Thursday, November 24, 2011

Don't Forget the Medicine

Good medicine for your body
During the feasting of the holidays, don't forget to take your medicine.  Huh?

Holiday feasting is fine, in fact, I believe that it's an important part of being alive.  It's fun and comforting, so what's all this medicine fuss about?

What's not so good about all the rich and delicious food of the holiday season is that it throws our bodies off balance.  Body to self: "Hey, whassup?  I don't feel like taking a walk or going to work or cleaning up or...  I feel like lying here on the sofa and taking a nap."  See what I mean?

To keep your body balanced, try one day of feasting and one day of nutritious, delicious and healing food to balance things out.  My prescription?  How about a stew of collards, green beans, onion, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and tomatoes?  Now THAT'S good medicine.

Stewed Collards, Green Beans and Tomatoes

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 large yellow onions, chopped (about 2 cups +/-)
24 cups collards, packed down to measure (about 2 large bunches) *
1 lb green beans (if you can find haricot vert, there's no stringing or cutting)
1 (28 oz) can of whole tomatoes
56 oz water--use the empty tomato can
1/2 bunch fresh Italian Parsley or fresh cilantro, chopped
freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt

In a large heavy pot, heat the oil, add the onions and garlic and stir in the salt.  This will help to draw out the juices from the onion.  When the onion is transparent and soft, stir in the collards and season with the pepper.  Crush the tomatoes with your well-washed hands and stir into the pot, along with the tomato juic in the can. Add remaining ingredients, stir, bring to the boil, lower heat to simmer, cover the pot and walk away for about 30 minutes.  Check seasoning and adjust, if needed, stir, cover and continue to cook for 30 minutes longer.

Serve over rice or Greek style, with toasted French bread and a big chunk of Feta cheese on the side.

*Buy fresh collards (organically grown, if possible), pull leaves away from the tough stalk and wash well.  Gather several leaves together, roll as if you were assembling a cigar and slice on the diagonal into large ribbons.  NOW pack them into a measuring cup and you're done.  Obviously, having a larger measuring cup is useful.  I have a 2-cup and an 8-cup, which make it much easier than using an itty-bitty one-cup.  You can also "eyeball" this, 'cause you can't go wrong with a few extra collards.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

TED talk by Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver's amazing and revealing talk about food, obesity and solutions.  Very powerful!  Wait until you see the wheelbarrow-full of added sugar that children consume in a year ONLY from drinking milk!  Click on Jamie's name to view the video.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How About a Greek Super Bowl Party:
Bring the flavor of Greece to your Super Bowl party this year

The Greeks invented the Super Bowl! No? Well, they invented the party, didn’t they? You’ve heard of Greeks breaking dishes when they party; you’ve seen them yelling OPA! at a Greek festival or in a movie; you’ve seen them dance the night away in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and you’ve seen them drinking Ouzo, the most popular and most recognized alcoholic Greek drink. The truth is, when Greeks are watching Europe’s version of the Super Bowl, the World Cup (of soccer), it’s a wild celebration and there is fun enough for everyone. It’s just like the Super Bowl, folks!

With food options like Soutzoukakia, the little football-shaped meatballs of Greece, you just can’t go wrong. Greek food was made for this.

The Food:
Besides Soutzoukakia served on skewers, try the following…
· Chopped Greek Salad—the same ingredients, but chopped into small pieces. Offer small Romaine lettuce cups to scoop it up, just like chips.
· Tsatziki—the delicious sauce serve with Gyro sandwiches can double up as a dip at this party. Surround it with your choice of dipping veggies and chips. Prepare enough to use with your burgers.
· Greek Burgers—Grill your favorite burger patties and top with Chopped Greek Salad and a dollop of Tsatziki for a flavor-packed bite.
· Greek Potato Salad—What’s a Super Bowl party without potato salad, right? This recipe is made without mayonnaise, so there’s no concern about leaving it out for several hours and you can eat it guilt-free—it’s made with olive oil and vinegar!
· Greek Chicken Wings—Adapt my Greek Grilled Lamb recipe by grilling or frying up to 50 chicken wings and slathering with the grilling sauce when they’re done. Now we’re talking Super Bowl!

The Drinks:

Wine—There really is something about the taste of Retsina, that pairs beautifully with Greek food, so you may want to have a couple of bottle for your friends to taste. Add two large bottles of Sauvignon Blanc or your favorite Chardonnay and one large bottle of a Merlot and you wine selection is complete. Keep the white wine on ice.

Beer—You can’t have a Super Bowl party without Beer, which is actually quite popular in Greece. A tub of assorted beers on ice is all you need, and they don’t have to be Greek.

