Showing posts with label Meze. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meze. Show all posts

Zucchini flowers, stuffed with rice, summer veggies, and herbs

Aug 31, 2015


     Searching the Internet for some info on edible flowers, I saw some beautiful pictures of cakes and other fancy desserts decorated with, among other exotica, small blue and yellow pansies and chrysanthemum flowers. Did we always eat pansies on our cakes and in colorful salads or is it one more innovation from Noma (with its inventive kitchen) that has been immediately adopted by all of us?  
     Well, in fact, dried flowers have been used for thousands of years as spices in cooking or in herbal teas for medicinal purposes. Their use in modern cooking today as decorative edible ingredients is really a rebirth of this very old tradition.  Roses and zucchini- squash flowers have never stopped being used in cooking. 
     In Greece we make rose petal jam and we use zucchini flowers in different savory recipes.  When I was a child, whenever my mother made stuffed tomatoes, there would always be some space left in the baking pan for some zucchini flowers to be stuffed especially for me. Stuffing them with rice and summer veggies is still the most popular recipe.
     Today we make entire pans full of stuffed zucchini flowers for the restaurant; it is our most popular summer dish. In order to have as many flowers as possible available every day, we have planted zucchini plants of a climbing variety which can be counted on to produce the greatest number of flowers all across our garden fence. 
     They have to be picked early in the morning when they bloom, almost magically, for only a few hours. If you don’t have a vegetable garden of your own, you can look for them at your local farmer’s market. 

Tyropitákia - feta and phyllo, mini cheese pies

Jun 7, 2014


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

Eliópsoma – Kalamáta olives and thyme, bread sticks

May 19, 2014

Lying at the head of the Messenian Gulf in southern Greece, Kalamáta is the second most populous city of the Peloponnese. This city is famous all over the planet for wonderful ‘’Kalamáta olives’’ which originated here and have been cultivated in the area for many centuries.  They are now protected under the European ‘’Protected Geographical Status’’ scheme.
In Greece Kalamáta olives are mostly eaten as a snack, at branch or lunch, or as a mezedes for drinks, but they are also used in cooking some regional stews and, of course, in olive breads. From time to time my mother would make sourdough olive bread for the family and she would also make some olive bread sticks for me; I have always loved their crust! 
Since not everyone is familiar with sourdough, I will give you the yeast version which is, in my opinion, just as good.

Feta and sundried tomato balls in oregano and chili flavored olive oil

Feb 13, 2014


What might characterize our family meals in Greece is the variety of dishes served. Housewives rarely cook only one dish for the family and, even when they do, three or more side dishes are usually served as well. We love little bites of this and that, what we call mezedes; they are most often cheese, olives, pickles, all sorts of savory spreads,and flaky pies with fillings that vary according to the season of the year. Preparing them at home demands some effort but they cost less and offer flavorful snacksevery day.
 Meze bites are also served when you want to have a snack with your wine, beer or ouzo but not eat an actual meal. In Greece there are restaurants that serve only meze dishes from an endless list; these places are called ‘’mezedopolia’’ (μεζεδοπωλεία).
 Feta balls are a wonderful meze to prepare ahead and can be served straight from the jar to the table or spread on slices of bread. Toasting the bread with feta under the grill for a few minutes provides a filling and impressive warm meze.

Kouloúria Thessalonikis - crunchy and chewy, breakfast bread rings

Jan 12, 2014

Greece is not famous for street food but in cities around the country you will always come across someone either standing by a little glass kiosk or carrying a huge tray selling just one thing: deliciously  crunchy and  chewy freshly baked bread rings. Kouloúria are the classic breakfast or mid morning snack for almost every busy office worker or visitor to the center. 

 These bread rings are called  ‘kouloúria Thessalonikis’ The word kouloúri means something coiled or circular and it is such a perfect description that  the ancient Greeks used the same word, kolyria, to describe their bread treats. Around the eastern Mediterranean such bread rings are also known as known as simit  or simiti.
 In the old days paper thin pieces of yellow hard cheese were sold with the bread rings for those who wanted a more filling snack.

