Greece, Revisited

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View from Oia, Santorini

I visited Greece this Spring for the first time, and like many far-flung places I’ve been to, the memories of the food are some of the most vivid, sticking with me months – sometimes years – after I get home.

So it’s only fitting that I had my fellow travel buddies over for a soiree back in the city, and we recreated our favorite dishes from Crete, Santorini, and Athens, where we found a nice mix of local tavernas and seasonal eats.

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Happy campers. Just add rosé.

I’ll admit I was giddy as a school girl getting ready for dinner:  sprucing up the deck, hanging twinkle lights, and decorating the table with white cheesecloth napkins (maybe a nod to the process of making Tzatziki?), a potted oregano plant, and lanterns.

IMG_2165But back to our travels.  Some of the best dishes from our trip were just awesome ingredients simply prepared, so we did our best to recreate them:  a simple Greek salad, grilled squid with fresh lemon, zucchini fritters, and a team favorite, feta.  While always great plain, I dialed it up a notch and recreated an appetizer we had at Floga, a restaurant in Oia, after a 3-hour hike from Fira:

We were sweaty and nasty and ravenous after the hike, so of course everything we ate at that lunch seemed incredible.  But this one feta dish stood out:  it was rolled in slivered almonds and sesame seeds, lightly pan-fried to a golden brown, and served with a pomegranate reduction.  Talk dirty!

Feta final

Golden Fried Feta

So that’s what I set out to make at home (above).  Here’s my attempt to recreate the recipe.  I’ll caveat that it was a mess to make, and certainly not for the impatient.  But after one bite into the toasted nuttiness and warm cheese, I knew it was time well spent.

Golden Fried Feta

Ingredients:
– 1 c. pomegranate juice (ie Pom)
– olive oil
– 1 square block of feta (8 oz)
– 1 egg
– 1 T. milk
– 1/3 c. flour
– 1/2 c. slivered almonds
– 1 t. sesame seeds
– Pita wedges, for serving

Heat the pomegranate in a small saucepan over high heat until it simmers; reduce to half and set aside to cool.  In the meantime, heat olive oil in a heavy pan on medium, enough to coat the bottom by about 1/3″. Beat egg and milk in a large, shallow bowl. Set aside. Combine flour and pepper on a separate plate, set aside. Pour almonds on a third plate, set aside.

Quarter your feta block into 4 equal wedges and prep each as follows: dredge triangle in egg mixture, then flour, then egg mixture. This will give you a gooey base. Sprinkle a few pinches of sesame onto the wedge, then gently press the almonds onto each side, coating as much “cheese space’ as possible. Repeat on remaining wedges.

Fry two wedges at a time, alternating sides until they are golden brown. Drizzle with pomegranate reduction and serve with greens and pita.

Shisito Pepper Redux

For those of you following along on my gardening escapades (all two of you), you know I’ve tried my hand at an assortment of veggies on the deck.  While I ventured into jalapenos last year – and they did well – there are only so many jalapenos one can eat solo.  Peppers, however, seem to grow well here.

Enter: shisito peppers.  I first ate them in the spring of 2011 while traveling around Spain with my dear friend Alexis.  In Barcelona, we prioritized taking in the architecture, but (naturally) also excelled at taking in some great meals, deciding against the more over-the-top foodie destinations (no foam-infusions, thanks), and opting for places where dishes were prepared simply, using fresh ingredients at the peak of their season, with minimal fanfare.

I’m pretty sure we ate shisito peppers at just about every one of these meals:  they were served charred, doused in a perfect sheen of olive oil and sprinkled with crunchy sea salt.  And as someone who loves surprises, a game of shisito roulette emerged (turns out, 1 in 10 is incredibly spicy).

Here in the city, I’ve only found these peppers in August at the Union Square Greenmarket, so I’m growing them myself, which means a much wider window of pepper-ific enjoyment.   My three plants finally produced enough to toss on the grill last night.  I went rogue and did it sans recipe and let my memory of how they tasted dictate how I cooked them.IMG_2133 (1)IMG_2141Cooking them required a quick toss in olive oil, and about 8 minutes (4 per side) on the grill.  They turned out smoky, juicy, and some Maldon Sea Salt lent a nice amount of crunch.  And yes, I got a major hot one, however I ate them so fast I never identified the little bugger.  #sabroso!IMG_2147