Saturday, May 29, 2010

Greek pies for everyone

A while back I wrote, "I've never eaten at a Michelin starred restaurant so I can't tell you what a Michelin starred dish tastes like". This is not true any more. During this week, I had the pleasure of dining with friends at a one-Michelin starred restaurant in The Hague area and now I can say that I know what such dishes taste like. The experience was, for the most part, everything I was expecting and more.

As soon as we walked through the door, we realised that this was a unique place. It had a warm and welcoming atmosphere, not at all stuffy or too formal as one might expect. The décor of the restaurant was an interesting mix of modern design with touches of classic elegance and once we were shown to our table we got to enjoy the wonderful view of the restaurant garden. The service was exceptional. Polite waiters and waitresses with smiling faces were always present, filling our wine and water glasses and swiftly clearing our table. We had a three-course menu and everything came promptly without having to wait a long time between courses, something that almost always happens in Dutch restaurants, making it one of the reasons I don't like eating out in Holland.

The most important thing at a restaurant is always the food. That's what I was looking forward to the most. The restaurant served French cuisine with Dutch influences and seasonal local fresh ingredients. There was the element of surprise, pleasant surprise, which is always good, with the two small plates of hors d'oeuvres that were served to us shortly after we arrived. A spectacularly tasty cake with octopus ink and a crème fraiche filling and an assortment of chutneys, olives and cheese and mustard croquettes. We definitely started on a high note.

The first course came, which was a scrumptious green salad with white asparagus, cured ham and a hollandaise sauce and even though I've always hated the taste of white asparagus, that salad made me rethink my relationship with those white chubby spears.
We were anxiously awaiting our meat course. Roasted lamb on a bed of aubergine compote with a star-anise flavored lamb jus, polenta cakes and roasted cherry tomatoes. That was when we had our first hiccup. I loved everything on that plate except the most important component, the lamb. Actually not one of the four of us liked it. It was overly chewy, it was sinewy, it lacked any kind of flavor and it was extremely disappointing.

An unexpected pre-dessert milk shake with blueberries and blueberry liqueur, that was the most amazing milk shake I've ever had in my life, came to save the day or more correctly, the evening. A splendid dessert of curd mousse with balsamic-marinated strawberries and a yoghurt-basil ice cream followed. The ice cream had an incredibly fresh yoghurt flavor with a subtle hint of basil that was very different and exciting; I've never tasted such an ice cream before. If that wasn't enough, our coffee was served with the cutest petits fours that were quite delicious and that surely satisfied my never-ending desire for chocolate.

My first Michelin starred restaurant experience came to an end, leaving me and my friends wanting more. Even though I was not completely satisfied with the food, I'm certainly willing to give it another shot. Soon I hope.

From a one-Michelin starred kitchen to my little expat kitchen. From French cuisine to Greek cuisine. From Dutch seasonal produce to Greek Kalamata olives. Kalamata is a region of southern Greece that produces not only these sumptuous olives but also olive oil of excellent quality. Kalamata olives have such an extraordinarily pure and rich taste that is incomparable. Most of the olives are slit before being brined in sea salt or soaked in wine vinegar which marinates them, allowing the flavors to penetrate their flesh. They are usually sold packed in olive oil, brine, or vinegar. This natural, dark brown gem of an olive is one of the most famous Greek exports and they are coveted worldwide which is only natural, since they are one of the most flavorful olives in the world and my own personal favorites. Using them in this recipe of Greek pie rolls was a revelation.

A bite of Greece is a phrase that one can use to describe these pie rolls. Dough with olive oil and freshly squeezed orange juice, succulent olives, fresh fragrant mint, slightly caramelized onions, sesame seeds. Can it get healthier than that? It can. These pie rolls are baked in the oven as opposed to being fried which is the norm with small individual pies in Greek cuisine.

Making my own dough for any kind of pie is essential. Nothing tastes like the homemade stuff and in this case, it is more than true. Apart from being healthy, it is also quick and easy to make. Using olive oil rather than butter makes the dough lighter, shinier and more luscious and what's more important is that olive oil doesn't make the dough greasy. That seems to be the problem with most types of dough that include butter.

The filling of these pie rolls is superb, with gorgeous flavors. Biting into one of these, you can taste the slight saltiness of the Kalamata olives along with their fruity flavor which pairs perfectly with the herby mint and the sweetness of the lightly caramelized onions. The dough is fluffy but firm and melts in the mouth, and the taste of orange zest in the filling brings out the flavor of the orange juice in the dough, giving a sweetened citrus flavor to the pies and making them more complex. The sesame seeds on top, add a nutty taste and a great contrast of textures with their crunchy quality.

They make a terrific snack for those hungry moments at work and a perfect buffet item for a party. Serve them as starters for a Sunday lunch or a dinner and pair them with a lager beer. Add to the filling of these fun pie rolls a little crumbled feta cheese and you'll have a Greek extravaganza of flavors. Enjoy them!

Pitakia me Elies Kalamon (Greek Individual Pie Rolls with Kalamata Olives)

Throumpes which is an excellent Greek variety of "wrinkled", black, slightly bitter olives that are salt-cured would be great in these pied, but I opted for the superior, richer taste of the Kalamata olives instead.

If you really enjoy the taste of fresh mint feel free to double its quantity in the recipe, since it is rather subtle.

Yield: 20-22 pie rolls


for dough
500 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100 ml olive oil
250 ml orange juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp white wine vinegar

for filling
500 g Kalamata olives, pitted, rinsed well and roughly chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 medium-sized onions, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper

Sesame seeds for sprinkling

Special equipment: rolling pin, stand mixer (optional)


for dough
In a large bowl (or in the bowl of the stand mixer), mix the flour with the baking powder and salt and add all the wet ingredients. Mix everything together with your hands (or using the dough-hook attachment) until a dough forms. Then turn the dough out onto a clean and lightly floured work surface and knead it for about 4-5 minutes or until you have a smooth dough. If you prepare the dough in the stand mixer, it will be ready in about 2 minutes.
Don't overwork the dough.
Cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

for filling
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes, until they become soft, translucent and ever-so-slightly caramelized. Take skillet off the heat and add the olives, the chopped fresh mint, the orange zest and the pepper. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Make pie rolls
Divide the dough into 20-22 equal pieces. Take one piece of dough, roll it in between your hands to make a ball and then roll it out into a 10 x 17 cm rectangle with a thickness of around 0.5 cm, using a rolling pin. Continue rolling out the rest of the dough pieces.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Line one or two baking trays with parchment paper or silicone sheets.

Put 1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp of the filling on top of each rectangular piece of dough. The layer of the filling must be thin and make sure you don't put filling near the edges of the dough because it will fall out when you roll it up.
Roll up each piece of dough and place onto the baking tray.
Lightly brush the top of each pie roll with water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Place tray on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until pie rolls have taken on a golden brown color. Continue baking the second batch of pie rolls.

They can be eaten straight out of the oven, while they're hot, but they are also magnificently flavorsome the following day, if not better.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flowers and Scallops

These last couple of weeks I've been doing things in Holland that I haven't done the three years that I'm living here. Well, there is wisdom in the saying "Better late than never". First came the raw Dutch herring and then came Keukenhof. Keukenhof literally means Kitchen Garden but no, Keukenhof has nothing to do with cooking. It is a famous flower exhibition in South Holland and the largest bulb flower park in the world. Thousands of visitors flock from every corner of the earth to see the magnificent gardens and one-of-a-kind flowers, particularly the notorious Dutch tulips.

In the 15th century, the area that is now known as Keukenhof, was actually a hunting area. Countess Jacoba van Beieren- a very strong female figure of that time, who got married four times, was sent to prison and exile and started wars- was the owner of the land. Herbs for her castle's kitchen were collected there, thus the name Keukenhof.

Keukenhof was created as a "shop-window" for the flower industry in 1950 and it has since been one of the major attractions of The Netherlands. It is open only two months a year- from late March to late May- a fact which escaped me for the past two years, since I tried to visit once in February and once in June, only to find out that it was closed. This year I was determined though. How I managed to visit at the last day that it was open, is another matter.

