Crispy Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Σάββατο, 23 Νοεμβρίου, 2013

With considerable delay, I publish today one of the absolute delicacies: crispy stuffed zucchini flowers.

Zucchini flowers to die for!

Zucchini flowers to die for!

It is November, Christmas is coming, and I dream of the Summer and its delicacies!

The whole secret is to have the super freshest of zucchini, cut from the vegetable garden a split second ago!

Time is important, in case you have not noticed, not only in what we do, but also in how we prepare our food. 

Mizythra with coriander and mint

Myzithra with coriander and mint

I stuff the flowers with a soft white cheese mix. I use myzithra from Crete, add salt and pepper and some chopped coriander and mint.

Fresh ricotta would also have been perfect for the dish.

Dusted with flour

Dusted with flour

After stuffing the flowers I dip them in water and dust them with flour before dipping into the batter mix.

Bubbly batter does it!

Bubbly batter does it!

The batter has to be full of bubbles! A bubbly batter does it! Stir vigorously until you have the bubbles that will give lightness to the batter.

Crispy stuffed zucchini flowers served

Crispy stuffed zucchini flowers served

Served and ready to be enjoyed!

Crispy stuffed zucchini flower sliced and ready to be enjoyed - please use your hands!!!

Crispy stuffed zucchini flower sliced and ready to be enjoyed – please use your hands!!!

I slice them in two halves with a knife, and subsequently eat them with my hands. Totally different sensation.

sliced2

I do not know about you, but I am good for a little more!

Green beans (haricot vert) “yahni” is one of the most delicious dishes during the Greek Summer.

Today I cook the deconstructed dish.

The desire for deconstruction was triggered in the open market where I bought the beans. They were so fresh and fragrant and the same time so delicate that I felt the need to maintain the “essence” of the green bean while at the same time enjoying the tomatoes, the onions and the garlic that are the key ingredients of the “yahni” dish.

In what follows I present the preparation of the three key ingredients of the dish as they were prepared and cooked.

Tomatoes in the sauce pan

Tomatoes in the sauce pan

The first key ingredient in a good “yahni” is the tomato sauce. A good tomato sauce is made from fresh tomatoes. I use small tomatoes, of the variety that they use for the canned ones (thicker skin, firm flesh).

The first stage in the making of the sauce is to cut them in half, add salt and pepper, a bit of dry oregano and olive oil, and put them in a sauce pan in medium heat.

Green beans (haricot vert)

Green beans (haricot vert)

The focus of the dish is the green bean. To extract maximum natural flavor I sliced them very thin.

Green beans (haricot vert) thinly sliced

Green beans (haricot vert) thinly sliced

To maintain the natural flavor, I only blanched them for two minutes.

Sliced green bean detail

Sliced green bean detail – before blanching

Lets return to the tomato sauce.

Tomato sauce - stage 2

Tomato sauce – stage 2

When the tomatoes get soft, I add chopped basil and then put them through the sieve to remove the skins.

Tomato sauce - removing the skins

Tomato sauce – removing the skins

What remains will develop intense flavor after it is reduced to a thick juicy sauce.  What you need for that is to add some olive oil.

Tomato sauce final stage: reduction

Tomato sauce final stage: reduction

As the sauce is being reduced, I blanch the green beans. It is important for me not only to maintain the flavor but also the texture. I do not want them to be mushy, but crunchy.

Blanched green beans - detail

Blanched green beans – detail

I let the beans relax and add garlic cloves and fresh onion stems in a pan with olive oil in low heat.

Garlic and fresh onions in olive oil

Garlic and fresh onions in olive oil

After half an hour I have delicious soft garli cloves, and onions. that maintain their original shape and have maximum flavor.

Fresh onions and garlic

Fresh onions and garlic

I keep the olive oil infused with the garlic and onion flavor on the side and start building a stack..

detail2

Bottom layer is the onions and the galic, then the green beans, and on top the sauce.

Deconstructed green beans yahni - served

Deconstructed green beans yahni – served

Enkoy with a robust white like asyrtico or a fine medium bodied red like a pimot noir. 

Bon appetit!

