Archive for August, 2008

Kohlrabi Coleslaw

A month or so ago, my favorite apple farmer at the farmer’s market, Al, started to get in his apple crop. The early varieties are all tart and best for cooking in some way. But in the middle of summer, I like to keep my baking to a minimum so pies and tarts were right out. That’s when I hatched the idea for this ‘slaw.

This is a coleslaw in a minimal sense. There’s no thick dressing weighing it down. However, it’s very refreshing to have at an end-of-summer picnic. It’s nice and crisp, which is the point of coleslaw in my mind. It’s there to balance out the chewy hotdogs, tender baked beans and juicy fruit cobblers. And this one does just that.

Servings: 8-10 side dish servings

Cooking time: 20 minutes prep, 1 hour+ chilling

Ingredients:

  • 1 kohlrabi bulb (enough for 1 1/2 cups when chopped)
  • 2 small, tart apples (enough for 1 cup when chopped)
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp+ ground pepper (or white pepper if you have it)
  • dash of salt (less than 1/8 tsp)
  1. Peel off the outer layer of the kohlrabi. Chop into thin, matchstick-like pieces (julienne). Place in a medium bowl. Peel the apples and remove their seeds. Julienne them and add them to the bowl. Squeeze the juice of half the lime over the mixture (you may want to squeeze a little bit onto the apple immediately after you cut the first one to prevent it from turning brown). Finely chop the mint and add to the bowl. Add the spices and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Taste and adjust seasonings with additional lime juice and pepper if necessary. Serve with sunshine.

Note: this would be good with a 1/2 tsp of celery seeds mixed in.

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Courgette Croquettes

This time of year, everyone needs recipes for their prolific zucchini plants. I dared to plant one myself this year. Unfortunately, one of our windy rain storms toppled it over. Oh well. Zucchini are pretty cheap at the farmer’s market.

Not only is this a tasty way to use zucchini, it’s a continuation of my series of Greek recipes. The lemon and mint are really tasty here. The thing that’s tricky about this recipe is frying the croquettes quickly enough to cook all of them and get them to the table while they’re all still hot. I’m terrible at that. Nevertheless, they were quite tasty.

Servings: About 6 as a side dish with other items; enough for 8 appetizer servings

Cooking time: 40 minutes prep time, 1 hour+ chilling time, 30 minutes for frying

  • 5-6 medium zucchinis
  • half a medium white or yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves (enough for 1 1/2-2 tbps once minced)
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • fresh parsley, enough for 1 cup once chopped
  • fresh mint, enough for 1/3 cup once chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lemon
  • vegetable oil for frying
  1. Grate the zucchini in a large, mesh colander. Sprinkle lightly with salt (1/2 tsp) and let sit in a sink or over a bowl for at least 15 minutes, or while you complete step 2.
  2. Grate the onion into a large bowl. Mince the garlic and add it to the onion. Finely chop the parsley and mint, being careful to remove any large stems. Add them to the bowl.
  3. Push down on the zucchini in the colander to remove more of the water. Add the zucchini to the large bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, eggs and the juice of the lemon. Wash your hands. Mix together with your hands.
  4. Cover and chill the mixture at least one hour or over night. Shortly before you’re ready to serve them, heat 1/2 inch of oil in a pan. When you can feel heat coming off the oil about three inches above it, drop a small piece of bread in the pan. If it sizzles quickly, the oil is hot enough. (Make sure it doesn’t smoke.)
  5. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture into the hot oil, trying to keep the mix in a pile. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to fit five to seven croquettes in at once. Make sure to leave space around them though so you can flip them over. When a croquette is golden on one side (3-4 minutes), flip it to the other side. When a croquette has fried on both sides, remove it with a slotted spoon or spatula onto a plate lined with paper bags (to absorb the grease). Serve as soon as they’re all done.

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    Soutzoukakia

    Soutzoukakia are tasty Greek, oblong-shaped meatballs that reveal a bit of the influence Turkey had on the country in previous eras. They’re served with a tomato sauce usually over rice or sometimes mashed potatoes.

    The organization through which I did my studies in Greece sends newsletters every quarter or so. Each one has a recipe, supposedly ones that were tried out by students studying in Greece. Unfortunately, these recipes often have the same problems of my Greek cookbook. Said cookbook was only marginally better on this recipe. So for our Greek feast, I did a combination of the two recipes, and it turned out pretty well.

    It will seem as though there’s an excessive amount of parsley in this recipe. Don’t worry: it cooks down, and it takes a lot to get a real parsley flavor. And speaking of, a brief note on herbs in Greek cooking. In the whole meal I made, there was absolutely no dill. I don’t know where this idea came from that Greek food is full of dill, but I hardly tasted any of it when I was there. The most commonly used herb is definitely parsley, followed by mint and oregano. At least according to my taste buds.