If truth be told, I'm not a flower or houseplant person. I like the occasional bouquet from my boyfriend on my birthday, that survives only for a couple of days and I can tolerate an herb plant on my kitchen window but I'm not enthusiastic about anything more than that. I don't "ooh" or "ah" about flower arrangements and I don't discuss the future of gardening with my friends. Upon entering Keukenhof though, I had another thing coming. I was amazed and surprised by the collection of 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties and the more than 2,500 trees. Now trees I love but Keukenhof instantly succeeded in making a flower fan out of me. I wanted to grab them and take them home with me. I didn't.

Since it was the last day of this year's exhibition, there was a celebratory surprise for everyone, or so the organizers thought. There were a couple of these things around- I don't even know what they're called and I don't want to know- playing some horrible music that almost ruined the experience for me. But seeing the "Pink Floyd" (I still prefer the band to the flower though), the fuchsia "Sexy Lady" and the tricolored flower going by the most unique of names "Happy Generation", got me optically excited and I managed to ignore the annoying sounds in the background.

Smelling the sweet dark purple "Negrita" and the beautifully red "Hollandia" was a wonderful experience for my senses. I was astonished by the variety of colors and shapes of all the tulips and other flowers. Walking through the Japanese garden, we came across a charming, serene brook. Down another path, we discovered the most breathtaking, less-traveled road and even further down, we entered a labyrinth from which we quickly managed to get out of. Then we stumbled upon a huge mill, we climbed up the stairs to its balcony and a stunning view of fields appeared in front of us. When we entered the Beatrix Pavilion, we had the pleasure of seeing hundreds of orchids, perhaps my favorite flower.

Strolling down the various pathways of this enormous park, we came across these animals and then took a turn and found ourselves in front of an "inspirational garden" as it is called, featuring countless large jars of pickled fruits and vegetables of every kind. Then we headed for yet another garden with lovely canals and floating sculptures. Keukenhof is the largest sculpture park in The Netherlands featuring many sculptures and what is also interesting about Keukenhof is, that since 2006, each year the park has a specific theme. This year's theme was Russia and to my delight, there were several Babushka or Matryoshka Dolls all around the park. Naturally, there was no shortage of food around, with various restaurants and little shops. I bought cotton candy from a cute little store and of course, I had to have some homemade ice cream.

Speaking of food, I have something for you as delectable as all these flowers I saw at Keukenhof. Scallops. Who doesn't love scallops? Who is insane enough not to love scallops? We have a guest staying with us since last Saturday, a friend of ours from Greece and a couple of days ago I got to introduce her to scallops. I was apprehensive before I handed her a plateful, I didn't know whether she would enjoy this mollusc. As it turned out, she loved it. My boyfriend, S, was ecstatic. He's crazy about scallops and this dish was actually my special treat for him. It was his birthday, so we all grabbed the chance to indulge ourselves in a little luxury.

The exact dish was lightly seared scallops in olive oil with an avocado- tomato-red onion-chili spread (the well-known Mexican guacamole) on toast, topped with tiny bits of streaky bacon, toasted coriander seeds and baby rocket leaves and a squeeze of lime. What a combination. When I saw this recipe, I was immediately smitten by it and I had to make it. I bought the scallops from my fishmonger, got the vegetables from the farmer's market and bread from my favorite bakery near my apartment. I was all set to go. The bacon needed to be baked until crisp and dry, onion, tomato, chili and fresh coriander needed chopping, the bread and the coriander seeds needed toasting, the lime needed squeezing and the scallops needed searing. All done. The result was one of the most flavorsome and colorful dishes I've ever tasted or laid eyes on.

Both flavors and textures of this dish are sensational. It's a spicy, zesty dish with refreshing notes and sweet and sour nuances. Crunchy warm hearty bread, smooth creamy avocado, red hot fiery chili, aromatic fresh coriander, pungent onion, sweet juicy tomato, crispy toasty coriander seeds, vibrant sour lime, creamy light soft scallops. Surprisingly enough, all the other flavors do not overpower the delicate sea jewel that is the scallop and the distinct contrast of textures of all the components in this recipe, make this an incomparable tasting experience.

