January 5, 2014 Leave your thoughts
I love to travel. One day–when I’m old enough or take over the world, whichever comes first–I want to traverse the globe. I want to visit a volcano in Iceland. Yodel from the top of the Alps in Switzerland. Take a stupid picture with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Ride a camel in Egypt. Float in the Dead Sea. Stand on an island in the Maldives before they’re below sea level. Visit a Turkish market in Istanbul (NOT Constantinople). Buy a lifetime supply of Hello Kitty accessories in Taiwan. Throw a handful of black sand in Indonesia. Hold a koala in Australia (even though they’re supposedly mean–and stinky). Heck, I’d even like to play with Emperor penguins in Antarctica.
One of the top places on my list is Greece. While I can’t understand the language very well, I’d love to visit the ruins and take a boat around the islands in the Aegean sea. The food also sounds marvelous: delicious olives, marinated and grilled meats, and best of all…baklava. Too bad there isn’t really a “paleo” substitute to filo dough…sigh.
In the meantime, while I wait for my opportunity to visit, I have made two Greek-inspired dishes: Greek Salad and Baba Ghanoush. No, neither are perfectly authentic, but they feature ingredients that are common in Grecian cooking, specifically feta cheese, cucumbers, tahini, eggplant, and olive oil. Especially in the dead of winter (it dropped below zero where I live yesterday), these dishes are a welcomed escape.
I served both with a variation of my Pesto-Marinated Lamb, but you can serve these two equally as well on their own for a vegetarian meal. Yummy!
First, let’s start off with the baba ghanoush. You’re going to need 2 eggplants–big ones. I didn’t weigh mine, but I figure I had somewhere around two pounds. Make sure they’re solid and have no soft spots.
With a small knife or a fork, make a bunch of small incisions in each eggplant. This will help some of the water escape during cooking and prevent you from having goopy eggplants.
Heat up a large non-stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat–dry. Your goal is to char the eggplant skin; you aren’t going to be eating it, anyway, so you don’t need to worry about adding any fat to make it more appealing. When the pan is hot, add the eggplants. Press them down slightly, then step away for five minutes. Don’t prod–just leave them be.
When that side is dark brown and flattened, rotate the eggplant 90 degrees and do the same with the next side. Do this with every side of the eggplant until the entire skin is nearly black in color and the eggplant is squishy when you press down on it, about 20 minutes.
Once cooked to perfection, transfer the eggplant to a separate plate and split each open to let some of the steam escape. Set aside for at least 15 minutes, or until warm to the touch. You don’t want to burn yourself!
When your eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard it. Put the remaining eggplant flesh in the bowl of a food processor with 1/3 cup of tahini, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of cumin, the juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup), 2 cloves of garlic, crushed, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pulse until homogeneous, about 1 minute, then taste and add more salt/oil/cumin, if necessary.
That’s it! All you have to do is scoop it up and eat it. I’d highly recommend sliced carrots and celery sticks to accompany this baba ghanoush if you’re eating it for a snack or serving it as a starter. Otherwise, it tastes great with grilled meats!
Up next is the Greek salad. I adapted my recipe from Ina Garten’s–I added more veggies (yay!) and decreased the amount of dressing and cheese to make it a little lighter to better compliment the rest of the meal. If you’re serving this salad on its own, feel free to add a little more oil and/or feta to make it a bit heartier. (You can also add some grilled chicken, fish, or hard boiled eggs–all three would be tasty, too!)
This recipe is super easy. There’s no cooking involved, either, making it perfect for those nights when you want something a little exotic without a ton of effort.
Put 3 heads of chopped romaine lettuce in a large bowl. Add 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved, 1 large seeded, peeled, and chopped cucumber, and 1 diced red bell pepper, then toss to combine. You can also add 1/2 of a sliced red onion, but I didn’t, because raw onions and I don’t exactly get along. (In short, while I do like onions, I don’t want to be tasting them three hours after my meal.)
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Once combined, pour over the salad and toss it really well–all of the leaves should be coated to perfection. Let sit for at least fifteen minutes to let all of the flavors meld.
Just before serving, add in 3 ounces of crumbled feta cheese, 1/3 cup of diced calamata olives, and 1 tablespoon of dried oregano. Toss again to incorporate. If you don’t eat dairy and/or are vegan, leave out the cheese; if you don’t like olives, leave those out, too. It’s very adaptable: just add what you’d like!
This was such a delicious meal. I highly, highly recommend you make it!
Have you ever been to Greece? If so, how was it? If not, where in the world would you like to travel to? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!