Cretan Pies with Cheese

In Crete we make these thin dough pies sprinkled with cheese and they are delicious! The dough requires only a few ingredients. However, it does take some skill to roll it out nice and thin. My grandma taught me this “art” when I was 15 and I am so thankful for that. Though if you don’t know how, a dough roller machine does the job perfectly well. These pies are best eaten warm, right off the pan with a gruyere type of cheese on top.

 

Making the dough

Put most of the flour in a large bowl and make like a little “crater” with your hands in the center. Add half of the lukewarm water, the olive oil, salt and raki. Raki is a local drink from Crete which is usually available in liquor stores. I found it easily both in Dubai and London. Use plain vodka if you cannot find raki your local store, it does the trick! Knead the dough and alternate between the remaining flour and water, until you find the right consistency. Let it rest for 30 mins.

If you are doing this by hand, dust a big surface with flour and divide your dough in 2 or 3 balls. Start rolling out each ball by rolling up and down and side to side. Then turn the dough, dust with flour again and keep rolling. Ideally the thickness should be 2-3 mm. You can cut it out in circles using a small plate, if you prefer round ones…

 

…Or you can cut them in squarish pieces!

Cutting squarish pieces

Making the Pies

Add a small drizzle of olive oil in a pan and bring it over medium to low fire. Put the pie in and fry it for like 2 mins each side, until its nicely browned. Remove and set aside. Repeat the same process with all the pies. The pan will get hotter over time , so you might want to lower down the heat as you go.

Sprinkle with some nice hard cheese on top and serve immediately.  Kids love them!

 

Cretan Pies with Cheese

Lovely thin dough pies with cheese from Crete made from scratch. Your guests will be impressed and the kids will love them. This is a real authentic Cretan dish, tasty and crunchy.

  • 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) plain flour
  • 2/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup Raki or Vodka
  • olive oil for frying
  1. In a large bowl put most of the flour and make like a little “crater” with your hands in the center. Add half of the lukewarm water, the olive oil, salt and raki or vodka. Knead the dough and alternate between the remaining flour and water, until you find the right consistency. Let it rest for 30 mins.

  2. If you are doing this by hand, dust a big surface with flour and divide your dough in 2 or 3 balls. Start rolling out each ball by rolling up and down and side to side. Then turn the dough, dust with flour again and keep rolling. Ideally the thickness should be 2-3 mm. You can cut it out in circles using a small plate, if you prefer round ones…

  3. Add a small drizzle of olive oil in a pan and bring it over medium to low fire. Put the pie in and fry it for like 2 mins each side, until its nicely browned. Remove and set aside. Repeat the same process with all the pies. The pan will get hotter over time , so you might want to lower down the heat as you go.

    Sprinkle with some nice hard cheese on top and serve immediately. Kids love them!

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Eggplant Salad

I love eggplants! Grilled or in a stew, I find them delicious. A really nice dish to make is eggplant salad. This is roast eggplants made into a thick cream. It’s perfect for a family table or as an appetizer dip for your party. It’s pretty straightforward to make it and you can adjust the ingredients to make it thicker, thinner or spicier. Let’s do this!

Roasting the eggplants

Cut the eggplants in half and place them in a pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. It took me about 45 minutes to roast them. If you want to do this quicker, cut them in thinner slices. Stick them in the oven at 200 C / 390 F. They will be done when the flesh is soft and easily pierced with fork.

Smoke them over fire until they are browned like this

Making the eggplant salad

Take them out of the oven. If you have a gas stove and can spare a few moments, smoke them on the fire for a few seconds each. Let them cool a bit. With a dessert spoon, scoop out the flesh.

Scooping out the flesh

Add the eggplant flesh into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients apart from the parsley. Start blending and adjust the olive oil or salt accordingly if you need more. Add the parsley at the end and give it a last mix. This eggplant salad goes well with meat and also works perfectly as a dip. You can refrigerate for a few days. Enjoy!

