was brought to my attention that I said I was going to cook some Greek food this week and it completely slipped my mind. Until today. On the menu? Spanakopita, Tzatziki, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Piquante, and, of course, Moussaka. I know you're thinking "Geez that's a lot of food!" and boy, I was thinking the same thing too. However, when making Greek food, why not do like the Greeks and celebrate! My boyfriend and I invited over his parents to take part in our feast, thankfully as we had enough food to feed a small army. I researched recipes and went to Rainbow Grocery (see earlier post) to collect all my ingredients. The food turned out pretty well but I have some suggestions for next time...and we all know there will be a next time :)
First up to bat: Tzatziki. I have made this before and loved the recipe. Many recipes for this traditional cucumber garlic dip are unnecessarily complicated. With Greek yogurt being very popular nowadays, this dip can be made very fast and with a low budget. No cheese cloths needed here, just a couple main ingredients and your good to go.
Ingredients (adapted from Ina Garten):
-2 7-ounce containers of Greek yogurt (Fage Total works the best)
-1 cucumber (peeled, seeded, and diced but can also grate them using a box grater)
-1/4 cup sour cream (can substitute light here but will not taste as 'authentic')
-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
-1 tablespoon white vinegar
-1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
-1 1/2 tablespoons fresh diced garlic
-2 tablespoons salt
-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
Just add all of the ingredients together in one bowl and enjoy. When adding the cucumbers, wring them out in your hands a bit to get rid of some of the water. Serve with warm pita bread. Success!
Next: Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Piquante. This dip is also nice with pita and is a refreshing alternative to hummus. Earlier this week I made a sandwich using roasted red peppers (from Costco I might add) and it was nice to find another use for the leftover peppers.
- 8 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 large roasted red peppers (seeded and peeled if making them fresh)
-1 fresh fresno pepper, seeded (can use any red pepper, including dry chile peppers)
-4 tablespoons olive oil (more or less depending on the consistency you want)
-pepper to taste
Add all the ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until all mixed together. If you like spicy, add more peppers or include the seeds from one pepper. I preferred the tzatziki more, however this was a nice addition to the mezes of the evening.
We continue on with: Moussaka. Come on, admit it. Watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding made you secretly want Greek food. That lamb spit on the front lawn? Not to mention all that ouzo! We'll that movie made me want to get "in touch" with my inner-Greek. I have never made moussaka before so tonight was an adventure and full of trial and error. I tried to find a legit recipe but definitely have some changes in mind for my next attempt. Also, warning...this dish takes a LONG time to make. Well, not super long but carve out some time where you won't feel rushed. Here is the recipe with my new suggestions (your waistline will thank me).
-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (normally veal but I feel bad for those baby cows)
-2 lbs. yukon potatoes
-2 large eggplants
-2 medium white onions
-1 1/2 cups of olive oil
-1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
-1 teaspoon of garlic powder
-1/2 cup of white wine
-Salt and pepper to taste
For the White Sauce (béchamel):
-4 cups of cold milk
-1 cup of flour
-3/4 cup of butter
-1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
-Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Wash eggplants and cut off top and bottom. Cut lengthwise into thin pieces. Let soak in a bowl of salted water for 15 minutes. Dry off. If you have a grill pan, grill pieces until soft and fleshy. Set aside. If you don't have a grill pan, fry pieces in a little bit of olive oil. Towel off oil and set aside.
3. Peel the potatoes and cut into even slices about 1/4" thick lengthwise. Spread out evenly on baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil. Bake at 350 until browned, flip and do the same for the other side.
4. While potatoes are in oven, saute onions in pan. Add ground beef. Drain off excess fat. Add wine, garlic powder, and salt/pepper. Dilute the tomato paste with 1 cup of water. Add tomato paste, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
5. Spray or rub baking dish (glass works best) with olive oil evenly. Layer the potato slices on the bottom of dish. Make sure there are no spaces. Cover potatoes with beef. Layer eggplant on top of beef with no spaces again.
6. Time to make the sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat in saucepan.
7. Gradually add flour, whisking continuously. Whisk for 5 minutes.
8. Slowly add milk and keep stirring. You're wrist will hurt but it will be worth it. Do not stop or the bottom will burn.
9. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir. Add beaten eggs and mix all together.
10. Pour evenly over eggplant layer. Use spatula to make sure it is even. Put in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. The top should be browned. Let it cool and congratulations, you are now a Greek.
There are so many variations of moussaka, all having the basic core ingredients. Some add cinnamon and allspice to the meat, other add some cheese to the white sauce. All sound good, its is really up to the person preparing the dish. It is similar to pastichio but minus the eggplant and add noodles. Maybe I'll try and make that soon. It's like a greek lasagna.
I know, I know. Your saying "Claire! What about the spanakopita??". Geez, you don't miss a beat! I ran out of time. Aww man. I'll make it tomorrow. However, I did add another meze which tasted quite yummy if I do say so myself. I found the recipe in my new cookbook "The Weeknight Cook". Simple, very simple. Sliced baguette, ricotta cheese, fig jam, and prosciutto. First the figs, then the cheese, then the prosciutto to top it off. It reminded me of a sandwich I had in New York a couple years ago (figs, mozzarella, and prosciutto on sourdough). I will definitely be making that again soon.
Wow that was a long post. Glad your still with me. I didn't make a classic Greek salad or gyros or souvlaki BUT I did make a teeny tiny dent into Mediterranean cuisine. Have no fear, my adventure is just beginning. I like the diet over in that part of the world and will try and tackle new recipes. Until next time, Kalinihta ke glika onira (goodnight and sweet dreams)!