Friday, May 29, 2009

Auga me Ntomata--Eggs with Tomatoes

I'm not typically a breakfast person. As much as I love food and cooking, there's something about eating (be it toast, cereal, croissant, eggs, pancakes, etc., etc.) early in the morning (say, before 10:00 a.m.) that makes my stomach turn. It's been a problem since I was a kid: my mom would obviously want me to eat something before school and follow that something with a tall glass of milk ... I get nauseous just thinking about it. Don't get me wrong--I love all types of breakfast foods and I especially like milk, but again, after about 10:00 a.m. Before then, it's just a simple cup of coffee with a splash of milk/half and half and I'm good to go.

On weekdays, I make breakfast for the kiddies around 7:30 a.m. and I'll stick with my coffee and some water until about 10:00 a.m. when I'll usually snack on some bread and cheese. Or, if I'm swamped with housework, errands, writing or blogging I won't eat anything until I make a quick salad at around 11:00 a.m.

On weekends though, as we're all home and there's no morning rush, I like to make more elaborate breakfasts for the family. Pancakes, crepes, French toast, omelets ... they're all crowd pleasers. One of my favorites though is fried eggs with tomatoes. It's a common dish in Greece (and we'll eat it any time of day, not just in the a.m.) and one that varies a bit cook to cook. Some like their eggs scrambled, some fried, some like to grate their tomato and some like to just chop it instead.

Personally, I'm a fan of the version I've posted below: coarsely chopped tomatoes, a little roasted red pepper and a runny egg yolk oozing over top ... serve with a slice of fresh bread and a slab of Feta and you're good to go.

Auga me Ntomata--Eggs with Tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 roasted red pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Eggs (I use three to four eggs with this amount of ingredients)

Heat olive oil in a medium-large skillet and stir in the tomatoes and red pepper. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook the mixture, until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 10 minutes).

Carefully break your eggs over the tomato-pepper mixture. Season the egg yolks with a little salt and pepper then spoon some of the remaining liquid in the skillet over your eggs to more evenly cook them (should take about 5 minutes). Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with bread and Feta.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Keik me Fraoules kai Karydia--Strawberry Walnut Loaf

Strawberry season is on and our local fruit and vegetable markets are brimming with containers of these ripe red berries. The kiddies can eat an entire quart in the blink of an eye so I barely ever get to set some aside for anything (or, ehem, anyone) else. But as strawberries now are ridiculously fresh and really inexpensive, I didn't hesitate to buy a few extra the other day.

I love quick fresh cakes that double as a breakfast option and a healthy snack. So it was a no-brainer that any extra strawberries on hand would make it into one such sweet treat. Moist, just sweet enough and loaded with fresh strawberries this Strawberry and Walnut Loaf is the perfect way to put your strawberries to good use.

As Happy Cook of My Kitchen Treasures is hosting the event Strawberry Feast, I am sending this her way.

Strawberry Walnut Loaf

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a loaf pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.

Stir in half of the flour mixture, then all the yogurt and finally the remaining flour. Mix in the sliced strawberries and walnuts until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in center of oven for about 40 minutes, until golden or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on wire rack.

Note: To dress this simple treat up, drizzle a simple glaze over top or serve with freshly whipped cream.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spetzofai se Kantaifi -- Sausage and Peppers over Kataifi

Spetzofai (sausage and peppers) is a common enough dish but one I don't think I can easily get tired of. It's definitely a rustic dish and one a little less visually appealing than a food blogger might like, but when done right it can be unbelievably flavorful.

I came across this recipe on the Greek Web site Kathimerini and thought it was a great twist to the traditional Spetzofai. Kataifi is typically used in Greek desserts but there are so many savory applications it can be used towards as well (see these Shrimp Wrapped in Kataifi). So, when some friends came by for an impromptu Friday night dinner a couple of weeks ago, I gave this Spetzofai over Kataifi a shot ... and made just a few minor changes along the way.

Since Easter, I feel like we've been on a meat-eating spree and being that summer is here (I can't believe it's already Memorial Day weekend in the United States) it's time to tighten the reins. As such, I used some turkey sausage in this dish and although a much leaner and lighter version, I wasn't disappointed with the results. Saute the sausage with tons of onions, vibrant peppers and juicy tomatoes; layer it on top of some Kataifi (shredded Greek phyllo); top with some cheese and bake until heated through. You really can't go wrong.

Spetzofai se Kantaifi -- Sausage and Peppers over Kataifi
(Adapted from a recipe on
Serves 6

1/2 pound Kataifi (thawed)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 pounds turkey sausage, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large red peppers, sliced
2 large green peppers, sliced
2 medium/large tomatoes, diced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
6 ounces graviera (gruyere), cubed

Heat oil in a large skillet; add the sausage and the onions and saute until the sausage is browned. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Add the peppers and stir well. Pour in the diced tomatoes; cover the skillet and cook over low-medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a baking dish and layer the bottom of the dish with kataifi (pulling the kataifi apart with your fingers as you go). Drizzle the kataifi with a little olive oil; top with the sausage mixture and add the cubed cheese on top. Bake until the kataifi is golden in color.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fassolakia me Koukounaria kai Katsikisio Tyri--Green Bean, Pine Nut and Goat Cheese Salad

For some strange reason it had been a really long time since we'd had green beans. I don't know why ... the kids adore them, my husband loves them and I enjoy them too. But for most of this winter whatever green beans made it to our local fruit and vegetable markets looked kind of drab and lifeless ... never making it into my shopping basket.