Eggplant salad

Its a great creamy eggplant salad to pair your meat dishes with. Also, it works very well as a dip for your beautiful appetizers. If you are an eggplant lover, this is a must try dish!

  • 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) eggplants (yields about 650 g / 1.4 lbs cooked flesh)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 bunch parsley
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Prepping the eggplants

  1. Cut the eggplants in half and place them in a pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  If you cut them in thinner slices, they will roast quicker. Stick them in the oven at 200 C / 390 F. They will be done when the flesh is soft and easily pierced with fork.

  2. Smoke them over fire until they are browned.

Making the eggplant salad

  1. Take them out of the oven. If you have a gas stove and can spare a few moments, smoke them on the fire for a few seconds each. Let them cool a bit. With a dessert spoon, scoop out the flesh.

  2. Add the eggplant flesh into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients apart from the parsley. Start blending and adjust the olive oil or salt accordingly if you need more. Add the parsley at the end and give it a last mix. This eggplant salad goes well with meat and also works perfectly as a dip. You can refrigerate for a few days. Enjoy!

Baked Seabass with peppers and tomatoes

I wanted to make a nice fish dinner for one the other day, so I came up with this baked seabass recipe. Rob was traveling abroad so it was me and the little peanut!  I wanted something homey and quick and healthy. Right I know, difficult combo. However, I found this nice seabass in the market and I improvised with the veggies in my fridge. I used tomatoes, peppers, onions and Kalamata olives. That’s the great thing about Dubai, the tomato season is just starting 😉 And I just planted the first batch in my garden.

 

Baked Seabass in the making

When buying the fish, please ask your fishmonger to scale it and clean the belly for you. Pan ready! Wash it and put aside. Cut the peppers and tomatoes in big chunks. Repeat the same with the onion, big wedges. Destone the olives. Just cut them all around with a paring knife, and take apart the two halves. Easy peasy – that’s it!

Then take a skillet and place the fish in the middle. Rub it’s belly inside with olive oil and some oregano. Stuff it with peppers, tomatoes and onions. Arrange the rest of the vegetables all around the fish and season everything with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the olive halves on top. Drizzle with lots of beautiful olive oil. Add more oregano on top – I can’t have enough of it! Stick it in the oven at 210 C / 410 F for 35-40 mins or until lightly browned on top.

Remember that the fish cooks quite quickly. If you are not sure if it’s done, take a fork, put in the hallow part of the belly and try to flip it open. If it does and you can see the flesh peeling off the bone easily, it’s done. Bon appetit!

 

Baked Seabass with peppers and tomatoes

This is a refreshing and light dish. Perfect for one if you are alone at home, or if you don’t want to share! I love the juicy peppers and sweet tomatoes that I used here, but you can use whatever fresh vegetables you have in your fridge. 

  • 1 whole seabass medium sized, descaled and belly cleaned
  • 3 large peppers, cut in big chunks
  • 2 big tomatoes, cut in big chunks
  • 1/2 big onion, roughly sliced
  • oregano
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Your fish should be scaled and belly cleaned, your fishmonger can do this for you. Wash the cleaned fish and put it aside. 

  2. Cut the peppers and tomatoes in big chunks. Repeat the same with the onion, big wedges. Destone the olives. Just cut them all around with a paring knife, and take apart the two halves.

  3. Take a skillet and place the fish in the middle. Rub it’s belly inside with olive oil and some oregano. Stuff it with peppers, tomatoes and onions. Arrange the rest of the vegetables all around the fish and season everything with salt n pepper. Sprinkle the olive halves on top. Drizzle with lots of olive oil.

  4. Stick it in the oven at 210 C / 410 F for 35-40 mins or until lightly browned on top.

Remember that the fish cooks quite quickly. If you are not sure if it’s done, take a fork, put in the hallow part of the belly and try to flip it open. If it does and you can see the flesh peeling off the bone easily, it’s done. Bon appetit!

