learning Greek

There is more laziness to come, but I did finally cook this weekend with only a tiny bit of cheating. I decided to practice making some Greek dishes without looking at any recipes at all or even looking back at the pictures from our cooking lesson. Why I torture myself this way I’ll never know, but I seem to enjoy it.

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Z kindly chopped a bunch of veggies for me, both for the salad and for the gigantes.

These gigantes – I brought them back from Greece. I did 2 cups in a quick soak, bringing them to a boil and then removing them from the heat to sit for an hour. Then I started them cooking again on low, and meanwhile…

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I cooked the carrots and onions in olive oil until the carrots started to get tender,

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then added about 5 cloves of fresh garlic,

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two large peeled tomatoes, chopped, and some fresh parsley and dill. And more olive oil.

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Stir it up and let the tomatoes cook down, you need lots of sauce. And let me say, you will really need at least 4 large tomatoes (maybe even 6), that was mistake #1.
Now, I wanted to make stuffed cusa like we did with the round squash at our cooking lesson. I have a special “scraper” I use to clean out the cusa, but I could not find it anywhere.

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I decided to make the filling anyway – rice with green onions, salt, pepper, parsley, dill, and what I thought was lots of olive oil. Turns out it’s near impossible to use too much olive oil, salt and dill in this stuff. When you think you have enough, add a little more. When you think it’s too much, add just a *little* bit more!

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This little pan just barely held the 1.5 C rice and 3 C water with all the stuff in it. Cook as usual.

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Back to the beans. Well, I kept checking them over and over and they weren’t getting done. I got impatient because even though we often ate between 10 & 11pm in Greece, nobody in GR was interested in eating that late. I turned the heat up to cook the beans faster. It worked, but the skin got all peely. I think it would be better to do a quick soak the night before, change the water and let them soak all day long while I’m at work, then change the water again and cook them on low heat for a few hours. They take forever.

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Anyway I drained the beans and added them to a baking dish with the sauce.

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I added more salt, pepper and olive oil. Next time I would add a couple more cloves of garlic and some extra dill. And even more olive oil. I also added a bit of water because I was afraid the sauce would completely dry up. I put it in the oven at 350 for 25 minutes.

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I wasn’t sure what to use for my horta. This Yu Choy Sum looked pretty sturdy, so I tried it for the first time ever.

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I cut off the thick stems, I might try keeping them on next time just to see what it’s like.

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A few handfuls are added to the giant pot of boiling water.

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Well, almost boiling. I couldn’t get this water to boil to save my life, isn’t that sad?? I covered it and let it cook,

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while I started on the cusa. Since I couldn’t stuff it, I sliced it up…

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and fried it in olive oil. I know, you’re not really supposed to fry things in olive oil, but I wanted it to be authentic – as authentic as it could be, considering I was really just making up a substitution.

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We can call it “deconstructed”.

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Aaaaand if anyone is cutting down on carbs or on a grain free diet, they can just skip the rice.

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Have to admit I didn’t do much with these olives. I bought the Greek Mix at the little bulk stand at the store, added olive oil and sprinkled them with the Cretan oregano I brought home.

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Z ended up making a Shirazi salad for me, which is very similar to a Greek salad, anyway, with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing and a sprinkling of salt. Sorry to say I did not bake the bread myself, but I am looking into buying locally grown and milled wheat for a nice village bread.

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The greens. This is all we ended up with! I actually got two bunches, but the rest was saved for leftovers. I just drizzled them with olive oil and squeezed on a little lemon juice. Oh, and I added salt to mine, of course.

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The gigantes came at the end of the meal. They were good and the sauce was nice, but there was hardly any of it. Definitely doesn’t look like anything I had in Greece, either. I still have some beans left and I’m going to try this again for sure!

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I could only find tiny little oyster mushrooms, nothing like the huge ones I had at ΤΑ Κουμπαρακια. And I forgot about them at our first meal, so we ate them the next night with our leftovers.

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I have to try them charred on the grill sometime. I just cooked them in a frying pan in olive oil, then squeezed on the lemon juice. They’re also good with a bit of salt.

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While I was at the Middle Eastern market buying cusa, I saw this canned roasted eggplant and decided I probably didn’t have enough food and should make eggplant salad. Thank goodness I didn’t also buy the fava I spotted since I clearly had more than enough food and not enough time to prepare it all. Since I cheated, this only took a few minutes…

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Dump it in a bowl, add fresh parsley, salt, and lots of olive oil. It’s not the same as making it fresh, but this is what happens when a Mediterranean woman gets food anxiety. We get desperate – what if someone goes away hungry?????

So. I’m going to have to do this again, and I’m going to have to start on a Sunday night and work all the way through Monday so I have a perfect, made-from-scratch, well cooked without peeling skin beans, just the right amount of olive oil, herbs and sauce kind of meal. I really think I can pull it off next time!

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