The Greek isles are alluring; the history and myth of Greece enthralling. And the trendy “Mediterranean diet” phrase nets 835,000 hits on Google (compare that to the 303,000 hits when you do a search for “Creole cooking”).
What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mayo Clinic Web site offers this, “The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice. For example, residents of Greece eat very little red meat and average nine servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.”
Wikipedia has this: “The most commonly-understood version of the Mediterranean diet was presented by Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University’s School of Public Health in the mid-1990s. Based on ‘food patterns typical of Crete, much of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy in the early 1960s,’ this diet, in addition to ‘regular physical activity,’ emphasizes ‘abundant plant foods, fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert, olive oil as the principal source of fat, dairy products (principally cheese and yogurt), and fish and poultry consumed in low to moderate amounts, zero to four eggs consumed weekly, red meat consumed in low amounts, and wine consumed in low to moderate amounts.’”
Cooking among the books
Terry Morris, director of the Payson Public Library, shared her version of the Mediterranean diet in the first of her 2010-2011 cooking classes, calling it “Grecian Holiday.”
Held Aug. 17 in the library’s kitchen and meeting room, the day’s menu — prepared by Morris and class participants — included spicy white bean dip, cucumber dip, meatball soup, Greek summer salad, roast leg of lamb, figs with goat cheese, and a frappe for the beverage.
She will present three more cooking classes at the library for 2010-2011. The next program will be on hors d’oeuvres on Nov. 16. The titles of the classes in 2011 are “Asian Invasion,” Feb. 15 and “Sips & Sliders,” May 17. Each class is limited to 12 participants and costs $15 per person. The classes fill fast, so get in touch with the library to register now for the classes of interest to you.
For more information, call the library at (928) 474-9260.
GREEK SUMMER SALAD
3 tomatoes, cut in wedges
1 cucumber, sliced into coin shapes
1 red onion, sliced in order to separate into rings
2 green bell peppers, cut into rings
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/3 pound feta cheese, cut in squares or crumbled
2 dozen black olives
dried oregano, chopped or crumbled for garnish
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
Place tomatoes, cucumber, onion and peppers in large salad bowl
Combine olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in jar with lid; put lid on and shake vigorously.
Pour dressing over vegetables; top with feta and olives; and then sprinkle all with oregano and parsley.
FIGS WITH GOAT CHEESE
8 fresh figs
1/2 cup goat cheese, softened
8 grape leaves, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup honey
Preheat grill for medium heat.
Make a small cut in the bottom of each fig that is large enough to hold tip of a pastry bag.
Place goat cheese in pastry bag with plain tip. Squeeze a small amount of cheese into each fig (the filling will make fig plump slightly).
Wrap each fig in a prepared grape leaf and skewer 2 or 3 figs together.
Lightly oil grill grate and place skewered figs on hot grill.
Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turning once halfway through. Remove figs from grill, drizzle with honey, and then serve.
SPICY WHITE BEAN DIP
Preparation time: 10 minutes; cooking time: 5 minutes; makes 1-3/4 cups
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can navy or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Garnishes: fresh rosemary sprigs and extra-virgin olive oil
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat and add onion. Reduce heat to medium and sauté onion until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring frequently so garlic doesn’t brown. Remove skillet from heat and cool to room temperature. Scrape onion and garlic mixture into a blender or food processor; add beans and remaining ingredients, except garnishes, and puree until smooth. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve. This can be made several days ahead of when needed, which will create a fuller flavor.
MEATBALL SOUP & EGG LEMON SAUCE
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups beef stock or water
1 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
Egg and Lemon Sauce
2 to 3 eggs
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons water
To make Meatball Soup
Combine meat, onion, salt, pepper, parsley, half of the rice and the slightly beaten egg. Shape into 30 small balls and dust with flour. Boil stock or water, tomato juice, butter and salt. Drop meatballs and remaining rice into boiling liquid, cover, reduce heat and simmer about 35 minutes. Remove from heat.
To make Egg and Lemon Sauce
Beat eggs with water and then, by the spoonful, add about a half-cup of the soup liquid while stirring. Add lemon juice. Pour egg mixture gradually over the meatballs and remaining soup, stirring continuously. Serve at once.
ROAST LEG OF LAMB WITH POTATOES
4 pounds leg of lamb
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, cut into slivers
salt and pepper for seasoning
1/2 cup butter
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup hot water
2-1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and quartered
Wash meat and place in a roasting pan, making several small incisions in meat. Dust garlic slivers with salt and pepper and insert into incisions in roast. Arrange peeled and quartered potatoes around the roast. Melt butter and pour over meat and potatoes, and then sprinkle with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add hot water to pan. Bake in moderate oven for about 2 hours. When lamb is done, remove to a heated platter. If potatoes need more browning, put under broiler to finish and then arrange around roast before serving.
STRING BEANS WITH OLIVE OIL
2-1/2 pounds string beans
1 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 pound tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
Remove ends of string beans and prepare by either cutting into 2-inch pieces, snapping or cutting crosswise into thin, slanted pieces or cut into thin strips. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add tomatoes, beans, parsley, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover and cook over moderate heat for about 30 minutes.
FRAPPE (Greek Iced Coffee)
Makes 1 serving
1-1/2 to 3 teaspoons instant coffee (Nescafé recommended)
2/3 cup cold water
2 to 3 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/2 cup milk (optional)
2 to 3 ice cubes (optional)
Place coffee powder, sugar and 2 to 3 tablespoons water in cocktail shaker or blender. Combine until mixture forms a thick, frothy foam.
Pour foam into a tall glass, stir in remaining ingredients and enjoy, using a straw, which can be used to blend ingredients when they settle on the bottom of the glass.