Showing posts with label Greek Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek Food. Show all posts

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lemony Chickpea & Noodle Soup with Feta, Served with Homemade Hummus & Pita for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I was craving a simple soup and chickpeas and wide egg noodles so I combined them for this Lemony Chickpea & Noodle Soup. A little feta on the top is always welcome and I doubled the beans and the starch by serving it with homemade hummus and warm pita bread. 

Hearty and satisfying for supper on a cool night, the lemon keeps it from feeling too heavy.

Lemony Chickpea & Noodle Soup with Feta
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 8 Servings)

2 cups uncooked chickpeas
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
8 cups good vegetable stock, separated (I used a combo of no-chicken soup paste + homemade garlic broth)
6 oz wide egg noodles
juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To Serve: feta cheese, chopped fresh parsley and hummus & pita bread, optional

The night before you make the soup: Rinse and sort the chickpeas, removing any foreign objects. Soak them overnight in plenty of cold water, draining and rinsing them well. 

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat and add the onion, celery, and carrots, cooking about 5-6 minutes until the onion turns translucent and the veggies start to soften. Add the garlic and dried herbs saute for another minute or two. Add the chickpeas and 6 cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 90 minutes to 2 hours, stirring occasionally--until beans are tender to your liking. (My dried beans were from Whole Foods and despite soaking took about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to the texture I like.)

Add the additional broth and bring to a rolling boil. Add noodles and cook about 10 minutes, or to package instructions. Add lemon juice. Taste and add sea salt and black pepper to taste. 

Serve hot with feta cheese and chopped fresh parsley on top and with hummus and pita on the side if desired.

Notes/Results:  This soup is thick, creamy and is more stew-like than a brothy soup. Cooking the chickpeas longer and the noodles helped suck up the broth, so the extra two cups I added helped. You could also cook the chickpeas separately until almost cooked, then add them to the soup, or use cooked, canned chickpeas (quicker if you are in a hurry) but I like a thick texture, so it worked for me. The feta on soft softens and adds to the soup with its salty burst of flavor. If you want a vegan soup, just omit the feta and try some fried capers or chopped pepperoncini. Actually that sounds really good, I may have to fry up some capers for my leftovers. For the hummus. I just whipped up a batch of simple hummus. Here's a nice lemony hummus recipe. I was happy with my dinner and would gladly make this soup again. 

We have some great people and dishes awaiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look.
Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen shares Pomegranate Molasses, Bulgar, Chickpeas, Red Chard, and Seitan 'Lamb' Salad and said, "The pomegranate molasses gave that sweet twang. chickpea always give nuttiness, but so did the Bulgar. Its nice warm, but its also good at room temperature as a salad, but do keep the mock lamb sitting on top, so not to go too soggy from the red chard, which by the way is from the garden plot."

Amber of The Hungry Mountaineer is here with Gorgonzola Gnocchi Soup and said, "Normally I would never to think to make a delicious soup in July but on a rainy day as thunderstorms rock the house in Big Bear, a big steaming pot of gnocchi stew sounds truly amazing."
Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brings Creamy Vegetable Soup and said it "was inspired by necessity - the need for a hot lunch to carry to work. The ingredients were  selected from a nearly bare vegetable tray in the fridge. Creativity was required đŸ˜Œ It’s simple.  You look in the fridge for orphan vegetables, quantities too meager to produce a good side dish at dinner. I had onions (I always have copious quantities of onions), three garlic cloves, mushrooms, two carrots, one yellow squash and a handful of green beans."

Mahalo to everyone who joined me at Souper Sundays this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on the post you link up to be included.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ruth Reichl's Avgolemono Soup: Simple Lemon & Rice Goodness for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

Ruth Reichl has an amazing way with words, and food, and words about food. With a few sentences, she can have me craving whatever she is writing about. This means I am craving roughly ninety percent of the recipes included in My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. I checked out this journal-style cookbook from the library as I am trying to curtail my cookbook buying, but I fear I am going to succumb and purchase this one at some point.