Kouloúria have never stopped being popular and, generation after generation, people who appreciate their nutritional value have continued to buy them from street vendors or bakeries. The sesame seeds which cover the surface of every koulouria  are loaded with vitamins and minerals and are rich in protein (25 percent by weight). And better yet, one delicious bread ring has no more than 100 calories.

Patzarosaláta - Beetroot, Greek yogurt and walnut salad

Dec 5, 2013

Tsatziki may be an all time classic for Greeks but, when we had guests at home, my mother always thought it was too garlicky for everyone’s taste. Of course you can use less garlic but then it wouldn’t be a tsatziki!
 Beetroot salad (patzarosaláta, παντζάροσαλάτα) is a wonderful alternative side dish.  With just an idea of garlic and an impressive light purple color when mixed, it is ideal for any occasion.  It compliments both vegetable and meat stews, as well as barbecued and oven baked dishes.
Greek yogurt with its thick consistency holds the ingredients in the salad together, giving a silky texture to the final dish. You can use low fat yogurt but since this dish is very healthy and balanced, why not use full fat yogurt to contribute to a rich taste?  Walnuts match really well with the other ingredients and provide a light nutty flavor. 

Authentic sun dried tomatoes

Sep 9, 2013

Everyone loves the wonderful taste of sun dried tomatoes. When you pick a small jar of them in the super market it is hard to imagine just how many ripe tomatoes needed to dry out, in order to fill this small jar. Tomatoes are more than 90% water by weight. The prospect of reducing them is one of the reasons why some people seem to find store bought ones easier to use although the truth is that homemade sun dried tomatoes are tastier by far.

At the end of August till late September we usually harvest many ripe tomatoes. They are at the peak of their season and although we use them in salads and give them away to friends, they are always too many to consume while perfect and ripe. This year we made ketchup, sauce for pasta and, of course, our favorite meze: sun dried tomatoes. The weather was hot (33 C) with low moisture so it only took 2 days for the tomato fillets to dry out. We only had the classic round tomatoes to work with so we cut four fillets from each tomato (you need skin-on slices). If you are not lucky enough to grow your own tomatoes, you can find wonderful tomatoes at the farmers’ markets at this time of the year at very reasonable prices. Even if the weather is not that hot in your country you can always make your own ‘’sun dried’’ style tomatoes in the oven. You can even choose how dry you prefer your tomatoes, but keep in mind that the less you dry them the faster you should consume them. 

Tomatokeftédes - Tomato fritters with feta and oregano

Jul 10, 2013

Most of the dishes in agricultural regions were created with a simple rule: use what you have, but not all of your ingredients in one recipe. Cooking tasty dishes with simple ingredients is creative and challenging; creative because there are endless variations and techniques, proving that cooking is an art form and challenging because you might have to feed a crowd of hard to please...children.
Let’s take an example, Greek salad. On hot summer days a tomato salad with onion, feta, oregano and olive oil can be an ideal lunch, but if you had some tomato fritters too, wouldn't that be more filling? Just finely chop, part of your Greek salad, mix it with some self rising flour and egg and you have ready to fry tomatokeftédes, as simple as it sounds!
Tomato fritters were invented in Santorini. The volcanic soil and the dry climate of the island  combine to create some excellent quality products like their local tomatoes. Since we are not lucky to live in Santorini and taste these wonderful tomatoes, we can add some tomato paste to the fritters batter to have a more intense flavor. 

Dolmades - stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs

Jun 15, 2013

  Vines are probably the only plants in Greece where every part of the plant except the roots are used in cooking.  In May fresh stems are pickled and used in salads or served as a meze and the vine leaves themselves are stuffed with rice (dolmádes), meat or fish.  Juice from unripe grapes is used in mountainous regions as a seasoning early in summer when lemons are not available and, of course wine, is a classic ingredient in cooking everywhere. In February and March, the season of pruning, some of the dry vine branches are collected and are used all year long in a special cooking technique: the dry vine branches are arranged in a layer at the bottom of a baking pan, and the lamb meat is set on them, so that during cooking the juices don't come in contact with the meat. This way the meat browns all over.
     Here I present the recipe for classic dolmádes (ντολμάδες), stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs, a dish cooked in spring with fresh vine leaves or all year long with preserved ones which can be found in any store selling Mediterranean food products. Dolmádes can be served as a first or a main course or a as a meze.