“A fresh sardine is better than stale lobster” Feran Adria, Celebrity Chef. 

Today’s recipe is the result of inspiration. I dedicate it to my Friend M, who loves sardines.

Tomato skins and basil leaves

Tomato skins and basil leaves

I was preparing a tomato sauce the other day, and had in fornt of me a dish full of the tomato skins and the basil leaves that were left on the sieve after I pressed the tomatoes through.

Fresh sardines

Fresh sardines

On the other bench in the kitchen I had a bag with fresh sardines.

It all came together in a split second.

“Sardines fried in a tomato skin batter”.

Sardines in the batter

Sardines in the batter

The batter is made with all purpose flour, baking soda, vinegar, eggs, salt, pepper, the tomato skins and basil mix, and water.

I let the mix rest for one hour in the fridge.

In the meantime, I gut the sardines and take the head off, but I leave the bone.

You could flour them before immersing in the batter, but it also works without.

Sardines fried in a batter of tomato skins

Sardines fried in a tomato skin batter

I fry in corn oil until orange brown.

You will notice that:

1. the sardine’s flesh melts in your mouth,

2. the bone is just a crunchy substance,

3. the acidity of the skin adds a wonderful counterbalance to the sweetness of the fish and the basil

DSCF8978

Sardines fried in a tomato skin batter

Enough written, enjoy it with a robust white wine.

Green peas, potatoes and artichokes: a ticket to heaven

Τετάρτη, 15 Μαΐου, 2013

Today I have a humble but most delicious dish that I consider a ticket to heaven.

And I must confess, I never say no to a ticket to heaven, no matter what the price.

In this case, the price is minimal.

Green peas in their shells

Green peas in their shells

This is not the result of my cooking skills and incredible experience; alas, I have to admit that it is 99% due to the sublime quality of the ingredients.

Green peas

Green peas

The freshest ingredients were grown and harvested in the seaside town of Oreoi in Northern Evoia, Greece, where I spent Easter 2013 with my cousins Kostas and Maria.

Maria gave me the peas and the artichokes as I was leaving to drive back to Marathon.

Artichokes and green onions

Artichokes and green onions

We talk about peas and we think sweet and fragrant. Add “crunchy”. They were so fresh that I could eat them all uncooked.

They key to cooking the best ingredients is to preserve their flavor and texture, and only add the minimum of taste enhancement agents.

I added olive oil and butter on a deep pan, and let it melt and mix.

Potatoes in olive oil and butter

Potatoes in olive oil and butter

I then sautéed potatoes (grown in Marathon) to enhance the color and coat them with the oil and butter mix.

On top of the potatoes I grated lemon peel, and added salt and pepperoncino.

Grating lemon peel

Grating lemon peel

After the potatoes got a golden brown color, I added the peas, thinly sliced green onions, fresh coriander, some water and two sliced sun dried tomatoes.

Green peas, potatoes and artichokes in the pot

Green peas, potatoes and artichokes in the pot

I let them come to a boil and then added the artichoke hearts, the stems and the juice of one lemon.

After 15 minutes they were ready.

Green peas, potatoes and artichokes - served

Green peas, potatoes and artichokes – served

I let them rest for 20 minutes, and then served with fresh bread and white wine, preferably asyrtico of Santorini.

Green peas, potatoes and artichokes - detail

Green peas, potatoes and artichokes – detail

Bon appetite!

2012-culture-news-drive-friendly-shoes-mm-1_565x225

The intensity of the previous article has exhausted my intellectual capacities and I needed nurishment to recover my strength and composure.

The answer to the question “what do I cook now?” came – as it always does – from the market.

Musky octopus

Musky octopus

Musky octopus is the poor relative of mighty octopus. And for this reason is a lot cheaper. These days in Athens octopus sells for 14 Euros per kilo, whereas musky octopus sells for 6 Euros per kilo.

Musky octopus tentacles with one row of suction cups

Musky octopus tentacles with one row of suction cups

A key visual difference between the musky octoppus and its mighty relative is that musky has only one row of suction cups in each of its 8 tentacles, whereas the big relative has two.

