Today I continue my «Cuccina Povera» theme with a delicious and easy to do dish: pasta with sardines.

I got from my fisherman fresh sardines which I cured in a salt and water solution for a few hours.

Once the fillets are  lightly cured, I placed in a shallow pan with dry and fresh onions, garlic, chilli peppers, capers, parsley and celery.

I let the fillets cook until they dissolve into a puree.  Then add canned tomatoes and tomato puree and let the mix homogenize for 20 minutes.

Once the sardines mix has been turned into a thick delicious sauce, it is time to prepare the pasta. The dish requires pasta that adsorbs the sauce. I have selected a rustic pasta coming from the island of Chios.

Once the pasta is ready, drain and combine with the sauce. Let it rest for 5 minutes, and serve immediately.

Eating the dish is like navigating in Riemann’s space (for the lovers of geometry). A manifold of flavors unfolds in your mouth.

And the total cost of the dish is low. Try it!

Brandada de Bacalao – Salt Cod Mash (Brandade)

Κυριακή, 3 Οκτωβρίου, 2010

After the excesses of Despoinarion’s Oscars gala dinner, today’s dish is easy, cheap (cost efficient) and tasty! In addition, it has a name that in some languages refers to sensual oscillations…

Lets start with the geography of the dish. It is a Mediterranean dish, in the large sense, as we find it also in Portugal and the Basque Country. We find it in Catalunya, Provence, Rousillon, Languedoc, Liguria, Valencia.

It is based on salt cod (bacalao), garlic and olive oil. The variations include bread, potatoes, cream. What I present today is my own version, which uses potatoes, parsley, dill, garlic, and bread crumbs. It is an all season all weather dish, and goes very well with white wine. Who said that cucina povera is not wonderful?

It is best to use salted cod for the dish. Desalinate the cod and then remove the skin. Simmer in milk for 5 minutes in medium heat. Then gently break the flesh in a food processor. Gently, otherwise, you will get a mousse instead of threads.

Chop garlic, parseley and dill and boil potates until they become soft. Remove from the heat, drain, and then gently mash them in the food processor. Bring all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

 Spread the mix on a baking tray that has been thoroughly oiled, cover with breadcrumds and bake in 200 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.

Prepare a mix of vegetables (fried or baked) for serving with the brandade. I have prepared a mix of red peppers, eggplants and zucchini with tomato sauce.

Cut the brandade in squares and serve over the vegetables sprinkling with chopped parsely.

Enjoy responsibly with chilled asirtiko, and let the good times roll!!!

Mediterranean Mousaka with apaki and yogurt

Κυριακή, 5 Σεπτεμβρίου, 2010

Today I want to share a dish that is my own variation of the well-known «Mousaka» dish.

I start with the new ingredient that I add to the dish: apaki, which is smoked pork from the island of Crete.

Apaki is made from lean pork, marinated in pure wine vinegar for three days, and then smoked. It is tender and delicious, the acidity adding to the flavor.

I start the layering of the dish with potatoes, and sprinkle over them chopped apaki. I want the potatoes in order to give sweetness to the flavor and also absorb the liquids of the other layers.

I then add the second layer, which is eggplants, either baked or fried. I do not add any salt.

The third layer is minced meat (half beef, half pork), with herbs (oregano and basil) and small tomatoes from the island of Santorini. I do not add any onion or garlic, as I want to taste the flavors of the meats (minced and the apaki) and the eggplants, without overpowering the dish.

This is the last layer, the eggplants with a bit of grated hard cheese. I personally prefer a rather savory cheese from Greece, called kefalotiri.

Now we come to the second change, I do not add any bechamel, but strained yogurt and a little of grated cheese on top. The historians claim that the bechamel was added to the middle-eastern version of the dish by the Greek chef Tselementes, at the beginning of the 20th century. It makes the dish very rich for my taste. I prefer it with the yogurt.

After baking in a hot (250 C) oven for thirty minutes, the dish is ready. Serve after you let it rest for 15 minutes.

And be generous with the servings, this food rolls!

Enjoy it with a young red wine.

Pissaladiere with smoked herring

Σάββατο, 31 Ιουλίου, 2010

Pissaladiere is a pizza-like dish of the South of France. Its name comes from the word pissalat («salted fish»). It has a lot of onions, and no tomatoes or cheese.

I read about this in the Rowley Leigh cookery column of the Financial Times, where he presented a recipe with sardines instead of the traditional anchovies. I took it and gave it a twist, so that it has smoked herring, which I like very much.

The dough is very simple: 300 gr flour, 2 tablespoons of yeast, warm water, 1 tablespoon of salt, one large egg.  Mix until you get a firm enough dough that you can spread over a deep baking tray.  Leigh recommends also 150 grams of butter. I did not put it in, as it would make it very heavy for my summer taste.

Slice the onions, 6 large ones is the minimum, and put them in a large saucepan with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Let them stew for at least half an hour, and let it chill for another half.

Once the dough is evenly spread in the baking tray, spread the onions on top of it.

Now is the time to add all the toppings on top of the onion base.