I was looking for a simple soup recipe for this weekend and was immediately drawn to her Avgolemono Soup. Since this soup is easy to make and uses pantry staples like broth, rice, eggs and lemon, I have made it many times and have several variations posted on the blog--including a few vegan recipes. Reichl's is probably one of the more basic recipes but that in no way takes away from the comfort and deliciousness of the resulting soup.

Avgolemono Soup
Slightly Adapted from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
(Serves 6)

6 cups chicken stock (I used a veggie, non-chicken broth)
1/3 cup rice (I used 1/2 cup)
1 lemon
4 eggs

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the rice, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile grate the rind from the lemon into a bowl, then squeeze the lemon and add the juice to the rind. 

Separate the eggs, dropping the yolks into the lemon juice. (Save the whites for another purpose/use.) Add a pinch of salt and beat the yolks into the lemon juice and rind.

When the rice is tender, whisk about half a cup of the hot stock into the yolks, then slowly pour the yolks into the soup, stirring constantly. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, or until the soup is slightly thickened. Pour into bowls and eat slowly.   

Notes/Results: Silky, lemony, and delicious. This soup doesn't fail to make me happy. Reichl features it in the winter and says it is all the better if snow is falling outside but I think that it is good any time--even, or especially on a breezy spring day. I used a good vegan chicken-style broth and used 1/2 cup of long-grain white rice but otherwise kept the recipe the same. You could of course add in a carrot or some other veggies but I think it is pretty perfect as it is. I ate mine with some bread and a few slices of Gruyere cheese for an easy lunch. I will happily make it again.

I am linking this post up with Foodie Reads 2017. I have not done a good job so far this year in joining in this fun event celebrating all kinds of foodie books. You can check out the March Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.  
We have some good friends with delicious dishes waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen from last week--let's have a look!

Melynda of Our Sunday Cafe shared Orzo Pasta Salad with Pistachio Pesto and said, "The thing I needed to see was something reminiscent of spring. Something a bit lighter to enjoy for our meals, something with rich flavor, yet something that could be made with limited ingredients. Fortunately, our local co-op carries a nice selection of fresh herbs and vegetables from local farmers. That combined with a very interesting cookbook from the library, and we have a lovely springtime pasta salad to enjoy."

Claudia of Honey From Rock made Hawaiian Style Gumbo and said, "According to Wikipedia, Gumbo "likely derived its name from either a word from a Bantu language for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw word for filĂ© (kombo).  I have a wee planting of both the purple and green varieties of okra, though they do not hold their purple color after cooking. What I put together, and you can call it Hawaiian Gumbo or just Delicious Gumbo, whatever,  I figure the basics you need for a pot of it are covered here."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor brought Grilled Salmon Spinach Salad and said, "...we opted to stop and pick up some salmon for a healthier dinner one day this week.  It was excellent. A bit of soy and honey and turned once in a grill pan.  Served with healthy fresh steamed broccoli and baked sweet potato. Now that's getting back on track! There was enough salmon left to make a pretty good salad for the next day's lunch too. I pulled stems off  fresh spinach, chopped some green onions and cut up the leftover salmon. Dressing was an Onion Dijon vinaigrette. (Forgive the blue plastic bowls. They are the designated bowls for work.)

Mahalo to everyone who for joined in this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional).

 Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Art of Crash Landing" by Melissa DeCarlo, Served with a Greek(ish) Pearl Couscous Salad with Lemon-Caper Dressing

On today's TLC Book Tour stop I am reviewing The Art of Crash Landing, a debut novel by Melissa DeCarlo. If you think you have problems or don't make the best choices, wait until you meet Matilda (Mattie) Wallace who is crashing fast and seems bent on repeating many of her late mother's mistakes. Mattie is not going down without a fight however, and although there is potential for some heartbreak in the story of a woman who is close to reaching bottom, there are plenty of laughs too. Accompanying my review is a fabulous Greek(ish) Pearl Couscous Salad with Lemon-Caper Dressing, inspired by my reading. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Broke and knocked up, Mattie Wallace has got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags and nowhere to go. Try as she might, she really is turning into her late mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make.

