Sunday, September 7, 2014

Greek fried zucchini with yoghurt sauce

There’s nothing more classic in Greek cuisine than battered and fried eggplant and zucchini slices. When you go out to a taverna in Greece, these nibbles are amongst the first you order.

When you have a meat- or fish-based Sunday lunch at home, you whip these up as a meze to accompany the grand attraction. They are the go-to side dish for every Greek who respects themselves.

When they are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, they are the best. Paired with tzatziki or a simple yoghurt sauce, they are divine.

In order to change things up because admittedly I am so bored of eating them with a plain batter, I added some sesame seeds and fresh mint to it. It made a big difference as they enhanced the flavor of the zucchini, adding freshness and extra crunchiness. The dip of Greek strained yoghurt was flavored with ground coriander that was faintly spicy and provided acidity to the fried zucchini.

S and I loved it. Especially S who couldn’t keep his hands off of it long enough for me take a photograph.

Greek fried zucchini with fresh mint and sesame seeds and a yoghurt dip with ground coriander

I used small, light-colored zucchini that taste far better than the large, deep-green ones and are less watery but any old zucchini will do.
I used a mandoline to slice them but a sharp knife will do the job as well.

Yield: enough for 4-6 people as appetizer


for the zucchini
3 courgettes (600-650 g), cut into 0.5-0.7 cm slices on the diagonal
80 g all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
160 ml cold sparkling water
3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
Sunflower oil, for frying

for the yoghurt dip
7 Tbsp Greek 2% strained yoghurt
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ tsp ground coriander
1½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper (2-3 turns of the pepper mill)
¼ tsp salt

Special equipment: mandoline (optional)

In a medium-sized, high-sided, heavy-bottomed pan, add the sunflower oil. Be careful not to use a pan that’s too small, because the oil will rise and bubble and triple in size when you add the zucchini. You don't want the oil spilling out of the pan.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat. You can check if the oil is ready for frying by dropping in it a 2.5 cm cube of white bread and if it browns in 60 seconds, it is ready. If it browns in less time then your oil is too hot!

In the meantime, prepare the batter. It’s crucial that you prepare the batter at this point and not earlier, because this way it will retain the bubbles from the sparkling water and the zucchini fries will be more airy and crispy.

In a large bowl, add the flour and salt and mix with a whisk. Add the sparkling water, pouring it little by little and whisking continuously until it comes together into a somewhat thin batter. Add the sesame seeds and chopped mint and stir.

Once the oil is hot enough (it should be very hot so the zucchini doesn’t become soggy but crispy), dip the zucchini slices in the batter briefly and fry. Do not overcrowd the pan because they will not be uniformly fried. Fry them for 2-3 minutes, until they take on a golden color and crisp up.

While the zucchini is frying, prepare the yoghurt dip. Add all the ingredients for the dip in a medium-sized bowl and mix well with a spoon.

Remove the zucchini slices from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain excess oil. Then transfer them onto a platter and sprinkle with a little salt.

Serve immediately with the yoghurt dip.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fig and mascarpone bruschetta

Some things don’t need introductions. They are as simple as they can be yet still incredibly beautiful and satisfying.

When figs are ripe and sweet, mascarpone is creamy and ham is salty, then what more do you need than a slice of good, crusty bread, some runny honey with floral notes, a few sprigs of earthy, fresh thyme, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil?

A quick recipe for bruschette that you can make as an appetizer or serve as a nibble with a chilled glass of wine or a cold beer on a warm, late-summer evening.

One of the tastiest bruschette there is.

Hope you enjoy!

Fig and mascarpone bruschetta with ham and honey

Use any kind of cured, boiled or smoked ham of which the taste you enjoy.
Instead of mascarpone you can also use cream cheese, or for a different flavor profile and if you like its tangy and sharp flavor, goat’s cheese.
For a vegetarian option, omit the ham and add a sprinkle of good flaky sea salt on top of the bruschetta.

Yield: as many as you like

Bread slices (from a loaf of good crusty bread)
Ham slices
Fresh figs, cut in four or eight pieces
Fresh thyme leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Light-flavored runny honey
Flaky sea salt (optional)

Toast the bread either in the oven or in your toaster.
Spread enough mascarpone cheese to thickly cover them.
Lay either half a slice or a whole slice of ham on top.
Add the fig pieces (2-3 pieces for each bruschetta).
Sprinkle with some fresh thyme leaves.
Drizzle with a little olive oil and some honey.
Sprinkle some flaky sea salt if you wish over the top.
Eat at once.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

The summer of ice cream

At the beginning of summer, I said this was going to be the summer of ice cream and it was. I made so many types of icy treats, I can’t even believe it.

