Except I can't actually remember the meal. The only thing I can really recall is that Martin had been dragged around an airport by a go-cart just a few hours earlier, had refused to get stitches and was convalescing in the far corner of our table while a Greek belly dancer tried to convince him to give up a dollar. And I think there was cheese.
Yes, I did say "dragged around an airport by a go-cart." Which was actually a Kenny death on Southpark, too. True story.
Anyway flash forward 13 years (yikes!) and now I'm going to try making a Greek meal. But first, of course, a little bit about Greece. You may know it best as the country with all the cool ruins, lovely scenery and suffocating debt crisis. Sadly, that latter part is what's been making the news for the past couple of years, which has made a lot of people forget all the wonderful things about Greece, you know, birthplace of democracy and Western philosophy, motherland of Western history, seat of the Olympics and the place of origin for many major scientific and mathematical principles. Founding member of the United Nations. Little things like that.
|Temple of Poseidon (Rear), Sounio, Greece. Photo Credit: nouregef.|
Ah and the food. Greek food is on the whole pretty healthy stuff, and is in part the basis for the Mediterranean diet you've probably heard something about. Greek food uses a lot of fresh vegetables, herbs and grains. Wine and olive oil are also important, as well as cheese and yogurt. Wine: healthy. Olive oil: healthy. Cheese: healthy. Yes it is! That's why I eat so much of it, right?
Which brings me to my menu.
Yes, I had to choose something with cheese in it. Of course. But first the main course, a one-pot meal that sounded pretty good:
(from ala Greek)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 cubanelle pepper, chopped*
- 1 1/2 cups orzo
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup tomato puree
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
And for the cheese, I mean the bread:
Tiropsomo (Greek Cheese Bread) (from Authentic Greek Recipes)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup tepid water (more or less)
- 1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp honey diluted in water
- 9 oz feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp oregano
Greek Baclava (of course)
(also from Authentic Greek Recipes)
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup walnuts, ground
- 20 sheets filo pastry
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 tsp glucose*
- 1/2 cup water
OK here we go, bread first:
Put everything except the oil, cheese and oregano in your bread machine and press "start." Or:
Dissolve the yeast in a small amount of the water with the honey. Put the flour in a mixing bowl and sprinkle evenly with the salt. Make a well and add the yeast mixture. Mix it a little (you won't get a dough yet) and then let it rest for 15 minutes in the warmest part of your kitchen. Now add the rest of the water. The dough should be smooth and not sticky. Knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface and shape into a ball, then cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.
Now brush a shallow, 14-inch pizza pan with the oil and add the dough. Flatten with your hand until the dough covers the whole pan. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and then dust with the oregano. Brush the edges with olive oil and then pour the rest of the olive oil over the top of the bread. Let rise for another 30 minutes.
|Some of the orzo got a little crispy in the oven, the rest overcooked.|
And now the grande finale: the baclava. Or as I like to call it, Mostly Butter.
First mix the cinnamon with the crushed walnuts. Set aside.
Now melt the butter. Get out your thawed filo dough (Yes! I used thawed filo instead of making it like a chump. Because the recipe told me I could.) and cut into the right shape to fit your pan (I used an 8x8 pyrex dish). Butter the bottom of the dish and lay down your first sheet of filo. Butter it. Put down the next one and butter it. Now put down another one and butter it, too. Keep going until you've put down 20 squares of dough.
Cut the baclava up into shapes (diamond is traditional) making sure you go all the way through to the bottom. Spray the top of the dough with a little bit of water and transfer it to your oven. Bake at 300 degrees for 90 minutes or until you can't stand waiting any more, which may mean your baclava doesn't get cooked all the way.
Take the baclava out of the oven and while it is still warm pour the syrup over. Now hide the whole pan from your family and eat it in secret.
Now the bread, well, what's not to like. It was really just a pizza without the red sauce and mozzarella. Delicious, fresh bread topped with tasty, slightly browned feta cheese. You really can't go wrong can you?
As for the baclava, if you don't like baclava I think you might have damaged DNA. This was so delicious I once again had to give it away to friends or risk eating the whole pan myself. When my kids got home the next day they were pretty mad that there wasn't any baclava left. But in my defense, there wouldn't have been any baclava left even if I hadn't given it away, and Mom probably would have been feeling kind of ill.
Next week: Greenland
For printable versions of this week's recipes: