Tag Archives: salad

Your Seat At The Greek Table

There’s more to great food than just a recipe.

Three Sisters Around the Greek Table: A Cookbook

Where does a recipe come from? At first blush, it seems like a simple question to answer. You have a basic idea of what you would like to make. You add some things to it and take some things away. You experiment with cooking times and techniques and before you know it, Voila! A dish is born.

Do you think that’s how your mother did it? Or, how about your great grandmother? I’m going to go out on a limb and say probably not. I’m not suggesting that there wasn’t some creating back then. But, I think there was a lot of passing too. Passing family recipes from one hand to the next. Hoping to preserve a legacy of great food and important family food traditions.

There’s a lot of history in all ethnic foods. None more so than Greek cuisine. The Greek culture is proud of their dishes. They are woven into the very fabric of their lives. For those of us who don’t share that heritage, it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to have an insider’s view. And, three sisters, originally from Toronto Canada are offering you a great look.

Their cookbook, Three Sisters Around The Greek Table is a tribute to the recipes of their past (and their future). These are classic Greek dishes that have more than stood the test of time. They hold a special meaning for Betty, Eleni and Samantha. For the rest of us the history might not be there, but, the amazing flavors sure are.

These dishes are presented in a simple and straightforward manner. There isn’t anything tricky about any of them. It’s more about a passion for sharing a piece of their culinary roots than anything else. That’s a good thing.

I wanted to make something that would really exemplify the rustic nature of traditional Mediterranean fare. The Grilled Whole Red Snapper would be a perfect choice.

Whole Roasted Ren Snapper

Understand, I fully intended to make this recipe using the above-mentioned red snapper. But, something unexpected happened when I was shopping for my ingredients.

One word, Branzini. I like red snapper, but, I love branzini. Whole branzini right there in my local fish counter. And, to make things even better, the sign below the fish read “Fresh From Greece”. There couldn’t be a better choice. I was living right.

Branzini

The recipe is super easy. Have your fishmonger scale and gut your fish. Stuff it with some fresh oregano and lemon slices.

Stuffed Branzini

Heat your grill. Rub your fish with olive oil. Salt and pepper generously. Grill 6 to 8 minutes per side. I cut a couple of small slits in the skin on each side of the fish to help distribute the heat while it’s cooking.

Grilled Branzini

It’s just that easy. That skin was really crispy and delicious too.

The recipe calls for a Lemon, Oregano & Olive Oil Dressing to drizzle over the top.

You didn’t think I forgot a side dish did you? No way. The Horiatiki Salata (Tomato & Cucumber Village Salad) made an excellent partner for the fish.

Ingredients
3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
½ sweet onion, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. salt

Method
In a large bowl, toss all of the ingredients together. Mix well. Add a little fresh feta to the top of each salad when serving.

I have a friend of mine who is from Greece. He’s from an older generation than I am (is that OK to say?). When I told him that I was going to make a Horiatiki Salata, his eyes lit up! He was happy to inform me that each small village or town in this native Greece, has their own unique variation on this classic dish. You could just see him effortlessly drift back in time. Amazing what food can do!

Horiatiki Salata
Recipe adapted from Tomato & Cucumber Village Salad, Around The Greek Table, Betty, Eleni and Samantha Bakopoulos, Adelfes © 2009.

Here’s how it all came together. The fish was light and flaky.

Whole Roasted Red Snapper

The Bottom Line: If you’re in the market for a cookbook that really captures the essence of traditional Greek cuisine then look no further. Around The Greek Table will make you feel like you have special access to the Bakopoulos sisters family recipe box.

BUY IT - Three Sisters Around the Greek Table: A CookbookAuthors: Betty Bakopoulos, Eleni Bakopoulos, Samantha Bakopoulos
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Delphi Distribution
ISBN-10: 098134050

 

BUY IT - Three Sisters Around the Greek Table: A Cookbook

Bobby Flay Brings “American” Brasserie Food To Your Table

There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with getting something right that could have gone horribly wrong.

