Meat balls with lentils and potato patty

Σάββατο, 30 Ιανουαρίου, 2010

Today I wanted to eat lentils in a different way, and I decided to marry them with meat balls and a shredded potato patty. This is the story.

I got two nice pieces of beef from the chest. The bones I used to make the broth for the lentils, and the meat for the meat balls.

Grinding the meat yourself is a great pleasure and makes a big difference in the end result, So I assembled my little meat grinder and got to work.

The quality of this ground meat is beyond description! The meat is full of flavor and tender!

In the meantime, the lentils were boiling mildly, in the stock of the bones.

Th lentils are not visible yet, but you get the picture. A note of importance here, the lentils will not be served as a soup, but as stew, which means that the liquid in the lentils will be at a minimum.

In parallel, shred the potatoes and drain them well. Mix with dill, parsley, coriander, egg and a bit of flour, to absord the remaining liquid. Season moderately with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate for one hour.

The mix for the meatballs is quite simple. Add chopped garlic and hot peppers, mint, bread crumbs, a bit of olive oil, egg, salt and pepper to the meet, mix well cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Shape the balls, cover them with flour, and let it stick for about five minutes before frying them .

The potato patties are easy to fry, use medium heat and be patient, they need about 5 minutes, and require to be turned many times.

Serve the lentils in a deep dish, place a potato patty in the middle, and two meatballs on top.

This is a dish of varied flavors and textures. The lentils are soft, melt in the mouth, the meatballs are medium soft to crunchy, and the patty is on the very crunchy end of the spectrum. The meatballs steal the show in the texture, but the lentils and the patty are strong competitors in the flavor zone.

Enjoy it!

Scorpaena Scrofa (Scorpion Fish) with Risotto

Πέμπτη, 28 Ιανουαρίου, 2010

Today’s dish is made with one of the ugliest looking fishes, the Scorpaena Scrofa, the Orange – Red Scorpion Fish. As there is a good side to everything, even ugliness, this fish has very firm white flesh that provides taste and texture. I usually prepare this fish boiled and then prepare a soup. This time I decided to use all the vegetables and the broth to make a risotto and serve the fish on top of it, with a sauce.

The key to success in boiling the fish is the mix of vegetables in the pot.

I usually boil them first, remove them, and then boil the fish in the liquid.

Carots, onions, celery, potatoes, peppers, and one tomato for extra acidity, with black peppercorns and coarse sea salt.

Once the veggies are done, I remove them from the pot and place the fish. I cut it in two parts, as they require different cooking times. The tail end is ready in 15 minutes, the other requires 25 minutes. Once they are done, remove them and give the broth a good boil to reduce.

I slice the veggies in small pieces and place them in the risotto, to give more color and flavor. It works, but of course I leave the potatoes out.

When serving, let the risotto cool down in the hexagonal container before placing the fish on top and removing it.

Once the fish is placed on top, remove the container, and serve the sauce on top of the dish. The sauce is made with the broth, that has been reduced to a very thick liquid, adding a touch a flour, lemon juice and chili pepper flakes.

The sauce is to a large extent what powers the dish to a supreme combination of hot, sour and fully flavored combination of textures.

Open a full-bodied chardonnay and enjoy it!


Δευτέρα, 25 Ιανουαρίου, 2010

This is a collection of photos taken at airports.

It does not really matter where and when.


The play of light with darkness

There will be rain

It is too early in the morning to start swearing

I am gonna suck you in


Cannot see a bloody thing

Awaiting the new layer of paint

Just landed

It’s getting busy


Yianna is somewhere down there!

Remnants of another time

Reliable flying machine

Its a long wait


Parking aea

Have a nice day now!

Ode to Olympiacos – Ωδη στον Θρυλο

Δευτέρα, 25 Ιανουαρίου, 2010

Δεν ζωντανευουν οι νεκροι

Δεν ζωντανέυουν οι νεκροί
όσο κι αν κλαίς δεν ωφελεί
την τόση αγάπη που είχα για σένα
εσύ την έθαψες μην το ξεχνάς

εσύ την πρόδοσες εσύ την σκότωσες
εσύ είσαι ο δράστης κι ο φονιάς

Δεν ζωντανέυουν οι νεκροί
όσο κι αν κλαίς δεν ωφελεί

Δεν σε λυπάμαι κι αν πονάς
φύγε λοιπόν τι με κοιτάς

είσαι για μένα τώρα μια ξένη
κι αν ξαναγύρισες είναι αργά

εσύ πληγώθηκες εσύ ζημιώθηκες
και σενα δέρνει η συμφορά

Δεν ζωντανέυουν οι νεκροί
όσο κι αν κλαίς δεν ωφελεί

Και ο υπερμεγιστος Στελλαρας τραγουδα αυτη τη μνημειωδη συνθεση του Μπαμπη Μπακαλη σε στιχους του Γκουτη σε ζωντανη ηχογραφηση του 1958.

