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March 2012 COTM: The Olive and the Caper: Fish and Shellfish; Meat

Please use this thread to discuss the recipes in the chapters on Fish and Shellfish; and Meat (pages 322 - 405)

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  1. Shrimp with fennel, green olives, red onion, and white wine, p. 346

    Delicious! I did take some liberties, but I think I was fairly true to the idea.

    Shell 2 lbs of shrimp. Simmer the shells with 2 c of wine, 1 c water, and 1 tsp salt for a couple minutes. Discard shells. Add 1/2 med. red onion, coarsely chopped, and 8 large green olives, pitted and chopped, plus 3/4 c coarsely chopped fennel stalk and 1 tbsp olive oil. Simmer until onion is soft, about 5 min. Add shrimp and cook until pink, 1 1/2 - 2 min. Garnish with minced fennel fronds.

    My shrimp were already shelled, so I used a bottle of clam juice. Since it was for just the two of us, I halved the quantity of shrimp, used 1 c wine plus 1 cup clam juice, but still used full quantities of onion and olive. I chopped up a goodly amount (about 1 1/2 c) of fennel bulb rather than just using the stalk. She doesn't say how to serve it, but I poured it in bowls with all of the tasty juice, shrimp with broth.

    Easy and delicious, and felt like a real treat. I served with it a fennel & grapefruit salad for an ultra-healthy but quite filling dinner. (Yeah, I'm harvesting these giant fennels from my garden right now. Three meals worth easily in each one!)

    4 Replies
    1. re: Karen_Schaffer

      Sounds wonderful, right down to the fennel and grapefruit salad. I would never think to pair shrimp with olives, but what do you expect from a book called the Olive and the Caper?! This sounds like it could be an easy weeknight dinner, too.


      1. re: Karen_Schaffer

        Kicking myself! I had originally planned to serve this for dinner tonight, but got a little gun shy after a couple of not so well written recipes last week. I'll put this back on my list, and definitely make it. Sounds wonderful.

        And I'm jealous of all that fennel you're harvesting!

        1. re: Karen_Schaffer

          Shrimp with Fennel, Green Olives, Red Onion, and White Wine, p. 346

          I made a half recipe, using 1 lb shrimp, which were smaller than the count specified in the recipe but still what I'd call medium. I pretty much followed the recipe, except that in place of red onion, I used a smallish leek, or the white part thereof, sliced in half moons. I found that because there wasn't much depth to the simmering liquid when I added the shrimp, I needed to stir them up a bunch to expose them all to the heat, and also slapped a lid on the pot for a minute to help them steam.

          As Karen says, this easy, delicious, and healthful, if not super-complex in flavor. The only thing that takes time is shelling the shrimp; otherwise, it's a few moments of chopping and 10 minutes of cooking time. I actually liked it even better cold (which is how I had the leftovers). I also doubled up on the fennel dishes in my initial meal, using the bulb in the Single Vegetable Salad on p. 189.

          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

            Shrimp with Fennel, Green Olives, Red Onion, and White Wine, p. 346.

            Finally made this one last night--and in fact, waiting awhile allows one to benefit from other people's reviews! Anyway, we quite enjoyed the dish. It is light yet savory, and feels summery and healthy. The little ones at my table preferred the shrimp alone on their plates but per Karen's suggestion, we served the finished dish to the adults in bowls with the broth. People ended up scooping up the pilaf into the bowls, the better to absorb the sauce.

            Also per Karen's report, I also chopped up my smallish fennel bulb plus stalk, and included this with my chopped red onion and chopped large green olives. The fennel took a bit longer to become soft, so the sauce cooked down--which meant that I had Caitlin's result: needed to stir the shrimp to get them pink, and also covered the pot at the end to steam them a bit more.

            We liked the broth with its slightly chunky addition of fennel so much that I will do this again, and will increase the quantity of wine/clam juice by .5 next time so I have a bit more sauce in the end.

            Oh yes; I had intended to use only clam juice in lieu of simmering shrimp shells, but could only find frozen shrimp IN their shells, so I peeled them (a bit grudgingly) and simmered the shells in the white wine and clam juice mixture. Have to admit, the resulting sauce was very nice!

            All in all, a satisfying and easy dinner. Served with spinach pilaf (p. 239), cauliflower salad (sans dressing) and roasted beets, with tzatziki (p. 465) as a side, plus pita bread.

          2. Beef with Olives and 100 Cloves of Garlic, p. 367.

            Who could resist a title like that? Not someone like me who grew up next to Gilroy, CA, "The Garlic Capital of the World." And man, this was yummy. The approx. 9 heads of garlic are deliciously mellowed by the long cooking. It's also a simple recipe, which does live up to its description in the headnotes: "The dish is a breeze to prepare [with one caveat: see below about peeling the garlic] and turns out rich and complex."

            First you brown 2-in. chunks of boneless beef chuck in a heavy skillet in olive oil, then place the chunks in a 3-qt. clay pot--I used my Romertopf* but the recipe states that any clay pot, or other sturdy enameled pot like Le Cruset works too. Add to the juices in the skillet 100 (!) cloves of peeled garlic (about 9 heads) , 48 Kalamata olives, 4 cups dry red wine, 1 TBS of tomato paste, two bay leaves, and 1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper. Bring this mixture to a boil over med-high heat and stir to blend. Pour all over the beef into the cooking pot, cover, and braise in a 425 F oven. Or if using a Romertopf, start in a cold oven. Stir once or twice until beef is tender and sauce is reduced--about 1 1/2 hours. Oh yes; sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil and/or chopped fresh Italian parsley over before serving.

            What you end up with is a deeply-flavored, dark-brown finished sauce with beautifully-browned and tender chunks of beef. The sauce is not for the faint of heart, but the garlic has definitely been tamed by the long cooking, the whole bottle of red wine has softened in flavor, and the briny olives have become succulent and mellow. It cries out for bread and a pilaf to soak up the sauce and that's what I served: the recommended barley-veggie pilaf from page 235. The adults really liked it and the 8-year-old asked for seconds. The 6-year old was dubious, but he's going through A Stage.

            My recommendations: do season the beef chunks with s & p before browning (I did) and do check the seasoning before serving because, despite the presence of briny Kalamata olives, the finished dish needs more salt. (I've read before in the pre-game discussion of this book that some of the recipes are under-salted as written.)

            AND, be warned that separating and peeling all those garlic cloves takes some time, 20 minutes in my case. Has anyone ever tried using those pre-peeled jarred garlic cloves? I have not, but doing so would definitely make this prep go faster and easier. It was undeniably tedious first to separate, then whap 100 cloves of fresh garlic with a cleaver, and then peel them carefully. But the resulting sauce was divine. Upshot: I'll make it again, especially on a cold evening at the beginning of Meterological Spring, March 1.

            *I hadn't used my Romertopf in about 10 years, and I was grateful to be reminded earlier about pre-soaking and starting in a cold oven, since these instructions do not appear in the recipe's clay-pot-cooking notes. I had considered adapting the recipe to my slow-cooker, but I have to admit, the Romertopf did a fantastic job of creating deeply-flavored beef and a nicely-reduced sauce.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Goblin

              I loved reading your review, Goblin, and am so happy to see such a glowing report. It gives one hope that this could still be a great month. I've been salivating over this recipe but have to admit that the peeling of 100 garlic cloves is slightly off-putting. The idea of purchasing the pre-peeled cloves never occurred to me, what a great idea. This might make it to The List.

