Archive for ‘Summer’

May 30, 2011

Holiday Weekend | Greek Mezedes

This started with my current obsession, which is oddly and plainly, roasting potatoes.

From which rose a lovely collection of small plates that we passed and shared over a couple of glasses of wine. Well, Cherub didn’t have any wine.

It was all easily pulled together a Monday night on a long weekend, Memorial Day here in America and Bank Holiday for those across the pond.  It’s a leisurely way to enjoy a meal or entertain.   It’s basically the more familiar tapas only with Mediterranean flair.  In fact many a Greek meal begins and ends entirely with mezedes.

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February 24, 2011

Warmth | Carrot and Corriander Risotto

Spring has forsaken us for a moment here in Ohio.  The 40’s are not really doing it for me.  Yes, I remember it’s still February.  But I long for barefoot weather.  I crave a muddy, just-pulled summer carrot and the sight of my coriander having, once again, gone to seed before I can get a decent couple of salsas out of it.  I yearn for warmth.

In absence of warm outdoors, I made some sunshine in the kitchen with this sweet, herby risotto.  You can take your time with the stock, as it says in the recipe, or you can certainly make a quick and dirty one, starting it only a few minutes before you start the risotto (no whole onion, cloves, juniper berries required).

I will be making this one again, late this summer, with carrots from my garden that is yet to be planted, and the new cilantro plants that will spring unassisted from coriander seeds that found their way into the cracks around my patio.  I will stretch out barefoot on the grass and be content with the warmth.

Carrot and Coriander Risotto

1 bunch of carrots with tops
1 medium onion
2 cloves
Small handful parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
10  peppercorns
4 or 5 juniper berries
1 t whole coriander seeds

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September 9, 2010

Greek, Only Not | Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Olives

Didn’t they always serve roast lamb on Sundays back in the Mad Men era?  This Greek-inspired lamb shoulder with an olive sauce is worth all the trouble and forward planning you might have to do.

Hades and I had a hankering for some lamb after the Greek Festival last weekend.  Maybe with some olives.  And eggplant.  Ooo!  And some of our home grown tomatoes. You know, Mediterranean flavors , but not quite so literal.  And that started us thinking about all the Columbus purveyors of locally made, grown and produced deliciousness; we decided to see how local we could go.  Consider this one of our first forays into the Eat Local Challenge that will be happening later this October.

We ordered our lamb shoulder from Bluescreek Farm Meats, our Cherub selected the local eggplant and garlic with a little help from Colleen at the Greener Grocer.  The olives and pita were from Firdous Express, and the tomatoes and herbs were from our backyard. The shallots were from Cronus’s garden.  Not local was the salt, pepper, olive oil, and butter.  We’ll work on those.

You might be tempted just to enjoy the pictures and read the description, but please don’t do that!  Try this out on a Sunday soon, before all this summer’s tomatoes are gone.

Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Olive Sauce served with Eggplant and Tomato Fondue

Lamb Stock – Yeah, I know.  Keep reading.  We made ours the day before.

1 pound of lamb bones (ask your butcher, lamb neck works well)

2 carrots (tops left on, please), scrubbed and broken in half

1 yellow onion, paper left on, quartered

Small handful of parsley and thyme, 1 bay leaf, 10 peppercorns

In a roasting pan, spread out the bones and place in a 350˚ oven for 30 to 45 minutes turning once or twice, until golden.  When roasted, place bones in large pasta pot, along with the rest of the ingredients.  Cover with water.  Place over high heat to bring to a boil, then turn down so that the water is barely simmering.  Skim regularly.  Allow to gently cook for two hours.  Strain through a fine mesh or cheesecloth.

