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!

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Butternut squash Soup

To be perfectly frank I did not grow up eating butternut squash or even pumpkins for that matter. They hadn’t yet made their appearance in Greece during my teenage years. The closest thing we used to make was a sweet pie with pumpkin, more like a dessert.  But food and cooking, at least for me, is all about learning, experimenting and evolution. I have grown to love butternut squash soup among other recipes that fall into the squash/pumpkin family.

 

Butternut squash tastes great not only as a soup, but also spiced up and roasted with olive oil. It makes a wonderful filling in pies and ravioli. Yum! So since it’s that time of the year again, I decided to make butternut squash soup. With a secret ingredient added by Rob!

Making the soup

I like to pair butternut squash with something peppery and earthy to balance out the sweetness. This time I chose peppers! To get things started, cut the squash in two crosswise so you can peel it easier. So go ahead and peel it. Thereafter, cut it up in big chunks. Put aside.

The next thing to do is to chop up the peppers in big chunks and slice those onions. Lastly, you crush the garlic. I love my garlic press for this job. Easy!

Put a big pot or dutch oven over medium fire and drizzle in some olive oil. Saute garlic, onions for 2 mins. Remove and put aside. Now saute the peppers for like 5 mins. You want them to brown up a little to add a bit of smokiness to your soup. If you don’t have the time to spare just saute all above mentioned ingredients together.

 

Put everything aside and again drizzle the dutch oven with some olive oil. Add the squash and saute for about 10 mins until is slightly browned. Add a cup of the chicken broth and two cups of water and cook for about 20-25 mins. The cooking is done when  the consistency of the squash is soft and can easily be mashed. Combine all the ingredients and mash them together adding some of the water to ease the process. The last thing to do is put all the mashed pulp back in the pot. At this point you add 2 more cups of chicken and more water in order to reach the consistency you prefer. I like my soup to be a bit thick, so I used in total 3 cups of stock and 4 cups of water.

Give everything a stir and season with salt and pepper. Rob stepped in and added his secret ingredient… cinnamon!! Which really made a difference I have to say:)

So just bring to boil and simmer for a few mins. You are done my friends! Ready to curl up and enjoy some goodness.

Butternut Squash Soup

It’s that time of the year again!! Pumpkin time! Halloween is almost here, Thanksgiving around the corner. All a big built up for Christmas!! I love Christmas. But for the time lets just enjoy this absolutely beautiful thick and rich butternut squash soup. Dig in!

  • 2 big butternut squash or pumpkin, cut in big pieces (about 1300 g / 2.8 lbs)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 peppers, cut in big chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 good drizzles of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch cinnamon
  1. Cut the squash in two crosswise so you can peel it easier. So go ahead and peel it. Thereafter, cut it up in big chunks. Put aside.

    Chop up the peppers in big chunks and slice those onions. Lastly, you crush the garlic.

  2. Put a big pot or dutch oven over medium fire and drizzle in some olive oil. Saute garlic, onions for 2 mins. Remove and put aside. 

    Saute the peppers for like 5 mins until lightly browned.  Put everything aside.

  3. Saute the squash for about 10 mins until is slightly browned. Add a cup of the chicken broth and two cups of water and cook for about 20-25 mins. The cooking is done when the consistency of the squash is soft and can easily be mashed. 

    Combine all the ingredients and mash them together adding some of the water to ease the process. 

  4. Lastly, put all the mashed pulp back in the pot and add 2 more cups of chicken and more water in order to reach the consistency you prefer.

    Give everything a stir and season with salt and pepper and cinamon and simmer for a few mins. You are done! 


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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!

Zucchini fritters – Greek Kolokithokeftedes

Summer is one of my favorite times of the year  – my number one is Christmas, but let’s not talk about Christmas right now lol. Summer to me is beautiful weather and clear blue waters. But most of all, I love the carefreeness that comes with it. Reminds me of my childhood. However, on the more practical side, the lack of time is a typical summer “problem”. Whether you are a parent vacationing with your kids. Or you are trying to navigate thru work and summery nights out with friends. There’s just not enough time. Free time for yourself can seem like a midsummer night’s dream! So for all of you that struggle with time management, but still want to have quality food my answer is: Zucchini fritters, a quick and easy recipe that everyone loves.

Zucchini are at their prime during summer, sweet and flavorful. It would be a shame not to put them to use. This recipe is inexpensive and pretty easy to put together. So let’s just jump right in and make our fritters.  Like I said, time is quite precious these days!