              1. re: Goblin

                Great post. I've added this to my list. I also have a neglected Romertopf that I may dig out to try this dish and the clay pot chicken.

                P.S. How was the barley vegetable pilaf? Which vegetables/legumes did you add to it?

                1. re: BigSal

                  What is a Romertopf?

                  The dish sounds totally yummy. I had a big success with another meat dish from the book tonight - see post below.

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    It's a kind of clay pot with a lid.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      GG, Like roxlet indicated a Romertopf is a clay pot with a lid. http://www.romertopfonline.com/?id=go... One of many kitchen gadets that I have neglected.

                      P.S. Great to see you cooking again on COTM and the beef stifado sounds wonderful.

                      1. re: BigSal

                        Thanks BigSal - I took a break because I wasn't massively enthused by either Pepin or Japanese month, and didn't fancy buying the books. Unfortunately, there isn't really a library option for most of the COTMs here in the UK.

                    2. re: BigSal

                      Hi Big Sal,
                      I've added my review of the bulgur and vegetable pilaf to the relevant thread (Eggs, Grains, Vegetables.) I tried to set up a link directly but obviously still have a lot to learn! ;-)
                      The recipe as given is quite versatile. I used yellow bell peppers, zucchini, and cooked chick peas. In addition, chopped plum tomatoes are added. As I wrote in my review, it was a pleasant side dish. I think I might actually have preferred the drier and fluffier texture of couscous to sop up the juices of the Beef with Olives and 100 [glorious] Cloves of Garlic.

                    3. re: Goblin

                      Beef with Olives and 100 Cloves of Garlic, p. 367, addendum to my review above:

                      I wanted to add one thing that I forgot to mention: because I had read that Romertopf clay-pot cooking needs less liquid than other methods, I reduced the wine-olives-garlic -mixture when it was still in the skillet--I'd say by about 1/3. Took just a few minutes Also, I'd poured in only a bottle--750 ml--of red wine, rather than the 4 cups in the recipe. Concentrated the sauce some and I found myself wishing a bit for more sauce at serving time. Next time I'll just try using the bottle and not reducing before braising in the oven.

                      1. re: Goblin

                        thanks for the original post and the update; I"m cooking it tomorrow. My beef chuck pieces are sitting in the fridge with salt on them (along with two big bones) as I started salting meat the day before after reading Zuni Cafe/Judy Rodgers. I was thinking I might concentrate the wine before braising a la Judy and Paula Wolfert and others, but I won't given your rec. I will have less beef since I got a chuck roast with bones, liking to braise with bones as well. I'm going to look around for bulgur pilaf recipes since I've never made one and want to try it, though I may just use the Israeli couscous I've had sitting around for too long.

                        Question: did you pit the olives?

                        and congratulations for your children's eating habits! wow! I didn't have a chance to start out from the beginning as we adopted a 7 year old boy 5 years ago with serious food trauma and limited palate in the extreme. However, he is insisting on making his father and me a baby octopus dish tomorrow. He won't take a bite of it, but it is getting him used to different ingredients, preparations, and smells.

                        I was kind of amazed at the specification of 48 olives (why not 40, 45, or 50??))....until my local great merchant's daughter said that 48 is kind of a standard measure (I was distracted and didn't ask, unfortunately, but will next time I'm in). Also of the 100 cloves...I'd love a weight vs. a count, given that cloves vary so much in size. Anyway, we love garlic so we'll sit and do it, but use the rubber garlic peeler thing that works so well.

                        I have such fond memories of visiting garlic world in Gilroy?? when I was in grad school in N. Calif. decades ago. would that I could visit again.

                        1. re: Madrid

                          Hi Madrid--I am really glad to have your remarks and questions! Regarding the discussion of "to reduce, or not to reduce" . . . . I will be very interested to see how your sauce turns out. As I said, my reduced sauce was delicious but I wanted a bit more for the finished dish, maybe because the flavor WAS so satisfying!

                          Funny about the 48 being a standard olive-count. . . who knew? I had dutifully counted out the Kalamatas in the glass jar and was surprised to find that there were exactly 48! Now I know why. I bought mine pitted, btw. Hand-pitting a lot of olives is almost as irritating as peeling garlic cloves.

                          I thought it was hilarious that 100 Cloves were specified in the recipe--I figured it was probably a traditional recipe title, and that there was actually some leeway. But again, being the dutiful type, I counted away and gladly stopped at a hundred. I use Cooks Illus. Magazine's standard for size: a clove of garlic is the size of a plump cashew. So if I have giant cloves I count for two.

                          I'd say if your 7-year-old is preparing a baby octopus dish, he has great potential! We'll see him on Chowhound one day, if not on his own TV cooking show! ;-) The children who eat dinner with me are my grandchildren. To give their working parents a break, I've been having the whole family over for "special" meals once or twice a week since they were tiny. It's a great excuse for me to splurge on making interesting recipes which I might not tackle for only my husband and me.

                          And finally, where were you in grad school in No. Cal? UC Davis? Berkeley? Mills? UC Santa Cruz (my school)? You must have been to the Gilroy Garlic Festival!

                          1. re: Goblin

                            Hi Goblin,
                            here are the adjustments I made to the recipe.

                            I had 3 pounds beef chuck including bones. Cut them up in the pieces, discarding huge pure chunks of fat but plenty of fat still there. Salted with 1 tbs kosher , rubbed in, including 2 big bones, for 24 hours (as mentioned before, I now follow Judy Rodgers/Zuni Cafe recs for salting well beforehand). Used only 1 bottle of wine not 4 cups, and I had 42 kalamatas, not 48! Used your plump cashew comparison and cut huge garlic cloves in half. cut out obvious big green shoots but not the small ones. I pounded on the olives and got the pits out...didn't take nearly as long as the garlic peeling, but used the elan rubber tube garlic peeler for those.

                            I'd thought about reducing the wine to one cup, but when I looked at those recipes, beef stock is used to complete the necessary liquid to braise. Decided to stay with the original recipe to see how it came out.

                            Have to say I wondered at the 425 degree oven temp..really so much higher than any other braised recipe I've done. I followed it using an interior glazed but otherwise unglazed clay pot and top. Put parchment on top before putting on lid to condense.

                            I did as I always do when fork tender...strained liquid and refrigerated solids and liquid separately overnight to "meld" and get fat congealed off liquid. Lots of fat discarded!

                            So today, braised briefly again...de-fatted sauce and beef that I scissored into smaller pieces. Added some water to the re-braise....the high temp infuses the beef but no matter how you try to seal, lots of liquid goes off leaving not enough sauce. The water didn't reduce taste intensity negatively at all as far as I could tell and gave lots more sauce. It is delicious and the garlic is much less obvious than the kalamatas...didn't soak them beforehand. The beef still needed lots more salt than specified despite my re salting and all those olives.Extremely tender. I served with fregola browned in olive oil first before cooking in chicken stock. Really wanted to try one of the pilafs but fregola was crying out to be used.

                            Goblin, so glad you do these meals for your grandkids! I am the same age as my adopted son's bio grandmom (born 1955). My son was 7 when we got him and 12 now. His culitnary ideas are amazing..he doesn't eat them himself, but he basically directed us to make small vol-au-vents with "tee pees" of bread tied with string over "cake" of baby octupus, asparagus, braised onions,etc. HIs special touch was bits of chocolate put on the bread...he saw me making mole once. It actually turned out great.