Roast Lamb – Preheat Oven to 500˚

2.5 pounds bone in lamb shoulder

1 head garlic, cloves separated, but paper still on

Very large handful of fresh sage, fresh parsley and fresh thyme

Salt, pepper, olive oil

In a large, heavy, lidded roasting pan, cover the bottom of the pan with all of the garlic cloves then layer over the herbs on top of the garlic.  Using a sharp knife, shallowly slice a crisscross pattern into the top of the lamb shoulder, rub liberally with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Put the lid on the pan, slide the pan in the oven and immediately reset oven temperature to 325˚.  Roast for four hours.  (Yes, four hours.)   To serve, shred roughly off the bone with a generous ladle of olive sauce and some pita for scooping.

PK tip: keep the bones once you pull out the roast.  Throw them in the freezer so you have roasted lamb bones next time you want to make stock.

Olive Sauce, inspired by Marco Pierre White

4 c. Lamb Stock

1½ c. olives from your grocery’s olive bar (pits removed, but not stuffed with feta or jalapeños, please and roughly chopped)

4 T butter

In a sauce pot, reduce the lamb stock over medium heat by 2/3 (this takes about an hour to an hour and a half).  When you’re about ready to serve dinner, whisk in the butter and add the olives and warm through.

Tomato Fondue, inspired by Marco Pierre White and Escoffier

½ shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Scant ½ cup olive oil

6 to 8 large, very ripe Roma tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped (Hades insists he would never bother with skinning and deseeding, but I did, and it was worth it)

¼ bay leaf (really, Marco?), 1 sprig of thyme, salt

In a pan, heat the olive oil over low heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and sweat, without coloring, for a few minutes.  Add in the tomatoes and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick paste.  Remove bay, and tip mixture into a blender or food processor.  Blend until the mixture is smooth.  I found it actually emulsifies into an almost mayonnaise-like consistency.  Add a pinch or two of salt.

Eggplant Preparation

1 eggplant, sliced into ½ to ¾ inch thick rounds

Olive oil, salt (preferably fleur de sel:  it adds a nice texture)

In a large frying pan, cover the bottom of the pan with ½ inch of olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  Prick the eggplant rounds with a fork.  Place the rounds in the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides (six to eight minutes).  Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.  To assemble, place a slice of eggplant on a plate and cover with a generous spoonful of the tomato fondue.

Are you still there?  You are?  That’s great.  I’m guessing you’re still reading because there’s a little tiny bit of you that wants to make this, but you read the post and said, “no way, that’s too hard.  I don’t have time for that.”  You have the time if you really want to.  You’d be so proud of yourself.  I was so proud of myself.  Hades and I love cooking together.  The greatness of the meal is that it highlights one of the most amazing cuisines as well as lots of different techniques.  Like lifting weights, it will make you a stronger cook.  And heck, it tastes great, too.

Wine:  PK recommends a Greek white that Hades and I were introduced to at Gordon Ramsay’s London Bar.  It’s a Moscofilero, Domaine Skouras.  A white with Lamb?  A white indeed.

Playlist included the lovely Rose Elinor Dougall’s debut album Without Why.

September 8, 2010

An Exotic Meal, In Season, and On the Cheap

The humble moule.  Such a tasty yet inexpensive little gem.  Pair them with the late-summer tomatoes and peppers still prevalent at local farmers’ markets, a dash of spice, and you can transport your plate to the Incense Route.

A two pound bag will set you back about six bucks at Whole Foods.  Buy a loaf of crusty bread and an inexpensive (not cheap) bottle of white wine and you have yourself an exotic, but simple dinner.   Then, invite a friend over and they’ll be amazed at your cooking prowess.  Secretly, you’d know that it only took you 20 minutes to do.  But you can still smile, nod your head, and say, “Thanks, I love to cook.”

PK Tip:  when you get your mussels home, take them out and rinse them in a colander, remove any beards and check to make sure they are all closed tightly or at least close when you tap them.  Then put that colander over a bowl and stick them back in the fridge.  They’ll be fine until dinner.  As it turns out, mussels need air to breathe.  For God’s sake don’t leave them in the plastic bag they may have given them to you in.

