Friday, August 21, 2015

Greek eggs with tomatoes aka Strapatsada aka Kagianas

This is perhaps the simplest Greek recipe in existence and if you are into tomatoes and eggs, this is for you.

The more common name of this dish is “eggs with tomatoes”. In parts of Greece they call it strapatsada, in others, kagianas. In my home, we have always called it eggs with tomatoes and it is what its name implies; scrambled eggs with tomatoes and olive oil.

As with anything simple, though, it requires the best ingredients and a method; a specific method that works and it need not be messed with.

First, you grate the tomatoes, a practice that is very common in Greece to get the juice and pulp of the tomatoes without the skin in order to make sauces. They are slowly simmered in olive oil to produce an intoxicatingly sweet sauce and then, the lightly beaten eggs are added to the pan.

The whole thing gets a gentle mix and then out comes the most honeyed sweet and savory egg and tomato dish you’ve had. Topped with some fresh oregano leaves, lots of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, it is the best thing to eat with a good, crusty loaf of bread.

Variations: Even though, customarily, this simple dish doesn’t contain more ingredients, there are some variations. You can add some cubed or crumbled feta when you add the eggs; it will melt and be deliciously tangy. Just be careful not to add too much salt because the feta is already salty.
You can substitute the feta with other cheeses like graviera or kefalotyri.
You can add some boukovo (Greek red chilli flakes) to give the dish an extra kick, or a little smoked paprika to give it a different flavor.
You can add some finely chopped green bell pepper or some long sweet red pepper which you should add together with the tomatoes.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can add some loukanika (Greek sausages). Fry them in the olive oil, remove them from the pan and then add the tomatoes.

Greek eggs with tomatoes aka Strapatsada aka Kagianas

Feta and bread are the ideal accompaniments to this dish which is perfect for either lunch or dinner. A glass of cold lager beer or a shot of ouzo wouldn’t hurt either.

If your tomatoes are not in season or are more bland than you expected, add a sprinkle of sugar when you add them to the pan, in order to give them the sweetness they’re lacking.
Don’t be tempted to process the tomatoes instead of grating them. It is not the same. The result will be different and the dish won’t be as it was intended.

I love the flavor of fresh oregano and that’s why I add it sometimes. It is however optional as it changes the flavor profile of this simple dish, as do any other herbs you may add. Fresh or dried oregano, fresh thyme or fresh marjoram are good options.

Yield: 2 servings

2 large, ripe and juicy tomatoes (about 400 g in total)
4 medium-sized eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
2½ Tbsp (35 ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling on top of the dish
Freshly ground black pepper
A few small fresh oregano leaves (optional)

Special equipment: box grater

Grate the tomatoes (on the large holes of the grater) inside a bowl. As you grate, the skin will remain in your hand, so throw that away.

In a medium-sized skillet or frying pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the grated tomatoes and a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes dry a little bit but not completely, for 7-8 minutes. See photo for reference.

Add the eggs, a little more salt and pepper and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 3 minutes, until they set but still remain juicy, stirring gently every 30 seconds. Don’t overcook or the eggs will be dry.

Serve immediately on plates, sprinkle with a few oregano leaves (optional) and drizzle with some olive oil. Grind some extra pepper on top and enjoy!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chocolate mousse with coconut milk (Vegan)

In the spirit of making easy and quick dishes —it is summer after all— I made this chocolate mousse.

This is no ordinary mousse though, it is a dairy-free one, made with coconut milk. The first time I made this, it was revelatory. I have always made the traditional mousse with eggs, or the one with lots and lots of cream, or even the one with water (This, anyone?), but never vegan mousse. I am not vegan nor I plan to become vegan, and the reason for making this was simply because I love the flavor of coconut. I grab every chance I get to include it in my sweet or savory dishes.

The principle is the same as when making coconut whipped cream. You place the full-fat coconut milk in the refrigerator for a day, during which time the coconut milk separates into cream (fat) and water. You open the can, scoop out the solid coconut cream and keep the liquid to use in shakes, smoothies or any other drink or cakes even.