Many of them were memorable, some were mediocre and a few of them were flops. You got to have some of those too, right? Just for good measure.

The list is big but let me give you an idea:
Cantaloupe sorbet
Ginger ice cream
Pineapple and coconut semifreddo
Balsamic roasted strawberry ice cream
Greek frappe coffee ice pops
Peach and blueberry sorbet
Stracciatella ice cream (I still dream about this one)
Blackberry ice cream

Alas, I didn’t have the time to photograph most of them, which is kind of sad because I’m dying to share the recipes, but I did get the chance to photograph the blackberry ice cream that I made just a few days ago.

Blackberries are perhaps my favorite berries even though blackberries are technically fruits. That dark blue, glistening color and the smooth texture of their plump little drupelets is irresistible to me. I love eating them just as they are, savoring their sweet and tart notes, but in ice creams, jams and tarts, they are even more delicious.

Blackberries are full of antioxidants, vitamin C and fibers but I wouldn’t want to sell you this ice cream as a healthy one. Well, it has cream, eggs and sugar so who would I be kidding. It has, however, an amazingly fresh and fruity as well as slightly mellow creamy flavor with a hint of vanilla and lemon, paired with a rich, velvety texture that is highly addictive. Not to mention that gorgeous purple color. I could eat scoop after scoop without ever wanting to stop, but I had to control myself. Will you be able to?

Reminder: the Yummy Supper cookbook giveaway is still running so go to this post for a chance to win a copy. Thank you to all who have already left their comments!

Blackberry ice cream
Adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

Use fresh sweet blackberries but if the ones you find are on the tart side, add a bit more sugar to the blackberry pureé (about 20 g more).

Yield: about 1 kg


for the blackberry pureé
300 g fresh blackberries
80 g caster sugar
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

for the ice cream base
6 medium-sized egg yolks
120 g caster sugar
440 ml cream, full-fat (35%)
190 ml whole milk
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Special equipment: small food processor or blender, fine sieve, plastic wrap, ice cream machine (optional yet preferable)


make the blackberry pureé
In a small saucepan, add blackberries and sugar and stir well. Place pan over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes or until the blackberries soften and the liquid that they have released has somewhat reduced, stirring frequently.
Let cool slightly. Transfer the berries, their juices and the lemon juice to a small food processor or blender and pureé until smooth. Pass half of the mixture through a fine sieve and into a medium-sized bowl, pressing with a spatula to extract as much pureé as possible from the berries. Discard the solids and pour the rest of the pureé into the bowl with the strained pureé. Stir gently to combine, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

make the ice cream base
In a medium-sized bowl, add the egg yolks and half the sugar (60 g) and whisk well to combine. Set aside.

In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan, add the cream, milk, the rest of the sugar (60 g) and salt, place over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and heat until the mixture is warm but not hot.
Very slowly, pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking quickly and continuously so the eggs don’t curdle. Pour mixture into the saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, making sure to keep scraping the bottom of the pan. Stir the mixture until it thickens and coats the spatula.

Pour the custard through a fine sieve and into a clean bowl. Add the vanilla extract and stir well.

Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and a little water, and place the bowl with the ice cream mixture on top. Stir the mixture with a spatula in order to cool it down. Once cool, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Whisk the blackberry pureé into the chilled ice cream base and pour it into your ice cream maker. Continue, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Alternatively, if you don't have an ice cream maker, empty the ice cream mixture into a container suitable for the freezer. Put mixture in the freezer, take it out after 40 minutes and whisk it very well. You can also beat it with a spatula vigorously (or you can use a blender, or even a stick blender).
Continue doing the same thing every half hour, until it's too thick and frozen to beat or whisk. The whole process will take about two and a half hours.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Baked eggs on top of roasted cherry tomatoes + Yummy Supper cookbook giveaway

For as long as I can remember, I disliked eggs, but then something inexplicable happened and my taste changed. I found myself craving eggs, enjoying their flavor and the infinite combinations with other ingredients that can yield delicious dishes. I’d finally discovered their versatility.