Melitzanes me tomata & feta - baked eggplants with tomato sauce and feta

Aug 19, 2012

     Eggplants and tomato; tomato and feta!  Add some basil or oregano and this chain reaction can give an explosion of taste in your mouth.
     Slices of eggplant covered with tomato sauce, and topped with feta can easily become a filling summer dish, served either as a first or as a main course.
     In Greece we season tomatoes with oregano, but basil is a classic Mediterranean companion for tomato as well;  so  it’s up to you.
Cooking this dish, won't take you more than 20-30 minutes.

Melitzanosalata - eggplant spread, the monks' way

Jul 4, 2012


      Eggplants are the basic ingredient of many summer dishes; they make wonderful combinations with tomato, garlic, onion, peppers, basil and many other summer vegetables, all producing very tasty dishes.

     Today we harvested the first eggplants of the season and the best way to taste them without too much cooking is melitzanosalảta, a spread made with roasted eggplants, olive oil, vinegar and just an idea of garlic. Roasted red peppers can  also be added for extra color and sweetness. This vegan version is called agioritiki and takes its name from the monks’ community of Athos peninsula (Agio Oros). The addition of yogurt or mayonnaise does give a rich taste but one closer to what you find in the store bought melitzanosalata.

Zucchini fritters and choriảtiki salad - a light summer meal

Jun 22, 2012


     Mediterranean summers are very hot and heat calls for light meals. In Greece we use many vegetables in our summer cuisine - in salads, in vegetable stews, grilling them, baking them,  or making fritters for more filling bite size snacks. 
     The most famous Greek salad among locals and tourists is choriảtiki the base of which is tomato, cucumber, and onion topped with a generous slice of feta cheese. Choriatiki is also garnished with olives, green pepper, capers and dry oregano. Olive oil is the final and most important ingredient of any salad; it has to be fresh extra virgin olive oil because salads are not cooked, and therefore all special characteristics of the oil used affect the taste.
     A zucchini fritter (kolokythokeftẻdes) is a nice way to turn zucchinis (kolokỳthia) into a tasty snack. It is usually served as a first course or as a meze for your ouzo or wine. Some Greek yoghurt  is always nice with fritters.

Baked giant beans and cabbage salad with mustard-yogurt dressing

Jan 30, 2012

              Beans are widely used in Greek cuisine. Small ones are used for soups and salads but those bigger in size are ideal for cooking in the oven. When I say bigger I really mean “giant beans”!!! Giant beans (also referred to as ''elephants'') are called butter beans in English and are cultivated mostly in northern Greece because they thrive in cooler mountainous regions. 

              They would look funny in a soup but many recipes for baked giant beans have been invented all over the country according to each region’s eating habits. The most common version is to bake the beans in tomato sauce with carrots and celery. This is the version commonly found in houses and taverns; other versions with spinach or sausage are found in northern Greece where the climate calls for spicy food. Giant beans are also a classic meze for ouzo.

               Cabbage with its natural sweetness adds taste to many winter dishes but raw cabbage makes very nice salads too, - with sliced orange, apple, and mayonnaise or with just a nice mustard dressing like the one I present here. In Greece we often eat cabbage-carrot salad with only extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice added. 

Meatballs and tzatziki- Meze time!

Sep 29, 2011

In Greek cuisine, there is a special category of dishes, that we call ‘meze’ or ‘mezedes’ in the plural.
Mezedes  are an endless list of ‘little somethings’’ you want to eat with your beer, ouzo, or wine.
A Meze is not a main course but the great variety usually offered in a house or tavern, ends up being a full meal.

To make meatballs many people use half pork-half beef ground meat; others use lamb ground meat. We always use only beef at the tavern and everyone seems to like this version. It is also the kids’ favorite; I remember when I was a kid whenever I didn’t like lunch my grandmother would always make meatballs especially for me.
Meatballs are ideally matched with fried potatoes and tzatziki.