Kourkouto me kolokithia / Squash pie

Squash pie, zucchini cake, I do not know exactly what to call this heavenly mix of squash, leek and cheese, but the name isn’t really important when it comes to good food. Directly translated kourkouto means something like (cake) batter. Eat the pie / cake as an main course, along with a fresh tomato salad and a piece of bread, or as an accompaniment to grilled chicken. The recipe is borrowed from the fantastic Greek food blog kalofagas, but with a few changes, the most important being that I use more cheese in my kourkouto. For nothing is much better than cheese. And by the way, if you want you can fry some bacon and add to the batter before baking the pie. Seriously good!

  • 1 small leek, finely chopped
  • 1 zucchini/squash, about 350 grams, cut 4 thin slices, chop the rest
  • 0,3 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 0,3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 0,3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 0,5 cup feta cheese, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup kasseri *, grated
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • pepper and perhaps salt

Sweat leek and squash (except slices) in oil for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the batter: Beat eggs; add flour and baking powder, then yoghurt. Stir well and add the cheese, along with dill. Stir in the vegetables. Season with pepper and paprika, the cheese is probably so salty that you do not need a lot, if any, extra salt. Pour into a greased, small baking dish. Top with the squash slices, sprinkle a little paprika on top, and bake at 175 degrees C for about 50 minutes.

Let the pie / cake stand fifteen minutes before you eat it, but if you wait until it has room temperature, it’s absolutely fine too.

To 2 as main course, 4 as a side dish.

* Kasseri is a lovely, tasty but not strong, Greek cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. If you are lucky you have a fantastic cheese shop near you, to find an adequate replacement is not easy. However, provolone, cheddar or graviera will probably also taste excellent in this dish.

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Fasolakia me skordo / Green beans with garlic

The Greeks are experts at making really tasty food, using just a few ingredients. This salad is a great example of this capability. If the produce is perfect, let it shine! Green beans are used extensively in Greece, and this salad can be eaten hot or cold. The cold variant tastes delicious on hot summer days. I prefer fresh green beans, but frozen green beans often taste surprisingly good too. Garlic can be omitted if you will; it’s actually more common to eat green beans without garlic. Whatever you do, it is almost incredible that so few ingredients can create such a good salad!

  • ½ kg green beans, boiled
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped

Heat the oil, add the garlic and let it get a tiny amount of colour. Add salt and lemon to the oil and pour over the beans. Mix well with dill.

 

Garides saganaki / shrimps in a pan

Saganaki is the name of a small frying pan, so this dish – and others – is named after the pan they are made in, like Saganaki cheese, for example. I’ve used ordinary shrimps in this dish, but a bigger variety is more common in Greece, so use whatever you like and can find. Furthermore, I use dried celery leaves. If they can’t be found in any shop near you, make sure to get a box or ten next time you or someone you know is going to Greece. Celery leaves can be purchased in all the supermarkets here.

  • 600 gr shrimps
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 coarsely chopped red onion
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1.5 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • A tiny bit of chilli pepper
  • ½ fish stock cube
  • celery leaves or oregano (dried)
  • some sugar?
  • salt, pepper
  • 125 to 150 grams feta cheese

Peel the shrimps. Fry the onion in olive oil about 10 minutes over low heat until it just begins to brown, add the finely chopped or crushed garlic cloves in the end. Pour in white wine and let it cook fiercely a few minutes. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Season, and be careful with the chilli, this is not a hot dish. Simmer uncovered until the sauce has thickened slightly, then with a lid, for a total of about 45 min. If the tomatoes and the wine are somewhat sour, you can add a little sugar.

Cut the cheese into cubes and add almost all of them to the sauce along with the shrimps. Heat, but do not boil. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over, and serve with crusty bread.

For 2

Makeronada me saltsa domatas / pasta with tomato sauce

No, pasta with tomato sauce is not a unique Greek dish, but pasta with tomato sauce visits the Greek dinner tables quite often. This delicious sauce contains typical Greek ingredients such as ouzo and olives or capers, and can be made while the pasta cooks. The typical Greek way is to eat this, is to load up your plate with pasta and just add a little sauce on top. In other words, it is important that the sauce has lots of flavour.

Sauce for 1 person:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons ouzo
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • dried oregano
  • olives or capers
  • salt, pepper
  • In addition, you need pasta and grated cheese, any kind you like.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package.

Heat the oil, but not too much, and add the garlic. The garlic should not brown, just soften a little. Add the ouzo and simmer for one minute. Add tomato puree, water and spices, and as much olives or capers as you want. Let this simmer without a lid, waiting for the pasta to be ready – here I assume that you’ll use pasta that cooks in 10 – 15 minute. Eat the food with a lot of cheese, and then some more cheese.

