Galactoboureko (Custard Fyllo Pie)

Galactoboureko

For those of you who haven’t tried this dessert yet, you do NOT know what you’re missing! It’s one of those desserts that doesn’t over-stuff you, and is really nice after a dairy meal. For those of you that have tried it… well, you know what I’m talking about 🙂 If you’re wondering about the ingredient “cream of wheat”, you can use packages of unflavoured cream of wheat instant cereal or it is also sold as farina.

Ingredients:

4 cups milk
1 cup cream of wheat
5 tablespoons sugar
5 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup clarified unsalted butter
1 pound fyllo pastry

Syrup:

2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 lemon slices
3 cups water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make the custard, put the milk, cream of wheat and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Beat egg yolks lightly and slowly fold them into the milk mixture. Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the clarified butter and mix well. With a pastry brush, grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with some of the clarified butter. Place a sheet of fyllo dough on the bottom of the pan and brush with the butter. Continue layering half the fyllo sheets in this manner, brushing each sheet with some of the butter. Pour in the custard filling and cover with the rest of the fyllo sheets, following the same brushing of butter. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. In the meantime, to make the syrup, put sugar, cinnamon, lemon slices and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, uncovered, until syrup begins thickening. Remove lemon slices and cinnamon and let syrup cool. When the hot pie comes out of the oven, pour cooled syrup slowly over the top. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.

A Little Lesson In Architecture… and Urban Legends

Greek Archiecture

So there is a bit of ancient misnomer that the Ancient Greeks and Romans had built rooms called Vomitoriums. Well, that part is true, they had the room, but the use of the room is the misnomer. The Latin word vomitorium, plural vomitoria, derives from the verb vomō, vomere, “to spew forth.” In ancient Roman architecture, vomitoria were designed to provide rapid egress for large crowds at amphitheatres and stadiums, as they do in modern sports stadiums and large theatres.

The common misconception is that the Ancients designated spaces called vomitoria for the purpose of actual vomiting, as part of a binge and purge cycle. According to Cicero, Julius Caesar escaped an assassination attempt because he felt ill after dinner. Instead of going to the latrine, where his assassins were waiting, he went to his bedroom and avoided assassination. This may be the origin of the misconception, however the term vomitorium does not appear until the 4th century AD, about 400 years after Caesar and Cicero.

Now while I do not in ANY way promote eating disorders of ANY kind, I can understand the desire sometimes after a large meal to feel the need for a purging room. I mean, you need room for dessert! Especially a dessert like the one in today’s recipe. Don’t try and breaking your teeth trying to pronounce it, just make it and eat it! Enjoy!

Mains: One Meat & One Dairy – And Everyone Is Happy!

Moussaka

Mousakas Latheros (Vegetarian Mousaka)

Ingredients:

4 medium eggplants
1 cup oil
3 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 cup milk
3 large eggs, beaten
8 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the stems from the eggplants and cut lengthwise into thin slices. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside to drain in a colander. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Lightly sauté the potato slices over medium heat until they start turning golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onions until they are soft and golden, then remove from the oil and set aside. Add the eggplant to the skillet and sauté until soft and lightly coloured. Remove from the skillet and layer the vegetables in a medium baking pan, beginning with the eggplant, then potatoes, then the onions, until all of the ingredients are used. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, and spread the mixture over the vegetables. In another bowl, thoroughly mix the milk, eggs and feta cheese. Pour this mixture over the tomatoes. Rock the baking dish gently to distribute the cheese mixture evenly. Bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and crusty.

Greek Lemon Chicken 1

Greek Chicken

Ingredients:

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 lemons
4 large cloves of garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4-5 pepperoncini, sliced, plus liquid from jar
½ cup olive oil

Directions:

In a large container or freezer bag, place the chicken, the salt, pepper, sliced pepperoncini, and the mashed garlic. Rub the oregano in your hands to bring out the essential oils and add that to the mix. Zest the lemons, then quarter and squeeze the juice from the lemons into the mixture and add the lemons and zest as well. Lastly add the olive oil and about ¼ to ½ cup of juice from the pepperoncini to the mixture. Seal the bag or cover the container and toss the chicken around to make sure every bit is covered. Let marinate for 30 minutes to an hour in the fridge. Do not let it go overnight, as the acids in the salt and lemons will start to cook the chicken, and it will become rubbery. In a large skillet, sauté the chicken, (along with the bits of lemon, peppers and garlic) in the oil from the marinade. The chicken will brown up nicely. Sauté until cooked through. Serve over rice, couscous or orzo.