                            Finally, I did visit Garlic world several times but never the festival. I wish I'd been at Berkeley or UC Santa Cruz, but I got a great fellowship to Stanford and did art history there. Do you remember India Joze in Santa Cruz? The calarmi post cards as necklaces, etc?

                            1. re: Madrid

                              What a great report, Madrid--thanks so much for your suggestions on improving the recipe, and indeed, ANY stew or braise of this sort, i.e., including the bones in the sauce, using a parchment "cover" inside the pot, and of course, allowing the sauce to mellow overnight. I'll bet your finished dish was ambrosial.

                              Oh, I see--your son was 7 when you adopted him and is now 12, and cooking up a storm. How sweet that he wants to treat you with his specialities. He obviously has a talent here, probably because he has grown up watching you at the stove--

                              I do remember Indian Joze in Santa Cruz, and the Middle Earth Cafe on campus, and the whole Santa Cruz scene. Funny that I forgot to include Stanford in my list of No. Cal schools--both our daughters went there!

                              1. re: Goblin

                                Not to derail the thread, but (speaking as a fellow alumna) it was the Whole Earth Cafe. Middle Earth is where Hobbits live [grin]. My family dined at India Joze following my graduation. Good times.

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  It was indeed the Whole Earth Cafe, Caitlin (sorry for the hijacking of the thread) which I persisted in calling "Middle Earth Cafe" when I went there just because it looked so "hobbity" to me. A lot of the wooded campus seemed like Gandalf would have felt very comfortable there.
                                  Good times, indeed.

                    4. Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese - p. 342

                      This was simple and quick, as shrimp dishes should be. You saute some onions and garlic in olive oil until somewhat soft. Add peeled, chopped tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes soften. Add white wine, Metaxa (I used brandy), tomato paste, fresh dill, and black pepper, and cook until the tomatoes have collapsed. Add shrimp, and cook until they just start to turn pink (2 minutes, she says). Crumble some feta over this, and pop into a 400 degree oven for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with some more fresh dill before serving.

                      This was fine, but not especially memorable. My inclination is that I probably wouldn't make this again, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because it isn't the kind of thing I would crave when I'm hungry for shrimp. If I did make it again, I think I would give the shrimp a brief bath in brine, both to enhance their succulence and add a little oomph to the recipe. The only salt in this came from the feta, and I'm not sure that was quite enough.

                      17 Replies
                      1. re: MelMM

                        Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, Pg. 342

                        When we made this recipe last night we basically halved the main ingredients but kept the original amounts of the seasonings... except used 1/8 cup EVOO instead of 1/4 and increased the black pepper from 1/2 t to 1 t. We used Metaxa, which I think I had never tasted before this. (quite liked it, too !) TJ's imported feta from Greece was much less salty and more mild than I've had. Was it the sheep's milk that made it so? Anyway, we do agree with Mel's assessment of the finished dish being less than memorable but perfectly suitable for a sampling. I *might* make it again as one of several small plates but not for dinner.

                        1. re: Gio

                          You liked Metaxa! It's the kind of thing that you bring back from holiday only to find it languishing at the back of the cupboard ten years later....

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            Well... I Did like it. It seemed to be "milder" than other brandies I've had. Didn't burn my throat as much, I should say. Anyway, we now have a full sized bottle (don't know how many liters that is) so we intend to use it all month...

                            BTW: I sipped it neat, but I bet it's pretty good on the rocks too...

                            1. re: Gio

                              To be fair I think there are different types - maybe you've got one of the properly aged ones, and not the cheap gut rot I've had in Greece.

                              1. re: Gio

                                Hmmmmmm....Metaxa on the rocks sounds good! What brand of Metaxa did you purchase, Gio? I foresee a new treat to enhance my stove-side activity while preparing Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta. . .

                                I'm also foreseeing myself sliding slowly past the oven down to the floor before dinner is even on! ;-)

                                  1. re: Goblin

                                    The bottle we have has a label that's printed in Greek. Since I don't have those characters on my keyboard here's an approximation:

                                    upside down L then NHEION. It's a seven star bottle. That is, aged for 7 years. That's right in the middle of the number of years Metaxa is usually aged. 3,5,7,9,12. The cost was $20.00 here, north of Boston MA.

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Thanks, Gio! I'm south of Boston. MA, and should be able to find it.

                                      1. re: Goblin

                                        you are south of Boston? I live in Somerville. Got my olives at Al Capone's in Union Square, Somerville. He also has an outpost in North Cambridge on Mass Ave. He also has great salt cured capers.

                                        1. re: Madrid

                                          We are indeed south of Boston--about 80 miles south--living on the mid-Cape. I often feel a bit deprived when I read on Chowhound about all the foodie resources available to you all who live in the big city (pouting) Sheesh, I can't even find goat meat in Yarmouthport! ;-)

                                          Oh, quit complaining (to self.) We have some great speciality shops, and TJs, and more than enough good local ingredients available to keep me cooking for decades!

                            2. re: MelMM

                              Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, p. 342

                              My turn for this one: The previous reviewers have done a great job of describing the recipe and method. The difference from their reports and mine is that I felt the finished dish was quite good with a richly flavored sauce. My family agreed, had seconds, and want me to make it again.

                              So what was the difference in my family's experience? Probably the single thing that most impacted the sauce was that I made it about 90 minutes ahead and ended up simmering the tomatoes longer than the prescribed 10 minutes to develop more flavor (reducing it by about 1/3.) I did this because of the reviewers' warnings that more flavor was needed. Maybe the brand of canned tomatoes I used made a difference too: a 14-oz can of Hunt's whole plum tomatoes, chopped by me. I mention this because Hunt's came in second in the Cooks Illus. canned whole tomatoes taste tests, out of ten entries. (The first was Muir Glen, which I couldn't find at my store.) The tasting review rated the Hunt's brand as "meaty," with a relatively high Brix value and low PH--"'fruity" and "bright." Maybe this also made a difference in the end result.

                              I used my proud new bottle of 5-star Metaxa for the 2 TBs of brandy, and crumbled up on top a block of Valbreso Feta (product of France) which was relatively mild and creamy. Due to my having reducing the sauce, the dish was salty enough.

                              I also used my new Chinese Sand Pot, to which I was introduced on the trail of clay-pot cookery by Paula Wolfert. Maybe this helped! ;-)

                              Anyhow, it was delicious. Served with the simple rice pilaf on p. 231, Horta made with kale, p. 267, the cauliflower salad on p. 198, and lots of good bread.

                              1. re: Goblin

                                Oh aren't you a sneaky one, Goblin. Cooking longer, different tomatoes, Chinese sand pot. That'll do it all right. Interesting info about the canned tomatoes though. I changed to Pomi tomatoes because I don't want to use those BPA infused cans any more. Hmmm... and I used to buy Hunt's as well as Pastene...

                                I bet my feta can beat your feta though...

                                1. re: Goblin

                                  go goblin! I think reducing tomato or any sauce always helps. can't imagine a 10 minute tomato sauce~~ Also got to get some of your Metaxa. Love the clay pot stuff from Paula.

                                  I was just at the Cape for 2 days...Brewster... We have a friend who is retiring soon and bought condo there...she needs handyman and woman services, we homeschool, so off we went. if you feel ok advising me on local stuff, my email address is in my profile.

