Cook N Bake Greek Series: Sesame, Pistachio and Honey Pasteli

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Greek Series PasteliThis week’s recipe seems like a recipe for the little ones…but adults appreciate it a lot more than kids! Pasteli is a very popular snack made of sesame and honey that comes in flat cookie shaped candies or bars. It is indeed the ancestor of our modern times energy bar, and thanks to tradition it still tastes extremely good today!

Pasteli‘s ingredients are very simple, yet nutritious. The recipe has been around for over 6,000 years, and unlike other foods Pasteli is mentioned by some relevant historians like Herodotus and Hippocrates, who speaks of it as an important source of nutrition. So does Homer in the Iliad when he refers to Pasteli as the nutrition for warriors so that they could endure their strength. Sesame and honey are a perfect combination for antioxidants, copper, manganese and other vital nutrients that our body needs especially during fatigue or recovery. So it is a candy that can be adequately presented like a dessert, but it is extremely healthy!

Pasteli can be found in many variations, but the original one is purely made of sesame seeds and honey. Although we do like to stick to the classic version, we wanted to give you something different and more fun, that both kids and parents like. The choice fell on the Sesame, Pistachio and Honey Pasteli.

Ingredients:
Mild vegetable oil for the work surface
3/4 cup + 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1/3 cup shelled pistachios, broken in half
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup mild-flavored runny honey

Prepare a bowl with iced water and a flat oil-slicked work surface or flat plate.
In a nonstick skillet toast the sesame seeds and the pistachio until they turn slightly into brown. Do not burn them. Add the sugar to the seeds and pistachios in the skillet and cook over low heat until the sugar melts and gets a pale golden color. Carefully add the honey to the skillet and stir it quickly without stopping until everything is combined together. Remember to be quick because everything will start to get hard and sticky.
On a oil-slicked surface flatten the mixer with an oiled spoon. Wet your hands with the iced water and start shaping the Pasteli in a rectangular shape that you will level and stretch with a rolling pin. Let the Pasteli dry for a few minutes and cut it in squares or triangles.

~Enjoy!

Recipe and photo courtesy of  Leitesculinaria.com

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Cook N Bake Greek Series: Souvlaki

Rometti Cook N Bake Greek Series: SouvlakiAs pre announced last week, this fourth dish of our Greek Series is the Souvlaki! Although usually I like to stick to the original recipe, this time I found a recipe by Jamie Oliver that I couldn’t help but try and find incredibly delicious! And so I am sure you will.

Souvlaki is one of the most popular Greek dishes around the world, very simple to make yet extremely flavorful. To make a Souvlaki all you need is some meat (usually pork, but you can also use chicken) and some vegetables. grilled and savored with salt, pepper, and some herbs (oregano, thyme, mint…). You can also add paprika, mustard, ketchup and add some tzatziki sauce.

Today Souvlaki is often presented as one of the most refined appetizer in many Mediterranean and Greek cuisine restaurants, but in Greece it’s considered a fast food. Yes, you heard me. It’s the simplicity of the dish itself that makes it suitable to be categorized as fast food, in the very sense of the word, however the ingredients (unlike what happens in many fast food chains around the world) are extremely fresh. Grilled and served on a skewer (the word souvlaki in fact means “skewer”) or in a full plate with some pita bread, Souvlaki has been present in the Greek cuisine since the 17th century BC, as some stone sets of barbecue from around that time have been found in the island of Santorini.

If you go to Athens instead of Souvlaki you might find Kalamaki. It’s indeed the same dish but served exclusively on a skewer, and the meat is cut into 1-inch chunks. But be careful! Kalamaki also means “straw” so if you go to the northern part of Greece do not ask for Kalamaki instead of Souvlaki because as a joke to deride the Athenians they would give you a drinking straw!

Souvlaki is a fun dish to accompany a cocktail, enjoy as a snack, or serve as a dinner plate. On top of it, kids love it, especially if served with fried potatoes.