The Greek Way of Life

Eat GreekYou can always tell a lot about the lifestyle of a country, the way of life, by seeing how they eat. How Greeks eat is a very different pattern to other countries, and tends to reflect the Mediterranean lifestyle as seen in other countries that lie around this body of water. The Western world has drilled into our heads that we must ALWAYS have breakfast, normally packaged cereals or toast with jam, or the English breakfast of fried eggs, sausages and bacon (sorry kosher followers, the best we can do is the fake stuff!). For the midday meal, a packed lunch of sandwiches or a roll. Then our biggest meal of the day will be in the evening, followed by falling into bed within a few hours afterwards. The Greek way of life has always been to eat their main meal of the day at midday – a much healthier time to eat. So lets have a look at the traditional way of how Greeks eat.

Breakfast – Proino – Greeks start work early – necessary in the summer in order to finish early to miss the heat of the day. Breakfast is usually a cup of coffee, (for most adults – accompanied with a cigarette!). Occasionally, they may have a slice of sweet bread, such as tsoureki, or a sweet bread roll to eat with their coffee. Most of the time, Greeks will stop to buy something on the way to work, for a mid morning break, or on the way back from the markets, such as a tiropita – cheese pie or a koulouri – a bread ring, a little like a bagel, covered in sesame seeds, that you can find from street vendors all over Greece.

Dinner – Mesimeriano – The midday meal has always been the main meal of the day, although the Greeks won’t sit down to eat until about 2pm. Shops and businesses have traditionally always closed at 2pm. At this time, all Greeks would go home to have their main meal of the day. Everyone would come together to sit down and spend some time together at the table, leisurely eating their way through several courses or plates of food. There would be plates of appetizers, salads – the Greeks wouldn’t consider a meal complete without one type of salad or another on the table, and a main meal such as meat, fish or a baked dish such as Stifado or Moussaka. There would be a basket of thick slices of crusty bread. A carafe of red wine would complete this meal. After this hefty meal, they would have a siesta, and lie down for an hour or two, to rest, to digest their meal and in the summer months to get a break from the heat. Siesta’s normally lasted from 2-5pm. If Greeks were having their meal at a Taverna, they could easily sit there for 2 or 3 hours, taking their time over their food, and enjoying the company. Eating is never rushed in Greece! Some evenings, shops and businesses would then re-open from 5:30-8:30ish. Some would return to work at this time, others may go out shopping, making the most of the cooler weather in the summer months.

Tea – Vrathino – The Greeks would often meet to eat their evening meal about 8:30-9:00pm. This would be a lighter meal than the midday dinner. If eating at home, they may have an omelette, some baked or steamed vegetables or a Greek Salad with feta, possibly with tzatziki and some crusty bread. They may have a Greek dessert such as Galactoboureko. Another favourite is Greek yogurt, with honey and pistachios. If they are eating out at a taverna and it is a celebration, then they would eat a lighter meal at lunchtime and have a large meal in the evening. Again, the waiter would bring plates and plates of appetizers, salads and mains for all to share. At a taverna, there are always lots of little plates, and it is custom for everybody to share and have a taste from all the plates. When eating out in the evening, Greeks would rarely turn up at a taverna before 9pm, in the summer it could be as late as 10 or 11pm.  (In the summer, it really is too hot to eat early in the evening, and having had a siesta, they are ready to do work or other activities before stopping to eat again.) The Greeks will make a night of it once they are out, eating and drinking for hours. Taverna owners expect this, and are not standing over them waiting for them to leave at 11:00pm like they do in other countries! In the winter months, although not quite as late, it would still be at least 8pm before any Greeks would consider going out to eat.

As the way of life changes, so too do the habits and lifestyle of people. Many Greeks living in the cities are now having to travel further to their jobs and for some it is no longer convenient to stop work for 2-3 hours, go home and eat and then return to work. Because of this, and with Greece now being part of Europe, and conforming to European hours, more and more shops and businesses are not closing at midday and re-opening later, instead they are opting to stay open all through the afternoon and some evenings as well. This lifestyle change has an effect on how Greeks eat.  Although they haven’t yet gone over to mass packaged and processed food, fast food places, alongside souvlaki and pie shops are appearing to cater to these workers. Habits die hard though, and many Greeks who now have to work all day through, will take some Greek food to work with them, cooked from home, complete with salad and bread, to still eat the way they are used to.

