Feast 16 – This is Love, Greek Style

It’s been a difficult week. i have been working long hours without much sleep and the little details have been difficult. on friday, i made my shopping list for this weekend’s meal… although the recipes were right in front of me, somehow i managed to omit about 1/3 of the ingredients. i blame the exhaustion. i mean, for real? one of my dishes this week is eggplant salad and for whatever reason, i managed to make a shopping list without eggplant on it. really.

i hit a spark the other day and decided that it would be nice to have a little greek food. one of the few cookbooks that i brought with me to korea was bought for me by my wife a year or so ago called The Olive and the Caper by Susanna Hoffman… i highly recommend this book, you should all rush out today and buy it. or at least add it to your amazon wish lists. not only is it chock full of really good recipes, it is filled with the culinary history of greece with many asides about the cultural impact of the food. even if you aren’t cooking, it’s the kind of book you can pick up and learn something from. i selected three recipes from it that appealed this week and made them. two of them were very successful and the third, well, i only recognized the failure when it was too late. more on that later.

The three dishes that i chose for this week are Country Style Eggplant Salad, Spanakopita and (get this) Beef with olives and 100 cloves of garlic. yeah, that’s right, 100 cloves of garlic. i’ll admit, between us, in my case it turned out to be around 76 cloves of garlic but that was more than sufficient.

out of respect for the author and to encourage you to buy the cook book, i am only going to gloss over the highpoints of these recipes, my experiences with them. i know some of you would like to go right ahead and cook these but trust me, you need this cookbook on your shelf…

baked eggplant

baked eggplant

The Eggplant Salad: I would have to say that you haven’t lived until you have heard an eggplant explode in your oven. yup, it happened and amazingly enough, not a single splatter to clean up. the first step in this recipe is to roast an eggplant in a 450 degree oven for around 50 minutes or until it collapses. yes, you need to prick it to prevent pressure build up and yes, i did indeed poke it good with a knife but as i was chopping the other ingredients for the salad (onion, tomato, garlic, parsley, oregano, mint (which i excluded)) i heard a large pop from the oven. opening the oven, i discovered that the eggplant had built up pressure and burst but it burst from the bottom, remaining on the pizza pan i had baked it on. cool the eggplant, skin it, roughly chop it and mix with the above ingredients and dry mustard, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. toss well and refrigerate until dinner time…

Eggplant Salad

Eggplant Salad

Spanakopita: This is one of the classic dishes in greek cuisine that i always key in on. the layers of feta and spinach interwoven with crispy filo pastry turn this into a damned tasty dish. however, the negative is that it involves working with filo which if you remember back to my adventures with borek a few weeks ago, i was none too pleased with. well, here’s a little secret. this is basically a casserole so it doesn’t matter if the filo tears. just go with it. the key to this is making sure you have at least 4 but optimally around six layers of filo in each stratus of the casserole. this will give them the chance to puff up and be downright delicious. the secret is to oil each piece of filo as you layer it, just a little bit. i use a spritzer bottle full of olive oil and work my way up slowly. as far as the filling, wilt some spinach in a pan, add some scallions, shopped well. mix this with 10 oz of feta, 3 beaten eggs, parsley, dill and a bit of salt. mix well to combine and layer with the pastry. brush the top layer of pastry with a bit of egg and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. serve and enjoy the praise of your guests.

Spanakopita

Spanakopita

Beef with olives and 100 cloves of garlic: here is where i made the one mistake of the day. it turned out ok but the dish could have been elevated to another level altogether, the level it belongs at. more on that in a second but first, given the fact that this dish calls for 100 cloves of garlic, i have a few words to say on the matter.

Some of the many many many cloves of garlic

Some of the many many many cloves of garlic

Anthony Bourdain said (i paraphrase) if you can’t be bothered to peel your own garlic then you don’t deserve fresh garlic. Damn it, Tony, i know you are right but jesus, 100 cloves? shortcut? anyone? made me wish that my sous chef was here with me, bless her 6 year old heart. peeling garlic is one of the things she enjoys helping with although we would probably still be waiting on them at the rate she peels 🙂

as far as peeling garlic cloves, i’m sure every chef has their own technique. i use two methods, based on if i need the cloves whole for a garnish or whatever or if the clove is going to be chopped up or used in a sauce. if you want to keep your cloves whole for presentation, you are pretty much stuck with using just your hands a fingernails, working quickly but gently and preserving the clove intact. however, if you plan on chopping the clove or otherwise rendering it into another shape or form, there is a quick shortcut that i take with my trusty chefs knife that speeds the process along a bit. after you separate the cloves, cut a small bit of the root end off and cut a small slit in the rounded edge of the clove. thats it. it makes them so much quick and easier to peel, i know if sounds obvious but thats me, captain obvious.