As a variation, you can brown some chicken pieces in the oil before adding the garlic.

Rosiki salata / Russian salad

No, I’m not geographically confused. Russian salad is on the menu of many Greek tavernas and sold in Greek supermarkeds, so it has to be here too. The salad is served as a meze, or as a side dish with fried / grilled sausages or fish. The ingredients tell us that it’s not at all impossible that the salad has roots in Russia or thereabouts, but in France it’s supposedly called “macédoine” – and Macedonia is an area in the north of Greece. Alexander the Great was from Macedonia, but he never ate Russian salad. He didn’t even know potatoes existed.

  • 4 potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 small finely chopped pickled cucumber and / or 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1,5 cup mayonnaise, (more if you want it to be totally Greek)
  • salt, pepper
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • parsley for garnish. (If you want to garnish, that is)

Boil the potatoes, carrots and peas separately, and cool them. Cut the potatoes and carrots in cubes and mix them with peas and pickled cucumber / capers. Then mix in mayonnaise with salt and pepper. Chop two of the eggs and fold them in, garnish with the last egg. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

As a variation you can substitute the potatoes with “gigantes”, large white beans/butter beans. Boil them yourself or buy canned. This way, the salad tastes more Greek, somehow.

By the way it’s quicker to make this if you cut the potatoes and carrots in cubes before you cook them. Some of the nutrients vanishes in the water, but if you’re busy …

For print, copy url: http://wp.me/s14tPb-rosiki and click the button: Print

Sofrito Kerkiraiko / Sofrito from Corfu

Google sofrito, and you’ll find a confusing lot of hits, because dishes by that name are made in almost the whole Mediterranean area, in Cuba, Puerto Rico… The list is long, but the ingredients are not the same everywhere. Greek sofrito comes from Corfu, which may well mean that the dish came to Greece via Italy – and now  a history lecture could follow, but it won’t. Sofrito can be tender veal with a sauce of white wine or vinegar, garlic and parsley, or as here, lamb or beef cooked long in these ingredients.

This recipe is actually stolen from Myrsini Lambraki, a known Greek cookbook author and TV chef, but she uses only white vinegar in her recipe, I use only white wine. Many sofrito recipes are with white wine, so I really do not cheat, I just am of the opinion that meat cooked in vinegar… not so great. But in white wine it’s fantastic!

  • 1 kg boneless pot roast beef or lamb
  • 0,4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup stock (water + cube is ok)

Cut meat into cubes, about 2 x 2 cm. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a large bag and shake the meat well in this, make sure all pieces are completely covered with flour. Heat the olive oil and butter in a thick-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, and brown the meat. Add the rest of the ingredients, and simmer under lid until the meat is really tender, about 1 to 1.5 hours. The sauce should be thick by then, remove the lid if not. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with rice and / or cooked vegetables.

For 4.

For print, copy url: http://wp.me/s14tPb-sofrito and click the button: Print

Mezedakia / snacks

Mezedes is the Greek word for appetizers, but it can also describe a small plate of snacks served with wine, ouzo or a drink. Greeks don’t drink alcohol without eating a little (or a lot). You’ll experience this both in the bars and if you get served alcohol in friends’ homes. It could be something as simple as a bowl of sliced cucumbers, olives or peanuts, or slightly more advanced, like pieces of grilled squid or sausage. Here are some ideas:

Carrot and Cucumber: Cut vegetables into strips, salt them and serve. If you need enough for an entire party, put the vegetables in ice-cold, very salty brine in the refrigerator, and use when needed.

Feta with Honey: Cube the feta, grind over pepper, and sprinkle some Greek honey on top.

Feta with olive oil: Cube the feta; sprinkle them with a really good olive oil, dried oregano on top.

Cheese with salami: This is found in many countries, but use a Greek cheese and it becomes Greek… Graviera or Kefalotyri are my favourites, both quite hard yellow cheeses with great flavour. Cut them into cubes and attach a small piece of salami on each cube with a toothpick.

Crackers with topping: Use small crackers or small pieces of toasted bread, no bigger than a mouthful, and add a little tirokafteri or olive puree:

  • 1 cup black olives
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil
  • optional: 2 – 3 anchovies
  • salt, pepper

Pit the olives. Run everything except salt and pepper in a food processor, season with s + p. Let the puree stand for at least a couple of hours to develop flavour. Add a little puree on top of each cracker.