You take the coconut cream and whip it really good, together with cocoa powder, a pinch of salt, a sweetener, agave syrup in this case, and vanilla extract, and after a few minutes you have a mousse that’s light, fluffy and creamy with the intense flavor of cocoa and the subtle flavor of coconut. That simple.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go make it!

Chocolate mousse with coconut milk (Vegan/Raw)

You can substitute the agave syrup with rice brown or maple syrup, if you don’t mind its flavor. I wouldn’t suggest you use honey (which is not vegan) as it is too sticky and a bit denser and it also has a more pronounced flavor. You can also substitute with coconut sugar (2 Tbsp would be enough) or sieved icing sugar (start with 3 Tbsp, taste and add more if you think it needs it).

I have tried this mousse with different coconut milk brands and unfortunately not all brands yield the best result. Some don’t seem to whip as good as others. So if your mousse doesn’t become as fluffy, try another brand. Find a brand that works, and stick to it. Also, look out for the ingredients list. You want it to contain coconut milk and, since it’s a can, some kind of preservative, but don’t buy those that have more ingredients. Finally, do not use light coconut milk. The reason this works and whips up to a mousse is because of the fat in the solids of the coconut milk.

Yield: 4 small servings

1 can coconut milk (400 ml), full-fat
25 g (2 heaped Tbsp) Dutch-processed cocoa (or raw cacao) powder, sieved
30 ml (2 Tbsp) agave syrup (nectar)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Coconut whipped cream, to serve
Coconut flakes, to serve
Raspberries or other berries, to serve

Special equipment: stand or hand-held electric mixer

Place the can of coconut milk in the fridge the night before, or preferably 24 hours before you want to make the mousse. During this time, the coconut cream (fat) will separate from the coconut water. The cream will rise to the top and the water will accumulate at the bottom of the can.

When you open the cold can, you will see the hard cream on top. Scoop it out carefully using a spoon until you reach the water at the bottom of the can, and add the cream to the bowl of your mixer or in a large bowl (if using a hand-held electric mixer). Don’t add the coconut water that has remained at the bottom of the can because the mousse might be watery and it won’t whip up well. You need that fat in order to make a thick mousse. You can use the water in smoothies, drinks etc., or discard it altogether.

To the coconut cream, add the cocoa, agave syrup, vanilla extract and salt and using the whisk attachment (or a hand-held mixer), whisk on high speed for a few minutes (it usually takes 3-4), until you have a light and fluffy mousse with soft peaks.

If your coconut mousse is a bit lumpy/chunky, something that tends to happen and I don’t mind it one bit, it means that the coconut cream has not been whipped enough. Whip it a couple minutes more.

You can serve it immediately (at this point, it will be super smooth and fluffy), or keep it in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap for later use (up to 3 days). If you leave it in the fridge for more than a few hours, it will firm up. The flavor will not be affected, though, and it will still taste delicious even after 2-3 days.

Serve the mousse with a dollop of coconut whipped cream, a few coconut flakes and some raspberries and enjoy!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tomato, nectarine and parsley salad with a date syrup and sumac dressing

I have been eating tomatoes like crazy lately and with good reason. It’s tomato season, and nothing can stop me from binging on the incredibly juicy, aromatic and meaty fruit.

I made gemista the other day, one of my favorite summer dishes, ntako almost every other day, sauces for pizza and pasta, tartines galore with all sorts of accompaniments and of course salads; the classic horiatiki (Greek) salad, but also various others, like the one you see here.

This is an exciting salad that I couldn’t wait to share with you. You need some good tomatoes, different kinds if possible to have some variety in textures and flavors, a couple of ripe nectarines, lots of parsley —which, mind you, is not used as a garnish but as an integral part of the salad— pistachios, fresh mint and feta. This, so far, is a great combination on its own, but the best part of this salad, the thing that ties the whole thing together, is the dressing, which includes date syrup and sumac among other ingredients.