Mussels with Curried Peppers 

1 T olive oil

1 shallot, finely minced

1 clove of garlic, finely minced

1 Bay leaf

1 splash of white wine or vermouth

1 2 lb. bag of mussels (from a reputable purveyor of fish, please)

2 medium green bell peppers, de-seeded and roughly chopped

1 medium tomato, roughly chopped

1 t curry powder

1 handful of fresh coriander, chopped (or parsley for all you cilantro haters)

Salt

In a large pan, over medium-low heat, add olive oil and sweat the shallot, garlic and bay for 5 minutes.  Then add a splash of wine or vermouth, and reduce until almost evaporated. 

While the shallot, garlic and bay are cooking, puree the peppers, tomato and curry powder in a blender or food processor.  Tip the puree into your pan, increase the heat, bringing it to a boil.

Add the mussels to the pan, turn to high, and cover.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.  The mussels are done when they yawn open.  Discard any that don’t. 

Taste the broth.  The liquor from the mussels will add some salt to the broth.  Add a pinch or two more if you think it needs it.

It is mandatory to serve this in warmed, shallow bowls with large amounts of crusty French Bread and salty butter.  A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand wouldn’t hurt either.

Playlist included Davey, by The Señors of Marseille.  I kind of think they might be a new Vampire Weekend.

September 5, 2010

Food and Family: A Greek Tradition in Columbus

Opa!

 

It’s my favorite summer food holiday. Hades considers it his Christmas. It’s the Greek Festival held annually (38 times annually to be exact) by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church on High Street. When Hades and I moved here three years ago, it was the first festival we went to in Columbus. We had our five month old cherub with us who was fawned over by seemingly everyone we met. And then there was the food. 

Oh my, the food. I’m a sucker for a Mythos Red and a good Pastitio. It tastes like the Greek food that somebody’s mom might make. And come to find out, it is made by somebody’s mom. And grandma. A lot of moms and grandmas. 

A volunteer slices a tower of pastitio.

 

I spent some time Sunday in the kitchen talking with one of the festival’s founders as well as one of the new generation, leading a very busy kitchen, feeding thousands of hungry revelers. 

There are a lot of folks to cook for: Pauline Hesske, this year’s festival chair, said about 40,000 people come through the gates a day during the four days. 

But the really remarkable thing about the piles and piles of delicious food that come out of the kitchen is that it’s all been made by volunteers at the church. Moms and grandmas and granddaughters get together in the weeks preceding the festival to cook and assemble all those pans of Pastitio and Mousaka, and fill and wrap thousands of Spanakopita, Tyropita and Dolmades. 

Ninety year old Demetrios Michaelides’s favorite Greek dish at the festival is the chicken and rice. He recounted a story that one year, the food was all gone by Saturday night. Fortunately, one of the festival cooks had a friend that had a lot of chickens. In the tiny kitchen with no a/c, the quick -thinking Greek cooks ended up roasting and serving them over rice. They had a hit on their hands. It’s one of the most popular meals at the festival. 

Jim Jelett is the young culinary student running the kitchen when I visit. Between ensuring the ovens were full of Pastitio and expediting three huge pans of rice pudding, he took a minute to talk with me. “The recipes come from the men and women who started the festival in 1973. We now measure ingredients in pounds instead of cups, but the spirit is still there.” When I asked if anybody was willing to part with any of those original recipes, I was given a warm smile. “Probably not. A lot of festivals have companies that come in and do the food for the church. Not here, we’ve got our own stocks in 60 quart pots and we do it all ourselves.” 

Rumor had it that the Spanakopita would be gone by tonight. Considering that 120,000 people will have been through the gates by tonight, I wasn’t surprised. Somehow for our little family, this Greek Festival has become a symbol of all that is good about living in Columbus: a rich food culture, family-centric and downright welcoming. 