The luxurious sweet scallops have a very unique taste, slightly reminiscent of crab meat or lobster but far better in texture and subtlety of flavor. This dish is ideal as a first course for a spring or summery dinner with friends and it definitely makes a superb lunch. Pair it with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and you've got a match made in heaven.
Consider having this dish without the scallops or bacon for a vegetarian option. It's fulfilling and different and it will definitely brighten up your taste buds. Or as a less expensive alternative- since scallops are, unfortunately, rather pricey- you can just replace them with seared shrimp or deep fried calamari tentacles. It will not have the same dashing effect on your guests but it will still be a toothsome and refreshing first course dish.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Bacon, Coriander Seeds and Guacamole on Toast
Adapted from Delicious magazine

If you choose to buy whole scallops in their shell, make sure you know how to open and clean them, otherwise ask your fishmonger to do it for you. What is needed in this recipe, is a clean scallop with the orange roe and small muscle attached to its side, removed. I always buy them ready myself.
Keep in mind that scallops are not supposed to be cooked for a long time because they become rubbery, dry and lose all flavor.

I used multigrain bread which adds more texture to the dish but you can also use sourdough or rye bread. I wouldn't suggest you use plain white bread. It's too ordinary and tasteless.

I used a small amount of fresh coriander leaves (1 tsp) but I know that there are many people out there who can't stand its taste. I too don't enjoy it in large quantities but in this recipe it is very subtle. Still, you can substitute with flat-leaf parsley if you wish.

You can use baby rocket leaves, micro herbs, flat-leaf parsley or coriander leaves to serve. I prefer the rocket leaves because of their slightly bitter taste.

Yield: 2 first-course servings

6 medium-sized scallops (without shells and with orange roe and muscle removed)
2 thick or 4 thin streaky bacon strips
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 fresh long red chili
1 avocado (around 200 g), flesh scooped out and roughly chopped
1 small tomato, deseeded and chopped
3 1/2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
2 tsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 slices of multigrain bread
Baby rocket leaves, to serve
2-4 lime wedges
Freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment: small food processor

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Put the bacon strips on a small, baking paper-lined tray and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes until the bacon becomes crisp and dry. Check the bacon after 5 minutes or so to make sure it doesn't burn. Keep in mind that if the bacon strips you're using are very thin, they will take a shorter time to crisp up.
Once ready, remove tray from the oven and immediately place bacon strips on kitchen paper to drain any excess fat and to cool.

Toast the coriander seeds by placing them in a small sauté pan and dry-frying them over medium-high heat, stirring them around so that they don't get burned, for 4-5 minutes, or until you're able to smell their aromas.

Place the toasted coriander seeds and cooled bacon in a small food processor and process to crumbs. Do not over-process because they will turn to powder. You don't want that. Set aside.

Cut the chili lengthwise, remove the seeds and membranes with the tip of your knife, thinly slice the one half and set aside for garnishing the dish. Mince the other half of the chili and place it in a large bowl along with the avocado, red onion, tomato, fresh coriander leaves and lime juice. Mash everything with the help of a fork to a coarse paste. Set aside.

You can either toast the bread slices in the oven or in a toaster. I prefer using the oven.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Place bread slices in a small baking tray and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake the bread anywhere between 5-10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want it to be. I want it really crunchy myself.

In the meantime, rinse the scallops gently under running water, dry them completely using kitchen paper and season them with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed, non stick skillet over high heat and once oil starts to shimmer, place scallops in the pan. Cook for 40 seconds on both sides, until they take on a slightly golden color on the outside and the rest is just opaque. Do not overcook them.
You must keep in mind that you need to adjust the cooking time in case your scallops are larger or smaller in size. Larger scallops will require more time to cook while smaller ones will need only a few seconds.

Spread enough of the avocado-tomato-chili mixture to almost cover the top of two slices of bread. Place 3 scallops on top of each bread slice and scatter with bacon bits and coriander seeds. Garnish with the reserved thinly sliced chili, baby rocket leaves, grind some black pepper all over the dish and serve with the lime wedges.

You will probably be left with some leftover avocado spread which you can store in the refrigerator for one day. You can spread it over some toasted bread and eat it just like that or with a side of rocket leaves the next day.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A new adventure for my taste buds and a delicious tower

Yesterday was a holiday here in Holland and surprise, surprise, the weather was once again awful. The kind of weather that makes you not want to get out of bed for the entire day. Every fiber of my being was telling me to stay tucked in bed, to be lazy and not even lift a finger. After a while though, I got antsy and dared to utter the words to my boyfriend, "let's go to the city center". He looked at me like I was crazy. How could I suggest such a thing on such a day?