Βασική διαφορά μεταξύ του και εύκολα αναγνωρίσιμη είναι ότι τα πλοκάμια του Χταποδιού φέρουν δύο (2) σειρές βεντούζες ενώ του Μοσχιού μια (1) σειρά.

Octopus detail: two rows of suction cups

Octopus detail: two rows of suction cups

My cooking method is in two stages.

Stage 1 is the simmering of the musky octopi in their own juice. I just place them in a pot without anything, and let them simmer in low heat for about 45 minutes.

Result of Stage 1

Result of Stage 1

While this is happening, I saute onions and garlic in olive oil, and this is the beginning of Stage 2.

Onions, garlic, and chilli peppers

Onions, garlic, and chilli peppers

When Stage 1 is done, I bring together the octopi and the onion and garlic mix, adding tomato paste, cover the pot and let them intermix for 30 minutes in low heat.

Musky octopus in tomato sause

Musky octopus in tomato sause

Serve and eat immediately. I like ot sprinkle over the dish chopped coriander.

Musky octopus in tomato sauce - detail

Musky octopus in tomato sauce – detail

Enjoy it with a robust white, I prefer assyrtico from Santorini.

Ravani – Revani: semolina sponge cake with syrup

Κυριακή, 9 Δεκεμβρίου, 2012

I have been invited to lunch and the hostess asked me to prepare something sweet for the conclusion.

A good friend was telling me a few days ago about “ravani” or “revani”, a semolina sponge cake dressed in syrup.

All of a sudden, the decision was made: Ravani for desert!!!!!

Ravani is the name we use in the south of Greece. The same cake is called revani in the north, and this is the name used in Tukey.

However, one should not hasten to add “country” labels to a cake that belongs to the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

The cake in Egypt comes with the name “Basbousa”. From Egypt it has travelled west, so we find it in Lybia, and other countries in North Africa.

A well-travelled cake by necessity comes with many variations.

I chose to prepare the variation that is popular in the northern Greek Town of Veroia.

Ready to bake

Ravani: Ready to bake

Ingredients

3 eggs

150 grams of sour sheep’s yogurt

325 grams of white flour

150 grams of semolina

100 grams of sugar

1 teaspoon of baking powder

vanilla to your taste

For the syrup 

3 cups of water

3 cups of sugar

Notes:

1. I do not like the cake to be very sweet, so I did not use all the sugar, both in the cake and in the syrup.

2. I love pomegrenate, so I added some juice.

Ravani: Baked

Ravani: Baked

Preparation

Prepare the syrup and let it relax for 30 minutes.

Mix all the dry indredients by hand.

Mix the eggs, the yogurt and the pomegrenate juice until you have a uniform mix.

Bring the two mixew together and work them by hand until you have a sticky but semi-liquid mix.

Preheat a (add some butter so that it does not stick) baking tray in 180 degrees Celcius.

Place the mix in the hot tray and spread it evenly.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Ravani: Cut

Ravani: Cut

Cut in pieces and pour over the (cold) syrup.

Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Ravani: Served

Ravani: Served

Serve and enjoy!!!

 

Today I cooked lamb offal.

As it happens most of the time, everything begins with the ingredients. My butcher gave me fresh lamb offal (kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and sweetbread)  and I run to the kitchen to cook it.

I marinated the offal in red wine, a bit of salt and pepper, and fresh oregano.

After three hours I dusted the pieces with flour, let them rest for a few minutes, and then fried (to perfection).

In parallel I baked aubergine in the oven, then mashed it with a spoon and mixed it with a spicy fresh tomato and chilly pepeer sauce.

I served the fried offal with sour lamb’s milk yogurt on the side, dusted with crushed red chilli peppers, and the spicy aubergine mix.

For decoration I used chopped green and red peppers and garlic cubes.

The sweetness of the offal married the sour taste of the yogurt and I got a superb sweet and sour dish!

The aubergine mix was hot and assertive, and matched superbly the yogurt. It provided the textural alternative to the offal.

I recommend a merlot with body to accompany the dish. Patrimo dei Feudi di San Gregorio 2001 is a superb choice.

Enjoy it!!!