August 31, 2010

Soup and Sandwich for Two

Feel like you’ve spent your entire life in the customer service line?  Tired of being fed the robotic, ubiquitous and industrial tomato soup with grilled processed cheese?  Then give today’s lunch menu a go with someone you love.  This light and tasty combo is vegetarian friendly and takes advantage of two peak late-summer crops.  Its slightly adventurous and playful, but won’t alienate lovers of the S&S tradition.  C’mon, Robots need love too…

Chilled Cantaloupe “Soup”

½ cantaloupe, seeded and cut into chunks

¼ c. heavy cream, sprinkle of sugar, drop of vanilla – combined and lightly whipped

Puree the cantaloupe in a blender or food processor, divide between two bowls.  Drizzle with the cream (you won’t need all of it).

Marinated Cucumber “Sandwich”

½ large cucumber, peeled

3 chive stalks and 6 mint leaves, chopped

Mirin, rice wine vinegar, pinch of sugar, pinch of salt, splash of olive oil

2 slices thin white bread

1 T. Boursin

Using a vegetable peeler, peel ribbons of cucumber from the length of the cucumber stopping when the seeds are reached.  In a bowl toss together the cucumber ribbons, chive, mint, Mirin, vinegar, sugar, salt and olive oil.  Spread the Boursin thinly over the two slices of bread, divide the cucumber mixture between the two slices.

Playlist included Dan Mangan’s Robots (Robots need love, too.  They want to be loved by you.)

August 30, 2010

Last of the (Famous International) Tomatoes

Super fresh tomatoes give the puree a lovely orange color.

We’re on the cusp of September and the tomato plants are on their last legs.  There are still a ton of green tomatoes on the vines, but I wonder if we’ll have enough hot days to turn the rest.  My guess is not.  I’ll take this as an opportunity to learn how to make stuff besides fried green tomatoes.

But winding down the summer, I can reminisce over all we’ve used our tomatoes for: some pretty tasty tomato and peach panzanella salads, sausage (we love ones from Bluescreek Farm Meats)with roasted tomatoes peppers, omelettes with tomato compote, and super simple, super fast tomato and basil sauce over pasta.  No dish was earth shattering in its creativity, to be sure, but oh my is it tasty.  I always feel a little sad when summer comes to end because the tomatoes will be gone.  Ah, seasons.

We cook pretty casually around here.  If you’ve got an hour to let something roast in the oven, now’s the perfect time of year to cook this:

Italian Sausages with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes, Peppers and Onions

1 pound of Italian sausages (combination of sweet and hot)

1 large yellow onion, sliced in thick rounds

2 large bell peppers, deseeded and cut into wide strips

3 medium sized (or 1 large or heck a couple of handfuls of cherry sized) tomatoes

1 or two cloves of garlic, smashed, fresh thyme (if you’ve got it in your garden or feel like buying it), a bay leaf or two

Balsamic Vinegar, olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Place sausages, onions, peppers and tomatoes (cut up in large-ish chunks), garlic, thyme and bay in a large roasting pan.  Drizzle a good amount of olive oil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar over the veg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss together with your (clean, of course) hands and then rearrange to place the sausages back on top of the veg.  Slide in a 350 oven (preheated or not, who cares? it’s not a cake) for about an hour, to an hour and ten minutes.  Give the pan a shake and turn the sausages over half way through if you remember.

If you’ve got the desire to be a bit posh about it, and you’ve got more tomatoes than you know what to do with, puree four cups of diced tomatoes (chef’s choice) in the blender (throw a bell pepper in there if you want), reduce over low-ish heat in a sauce pan, at the last minute, whisk in some good olive oil, a pinch or two of sugar, and a good amount of salt and pepper. 

To serve with the sauce, put a ladle of sauce in a shallow bowl, top with a pile of the roasted veg and a sausage or two.  Good bread is almost an essential. 

We served this with PBR tall boys and thought it was just fine.

Playlist included Last of the International Playboys by Morissey.

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