The puree can be stored for a long time in the refrigerator. (And to add a completely un-Greek thing: Plenty of butter on the toast – before you add the puree – that is seriously good!

For print, copy url: http://wp.me/p14tPb-2i and click the button: Print
 

Tirokafteri / feta cream

Tirokafteri (or kopanisti as it’s also called) is a spicy, mashed feta cream or dip. Thus, the basis is, of course, a piece of feta. The rest of the ingredients vary from kitchen to kitchen, place to place. Some people use olive oil, some yogurt to make the dip softer, some use vinegar, some lemon juice to add some acidity. Dried or fresh chilli, Tabasco or cayenne pepper for “hotness”, and some add oregano, others garlic. Finely, chopped pimiento / grilled, peeled peppers are optional. In other words, this recipe can be varied almost infinitely. The only thing that is important is that you have really good Greek feta, not a Danish imitation or some such nonsense. Also, this is one of the few dishes in Greek cuisine that tastes (slightly) hot, but the amount of chilli or the like is of course up to you.

Tirokafteri can be served with warm pita bread or a few slices of country bread, or as a mezé (snack).

  • 200 g Greek feta
  • 5 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • chilli / chilli pepper / Tabasco / cayenne pepper to taste, start with 1 teaspoon let’s say cayenne and taste your way.
  • 1 to 2 roasted, peeled and cleaned peppers; the easiest way is to buy canned ones.

Mash feta well with yogurt, vinegar, oregano and chilli. Stir in the finely chopped pepper fruit. Done!

The dip can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator, and should be eaten at room temperature. The flavour develops over time. A Pita bread recipe can be found here, or buy ready-made and just heat them a bit in the oven.

Gigantes Ston Fournos / baked butter beans

Many Greek dishes take time to make, but they are not very labour intensive. They pretty much take care of themselves, boiling on the stove or baking in the oven. Gigantes Ston Fournos is such a dish, needing both boiling and baking, and the beans even have to soak overnight. But it’s really yummy in the end!

A few words about the beans: Gigantes are large, dried beans, we call them lima beans or butter beans. The longer the beans have been dried, the longer cooking time they need, and so it is difficult to specify the exact time. But start by following the instructions in the recipe, and taste your way. The beans should be completely soft, like butter (hence the name, I guess) when they are ready.

  • 2 cups Gigantes / butter beans
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 grated, ripe tomato, or 1 / 2 tin of tomatoes
  • ½ litre water
  • 1 bunch parsley, or celery leaves if you can find them, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • pepper
  • ▪ salt

Place the beans in water overnight. They swell a lot, so use plenty of water in a large bowl.

Heat oil, fry the onion until it just begins to brown, add tomato puree, tomato, water and all the spices except salt. Be careful, it can splutter if the oil is too hot! Cook the sauce for 20 minutes.

Drain the beans, boil them in new water for 20 minutes, and drain again. Mix the beans and tomato sauce and pour this in a wide, ovenproof dish. Bake at 190 degrees for 1.5 – 2 hours. Turn the beans occasionally and add more boiling water if it seems dry. Season with salt when the beans are soft and the dish ready. Eat warm or at room temperature, as a main dish or mezé.

Frappé

It may sound French, but this coffee is as Greek as it gets. Invented in Thessaloniki in 1957, it has spread to every nook and cranny in Greece, and is to be drunken slowly in the company of a glass of water. The basic ingredients are instant coffee, water and ice cubes, but sugar and evaporated milk can be added to your taste. Whatever you choose, a frappé must be sipped through a drinking straw. Not only is this necessary because of the bitterness of the froth, the straw is also used to repeatedly stir the coffee.

For one tall glass you’ll need:

  • 2 ts instant coffee, as dark roasted as possible
  • cold water
  • ice cubes
  • Optional:
  • sugar, 2 or 4 teaspoons *)
  • evaporated, full fat milk

The frappé can be made directly in the glass, which is the simplest if you have an electric drink mixer, or in some kind of shaker – any high container with a lid is fine.

Whip/shake coffee, sugar if you like, and a little of the water until a really thick froth is formed. Fill your glass with ice cubes. (If you used a shaker, now is the time to pour the frothy coffee over the ice.) Fill up with water. Top up with a splash of milk if using.

The amount of sugar is entirely up to you. In Greece, you can order your frappé in these varietys:

  • Sket0: No sugar
  • Metrio: 2 ts sugar
  • Glyko: 4 ts sugar
  • If you add “me gala” to your order, you’ll be served a milky frappé.

So: Ena frappé, sketo me gala, parakalo! (One frappé, unsweetened, with milk, please!)