastry, but in ice cream form. We ended the meal on a very high note.

Overall we enjoyed ourselves and were pleased.  I do have a few criticisms. Why do they bring so many of the dishes all at once? Because the point is to share dishes family style, I don’t think they should be served one at a time. But two at a time would have been better. There is so much food that it is important to take your time, and when they bring 4-5 dishes after the soup, it is overwhelming. It made me feel that we had to eat quickly because some dishes were hot and would have cooled.

My second criticism is that the restaurant seems to choose quantity over quality. There were two dishes that were just average, and one (the orange flavored ground beef in layered thick pasta) that was dry and unsuccessful. Either they should have 11 WOW dishes, or cut it down to the 8 wow dishes they already have. Quality over quantity.

These are small gripes, however. Several dishes are just excellent. And I appreciate the efforts of the chef to experiment and play with traditional Greek plates. I would go back just for the soup, eggplant, meatballs, and kataifi ice cream.

This restaurant also offers great value for money. For 43 euros each you get so much food, including desserts. The wine list is reasonably priced. The atmosphere is elegant and refined. The service is faultless. Enjoy!

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Varoulko is the first restaurant in Greece years ago to be awarded a Michelin star. The chef Lefteris Lazarou was raised preparing seafood with his father on a galley boat on the port of Piraeus. He has elevated local seafood with Greek ingredients and ingenious creativity. I have seen him in interviews on Greek TV and he also seems incredibly kind.

This restaurant has been highly recommended from my dear friend Maria, and I finally got to try it this summer on my birthday…and then again in September for my mother’s birthday. Yes, it is that good.

The second meal with my mother is the one I discuss below.

Varoulko, during warm or mildly cool months has outdoor seating in a modern setting with a view of the Acropolis lit in a warm golden-orange light. The servers are all warm, accommodating, and enthusiastic about the food.

The picture posted above is, I know, out of focus, but I love it. Maybe it evokes the dazzling, dizzying joy I had with each course. 🙂  This was an amuse-bouche presented in an eggshell: a Tarama (fish-roe) Sabayon. Velvety, smooth, rich, with a subtle salty aftertaste.

Once seated, the manager or head server offers a 4 course tasting meal. However, you can choose to eat a-la-carte. Since I had been there before, I kept two new dishes that sounded great, and replaced the other two with ones I had my first time, that I wanted to have again. They were obliging. I also ordered a glass of Chablis.

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This dish was an incredible first induction to the meal. Lump Crab Salad with carrots, red pepper and thin, sparse strands of seaweed, topped with a Mandarin-Lemon thick foam. It was not as mustard-y looking as it does in this picture. We were instructed by the server to mix the foam thoroughly with the crab before eating.

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I wish I could transport the exclamation of mandarin and lemon aromas that emanated from this dish once mixed. This was an unexpected surprise that called to mind the idea behind this blog: Food Synaesthesia- the overlap of all senses for a transcendent experience. I know this may seem like a lot of hype for a seemingly simple dish, but it really was wonderful. I dreaded the sight of just a few bites left on the plate.

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The dish that followed did not disappoint, but wasn’t awe-inspiring. Thin slices of Red Snapper in a Toast Crust with Eggplant Puree and Raspberry Sauce.

The fish was fresh and the toast crust was satisfyingly buttery and salty. The eggplant puree had a silky smooth texture. It was appropriately mild in flavor as a balance to the salty fish. There wasn’t much raspberry sauce on the plate to see how those flavors would meld. I enjoyed it and it was a good portion.

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The third plate actually managed to out-do the experience of the crab! Langoustine Orzo Risotto. The Langoustine was tender, and the orzo risotto was creamy but firm instead of mushy. Each bite was just a firecracker of flavor. I will try as long as it takes to re-create this recipe at home! I kept asking them exactly what ingredients were in the dish, and they told me (other than the orzo and langoustine) that there was sweet Moschato wine, parmesan, and parsley. However, I’m sure that there was also a very strong langoustine or lobster stock involved as well.

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Though the final dish did not out-do the Langoustine, it was beautiful, inventive, and with great flavor: Braided Fish with Fava Puree and Octopus Sauce. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the fish. Unacceptable, I know, but I can’t remember!

The braiding had a function beyond its beauty; it also created its own nice texture. The fava puree was creamy like silky mashed potatoes, but with the great bean taste. The octopus sauce really didnt taste like octopus, but was a nice almost syrupy tart-sweet flavor.  My mother and I both really enjoyed this dish.

