I was lucky enough to get to go to Greece in October of 2009 for my oldest friend's (as in the friend I've known the longest) wedding. That trip struck a major chord with me, just how completely rejuvenating it ended up being—it lingers in my mind pretty firmly—and it was on that trip that I really started in on the food photography thing. Everything was so delicious and lovely to look at. I was hoping the photos would trigger a sense memory of the taste (and then I just realized I was having fun doing it and got hooked).
Food from that general region of the world is pretty high at the top of my list of favorites, and I often try to take myself back there via my kitchen... sometimes you have to indulge yourself in small ways. This meal isn't necessarily an authentic Greek meal, but it was inspired by the ingredients and flavors that are used in Greek cooking.
I brought back a tzatziki spice mix that is still providing for me (a little goes a long way)—and I just got fresh cucumbers in my Farmhouse Delivery—so I started with that and built out from there. In Greece, tzatziki was always served with a crusty bread, not pita bread like you get with it here, so I picked up a fresh loaf of Pagnotta (an Italian country bread) at the Central Market bakery.
They had lamb loin chops at the butcher counter so I grabbed some of those as well, and found a recipe in my Mediterranean Cooking cookbook (still sitting out from Slim's birthday party) that I could use as a base. (Note: lamb loin chops are not cheap at all, but they are so tender and yummy it is worth the splurge... and as I mentioned earlier, sometimes you just gotta indulge yourself.)
I still had plenty of vegetables from the food swap last weekend and wanted to use those up, and was inspired by this recipe from Food 52... although the finished salad was pretty different from the original. It's similar to some salads I had in Greece that were usually just called "Greek Salad" (quotation marks included on menus, which entertained me) on the menus. Normally it had a combination of tomatoes, red onion, and cucumber and Feta with an olive-oil based vinaigrette... although the ingredients sort of ran the gamut.
|"Greek Salad" and tzatziki in Athens|
The finished product turned out to be great... totally filling but also really light (assuming you don't go hogwild with the crusty bread!), which is part of what I loved about Greek food. Both of these recipes are pretty quick to prepare (not counting the marinating time) and easy. The hardest part is threading the rosemary through the lamb without it breaking. The tzatziki and the salad can both be made in large enough quantities to have leftovers for a quick lunch later.
"Greek Salad" with Runner Beans, Potatoes, and Heirloom Tomatoes
Yield: 3–4 servings
- 1 heirloom tomato, sliced into wedges
- about 1/4 C thinly sliced red onion
- 1 red potato, cut into wedges
- about 1 C runner beans, trimmed (any variety will work, i.e. green beans, wax beans, string beans, etc.)
- about 1/8 C crumbled Feta
- 5-6 leaves of lemon balm, cut into a chiffonade (can substitute lemon zest)
- 4 T olive oil
- 2 T red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp honey
- Bring some water to boil in a small saucepan.
- Cook potatoes until almost tender.
- Add beans and cook about 3-4 minutes until crisp-tender.
- Drain potatoes and beans in a colander and rinse with cold water.
- Combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, mustard, salt, and honey in a small bowl. Stir well to combine.
- Combine vegetables in a bowl and stir to mix.
- Pour olive oil-vinegar mixture over the vegetables and stir well.
- Add Feta and lemon balm and stir well.
- Serve chilled and top with freshly ground black pepper just before serving.
Rosemary-Skewered Lamb Loin ChopsAdapted from the cookbook Mediterranean Cooking: A Culinary Tour of Sun-drenched Shores with Over 400 Dishes from Southern Europe by Jacqueline Clarke & Joanna Farrow
Yield: 2 servings
- 1/2 large yellow onion, cut into quarters
- zest from 1 lemon
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1/3 C olive oil
- 1 T dried Greek oregano (Italian oregano will work too)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 lamb loin chops
- 4 6" springs of rosemary with sturdy, woody stems
- Combine all ingredients except lamb and rosemary in a food processor or blender and pulse until well-blended and there are no large chunks.
- Place lamb chops in a large Ziploc bag or container and pour onion mixture over them.
- Place in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
- Pierce lamb chops with a metal skewer, knife, or ice pick and thread the rosemary gently through the hole, trying not to break the stems (this takes a little TLC).
- Preheat grill or grill pan.
- Cook over medium-high for about 5 minutes on each side.
I just wish I had thought to stop and pick up some Ouzo to go with it... oh well... cheers!
|me with my Ouzo on Mykonos, about to watch the most breath-taking sunset of my life (& that's not hyperbole)|
Check out this great cookbook on Amazon;
it's one of my favorites.