After exercising my very own persuasion tactics on him, otherwise known as nagging, we took the tram and after a whole 10 minutes (!), we arrived to our small city center. It was drizzling and bleak but people were out and about; those Dutch are resilient people I tell you. We headed for the Hofvijver Lake which is situated right next to the Dutch Parliament. I love taking walks around that area.

We were beginning to get a little bit hungry- all that walking can work up an appetite- and there are a lot of options for street food at the center of The Hague. First of all, there's the famous French fries with mayonnaise- yes, mayonnaise and not ketchup is the favorite around here- that the Dutch gobble down in large quantities. Then, there's the frikandel, which is a deep-fried sausage (have you noticed so far how artery-clogging Dutch food is?) and then there is the almighty Hollandse Haring, or Dutch Herring.

Next week, it will be three years since I moved to Holland with my boyfriend and during all this time I've been seeing this all over and I've been dreading the idea of having one of those herrings. They are eaten raw, after they have been cleaned, skinned, deboned, de-headed and cured in salt, usually with a side of raw, chopped onions or pickles, or served inside a broodje, which is a Dutch hot-dog bun. They even have a festival here, celebrating the beginning of the herring season, called "Vlaggetjesdag" or Flag Day, in late May. The new season herrings are supposed to be the best.

But yesterday, I decided that today was the day. The day for me to try the Dutch herring for the very first time. I walked hesitantly over to the stall and ordered a herring with a side of chopped onions. My boyfriend, who has not, until now, tried it, was utterly surprised by my willingness to eat it. I asked him to hold it for me, in order to take a photograph and he managed to hold it for two seconds before handing it back to me. I was asking too much of him. He hates the sight and smell of raw fish, but he enjoys sushi. Go figure.

You are supposed to hold it by its tail, lift it above your mouth and let it slide into it gradually, eating the whole fish in just a couple of bites. So I gave it a try. The verdict: I really liked it. I don't know why I waited so long to taste it. The fish was creamy, soft and slightly salty, no unpleasant fishy flavor whatsoever and along with the onions, which I love, was a great combination. Next time I'll have to try it with the hot-dog bun. The aftermath: my boyfriend would not kiss me for several hours after I've eaten it. Well, I couldn't blame him.

From Dutch food to my food, which has nothing to do with herrings, or any type of fish for that matter, as you can obviously see. Zucchinis, or courgettes, are among my favorite vegetables and there are multiple ways in which I prepare them. From the simplest of all, boiling them in water and serving them, drizzled with olive oil and a squirt of lemon, or deep-frying them with a side of tzatziki, to the more complicated way of filling them with minced meat, rice and herbs and cooking them in an "avgolemono sauce" (a classic Greek white sauce made with eggs and lemon), thus making the Greek dish, Giouvarlakia, which is known the world over. And then there's this way, the playful way, of preparing a zucchini and creamy cheese tower.

This recipe is a celebration of freshness and healthy eating, plus it is quite impressive to look at, don't you think? There's also no actual cooking involved, which makes this a breeze, even for the novice cook. And if it looks kind of tricky, well, believe me, it's not. Fresh, large, sliced zucchinis, marinated in a mixture of olive oil and lemon make the base for this green and white tower. My favorite cheese in the whole wide world, the glorious Greek feta along with fresh ricotta cheese and chopped dill, constitute a creamy, herby mixture that is thoroughly scrumptious. A simple dressing of "ladolemono", which is a classic Greek dressing of olive oil and lemon, with the addition of garlic and dill, is prepared in minutes, giving a wonderful finish to the dish.

The marinated zucchini has an amazingly natural, fresh flavor and a perfect crunchy texture that is contrasted by the smoothness of the cheese mixture. The white cheese layer of the tower, with its specks of green from the dill, has a slight tangy flavor and combines perfectly with the zing of the earthy garlic and the vibrant citrus flavor of the lemon in the dressing. Topped with some freshly grated lemon zest and chopped dill, this tower is truly a vision of freshness.