A Greek Chorus of Appetizers

Stacked Greek Salads

Stacked Greek

Ingredients:

4-6 large tomatoes, hothouse, beefsteak or even romas, sliced ¼” thick
8oz. feta cheese, sliced ¼” thick
1 red onion, sliced thin
1 cup olives, green or kalamata, sliced
1-2 english cucumbers, sliced ¼” thick
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
salt and pepper

Directions:

On individual plates or a large serving platter, arrange 6 slices of tomato, then layer on top cheese, onions, cucumbers, some olives and sprinkle with some oregano and pepper. Then if possible (depending on your stacking skills), create another layer of the ingredients and finish off with a drizzling of olive oil and lemon juice. If needed, you can skewer the stacks with bamboo sticks to help balance everything.

Greek Dip

Greek Mediterranean Dip
Original recipe makes 10 servings

Ingredients:

1 (10 ounce) container red pepper hummus
1 (10 ounce) container of tzatziki
½ cup finely chopped Kalamata olives
½ cup finely chopped artichoke hearts
½ cup diced fresh tomato
¾ cup peeled and diced cucumber
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup finely diced red onion
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:

This dish is great if you can serve it either in a glass pie dish that is wide and shallow OR a trifle dish that lets you see all the beautiful layers. It’s also really easy in that it’s just a “dump” recipe, where you can add a bunch of pre-made things together to make them look incredible. Start by spreading out the layer of the hummus, then the tzatziki. Then layer on the rest of the vegetables and then top with the cheese and onions. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle on the oregano. Serve with toasted pita chips or tortilla chips and enjoy!

Spanakopita

Spanakopita

Ingredients:

½ cup olive oil, divided
2 large onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach – thawed, drained and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 (4 ounce) packages feta cheese, crumbled
4 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 (16 ounce) packages fyllo dough

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Heat half of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Slowly cook and stir onions until softened. Mix in spinach, dill and flour. Cook approximately 10 minutes, or until most of the moisture has been absorbed. Remove from heat. Mix in feta cheese, eggs, salt and pepper. With a pastry brush, coat a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with some of the remaining oil. Lay a sheet of fyllo dough in the pan, brushing it with olive oil. Lay 4 more sheets of fyllo in the pan, brushing each with oil. Spread half the spinach mixture over the fyllo. Cover this with 3 more sheets of fyllo, brushing oil on each sheet. Spread the rest of the mixture over this and layer 5 more sheets, again brushing each sheet with oil. With a sharp knife, score the pie. Bake for 40 minutes.

Brrrrrrr Dreaming of Greek Isles

Mykonos

I have yet to accept the truth that it is winter and it’s only going to get colder. I refuse. I realize this isn’t logical. Nor is it sane. I do not care. In my mind I will be on the warm white isles of Mykonos. Surrounded by hills of villas, all stacked on top of each other, creating a beautiful and quite identifiable skyline. The whitewashed homes against the bright blue Aegean Sea are unmistakable. Now while we cannot all claim to be part of the Portokalos Family from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I like to think that by indulging in Greek treats, we can claim to be just a wee bit Greek. I was away at the beginning of this week in Chicago for a trade show, which boasts a large Greek community, but I think we can make up for lost time by posting a few recipes today. So, sit back, break out the Feta, and break a plate or two! Opa!

Baklava

Baklava

Baklava is an interesting dessert in that many different regions claim ownership over it. The Greeks, the Persians, the Turks and Arabs, they all want it! Truth is, I can’t blame them! It really is delicious! I got this recipe from Mrs. Alexopoulos, a wonderful Greek woman, who while not Moroccan, I’m sure wouldn’t mind me using it here during Moroccan week.

Ingredients:

8 oz. walnuts, finely ground
8 oz. almonds, finely ground
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup unsalted melted butter or margarine
1 lbs. Fyllo pastry

Sauce:
3 cups sugar
2 lemon slices
4 cups water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, cloves and sugar. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with some of the butter/margarine. Lay a sheet of fyllo dough in the bottom of the pan, brushing lightly with the butter/margarine. Layer 4 more sheets in the pan, brushing each with butter/margarine. Sprinkle the fyllo with some of the nut mixture and cover with 2 more fyllo sheets, brushing each with butter/margarine. Sprinkle the fyllo with the nut mixture. Repeat the layers of fyllo and nuts until all the nut mixture is used, making 4 or 5 layers. Cover the last layer of nuts with 4 to 6 sheets of fyllo that should be left, again brushing each lightly with butter/margarine. Turn under the edges of the fyllo and score the surface into diamond shaped serving pieces with a sharp knife. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the syrup; put the sugar, lemon slices and water in a large sauce pan and boil over a medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the lemon slices. The syrup should be thin, but not watery. When the baklava has cooled completely, pour the hot syrup over it. Let it stand for at least 3 hours before serving, so that the syrup is absorbed completely.

