Anyone that’s read my blog for a minute knows that I love Greek food, so I was excited to have the opportunity to review Debbie Matenopoulos’new cookbook, It’s All Greek To Me…
One of my best friends when I was growing up was Greek, and I spent many summer days at her home, watching her Yia-Yia (grandma) spend her whole day in the kitchen. Every. Single. Day. Of. The. Week. And I happily reaped the benefits of those long hot days in a south Texas kitchen.
Baklava, Finikia, Dolmades, Spanikopita, and so many of my now favorite foods that I owe eternal homage to Zeus and the rest of the guys on Mount Olympus. Everything burst with flavors of lemon, oregano, olives….honey, and oranges and nuts.
Anyway, the Greeks have spent thousands of years nailing it on how to use few ingredients to make fabulous, mouth popping food. Using simple, natural, locally available ingredients (honey, walnuts, olives, lamb, fresh cheeses, etc..) they created, thousands of years ago, dishes that have transcended time.
As soon as my copy of Debbie’s book arrived, I tore into it and begin to plan which recipe I would prepare for my review. Well, Zeus a-mighty, I couldn’t decide I just one, so I made 2. I’m an over-achiever like that.
The result? My family—even the finicky 16 year old who subsists on a steady diet of chicken nuggets and pizza rolls was impressed. He ate all of his, and part of mine, because he’s a sneaky little chicken thief that way.
Both recipes were easy to prepare, and didn’t use a huge laundry list of ingredients. My husband was particularly taken with the lemon salad dressing that went with the chicken (in itself, a third recipe from the book).
Although not featured here, I made the meatball soup for the first course, and it was delicious, bright, lemony broth with tender flavorful meatballs.
If you would like a chance to win a copy of this wonderful Greek cookbook, simply leave a comment in response to this post, and you will be entered into a drawing that will take place on August 1st. (one entry per person).
Lemonati Kota sta Karvouna (leh-moh-NAH-tee KOH-tah stah KAR-voo-nah)
Lemony Grilled Chicken
I have found that simple food with great flavor is often the most satisfying, healthy, and easy to prepare. This fast and fantastic chicken recipe is packed with flavor and can be doubled or tripled easily for a big crowd. Serve this chicken with Summer Peach Salsa for a great summer lunch or light dinner. You can make the salsa and start to marinate the chicken right before you leave for work in the morning. Then, when you come home, just toss the chicken on the grill, and you can have a healthy dinner on the table in about 20 minutes.
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
5 scallions, soft green parts reserved, thinly sliced
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups loosely packed mixed greens or baby spinach
1 recipe Summer Peach Salsa (page 83) or Latholemono (page 73), See below
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, and the white parts of the scallions. Set aside.
Rinse the chicken under cold water, pat dry with paper towels, and season on both sides with the salt and pepper. Put the chicken into a large Ziploc bag and pour in the lemon juice mixture. Squeeze out as much air as possible, seal the bag, and shake to coat chicken in the marinade. Refrigerate on a large plate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Flip the bag over at least once so that the chicken marinates evenly.
Prepare a very hot grill or set a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the grill or grill pan with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from the grill and let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
To serve, evenly distribute the greens among 4 plates. Slice the chicken breasts into 1-inch diagonal slices and fan the slices over the greens. Spoon the Summer Peach Salsa or Latholemono over the top of the chicken. Garnish with the reserved green parts of the scallions. This chicken is also delicious served with Tzatziki (page 76).
Lemon–Olive Oil Dressing
This classic and very versatile dressing is one of my all-time favorites. Sometimes the simplest things really are the best. Try this dressing on salads, fish, shellfish—even chicken. I love it on Horta (Dandelion Greens Salad, page 104).
SERVES 6 TO 8
4 to 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons), depending on how tangy you like it
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic (if using). Then very slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.
i doubled the recipe, and put the remainder in a bottle for continued use this week. So good.
Almond, Orange, and Semolina Cake
Revani, or ravani, is one of my favorite cakes of all time. It is a traditional syrup-soaked Greek cake that is found in various incarnations in cuisines across the eastern Mediterranean region.
SERVES 10 TO 12
FOR THE CAKE
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
11/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup coarse semolina flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus 1 pinch
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds, lightly toasted and finely chopped
FOR THE SYRUP
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 (1-inch wide) slice orange peel, 2 inches long
1 cinnamon stick
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9 × 13-inch baking dish.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running on low speed, add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, mixing until well combined. Then add the Grand Marnier or Cointreau, orange zest, and orange juice, mixing for 1 minute more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl twice during mixing.
In another mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, semolina flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, then stir in the almonds. With the motor running on low speed, slowly add the flour-almond mixture, one-third at a time, to the batter. Mix only until just combined. Transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl, and set aside. Wash and dry the bowl of the electric mixer very well, making sure there is no grease left inside the bowl.
Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and beat the egg whites together with the remaining pinch of salt until stiff peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gently fold a large spoonful of the egg whites into the almond batter to lighten the batter. Then add the lightened batter back into the egg whites, very gently folding them together until just combined. You do not want to lose anyof the airy volume from the egg whites.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth the top into an even layer. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. While the cake is baking, combine all of the syrup ingredients in a medium, nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 15 minutes, until it resembles a light maple syrup. Cool slightly, then carefully remove and discard the orange peel and cinnamon stick. Set the syrup aside. When the cake is done, immediately pour the hot syrup over the top. Cover with foil and let the cake sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour to cool and absorb the syrup. Slice into pieces, and serve. Revani will keep, covered tightly, at room temperature for up to 4 days.
i served some for breakfast the next morning, topped with additional chopped almonds, and sliced apricots on the side.