 

Aunt Kathy’s Eggplant Stew

Isn’t it wonderful when you come together with people that you love and create awesome food? My aunt Kathy that lives in New York but is of Greek heritage, is an excellent cook. She is a warm, loving person that’s there to support you always. She is eager to listen and gives constructive advice. She is like a second mother to me and she is one of those people that make this world a better place. Period! And she is a darn good cook! Oh yes, with a grand repertoire.

I was lucky to be able to spend some time with her while in Crete this summer and eat her wonderful dishes. One of them in particular I could never forget, her Eggplant Stew.  It was so delicious and full of summer notes, I harassed her until she agreed to teach me the recipe. I said “Theia (“aunt” in greek), I have to put this on my blog!”

Shortly after, we made the eggplant stew again, along with other delicacies and everybody gathered around the table for a wonderful dinner. Of course when I got home I had to make it for my own family, because we all love eggplant after all. Rob loved it, but also my little boy James turned out to be a big fan. So if you like eggplants like us, please please make this dish and tell me how it went.

Preparing the vegetables

Cut all the veggies in quarters, big chunks. Same with the onions. Then, slice the tomatoes and chop up the herbs – parsley or cilantro, whatever you are using.

 

Quarter the eggplants

Next step you lightly fry everything. I used my cast iron skillet. Not just because I love it, but also it’s easy to use on the stovetop and then just stick it in the oven. If you don’t have one, you can use any other oven safe skillet. Or just fry the veggies regularly and then throw them in a baking dish.

Alright so, take the skillet, and put in enough olive oil to cover the bottom and more. The vegetables will soak up lots of olive oil during frying. Bring it over medium to high heat and start frying the eggplants, zucchinis and peppers together, around 5 mins. When done set them aside in a colander with a plate underneath to collect the oil.

Making the sauce for the stew

In the same skillet, add some more olive oil as needed, saute the onion wedges for 1-2 mins. Thereafter, add the tomato slices and saute for 2 more mins. In goes the tomato puree, give it a stir and let it simmer for 2 mins. If your sauce is too thick, you probably need to add 1/4 cup of water. Simmer the sauce for 5 mins more or less, then add the chopped herbs at the last minute. If it looks watery, don’t worry it will make a nice sauce for your stew!

Putting it all together

Take the skillet off the fire. Remove almost 2/3 of the sauce and put aside. Spread the remainder as to cover the bottom (if you are using a baking dish, spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish).

Add all the veggies on top and tuck them in nice and tight. Pour the rest of the sauce on top and sprinkle with some more herbs. Stick your stew in the oven for 35-40 mins at 210 C / 410 F or until it is nicely browned on top. Enjoy!

Aunt Kathy's Eggplant Stew

A hearty dish full of eggplant flavour. The tomato sauce with herbs gives the overall dish an amazing taste. Filling and warming. Perfect for weekday dinner. 

  • 3 whole big eggplants, quartered
  • 4 whole small zucchinis, cut in big chunks
  • 2 whole onions, thick sliced
  • 2 whole peppers, quartered
  • handful of parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomato (around 1 pound or 450 g)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preparing the veggies

  1. Cut all the veggies in quarters, big chunks. Then, slice the tomatoes and chop up the herbs.

  2. Lightly fry everything for about 5 mins in a cast iron skillet (or regular one will do just fine). Use oil abundantly, the eggplants will soak a lot. Set them aside in a colander with a plate underneath to collect the oil.

Making the sauce for the stew

  1. In the same skillet, add some more olive oil as needed, saute the onion wedges for 1-2 mins. Thereafter, add the tomato slices and saute for 2 more mins. 

  2. Next, add the tomato puree and let it simmer for 2 mins. If your sauce is too thick, add 1/4 cup of water. Simmer the sauce for 5 mins more or less, then add the chopped herbs at the last minute.

  3. Take the skillet off the fire. Remove almost 2/3 of the sauce and put aside. Spread the remainder as to cover the bottom (if you are using a baking dish, spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish). 

  4. Add all the veggies on top and tuck them in nice and tight. Pour the rest of the sauce on top and sprinkle with some more herbs. Stick your stew in the oven for 35-40 mins at 210 C / 410 F or until it is nicely browned on top. Enjoy!