Ωδη στο Θρυλο

(στιχοι Παναθηναιος, ψαχνω ακομη για μουσικοσυνθετη – ατιμη κενωνια!)

Σημειωση του στιχουργου: Προκειται περι ασματος ηρωικου και πενθιμου, σε μορφη διαλογου,

αναμεσα στους διασημους πλεον περαστικους και τον αιμοτοβαμενο και καταξεσκισμενο Θρυλο.

Η δραματουργικη ελευθερια και εκφραση επιβαλει την χρηση γλωσσας αμεσης, και για το λογο αυτο το ασμα ειναι ακαταλληλο για τα γαυρακια, και τα μικρα παιδακια.

ΠΕΡΑΣΤΙΚΟΣ 1: Γεια σου Θρυλε αλανιαρη

γιατι εισαι λυπημενος;

ΘΡΥΛΟΣ: Εχασα τα σωβρακα μου

κι ειμαι ταλαιπωρημενος

ΠΕΡΑΣΤΙΚΟΣ 2:Που τα’ χασες βρε Θρυλε φοβερε

τα εσωρουχα και κλαις ωρε;

ΘΡΥΛΟΣ:Στο Φαληρο στο Φαληρο

χωρις να χασω ταληρο!

Εβρεθηκε ο αητος

και με ραμφησε ορθος!

Εκει μπροστα μου σταθηκε

με θωρησε, με γ..μησε

Το ραμφος του μπηκε βαθεια

μεσ’ του Φαληρου τη γωνια

ΠΕΡΑΣΤΙΚΟΣ 1: Κλαψε κλαψε Θρυλε,

εγω μαντηλια θα σου φερω,

τα κοκκινα επηγαν στη Σεληνη,

κανενα πρασινακι θα προσφερω

ΠΕΡΑΣΤΙΚΟΣ 2: Τα δακρυα του Θρυλου ειναι καυτα

μου εκαψαν τα μαντηλια

σταλαγματια σταλαγματια

στερεψαν τα καντηλια.

Παει εφυγε το τρενο!

Μουσικη: Μανος Χατζηδακις, Στιχοι: Νικος Γκατσος

Σβήνει τ’ αστέρι του βοριά
στην ανηφοριά
και κάποιο αστέρι φωτεινό
κυλάει στον ουρανό
Κοιμούνται ακόμα τα παιδιά
κάτω απ΄τη ροδιά
Και μ΄ένα δάκρυ μου θολό
τα μάτια τους φιλώ

Πάει έφυγε το τρένο, έφυγες κι εσύ
σταλαγματιά χρυσή
πάει χάθηκε το τρένο, χάθηκες κι εσύ
σε γαλανό νησί

Πήρες απ’ το καλοκαίρι στο μικρό σου χέρι
το λαμπερό τ’αστέρι και πήγες σ’άλλη γη
μ’ όνειρα κι εγώ πηγαίνω να σε περιμένω
νερό σταματημένο σε δροσερή πηγή

Πάει έφυγε το τρένο έφυγες κι εσύ
σταλαγματιά χρυσή

Σβήνει τ’ αστέρι του βοριά
στην ανηφοριά
και κάποιο αστέρι φωτεινό
κυλάει στον ουρανό
Κοιμούνται ακόμα τα παιδιά
κάτω απ΄τη ροδιά
Και μ΄ένα δάκρυ μου θολό
τα μάτια τους φιλώ

Πάει έφυγε το τρένο, έφυγες κι εσύ
σταλαγματιά χρυσή
πάει χάθηκε το τρένο, χάθηκες κι εσύ
σε γαλανό νησί

Πήρες απ’ το καλοκαίρι στο μικρό σου χέρι
το λαμπερό τ’αστέρι και πήγες σ’άλλη γη
μ’ όνειρα κι εγώ πηγαίνω να σε περιμένω
νερό σταματημένο σε δροσερή πηγή

Πάει έφυγε το τρένο έφυγες κι εσύ
σταλαγματιά χρυσή

Η Ζωη Φυτουση ερχεται να μας θυμισει αυτην την δραματικη κατασταση ανθρωπων και γαυρων.

Και κλεινω αυτην την αφιερωση με το βαλς των χαμενων ονειρων του υπερμεγιστου Μανου Χατζηδακι

Imago Restaurant, Rome, Italy

Σάββατο, 23 Ιανουαρίου, 2010

In my last trip to Rome I had the pleasure of dining in one of the best restaurants in town, Imago, on the top floor of Hotel Hassler, with fantastic views of the eternal city.

