My parents were visiting Pittsburgh for the Easter holiday so I knew I would have extra help in the kitchen this week. I purposely chose recipes that were on the simpler and shorter side since whenever family and friends are visiting, the time together always by way too quickly. Although they’re not part of a series, I love the four cookbooks I have from HP Books (Greek, French, Japanese, and Vietnamese). They were published in the early 1990s but for some reason Borders always had mass quantities of them on clearance. So for a couple of dollars each, I got four great cookbooks that contain simple yet delicious recipes complete with color photographs and a culinary background on the country. I went with Greek food since it’s a cuisine that everyone in my immediate and extended family seems to love.
I started out by making Tzatziki which is a Greek cucumber yogurt dip. It was EXTREMELY simple to make and so healthy as it literally consisted of nothing more than plain yogurt, diced cucumber, garlic and fresh mint. I served it with toasted pita strips.
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 cup plain yogurt
Pita bread, to serve
With a sharp knife, peel cucumber and dice. Place in a colander, sprinkle with two teaspoons salt and let drain for one hour.
Pat cucumber dry with paper towels. Crush garlic with remaining salt until creamy.
In a bowl, mix together garlic, chopped mint, and yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in diced cucumber. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve at once with pita bread.
Makes 6 servings.
For our main course, my mom and I made moussaka. Although I’ve made this countless times before, it was always with my “staple” recipe although the version in the Book of Greek Cooking was a lot less time consuming as in half the number of steps (but still equally good).
I’m not Greek nor have ever been to Greece but moussaka in my opinion definitely seems the Greek version of comfort food.
1-1/2 lbs. eggplant
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra for frying
2 onions, finely chopped
1-1/2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
2 tomatoes-peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup grated kefalotiti cheese
Thinly slice the eggplant and put into a colander. Sprinkle with salt and let drain one hour. In a saucepan, heat one tablespoon oil. Add onions and cook until soft. Add lamb or beef and stir until brown. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper, wine and 1/2 cup water. Cover; simmer for 30 minutes. Remove lid and cook until mixture is dry. Pat eggplants dry with paper towels. Heat 1/2 inch oil in a skillet. Fry eggplants, turning once until beginning to brown. Drain on paper towels. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To make sauce, melt butter. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes over low heat. Remove form heat. Gradually stir in milk and yogurt, then return to heat. Stir until thick and smooth. Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Put a layer of eggplant in a baking dish. Cover with half of meat mixture, then half of remaining eggplant slices. Cover with remaining meat and eggplant slices. Pour sauce over top, sprinkle with cheese. Bake 40 minutes or until brown.
Makes 6 servings.
Recipes from Lesley Mackley’s The Book of Greek Cooking