Making the zucchini fritters mixture

First things first, grate your zucchinis with the big hole side of the grater. Sprinkle some salt on the grated zucchini and (ideally) wrap it in cheesecloth. Strain to release most of the juice. You don’t have cheesecloth? (And why would you have cheesecloth packed in your luggage while on vacation?? haha) Use your bare and thoroughly washed hands. It’s that simple. Then put the zuchhini aside.

In a bowl add the grated onions, beaten eggs, garlic, fresh thyme and mint. Mix lightly. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper. Throw in the feta in big crumbles and mix as lightly as possible. Now add the flour tbsp by tbsp. You might need to use less or more, it really depends upon the moisture of your ingredients. The consistency you are looking for is barely thick, but able to be formed into a loose ball.

Put some olive oil in a frying pan and bring it to med – high heat. Not too high because the fritters will burn. Take some of the mixture and make a little ball with your hands. Directly place it in the pan. 1-2 mins per side are enough.  You don’t have to press it down to flatten it, it will “fall” naturally down as it fires. You might want to adjust the heat to medium at this point. Lift a little of the the fritter and check the color. It should be golden brown. Then turn them on the other side.

Tip: Zucchini fritters cook quickly so I don’t fry more than 4 or 5 at a time. Good luck!

Zucchini fritters – Greek kolokithokeftedes

Zucchini fritters – Greek kolokithokeftedes. You want enjoy your full-of-fun-but-no-time-summer-with-kids? Thea answer is zucchini fritters.

  • 700 g (1.5 lbs) grated zucchini
  • 2 onions, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or grated
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 bunch (2 cups leaves picked) fresh mint, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (120 g) flour
  • 200 g (7 oz) feta cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Grate your zucchinis with the big hole side of the grater. Sprinkle the grated zucchini with some salt and ideally wrap in cheesecloth. Strain to release most of the juice.  If you don’t have a cheesecloth, squeeze tight with your hands.  Put the zuchhini aside.

  2. In a bowl add the grated onions, beaten eggs, garlic, fresh thyme and mint. Mix lightly. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper. Throw in the feta in big crumbles and mix as lightly as possible.

  3.  Now add the flour tbsp by tbsp. You might need to use less or more. The consistency needs to be barely thick, but able to be formed into a loose ball.

  4. Put some olive oil in a frying pan and bring it to med – high heat. Not too high because the fritters will burn. Take some of the mixture and make a little ball with your hands. Directly place it in the pan and fry for 1-2 mins per side. You don’t have to press it down to flatten it, it will “fall” naturally down as it fires. 

  5. Adjust the heat to medium at this point if you have to. Lift a little of the the fritter and check the color. It should be golden brown. Then turn them on the other side.

    Tip: Zucchini fritters cook quickly so I don’t fry more than 4 or 5 at a time. Good luck!

 

Tomato fritters – Ntomatokeftedes

It can’t be a summer without sweet, fleshy, delicious tomatoes. And in this dish, they are the centerpiece. Because tomatoes are so crucial, please please use extra good quality ones. My grandmother typically made this ntomatokeftedes (tomato fritters) in the summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Big and red and irregularly shaped, they should be soft to the touch, but extremely beafy inside. So much so that when you grab one in your hand and poke it with your thumb, you feel the flesh merely squeezing in and only underneath your thumb, the rest of the tomato is intact.

In my father’s vegetable garden in Greece, when I want to make a salad I just cut the tomatoes straight from the plant. Then slice them up on a plate with olive oil, feta cheese and oregano and I have the perfect lunch. Right there on the patio, next to the mesmerizing vegetable plants. It doesn’t get much fresher and simpler than that! I think it’s that simplicity that actually allows you to connect and savor the food all the more.

How to make the mixture

If you love tomatoes as much as I do, you will love ntomatokeftedes. Basically they are tomato fritters. That’s it, simple. So you take your tomatoes and chop up half of them. The other half you grate by hand. I find that this half/half way of prep makes the fritters juicier.

So put the tomatoes in a bowl. Throw in your beaten egg, grated onion, strong oregano and dried thyme. Now chop up your mint and add it together with the crumbled feta. Put in salt and pepper. Next, you add the flour tbsp by tbsp mixing lightly each time. The consistency should be just thick enough to be spooned out and into the frying pan. The batter should stick together, but not too thick.  If it is too thick, the taste will be “floury”.

To fry the ntomatokeftedes

Heat up some olive oil over medium low fire. Use a tablespoon to spoon the mixture into the frying pan. Fry each side for 2-3 mins. I repeat medium to low fire here because it’s important to not overcook them. They should be golden brown and crispy outside but slightly raw inside.