Offer an Ouzo bar: You’ll need one to two bottles of Ouzo. Try two different labels for variety. Add a small tub of ice and a large pitcher of cold water to the bar and the only thing missing is a large sign warning people of the dangers of drinking Ouzo too quickly!








Print drink cards to place on the Ouzo bar. You want your guests to know HOW to drink this refreshing anise-flavored drink. Try this, or come up with your own.


SIP AWAY:
Ouzo is the national drink of Greece.
Don’t drink it straight up.
Ouzo is potent, and, with an alcohol level around 45 percent, will have you on your knees in no time.
The traditional (and prescribed) way to drink Ouzo is to drink it with water, usually one part Ouzo to two parts water.
Ice may also be used.
Pour Ouzo in the glass and top off with the water. It will turn milky—that’s the look you want. If it’s too strong, add a little more water.




It’s Greek to Me: Learn to say it in Greek.

§ Opa! OH-pah! Say it with enthusiasm, as in Bravo! It means, “ALRIGHT, you did it!” It means, “Way to GO! “ It means, “Man, this party is great!”
§ Ouzo. OUzo. This is the singular version of the word. What does it mean? A potent alcoholic drink flavored with anise, a Greek party in your mouth, “Zorba, the Greek” in a glass, learn to speak Greek in two sips.
§ Ouzakia. The plural diminutive. OuZAkiah. This is used to order more than one drink at the seaside tavern, as in, “Theeo OuZAkiah, parakalo!” or “Two Ouzos, please!”
§ Mezethes. MehZEthes. Plural. Say it like you mean it!
§ Soutzoukakia. Sou-tzou-KAH-kiah. Little football-shaped meatballs.
§ Tsatziki. Dza-TDZEE-keeh. The sauce served on Gyro, which can be used as a dip or to serve over burgers.

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A FEW RECIPES:

(If you'd like additional recipes, e-mail me and I'll forward them to you. despina@alphaconnections.net)




Soutzoukakia pronounced, Sou-tzou-KAH-kiah

This is a traditional Greek dish, served over rice as an everyday meal. I have added a modern twist (store-bought marinara), to make it easier to prepare, and have made the meatballs smaller for serving as an easy party finger food.

While these are meatballs, they are more like footballs, due to the slightly elongated shape. The shape is traditional, but I don’t imagine the flavor will be hindered in any way, should you choose to make them round. This recipe will yield about 150 small meatballs. They freeze well, either raw or cooked, so plan ahead. Yield: about 120 Soutzoukakia.

Ingredients:
Meatballs
3 ½ lbs ground beef (I prefer to use 20%-80% fat to meat ratio. The higher fat to meat ratio helps add a little more flavor and it keeps the meatballs fluffy and not hard as a football)
4 eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
6 large garlic cloves, chopped finely
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
2 c. fresh breadcrumbs soaked in1 ½ c. warm water
Sauce
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
3 c. marinara (you can make your own or use store-bought)
3 c. tomato sauce
1 c. red wine
salt and pepper
¼ chopped Italian parsley
Garnish
2 T. chopped Italian parsley
6 T. shredded parmesan or Romano cheese
small wooden skewers

Soak breadcrumbs for 15 minutes and squeeze through a colander lightly to remove the water which has not been absorbed.

Combine all ingredients by kneading well with properly washed hands. If you prefer to mix in a food processor, you’ll need to do it in two batches.

Using a small scoop, measure out portions, shape into an elongated ball and drop into about 3 cups of all-purpose flour. Dredge lightly, turning out onto a piece of parchment paper or foil.

Heat vegetable oil and fry all meatballs. Taste one to see if additional salt is required.

Pre-heat oven to 325F. In a large baking dish or roasting pan, combine sauce ingredients and place in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Add meatballs to the sauce, stir lightly and return pan to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve in a shallow bowl, and place a small wooden skewer in each meatball. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and cheese just before serving.

Going, going…all gone! Soutzoukakia, shortcut recipe. They still taste good, still look good.

SHORTCUT: We’re all too busy at times, so for those situations when life is on overdrive, try this simple shortcut. Instead of the ground beef, buy your favorite frozen & pre-cooked meatballs. I’ve found them in 2lb bags in the freezer section (about 60 meatballs) and I use two bags. Look for “Italian Meatballs” or “With Italian Seasoning”, so that the flavors will approximate the Soutzoukakia made from scratch. They are usually fully cooked, so no frying is required.

Adapt the original recipe:

· Omit the meatball ingredients, except for the 6 large cloves of garlic, chopped/1/2 t. cumin/1/2 t. cinnamon
· Add these ingredients to the sauce recipe and follow the original directions.



