This week we are traveling to Greece. Greece is definitely one of those countries I would LOVE to visit. (Do you hear me, Universe?) The warmth of the sun is reflected in the people I have met from there. The fact that it is nearly surrounded by sea and a largely sunny, temperate, Mediterranean climate says both "health" and "excellent produce" to me. For a foodie, if a place has excellent produce and food, that alone is sufficient reason to visit said location. Actually I was noticing that many of the recipes on The Greek Vegan (where all these recipes come from) have minimal spicing. Many of them call for just salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh herbs. When I see a recipe that has such basic, pared-down spicing, I understand that either it is from a less-enlightened culinary tradition, or that the food is deriving its flavor from very high-quality ingredients. I believe the latter is the case with Greek cooking. I have heard from people who have traveled there that the produce of the peninsulan soil is so flavorful and wonderful, that US organics just pale in comparison.
Although we are not working with actual, factual Greek produce, we do have plenty of fresh herbs and veggies around, so I will approximate the flavors as best I can. Hopefully everything will come out all right and we will all feel satisfied after eating. Then in that satisfied state, we can meditate on taking our culinary experience to the next level by planning a group trip to Athens... Just a little trip down fantasy lane. :-)
Our specialty grain this week is Spanakorizo, spinach rice. I got this yummy looking recipe from The Greek Vegan. You are going to hear a lot about this blog today...
This Week's Menu:
Entree #1 - Tomato Toor Dal. Regardless of which country we travel to with the weekly menu, I like to keep at least one dal on the menu. Dals are not only our best seller; they are to Indian cooking what pasta is to Italian, or what rice and sushi are to Japanese cuisine. Dal is the quintessence of Indian food, a daily staple for most, especially for the country's thousands of vegetarians. I scrolled through the menus from the past months, trying to decide exactly which dal to repeat. They are all so delicious. Which one would fit best with the rest of our Mediterranean menu? I finally settled on this classic dal. It is bright and tangy, flavored with minimal spicing and fresh tomatoes. A perfect match for the sparse, fresh richness of the Greek recipes. *GF, soy-free
Entree #2 - Greek Black-Eyed Peas. One of our customers had requested that we make this dish again. When I went back to the website to refresh my memory about how to make it, well...I started looking around...and the rest is history. I got so excited about the recipes on that site and wanted to make all of them! This recipe is no exception to the simple excellence of Greek cuisine, gaining its robust flavor from the earthiness of the peas, the succulence of the celery, and the freshness of thyme and oregano. As with all the Greek recipes I read, this dish is best paired with a serving of crusty bread and olive oil. Please note, BYOB (bring your own bread). *GF, soy-free
Entree #3 - Baked Giant Beans (Gigantes Plaki). I was first intrigued by this recipe on account of its name. Gigante means "giant" in Spanish. My inner linguistic nerd was aroused, and I became curious about other similarities between Greek and Spanish. I am not sure exactly what the link is and how it has developed over the ages; although I am sure that the vague sense of familiarity that I am feeling with Greek culture is on account of a certain similarity to Latin American culture. The people have similar coloring, are warm, hospitable, fond of food, music and dance, and now I see they also love big beans! I have seen these big lima beans at the Latin grocery wonderland that I go to in Durham. I had wondered what to do with them, and now I know. The slow-cook bake time of this dish allows the flavors of celery, tomato, parsley, and mint to meld together in a particularly mouth-watering way. *GF, soy-free
Beet Salad - $6/lb. A savory and sweet twist on salad, Greek style. The beets are boiled and then marinated in olive oil (of course), fresh mint and parsley, and ground coriander and pepper - a perfect marriage of flavors! *GF, soy-free
Roasted Potatoes - $3/serving I am kind of in tuber bliss after last week's yucca fries. Such a simple thing, and yet so delicious... When I saw this recipe, I couldn't help but want to try it. The potatoes are coated with a marinade of... yep, you guessed it...olive oil AND lemon juice, oregano, and rosemary. Yumfest! *GF, soy-free