When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother. The deeper Mattie digs for answers, the more precarious her situation becomes. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own.

Paperback: 432 pages P
ublisher: Harper Paperbacks (September 8, 2015)

My Review

I really enjoyed the humor in The Art of Crash Landing. Mattie has a sarcasm and snarkiness that I responded to and she made me laugh out loud several times with her thoughts and comments. On the other hand, Mattie was a hard character to connect with for much of the book. She is immature for her age (30), has the soul of a grifter, possesses a lack of any accountability for her actions and choices, and is completely insensitive to others. It's a risk to have a main character that is hard to like and does not appear to be headed for a big character arc of redemption, but Melissa DeCarlo accomplished what I thought she wouldn't--she made me warm to Mattie as the book progressed. I would still place her in the category of "fun to have a cup of coffee with" rather than a good trustworthy friend but, by the end of the book doggonit, as much as I wanted to shake her and tell her to pull up her big-girl panties and stop blaming a tough childhood for her issues, I wanted to give her a hug too. I appreciated her spunk and snark, her push to find answers, and seeing glimpses of a heart. The book leaves optimism for her further growth, but I could just as easily see Mattie sliding back into past behaviors and bad choices. Yes, I want to shake her again...

There was much that made The Art of Crash Landing an enjoyable read. The loyalty of Mattie's stepfather 'Queeg' was touching, her pain at her mother's death and the memories of the events leading up to it were soul-wrenching. Those spots of sadness were offset by Mattie's own humorous outlook and attitudes which provided plenty of fun, as did her grandmother's smelly French bulldog twins--both named Winston, and her relationship with the uniquely-pierced, snarly, potty-mouthed Goth teen Tawny. I loved the small town of Grandy, Oklahoma with its quirky residents and how much DeCarlo made it come to life with her descriptions. The mystery of where things went wrong for Mattie's mother is absorbing and while I expected Mattie to figure it out as soon as I did, it kept me reading chapters to see what happened when she put everything together. The Art of Crash Landing is a smart and fun read with moments that pulled at my heartstrings and moments that made me snicker and snort. Melissa DeCarlo has crafted an impressive debut novel that shines with wit and energy from start to finish. 


Author Notes: Melissa DeCarlo was born and raised in Oklahoma City, and has worked as an artist, graphic designer, grant writer, and even (back when computers were the size of refrigerators) a computer programmer. The Art of Crash Landing is her first novel. Melissa now lives in East Texas with her husband and a motley crew of rescue animals.
Find out more about Melissa at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

Maddie is broke and pretty much exists on a combination of stale food in her grandmother's cupboards and freezer, handouts, swiped apples and crackers from her library job, some fast food, and a couple of dinner dates, so it was a bit of a struggle to find my food inspiration. It seemed insensitive to make a drink with the alcoholism in the book, or to pick a food with painful connotations of Mattie's past. If I ate meat it surely would have been pork chops as it completely cracked me up when Mattie called a woman she was in a tug-of-war with over a pink bike "pork chop" (as in "F*#% off, pork chop.") Who does that and gets away with it? ;-)  Finally a dinner date between Mattie and attractive paraplegic paralegal Luke sparked a dish as it seems Mattie and I share a love for Greek salads. 

Wanting a more substantial meat-free meal and having boxes of Israeli couscous and chickpeas in the cupboard, I decided to add them to the usual mix of cucumber, tomato, red onion, and feta. I have been looking for a reason to make April Bloomfield's Lemon-Caper Dressing (recipe below) and I thought it would be an excellent addition to the salad since it has a bold flavor that would be readily absorbed by the pasta and beans.

I am not going to give you a detailed step-by-step of how to make a Greek (or Greek(ish) in this case) salad--you should just pick your ingredients and toss in the amounts you like. 