                                  1. re: Goblin

                                    Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Pg. 342
                                    I too followed the excellent suggestion from Chowhound to simmer the tomato sauce for longer than the suggested 10 minutes. I ended up letting it cook down for a good 35 minutes which resulted in a richer taste for the sauce. I also was out of white wine, so I went with some red, I don't think this hurt the sauce, if anything it deepened the lavour and the colour. Overall this is a pretty good dish. Might not be company worthy but the creamy feta was a nice compliment to the shrimp, and the dill is definitely a welcome note. I have tried similar recipes from other books and I do believe the version in the Essential New York Times Book is better.

                                  2. re: MelMM

                                    Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, Pg. 342

                                    It was my turn to try this last week. The bf loved it. I liked it the night we had it, but enjoyed the leftovers at work the next day even more. For tomatoes, we had some outstanding cherry tomatoes from the CSA box that week (rooftop greenhouse, they're picked when they are actually ripe and are a definite winter treat!), so I think those helped the sauce quite a bit. I also managed to knock over the last bit of white wine in the house with my cast, so I used sherry in the sauce instead. I think that might've been a happy accident. I'll try Goblin's suggestion of reducing the sauce even longer next time.

                                    1. re: MelMM

                                      Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, page 342.

                                      The mechanics of this dish are well described above, and I recommend Goblin's new and improved technique. After reading Goblin's review, I also simmered the tomatoes longer, and allowed them to reduce. I used canned tomatoes, as we won't see decent fresh tomatoes for quite a while. I always, and only, use Muir Glen tomatoes, so I'm happy to read that first place rating. I used their fire roasted diced tomatoes for this dish. The shrimp that looked best at the store were rather large; I don't have the book handy, but I believe it called for medium shrimp. Shelling them was the only slightly time consuming element of this dish, and it didn't consume much. I bought a bottle of Metaxa for the recipe. Our local state store had only one brand, five stars. I liked the taste of it, sweeter than brandy.

                                      Anyway, the results? We were very happy with this simple dinner! I think the big, fresh, wild shrimp made a difference; they were very tasty. Also Goblin's suggestion of cooking the sauce longer really brought out the flavors. I just served it with a baguette for sauce-dipping, with beets and skordalia on the side. With only a few minutes in the oven, this will be a nice summertime dish when good tomatoes come in!

                                    2. Beef (and rabbit) stifado, p374

                                      Stfado may have been the first properly "foreign" dish I ever ate abroad, aged about 11 on a trip to Crete! It certainly tasted properly exotic to this British girl brought up on pretty traditional fare. This version definitely didn't disappoint - it was delicious, and pretty easy to prepare.

                                      The recipe in the book is for beef and rabbit combined, but gives variations for either a pure rabbit or pure beef version. I'm actually pretty sceptical about a beef/rabbit combination so opted for beef on its own. I also used beef shin rather than chuck, which meant I needed to cook it for almost twice as long (3 hours as opposed to 1.5).

                                      Anyway, it's a pretty typical braise in that you brown your beef in batches in olive oil, before chucking it back in the pot with red wine, pearl onions, shallots (I added more baby onions instead), red wine or balsamic vinegar (I used red wine vinegar), tomato paste, lots of chopped garlic, cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then simmer until tender. I used a trick from "All About Braising" and used a cartouche, or piece of parchment paper, between the pot and the lid, which kept everything beautifully moist. After 3 hours the beef shin was perfectly tender and the onions practically melted in your mouth. The sauce was delicious and didn't need any more seasoning. I served this with plain steamed rice and my guests opted to add some tsatsiki left over from the starter, which they said went very well.

                                      A hit - I'd definitely recommend this one and it really is one of the Greek classics.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        Beef Stifado, p. 374.
                                        Made this on a cold March night last week. I agree with greedy girl that this recipe produces a very flavorful and interesting sauce, with a relatively simple prep and not that many ingredients. Like greedygirl, I used beef only--no rabbit--and red wine vinegar rather than balsamic vinegar. The cinnamon, bay leaves, and cloves simmer together in the red wine-vinegar sauce and create a gently spicy sauce for the browned beef. There are lots of onions, both shallots and pearl onions (I used frozen) but the flavors are appropriate in this rustic dish and we didn't miss other vegetables.
                                        The finished dish was good, but IMHO even better the next day. The next time I will make it a day ahead. Oh yes; do use a cartouche (lid of parchment paper) under the cover. I made the recipe in a clay pot (my current obsession) and I think the cartouche helped to tenderize the meat.

                                        Interestingly, my husband said this was his favorite recipe of the entire "Greek month." My daughter thought it was a bit too "vinegary" but I think cooking it ahead and letting it mellow would solve this. I know I loved the leftovers the next day. Served it with the simple rice pilaf from the book, and a spinach gratin, a la Julia Child, which was wonderful if I do say so.

                                      2. Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts – p. 391

                                        We’ve enjoyed this dish at Greek restaurants on many occasions however I’d never made my own so this was a recipe I’d flagged right away as a “must try”.

                                        Unfortunately the stupid-markets weren’t cooperating w m this weekend so I wasn’t able to find Sorrel (which has such a lovely flavour) so instead, I ended up using spinach which the author notes as a suitable substitute. FYI, instead of giving the chopped leaves a quick blanch as the recipe directs, I elected to steam them since I find that process to be quicker and, less messy.

                                        I made this dish as instructed including serving it w the Beet Tzatziki (p. 467) that we LOVED as it made the perfect accompaniment.

                                        Prep couldn’t be simpler. Just mix ground lamb w egg, chopped garlic, minced onion, ground pine nuts (oops, another disclosure, I used ground almonds instead), salt and ground coriander. Instead of the coriander, I tossed in some chopped fresh dill since I had some on hand to use up and, some dried oregano.

                                        The mixture is then shaped into logs and grilled or broiled. Since it was a sunny, albeit freezing cold day here in the TO area, we opted for the grilling route and, grilled our pita at the same time.

                                        This dish was a huge hit. We had a couple of friends over and they were just thrilled w our Greek-inspired menu today. (I’d made Ina’s Tuna & Hummus Sandwiches for lunch…fantastic dish that always gets rave reviews from guests...photo of these posted below as well). As noted above, I served this w the Beet Tzatziki. While the Kebabs were tasty on their own, once combined w the Beet Tzatziki they really shone…the sweet, earthiness of the beets and the tang of the yogurt really elevated all the flavours in the lamb. Tonight we also served the regular Tzatziki from this book (wonderful recipe that’s been my “go-to” for a couple of years now) and the Potato Skordalia p. 461.

                                        Reviews of the other dishes appear or will be posted in the COTM Sauces thread. Here's a link to my review of the Beet Tzatziki:


                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts – p. 391

                                          Our turn to make this dish tonight. Like Breadcrumbs, I used spinach instead of sorrel, but I used frozen chopped spinach and I think I didn't account for the difference between fresh and blanched. The recipe calls for 2 packed cups of sorrel leaves which are then blanched. I used 1 3/4 of the frozen spinach squeezed of all water. I did use pine nuts but found that finely grinding them was not easy! My pine nuts really wanted to be nut butter. The lamb used is from the whole lamb I bought in the Fall from a farmer in NH.

                                          Before making the logs, I tested a bit of the mixture by cooking a small patty and then adjusted the seasoning. I added more salt, another 1/2 tsp of the ground coriander, and added 1 tsp of cumin. I rolled the logs in plastic to try to compact the mixture and chilled them for about an hour. This firmed them up enough to cook on the indoor grill.

                                          The pita breads are brushed with oil and grilled. The oil was unneccessay and I won't do that again. Next time, I will also be more careful about my vegetable to lamb ratio. But I do think this was my error, not the author's. I served with standard tzatziki [page 465], shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, raw red onion, and feta cheese wrapped in pita bread [page 134.]

                                          Easy to make and delicious!

                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                            Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts – p. 391

                                            This was a big success here as well. I did manage to find sorrel just as I'd given up on it and was searching for some dill (so glad I looked up the translation or I would've missed it!). Unfortunately, the tiny bunch of it seemed pricey so I only bought one which was not nearly enough for the half recipe I made. Next time, I'll have to be sure to get enough. I made these last night and put them under the broiler. I served these with homemade pita bread, the beet tzatziki, and salad ... a great way to start the week!

                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                              Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts p. 391

                                              We made half a recipe tonight on the grill. We made this with sorrel and walnuts (when I tried a pine nut to ensure freshness, it turned out that they were past their prime.) We followed smtucker's lead and ended up adding more coriander and salt. We served this with grilled pita and the standard tzatziki. We both liked this meal.

                                              1. re: BigSal

                                                So good to hear BigSal. I can't wait to try it again w the sorrel. I still haven't found some at our market.

                                              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                Ground Lamb Kebabs with Sorrel and Pine Nuts Pg. 391
                                                Very tasty and easy to put together kebabs. I couldn't find sorrel so I went with spinach and just a touch of lemon. Broiled for about 6 minutes per side on high, keeping a very close eye on them. The result is a very tasty kebab with excellent texture from the egg and the pinenuts. Service wrapped in a pita with some of the lovely tzatziki from this book.

                                              3. Roasted Goat with Mountain Herbs and Potatoes, Pg. 395

                                                GOAT...! G and I had our first taste of goat meat last night. Whoooeeee... I Loved it, G didn't think it was as wonderful as I did, though. He said I was just enthralled with the idea.. Ya think? Anyway it was a bit tough and that's totally my fault. Here's the story:

                                                The market we shopped at only had packages of frozen large chunks of the meat. In my package, the largest one there at 2.82 pounds, there were some meaty bones and the rest were 2 - 3 inch chunks of well marbled meat. The recipe calls for 3 - 3 1/2 pounds of kid goat hindquarters , leg and loin section. So there was the discrepancy. The chunks should have screamed out STEW... but I, in my infinite optimism, decided to go ahead with the marinade and roast.

                                                The marinade consisted of: lots of garlic, thyme, bay leaves, I included Greek oregano as well, hot paprika, S & P, red wine vinegar. The aroma from that alone was heavenly. I marinated the meat over night and cooked it the next evening for dinner. So, about 24 hours of marinating in the fridge.

                                                Take the meat out of the marinade, heat some olive oil in a large roasting pan, add thinly sliced baking potatoes around the meat, pour in some white wine, cover and roast for about 1 hour. Rest the meat for 10 minutes before carving.

                                                Really quite simple. The meat and potatoes had a ton of flavor. The meat was very slightly gamey but certainly Not off-putting. In other words, I knew I wasn't eating beef. Too bad the meat was so tough, though. I'm definitely going to make this again. With the right cut of meat - or - at least make a stew with the chunks. And, while I'm on the subject, get yourselves some newly packaged real Greek oregano. Penzey's didn't have any so I ordered from The Spice House. What a difference that makes along with a good fruity EVGreekOO.

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  Loadsa goat to be had in my Caribbean-influenced area of London. I've never tried to cook it though - maybe I should!

                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                    Oh you should, you should. I'm also going to see if I can special order from our local market the exact cuts needed for this recipe.

                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                      and when the opportunity comes up do make a stew or curry.....if you liked goat/kid grilled, you are going to love it braised.

                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                        I'm going to try "my" goat braised! I still have to locate some; went to my local market here in Yarmouthport --they have a great meat department and willing butchers--and they'd be glad to special-order me some but it would have to be 55 pounds at a time!! Apparently nobody else has ever indicated an interest and I'd need to take the whole order! Tomorrow I'm going to visit a local Brazilian market in Hyannis, and if they don't have it, I'll try the market that someone suggested before on the introductory thread.

                                                        1. re: Goblin

                                                          55 lbs is a LOT of goat. You would have to invite the entire neighborhood after borrowing all of their braising pots.

                                                          1. re: smtucker

                                                            And think of all the dishes I would have had to purchase for breaking as we danced at the feast! (which doesn't have to be a wedding per se.)


                                                              1. re: qianning

                                                                These posts remind me of many years ago on a visit to a Greek Taverna on the Greek part of the island of Cyprus, when we were guests attending a large and boisterous party made up of many different nationalities, and paid for by a large local company. Plenty of Retsina and Metaxa and great bouzouki music, and sure enough, by 10 pm everyone was out on the floor dancing--mostly Greek style, but anything went!! By 10:10 the first dish was tossed out to shatter on the dance floor (these were "regular" restaurant plates, not special brittle wedding-plates.) At first the tavern owner looked quite dubious, but by 10:20, he was handing out plates from his kitchen. "All new dishes in my tavern's future!" you could almost see him thinking! We danced until the last plate was gone. Amazingly, nobody got cut by any flying shards, and it was really fun.

                                                                The memory still makes me smile. Those Greeks know how to throw (ha!) a party.

                                                                1. re: Goblin

                                                                  Goblin, couldn't find an email for you in your profile - We'll be in Cyprus (Greek part) in mid-summer. If you have any special tips on things to do/eat/see I'd love to hear about them. My email is in profile under "blog" heading.

                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                    LM, I sent you an e-mail yesterday. Let me know if you didn't get it and I'll retry. It's always possible I mis-typed your addy.

                                                                    1. re: Goblin

                                                                      Got it Goblin and will type back soon. I really appreciate your thoughts, ideas, and your story! Just been kind of crazy here. We're headed to Disney world this weekend, and Lulu had Monday and Tuesday off school.

                                                                      I"m really happy and impressed with how much happier people are becoming with the recipes. I was a little apprehensive in the beginning.

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        Absolutely no need al all to rush to the computer, LLM--
                                                                        Enjoy Disney World! How fun for you and Lulu. I grew up in So. Cal at the "original" Disneyland-- took my family to Orlando for the first time a year ago and we all had so much fun that we're going again this November.

                                                  2. Beef Kapama with Wine, Brandy, Coffee, and Honey p.369

                                                    In the preface to the recipe, Ms. Hoffman writes that kapama vies for top honours in the beef stew category alongside the likes of boeuf bourguignon and carbonnade. I wholeheartedly agree! This was perhaps one of the best beef dishes I have ever placed in my mouth.

                                                    As with all good stews, this one starts with a thorough browning of the meat. Onion is briefly tossed in the crusted pan, and quickly deglazed with dry red wine and tomato paste, scraping up the delicious fond. An unusual yet wonderful combination of ingredients are stirred in: brandy, strong coffee, fragrant honey, tomatoes (I opted for canned), and spices such as cloves, bay leaves, and a stubby cinnamon stick. As soon as the ingredients started simmering in the pan, I knew that this would be a winner. A magical aroma filled the air as the meat braised, covered, until nearly tender. Once the lid is removed for the final reduction, the meat softens fully to nearly falling-apart tenderness as the sauce concentrates into a thick robust gravy that clings glossily to the beef.
                                                    The floral notes of the honey were dimmed slightly after the lengthy simmer, so I added a touch more near the end, which nicely balanced the acidity that came from the wine and tomatoes. The cinnamon and the cloves weren't potent yet remained as distinctive notes in this dish, and the coffee mellowed out and added a mysterious flavour that could not be omitted.

                                                    My house was filled with an enticing aroma for the entire evening. Everyone enthusiastically lapped dinner up, and I am sorely regretting the fact that I only made half a recipe. I highly, highly recommend this recipe. I will be making this again very soon.

                                                    Dare I suggest that this would be a good braise for goat?

                                                    19 Replies
                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                      We really liked the chicken kapama and it looks like (after reading your post) we'll have to try the beef version too.

                                                      1. re: Allegra_K

                                                        That settles it, I'm making this Thursday night Maybe not with goat, unless I find some by then and feel brave(er.) But this is definitely happening Thursday for the family. Thanks for a great review.

                                                        1. re: Allegra_K

                                                          I cook beef about three times year, always some sort of stew when it's cold, plus Batalli meatloaf once a year. I've got to try this one!

                                                          1. re: Allegra_K

                                                            Beef Kapama, p. 369.

                                                            Made this one last night, enticed by Allegra_K's excellent and detailed review. She's right that you end up with an interesting and wonderfully scented dish, subtly sweet because of the honey and spices ( I also added a bit more honey at the end like Allegra) yet with a nice balancing hint of acidity from the tomatoes, of which I also used canned.

                                                            Such a simple and quick prep, too, basically just browning the beef chunks and quartering and slicing an onion, before tossing in the other ingredients. A lot easier than peeling all those cloves for the Beef with Olives and 100 Cloves of Garlic, p. 367 ;-) (reviewed above) The beef kapama is simmered covered for 1 1/2 hours till almost tender, then simmered uncovered for 34-40 minutes till the sauce is glossy and thick.

                                                            Did I have a preference between the two dishes? Both are really satisfying and flavorful. I think it comes down to whether you are more partial to the slightly sweet and spicy flavor-profile , or to the more pungent briny and garlicky tastes. I give the edge to the Beef with Olives and Garlic; my husband thanked me effusively for making a beef stew with honey and spices: "I loved the flavors!" he enthused.

                                                            One fun thing: I completely forgot to add the 3 TBS of Metaxa (purchased just for this recipe) till just before serving, so I quickly warmed the brandy in a small pan, lit it, and poured it over the beef in the serving dish. The 8 and 6-year-olds at the table loved the sight and want me "to do this every dinner!"

                                                            1. re: Goblin

                                                              Question for Goblin and Allegra: is Metaxa key to the success of this dish, or would something else substitute well?

                                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                My quick answer is that since there is a relatively small amount of Metaxa used in this beef recipe--only 3 TBs--I think that you could substitute any brandy you might use for cooking.

                                                                But I'm certainly no expert in Metaxa and your question made me want to know more about it, so I looked around the web. It's a very interesting beverage--somewhere between a brandy and a liqueur--and there are several different versions differentiated by a star-system: 3-star has been aged for three years, for instance. Connoisseurs use different ones for different purposes.

                                                                I could only find 5-star, which has been described as having "a dark honey color, woody with a light fruit taste, aged in oak for 5 years. It [is] rich, smooth and mellow." It's supposedly drier than 3-star.

                                                                Anyway, strictly in the interests of research, I repaired to my kitchen and conducted a taste-test of 5-star Metaxa compared with a regular E & J Gallo brandy that I use in cooking and baking. The Metaxa was indeed somewhat lighter in flavor than the brandy, with floral and citrusy notes. Still 76 proof (versus 80-proof for the brandy) though!

                                                                I'll bet other Chowhounds with more expertise than I--or more Greek heritage--would have their own opinions!

                                                                1. re: Goblin

                                                                  Thanks for taking one for the team!

                                                                2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                  I just used regular ole' brandy--at nearly $30 for a bottle of metaxa, I couldn't justify the purchase for something I would probably never use again. I found a half bottle of brandy for less than half the price of the (one-size only) metaxa. And as you can see in my review, the dish was delicious anyway. I do wonder, though, what the final flavour difference would be.

                                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                    I checked on LCBO websight and there are two types of Metaxa available - 5 year old and 7 year old. The price difference is less then $5, so I think I'll splurge on the 7 year old one. I love cooking with different alcohols and have a collection which Metaxa will join. Some liquors sit there for years, others get used quicker. My latest purchase was Lebanese Arak and there is a chance that it might outlive me:)

                                                                    1. re: herby

                                                                      Thanks, all--I will have a look-see at the wine store, but may use regular brandy.

                                                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                        If anyone is interested, I bought a 7 y/o Metaxa last week at a liquor store North of Boston (Kappy's) for $19.99... to use in a COTM recipe (Classic Shrimp and Tomatoes Baked with Feta Cheese, Pg. 342...report up thread) and it was indeed much lighter than other brandies I've had, and it did add a certain lovely flavor to the dish.

                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                          That sounds like a deal, Gio. I shecked only one place, which had one bottle--$37. I resisted, but I may look at a couple of other places.

                                                              2. re: Allegra_K

                                                                Beef Kapama, page 369.

                                                                Allegra's rave drew me to this dish, and reading the ingredient list sold me. Allegra describes the process quite nicely, so I won't repeat that. Tomatoes at market are pretty tasteless right now (and for months to come) so I used canned tomatoes. Also subbed regular brandy for the Metaxa.

                                                                It's true that the aroma is fantastic. Deep and rich, with spicy notes. Winey, with a hint of coffee, and a breath of acacia from the honey. Mmmm.

                                                                After the full cooking time, the liquid hadn't reached the glossy, clinging stage described. So it was ladled out, reduced in another pan, and returned to the meat. Perfect. I wasn't quite sure of the purpose of the cress. But I had purchased it, so I just fanned it out on one edge of the serving bowl.

                                                                Although very tasty, this dish was a bit too consistently sweet for me (and my dinner companions, it would seem). I did not add the additional honey as the above writers did, merely the amount called for. I am a big fan of savory and sweet, and especially meat dishes with elements of sweetness. But somehow this sweetness was a bit too pervasive. Altogether, the flavor combinations are definitely interesting. My dinner companions had seconds, and I will surely enjoy the leftovers, so this single criticism certainly did not ruin the dish for us!

                                                                1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                  I'm sorry that it wasn't the greatest for you and your guests! I always fret that the dishes I review won't live up to other's expectations. I've noticed that my sweet tooth can be pretty insatiable(especially evident during Japanese month), while others would rather tone it down. Heh.

                                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                    I don't hold you responsible! But I know what you mean. Sometimes I tout someone onto a recipe, and they find it meh. Disappointing.
                                                                    Actually I was probably projecting onto the other diners. Mr NS, for one, said this morning that he liked it quite a bit. He'd have it again, with just a slight cutback on the honey.

                                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                      I might have missed this recipe if you hadn't reviewed and praised it, Allegra! So glad you did; turned out that Mr. Goblin really preferred the Beef Kapama over the stew I'd made previously, which was the Beef with Olives and Garlic (which I slightly preferred.)
                                                                      And the flavors melded even more overnight -- we all enjoyed the leftovers reheated.
                                                                      I think it really comes down to the individual taste-preference that some people have for sweet over salty, and vice-versa.

                                                                    2. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                      I meant to report back here about my follow-up experience with Beef Kapama. A couple nights later I made "Greek tacos" to use the leftover beef. Layered in on tortillas with shredded cabbage, feta, tzatziki, and a homemade pomegranate salsa. Delicious! Mr. NS thinks it's worth making the beef kapama again just to make tacos!

                                                                    3. re: Allegra_K

                                                                      Beef kapama, p. 369

                                                                      I liked this dish, but didn't love it. For some reason, I think I like the idea of stews more than eating stews. It was also right on the line for me as far as sweetness. I used brandy instead of metaxa. Our CSA has a rooftop greenhouse that produces surprisingly good tomatoes, so I used the leftover tomatoes for the week: a mixture of regular and cherry tomatoes. I do wish I had peeled them though, because I noticed the skins in the smooth sauce. I passed on the watercress, but followed her suggestion to serve with the bulgur walnut pilaf which I though worked quite well.

                                                                      1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                        Beef Kapama Pg. 369
                                                                        I was a bit dubious as to this recipe because Hoffman compares it to boeuf bourguignon, and I love bourguignon so I was worried it wouldn't live up to expectations. Well no need to worry all, this is a delicious dish. The combination of ingredients yields an extremely nuanced sauce with fabulous flavour. It is vaguely spicy, not in terms of heat but just in terms of flavour. Great comfort food.

                                                                      2. Homemade pork and veal sausage with orange, coriander, and red pepper, p. 400

                                                                        The grocery store pushed me towards trying this recipe by having a big sale on ground pork followed by a sale on ground veal. This is very easy to make for quite a bit of flavor, although it does require a bit of planning ahead. Next time, I might increase the red pepper flakes slightly. I might also decrease the orange zest a bit as I found it slightly more prominent than I wanted (although the BF had no complaints), but I tend to put in too much zest without realizing it.

                                                                        To make, combine ground pork, ground veal, orange zest, ground coriander, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and retsina wine (I used brandy because I didn't have that or metaxa). The author gives a choice of forming into sausages with pork casings or free-form patties. I opted for the patties. To let the flavors meld, the sausages sit for a few hours and up to five days. I meant to let mine sit for one day, but fractured my wrist (thankfully not my dominant hand!) and let it go for two, which may also explain why the orange seemed more prominent. Finally, sausages are fried on a lightly oiled skillet or can be grilled.

                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                        1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                          I've passed by this so many times and you make it sound like an easy do, Tx. Thanks for posting about it. For me it would be a good recipe to make on a week-end. Must try.

                                                                          Sorry about your wrist...Ouch. Hope it heals quickly.

                                                                          ETA: I don't have the book in front of me at the moment... Is this the same recipe as for Loukanika sausage?

                                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                                            It is very easy. Less than 10 minutes to mix together and form patties ahead of time, then just fry it up.
                                                                            Thanks. Luckily, I have a good helper in the kitchen because one-handed cooking does not seem like it's going to be fun.
                                                                            Yes it is loukanika.

                                                                            1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                              Was one-handed, as it were, for a few months a few years ago--and remember what a cramp it posed for my kitchen style. I'd never have attempted sausage, so I'm very impressed.

                                                                              But--that sausage sounds really good, and I love orange, so that recipe goes on the list, too.

                                                                              Heal quickly!

                                                                          2. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                            Yikes about the wrist. That wasn't as a result of cooking, right?

                                                                            P.S. thanks for the report on this dish. Out of necessity, I'm turning into a major meal planner these days (which I never was in the past), so this might actually work for me!


                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              No, an ice patch on my walk to work got the best of me. I think this is a great dish for a busy weeknight, so I hope it works for you too!

                                                                            2. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                              Homemade Pork and Veal Sausage with Orange, Coriander, and Red Pepper, Pg. 400

                                                                              We made these last night and just as TxnInMtl they were very easy - and quite tasty too. I didn't make too many changes in the recipe except to increase the garlic from 1 clove to 3, used 1 t pepper instead of 1/2 t and used Metaxa instead of Retsina. Since I was serving the Russian Salad on page 36 as well as the burgers I mixed all the burger ingredients and put the bowl in the fridge, covered, while I completely made the salad. So, in all I guess the burger mix sat a little more than a half hour. I made 6 large burgers instead of the smaller size per the recipe.

                                                                              I served the burgers on a very soft whole grain pita with the Tzatzkiki (the 3rd time I made it) and the salad along side. We both liked this mixture of pork, veal. and seasonings. The orange zest gave just the right amount of boost and balance to the red pepper flakes. I think I'd increase the amount of the RPF next time, though. Thanks, Tx, for your report.

                                                                              1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                                Homemade Pork and Veal Sausage with orange, coriander, and red pepper (p. 400)

                                                                                These sounded so delicious to me, and I had everything I needed on hand already, not to mention leftover tzatziki (both beet and traditional) and lots of pita, and the recipe is so easy. It would have been the perfect weeknight meal after a busy day, if only . . . .

                                                                                On the few occasions I've tried it, I've found retsina undrinkable. Likewise, grappa--except for a couple of times in Italy when I was "convinced" it could be good, which is how I came to be in possession of a bottle of grappa.

                                                                                In my idiot calculus, a good substitute for one undrinkable wine would be another undrinkable I happened to have. So I made a half recipe of these "sausages" sans casing, but otherwise as directed except for the substitution of 35 ml grappa for the retsina. I mixed everything together, shaped the patties, and left them in the fridge for an all-day rest.

                                                                                Last night we grilled them outside, and I served them w/pita, tzatzikis, and leftover lentil pilaf. Thank goodness for the pilaf because the sausages tasted overwhelmingly of grappa. Yuck.

                                                                                I know I would love these patties w/o the grappa b/c I love the flavors of all the other ingredients, so I will make them again--without the grappa. I think they'd be fine w/out any alcohol at all, so I'll probably try them that way.

                                                                              2. Greek-Style Veal Shank pg. 379

                                                                                Inter-library loan finally disgorged "The Olive & the Caper" two days ago, and looking for something to make pronto I hit on this recipe, as I had just the right kind of meat, local not-milk-fed veal/beef shanks, in my freezer. And I am happy to report this braise was a perfect use for that cut of meat. We both loved this.

                                                                                The braise is simple enough, brown the shanks (cut into 2"lengths, mine were a bit thin, maybe 1.5" average, in the long run it didn't matter), add garlic, marjoram, white wine, tomato paste, salt, bring to a boil, then simmer for 1.75 hours. At that point the meat should be done and the sauce is supposed to have thickened. Well, the meat was certainly cooked, but the sauce still seemed too watery, and more than a bit oily, to me so I removed the meat, skimmed the sauce and reduced it by about half. I'm glad I did, the resulting sauce had a velvety mouth feel and really packed flavor.

                                                                                Meanwhile a topping of shredded fresh basil, chopped capers, lemon zest and cheese is mixed together. She recommends mizithra, but since the only mizrithra around here is sold in 500 gram balls for $21, and I only needed a few tablespoonfuls (was making a half recipe), that wasn't going to happen. Freshly grated sheep's milk feta, one of her suggested subs, worked just fine. And if you do make this, the topping is essential; the mix doesn't taste like much on its own, but it makes the shanks and the sauce sing.

                                                                                Served this with one of Hoffman's simple pilafs and a lightly dressed green salad, and we were very happy last night.

                                                                                1. Roasted Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Thyme
                                                                                  page 387

                                                                                  recipe was easy to follow -- i adjusted recipe for 1 shank
                                                                                  I used red instead of white wine and also added 1/2 t. of penzy's greek seasoning and also added with fresh marjoram,garlic, etc.

