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It’s All Greek To Me

Tuesday marked my second cooking class in the series, featuring a big fat Greek menu.  What we learned to make in this session was:

Avgolemo Soup
Spanakopita
Moussaka
Ionian Salad
Rizogalo

Or in Lamen’s terms, rice soup with lemon and egg, spinach pie, Greek lasagna, fennel citrus salad, and rice pudding.  Okay, I loved the Chinese class and love Chinese food but this one was over the top.  It was sooooo good.  I want to make the entire menu all over again.

A pasatiempo plate of two type of olives (which I ate), amazing feta, cucumbers and very, very good bread and Greek olive oil.
A pasatiempo plate of two type of olives (which I ate), amazing feta, cucumbers and very, very good bread and Greek olive oil.

We started with the moussaka to get that in the oven.  Moussaka is made like lasagna and has three main components:  the beef/lamb cooked in a red wine and tomato sauce, broiled eggplant slices, and a bechamel.  The moussaka is then layered with the eggplant on the bottom, 1/2 the meat mixture, more eggplant, the rest of the meat mixture, the last of the eggplant, and then topped with lucious bechamel.  The only difference this bechamel has to the Italian sauce is the addition of eggs that allow the sauce to puff up in the oven to form a crust, also similar to shepards pie.

My first serving of three of the amazing moussaka, this one with lamb
My first serving of three of the amazing moussaka, this one with lamb

We then made the spanakopita, another dish that is simple, yet involves layering and time.  We used fresh spinach that we chopped, added green onions and leeks cooked in oil, eggs, and the ricotta and feta mixture for the filling.  The phyllo we brushed with a butter/oil mixture on each side and put 8 layers on the bottom of a baking dish, then the filling, then 8 more layers.  Fold the sides in, score the top, and pop in the oven for 1 hour.  Very simple but so delicious and I know my dad would have loved it.

Spanakopita heaven
Spanakopita heaven

Next we started the dessert of rice pudding.  You start by putting equal parts water and rice in a pot and bringing to a boil to expand the rice.  Then you add a quart of milk, vanilla, and zest (we used a combo of orange and lemon…my Senora always used orange).  You simmer that on the stove covered for 40 minutes. Add raisins and sugar and eggs with ten minutes left and let thicken.  Sprinkle each portion with cinnamon.  We had this served hot but I know my Senora always served it cold.  It was so good, seriously good and warming on a rainy night.

Delicious creamy rice pudding hot and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Delicious creamy rice pudding hot and sprinkled with cinnamon.

For our soup and salad course, it was quite simple but delicious.  We chopped romaine, fennel (which I love in salads), and orange and mixed together.  The dressing was a simple combination of lemon juice, olive oil and oregano.  The salad was so light and refreshing and I made a very similar salad to this a little while back.  The soup is the classic and light lemon and egg soup.  You start by cooking a scant amount of rice in chicken broth.  You beat the lemon juice with the eggs until orange and frothy.  You temper the eggs with some of the broth and then add all of the egg mixture to the soup and let thicken.  It’s best to let it go for a while to get thick but ours was served right away and was so delicious.  It is fresh but salty and bright.

Ionian salad with fennel and oranges
Ionian salad with fennel and oranges
Avogolemono soup = lemony, salty and savory
Avogolemono soup = lemony, salty and savory

We again learned a lot about the Greek lifestyle and Greek ingredients.  Her husband is Greek so she knows quite a bit about it.  My takeaways:

  • Boutari wine is one of the few good Greek wines (about $20)
  • Adding a few tablespoons of flour to the spinach before making the filling for the spinach pie helps to keep the water content down and prevent the spinach pie from getting to soggy
  • Apollo Fillo is the best phyllo to use…she made a big deal about good phyllo because when you buy them from regular grocery stores they don’t thaw it properly and it breaks or sticks together or is already too dry
  • Smaller eggplants are better than larger ones
  • Always add at least a tablespoon of oil to a hot pan to brown ground meat, cooking the meat in its own juices won’t brown it but only steam it
  • Greeks don’t have a lot of land to grow animals so they consume more of the animal’s products than the meat itself, filling up on Greek yogurt and cheeses and not a ton of meat
  • Feta can be stored for a long time, but they must be covered in a brine mixture
  • Olives are traditionally pressed with salt and drizzled with olive oil instead of how we typically eat them soaked in vinegar

Chelsea

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