For the past couple of years, I have become an egg enthusiast and S, an eternal egg fiend, is finally getting his fill of fried, poached and soft-boiled eggs.

I hadn’t ventured the world of baked eggs though. Not until Erin Scott introduced me to her recipe of baked eggs with cherry tomatoes found in her amazing upcoming book “Yummy Supper: 100 Fresh, Luscious & Honest Recipes from a {Gluten-Free} Omnivore”. Was I in for a treat!

Erin is an American from Berkeley in California and she’s one of the food bloggers I admire the most. Her beautiful recipes, her keen eye for food styling and her incredible ability to take the most amazing photographs of her dishes is enviable. She is honest and straightforward in her cooking and writing and her book reflects just that. Elegant dishes prepared in an unfussy manner; inviting recipes meant to be cooked in a relaxed way and shared with family and friends; food that is impressive and luscious yet not intimidating for the home cook. Her recipes are also gluten-free, but you will not find in the book any weird ingredients that are hard to source. Congratulations, dear Erin. Your book is awesome!

Eggs and tomatoes is a marriage made in heaven, especially during tomato season when they are sweeter and juicier than ever. Here, first the cherry tomatoes are roasted briefly in the oven until they start releasing their sweet juices and then they get a good sprinkling of grated parmesan, pepper and parsley. The eggs are cracked carefully on top and then in the oven they go for a few minutes until they set. A final sprinkling of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil and they are served, preferably with some good crusty bread to dunk into the glorious juices, or as Erin suggests, with some big buttery croutons or polenta fries (both recipes found in her book).

I served this for brunch but it would also make a lovely, light supper, or if you are a big breakfast person (sadly I’m not), it would be a delicious way to start your day.

Giveaway: I was honored to receive a copy of Erin’s book and I am happy to give away a copy for one of you!
What you need to do to enter, is leave a comment on this post, telling me what type of recipes you would like to see featured more on my blog. Would you like to see for example more Greek recipes? More desserts? How about meat-based or vegetarian recipes? Easy or more intricate recipes? Feel free to share.

The giveaway ends on August 26th, 11:59 pm CET (Central European Time). I will select a winner at random and will announce the name on this post the next day (August 27th).
One comment per person on either of my blogs (English or Greek), no anonymous comments please, and do write your email address in the comment so I can contact you if you win.
Also, the giveaway is open to Europe and US residents only.

Good luck!!

The giveaway has ended. I will announce the winner on August 27th!

The winner is 'Αντρη from my Greek blog. Congratulations!!

Baked eggs on top of roasted cherry tomatoes
Slightly adapted from Erin Scott’s Yummy Supper: 100 Fresh, Luscious & Honest Recipes from a {Gluten-Free} Omnivore

I normally would cook the eggs runny but my guests preferred them on the hard side. Cook them to your liking but runny are best.

Erin uses basil instead of parsley but you should know my feelings towards basil by now; it's my least favorite herb. Also, I added more cherry tomatoes (Erin adds 3 cups), and more olive oil (Erin adds 2 Tbsp) because I’m Greek and I need to add more olive oil.

Yield: 2-4 servings

4 full cups (about 650 g) fresh, sweet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼-½ cup grated parmesan
Fleur de Sel (or other flaky sea salt)
Freshly ground white pepper
A handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
3-4 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for serving
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Special equipment: rasp grater, small baking dish (mine was about 25x20 cm)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Add the halved cherry tomatoes to the baking dish and place on the middle rack of your preheated oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the tomatoes start releasing their juices and have wrinkled. Take the baking dish out of the oven. (At this point, Erin suggests pouring out some of the excess tomato juices if you wish but I didn’t and it was a good thing as we were left with lots of sweet juices to dunk our bread in).

Sprinkle the tomatoes with the grated parmesan, a couple pinches of Fleur de Sel, some ground white pepper and ¾ of the parsley leaves. Drizzle with the olive oil and crack the eggs carefully on top, spacing them apart. If you are unsure of your egg-cracking skills and worried that you might break them, crack them open first into a ramekin and then carefully slide them on top of the tomatoes.

Return the dish to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes depending on how you like to eat your eggs.

Take the dish out of the oven, sprinkle with some salt, pepper and the rest of the parsley, drizzle with a dash of olive oil, just enough to make the eggs glisten, and serve immediately with lots of good bread.


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