Fruity Smoothie with Greek Honey

A smoothie is, at least for me, a great breakfast idea. I love fruits and sometimes you just need something light and not so filling. Plus, lets face it, who has time to make a full breakfast on a daily basis. As much as I love getting breakfast on the go, I also love a fruity smoothie. It’s healthy and it takes 2 minutes to make.

I think the key is a really good blender. If you don’t have a good blender, just don’t bother, like I did before I bought a really good one. When I was working full time and I didn’t have much time for breakfast, I did not even think about smoothies. Then I bought a good quality blender, which was a bit pricey. So I was somewhat hesitant. Nevertheless, I put it to good use. It’s super easy to handle and it takes literally 20 seconds to have a perfectly blended smoothie. Five years later I still drink my smoothies almost daily, plus I use it for James’s mashed fruits and veggies when I need to!

Breakfast in a jar!

Making the smoothie

Cut the banana in pieces, clean the carrot and cut it in two. Half  the peach and peel one slice of melon. Put all the fruits in the blender. Add the whole walnuts. Add the milk. Lastly add the honey – sometimes it sticks on the sides of the blender and you want to keep things easy. Blend it all together and enjoy your breakfast!

 

Blend everything together

Fruity Smoothie with Greek Honey

Healthy and supereasy breakfast smoothie. It tastes great too!

  • 1 slice melon, peeled
  • 1 medium banana (if small use two)
  • 1 peach , destoned
  • 6-7 whole walnuts
  • 1 tsp good quality honey (I used Greek honey)
  1. Cut the banana in pieces, clean the carrot and cut it in two. Half  the peach and peel one slice of melon. 

  2. Put all the fruits in the blender. Add the whole walnuts. Add the milk. Lastly add the honey – sometimes it sticks on the sides of the blender and you want to keep things easy. Blend it all together and enjoy your breakfast!

Zesty Spinach Salad with Chorizo

So we are back to Dubai. Happily. While it’s still tooo hot to be here, we are so happy to be home. However, it is only a tad cooler than June and July. Slowly the temp is going down and good weather is on the horizon! Woohoo!

I realized this week that I need to shed a few pounds. Which is due to the fact that I ate everything in Greece. Like EVERYTHING. I didn’t know where to begin and definitely not where to end. But I loved it! The fruit, especially peaches were so aromatic, my dad’s garden tomatoes and eggplants, the souvlakis that I put on my Insta. Nom nom! Guilt (ish) free! Haha. So today there’s salad on the menu. Spinach salad with chorizo (to keep things spicy!) and a zesty vinaigrette.

This salad is light and packed with flavor. I love chorizo in everything – salads, breakfast, even stews. Moreover, the vinaigrette is somewhat spicy due to the mustard. But, the orange juice balances it out with it’s sweetness. It’s got a nice bite to it. The dish takes less than 15 minutes to make! Yayyy! Light salad dinner (or lunch) here I come 🙂

 

To make the vinaigrette

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, mustard, white vinegar and honey until combined. You can make ahead and keep it in the fridge.

Making the vinaigrette

Assembling the spinach salad

Thoroughly wash the green leaves and dry the greens with a salad spinner or paper towels and put them in a bowl. Slice your chorizo and scatter it on top. Season with salt and pepper and grate some parmesan cheese. That’s it! Easy peasy. Dress your salad with the vinaigrette and it’s ready.

Tip: Though the salad is quite quick to make, you can also make ahead If you want. Make sure you dry the leaves very well and keep the salad ready in the fridge. Dress it at the last moment, so it doesn’t soak.

 

 

Zesty Spinach Salad with Chorizo

Zesty salad and so simple to make. Lots of Spinach, chorizo and parmesan cheese. Simply deliciousnees on your plate!