    Servings: 5-6 as a main course, more as appetizers (it should make about 32 large meatballs)

    Cooking time: about 2 hours

    Ingredients:

    Meatballs:

    • 2 lbs ground meat (I used 1 lb pork and 1 lb turkey. Lamb or beef would be more traditional.)
    • 1 large or 2 medium yellow or white onions
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 large bunch of fresh parsley (this should make 2-3 cups when chopped)
    • fresh mint, enough to make 1/3 cup when chopped
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 cups dry breadcrumbs
    • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
    • 1 tsp paprika
    • 2 tsp ground cumin
    • 2 tsp dried oregano

    Sauce:

    • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (look for ones that don’t have any additives)
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 small onion, or half a large one (about 1/2 cup chopped)
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 1/2 cups water
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 scant tsp sugar (Most tomato-based sauces should have sugar to cut the acidity. Chili is the one major exception.)
    • salt and pepper to taste
    1. Dice the onions for the meatballs and put in a large bowl. Mince the garlic for the meatballs and add it to the onions. Chop the parsley and mint, being careful to remove any large stems from them. Toss these with the onions and garlic and the other herbs and spices (salt-oregano).
    2. In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with about 1/2 cup water and let stand a few minutes. If it’s not moist all the way through, add more water a tablespoon at a time. Mix with the items in the large bowl.
    3. Prep a very large, oven-safe pan (I used one 11×7 and one 8×8). Preheat the oven to 425. Wash your hands. Add the ground meat to the large bowl. Add the eggs and olive oil. Use your hands to mix everything thoroughly. This is fun! It’s a great way to take out stress, and it’s the best way to get everything thoroughly mixed. You should use this same technique for meatloaf.
    4. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, shape the meatballs into football-like shapes about 2-3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick at the thickest part. Try to make your meatballs evenly-sized so they cook evenly. Place each one in the pan, each one lightly touching another. I did three rows in each pan. When all the meatballs are shaped, place the pan(s) in the oven. Bake uncovered 20-25 minutes, until browned on the outside.
    5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat. Dice the onion and garlic, and add them to the hot oil. When the onion is translucent, but not caramelized, add the cinnamon and allspice. Cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, water, oregano, sugar and pepper. Let simmer at least five minutes or until the meatballs are browned on the outside. Adjust seasonings, adding salt if necessary (be sure to taste-you don’t know how salty your canned tomatoes might be).
    6. Remove the meatballs from the oven and reduce the heat to 375. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Cover the pan(s) with foil. Return the pans to the oven and bake 15-25 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through and sauce is bubbly. Serve over rice.

    Note: I went all the way through step 6 the night before our dinner, then reheated the meatballs for serving. The sauce will be a bit thick when reheated, so I’d recommend adding about 1/2 cup water to the pan before reheating. There’s no need to mix it; it will mix naturally as the sauce heats.

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    Tzatziki

    Earlier this week, I made a feast of Greek food to send off a friend who studies Classics. When I visited and studied in Greece about four years ago, I fell in love with it. The people, the landscapes, the weather, the language and most certainly the food.

    I bought a Greek cookbook while I was there so I could try to replicate some of the wonderful treats myself. However, like most translated cookbooks, the recipes aren’t always perfect. Besides the sometimes odd directions, there are poorly translated ingredients and many rough estimates of measurements. Many of these recipes clearly came out of a family kitchen where the cook learned to estimate based on how he or she knew the dish should turn out. Not exactly what a non-native needs.

    I’m going to try to publish a few of my re-interpretations of these recipes in the next few days. However, I start with my tzatziki recipe, which is not from the book at all, but from watching the cook in the dig house where I was working. It’s best to start on this recipe at least a day if not two before you plan on eating it so that the flavors blend. That makes this a great entertaining recipe because making this ahead of time actually improves its flavors and leaves you free to work on other items.

    This refreshing dip disappeared quickly at our dinner earlier in the week. I guess I should have doubled it!

    Servings: 5-6 appetizer portions

    Cooking time: Active time, about an hour. Start to finish, 2 days.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups plain yogurt (I used non-fat), or use 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt and skip step 1
    • 2 medium cucumbers
    • 3-4 garlic cloves (at least two tablespoons once minced)
    • 1 lemon
    • a little salt
    1. Line a sieve with cheese cloth or coffee filters (perhaps a double layer of coffee filters), and set this over a medium bowl. You should have 1-2 inches of space between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the sieve. Scoop the yogurt into the sieve. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.
    2. After the yogurt has drained (or maybe a little while before it’s done if you’re doing this all in one day), peel the cucumbers and slice them in half lengthwise. If you’re using large cucumbers, you may want to scoop out some of the seeds from the middle. Grate the cucumbers into a fine mesh strainer. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt (1/4 tsp is fine. Not more than 1/2 tsp.) Allow the cucumbers to sit in the sink or over a bowl and drain while you do step 3.
    3. Peel and mince the garlic. Scoop the drained yogurt out of the sieve and into a bowl. Add the minced garlic, stirring well, and set aside. Discard the yogurt whey.
    4. Back to the cucumbers. Wash your hands. Scoop all the cucumber shreds into a pile on one side of the strainer. Pick up a ball of shreds with your hands, 1/4 cup worth or so. Squeeze the cucumber over the empty side of the strainer. Amazing how much water it has, no? Do this with all the cucumber shreds. Once you think you’re done, push all the little balls of cucumber back together and squeeze them some more. I usually do this one against the side of the strainer. The amount of cucumber will probably be reduced by at least a third of what it was, if not a half. Mix these shreds into the yogurt.
    5. Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze the lemon halves over the yogurt mix through one hand to catch the seeds. Mix well. Taste. It might need a little more lemon or salt, but you might want to add these just before you serve it because the flavors will change during step 6.
    6. Cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight. Taste again before serving. It should be very garlicky…and delicious. Serve with pita wedges or pita chips, with some olives on the side.

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