keito potato


Greek Potatoes Stewed with Kalamata Olives
June 3, 2012, 11:21 am
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , , ,

When you slowly simmer good olives into a stew, they infuse the stew with a saltiness that is more complex than simple salt.  This dish is simple, delicious, and possibly addictive.  My vegetarian cooking group put together a huge Greek meal last night, and ate a long extended table in the backyard.  This was one of the favorite dishes, and the serving dish was practically licked clean.

The recipe comes from Diane Kochilas’ cookbook The Greek Vegetarian, which has become one of my most favorite and beat-up cookbooks.  Kochilas says that this dish is inspired by a classic dish from Zakintohos.  I’ve made this stew a few times over the years, and I plan to make it several times over the summer before I move to China, since olives will be harder to find there!

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

GREEK POTATOES STEWED WITH KALAMATA OLIVES

2  1/2 pounds medium-sized potatoes

1/3 cup olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1  1/2 cups kalamata olives

2-3 cups canned plum tomatoes, with their juices

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

METHOD:

Peel and finely chop the garlic.  Peel and wash the potatoes.  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, and cut each half into four slices, each about 1/2-inch thick.  Drain the olives and pit them.

In a stewing pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes and stir to coat.  Toss in the garlic and stir. Add the olives, and stir and saute for 2-3 minutes.  The olives will break apart a little and the dish will change color and darken.

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

To break up the canned tomatoes, grate them with a large-tooth cheese grated.  Add the tomatoes to the pot and stir.

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the potatoes for 25-30 minutes, until they are very tender and the sauce is thick.  In my experience, it may take a little longer than this for the potatoes to become completely soft.  Add a little water during cooking if it seems as though the potatoes are in danger of burning.  

Just before removing the pot from the heat, add the oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper.  This stew would be good with some feta as a garnish.  Here you can see the potato and kalamata stew served at my vegetarian cooking group alongside a slice of spanakopita, or “Spartacus” as my friends were calling it, as well as an arugula, orange, and wrinkled olive salad.

photo by Joyce Hiendarto

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Greek Deviled Eggs Stuffed with Feta and Capers
March 25, 2012, 8:10 pm
Filed under: recipes, starters | Tags: , ,

We don’t need mayo to make deviled eggs!  Why didn’t we think of this before?  Instead, feta makes the filling more vibrant and zesty than the standard mayo and pickles.  I’m sold.  This is going to be my new family Easter tradition.

I discovered this Greek recipe in Diane Kochilas‘ cookbook The Greek Vegetarian.  Everything I’ve made from this cookbook has been absolutely wonderful.  I used this cookbook to make a huge Greek dinner for my mom’s birthday this week, complete with about 8 mezze (appetizer) dishes.

I’ve doubled the original recipe here, because if you’re making these for a party or for Easter, don’t you want a whole plate-full to share?  If you want fewer, then simply cut the recipe in half.

 

GREEK DEVILED EGGS STUFFED WITH FETA AND CAPERS

8 large eggs (look for better-quality eggs with dark yolks)

1/2 cup crumbled feta

2 tablespoons capers, drained

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

cayenne for garnish

fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

 

METHOD

Place the eggs in a small pan and cover with warm water.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 12 minutes.  Immediately run the eggs under cold water to cool.  Drain and peel.

While the eggs are cooking, whip together the feta and capers in a food processor or blender.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise, and carefully scoop the yolks into a bowl.  Using a fork, mash the yolks with half of the olive oil.  Add the feta and caper mixture, the oregano, and the remaining olive oil.  This mixture should be salty enough  with the feta and capers, but you can salt to taste.  Place a little of the filling into each of the whites, mounding it slightly.  

Sprinkle lightly with cayenne and garnish each stuffed white with a parsley leaf.



Spanakopita
April 25, 2011, 7:22 am
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , ,

My family tends to cook Mediterranean dishes for Easter feasts.  The lemon fragrance and bright herbs evoke sunshine and celebrate Spring produce. This year we made a pan of Greek Spanakopita, the famous spinach pie wrapped in flaky phyllo dough. Of course you can easily find pre-made spinach triangles in most grocery freezer cases, but those frozen ones typically have a bland, one-dimensional spinach flavor. This recipe from Diane Kochilas’ cookbook The Greek Vegetarian is much  more interesting.  The filling is complex because the spinach is combined with fresh parsley and dill, sauteed fennel and onions, crumbled feta, and grated nutmeg.  It tastes as good as the fab Spanakopita I’ve had in serious Greek restaurants in Chicago.

Phyllo dough is definitely not scary or tricky to work with.  You can find it in most any grocery store (except trader joe’s).  Just make sure to let it thaw according to instructions before using.  I forgot to thaw it once, and it shattered into brittle shards.  Diane Kochilas rolls her phyllo from scratch, but I have always bought phyllo sheets from the store.

You can choose between adding cayenne or raisins to the filling.  Yesterday’s version had cayenne, but I think I prefer the raisins.  It’s up to you.

This recipe makes a whole pan of spanakopita, which is simpler to create than individual triangles.  To assemble such a thing, one layers several sheets of phylo dough in a pan, brushing each with olive oil.  At some point you pause to pour in the spinach filling.  Then arrange several more layers of phylo, also brushed with olive oil.  Bake, and voila.

SPANAKOPITA RECIPE

olive oil
2 pounds fresh spinach
3 medium-size onions
1 fennel bulb
1/2 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 eggs
8 oz. feta
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or 2-3 tablespoons dark seedless raisins, depending on your mood)
several sheets of phyllo dough

METHOD

Chop the onions. Chop the fennel bulb. Wash and chop the spinach.

In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute the spinach lightly, just to wilt.  Remove the spinach with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander.  Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped onions and fennel.  Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until wilted, about 7 minutes.

Place the spinach, fennel, and onions in a large bowl.  Chop the dill and parsley, and add them to the bowl.  Lightly whisk the 2 eggs in a small bowl, then add them to the mixture, along with 2 more tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix well.  Crumble the feta, and add it to the bowl, along with the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne (or raisins).

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly oil a pan.  Diane Kochilas uses a 12-inch pie pan, but I generally use a rectangular pan.  Lay a sheet of phyllo in the pan.  The edges will hang over the edges.  Brush this phyllo layer with oil.  If you don’t have a pastry brush, just drizzle on the oil and rub it around with your (clean) fingertips.  Repeat with 3-4 more sheets of phyllo, brushing each with olive oil.  Spread the filling evenly over the phyllo. 

 

Pull up the outer edges of the phyllo layers, and wrap them around the filling, neatly.  Top with 3-5 more layers of phyllo, each brushed with olive oil. To tuck the top layers down, gently tuck them into the edges of the pan using a metal spatula.

Bake for 50 minutes or more, until the phyllo is golden.