Monday, November 5, 2007

Dreamy Greece

i've never been to Greece, except in my dreams. i remember being deeply enamored with my father's Greek classics -- Antigone, Oedipus, Medea -- the myths of Greece completely entranced me and then there was THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT. i remember seeing that movie in the movie theatre -- long before i became a ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW groupie -- and thinking Susan Sarandon was pretty okay (now i think she's brilliant, but i don't think anyone would dispute that this is not her best film or anyone's, for that matter). but more than that was Greece. this extraordinarily beautiful country with such passion and life. it leapt off the screen and i knew i someday wanted to be a part of it. had to be.

then, of course, there was SUMMER LOVERS. totally sealed it for me. i remember a few months before i began dating my ex-husband that i was preparing to take a vacation in Greece. i had found a villa i wanted to rent along with a couple of girlfriends, our own staff, a private beach and we were ready to go when i fell in love. all bets were off. and i never made it to Greece.

but i haven't given up.

however, until i do, i indulge in Greek cuisine every chance i get. i love the flavors of the Mediterranean, the sense of true culinary leisure and sensual delight in the art of dining that comes through in everything created along those waters. there is a lustiness to it all, very Irene Papas and Telly Savalas. and the mezes that are part of the Greek celebration of food always give me more satisfaction than even tapas.

so this evening, we opened up our trusty dusty cookbook THE FOODS OF THE GREEK ISLANDS by the amazing Aglaia Kremezi and made not one but two of our favorite dishes to go along with a simple steak kinda deal -- a bit of salt, freshly ground pepper, dry crumbled oregano, some thyme and garlic with good olive oil, seared and let to rest for 15 minutes. yummy.

to that we added these two LAHANIDES ME PASPALA or Collard Greens with Pancetta, and PATATES RIGANATES or Roasted Potatoes with Garlic, Lemon and Oregano. check it out:

collard greens
2 pounds collard greens or kale
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces pancetta, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp aleppo pepper or pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2-3 tbs Greek sweet vinegar or balsamic vinegar

what to do:
1. in a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch the greens for 5 to 8 minutes or until just tender. drain, rine under cold running water to stop the cooking and drain well. coarsely chop the greens.
2. in a large skillet, heat the oil and saute the pancetta over medium heat until crisp. add the garlic and pepper or pepper flakes and saute for 30 seconds. add the greens and saute, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until coated with oil and hot. add the vinegar, toss and taste to adjust the seasonings. serve warm.

here's what we did:

instead of blanching the greens, i washed them and chopped them raw. i used swiss red chard and instead of pancetta, i used turkey bacon and less olive oil -- because we were low.

i'll tell you the report card after i give you the lowdown on the potatoes

roasted potatoes
3 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tsps dried oregano, crumbled
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup beef stock or chicken stock
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 tbs chopped fresh oregano

what to do:
1. preheat oven to 400ºF.
2. pleace the potatoes in a single laye in a 13x9-inch baking dish and pour the oil over them. add the garlic, dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste and toss well to coat with the oil.
3. bake the potatoes for 15 minutes. add the stock, toss and bake for 10 minutes more. add the lemon juice, toss and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the potatoes are cooked through. you can also preheat the broiler and broil the potatoes for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown.
4. sprinkle with fresh oregano and serve at once.

here's what we did:
i used yukon gold potatoes, which imparted a really creamy texture to the potatoes, used beef stock and left off the fresh oregano, because i didn't get a chance to go to the store.

the report card... ah, before i tell you that, let me share with you this:

brandon saw what we were having for dinner and told me he had an idea on how to plate it. i told him to go for it. so, he mounded some potatoes in the center of the plate, topped them with a dollop of the barbecue sauce we have leftover from our bobby flay night, topped that with slices of steak, mounded some greens to the side then served it all together. he said we had to eat it outside in -- a morsel of steak with a couple of pieces of potatoes topped with the sauce then followed by the greens. how he came up with this, i have no idea, but it was sublime. just amazing. he even ate all of his greens, which is one of his LEAST favorite veggies, although i keep trying new ways of getting him interested. he ate them all and even wanted more. whoa.

nicholas, who adores greens, ate two helpings of the greens then asked for them to take to school for lunch the next day. he liked the whole meal, but was a little full after it all -- he had a heavy duty football practice and was wiped out -- then ended up taking the whole thing -- potatoes and all -- with him to school this morning for lunch.

i marvel at my sons and their enjoyment of this part of my personal quest. so far, we've had successes with our meals and i hope we continue. but, more than anything, what i'm most excited about is nicholas and brandon's involvement. brandon's plating was yummy, beautiful and distinctly him.

even nicholas congratulated him on it.

i think we'll all go to Greece together.
they would like that.


Sarah said...

Can I go to Greece with you? (I'm betting on my brother-in-law marrying his Albanian girlfriend. In Albania. Which is close to Greece. Unfortunately for my travel plans, they don't seem in any hurry to tie the official knot.)

Seriously, this sounded really good. My stomach is growling. Your blog is very inspiring, but I'm fighting off some weird bug (headache, tired, no sore throat but splotchy tonsils), so I haven't got up the energy to cook yet. But I'm going to try a few of these recipes yet.

PalateScriber said...

i hope you're feeling better. i think i'll do a chix soup tomorrow night in homage of you.

take care o' you!