Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday Night Menu, It's all Greek to Me, September 23, 2011

This whole menu came from Mo Rocca's show Foodography on the cooking channel.  It was all about Greek food and after watching it I was inspired.  I never heard of some of this stuff...Moussaka...dolma...galaktoboureko????  I had to find out...


As I was making this, it felt like I was making an eggplant lasagna in a way.  It's rounds of eggplant that you fry ahead of time and on the show the lady said you make a meat sauce heavily seasoned with cinnamon and allspice.  You layer the eggplant, then the meat sauce, eggplant and meat sauce, then it's topped with a bechamel cream sauce.  Here is how I made the three components.

For the meat sauce I started by making a flavorful tomato sauce.  Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan and add 1 or 2 garlic cloves minced with a pinch of red pepper flakes; cook until the garlic is very fragrant but not browning, one or two minutes; add a 32 oz can of plum tomatoes that you've pureed (or just buy it that way); add a good pinch of kosher salt and dried oregano; I let this cook down for about 1 1/2 hours but 1/2 hour is OK.  Now for the "meat" part of the sauce in another pan I heated olive oil and 1/2 onion chopped, a pinch of salt; cook until the onion is translucent and softened; add about 1/2 lb of ground beef and brown; add about 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1-2 tsp freshly ground all spice and 1/4 tsp salt; I added about 1/2 cup milk and let that cook down (not something I usually do but think it might help to tenderize) all the way; add tomato sauce to desired sauce-ey-ness. 

For the eggplant I heated about 1/2 inch of canola oil in the bottom of a large skillet and over medium-high heat let it get hot but not smoking; meanwhile cut the eggplant in 1/3 inch slices and fry without overcrowding the pan and brown on both sides; once they turn golden brown remove to paper towels to drain and season with salt immediately.

For the Bechamel I was making a small portion so I only made a small amount of this sauce.  Heat 5 oz of milk or 1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup in a small pan; In a medium skillet melt 1 tbsp butter then add 1 tbsp flour and whisk together; cook this mixture for a couple of minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste and slightly brown the mixtue; slowly whisk in the hot milk and bring to a simmer; season with salt and pepper to taste; this is where I stopped but you can add cheese to enrich the sauce if you like; I added a sprinkling of sheeps milk greek melting cheese (that I found at Whole Foods) to the top after assembly.

I assembled this in a small earthenware dish (desribed above) and cooked it uncovered in a 350 oven for about 35-45 minutes until it turned brown on top.

I served this with tzatziki and pita.

For the tzatziki I whisked together 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar and 3 Tbsp olive oil, salt, fresh garlic minced to taste, 1 cup of greek yogurt; add finely chopped cucumber that's been seeded and peeled; I let that sit a few hours to marry the flavors.


These are the stuffed grape leaves that are stacked on top of each other and slowly steamed for an hour or so until tender.  I bought the jar of grape leaves at Whole Foods and on the jar the instructions are to rince the leaves and boil for a minute to remove the excess salt from the grape leaves.  I made the filling mixture by kind-of following the way the lady made them on foodography (they don't give the full recipe) and my own thoughts.  So this is what I did...

For the filling mixture I heated a few Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and let it get hot but not smoking; add 1/2 onion finely chopped, 1/2 fennel bulb finely chopped and 1/2 tsp kosher salt; cook the vegetables until softened about 5-6 minutes; add 1 scant cup of white wine and let that cook down to about 1/4 cup; add 1 full cup of chicken stock; add cooked brown rice ( I cooked 1 cup of rice ahead); mix this together and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

To assemble the grape leaves I boiled them as I described above, drained them and let them cool slightly; lay one leaf down so the bottom of the stem is facing you; put about 1-2 tbsp of filling and roll them as you would a burrito and place them side by side in a casserole or baking dish; keep rolling and stack them as you go; place a few slices of lemon on top of the dolma's and pour about 1 inch of heated water into the baking dish; cover and bake in a 350 oven for about an hour.

Grilled Skin-on Haddock over Greek Potato Salad and topped with Ladolemono

This was on the foodography show but they were using a fish that you can't get here in the US.  Come to find out later on while watching the show a second time, the perfect substitute would have been a sea bass but it's just as well, I have been wanting to try haddock (since that was one I hadn't had yet; still working on trying new fish' after not likeing fish for the first 38 years of my life).  The chef on the show was grilling the fish with the skin-on, skin side down on a hot grill and not ever flipping it, just cooking it on that one side the whole time (that's what I did and it worked well).  He served it over a potato salad and topped the fish with something called "ladolemono", which I have made many times with out realizing it.

For the potato salad I boiled small white potatoes whole, until just cooked through and while they boiled I got the other ingredients for the salad together; I cut little grape tomatoes in half and placed in a bowl along with about 12-15 Kalamata olives, 3 scallions chopped, a handful of chopped parsley and Tbsp of capers that have been drained; the dressing was the juice of one lemon, whisk in olive oil to taste, salt, pepper, minced garlic and a few tablespoons of greek yogurt and a tablespoon of dijon mustard; when the potatoes are done, drain them and remove the skin when it's cool enough to handle; cut into bite sized pieces and drop into a serving bowl; sprinkle on a handful of greek feta cheese and add all the vegetables; mix gently then add the dressing and mix gently again; check for salt and pepper.  Next time I would leave out the feta if I am serving it with the fish.

To make the ladolemono it's very easy and I made it in a small mason jar.  It's 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive oil and salt, pepper and dried oragano to taste; shake the jar and it's done.

Galaktoboureko [ghah-lahk-toh-BOO-reh-koh]

I was looking for greek desserts on my phone and this picture popped up and looked good so after reading the description I had to try it.  It's layers of baked fillo with a custard layer in between ( "you had me at custard"...).  Here is the recipe.  It was not as sweet as you may be used to but it was very easy and different.  I thought it was interesting that the custard is not made the "normal" way, it's thickened with semolina flour... very good! 

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