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Greek Hamburgers

In this super simple recipe, I’ve added Greek flavors to the hamburger. Instead of the traditional mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and optional cheddar, onion, tomato and lettuce, I use Chopped Greek Salad. Could not be easier, really

Ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef (20%-80% fat to meat ratio for more flavor)
1 cup chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 eggs
2 T. dry oregano
½ T. cumin
1 t. pepper
1 t. salt
2 T. warm water

6 whole wheat hamburger buns

Toppings:
Greek Chopped Salad
Tsatziki

Combine all ingredients by kneading for 1-2 minutes. Shape into 4 patties and grill on hot grill. You can also cook in a non-stick pan. Use 1 t. olive oil in pan before cooking the burger. Once done, serve on heated whole wheat buns. Top each burger with Chopped Greek Salad and a generous dollop of Tsatziki.

SHORTCUT: When you’re in a bit of a hurry, use pre-formed hamburger patties. Combine the oregano, cumin, salt and pepper (original recipe), add 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil


Greek Chopped Salad

1 cup diced cucumber (usually one large peeled cucumber)
2 cups diced tomatoes (usually 4 large Romas)
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 t. dry oregano
Generous pinch sea salt
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar
3-6 anchovy filets (optional)

Combine all ingredients and serve. All the Greek flavors are there, but now it’s a more versatile side dish and easy to pack and take to a picnic. Yield: 4-5 cups
© 2010 Despina Panagakos Yeargin

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Advice for the New Year: It's that K.I.S.S. strategy

While it seems as if we're farther along in this new year, it's really been a mere 24 days. So, while advice to get us going in the new year seems misplaced on this 24th day, if you're like me and most of the people I know, you're still struggling with bringing order to your new year. Here is my symbolic offering to get you going.

In the world of food--the cooking, the writing, the devloping of recipes and presentation, the eating--things can get whipped up into a plated mess pretty quickly. In the hands of experienced cooks, a multitude of ingredients can dazzle our taste buds, but even wizards of cookery sometimes get carried away. A food magazine article describing potato froth comes to mind.

With the new year, we all have an opportunity for a fresh start. Buddhists say to 'begin here', and others have said similar things about how that first step is the most important. Perhaps, then, those of us with the responsibility for cooking should try the K.I.S.S. strategy--Keep It Simple Stupid! But, even going for something simple requires a strategy and a degree of patience and skill.

For my first meal of the year, I prepared two fried eggs and grits.

No fancy sauces, breads or spreads, only pure and simple cooking and pure and simple flavours. Perhaps my mind took me to the simplicity of these foods because of the ever-present complexity in my life these last few months; perhaps I did it purposefully, or perhaps my taste buds wanted that simplicity, after the feasting of the holiday season.

Whatever the reason, I can assure you that, just as in everything else in life, simplicity in cooking requires planning, patience and an experienced hand—an artist’s touch. Just for grits? Yes, grits don’t all taste the same. First, you must season them in the cooking—not afterwards—or they’ll always be lacking in flavour. Secondly, I have found that preparing them with milk does make a huge difference in how creamy they cook up. Finally, stir continuously once you add the grits to the milk and always cook them a little longer than asked for in the recipe. Somehow, that little bit of extra cooking and stirring allows the grits enough time to really plump up and absorb just that extra bit of liquid—that’s what makes them feel so loving as they come to rest on your tongue! Of course, just as any good cook does, I do have a little secret; add a good bit of real butter at the end and allow it to melt into and coat those sweet and comforting grits. Aaaah!!!!

Okay, okay, the grits need extra care and attention, but not the eggs, surely! Yes, the eggs, too. Not everyone can artfully prepare a fried egg. In my judgment, the white should be cooked solid with a very crispy, lacy halo all the way around the edge and even underneath. Now, if you carefully ladle the fat over the top of the egg, the yolk will develop a lovely white cover and the inside will be setting on the first layer and soft as melted caramel in the deepest part. Aha--see, not as easy as you thought! Then there’s the argument about what type of fat to use. Certainly not margarine. Olive oil is lovely in so many things, but not for this, and I know that a lot of people like to use bacon fat, but for me it overwhelms the egg. To my way of thinking, there is no other way—only pure butter will do. The flavour of pure butter, especially unsalted, is creamy and comforting and rich but simple, all at the same time. So, for comfort and simplicity, butter is the best choice and it also browns quickly enough so that the afore-mentioned “crispy halo” is just the right shade of golden-brown.

The only thing that's missing is a piece of toast to dip into that golden-orange egg yolk.

That’s it, my symbolic start for this New Year. May the symbolism rise to the heavens as a prayer for a little more ease in my life and yours. Let us hope.
© 2011 Despina Panagakos Yeargin