BUY IT! - Bobby Flay's Bar Americain Cookbook: Celebrate America's Great Flavors

I’ve been noticing lately that too many things have become unnecessarily complex. Complicated without reason. More difficult than they need to be and happy about it. I find a lot of cookbooks to be that way. A seemingly simple dish is suddenly transformed into a colossal pain in the ass just after you’ve diced the first stalk of celery. Sound familiar?

Thankfully, this isn’t one of those things. This thing is easy. It’s simple, but, at the same time elegant enough to be enjoyed by those outside of your immediate family. It’s one of those things that when it’s completed you still have enough strength to lift your own fork. A pleasure.

We all know Bobby Flay, Not personally of course, but, through the magic of food television. Whether he’s challenging a Memphis BBQ whiz to a pulled pork “Throwdown” or doing some old school outdoor grillin’ with Jack McDavid, Bobby always makes it look easy.

Almost every cookbook out these days seems to have a theme. It appears to be tougher than ever to release a cookbook that encompasses a whole range of styles and types of dishes. Most of these new releases have a “plot”. They’ve become specialized. And, Bobby’s new book is no different. American Brasserie cuisine.

Bar Americain, is one of his most recent restaurant ventures. It’s a hybrid of sorts. A French brasserie look with distinctly American food. A great combination if it’s done right. And, as you would imagine, it is. The book, Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook: Celebrate America’s Great Flavors, aims to bring that same cuisine right into your home. And, it succeeds.

It’s packed with over one hundred recipes and an equal amount of mouthwatering food images. These are broken down into the customary and usual parts. Starting with cocktails and ending somewhere around dessert. It manages to catch everything in between. There is even a nifty little brunch chapter towards the back.

Crumbled Blue Cheese

I’m going to give the Boston Lettuce Salad a whirl. It looks pretty amazing. It has bacon, a poached egg and buttermilk blue cheese dressing. How could this be anything but delicious?

Now when you check out the ingredient list and then the directions, you’re going to say, “are you joking”, this looks like a bear. Not so. Most of the recipes in this book look WAY more difficult then they actually are to prepare. The recipes seem to be a touch detailed. I think it stems from an effort to be complete and make sure that you have the best chance for a successful outcome. Those aren’t bad intentions. But, trust me, you can make any of these dishes.

Blender

Oh, did I forget to mention that you’re going to need a blender? You’re going to need a blender.

I made the Buttermilk-Blue Cheese Dressing and the White Wine Vinaigrette in the morning, so it would be easy to put it all together for a casual lunch (I also cooked the bacon ahead).

Perfectly Cooked Bacon

Here’s How To Do It

BUTTERMILK-BLUE CHEESE DRESSING
Ingredients
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour crème
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 oz. Maytag blue cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Method
Place the first three ingredients in a blender. Blend until thoroughly combined. With the motor still running, slowly add the blue cheese. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

WHITE WINE VINAIGRETTE
Ingredients
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
1/3 cup canola oil
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Method
Whisk together the first three ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified.

OK, neither of those first two things are that tough right. Both of the above can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. I recommend that. It makes for less hassle when you’re constructing the final dish.

BOSTON LETTUCE SALAD
Ingredients
1/4 lb. thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
4 large eggs
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper
1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated
3 radishes, thin sliced
2 oz. Maytag blue cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped fine

Method
In a medium pan cooked the bacon over medium heat until golden brown and the fat has been rendered. About 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain and cool.

To poach the eggs, bring 1 quart of water and the vinegar to a simmer in a deep sauté pan. Break the eggs, one at a time into a ramekin or small dish and carefully slide the eggs into the water. Simmer until the whites are set, but, the yolks are still runny. About 3 minutes. Transfer cooked eggs to a paper towel to drain.