Ingredients (serves 4):

3 Sweet pointed peppers
8 Pita bread
4 Spring of fresh mint
A Small chopped fresh dill
Rometti Red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
1 Lemon to serve
28 oz (800 g) of good quality pork
1 tbsp dried mint
1 tbsp dried oregano
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Cloves of garlic finely grated
Black pepper
Salt

Cut the wooden skewers to fit in your griddle pan and soak them in some water to prevent them from burning.
Cut the pork into a 1inch chunks and put it into a bowl , with dried mint and oregano, juice of 1 lemon, about 3oz of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp of Rometti Red Wine Vinegar, a pink of salt and pepper. Mix everything together, cover with clear film and let it marinate for about 30 minutes or more into the fridge.
In the meantime blacken the sweet peppers into a hot dry griddle, but make sure you don’t burn them. Put them in a bowl and cover it with some clear film to keep the steam in and avoid the skin to come off.

Thread the skewers with the pork cubes and cook them over the grill or griddle for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn them every now and them. Warm your pitas in the oven or grill them.
Before the skewers are ready peel and deseed the peppers, tear them into pieces and put them in a bowl. Roll up the mint leaves, finely slice them and add them to the bowl with the dill. Add a little Rometti Red Wine Vinegar, some salt and pepper, extra virgin olive oil and toss it all together.
Serve the souvlakia (plur.) with a dollop of tzatziki and a pita bread. Drizzle some olive oil on top of it, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

~ENJOY!

Photo by David Loftus

Cook N Bake Greek Series: Tzatziki

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Greek Series Tzatziki

After such an elaborated and savory dish last week, this Thursday we decided to focus on something more delicate for your palate, yet one of the most appreciated Greek side dishes, the Tzatziki (or Cucumber Yogurt Dip).

Tzatziki combines fresh, simple ingredients such as garlic, olive oil, vinegar, cucumbers and of course strained yoghurt, and as a result we obtain a creamy, tasty dip which is perfect for pitas, vegetables, and souvlaki (a favorite Greek dish around the world, which we will talk about next week!). Tzatziki can thus be presented as a side dish, appetizer, or condiment.

There are many variations of this dish around the world. Greek cuisine as we have already seen, has a lot of middle eastern roots. In Turkey (Tzatziki takes its name from the Turkish Cacik, which means a form of chutney – for those who don’t know chutney is a mix of spices, vegetables and fruit that originates form the South Asian and Indian cuisine) for example it is served more diluted and often as a soup or salad. In Cyprus mint is a fundamental ingredient for Tzatziki while garlic is in less quantities. In Bulgaria, Serbia and Macedonia we find it instead of a salad as appetizer, and in Iraq it is served as a meze (appetizer) along with drinks.

If you need an easy and light side dish to serve at a cocktail party or as a starter to a dinner with friends, and – most of all – don’t mind having a garlic breath after eating it (but don’t worry, this dish is addicting so everyone else will have garlic breath as well!), here is a great recipe to make a delicious, tangy, creamy Tzatziki.

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 cup greek yogurt, strained
1 cup sour cream
2 cucumbers
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
juice of a half lemon
1 tsp. chopped fresh dill

Peel and deseed the cucumbers. Then grate them or dice them in very thin pieces. Make sure that all the excess water is squeezed out of them.
In a bowl combine and mix olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, lemon juice and garlic. In another bowl and with the use of a whisk blend in sour cream and yoghurt. Add both mixtures together. Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. Mix until the sauce looks creamy and homogeneous. Serve chill and with a spring of fresh dill before serving.

~ENJOY!

Cook N Bake Greek Series: Moussaka

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Greek Series Moussaka

Welcome back to our second week of our journey through the Greek cuisine!
Our Greek Series would not be complete without the recipe of one of the most famous Greek dishes, and probably the Greek Dish per excellence, the Moussaka!
The name originates from the Arabic, and it means “chilled”. It’s also found in Greek Turkish and South Slavic languages. This shows that Moussaka is also present in other cuisines, however the Greek version of it, a layered casserole with potatoes, eggplants (aubergines) and lamb has become the most popular. Some people add also nutmeg, garlic and spices to season the vegetables and the meat.

Moussaka is a dish that incorporates the bitterness of the eggplant which contrasts with the sweetness of the potatoes. Both the flavors work very well with meat, and moreover the creamy, milky béchamel on top just adds that delicious, soft details that makes Moussaka a perfect dish for the entire family!