  • 1 pack spinach leaves (ard 80 g or 3 oz)
  • 1/2 pack rocket or arugula (ard 40 g or 1.5 oz)
  • salt and pepper
  • 120 g / ard 4 pz chorizo, sliced
  • grated parmesan

For the Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tsps regular mustard
  • the juice of half an orange
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey

For the vinaigrette

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, mustard, white vinegar and honey until combined. You can make ahead and keep it in the fridge.

To assemble the salad

  1. Wash the green leaves and dry them with a salad spinner or paper towels and put them in a bowl. 

  2. Slice your chorizo and scatter it on top. Season with salt and pepper and grate some parmesan cheese.

  3. Tip: Though the salad is quite quick to make, you can also make ahead If you want. Make sure you dry the leaves very well and keep the salad ready in the fridge. Dress it at the last moment, so it doesn’t soak.

 

Escargot with Rosemary – Cretan Kohli Boubouristi

My ramblings today are all about Escargot aka Snails.

I know, I know.

People don’t like escargot, in fact most people make a face of disgust when I tell them how much I enjoy cooked snails. I love them. I can clear off one whole plate in a matter of a few minutes.

 

Where I grew up in Crete, escargot are a local delicacy and in fact a widely beloved and often cooked dish. You can buy them at any open air food market. And many people – including my parents – pick them wild from the fields.

Life Cycle of Snails

 

 

 

In Crete, the rainy season starts around September/October. This is when the kohli wake up from summer estivation. They crawl all over the fields eating grass and leaves and they reproduce. This pretty much continues for 5-6 months which lasts all through the winter season. During this period they cannot be eaten, as they are too thin and have a bitter taste.

 

Later on around March the picking season starts. Snails dwell in fields up in the hills or in vineyards.  They are usually found under the stone or soil, or close to the vine trunks. Once picked, they are stored in crates and fed mostly flour and uncooked pasta. This feeding and tending period lasts about one month. It’s enough time for the kohli to fatten up and clean up.

At the end of this time they are ready for consumption and their taste is earthy and juicy, not bitter at all. As Snails don’t do well in heat, they stay dormant in their shell during the hot months. Starting in May, they seal their shell with a dry layer of mucus.  Source: Wikipedia.

Making the escargot

First, put the snails in a bowl full of water and let them sit for 4-5 mins to soak.

Soaking the snails

With a preferably toothy knife, remove the layer over the shell opening. Scrub the shell all around to clean it thoroughly. One by one.

 

 

Thereafter, sprinkle some salt straight on the bottom of a wide frying pan.

Put it over medium-high heat. Place the snails on the bottom face down. In Cretan dialect, boubouristi means with the face down. Hence kohli boubouristi, which basically means snails (cooked) face down. There. Moving along swiftly.

Tuck them in the pan nice and tight so they all fit and cook them for 3 mins.

Add a cup of water and cook them for 15-20 mins. You’ll see a greenish-yellow foam forming on the top

Remove the foam with a spoon as much as you can. After about 15-20 mins add the olive oil and sprigs of rosemary.

Taste the food and add some more salt if needed.

At this point, you probably want to add some extra water to make them extra juicy, about 1/3 cup.

Cook for 5-6 more mins. Towards the end, you add in the vinegar. Then cook them for 2 mins more and they are done. The snails are done when they are chewy and juicy (but not too chewy).

 

Don’t overcook them, because it will be harder to take them out of the shell. You can check their doneness by taking a fork with long tines and first tap them at the back of the shell and break it just a bit. Then turn the shell around looking at its opening. Pierce the fleshy part straight through and down a little. And then pull the flesh out towards you, turning your hand clockwise. Good luck!

Serve them in a plate with their juices.

 

Escargot with Rosemary

Escargot cooked with rosemary are a local delicacy in Crete. Consumed since antiquity on the island, they are a staple summer dish. Nevertheless, extremely rewarding for the wild ones that like to try new things.

  • 1.5 pounds (700 g) edible land snails or escargot
  • salt
  • 1 + 1/3 cup water
  • 1.5 cup olive oil
  • 6-7 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 100 ml (7 tbsps) red wine vinegar
  1. Soak the snails for 4-5 mins. With a toothy knife, remove the layer over the shell opening and scrub the dirt off the shell all around.

