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March 2012 COTM: The Olive and the Caper: Eggs; Sustaining Grains; Vegetable Parade

Please use this thread to discuss the recipes in the chapters on Eggs; Sustaining Grains; and Vegetable Parade (pages 214 - 321)

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  1. Rice and Noodle Pilaf with artichokes, pine nuts and saffron (p. 241)

    As I mentioned in the announcement thread, this was a bomb. Not as in "wow, that pilaf is the bomb!" either. It was bland, under-salted, mushy and luke warm (she asks that it sit for 20 minutes after cooking). I followed the directions to a t. Cook 1/2 cups broken vermicelli, pine nuts and chopped onion in olive oil; add 2 cups arborio rice and stir until translucent, add artichokes (I used thawed frozen hearts), 4 cups water and saffron and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook 20 minutes. It is only at this point that you add 1/2 tsp. salt (for 2 cups of rice and some vermicelli???) and pepper and fluff, let sit covered for 20 more minutes. Again: a bland, mushy mess. It needs more salt, and added sooner, and it needs something else too - maybe some lemon? It needs brightening. A definite disappointment.

    6 Replies
    1. re: LulusMom

      Oh dear. Not an auspicious beginning, LLM. What a shame. I'm planning the pilaf with shrimp variation of spinach pilaf for Saturday night. I've already read the recipe several times but I think I'll study it very carefully today and try to correct any perceived problems before I cook...

      1. re: Gio

        I think salting when you put the rice in (and seriously - 1/2 tsp for 2 cups of rice?) and not doing the wait 20 minutes step will help. I'll be sending along hopes and prayers that yours turns out much much better than ours did.

        1. re: LulusMom

          sorry to say there are some instructions in some recipes that are better not followed. That description SOUNDS so good. Thanks for the heads up of traps to watch out for. I was also planning to make that recipe. :-O

          1. re: ChefJune

            Sorry to let you down, but honestly, I think that one is best skipped (Gio, have you tried it yet?). The moussaka, while still having some issues, was wonderful once properly salted. But now that I know to watch out for that (and honestly, I should have used my own common sense) I think I'll do ok. And some of the reviews have been fantastic.

            1. re: LulusMom

              Hi LLM... No, I haven't tried that particular recipe yet but last night we made the Rice and Lentil Pilaf on page 237 and following your advice, I followed my own methods but used all the ingredients mentioned in the recipe. It turned out pretty well and G said he Liked it very much. I didn't exactly fall in love with it either but the final dish was tasty and satisfying. I'll post my report down thread as soon as my coffee kicks in,,,

      2. re: LulusMom

        So sad to think about such delicious ingredients ending up with a mushy, undersalted demise. How can artichokes, pine nuts, arborio rice and saffron go wrong? I can see why you are disappointed!

      3. Vegetable Moussaka (p. 316)

        I've always loved vegetable moussaka, and liked this very much too - once I salted it a lot at the table. Instead of frying the vegetables, as called for, I roasted the sliced eggplant and the sliced potatoes. They were wonderful this way, and I'm sure less fattening. And even though she doesn't call for it, I salted them while roasting. Oil a casserole dish, dust with breadcrumbs (I used panko), then make layers of potatoes, thinly sliced tomatoes, and eggplant. Make a bechamel and stir 3 egg yolks into it, along with some cumin. Pour over the vegetables. Next a layer of grated cheese. She calls for kefalotyri but I couldn't find any, so went with Pecorino Romano. Again, once salted this was lovely. But the only salt she calls for in the recipe is what is in the bechamel (or besamel in Greek).

        2 Replies
        1. re: LulusMom

          Thanks for reporting back on roasting rather than frying the eggplant. Will remember to salt!


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Soooo much easier, and healthier too. And I really do not think there was any change in the final dish. My husband loved the crunch that some of the potatoes had.

        2. Beets and Turnips in Sweet Caper Butter, p. 270

          This is a very pretty side dish that's easy to do. I love beets and liked it quite a bit, but even the BF who wishes our CSA basket would stop giving us beets enjoyed the dish. Since I made it pre-COTM, I served with a Pernod shrimp dish from Melissa Clark's Cook This Now.

          Beets are boiled until tender, drained, cooled, peeled, and cut into wedges. Turnips are pre-cut into wedges and then simmered until tender in another pot of water, then also drained. Butter, sugar, caper, and dill (I used fennel fronds instead as I had an over-abundance) are placed over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, the wedges of beets and turnips are added and reheated. Garnish with lemon and serve.

          1 Reply
          1. re: TxnInMtl

            Made this last night and did not have the success I expected because of driver-error, which I will describe as a warning: I overcooked the turnip-wedges. I am a novice at turnips and did not realize that the very firm but slim 1/4" wedges would truly cook in five minutes, as stated by the recipe. Allowed mine to boil for 5 minutes longer (inattention in my part) and then saw that they were probably too tender, but used them in the dish anyway, which was my second mistake. Then as I rewarmed the cooked beets and turnip wedges in the butter-caper sauce, per the directions, the turnips released their water into the sauce and turned even more mushy and it was not good. My guests were polite but definitely non-effusive.
            I suppose it is good to have a failure once in a while remind the cook that she isn't as smart as she might hope.

            Pass the Metaxa.

          2. Bell Peppers Stuffed with Eggplant, Olives, and Capers p.304

            Finally, something good to write about!
            This briny filling was packed with so much concentrated flavour that it didn't even make it over to the vegetables for stuffing. On a whim after testing the mixture, I decided to use it as a tasty companion for crusty bread instead.
            Eggplants are cut into small dice and cooked with wine and salt until the vegetable is softened and juicy. A hefty amount of olives are added in, along with capers, garlic, lemon zest, tomato paste, and oregano and the mix is cooked a bit more. This is the point of the recipes where the filling would be stuffed into bell peppers.
            I found the filling to be so substantially flavoured that it may have been overwhelming in such vast quantities as stuffed into a pepper. As it was, we were very sparing even when using it on the bread. The eggplant virtually disappeared into the mix, and my family was shocked when I confessed that the spread featured such a detestable vegetable. (Heh, heh)

            This was absolutely delicious, and this is exactly the flavour profile that comes to mind when I think about Greek cuisine. Zesty, salty, briny, lemony; full of excitement. Loved it!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Allegra_K

              This sounds great - I actually think it would be really good stuffed into peppers. Must try!

            2. Bulgur and Vegetable Pilaf with Herbs and White Wine, p. 235.

              Made this to go with the "Beef with Olives and 100 Cloves of Garlic" on p. 367. It turned out to be a nice side for sopping up the sauce. I wouldn't describe the pilaf as earthshakingly good, but my guests liked it and thought it had good flavor. I think I avoided the low-salt problem of some of these COTM recipe by using a relatively salty chicken broth to cook the bulgur in. It didn't need to be salted at the end.

              First you sauté chopped onion, garlic, medium or coarse bulgur and whatever vegetables you have chosen. I used coarsely chopped zucchini, orange bell pepper and cooked chickpeas. Once the bulgur is translucent and the veggies are wilted, stir in stock (chicken or vegetable) chopped tomatoes, white wine, oregano (fresh or dried) s & p. Bring to boil; cover, cook 20-25 minutes till bulgur is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; stir in chopped dill; let sit for 5 minutes, fluff and serve.

              The recipe is very versatile--one is encouraged to use other vegetables (cauliflower, broad beans, chopped artichoke bottoms and/or other herbs: basil, tarragon, savory. As I said, a good side, especially with a strongly-flavored main dish

              2 Replies
              1. re: Goblin

                I cooked this up the other day, and quite enjoyed it. Used eggplant, red pepper, and zucchini and canned tomatoes. Probably should have drained the tomatoes, as there was too much fluid in my pan ( I think I forgot that I was making a pilaf and therefore was quite sloppy and generous with the liquid measurements), and consequently my bulgur mixture resembled more of a risotto than a pilaf, despite my best efforts to let the liquid cook down. Oops. It was still very tasty regardless. There was a hint of sweetness in the dish from the coloured bell peppers and the onions. I liked this enough that I will make it again the next time I need to empty the fridge of various vegetable bits.

                1. re: Goblin

                  Bulgur and Vegetable Pilaf with Herbs and White Wine, p. 235.

                  I made a half recipe of this using some peppers from last week's CSA basket (green bell and Italian sweet) and basil instead of dill as suggested. I thought the wine added a nice bit of extra flavor and it's a great recipe for using up a few extra veggies. I served it with the pork and veal sausage from this book (will report in the other thread) and some wilted kale.

                2. New Potatoes with mint and spring onions (half recipe) p. 278

                  http://www.fareshare.net/recipesV7-11... Potatoes With Mint And Spring Onions - Greek Vegan 5 pts

                  Boil new potatoes (I salted the water and did not peel the potatoes). Once the potatoes are cooked, drain 5 minutes, then add back to pot along with olive oil, salt (I used less because I salted the cooking water), pepper, scallions (other options are spring onions, shallots, garlic shoots or baby leeks) and mint. Cook on low heat until reheated, then mix to toss ingredients.

                  The taste of the scallions came though more than the mint did. A simple potato dish, nothing earth shattering, but tasty. It was a good dish to warm my husband up to Greek food, as potatoes in any iteration usually go over well.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: BigSal

                    My turn with this simple but delicious dish. BigSal covered the prep perfectly so no need to say more other than to note I took the opportunity to use chives from my garden along w the scallions as I simply couldn't believe I was harvesting anything other than snow in March in Toronto!

                    Not sure if it was the super-fresh potatoes, the high quality olive oil (which I warmed prior to tossing w the potatoes and herbs) or the sheer joy of a beautiful summer-like day in March in Toronto but we loved these little potatoes, they really tasted special. Thanks for pointing them out BigSal!

                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                      Mouth-watering pictures as always. We are experiencing unseasonably warm weather too, but no chives in the garden yet.

                      1. re: BigSal

                        Thanks BigSal, I'm so glad you pointed this out! Isn't the nice weather a treat? I was stunned to see chives. Normally they don't pop up until May!

                  2. String Beans with Shallots, White Wine, and Fennel Seeds, p. 288

                    Shallots, garlic, and fennel seeds are sautéed in olive oil until softened, chopped tomatoes and their juices (I used canned) are added and cooked down, and green beans, white wine, water, parsley, mint (which I didn't have), salt, and pepper are added. All is brought to a boil, the pan is partially covered and the heat reduced, and it's simmered for around 45 minutes, until the beans are very tender and the liquid is reduced.

                    I made a few changes in proportions and timing. First, she calls for just 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds, which seems silly; I used more like 1/2 teaspoon. I also used 3 garlic cloves rather than the 1 called for. I was wary of adding 2 cups of water along with 1/3 cup wine, thinking it likely that there would be too much liquid, so I used 1 cup and that worked perfectly, leaving the beans a bit saucy but not swimming. And I didn't feel that the parsley would fare best being simmered for 45 minutes, so I added it closer to the end. I cooked it for 30 minutes or so, due to timing issues, but I realized partway through that I had neglected to lower the heat, so it was probably equivalent.

                    This was a lovely side dish, the beans very tender but not mushy, and a good amount of flavor from the aromatics (in the amounts I used). It was also delicious cold the next day.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      Made the String Beans with White Wine and Fennel Seeds the other day as well--forgot to report, but Caitlin has done an excellent job of describing the recipe, and has given some variations that make great sense to me--more fennel, more garlic, less water. I used canned tomatoes, too. I did use mint but perhaps because it's winter and the fresh mint I found was wimpy, I didn't find its flavor came through particularly, nor did I miss it amongst the fennel and shallots and garlic.

                      It's just a very flavorful dish, which seemed to me to be particularly Greek in its assertive yet charming flavors. And yes, the leftovers for lunch the next day were great.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        String Beans with Shallots, White Wine, and Fennel Seeds Pg. 288

                        I quite liked this dish, and so did my guests! Much as Caitlin did, I cust back the water and increased the fennel. I think I could have gone even a bit heavier than the 1/2 tsp for the fennel as it still was very subtle in the finished dish. The only other variance I made was to the juice of half a lemon towards the end, this definitely helped bring the flavours of the dish up a notch.

                        I wouldn't reccomend it to those who like their vegetables al dente,which is usually the case for me, but in this specific instance I think the long cooking yields very nice results.

                        I believe Mark Bittman's book "How to Cook Everything" has a similar recipe, except that this one calls for a greater variety of flavours, which I personally think yield a better result.

                        1. re: delys77

                          String Beans pg 288

                          Made a riff on this dish yesterday for dinner, following the excellent advice above I increased the fennel, and decreased the water; and because we were having this w/ Chicken Kapama, i.e. another tomato sauce, I skipped the tomatoes. We liked it this way quite well, and the fennel and wine flavors came through very nicely.

                        2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          String Beans with Shallots, White Wine, and Fennel Seeds, p. 288

                          Mixed reviews on this dish in the smtucker household. To be honest, I wish I had read Caitlin's notes before starting since the modifications she made seem just right too me. My tomatoes were not perfect, but I don't think this was the primary problem. I think I just don't like "overcooked" green beans. In our case, they were both overcooked and tasted like wine, not beans. But, I think the sauce has some possibilities for a smtucker riff.

                          In the future, I would decrease the amount of shallot, increase the garlic and fennel seeds, and use better tomatoes. I am thinking that I might prefer to steam the beans while the sauce is reducing by half, and just finish the beans in the sauce getting the best of both worlds.

                          Served with "gyros" made with leftover grilled leg of lamb, and Kolokithokeftedes (Greek Zucchini Fritters) with Tzatziki.

                        3. Briami/Vegetable Stew (Pg. 282)

                          I'm very excited to be posting my very first thread in COTM. Monday's are usually meatless around my house and today was a blustery and wet day here so I thought this vegetable stew was a great idea. I did tweak the recipe a little, but followed it relatively closely and the results were pretty good.

                          The author gives a lot of suggestions for additional vegetables to add to the the dish so I added some rutabaga as I had some in the fridge. Otherwise I cut back the oil to 1/4 cup from 1/3 cup, and I still had enough fat to give it a touch of richness. As many have noted the seasoning was a little timid so I upped both salt and pepper. Finally when I tasted it towards the end I found the dill was muted by the long cooking, so I added in about 1 Tb of dill at the very end to bring up the flavour note. The result flavour was was a a good combination of subtle vegetable flavours that remain somewhat distinct along with a very nice sauce that is composed of the garlic and onion that have melted away, combined with the dill and parsley herbal notes.
                          I would suggest making sure you add a relatively firm vegetable in addition to the peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and onions since much of these cook down into a nice gravy, but you need another firm vegetable to help support the potato in giving the recipe some texture.
                          The final flourish of capers at the end is a very nice touch.
                          This isn't that different in technique from a ratatouille I make, so if you like this type of dish you will likely enjoy this one.
                          Overall a very wholesome and easy dish.
                          I'm going to work on adding a photo to this post, for some reason the browse button isn't working from my Ipad.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: delys77

                            Thanks for the tip on cutting back on the oil. This dish sounds lovely, and perfect for a blustery Monday!

                            Welcome to COTM!


                            1. re: delys77

                              Thanks for that full and informative review! Many good tips in your report.

                              1. re: delys77

                                Here is the picture of the above dish. Thanks very much all for the kind words.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Thanks very much. I'm no food photographer, but it is fun to try.

                              2. Rice and Lentil Pilaf Cyprus-Style, Pg. 237

                                This was a very nice pilaf even though I had to weave around the out-of-order, IMO, cooking instructions. Quite simply, lentils and Aborio rice are cooked separately, thinly sliced onions are sauteed till "well browned" then set aside, a cup of cilantro leaves are tossed with red wine vinegar and used as a garnish. That's basically it. To finish, mix the rice, lentils, half of the onions together and garnish with the cilantro and some of the fried onions.

                                I cooked the rice in home made chicken broth and added salt. The lentils were cooked in salted water. I increased the amount of FGBpepper in each pan. My advice to anyone making this recipe is to add more seasonings such as a diced carrot to the lentils and perhaps coat the rice in EVOO after frying a bit of diced onion first. You're using 2 pans anyway so take it to the limit. Bottom line : Season this pilaf aggressively.

                                The finished dish was earthy, filling, quite satisfying , and I suppose - in the end - a healthy dish.. I had in mind to cook one of the eggplant dishes too but G thought this was enough and it most certainly was for us. The now famous Tzatziki was a side dish and this added to the decidedly Grecian flavors.

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: Gio

                                  Rice and Lentil Pilaf Cyprus-Style p. 237 (half recipe)

                                  Last night I decided to make this for dinner tonight and set aside the measured ingredients. This morning I read Gio’s post and made some adjustments (cooking lentils in salted water and added carrots and cooked rice in chicken stock- Thanks Gio). This is very similar to megadarra from Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food except for this recipe is made with Arborio (instead of basmati) and has fresh cilantro instead of cumin and cardamom. Given the choice, I would choose to eat megadarra over this version.

                                  1. re: BigSal

                                    How did you feel about the arborio rice? My husband kept saying "this just seems like the wrong choice of rice?" and I assured him that it was made as written, but agreed with him (this regards my earlier pilaf attempt, not the rice and lentil one).

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      Funny you should ask. I was feeling the same way your husband did about choice of rice. The result is heavier than the megadarra. I was reticent to say anything since my knowledge of Greek food is non-existenent, so I based my review on my preferences rather than authenticity.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        About.com has this to say about rice in Greek recipes...

                                        "There are five basic types of rice used in Greek-language cookbooks:

                                        Nuhaki : long grain white rice, best for plain rice and pilafs
                                        Kitrino or Bonnet : parboiled (converted) white long grain rice (note: although the word "kitrino" means yellow, this rice is only slightly yellowish, a result of the parboiling process), best for pilaf, rice side dishes
                                        Carolina : long grain white rice, best for stuffings
                                        Glacé : medium grain rice with a shiny coating (must be rinsed well before using), best for soups and sweets."

                                        When I did a little Googling around the net the following rices were listed in "Greek" recipes...
                                        Uncle Ben's converted
                                        long-grained white
                                        long-grained brown
                                        long-grain rice, washed, soaked in cold water 30 min, drained
                                        American rice
                                        raw rice

                                        I don't have the Kochilas book in front of me and don't remember which rice she
                                        called for. Personally, I think Aborio is too "heavy" for these dishes.

                                        ETA: Every time we talk about rice I think of Sam.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          Thanks to both of you for your replies, and to Gio for the homework. Hoffman calls specifically for arborio in the recipe I made, and I went with it. I think long grain makes so much more sense. Like Big Sal, I don't really have any knowledge of Greek food except that I like eating it, so I went with what was called for. Next time, long grain.

                                          PS - what is "american" rice?

                                          Good old Sam.

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            So true about Sam. Gosh he knew everything about rice.

                                            1. re: qianning

                                              One short isolated example from probably hundreds:
                                              Just a note: what is now sold as "sushi rice" is just short grained Japanese/Japonica rice. I've noticed that prices increased and bags got smaller once such rice stated getting sold as "sushi rice". By Sam Fujisaka on Feb 26, 2010 03:27 AM

                                              1. re: blue room

                                                What is the story with Sam? I saw some messages that he posted in other threads. Is he not here any longer? Sorry about my ignorance:(

                                                1. re: herby

                                                  herby, I'm so very sorry to tell you that Sam Fujisaka died on 13 April 2010.

                                                  This tells it all:

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    Thank you Gio - so sad, he looks to be way to young to die. Damn cancer, got my friend too in January.... What is amazing that I know CIAT well; visited some eco-agri projects in Honduras affiliated with them last year (for work) - small world!

                                        2. re: BigSal

                                          Rice and Lentil Pilaf, Cyprus-Style (p. 237)

                                          I made this for a mini Greek feast last night, to accompany lamb in filo (p. 389). Except for seasoning more aggressively (thanks to advice/experience of Gio and BigSal), I made the recipe as directed: OO, onion, tiny brown lentils, arborio rice, water, s & p, cilantro. (I wish I'd had chicken stock on hand, but didn't so used water.)

                                          I've made mujaddrah several times (with long grain rice), cooking the rice and lentils together, but curious about this recipe, I went with the arborio. I found the result fluffier and, interestingly, less heavy than mujaddrah (or at least mine). That said, I think I prefer mujaddrah; still, this was quite good. The lentils held their shape and remained distinct from the rice, and I'll have no problem using up the leftovers.

                                          1. re: nomadchowwoman


                                            It sounds like you had a great meal last night. The lamb in filo sounds especially crave worthy. The mujadarrah I make comes from a Claudia Roden recipe and is made with basmati and to me is lighter and fluffier than my results with this recipe. Funny that you experienced the opposite.

                                            1. re: BigSal

                                              I know. The recipe I usually use is on an old recipe card, and I don't know where it came from originally, but the result is usually "heavier" in that the rice and lentils are not really distinct from each other; it's almost as if the rice disappears into the lentils. I end up with a dense(but delicious) glob, really. Of course, what I really love about any version (all spelled differently, it seems) is the onion topping!

                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                I agree, no matter what you call it (or spell it), it's the onions that really make the dish.

                                      2. Rice Pilaf, pg. 231

                                        Pilaf's don't get much simpler than this one. Saute rice (she recommends Arborio but I used our household standard short grain, genjimai, i.e. brown japonica), with some chopped onion (I used shallots), add stock, she doesn't say to, but I always have the stock heated before adding it to the rice, and I did for this pilaf as well, bring to boil, reduce heat steam.

                                        Before serving fluff and add chopped parsley, and grated nutmeg. The nutmeg was the one twist I've never tried before. To be honest I have no idea if it added much to the dish, as we served this with a very hearty Greek-style lamb shank, and the nutmeg flavor definitely did not shine through. That said, this simple pilaf was just right as the starch to go with a braised meat dish.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: qianning

                                          Rice Pilaf, p. 231

                                          Qianning is absolutely right--this is an easy no-fuss recipe that does just what it's supposed to do: serve as a satisfying side dish with a good flavor and pleasant texture. Just 1 cup rice, 2 TBS olive oil, 1/2 chopped onion, 1 1/4 c. chicken broth, s & p, and the elusive pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. I say "elusive" because I couldn't taste it either, though this also might have been because the pilaf was served with the already-spiced Beef Kapama (p. 269). I did garnish the finished dish with chopped flat-leaf parsley.

                                          The author also notes that water can be used for the liquid; in this case "A Greek cook who does not have stock on hand will usually flavor the water with [about 1 TBS of tomato paste] to 1 cup water." LIke qianning, I also pre-warm the liquid before adding it to the sautéed rice, onions, and evoo.

                                          I generally make a simple pilaf like this with half-butter, half oil, but I'm going to switch to all evoo because this worked so well.

                                          Each grain of Arborio rice was tender and perfectly separate. One trick that I learned from Cooks Illustrated: when all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, let the rice sit in the pot for about ten minutes with a folded clean cloth laid on top, underneath the pot-lid. This seems to dry the rice a bit more and ensures that it is fluffy. The cloth also helps keeps it warm till serving time.

                                          1. re: qianning

                                            Rice Pilaf, p. 231

                                            I made this tonight to go with version 2.0 of the sauteed chicken with shallots, capers and sage. I actually totally forgot the nutmeg, but sounds like maybe I wouldn't have tasted it anyway. This was very simple and straight forward and got on the table quickly. Went very nicely with the braised chicken.

                                            Oh, and I used jasmine rice and it worked fine.

                                            1. re: qianning

                                              Rice Pilaf, Pg. 231

                                              We made this as a side dish for the Fruited Chicken on page 420. This time we used aborio rice too and it did turn out much better than the first time we used it in one of these recipes. But, we had to cook it 10 minutes longer to 30 minutes. Just for fun, after reading Ms Hoffman's notes about Greek cooks sometimes using water flavored with tomato paste for liquid in recipes, I did just that using her recommended proportions: 1 T tomato paste:1 cup water. In the end, I didn't care for that and won't do it again. To give a little boost to the vegetable content of the meal when the rice had finished cooking I mixed in a small handful of petit pois which were thawed and warmed by running them, in a strainer, under very hot water.

                                              1. re: Gio

                                                Thanks for the report. I'd been wondering about (dubious about?), sorry you didn't enjoy it, but it looks like you may have saved me from my own curiosity.

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  Also glad to know this about using the water-tomato paste combo instead of chicken stock for the pilaf. I had wondered how it should taste but hadn't quite brought myself to try it--thanks for satisfying my curiosity, and saving me the effort!

                                                  Oh yes; I made this pilaf last night and used more nutmeg (two pinches) but still just got the faintest hint of that spice in the end result. The more assertive shrimp with tomatoes and feta (p. 342) that I served alongside pretty much drowned it out.

                                                  1. re: Goblin

                                                    Qianning, Gobblin: Yes, that tomato water gave the pilaf a funky off tasting flavor that wasn't pleasant to me... and everything was as fresh as can be. G, OTOH, didn't seem to mind it. You know he'll eat anything....

                                              2. Spinach Pilaf (Spanokorizo) - Shrimp Variation (Garides Pilafi). Pg. 239

                                                Finally made this pilaf and we both liked it very much. In all the recipes that I've made so far Aborio rice was called for and that's what I've been using. However, this time I used Carolina (which I've learned is pronounced: cah-roh-LEE-nah. Who knew?) The result was markedly different. Firm but well cooked kernels and a lighter feeling to the finished recipe. I increased the amounts of the seasonings, used Pomi chopped tomatoes instead of fresh, and used 12 oz. shrimp instead of 8 oz. Lots of flavor in this pilaf with all the herbs, leeks and tomatoes...

                                                Heat olive oil in a pan and add either a chopped onion or leeks. I used a huge leek sliced in half rounds. Also add 1 cup of rice. Cook and stir about 2 minutes. At this point the rice was sticking so G added 1/4 cup water to loosen it. The tomatoes and 1/2 cup water are added next (we added S & P here as well) and the rice is cooked till soft and all the liquid absorbed. Toss in the shrimp and cook for 3-ish minutes till pink. Stir into this mix: chopped fresh dill, fresh mint (I used dried), parsley, lemon juice and zest, S & P.

                                                Delicious. Easy to make, I'll make it again. Served with the Eggplant with Shallots, wine and Basil on page 289. Nóstima.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  Spinach Pilaf--p. 239.

                                                  Made this one last night with the spinach only, as an accompaniment to the shrimp with fennel, green olives, red onion, and white wine on p.346. It does go very well with shrimp! Gio's directions and description cannot be improved. I'll just comment that it took me longer than the recipe said for my Arborio rice to become fully tender--maybe 18 minutes rather than the prescribed 12. And I did need to add more water to keep the rice from sticking. I also seemed to have a huge quantity of spinach leaves to wilt down to tenderness--the recipe's instructions say "3 pounds of trimmed spinach" but I only used 1 1/2 pounds. It was too hard to fit any more into the pan, though I added the spinach in batches.

                                                  1. re: Goblin

                                                    Actually, in fairness to the recipe-writer, the instructions say "three pounds fresh spinach. . . trimmed " so theoretically after some serious trimming one might not have to cope with the bales of spinach I had with after I purchasing three pounds of already-bagged and mostly-trimmed spinach! Even after I cut off the remaining stems, it was a lot of spinach for 1 cup of rice! I crammed 1 1/2 pounds into my large frying pan, but I really think 1 pound of fully trimmed spinach leaves would have been enough.

                                                2. Eggplant with Shallots, Wine and Basil, Pg. 289

                                                  Very nice combination of flavors here. I love eggplant and cook if frequently. This reminded me of a Caponata but without the sweet/sour flavors. I halved the recipe and only increased the freshly ground black pepper from 1/2 t to 1 t. To save time I roasted the vegetables instead of sauteing them:
                                                  425F for about 45 minutes. They roasted while the shrimp pilaf was being cooked.

                                                  Trim eggplant and slice into small cubes. Peel shallots and leave whole. (I halved them because they were quite large) Chop tomatoes, sliver garlic cloves, crumble bay leaves. (I left them whole) Shred fresh basil leaves.

                                                  Eggplant, shallots, garlic are sauteed in a skillet for about 12 minutes. Tomatoes, dry red wine, bay leaf, S & P are added and the whole thing is simmered without stirring for almost an hour. My Method: Put each ingredient into a large bowl as they are prepped, add herbs and liquids, turn to coat evenly, roast on a short-sided baking pan. Scatter basil over top and mix in.

                                                  I believe the end result was much like that which would have been if Ms Hoffman's method was followed. Bottom line: Delicious eggplant. Will make again.

                                                  1. Warm Greens (Horta), page 267.

                                                    Quick, and as easy as can be. Olive oil is heated, garlic is added, greens and olives are stirred in. When the greens are tender, stir in lemon juice. I used kale (and a bit of radicchio) left over from a very similar Italian dish made a few nights ago. Didn't find it necessary to add water, except what clung after washing. Quite tasty. Kalamata olives and lemon juice put a nice spin on the greens. Feels virtuously healthy also.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                      Horta is one of my favourite things to eat in Crete, where they use wild mountain greens. It's absolutely delicious, as well as healthy. Apparently one of the secrets to the longevity the Cretans enjoy.

                                                      1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                        Warm Greens (Horta), page 267

                                                        I made a small batch of Horta last night using a small head of escarole and some not-quite-right for the dish green queen olives and foolishly adding a couple tablespoons of water (should have paid more attention to LN's write up--if kale didn't need water, escarole certainly didn't). Nonetheless. it was OK. I'll definitely try this again when I have the right olives and leave off using any water.

                                                        1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                          Warm Greens (Horta), p. 267

                                                          I made this using chard, and just left the water after rinsing and shaking them leave. Only different from the way in which I usually do such greens due to the olives, which were an interesting flavor twist.

                                                        2. Bulgur wheat and walnut pilaf, p. 233

                                                          I made this based on her menu suggestion to go with the beef kapama. It went quite well with the sweetness of the stew. I liked this one just a little bit more than the bulgur and vegetable pilaf.

                                                          To make, olive oil and butter are heated in a skillet. Finely chopped onion and chopped walnuts are added and cooked until the onion wilts. The bulgur is added and coated with butter/oil. Finally, white wine, water, a bay leaf and salt are added and brought to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer. Stir, remove from heat, and let sit covered, then fluff and serve.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                            Bulgur Wheat and Walnut Pilaf, p. 233

                                                            Hmm, it's only in looking at TIM's report that I realize that I forgot the bay leaf. Well, I'm sure that would have contributed, but it probably would not have elevated it to something amazing. This was fine, but not special, to me. I did reduce the amount of olive oil (but not butter).

                                                          2. Moussaka Pg. 313

                                                            Let me start by saying the flavour of this dish was excellent. The meat sauce was definitely the clincher. Unlike typical Italian/Italian American meat sauces this Greek version has just enough chooped tomato to wet it, resulting in a nic thick consitancy. The suggested spicing also works well, imparting the sauce with a definite character without overpowering the other ingredients. The Besamel (Bechamel) sauce for the top was relatively classic with the addition of lemon, more nutmeg and the kefalotyri (substituted Romano).

                                                            Overall I was very pleased with the results. That said I do think there are a few problems with this recipe. Firstly, she notes that you need 3 cups of besamel, but the recipe in the book only makes two cups. Of course it is my responsibility to read through the recipes but in the midst of cooking I missed this fact and ended up having too little white sauce. Usually Moussaka has a good sized layer of white sauce on the top, because of my error the top layer was a little more meagre, but still very tasty.

                                                            Secondly, I don't think the layering instructions are accurate. I ended up with just enough meat sauce and eggplant to do 2 layers, as opposed to the suggested 3. I could definitely spread the meat sauce a bit thinner, but there was nothing that was going to make those eggplants stretch to three layers. I was surprised because my eggplants were large, but I think you would need a good 4 eggplants to make it stretch to three layers (maybe even 5). I did note that some of my slices might have been a bit too thick, but those were the slices that held up the best to the roasting, the few that were sliced quite thinly almost shrivelled up and disappeared in the roasting.
                                                            I woudl still recommend the dish, but I might tweak the proportions on some of the building blocks a bit.

                                                            1. Spaghetti with "Little Birds" and Olives, p. 252

                                                              I had a package of quail in the freezer and although the combination of ingredients in this recipe struck me as odd and I'm not a fan of celery-intensive dishes, I forged ahead as I wanted to try something different from this book and I knew DH wouldn't be partial to grilled quail on a bed of cabbage or beans and I had no grape leaves. I also liked that this looked quick and easy though the prep work took a bit longer than I expected. When the kitchen started to smell of Thanksgiving (sauteeing celery and garlic), I thought, uh-oh, this doesn't bode well for Greek food.

                                                              But in fact, that didn't last long, and the celery flavor was soft and very much in the background--not at all objectionable to my palate. And while I didn't love this dish, I enjoyed it; my husband liked it very much.

                                                              First order of business was seasoning and grilling the little birds, which only took a few minutes. (Why I didn't do it outside is beyond me. Instead I used my too small grill pan stovetop and made a huge greasy mess.) I quartered them (halving would have been sufficient; they were tiny) and set aside, put a pot of water to boil and started sauteeingthe veggies for the sauce.

                                                              You start with 1/2 c. olive oil (too much, I thought after I'd already started), celery (recipe calls for five stalks, chopped coarsely but my stalks looked awfully big so I used 2 1/2 and still ended up with close to 2 c. celery), six cloves coarsely chopped garlic, and 1/4 c. chopped celery leaves. This is cooked until the celery is soft, probbaly about 8 minutes last night, and then you add 1/2 c. red wine (I used a malbec I was drinking), 1/4 cup pitted kalamatas, and 1/2 tsp chopped sage if you read the instructions carefully, but I misread and used a whole tsp., to no ill effect as far as I could tell. This cooks for another 5 minutes or so. You end up w/a dark oily sauce. I added a little pasta cooking water and boiled it for a minute, then added the quail and let them warm in the sauce before pouring the whole thing over a warm platter of pasta (I boiled less than 1/2 lb although the recipe calls for a whole pound), adding salt and pepper and 1/3 c. chopped flat leaf parsley. I don't know what kefalotyri cheese (preferred here) is like, but I guessed that a nice pecorino I had would work with these flavors, and it did.

                                                              The surprise for me was that this was as good as it was. The quail weren't overpowered, the celery was subtle (I'm glad though that I idn't use any more than I did), the flavors melded well. Not a great pasta dish by my reckoning, but a good one.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                Thanks for posting this ncw. I didn't notice this recipe until you mentioned it on WFD, as it's not in the section with the other quail recipes. I'm throwing this one into the mix for consideration now. But I'm not a huge fan of celery either!

                                                              2. Traditional Makaronada with Red Sauce, Pg. 250
                                                                Red Tomato [Meat] Sauce, Pg. 472 - 473

                                                                Wanting to make one of the macaroni dishes these particular recipes were perfect for the ingredients I had on hand. Of course, it's all about the sauce because the Makaronada is simply cooked spaghetti topped with sauce and cheese. The tomato red sauce is referenced in the Makaronada recipe. I omitted the meat, subbed 2 leeks for the onion, increased the garlic to 4 cloves, used Metaxa, 1/4 t cinnamon not a small stick, and added 1/4 t red pepper flakes plus 12 pitted and chopped oil cured black olives. The sauce was terrific and we Loved it.

                                                                It's a typical macaroni sauce in that you start by heating oil in a pan, add chopped onion and garlic and cook till golden. Next I added all the remaining ingredients: Pomi chopped tomatoes, olives, 3/4 cup Metaxa, 1/2 cup red wine, bay leaf, cinnamon, salt and red pepper flakes. Cover pan, reduce heat and gently simmer for 1 hour. At this point the direction is to remove pan from heat and set aside to rest for 1 hour ostensibly to allow the flavors to deepen. We brought the "macaroni water" to a boil, threw the spaghetti into the pot and when it was al dente drained and plated the pasta. The bay leaf is removed from the sauce, as is the cinnamon stick if that was used.

                                                                Per the Makaronada recipe: Top each serving of spaghetti with sauce and a generous grating of hard cheese...we used Romano. But, we also sprinkled a chiffonade of fresh basil leaves and cubed feta over each serving.

                                                                This was a wonderfully flavored tomato sauce. Only slightly sweet from the Metaxa. I think that if I had used the recommended sweet wines like Mavrodaphne or Muscat the sauce would have been too sweet for us but the cinnamon rendered a hint of exotica. The addition of olives gave the sauce a meaty quality that compensated for the lack of ground pork and beef. With my heavy concentration of Italian sauces I systematically ignore red sauces of all other cuisines. But this Greek sauce will be added to our repertoire as an alternative in future applications..

                                                                1. Pearl Barley, Pg. 230

                                                                  A very simple meal for us last night and this barley recipe was the foundation for leftover pork roast with a tomato based sauce. I halved the recipe for two people.

                                                                  For the full recipe: after rinsing 1 cup pearl barley is put into pan with 6 cups salted water... I used chicken stock with a dash of low sodium soy sauce.. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for almost an hour. Drain and serve. When the barley had finished cooking I gently mixed 1 T of EVGreekOO and 3 thin scallions that I had finely minced. These additions gave quite a bit of extra flavor to an otherwise rather bland grain. It was very nice with the pork with Red Tomato [Meat-less] Sauce on pages 472 - 473 and a Single Vegetable Salad on page 189, this time broccoli.

                                                                  1. Cauliflower Salad with Lemon Zest, Chives, and Chive Flowers, p. 198. Served with Oil and Lemon Dressing, p. 190, as directed by author.

                                                                    This is a very pretty presentation, and very easy. A 1 1/2 pound cauliflower head is trimmed of its outer leaves and stem, then boiled for three minutes, top side up. Then the head is turned over, boiled for another minute until just tender, and drained and cooled until serving. I was amazed that the timing was so accurate--my larger 2 # cauliflower head took just another minute to become tender.

                                                                    Incidentally, the instructions say nothing about checking for tenderness--just how long to cook it. I used a knife to check that the head was fork-tender but definitely not mushy. The whole cauliflower head cooks quickly, which surprised me.

                                                                    At serving time, which can be just after it's cooked and still warm, or at room temperature, place the cauliflower on a plate and drizzle lemon oil dressing over it, and then top with 2 tsp coarsely chopped lemon zest, 2 TBS chopped chives or green scallion tops (what I had) and the optional chive flowers, torn apart.

                                                                    My daughter remarked on how really lovely the dish looked. ( Memo to self, get out the camera next time!.) The whole cauliflower head is attractive on a platter, and its pure white color contrasts so well with the yellow lemon zest and green chopped scallions. If I'd had them, the purple chive flowers would have added even more to the palette.

                                                                    However, the lemon-oil dressing did not pack enough punch. The instructions say whisk together 1 TBS fresh lemon juice to 3 TBS EVOO, plus a pinch of salt. I should have tasted carefully before pouring it over and put in something more--black pepper? A touch of Dijon? A little chopped garlic? Something. But I will definitely use this presentation again, because it is pretty and easy.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Goblin

                                                                      Hah... I'm not really following you around, Goblin, but I like to read your reports so here I am. When I made this Salad on the 8th I steamed the florets instead of boiling the whole head. I, also, didn't have chive flowers so omitted them as you did, and used scallions because chives haven't popped their little stems out of the soil in the garden yet. We found the salad needed more seasoning and your suggestion of Dijon is very useful...


                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                        Ooops, Gio, I see that I put my review in the wrong place--guess it seemed like a veggie side to me rather than a salad, so I didn't check the page numbers that were so helpfully added to the categories. . . my mistake. Thanks for letting me know. I'm going to copy and add my review to the correct place on salads!

                                                                    2. Orzo and Beans with Mustard Greens, Olives, and Toasted Bread Crumbs, Pg. 257

                                                                      I posted the report for this recipe in the Birds; Wild Game; Sauces and Toppings thread. I used the breadcrumb recipe from Bread Crumb and Garlic Topping on page 481 rather than the very bland and plain toasted crumbs the Orzo and Bean recipe calls for.

                                                                      Here's the link to my Orzo and Beans with Mustard Greens report...

                                                                      1. Spaghetti with Zucchini and Caper Sauce Pg. 251
                                                                        I was quite curious to try one of these greek pasta dishes as I love pasta but generally stick to the Italian classics. Overall this was pretty good, but not spectacular. As written the recipe yields too little sauce for the amount of pasta. I am a fan of saucy pasta, especially with whole wheat noodles, and this yielded far too little sauce for my taste. I would increase all the sauce ingredients by about 50% if I were to repeat.
                                                                        Flavour wise the dish was not bad though, the sauce has definite greek notes from the capers and the marjoram is a nice compliment. I would make sure to cut us the carrots a bit smaller than her suggestion of doing it roughly, as mine were still a bit too toothsome after 45 minutes. Overall a pretty good dish but nothing to write home about.

                                                                        1. Neo Classic Vegetarian Pastitsio Pg. 255
                                                                          I am sorry to report that this is the second pasta dish I have made from the Olive and the Caper and it is the second dish that was crying out for more sauce. Hoffman calls for a few cups of bechamel and tomato sauce for 1.5 lbs of pasta, which sounded a lttle scant to me so I probably went with closer to 3 cups tomato and 2.5 cups bechamel and it was still too dry. This yields a solid 6 portions of pasta, and given the fact that it goes into the oven for 55 minutes the 4 to 4.5 cups she calls for would have yielded a dry mess. My 5.5 cups of total sauce was better but still not to my taste. The top noodles actually over browned and were partically desicated due to the fact that there was not enough bechamel to protect them from the long baking.
                                                                          The red sauce was quite tasty, althouth I added pepper, more salt, and a bit more oregano, but I found the orange zest contributed an odd flavour to the overall dish.
                                                                          For me this wasn't a winner.

                                                                          1. Okra [broccoli and string bean] fritters
                                                                            page 297

                                                                            The title of this recipe made me envision something altogether different, but I had chosen it, so I moved forward. Since I wasn't using Okra, I started by blanching the broccoli and the string beans for one minute. I then shocked them [not a step in the recipe.] If using okra, she has you soak the okra in vinegar for 45 minutes. Instead, I simply tossed my veggies in some white wine vinegar after they were dry.

                                                                            For the batter, you whisk egg and water before whisking in the flour, salt, and pepper. The results was a very thin liquid, which she calls a batter.

                                                                            You then fry the resulting "fritter" in a bit of hot olive oil. As expected, the batter went with gravity almost immediately so that the broccoli had flat bottoms. The green beans were a bit more successful since they could be rolled around the fry pan.

                                                                            Served with some seasoned thickened yogurt.

                                                                            The surprise was how darn tasty the broccoli was! My SMT thinks this is the first time he has really enjoyed broccoli in a long time [and we eat it all winter long.] The green beans were not as good, in our opinion, though there was nothing wrong with them.

                                                                            The photo is not that great but gives you an idea of what the thing looked like... whole pieces of slightly battered vegetables. Served with a feta filled lamb burger.

                                                                            1. Oven Fried Potatoes with Oregano and Lemon - p. 280

                                                                              I can hardly believe no one has reported on this one. I took a few liberties with the recipe, but this has become my favorite way with potatoes.

                                                                              The recipe calls for russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-1/2-inch sticks. I've been using fingerlings from the farmers' market, which I am leaving unpeeled, and halving or quartering lengthwise, depending upon the size of the potatoes.

                                                                              The recipe has you put the potatoes on a baking sheet with 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/2 cup of water, chopped fresh oregano, salt and pepper, and mix all that together. When I make this, I replace part of the water with lemon juice - about a 1/4 cup, or one lemon's worth. I also use a roasting pan instead of a baking sheet, and yes, that makes the potatoes a bit crowded, but it hasn't been a problem.

                                                                              The potatoes are baked in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes, turning twice (I usually just turn them once). By the end of this time, all the water and lemon juice will have evaporated. Then you add 1/4 cup of lemon juice (1/4 cup more in my case), toss that in, and bake another 10-15 minutes. I also add some extra oregano at that stage.

                                                                              It makes a sticky brown mess in the roasting pan, but the potatoes are delicious and very, very lemony. I love them. I am normally ambivalent about potatoes - don't love them, but don't really dislike them either. But these, I really like.