beef stewing away

beef stewing away

for the amount of flavor this dish packs, it is deceptively simple. start with three pounds of boneless chuck and cube. brown this off in batches while you are peeling your garlics. after all the meet is browned off, continue peeling garlic. then, peel some more garlic. okay, guess i flogged that dead horse. i deviated from the book recipe by using my crock pot for this. i’m a sucker for it, i think its a great way of making these sorts of dishes. all the browned meat into the crock pot. meanwhile, add the 100 cloves of garlic to the pan you browned the meat in, add 48 olives, 4 cups of dry red wine, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 2 bay leaves and a generous amount of black pepper. bring to a boil to deglaze the pan and pour over your meat in the crock pot. the original recipe called for 1.75 – 2 hours in the oven at 425 degrees so i decided, ok, crock pot on high, 3.5 hours, should be job done. well, serving time came and the meat was not quite as tender as i would have hoped. the sauce was also not rendered as described. pity that, i thought, should use a better cut of meat next time. so, eddie and i ate and i decided, ok, lets go ahead and continue cooking this, see if i can get a decent consistency out of the meat. result? well, 3 hours later, the meat was melt in your mouth tender and the sauce had developed into a thick gravy, all the garlic breaking down and becoming one with the juices and wine. it was extraordinary. i have it in the fridge for leftovers and regret that i served up the shallow shadow of the dish for dinner yesterday. pity. well, lesson learned, use the crock pot but give yourself alot of extra time. slow cooking is just that: slow. and so worth it.

Plated and ready to serve

Plated and ready to serve

Overall, quite happy with this meal. my only regret is that because of work, i was prevented from drinking any alcohol with it. i think a nice red or even a nice beer would have rounded this experience out quite well.

ok, i’m also very proud of the fact the Eddie has gotten bitten by the culinary bug. he brought over a Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and some toast rounds. the hummus turned out great both taste wise and visually. he is coming up with things that i never thought of, i won’t spoil it but he’s got a few new tricks to teach sunny side up egg.

Eddie's Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Eddie's Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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11 Responses to Feast 16 – This is Love, Greek Style

  1. xtna says:

    wow…the hummus looks gorgeous, oh, and the rest of the food does too. lol. the fifty billion garlics reminds me of your stews and the crusty breads that accompany…yummy. it’s going to be stew season soon.

  2. Eddie! Nice!

    I was just dying when you said the eggplant exploded! What an eventful meal!

  3. That was epic. You’re gonna stank like garlic for weeks though, bud.

  4. Greg Senior says:

    Got a completely off subject question that’s been bugging me and can’t find the answer. sometime in the early 70″s Pink Floyd did the soundtrack for a psychedelic sci-fy movie, can’t remember a lot about it other than it was them, after all it was the 70″s ;>) any idea of the name?

  5. 48feasts says:

    floyd did a few soundtracks during that time, i think the one you are thinking of is probably “More” by Barbet Schroeder. also from the period are ” the valley” also by Schroeder, the soundtrack of which was released as Obscured by Clouds and Zabriskie Point which featured tracks from Floyd and a bunch of other contemporaries such as Jerry Garcia, Patti Page and The Youngbloods. If you go back to 1968 there was a short film called “Tonight let’s all make love in london” which was soundtracked by Floyd, features a 15 minute version of interstellar overdrive that’s pretty good.

  6. 48feasts says:

    reviewing the question, none of the above are really sci-fi movies… i’m not really sure of any other movie they did that would be considered sci-fi but will do some additional research

  7. Greg Senior says:

    It had a sort of a Dr. Who type feel involved English actors there was a lake involved in the plot somehow and lots of early cg type patterns different freq square waves and sines shifting and changing colors, think they were supposed to represent psionic attacks or something, think maybe there was an alien ship in the lake, could have been a BBC TV show also, back in the old days AFRTS would get some pretty strange stuff in

  8. […] marks 2,000 days on Mars … “You haven’t lived until you have heard an eggplant explode in your oven” … Curse of the Cow Tongue … “People didn’t know how […]

  9. Lex says:

    Looks good, but it must have been tempting to cheat and buy one of those huge bags of peeled garlic that Korean housewives purchase. A third peeling technique sometimes used in restaurants is to put a handful of cloves into a square, stainless steel steam table pan (or something similar). Invert another on top of the first; hold them together; and shake vigorously for a minute or two. Most of the peels come off and what doesn’t is easy to remove.

    Also, pretty neat that you’ve got a place in Korea with an oven.

  10. 48feasts says:

    believe me, very tempting to take shortcuts but it would defeat the purpose of the project.

    the oven is small but i am thankful for it. the stove top is actually my biggest complaint, its small and situated too near the kitchen wall so i can’t even use my main skillet that is the kitchen workhorse under normal circumstances.

  11. […] marks 2,000 days on Mars … “You haven’t lived until you have heard an eggplant explode in your oven” … Curse of the Cow Tongue … “People didn’t know how […]

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