Hotel Hassler

I quote from Times Travel:

«Grace Kelly honeymooned at this turn-of-the-century palace at the top of the Spanish Steps, and it’s still the hotel of choice for many of today’s celebs and stylish tastemakers in search of old-world elegance (Gwyneth, TomKat, and Victoria Beckham are all regulars). Renowned for its personalized service, the Hassler is a family affair — a place where guest relations are taken very seriously. The 95 stately rooms are a checklist of classic good taste, with elaborate moldings, gilded furniture, French silks, 16th-century antiques, Limoges porcelain, playful frescoes, and marble, marble, marble, plus mod cons like flat-screen TV’s. Imàgo, its modern Italian restaurant, has heart-stopping views of St. Peter’s Basilica and Rome’s terracotta-tiled roofs. And the concierges can accommodate just about any request, including mapping out routes through the Villa Borghese gardens, near the hotel.»

I was staying at a nearby hotel and walked the distance, passing through Via Veneto. It is a beautiful part of Rome, and I highly recommend staying in this area.

The view from inside the Imago rooftop is amazing.To the extent than when I saw it, I started having second thoughts about the food, as one of the golden rules of the restaurant business is that when the view is stunning, the food sucks. Thankfully, I was proven wrong.

View of Rome from Imago

With determination I moved on and got a table. The clients of the restaurant are varied. You have the visitors who come for the views and the ones who come for the food and the elegant atmosphere. In one of the tables there was a family with two kids, with both grandparents, celebrating the birthday of one of the kids. Wonderful «tableau vivant», with the grandmother reminding me of one of the powerful female figures in the black and white Fellini movies.

Lets move to the food now, and the gastronomic menu the chef prepared. The menu overall is structured in three stages. Stage I is the «delicate» one, with two appetizer dishes, both of them seafood based.  Stage II is the «taste explosion» set of two half-portions of first courses. Both are strong in taste and flavor. Stage III is a combination of two half-portions of main dishes.

The first starter was raw fish of the day. I do not recall the name of the fish, but it was quite tender, moist and tasty. The high point of the dish was the combination of the raw fish with pears infused with grappa. Personally I do not understand the foamy bits, in my eyes they are like aesthetic pollution, but lets ignore them, everyone these days seems to put a little foam here and there!

The next dish was an imaginative preparation of scallops, as they they were stuffed with mozzarella and then fried.The chef added a touch of black truffle to the finished dish, which was extremely subtle in taste and texture, a true delight. The dish is extremely delicate, and the frying must be very quick and swift, otherwise the scallop is destroyed.

The continuation was more intense in flavors and powerful, as the chef prepared pheasant ravioli with cauliflower puree and truffle-flavored honey. Full-bodied, intense flavor, and meaty texture were the characteristics of the dish.

The dish that followed was the star of the menu. Capellini pasta with smoked eel. A divine dish, one that I would include in the Italian Gastronomic All – Time Menu, if there was ever one. A magic of textures and flavors emanates from the dish. The chef came by and had a chat with me after the dinner was over, and he more or less agreed that this dish is his masterpiece. It is quite interesting, that of all the dishes in the restaurant of one of the most expensive hotels in the world, the best is one based on the humble eel of the Lazio region and capellini pasta, which you can find everywhere in Italy. The other golden rule of gastronomy, that is to use the materials of the terroir is yet again proven 100% correct! The chef had at his disposal the most expensive materials in some of the dishes. Yet his signature dish is the one that serves humbly the tradition of the Lazio region. To be correct, I belive that the dish is also traditional fare in the central regions of Italy, like Umbria.

The next dish was a fish and shrimp combination, that left me untouched, as it was rather faceless.

The last dish of the menu was excellent! Roast pigeonwith all the game flavor of the world! Nothing beats that! And it was roasted to perfection.

I found the serving of artichokes with the pigeon an excellent idea!

To conclude the excellent dinner, the chef offered a sweet tray, where the pistacchio canolo stole the show!

Chef Francesco Apreda has a bright future ahead of him, all we need to do is follow him as he evolves and grows as a chef. The one Michelin star he has been awarded is fully justified. And there will be more!

Tears: the liquid essense of psyche?

Δευτέρα, 18 Ιανουαρίου, 2010

– Ψυχηισιν θανατος υδωρ γενεσθαι,
υδατι δε θανατος γην γενεσθαι,
εκ γης δε υδωρ γινεται,
εξ υδατος δε ψυχή –


«When the soul dies, it becomes water,

when water dies, it becomes earth,

and the earth makes the water,

and the water makes the soul»


(5th century BC Presocratic Greek Philosopher)

Una furtiva lagrima (A furtive tear)

One furtive secret tear
from her eyes did spring:
as if those youths who can be playful
it ( or she ) seemed to be envious of.
What more searching do I want?
What more searching do I want?
She loves me! Yes, she loves me, I see it. I see it.
Just for an instant the beats
of her beautiful heart if I could feel!
My sighs if they were mingled
for a while with her sighs!
The beats, the beats of her heart if I could feel,
to fuse my sighs with hers…
Heavens! Yes, I could die!
I ask for nothing more, nothing.
Oh, heavens! Yes, I could, I could die!
I ask for nothing more, nothing.
Yes, I could die! Yes, I could die of love.