  2. Thereafter, sprinkle some salt straight on the bottom of a wide frying pan. The fire should be medium-high.  Tuck the snails all in tightly and face down. Cook them for 3 mins. 

  3. Add a cup of water and cook them for 15-20 mins. You’ll see a greenish-yellow foam forming on the top. Remove as much as you can with spoon. 

  4. Add the olive oil. Taste the salt and adjust.

  5. At this point, you probably want to add some extra water to make them extra juicy, about 1/3 cup.

  6. Cook for 5-6 more mins. Towards the end, add in the vinegar. Cook them for 2 mins. The snails are done when they are chewy and juicy (but not too chewy).

Don’t overcook them, because it will be harder to take them out of the shell. You can check their doneness by taking a fork with long tines and first tap them at the back of the shell and break it just a bit. Then turn the shell around looking at its opening. Pierce the fleshy part straight through and down a little. And then pull the flesh out towards you, turning your hand clockwise. 

Pork tenderloin with Celery – Greek Hirino me Selino

So this is another Greek dish that I have been craving lately. My mother is visiting so we went together grocery shopping. I had a few dishes in mind for my next post, this being one of them. When I found some really nice pork tenderloin, I decided upon it. This is a hearty, meaty stew recipe to put on your table, all the better if it’s a cold winter’s day 🙂 . Now this dish is traditionally made with pork shoulder or leg. However, pork tenderloin is a great cut too. It’s full of flavour, cooks quickly and most of all has 3.5 g of fat per 100 g (abt 3 oz) of meat. That’s as much fat content as in chicken breast! Hello, are you with me? As fatty as a chicken breast. So what are you waiting for?

 

First of all, you start by cooking your tenderloins (I used 2 here). So you wash them and pat them dry. Grind some salt and pepper on all sides. In a Dutch oven drizzle just a bit of olive oil and add a teaspoon of mustard. Mix a little and set your heat to high-medium. Saute the tenderloins for around 7-8 mins, until they have a golden brown color. Put them aside.

 

Add one more tbsp of olive oil and saute the onions for 2 min, add the celery and leeks and keep sauteing for about 10 min. You want them to soften up just a bit. At this point add 3 cups of hot water. Let it cook for 2-3 min more. Then you add the tenderloins and the rest of the olive oil. The meat will cook quickly and should be ready in about 20-25 min over medium heat. Don’t overcook it because this specific cut can become hard. Also, I added some nice fresh scallions 10 min before the food was done.

 

Be sure you check the food’s seasoning and adjust the salt and pepper. I serve this dish with plain rice so I like it saucy. but not too watery. If you want to thicken it up, use cornflour. In a small bowl dilute one tsp corn flour with 2-3 tbsp of water, mix well and add in the pot while still cooking. Stir immediately and check the consistency of your sauce. This dish goes also well with baked potato wedges.

Pork tenderloin with celery

This is a Greek stew like recipe with aromatic celery, leeks and delicate pork tenderloin. It is delicious and guilt-free as pork tenderloin has very low fat content.

  • 1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) pork Tenderloin
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 450 g (1 lb) celery (roughly chopped)
  • 200 g (7 oz ) leeks (sliced)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (keep 2 tbsp for sauteing)
  • 1 tsp mustard
  1. Start by cooking your tenderloins. Wash and pat dry. Grind some salt and pepper on all sides. In a Dutch oven drizzle just a bit of olive oil and add a teaspoon of mustard. Saute the tenderloins for around 7-8 mins, until they have a golden brown color. Put them aside.

  2. Add one more tbsp of olive oil and saute the onions for 2 min.

  3. Add the celery and leeks and keep sauteing for about 10 min. At this point add 3 cups of hot water and cook for 2-3 min.

  4. Add the tenderloins and the rest of the olive oil. Cook for about 20-25 min over medium heat. Serve with rice or baked potatoes

  5. If using fresh scallions, add them in 10 min before food is ready.