Put a large dollop of the buttermilk-blue cheese dressing in the center of a large dinner plate. Place the lettuce leaves in a large bowl and toss with half of the white wine vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange lettuce leaves on top of blue cheese dressing.

Place an egg on top of the arranged lettuce. Place bacon and radishes on the plates and drizzle with a little more of the white wine vinaigrette. Add the blue cheese crumbles and chives.

Plate and serve to your soon to be happy guests.

Serves 4

Boston Lettuce Salad

Recipe adapted from Boston Lettuce Salad, Bobby Flay, Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson , Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook: Celebrate America’s Great Flavors, Clarkson Potter

TIP: Getting the cooked poached egg off of the paper towel is a little tricky. I used a slotted spoon to remove each of the eggs from the water. I made sure that they were drained well before placing the egg on top of the salad. This seemed to work great and no watery mess on the lettuce.

The Bottom Line: The marketplace is flooded with cookbooks by celebrity chefs and wannabe celebrity chefs. So much so that it’s sometimes hard to tell the gold from the rust. Bobby’s new book is gold. It contains lots of tempting recipes that you’ll be dying to try. Don’t be intimidated by directions that are more than one paragraph long. In reality, theses dishes are easier to make than they appear to be in print.

BUY IT!: Bobby Flay's Bar Americain Cookbook: Celebrate America's Great Flavors

BUY IT!: Bobby Flay's Bar Americain Cookbook: Celebrate America's Great Flavors

Authors: Bobby Flay, Stephanie Banyas and Sally Jackson
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Clarkson Potter (September 20, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0307461386

A Reconstructed Caprese Salad

A salad is a salad is a salad, and then…

Fresh Basil

One thing that I can grow is basil. I think most everybody can. If you’ve been reading the exploits of my community garden adventure this summer, you’ll know that I can’t grow much more than that. The basil that I’m raising this summer isn’t growing out on that shared plot. Maybe that’s why it’s flourishing.

I’m at the point now where it’s time to start giving some away, start a pesto making operation out of my shed or risk being overtaken by herbs. Before I open my roadside basil stand or break out the heavy duty food processor another option comes to mind. It’s summer, so, how about a Caprese?

In my humble estimation, Caprese is one of the best all around summer salads (avocado, tomato and feta is also right up there for me). The Caprese is nice because you can experiment without taking people too far out of their salad comfort zone. You’ve seen a thousand different platings of this classic starter. Today I was opting for a reconstructed version.

I use the term reconstructed instead of the “oh, so popular” deconstructed, because I consider a Caprese Salad to be deconstructed to begin with. A slice of ripe tomato, a wedge of fresh mozzarella and a leaf or two of aromatic basil. It’s up too you to put it all together on your fork and then in your mouth. You decide the proportions and makeup of each delicious bite. It doesn’t get more deconstructed than that.

My idea was to take the concept one step further. Plate each individual element so that your salad is uniquely you. In short, three separate parts to the serving plate. Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Dressed up a little and then served in a casual, family style manner. Everybody gets to reconstruct in anyway they choose.

I think I got it right!

Caprese Salad

My guests did too!

Here’s How To Do It

Ingredients
2 whole ripe tomatoes, cut in chunks
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn in half
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
On a large serving platter make three rows. One row of tomato chunks, the center mozzarella cheese and the last row basil. Divide the olive oil and drizzle 2 tablespoons over the tomatoes and the other 2 tablespoons over the basil. Divide the balsamic and do the same. Salt and pepper to your liking. Use a large serving fork and let your guests take as much or as little of each ingredients as they like.

Note: Adjust the amount of olive oil and vinegar to your particular taste. Some people like more, some less.

Serves 4

Seeing as this is a cookbook site, here are a few links to some great cookbooks that feature other variations on the classic Caprese. You’ll also find some other recipes that are sure to go great with your salad.

If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons
Insalate: Authentic Italian Salads for All Seasons
Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes