Week 5: Greece

Fresh Salad!
Fresh Salad!

After four Sundays in a row of a LOT of food including pasta, a meal of entirely fried food, cheese on cheese on cheese, and several alcoholic beverages, I was ready for some salad. So for our fifth meal we chose a country known for their love of fresh ingredients, vast use of spices and vegetables and Goddess-like bodies, Greece!  Our guest of honor was also vegetarian so I was looking forward to a meal that was finally healthy. Or so I thought…

Sunday morning Bill and I started our dishes. He made pita bread dough which is just about the most delicious and easy dough out there. Bill finds it entertaining that I get excited over homemade breads, but I just find it so fascinating. I’m not used to making breads but I’ve seen Bill tackle them like a pro. He makes pretzels and bagels  and pizza dough and for a while he was tackling Tartine’s sourdough. Well Bill whipped up that pita dough in five minutes and let it rise all day. Meanwhile I started on dessert- baklava!

Remember how five minutes ago I thought we’d be eating a light and healthy meal? Well baklava is one of the least healthy desserts I’ve ever made! When I read the ingredient list I was pretty surprised at all the sugar and honey and butter that went into it. It wasn’t until I started measuring everything out however, that I fully understood- two bites of this and you’ll be hyperglycemic in an instant. It was kind of like those PSAs that pour the amount of sugar in soda into a giant tub, and they yell at you “this is how much sugar your kids are drinking in a month!”. I just felt my eyes widen and my throat close up. But for the sake of Greece, I carried on. Working with phyllo dough is a two person job, so while I quickly buttered layer after layer, Bill laid the next sheet on top. Baklava is actually the perfect dessert to make ahead of time because you need to let the baked phyllo dough, nuts, and sugar soak in a honey syrup for at least 6 hours. A note about the syrup- my recipe called for a 6-8 oz JAR of HONEY! I only ended up using about half the syrup because I thought enough was enough and it still maintained a sticky/moist texture.

Baklava aka sugar
Baklava aka sugar

At Ashley and Sergio’s house we pulled out the pita dough and started pressing it in a tortilla press. Why we own a tortilla press is something I just have to live with- like why we own a Chinese basket steamer, or two salt blocks. Anyway, the tortilla press was actually the perfect instrument for shaping and thinning out the dough for fresh pitas! We pressed the dough then popped it on the cast iron skillet for a crispy on the outside and soft on the inside texture. To go with the bread we had an array of dips. A refreshing yogurt dip called tzatziki, two kinds of hummus,  and my personal favorite from the night, an eggplant based dish called baba ganoush.

Pita and tzatziki and baba ganoush
Pita and tzatziki and baba ganoush
When I dip you dip we dip
When I dip you dip we dip

The night was off to a great start. It was definitely the healthiest appetizer we’d had so far. And then, we pulled out the Ouzo. Have you ever had ouzo? Because I hadn’t. As a black licorice lover I was enthralled. How have I missed out on this delicious drink my entire “post 21” life? We wanted to maintain the integrity of the drink so we just mixed it with some fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Opa Ouzo!
Opa Ouzo!

Onto the main course. Sergio made a colorful salad completely inspired by Greece. It had tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, and a healthy drizzle of EVOO. Here’s where my vision of leaving with my pants button not popping out went awry. Steaming out of the oven, Ashley pulled out Greek’s answer to lasagna, moussaka (which is a very fun word to say and I emphasize the “ssaka” part like Mufasa from the Lion King). Moussaka is a layered eggplant dish with lamb and tomatoes, and it is topped with a goat cheese bechamel sauce. This meal was indeed hearty! Good thing I’m not planning a beach trip to Santorini anytime soon.

Moussaka and Salad
Moussaka and Salad

And just one more view of dessert.

Opa!

Layers of nuts and honey
Layers of nuts and honey

 

Recipes for inspiration:

Pita Bread– this has a great comparison for baking in the oven vs. on the stove
Baklava– again, I didn’t use the entire amount of syrup.
Baba Ganoush– we blended in feta cheese for extra creaminess
Moussaka

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