This dish is extremely healthy, refreshing, fulfilling and versatile. It can be served as a first course for a dinner party and it makes a wonderful option for a light lunch paired with whole-wheat bread. If you're getting bored with ordinary salads, try this instead. Even though it's not actually a salad, it certainly counts as a substitute. My boyfriend and I had it with steamed fish and a glass of Viognier-Chardonnay the other night and he said it was one of the best meals he's had in a long time. That counts for something.

Tower of Marinated Zucchini, Feta and Ricotta Cheese
Adapted from Myrsini Lambraki

I know I'm sounding like a broken record here but I'm gonna say it. I couldn't find in Holland the cheese I wanted for this recipe, which is the Greek cheese Anthotyro and in particular fresh anthotyro. Anthotyro, which literally translates to "flower cheese", is a sheep's and/or goat's milk cheese that has an incredibly light taste and a crumbly texture. I had to substitute with fresh ricotta cheese but if you can find anthotyro, please use that instead. It is perfect.
In case you want to try a Dutch cheese, you can go with the fresh geitenkaas (a goat's milk cheese) which is also delicious.

This recipe is not one that can be prepared on a moment's notice. The zucchinis need to be marinated for three hours and the cheese mixture needs to stay in the refrigerator for an hour to firm up after its preparation. So keep this in mind.

Each tower is rather filling, so if you're having it as a first course, you might want to cut it in half and then serve it.

Yield: 4 towers / 4-8 servings

4 large zucchinis, approximately 22-24 cm each

for marinade
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (juice of 1 medium-sized lemon)
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

for cheese mixture
500 g fresh ricotta cheese
200 g feta cheese, crumbled
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp dill, chopped
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper

for dressing
1 large garlic clove
1 Tbsp dill, chopped
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

for garnish
1 tsp lemon zest, freshly grated
Chopped dill

Special equipment: a food processor, a kitchen mandoline (optional)

Wash the zucchinis well under running water and cut and discard the top and bottom of each zucchini. Then cut them lengthwise into 1 cm-thick slices, either by using a large knife or by using a kitchen mandoline which is, by far, easier, quicker and more accurate. Cut the first and last slice a little thinner and discard them. You don't need the rounded parts because you will not be able to stabilize the towers. You will need 20 slices of zucchini for the four towers.

Make the marinade
Put all the ingredients for the marinade in a medium-sized glass jar with a lid, close the lid tightly and shake the jar well until all the ingredients are well blended.
Alternatively you can use a food processor or a blender to do that.

Place the zucchini slices into a large, shallow bowl or a baking tray and pour the marinade all over them. Cover the bowl or baking tray with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Leave zucchini slices to marinate for 3 hours.

Make the cheese mixture
Place all the ingredients for the cheese mixture in the food processor and process until you have a creamy, thick mixture. Empty it into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to set. It will take 1 hour at most.

Make the dressing
Place all the ingredients for the dressing in the food processor and process until you have a smooth dressing. Pour it into a jar or a bowl, cover it with either a lid or plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator. Just before using, shake it well or whisk it to re-blend.

After the 3 hours of marinating the zucchinis have passed, take them out of the refrigerator and drain them in a colander*. Then place them on paper towels and pat them dry.

Assembling the towers
Take one slice of zucchini and, using a small spatula or spoon, spread 1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp of the creamed cheese mixture over it, creating a thin layer, about 1 cm thick. Take another zucchini slice and spread a thin layer of cheese mixture over it. Take the second slice and place it on top of the first one. Continue until you have created 4 layers of zucchini and cheese mixture. Place a single zucchini slice (without cheese mixture) at the top of the tower and put it on a serving platter or an individual plate, with the help of an offset spatula.
Continue making the rest 3 towers.

Pour the dressing all over each tower and finish by garnishing each one with lemon zest and chopped dill.

Serve immediately.

I wouldn't suggest assembling them in advance because there is a possibility that juices from the zucchinis will run out onto the cheese (even if you keep the tower in the fridge). Besides, it only takes 10 minutes or so to assemble them.

Note: the cheese mixture can be made one day ahead and kept in the refrigerator, in an airtight container.
The following day, I had some leftover cheese mixture and I used it in a cucumber sandwich. It was delicious.

*It's a shame to let all those marinade juices go to waste. I used them the next day to poach two fillets of fish. You can also use them as a dressing on top of a green salad.