All’s Well That Ends…. Well, I Guess All Ends

Morocco Dream

Well here we are on the last day of Moroccan week, and to be honest… I have no idea how to end it… how’s that for the blunt truth? Yes, I have a great dessert recipe (Baklava for those that are asking), but a cute, kitschy blog? nope, sorry, fresh out! Sorry, it’s been a crazy week for me, and it is shaping up to be an even crazier weekend. I have a Bar-Mitzvah out of town for the son of friends of mine (how did I get old enough that my friends have children who are Bar-Mitzvah age?) and then on Sunday I leave for a trade show in Chicago for a few days. Yes, Chicago in November. I’m a glutton for punishment. So I guess you can understand why I’m having difficulty sticking to my week’s theme. Well, I guess I could fantasize about being in Morocco. About the warm air and golden sands… the Bedouin tents and foreign calls of the marketplace…. okay, I think I just accidentally sent myself somewhere back to Persia and Ali Baba’s days. Oh well, why don’t I just quit while I’m ahead and wish you all a good weekend and pray for the strength to get through mine!

Moroccan Mains: Chicken & Couscous

tumeric chicken

Moroccan Chicken

Serves 8
Ingredients:

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon salt
olive oil
2 onions, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, sliced ¼” rounds
4 stalks celery, sliced ¼” rounds
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 cups chicken broth
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained
2 zucchini, sliced ½” rounds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat adding a little olive oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown in the saucepan until almost cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrots and celery in same pan. When tender, stir in ginger, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and turmeric; stir fry for about 1 minute, then mix in broth and tomatoes. Return chicken to pan, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and zucchini to pan and bring to a simmer once again; cover pan and cook for about 15 minutes, or until zucchini is cooked through and tender. Stir in lemon juice and serve over the rice, plain couscous or the delicious couscous recipe below.

CouscousMoroccan Couscous

Ingredients:

1 ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
2 zucchinis, halved lengthwise and cut into ¾” pieces
½ cup golden raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
grated zest of one orange
1 540ml can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ cups couscous
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint*

Directions:

Place a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, ginger, cloves, cayenne, cardamom, coriander, and allspice; gently toast until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in oil and onion, cook until softened. Stir in the bell pepper, and zucchini; cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the raisins, salt, zest, and garbanzos. Pour in the chicken broth and orange juice; turn heat to high and bring to a boil. When the mixture is boiling, stir in the couscous and remove from heat; cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and fold in chopped mint.

*To learn how to inspect fresh mint, click here.

Happy Birthday Mamma!

Happy Birthday

Okay, for those who might not yet have figured it out, it’s my mom’s birthday today! Happy 29th Mom! Okay, so she’s not 29, ’cause that would make me… well, impossible, but that is beside the point. The real point is that it’s her birthday and she should be celebrated! Last night she got to go to the symphony and this weekend she will be surrounded by most of her children for Shabbous (the ones who live in the city, those that live out of town… well, you’re just not trying hard enough!) One of the birthday traditions that my family has is the Friday night (or the whole Shabbous if you’re lucky) closest to your birthday you get to plan the menu. It is made up of your favourite foods, regardless of what they are. Regardless I say! Yes, so when it was my little cousin’s birthday, and his favourite food was chicken nuggets and french fries from a certain fast food establishment, my mother went out an got Styrofoam containers and ketchup packets so she could dish up “happy-meals” of her own for his birthday meal. Now while my mother’s tastes are slightly more refined than mystery “chicken” in the shape of a “nugget” (exactly where on the bird is a nugget found?) She does always make a request for beef-a-roni. The quintessential comfort food of pasta, tomato sauce and ground beef that you just can’t resist. Fortunately for me, and my week’s theme, my mother also loves Moroccan dishes, and will not be insulted if instead of a pasta recipe, I post today one for a exotic, flavourful chicken to be served with a couscous chocked full of vegetables and North African spices. Knowing my Mom, she’d be just as happy, knowing that she didn’t have to cook either one 🙂 Happy Birthday Mom! I love you!