Anchovies forever: a lunch with one theme and many tastes!

Κυριακή, 5 Αυγούστου, 2012

Today was a hot day.

A hot day invites light food.

London, 5th August 1935

I like tasty food.

I therefore had to prepare something light and tasty.

The theme to the lunch was given by the anchovies I bought from my fishmonger the other day.

As he said: “they are well bred and come from good waters.”

Salt cured anchovies

I made two dishes. The first with salt cured anchovies. I cured them lightly, less than 24 hours. (In the photo above, you can see how moist the flesh is.)

Their partner for the dish were blanched green beans, dressed with a light mustard aioli mayonnaise.

I like to add some mustard to the aioli, it gives it some extra kick, and the colour is divine (I use Dijon mustard).

I only added some lemon juice to the dish. No vinegar is allowed! It kills the taste of the anchovy.

The second dish was built around fried anchovies.

Accompanied by boiled beetroot and fresh garden tomatoes, green peppers, and dry sliced onions.

These orange cherry tomatoes are delicious, and they provide the best partner to the sweetness of the beetroot.

The beetroot was served with olive oil, a touch of lemon juice, and finely chopped garlic.

Both dishes go very well with my favourite Greek white wine, assyrtico from Santorini. Just perfect!

Eggs Panagiurski style – Iaica po Panagyurski

Τετάρτη, 1 Αυγούστου, 2012

Today I share with you a recipe from Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian cuisine is hearty, tasty and not for the faint hearted. I just love it.

One of the dishes that has walked straight into my belly and heart and mind, because it is truly honestly soulfood, is the eggs made in the town of Panagyurishte, 91 km east of the capital Sofia.

My good friend “A” reminded me of the dish and I dedicate this post to her.

Here it comes.

Take yogurt made of sheep’s and or goat’s milk, not strained, so that it still has the whey in it. The sour taste of the unstrained yogurt is the key to the success of the dish.

Spread the yogurt on a flat dish and add on top some feta cheese.

Poach the eggs, and warm in a pan some olive oil with chopped garlic and dry red chili pepper flakes.

It is very important that the oil is warm, not hot. We do not want to fry, we want to unleash the flavors.

This is why in a deviation from the original recipe, I add the chopped garlic in the warm oil.

Because it unleashes the flavor and aroma of the garlic. The original recipe calls for raw garlic.

Another deviation form the original is the use of olive oil. The original recipe calls for butter.

Serve the poached eggs on top of the layer of yogurt and feta, and then pour the warm olive oil with the garlic and the chili flakes on top.

I cannot describe well enough the harmony and the intensity of the flavors of the dish.

Eat with a soup spoon. Make sure that in each spoonful you have a bit of everything. Egg, garlic, chili, yogurt, feta and a bit of olive oil.

Put the spoon ful in your mouth in its totality. No half measures.

Close your mouth once the goods are in, and “listen” to them. Let them tak to you before they are dispatched to your stomach.

Once the talking is done, your palate should be resonating with the flavors and the aromas.

When you have this sense, it is time to gently help the food to follow the path to the stomach. I insist on gently, because the trip to the stomach must not be rushed.

Enjoy it!!!

Deep fried zucchini sticks with hot garlic sauce

Κυριακή, 29 Ιουλίου, 2012

I woke up this morning and discovered that there was a big zucchini in the garden.

Its length was 27 cm and it biggest diameter 10 cm.

At first I thought that this big zucchini was full of air. That it was a zucchini – baloon.

Then I touched it and held and its weight and firmness told me otherwise.

What came to my mind next was that it would have no taste. That it would be tasteless.

A mass of zucchini flesh with no taste.

I obviously had to find out.

There was only one way.

Once cut from the plant, I cut it into sticks and placed it in a bath of course sea salt with water, and left it there for a couple of hours.

In the meantime, I crushed a lot of garlic cloves, with one hot pepper, coriander and basil, added some salt, olive oil and vinegar.

I fried the sticks in corn oil, and served them with the hot garlic sauce.

They were GOOD!

The flesh was sweet and tender.

And it went superbly with the hot garlic sauce.

I promise not to badmouth a big zucchini again!

 

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