For this salad (about 4 good-sized portions) I used:
  • 3 cups cooked pearl (or Israeli) couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 of a small red onion
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 English cucumber, skin on, halved length wise, then sliced (I don't bother scooping out the the seeds)
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced in half
  • 3 Tbsp each coarsely-chopped fresh mint and flat parsley
  • about 4-oz good feta cheese, crumbled
  • black pepper to taste (you shouldn't need salt with the dressing & capers, olives & feta)
  • Lemon-Caper Dressing (recipe below) + lemon segments from dressing recipe, chopped, to taste. (I used the whole 3/4 cup--the pasta soaks it up

A few quick tips: 
  • Make the salad dressing and pour 1/4 cup of it into a large bowl with the sliced red onion and let them sit for 15 minutes or so while you cook the couscous and chop and prepare the other ingredients. This will take some of the bite out of the onion.
  • Put the warm couscous and the chickpeas into the bowl with the onions and add another 1/4 cup of the dressing. Gently mix it together. This will allow the couscous to absorb the dressing flavors.
  • Add the other ingredients (except for the feta) and gently stir to mix. Add the final 1/4 cup of dressing, or add remaining dressing to taste. Season to taste with the black pepper--you should not need much (if any) additional salt.
  • Don't add the feta until you are ready to serve the salad.
  • This salad is good cold but I really like it better at room temperature and even better several hours after being made or the next day when the flavors are blended and absorbed. 

Food 52 says, "At first glance, this is a shockingly brash dressing. April Bloomfield uses not just lemon juice, but whole lemon segments, and more mustard than could possibly seem like a good idea. But she also knows about restraint, and adds just enough addictive nips of caper and shallot to keep you going, and gentler undercurrents of lemon juice, salt, and sugar."

I made a few changes based on what I like (whole capers) and what I had on hand (honey instead of sugar). I ended up just segmenting one lemon and chopping the sections because (I am lazy and also) I didn't want big pieces of lemon competing with the other strong flavors in the salad. Because you get more juice sectioning, I added the juice from another 1/2 lemon. My changes are in red below.

Lemon-Caper Dressing
Very slightly adapated from April Bloomfield via
(Makes 1 Cup) (I got about 3/4 cup)

2 medium lemons (I used 2 1/2 lemons--see note)
3 Tbsp finely chopped shallots
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (choose one whose flavor you like on its own)
2 tablespoons drained capers, finely chopped (I used 3 Tbsp, drained, unchopped)
1/2 teaspoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar (I used honey)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Segment the lemons over a bowl to catch the juices (see note below). Set aside. 

Squeeze the juice from the membranes into a separate bowl, add the rest of the ingredients, and stir well. 

Add the lemon segments and toss gently to coat them without breaking them up. Use straightaway or chill in the fridge, covered, for up to an hour. 

Note: To segment the lemons: Use a sharp knife to cut off just enough of the fruit's top and bottom to expose a full circle of the flesh on either end. Stand the lemon on one of its ends, place your knife point at the seam where the fruit meets the pith, and use a gentle sawing motion to cut away a wide strip of pith and skin, following the curve of the fruit from top to bottom. Repeat the process until all you have left is a nice, round, naked fruit. If you've missed any white pith, trim it off. Make a cut down either side of each segment, right against the membrane, and gently pry out each segment, one at a time. Flick out any seeds, and set the segments aside in a bowl, reserving the juicy membranes.

Notes/Results: Colorful and packed with flavor, this salad really hit the spot. Not a traditional Greek salad--why I called it Greek(ish), but with similar flavors. I really love the dressing but I am a fan of the three big flavors in it--lemon, mustard, and capers--and it is pungent with all three. I think it made a nice change from the sometimes strong vinegar taste of some Greek salads and it's pungency really works well to flavor the couscous and beans. You can adapt it to your tastes with other veggies--fennel, carrot, or red pepper, or switch out the couscous to a whole grain like barley or farro, or use quinoa or rice if you want something gluten free. I find pearl couscous to be fun to eat (love those little pasta spheres) and the beans add protein and the fiber the couscous lacks. I will definitely make this again--both the dressing and the salad.

I am linking this review and the dish inspired by the book to Novel Food--an event celebrating food inspired by the written word and hosted by my friend and fellow Cook the Books co-host Simona of Briciole. The deadline for this round (#25!) of Novel Food ends Monday, September 28th. 

