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.

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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!