The other day though I came upon a fresh batch of slender green beans and I picked two bags right up. I was roasting some whole chicken legs again that day and I decided I wanted a light side dish to accompany them, so I came up with this no-fuss green bean salad. In hindsight, I would have liked to have seen some shallots make it into this dish in place of the garlic. But this simple saute was still packed with flavor as the nutty pine nuts and mellow goat cheese gave these tender green beans tons of character.

I often have a few spectators waiting around to taste a dish while I'm trying to snap a picture of it. As you can see here, this little guy took the plate right out from under me just as I was wrapping up these pics! It's safe to say this green bean salad is a very kid-friendly dish ...just look at that happy smile!

Warm Green Bean, Pine Nut and Goat Cheese Salad
Makes 4 servings

1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1/3 to 1/2 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
Splash of balsamic vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the pine nuts. Once the pine nuts look toasted and golden, add the garlic and stir for a few seconds longer. Add the green beans and give them a good stir. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat until the green beans are just tender but still bright green. Season with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, add the splash of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese. This is great served slightly warm or even at room temperature.

Note: I tend to like to throw green beans in my skillet and saute them til tender, while most others like to blanch them in boiling water and then place them in ice water to stop the cooking process. So, the choice is yours ...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ravani tis Mamas -- Mom's Ravani

My mom's most sought after desserts by our family and friends are her Ravani and Baklava. My personal favorite, by far, has always been her Ravani. This moist semolina cake sweetened by just the right amount of cinnamon-scented syrup is sublime.

This Ravani was one of the first desserts I made for my husband and it quickly became one of his favorites as well. Some time ago, he even treated his co-workers to some and as such I bake a large pan every couple of months for him to bring to the office. This special Ravani makes an appearance at pretty much every one of our holiday tables, whether made by my mom or myself. It's a simple recipe that yields what I believe to be delicious results.

As tomorrow is Mother's Day I couldn't think of a better time to highlight my mom's Ravani and for this reason I am sending this to Ivy of Kopiaste as she is hosting a Celebrating Mother's Day event. I may be 31 but I still call my mom "Mommy." Always have, always will. So ... Mommy, I wish you a very Happy Mother's Day! I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your hard work and dedication to us girls (there are four of us) and for being such an amazing Giagia to your very lucky grandchildren. We love you ...

Ravani tis Mamas--Mom's Ravani
Makes a 13x9-inch Pan

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup simigdali psilo (fine semolina)
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

For the Syrup:
3 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon honey (preferably thyme)
2 cinnamon sticks
A couple drops of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease your pan and set aside. Combine the flour, semolina and baking powder in a small bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and begin adding the flour mixture a little at a time until just combined.

Pour into pan and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake at 425 degrees for about 5 minutes then lower oven to 350 degrees and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

While the cake bakes, place all the ingredients for the syrup in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer on low until the cake is ready.

Using a ladle, add some of the hot syrup to the hot cake a little at a time until done. Set aside, cool to room temperature and serve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Trahanas me Ntomata kai Feta--Trahanas with Tomato and Feta

The other day my husband came home with a package--well, a few packages. Our latest shipment of olive oil, which my father-in-law and mother-in-law send us straight from Agrinio every few months, was in and my hubby drove to Astoria to pick it all up from one of the many Greek shipping companies based there.

In the past, my in-laws have managed to send along a couple of large containers of olive oil as well as a small container of Kalamata olives or some Feta cheese preserved in salt water. With this shipment, however, we not only received our oil and olives but a fourth container filled to the brim with smaller vessels of my beloved thyme honey, homemade hilopites and lots of trahana. We thoroughly appreciate my in-laws' generosity and their willingness to send a little bit of Greece to us every chance they get.

And now onto what all these goodies will become ...

So the heat wave we enjoyed just over a week ago has now subsided and given way to some wet and dreary weather. But I'm not complaining; it is Spring after all ... and all these showers bring all our beautiful flowers. Not to mention that this rainy weather is accompanied perfectly by a good bowl of Trahanosoupa (soup made with trahanas) ... and there's nothing like curling up with a warm bowl of soup while the rain pitter patters across every window around the house.

Trahanosoupa is a simple soup made with sour trahana (which you can read more on here) and either water, chicken broth, beef broth or vegetable broth. Some like to add in a bit of milk but I opt to add some chopped tomato and top it off with some crumbled Feta once done. If you haven't tried trahana yet, I urge you to soon. Beyond soup, trahana makes for a distinct side dish to meats and poultry, a versatile filling for vegetables and a great alternative to bread crumbs.

Try it, you won't be disappointed.

Trahanas me Ntomata kai Feta--Trahanas with Tomato and Feta

1 cup sour trahana
3 cups water
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 small to medium tomato, diced
6 ounces Feta, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Finely chopped parsley (to garnish)

In a saucepan combine the trahana, water, broth and tomato and bring to a boil. Stir well, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes stirring often.

Season with salt and pepper and ladle into serving bowls. Top with crumbled Feta and chopped parsley and serve immediately.