Ingredients:

2 eggplants
1280g(45 oz) potatoes
640g (22 oz) minced meat – lamb, beef or a mixture of both
3 tablespoons butter
480g (17 oz) tinned tomatoes or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup grated cheese – cheddar, parmesan or kefalotiri
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
oil for frying
salt, pepper
approx 8 tablespoons ground french toast (friganies), or dried breadcrumbs

For the béchamel sauce:
125g (4.5 oz) butter
4 tablespoons plain flour
1l (about 4 cups) warm milk
2 egg yolks
salt, pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Wash and peel the potatoes, then cut them in 1/4 inch round slices. Fry them on both sides and lay them on a papertowel to absorb the oils. Do the same with the eggplants cut in thin slices.
In a saucepan melt the butter and add chopped onions and the meat until browned. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, parsley. Cover and simmer until the juices are dried up.

Remove from the heat, add 1/3 of the cheese and 3-4 tablespoon of breadcrumbs.

Get a baking tray, sprinkle the bottom of it with breadcrumbs. Lay the eggplants and sprinkle them with grated cheese. Do the same with a layer of potatoes. Pour the meat sauce over the potatoes, and cover the meat with another layer of eggplants, and potatoes.

In the meantime prepare the béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan. Slowly stir in the flower until it becomes homogeneous. When it starts to bubble remove the pan from the stove, and gradually add the milk. Put back on the stove at a very low heat and keep stirring until the sauce thickens.
Season it with salt and pepper, and once cooled add the egg yolks and stir until they are mixed in.

At this point, pour the béchamel on top of the potatoes, add some grated cheese and bake in a medium oven at 180 C (356 F) for 30-40 minutes until golden. Remove, let rest for about 10 minutes and serve with a crispy green salad!

~Enjoy!

Recipe from http://www.ultimate-guide-to-greek-food.com/moussaka.html

Cook N Bake Greek Series: Baklava

Rometti Limoncello Cook N Bake Greek Series Baklava

Dear Readers,

I know you have been waiting and wondering for a whole week about what the next series will be! Well, time has come to unveil the mystery and introduce.. the Greek Series!

Located in the Mediterranean area, Greece’s traditional cuisine was very much influenced in history by the Romans, thus is very similar to other Mediterranean cuisines, such as Italian and Turkish. Olives, eggplants, zucchini, herbs, grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine are the main and most recurrent ingredients. The use of honey, nuts and phyllo pastry are characteristic of Greek cuisine. And it’s on these ingredients that we are focusing our attention this week: phyllo pastry, chopped nuts and honey are in fact combined together in a sweet dish called Baklava.

The word Baklava seelms to be of either Turkish or Persian origin. The origin of the word is still unclear, but it most likely means “to tie, to wrap up”. And it’s inTurkey that the dish Baklava seems to have originated, although many documentations date it back to the ancient Mesopotamia. There are different versions of dishes similar to Baklava throughout Iran, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Armenia, Syria and India. If you remember our past blogs, you might remember the Italian Torta Salata, which is not too much different either! Gastrin, made with nuts, seeds and pepper between two sheets of dough was the ancient version of Baklava as known in the island of Crete.

Baklava is a deliciously flaky and sweet dish, where phyllo alternates in layers and gives a crunch to this unbelievable crunchy treat. Used either in weddings or as Easter treat with 40 layers of phyllo (yes, the preparation of Baklava differs from region to region!), we are sure that you’ll enjoy it anytime of the year!

Ingredients (serves 24):

For the filling:
1 lb. of chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pistachios are best, or use a combination of them)
1 lb of phyllo dough
olive oil
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon of ground cloves

For the syrup:
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
Finely ground pistachios for garnish (optional)

Warm up the oven to 350 F.
Take the thawed phyllo and cut it in half to fit in a 9×13 pan that you have previously greased with olive oil. While preparing the filling keep the phyllo covered with a damp towel so it won’t dry out.
In a food processor put the nuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
Place the first sheet of phyllo into the pan and spread some olive oil on top of it. Place 7 more and brush some olive oil on top of each sheet. Spoon on a thin layer of the nut mixture, on top of which you’ll put two sheets of phyllo, and repeat until you finish the filling. Make sure that the last layer is 8 sheets of phyllo, each one greased with some olive oil on top.
Use a sharp knife to cut 24 squares, and bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly crispy.
While baking, prepare the syrup by combining cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice, honey and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low heat and let it simmer for 7 minutes. The syrup needs to be a little thick. Remove the cinnamon stick and let it cool.
Sppon the syrup on top of the Baklava and let it cool for 4 hours. Garnish with some nuts or crushed pistachios.

~ENJOY!

Image by David Loftus Limited