 

When my palate fills up with those semi raw tomatoes, I can feel that beachy, summery carefreeness. I am almost on that beach getting my feet wet! After all, isn’t that what makes food magic? It’s ability to bestow an experience upon us that can transport us from one feeling to the other. I think that’s pretty amazing!

Bon appetit!

Ntomatokeftedes – Tomato fritters

Ntomatokeftedes – Tomato fritters, is a quite popular dish in Greece. Hearty and juicy and full of summer and beaches and carefreeness.

  • 500 g good quality tomatoes (half chopped / half grated) (( abt 17.5 oz))
  • 12 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp strong oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 7 tbsp fresh mint, chppped
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 130 g feta, crumbled (4.5 oz)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop up half of your tomatoes and grate the other half. Put them in a bowl.

  2. Throw in your beaten egg, the grated onion, the oregano, the dried thyme, the mint and basil. Add in the feta cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Next, you add the flour tbsp by tbsp mixing lightly each time. The consistency should be just thick enough to be spooned out and into the frying pan. The batter should stick together but not too thick.

  4. Heat up some olive oil over medium low fire. Use a tablespoon to spoon out the mixture into the frying pan. Fry each side 2-3 mins or until golden brown. Don’t overfry them, you want them slightly raw on the inside. 

Chicken Salad with Kale and winter veggies

This salad came to be as my plan B 🙂

salad-1

I went to buy blood oranges for a blood orange yogurt breakfast recipe. And surprise surprise, they were out. Hence Plan B. Chicken Salad with Kale and winter veggies. Some of the best things in life happen by accident. Though I have to confess here that it wasn’t a complete accident. I was working on chicken salad with winter veggies in my mind. And I found this gorgeous tender Kale. Brighter green in color, kind of purplish around the stem. Perfect for salad! Had some really nice heirloom carrots in the fridge. So voila, my tasty plan B in action.

The first thing to do is cook the chicken. Simple process. Wash the chicken breasts and grind some salt and pepper on each side. In a cast iron skillet (or any oven safe pan) heat up some olive oil. Saute the breasts both sides until they are nicely browned, around 10 mins on medium high. Stick the skillet in the oven for about 20 mins at 180 C / 350 F or until they are thoroughly cooked inside out. Set aside to cool down. Slice it later on for the salad.

salad-1-10

While chicken is cooking, prepare the Quinoa. Bring water to boil and add the quinoa. Let it cook for around 20 mins over medium fire. It should be relatively crunchy at the end.

Prepare your vegetables also. Wash them all very well. Cut the kale in big pieces. Peel the carrots and grate them finely. Cut the red cabbage in fine slices carefully with your knife.

salad-1-7-5

Make the dressing. In a bowl mix extra virgin olive, mustard, almond oil, white vinegar and orange juice for some natural sweetness (if you have blood oranges, even better!). It should be a fairly thin mixture when done. If its too thick, you can always add some more orange juice.

Get a nice and big bowl. Add the quinoa, kale and carrots. Sprinkle on top with the red cabbage slices. Add a little bit of salt and pepper. Scatter the chicken all around and drizzle over the dressing. I guarantee you, you will love this dish!

salad-1-7

Serves 2-3

Time: 40 mins in total

 

INGREDIENTS

 

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa + 1.5 cups water

2 medium chicken breasts, about 300 g / 10.5 oz

60 g / 2 oz fresh kale

2 medium carrots, about 160 g / 5.5 oz, finely grated

1/2 cup red cabbage, finely chopped

seasalt, pepper

 

For the Vinaigrette

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

3 tsps plain mustard

3 tsps almond oil

3 tsps white vinegar

2 tbsps orange juice

 

DIRECTIONS 

Wash the chicken breasts and grind some salt and pepper on each side. In a cast iron skillet (or any oven safe pan) heat up some olive oil. Saute the breasts both sides until they are nicely browned, around 10 mins on medium high. Stick the skillet in the oven for about 20 mins at 180 C / 350 F or until they are thoroughly cooked inside out. Set aside to cool down. Slice it later on for the salad.

While chicken is cooking, prepare the Quinoa. Bring water to boil and add the quinoa. Let it cook for around 20 mins over medium fire.

Wash your vegetables very well. Cut the kale in big pieces. Peel the carrots and grate them finely. Cut the red cabbage in fine slices carefully with your knife.

Make the dressing. In a bowl mix extra virgin olive, mustard, almond oil, white vinegar and orange juice. It should be a fairly thin mixture when done. If its too thick add some more orange juice.

In a big bowl add the quinoa, kale and carrots. Sprinkle on top with the red cabbage slices. Add a little salt and pepper. Scatter the chicken all around and drizzle over the dressing.