Note: A review copy of "The Art of Crash Landing" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Antigone Poems" by Marie Slaight, Paired with a Recipe for Classic Greek Salad (Salata Horiatiki)

And now for something a little different... Here's the thing, I don't read a lot of poetry. I appreciate a well-crafted poem, I have taken the assorted poetry class, and I have come across the occasional poem that speaks to me--but I seldom seek out books of poetry to read. So, when Lisa from TLC Book Tours was looking for reviewers of "The Antigone Poems" by Marie Slaight, I decided to expand my reading horizons and signed up. Paired with my review of this stark and haunting book is a classic Greek Salad (Salata Horiatiki).

Publisher's Blurb:

Featuring poetry by Marie Slaight and charcoal drawings by Terrence Tasker, The Antigone Poems was created in the 1970’s, while the artists were living between Montreal and Toronto. An intensely personal invocation of the ancient Greek tale of defiance, the illustrations and poetry capture the despair of the original tale in an unembellished modernized rendition. The Antigone Poems provides a special expedition into the depths of the ancient Sophocle tragedy while questioning power, punishment and one of mythology’s oldest themes: rebellion.

To learn more about The Antigone Poems, please visit

Trade Paperback: 104 pages
Publisher: Altaire Productions & Publications; First edition (June 15, 2014)

This is a gorgeous book. Small, paperback, but elegant, with thick creamy paper. Both the poems and the illustrations have a stark sort of beauty to them; the sparse charcoal drawings adding to the haunting tone of the words. My Greek mythology is a bit rusty so I had to look up Antigone, about whom these poems are based, and reread her story. If you are not familiar, the short version is that Antigone was born of the incestuous relationship of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta, and seeking a proper burial for her brother, she defies a law set by her uncle and buries him. Antigone is then imprisoned in a cave where she kills herself. The poems and drawings are meant not only to reflect Antigone's despair, rebellion, and punishment, but to also show the suffering of all women over the ages. One gets the feeling that the author's passion and pain are also wrapped within. 

Most of the poems are short, like the example below:

All love pains
Are an aged protest
Wanting fresh surge;
Decrying the ancient throb
Of memories.

                -The Antigone Poems, Marie Slaight 

They are somewhat unsettling, dark and wild. Interesting to read, then go back and read again, savoring the words. I found myself thinking about them afterward--which to me is what a good poem is meant to do. Now I am not going to pretend to be a poetry critic, I can just tell you that I found these poems interesting, evocative, and moving. Although not a book I normally would have selected to read, I found The Antigone Poems truly fascinating and well worth the time. It is interesting to me that this collaboration was done back in the 1970's and was never released until now as there is such a timeless feel to it. Lovers of poetry, Greek mythology, visual arts, and those looking for something a bit different will enjoy this unique and beautiful book.  

Author Notes: Marie Slaight (1954-) has worked in Montreal, New Orleans, and Buenos Aires as a writer, producer, and performer. Now based in Sydney, Australia, her poetry has appeared in American Writing, Pittsburgh Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg, The Abiko Quarterly, New Orleans Review and elsewhere. Slaight is currently the director of Altaire Productions & Publications, a Sydney-based arts production company, which has been involved in such films as the award-winning documentary Bury the Hatchet, Kindred and Whoever Was Using This Bed.

Artist/Illustrator Notes: Terrence Tasker (1947-1992) was born in Saskatchewan, Canada. Raised in rural western Canada, he went on to become a self-taught artist and filmmaker. He co-founded and built the original Studio Altaire, a 90-seat theater and visual art gallery that also ran after hours jazz concerts in downtown Montreal. He worked as a set builder as well as working in construction, mining, finance, industrial installations, taxi driving and film projectionist. He created the artwork for The Antigone Poems in the 1970s, while living in Montreal and Toronto. 

So, obviously not a book with food themes, I had to take a broader inspiration from The Antigone Poems. I wanted a classic Greek dish and first settled on Saganaki (fried cheese), because of the references to fire in the book. I had some challenges finding the right cheese--Kasseri, and although I could have substituted the easier to find Halloumi, instead I decided I was craving a classic Greek Salad. I used a simple Tessa Kiros recipe from Food From Many Greek Kitchens, a favorite cookbook of mine. Kiros notes to use good quality tomatoes and olive oil for this salad and to be sure to soak up the juices at the bottom of the bowl with bread.