Una furtiva lagrima (A furtive tear) is the romanza taken from Act II, Scene VIII of the Italian opera, L’elisir d’amore by Gaetano Donizetti. It is sung by Nemorino (tenor) when he finds that the love potion he bought to win his dream lady’s heart, Adina, works.

Nemorino is in love with Adina, but she isn’t interested in a relationship with an innocent, rustic man. To win her heart, Nemorino buys a “love potion” with all the money he has in his pocket. The “love potion” is actually a cheap red wine sold by a traveling con man. But when he sees Adina weeping, he knows that she has fallen in love with him and the “Elixir” works. (Source: Wikipedia)

Here is Roberto Villazon, in the role of Nemorino, singing the famous romanza from Donizetti’s L’ Elisir d’ amore , with the Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, Alfred Eschwe conducting.

Vesti la giubba (Put on the costume)!

To act! While out of my mind,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it’s necessary… make an effort!
Bah! Are you not a man?
You are Pagliaccio!

Put on your costume,
powder your face.
The people pay to be here, and they want to laugh.
And if Harlequin shall steal your Columbine,
laugh, Pagliaccio, so the crowd will cheer!
Turn your distress and tears into jest,
your pain and sobbing into a funny face – Ah!

Laugh, Pagliaccio,
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!

Vesti la giubba (Put on the costume) is a famous tenor aria performed as part of the opera Pagliacci, written and composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo, and first performed in 1892.

Vesti la giubba is the conclusion of the first act, when Canio discovers his wife’s infidelity, but must nevertheless prepare for his performance as Pagliaccio the clown because ‘the show must go on‘.

The aria is often regarded as one of the most moving in the operatic repertoire of the time. The pain of Canio is portrayed in the aria and exemplifies the entire notion of the ‘tragic clown’: smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. This is still displayed today as the clown motif often features the painted on tear running down the cheek of the performer. (Source: Wikipedia)

The great Swedish tenor Jussi Bjorling sings the aria in a performance of 1953.

W.A. Mozart: Requiem – Lacrimosa

Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen

Tearful that day,
on which will rise from ashes
guilty man for judgment.
So have mercy, O Lord, on this man.
Compassionate Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.

In the video John Eliot Gardiner conducts the English Baroque Soloists and the Monteverdi Choir. This performance was filmed at the Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona in Dec. 1991. It starts with «confutatis» and continues with the «lacrimosa».

Credit: I thank Manolis for contributing the Heraclitus quotation, in addition to his endless stream of comments, thoughts and ideas.

Today’s dish is good for the wet windy weather we had in Athens today. It is warm, soft, crunchy, tasty, and nutritious, to mention a few of its attributes! If you do not believe me, the only thing you have to do is try for yourselves!

Rooster is the integrating element of the dish. Get a big one, the bigger the better!

The next building element of the dish is bulgar wheat. We prepare a mix for the filling of the bird, and then we use it also to supplement the dish with the broccoli.

For the mix we need fresh onions, red and green peppers and parsley, salt and pepper.

The third element of the dish is pancetta. Today I did not have cured belly so I used fresh. It does not really matter, as long as it is really fresh.Make sure you take out all the bones. You can mix them with the wheat for extra flavor.

Finally, you need a nice piece of broccoli to provide the vegetable aspect of the dish.

After you stuff the bird, you add the bulgar wheat around it, the pancetta on top of it to provide extra moisture, and the broccoli on top of the wheat all over the baking tray. Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and pepper, rosemary and fresh oregano, and you are ready for roasting.

Roasting is the most difficult part of preparing the dish. For the first 20 minutes you need strong heat (250 degrees Celcius). Then you cover with foil the whole tray, reduce the heat to 200 degrees for another 20 minutes. Finally, remove the foil and «grill» for another 10 minutes.

What you see on the photo is that the pancetta pieces have been removed from the bird before the «grill» in order to give some color ot the skin and make it crunchy.

The result was a moist, tasty bird, on top of the bulgar wheat bed which was full of all the flavors, of the bird and the pancetta. The broccoli added a tone of sanity to the dish, while the pancetta was delicious. The fatty bit was crunchy (because of the «Grill») and the meat moist and flavorful.