The first to go is sliced chilli peppers and black olives. The next is thinly sliced basilico, dill, and parsley. Finally, I add the herring in stripes and add the final ingredient, fresh oregano.

The key here is not to add any cheese or tomato.

Bake in the oven (230 Centigrade) for 20 minutes and serve with a full-bodied white (like a Sicilian Chardonnay).

The dish is wonderful! IT has a kick from the peppers, it is sweet because of the onions, it has the savory bitterness of the olives, supplemented by the aromatic greens added on top, and the queen of the dish, the herring comes out of the bouquet of flavors on top.

A couple of months ago, I posted a recipe for boiled grouper head with salad and vegetables, served with Greek Mayonnaise.

Today I present a variation of the dish, where I praise the green beans that are now in season in Greece.

The green beans come in many varieties, I prefer what we call «tsaoulia» in Greek. They are very long, have the shape of an elongated cylinder and when freshly cut are very tender. They need no preparation other than cutting the edges. The test I deploy before buying them is to break one in two pieces and smell it. If the aroma of the fresh flesh comes to you, we are in business!

I steam the beans, I do not boil them. You can notice that close to the brim of the pot there is another folding container with holes, which holds the beans. There is water in the pot, but only enough for it to create the required steam. The beans do not come in touch with the water. Also, the beans are as they came out of the field. I do not put any salt or other substance. For the purposes of taking the photo I uncovered the pot, but in order for the steam to do its work, the pot must be covered for the duration of the process.

Just do it this way and – if the beans are good – you will not want to put even salt on them!  You will taste the bean in its natural taste and flavor! And it is wonderful!

While the beans are being steamed, the fish head (usually grouper, but any big mother will do) is boiling in water, a bit of olive oil, dry onions, carrots, and celery. The unbeatable mix for creating a solid flavor baseline. I never boil the fish more than 20 minutes, because I want the flesh to be firm and juicy. It makes a huge difference in texture and flavor! The criterion for this is for the meat to «just» come off the bones, as if it is still lightly glued to them.

In parallel, I prepare the Greek Mayonnaise, which is a regular mayonnaise embellished with red fish roe, tarama, as we call it in Greek. the Greek Mayonnaise is therefore a cross between the French mayonnaise and the taramasalata, for those who know it. Try it and you will never have boiled fish without it!

To serve, you create a base with the beans, put the fish on top, sliced carrots around with parsley and dill, and sprinkle with olive oil and coarse sea salt. If you like lemon, add just a bit of lemon juice over the dish, to give it an extra kick of acidity. You finish the dish by putting a big dollop of the Greek Mayonnaise on top.

Enjoy it! Bon Appetit!

Today’s dish is fresh and simple, with the flavors of the spring and the sea.

After all the meat eating of the Easter celebration, I wanted to taste something simple and yet tasteful.

I found a wonderful octopus in my fisherman, and I immediately decided to use it in my dish.

I put the octopus in a pot with a couple of bay leafs on very low heat, cover it  and let it cook for a couple of hours. You do not need to put any water in,  the octopus has plenty of water, and it comes out nicely as the heat is very gentle, it almost caresses the flesh.

While the octopus is cooking gently and slowly, I prepared a melange of chopped zucchinis and eggplants, parsley and a bit of dried chili pepper.

I put all the vegetables in a big pan with browned onions and added some of the octopus liquids. After 15 minutes I added cherry tomatoes for extra flavor.

Serve the vegetables in a way that forms a hexagonal bed and on top place slices of the octopus. Finish the dish with a spoonful of the vegetables.

It is a light, wonderful dish that goes very well with a nice glass of chardonnay. Enjoy!

Melange with Anchovies – Συνθεση με γαυρο

Σάββατο, 13 Μαρτίου, 2010

Today I will cook a melange with one my favorite small fish, the anchovy (gavros in Greek).

The idea of the recipe came to me as a variation of the patties I have described in another post.

The first step is to get the most fresh anchovy you can find and fillet it.

Second step is to get the best onions, and fresh garlic, and chop them. You need a lot of onions, as they will form the body of the melange.

Add one chopped tomato to the mix, a bit of cardamon, and fennel. Season with salt, chilli flakes, a bit of olive oil, and squeeze one lemon over it.

I get hungry only by looking at the mix, as it stands, there, waiting to be cooked.The last step is to add a bit of flour, just to give the mix a binding agent.

Getting to the cooking now, it is quite simple. Pour the mix over a baking dish that has been oiled, and bake in 180 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes.

The true sign of being ready is to see in the baking dish the colors of Rembrandt’s palette. Earthy, browns, dark reds, ocher, a bit of white.

Serve very hot, over crispy potato cubes.

The melange is very soft in its texture, but the bouquet of flavors is complex and powerful.

The soft texture of the melange is contrasted by the crispy texture of the potato cubes, whose flavor is mild, thus comforting the palate that is bombarded by the melange.

I strongly recommend to have ouzo with this dish, or asyrtico white wine. Enjoy!

PS. I dedicate this creation to my dear friend Yanna, whose imperfections include her being a supporter of Olympiacos Football Club, known in the World as «GAVROI – the anchovies».


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