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The desserts were equally impressive as the savory plates. The chocolate souffle with espresso sauce was nice and bitter (the more espresso drizzled, the more bitter it became) and I like my chocolate bitter! But the mint strawberry mille feuille stole the show. The layers were not puff pastry, but rather like a mint caramel crisp. The cream was vanilla infused and the strawberry syrup was definitely made from fresh wild strawberries as promised by the menu! Just excellent. The taste of mint was pronounced and paired with the strawberry wonderfully.

Some chefs like Thomas Keller prefer to offer many dishes that give you just a taste and leave you wanting more. I do enjoy this sometimes, and appreciate the experience. However, I loved that the portions at Varoulko were substantial. Though we had a five course meal, it was satisfying to have more than a few tastes of each dish to really relish in the flavors. And I still was left wanting more.

Here is a recipe from Mr. Lazarou from his book: Varoulko: Colors, Smells and Tastes

SEA URCHIN RISOTTO

Serves 4

(If you cant find enough sea urchin, mix in some regular fish roe)


1 cup diced yellow onion, 1/8” dice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Freshly crushed white peppercorns
1 cup Arborio rice
4 – 5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh sea urchin roe, carefully cleaned of all spines and grit, divided

Sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly crushed white peppercorns, in olive oil until they soften and start to turn golden. Stir in the rice to completely coat it with oil and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine, and stir until it’s almost absorbed. Add 1/2 cup stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the stock is almost absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring while its absorbed, until the risotto is the consistency you desire; it should be moist and creamy, not dry. It takes about 18 – 20 minutes for the rice to cook.

When the rice is just done, stir in 1/4 cup sea urchin roe, and divide the risotto between 4 warmed plates. Make a shallow hollow in the center of each portion, and fill it with the remaining sea urchin roe, evenly divided.

Serve immediately.

It tastes like sea-butter, please don’t be afraid to try sea urchin!

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I’m sorry I haven’t updated in so long! I have been traveling within Athens and a few Greek islands.  The next few blogs will celebrate the amazing meals I had along the way.

Let me start with Lambros, where my parents and boyfriend Niko celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago  for a long lunch. Driving down Poseidonos road with the sea to our right, we veered onto the unraveled parking lot and stepped into familiar food ground.

Each summer my family arrived from the States, my godparents would bring us to this seafood restaurant.  The space bears a warm, understated elegance.  Within a wooden structure, the best patio tables are shaded and platformed over the sea with linen tableclothes.

We would order a huge grilled fresh fish drizzled with lado-lemono (lemon olive oil mix). I am a rare specimen here who prefers my fish plain- maybe with a few drops of lemon. I think the olive oil is too overpowering and you can’t taste the sea or freshness anymore of the fish.

At the top is a picture I took of a fillet slice of our fish, which was as usual very fresh and grilled to perfection.

Surprisingly though, the side dishes we ordered seemed to steal the show!

Let me start with the favorite at the table: Sea Urchin Salad (Achinosalata)

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Please do not be put off by the idea of sea urchin. Honestly, it is the foie gras of the sea…The texture is not as slimy as it looks. It is actually more like silk- a melting sensation of salt water and buttery richness. Phenomenal. Here is a perfect example of how a few simple ingredients prepared well can be better than any overworked plate.

When I was younger, my Uncle Mike, cousin Sophia and I used to swim out in the sea with a small knife and eat fresh sea urchin from the rocks. Uncle Mike would slice it in half, and all I remember is a bright red-orange color and a taste of the sea.

I think the salad is not made up of much else! It seems to have a drizzle of oil and dash of lemon, although I am not exactly sure. I plan to find out!

We also had small fried barbounia, (red mullet), and huge grilled shrimp. Here is a picture of my mom instructing me to suck on the shrimp heads. I did, and I appreciated the strong flavor, but I just wanted more sea urchin to be honest…:)

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I prefer the red mullet small like this and incredibly yummy:

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My father was spending half the meal scooping his roquefort dressing over the arugula on his plate. It was nice that they retained the crumbly texture of the cheese. It was also creamy but not dilluted by too much mayo or creme fraiche or sour cream etc.

This was one of my top dining experiences of the summer. I was proud of my parents for sitting and enjoying for over 3 hours! They usually like to get up immediately after the meal, American style!

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In my next blogs I will have recipes available so you can taste some of the flavors I enjoyed so much the past month…

I will also be returning soon with several other Santorini and Athens restaurant reviews, discussion of Karpathian food, and recipes!

And coming up later is a  little Greek-French fusion….

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