Greek Salad (Salata Horiatiki)
Adapted from Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros
(Serves 2-4)

8 gorgeous small ripe tomatoes, quartered (I used local Romas)
1 cucumber, sliced thickly on the diagonal 
1 small medium red onion, sliced
about 17 drained kalamata olives in brine (I used mixed Greek olives, pitted & sliced)
1 heaping tablespoon capers (I used 2 Tbsp)
2 small handfuls of purslane, if you can get it (I used romaine)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 1/2 oz slab of feta (I used sheep's milk feta)
1 tsp or so dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar, optional

Put the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and capers into a serving bowl. Add the purslane (romaine) and season with a little salt and a few grinds of pepper. Put the feta on top and crumble the oregano over with your fingers. Drizzle the olive oil over and the vinegar if using. Serve with bread.   

Notes/Results: A simple Greek salad that hit the spot. Salty, tangy, sweet from the tomatoes, briny olives and capers--it was perfect with grilled bread and a glass of crisp white wine. I would have loved to have the purslane--sometimes I can get it locally at the farmers market, and I'll make it again the next time I come across some. I used a small head of local baby romaine in its place, along with local Roma tomatoes and cucumber. I also pickled my red onion in the olive oil and red wine vinegar before using them--I like the softened flavor. Extra capers make me happy, as did the very creamy French sheep's milk Feta I used. Just a great little salad that I will happily make again. 

This post with its Tessa Kiros recipe is linking up to Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs where we have the opportunity to cook a recipe from our current chef, Jacques PĂ©pin or any of our former IHCC chefs. You can see what recipes and chefs the other IHCC participants chose to may by checking the picture links on the post. 

Note: A review copy of "The Antigone Poems" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Book Tour Stops Here: "When the Cypress Whispers" by Yvette Manessis Corporon with a Mezedes Plate Featuring Spicy Feta & Red Pepper Dip

If you aren't in the position to personally travel to a gorgeous Greek isle but long for the beauty and magic of such a place, you can take the trip through the pages of When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon. This beautifully-written novel is full of family, love, growth, history, mouth-watering food, and a magical place where if you take the time to really stop, open your mind and listen, the cypress trees may whisper to you.

Publisher's Blurb:
"On a beautiful Greek island, myths, magic, and a colorful cast of mortals come together in a lushly atmospheric debut celebrating the powerful bond between an American woman and her Greek grandmother.

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne has been brought up to believe in the American dream. When her husband dies in a car accident, leaving her with an inconsolable baby and stacks of bills, she channels everything she has into opening her own Greek restaurant. Now an acclaimed chef and restaurateur, she has also found a second chance at love with her wealthy, handsome fiancé.

Although American by birth, Daphne spent many blissful childhood summers on the magical Greek island of Erikousa, which her grandmother still calls home. At her Yia-yia’s side, she discovered her passion for cooking and absorbed the vibrant rhythms of island life, infused with ancient myths and legends lovingly passed down through generations. Somehow her beloved grandmother could always read her deepest thoughts, and despite the miles between them Daphne knows Yia-yia is the one person who can look beyond Daphne’s storybook life of seeming perfection to help her stay grounded. With her wedding day fast approaching, Daphne returns to Erikousa and to Yia-yia’s embrace.

The past and the present beautifully entwine in this glorious, heartfelt story about a woman trapped between the siren call of old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career and relationship. When Daphne arrives on Erikousa with her daughter, Evie, in tow, nothing is the way she recalls it, and she worries that her elderly Yia-yia is losing her grip on reality. But as the two of them spend time together on the magical island once again, her grandmother opens up to share remarkable memories of her life there—including moving stories of bravery and loyalty in the face of death during World War II—and Daphne remembers why she returned. Yia-yia has more than one lesson to teach her: that security is not the same as love, that her life can be filled with meaning again, and that the most important magic to believe in is the magic of herself."