                                                                                  my apt. smells good-I can hardly wait for shank to be completed.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                    Oh good that you're making this. I have it on my list for next week-end. I'll look for your report of how it tasted...

                                                                                    1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                      it was delicious--it was the first time in my 50+ years of cooking that I made lamb shank

                                                                                      1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                        Roasted Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Thyme, Pg. 387

                                                                                        This was quite a flavorful rendition of braised lamb shanks and the aroma of the ingredients as the meat cooks was delightful. The recipe calls for 6 shanks each about 1 1/4 pounds but I used only 2 and reduced the amounts of the braising ingredients accordingly. For the braise you need: garlic, thyme, cinnamon, coriander, salt, pepper, dry white wine (I used dry vermouth). Everything goes into a Dutch oven or clay pot at the same time, coat the lamb with the seasonings, cover, roast at 375F for 1 hour. Turn over the lamb and continue roasting another 45 - 60 minutes.

                                                                                        While lamb is cooking prep the garnish: chop up and mix together some Italian parsley, chives (scallions), and dill. To serve ladle the sauce over the shanks and sprinkle the garnish over top. Loved this dish. The meat was falling off the bone tender, and the spices were exceptionally noticeable while blending well to create the silky sauce. I served this with more of the basic pilaf and another Greek Village Salad. We're really liking this book...

                                                                                      2. Pork Stew with Olives, Anchovies, Cilantro, and White Beans, p. 398

                                                                                        A little chilly weather arrived yesterday so I skirted my pasta plans last night and decided on this stew, a relatively easy and quick prep. I browned my cubed pork shoulder (about 2 1/2 lbs when all was said and done) in olive oil in three batches, deglazed the pot with a cup of a Spanish red I had opened the night before, and added roughly chopped anchovies and garlic cloves (six of each), 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, and 1 1/2 c. chicken stock and 1/2 c. water (the recipe calls for 2 c water, but I had the stock in the fridge and figured it couldn't hurt). I brought this to a boil, then covered the pot and lowered the heat to simmer. After an hour, I moved the cover to the side a bit and simmered the stew, partly covered, for another another 20 minutes. Then I tossed in the kalamatas (15 as that's what DH had gotten at the olive bar at the market) and simmered another 30 minutes. Since I had trimmed the pork of almost all the fat, I skipped the step of pouring the liquid into a container to let it cool slightly so the fat could rise to the top, and spooned the whole shebang into a warm bowl, topped it with the "wilted cilantro" (p. 481--1/2 c. cilantro leaves tossed w/1/4 tsp. red wine vinegar & dash of salt). I served this with "Big Beans" (p. 208--not so big, I used cannellinis) and a vaguely "Greek" salad of romaine, tomatoes, red onion, and feta. I forgot (duh) to bring to the table the baguette DH had fetched so dutifully, but bread would definitely have been nice for sopping the juices.

                                                                                        I feared this stew might be overly salty, but it really wasn't, and the anchovies were undetectable. I found the olives to be the most pronounced flavor; if I made this again, I'd definitely up the thyme and add some pepper. But I'm not sure if I will or not. I wasn't blown away although the meat was very tender and it was good with the beans. It just seemed to lack something (lemon? tomatoes? onion?). That said, everyone else had second helpings, and my husband assured me this morning that he really liked it and looked forward to having it for lunch today. No doubt, this will be better after sitting for a day--it's a stew, after all.

                                                                                        We had starters first (assorted crostini) and a delicious lemon-goat cheese tart w/strawberries for dessert so I'd say the whole meal was a hit, but when I think about most pork stews I've had, this would rank somewhere in the middle.

                                                                                        1. Fish Plaki Style Pg. 329
                                                                                          This recipe has promise but here are a few things one might do to improve upon it. Essentially the goal is to produce some nicely stewed sautéed veggies, apiece of steamed fish, and nice sauce all in one Plaki (pan) with relatively little effort.
                                                                                          The recipe does come together very quickly and the veggies are very nice. The sage is a great accent and the leeks are a great change of pace from onions or shallots. As an accompaniment to the fish the sautéed vegetable were a winner. The fish itself was well cooked if a little bland, which I honestly often find with steamed fish. The challenge came with the sauce.
                                                                                          Essentially I had very little pan juices left once I'd removed the fish and vegetables so the sauce thickened very quickly once I added the egg and lemon. I added a little more wine to the sauce to loosen it, but the results were a bit acidic with too much wine and lemon compared to the rest of the ingredients. Perhaps if you added more liquid to the pan with the fish and then up the egg yolks a bit. I also think a bit of sage in he sauce at the nd would be nice.

                                                                                          1. Lamb Wrapped in Filo (Outlaw-style Arni Kleftiko), p.389

                                                                                            This was delicious, albeit something of a pain to make, mainly because filo and I have always had a difficult relastionship. Thank goodness I only had to make six packets.

                                                                                            I decided to divide the tasks between two days, so I made the filling on Saturday: small pieces of stew meat (1 1/2 Lb. boneless LoL), seasoned w/s & p, are browned in a skillet in batches and set aside. Then all the meat (and juices) along w/chopped leek (1, in my case, sliced), 1/4 c raisins (I used golden), 1 tsp cumin and 1/2 c of a sweetish wine (I used Madeira) is put back in the skillet and brought to a boil, and then simmered for five minutes or so and then set aside to cool. At the same time, I brought a pan of water to boil and then cooked for about three minutes two bunches (recipe calls for 4 c) of dandelion greens, roughly chopped; I drained and set them aside.

                                                                                            For assembly the next day, I divided the meat, the dandelion greens, and crumbled cheese (I used a sharp pecorino romano instead of mizithra) into six portions. Then a sheet of filo is laid out and brushed with olive oil; a second sheet is laid atop the first, and it is brushed w/OO. A portion of meat mixture, topped w/greens, and cheese is placed into the center of the top of the filo sheet. Now the recipe says to "fold the filo over the lamb envelope-style" to form a packet. I could never quite figure out what "envelope style" was so I guessed at it and ended up w/six squarish packets. They rested, covered w/ a damp cloth on baking sheets in the fridge until dinner time. After they came to room temperature, I baked them for 40 minutes ina 350 oven.

                                                                                            I served these w/rice & lentil pilaf (p 237), both beet and "regular" tzatziki (467, 465), pita triangles, and a simple tomato-onion salad. Appetizer was chilled asparagus spears and a very lemony mayonnaise, and dessert was the walnut cake (516).

                                                                                            If you have either great skill with, or patience for, filo, I highly recommend these tasty meat packets. We had a couple of friends over, and one, a tiny woman w/a small appetite could only finish half hers, but she asked if I'd mind if she took a "doggy bag" for the rest. (That was a first, but I was delighted--so I sent one of the two remaining packets home with them. Later, my husband said, "why did you do that? That could be our dinner tomorrow!" So guess who'll be eating vegetarian tonight while her other half enjoys his kleftiko?)

                                                                                            Anyway, these were an unqualified hit. It might be easier to form these into the triangular pies w/ the filo though those always give me fits too.

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                              NCW, here is a video that shows how to fold filo triangles - hope it is helpful.


                                                                                              1. re: herby

                                                                                                Thank you, herby! I do love eating filo so it would be nice to be able to wok with it.

                                                                                              2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                ncw these sound delicious and your photo is so enticing! I wish I could have one right now!!