I only discovered date syrup (or date honey) recently at a health food store here in The Hague. I was curious to try it, suspecting I would fall in love with it given my fondness for dates. Oh and I did. It is so good! It is sweet but not cloyingly sweet (less sweet than honey) and it has a mild acidity to it. It has a distinct yet not overwhelming flavor of dates and it’s fruity, caramely and rich in flavor. It reminds me a bit of the Greek petimezi (grape must syrup). I have been using it on top of toasted bread, swirled in my yoghurt, in desserts, I even added it to a beef stew which was scrumptious, and in this salad.

The flavors of this salad are varied and they complement each other harmoniously. Sweet, fruity flavor from the tomatoes and nectarines, tangy feta, freshness of the parsley, zingy sharpness from the spring onions, nutty, earthy toasted pistachios, and the dressing with sweet notes from the date syrup, acidity from the vinegar, richness from the olive oil and the citrusy, musty flavors of the ground sumac tying the whole dish together.

It is an excellent accompaniment to barbecued/grilled meats like lamb chops, pork or beef steaks and chicken, and with some good crusty bread and a glass of beer, it’s the perfect summer meal. Even on its own, for a light yet fulfilling meal with some bread, it is equally scrumptious.

Tomato, nectarine and parsley salad with a date syrup and sumac dressing

I used barrel-aged feta because I love its sharpness and pronounced sheep’s and goat’s milk flavor. If you don’t, use regular feta.
Nectarines can be substituted with peaches if you prefer them. I don’t particularly enjoy their fuzzy skin so I always use nectarines in salads like these.
If you can’t find date syrup, you can substitute with Greek petimezi (grape-must syrup/molasses) or honey. If you use honey, use half the amount because it is sweeter.

Yield: 4 salad servings


for the dressing
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 tsp date syrup
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
½ tsp ground sumac
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, 3-4 grinds of the pepper mill

for the salad
500-600 g mixed tomatoes, ripe but not overripe otherwise they will not cut cleanly (I used 1 beefsteak, 1 coeur de boeuf and several baby plum tomatoes)
2 nectarines, ripe but not overripe otherwise they will be difficult to cut cleanly
250 g barrel-aged Greek feta
2 spring onions
20 g (a big handful) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, whole
40 g (a handful) shelled pistachios
10-11 large fresh mint leaves

to finish
Freshly ground white pepper
½ tsp ground sumac


make the dressing
I like making dressings in a lidded jar because it’s easier to mix and to store.
Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a jar, put the lid on and shake to mix well. Give it a taste and add more salt if needed.
If you don’t have a lidded jar, place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix using a fork or a whisk.
Set aside.

for the salad
To toast the pistachios, add them to a dry, small pan and place over medium heat. Toast them, stirring regularly so they don’t burn, until they become fragrant. Empty them immediately onto a plate and let them cool. Then, chop them roughly.

Cut the tomatoes into different shapes —slices, wedges, cut the small ones in half or quarter them— in order to have variety on the plate.
Cut the nectarines into wedges without peeling them.
Slice the spring onions and cut the fresh mint leaves chiffonade (long, thin strips). Chiffonade is a way to cut large leafy herbs like basil, sage, mint etc. To do that, stack the mint leaves on top of each other, roll them up tightly (rolling from the wide side of the leaves) and cut the roll into thin, long strips.

assemble the salad
Take a large platter and spread the parsley leaves.
Arrange the slices/pieces of the large tomatoes on top and tuck the nectarines among them. Place the small tomatoes among the rest of the ingredients and sprinkle with some salt.
Scatter the spring onions all over. Crumble the feta and sprinkle it around the plate, then scatter the chopped pistachios and mint on top.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad and finish by sprinkling with ½ tsp of sumac and by grinding a little white pepper.
Serve immediately and enjoy!