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper (April 1, 2014)

I really enjoyed this book. Greece with its many islands is a place I have long wanted to visit and Yvette Manessis Corporon writes about them so descriptively, it made me feel as if I could actually see them. A dear friend and onetime roommate's mother was Greek and she made the most fabulous food, all of the classics, so Greek food remains one of my all-time favorite cuisines. The author's passion for food and obvious love for the island of Erikousa (a real-life place she spent childhood summers in) comes shinning through in the story, so easy to get caught up in. I liked the generations of female characters--strong, loving, not perfect. Not having grown up with living grandparents, I would have loved to have a relationship like Daphne's with her yia-yia. There are no big surprises in terms of plot, but the writing still absorbed me. The history of the island and its role in World War II and the stories of the experiences of Greek Jews during wartime were new to me and both fascinating and haunting to read. I was sorry to have the story end. Readers who like to get swept away by women's fiction, foodie travel fiction, Greece, family relationships and romance will like this novel. 

Author Notes: Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy Award-winning writer, producer, and author. She is currently a senior producer with the syndicated entertainment news show Extra. In addition to her Emmy Award, Yvette has received a Silurian Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the New York City Comptroller and City Council’s Award for Greek Heritage and Culture. She is married to award-winning photojournalist David Corporon. They have two children and live in New York.

Vivid descriptions of the food permeate the book, making choosing a dish to make inspired by it both easy and yet difficult. Daphne is a chef and she learned the heart of her cooking from her yia-yia's simple and delicious food. Icy cold frappe, perfectly crisp fries, fried eggs with fresh tomatoes and beautiful basil, saganaki--thin slices of fried kasseri cheese with freshly squeezed lemon juice, simply grilled fish, good crusty bread, salty, briny olives and creamy homemade feta... the list, and my drooling, went on and on. In the end, I was craving a simple mezze or mezedes plate, using mostly purchased items and featuring a tangy feta dip with red bell pepper and red chilies. Not mentioned in the book but something I could see on the table at yia-yia's house or at island local Nitsa's hotel patio. (Plus doesn't the dip color go well with the cover?!) ;-)

OK, I should probably call my adaptation of this recipe from Modern Greek--Spicy Red Pepper & Feta Dip because I ended up switching the amounts of the ingredients around and the red pepper is more prominent. I had decided to make a half batch of the dip--so 8 oz. of feta instead of 16 oz of cheese. Since I had gone ahead and sauteed my whole pepper and bought 2 red chilies, I decided to put them all in. I don't look at this as a bad thing--it ups the Vitamin C and cuts down on the sodium, fat and calories (I subtracted calories and fat by reducing the oil too, BTW) and the dip is still rich, creamy and very good. (Plus it's cheaper to make!) A win in my book. My changes are noted in red below. 
Spicy Feta & Red Pepper Dip (Ktipiti)
Adapted from Modern Greek by Andy Harris
(Serves 6-8) (Makes about 2 cups)

3 Tbsp olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp)
1 red bell pepper, seeds & membranes removed, cit into strips
2 red chiles, seeds & membranes removed, cut into strips
1 lb feta cheese, crumbled (I used 1/2 lb feta)
3-4 Tbsp yogurt 
(I added 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the pepper and chilies for 10-15 minutes, or until softened. Allow to cool slightly.

In a food processor, blend the oil, pepper and chile mixture with the feta and yogurt until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until required.  

Notes/Results: A creamy dip that is full of bright flavor with just a hint of a spicy bite at the end. Much as I like feta, I didn't miss the extra I left out at all. I liked it with both the toasted bread and with the veggies (in my case two of my favorite dippers--raw cucumber and sugar snap peas) and I think it would make a great sandwich spread or even a pasta sauce, thinned out a bit. Rounding out the mezedes plate were some kalamata olives and some deli-bought dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). With a glass of crisp white wine, it made for a wonderful light supper. I would make this dip again--with the changes I made to lighten it up. 

Note: A review copy of "When the Cypress Whispers" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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