Greek-Style Baked Vegetables

Returning from the island on Friday, I stopped to re-stock the refrigerator and planned to cook on Saturday night for myself.   Having purchased the usual favorite Mediterranean vegetables, I decided on one of the Greek-style baked vegetable dishes I like so much.  You have seen previous posts of my success with Briami, from the Greek islands.   I was also interested in a recipe from another cookbook for an Ikarian vegetable stew, so I used some of the methods of each technique.  Ingredients were very similar:

  • eggplant
  • zucchini
  • fennel bulb
  • Swiss Chard
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes
  • red and green peppers
  • red onion
  • corn
  • cannellini beans
  • and a few Chanterelles mushrooms
  • high-quality dried Greek oregano and thyme

I did a preliminary sauté first, and then baked the whole dish until tender.  Then I pan-fried Halloumi cheese slices in olive oil, and served it all with grilled Triticale bread and some Brunello di Montalcino wine.

fresh-cut vegetables after brief sauté

after baking

grilled bread rubbed with garlic

Dinner Plate

Halloumi side one

Halloumi side two

vegetables and cheese



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Overnight White Bread

Two weeks ago I decided to make bread again, but I was too lazy for my usual routine of making a levain, proofing the loaves overnight in the refrigerator, and baking the next day.  That’s normally a nearly two-day production.  So I tried another of Ken Forkish’s recipe: Overnight White Bread, and it turned out great!

If you want details, buy his book, Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast.  The essence of the recipe is to autolyse the flour at 7:30 PM, let the dough rise all night in a tub on the counter, and form the loaves and bake it 12 to 14 hours later.  Instead of all white bread flour, I used 90% of that and 10% of home-milled Triticale, which made a delicious loaf.

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Zuppa di Ceci in the Style of Campania or Puglia

Last night I was eager to use more of the organic Italian chickpeas which I had cooked the day before.  I also needed to use some Yukon potatoes and the organic collard greens leftover from the day before.  The result was a Southern Italian-style soup of great flavor, texture, and healthy qualities.

Cut into small or medium dice, as you prefer:

  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 leek
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 zucchine
  • a few handfuls of fresh peas
  • 1-2 cups of cooked chickpeas
  • 1-2 cups of cooked organic collard greens (Swiss Chard and spinach are alternatives, and so are Italian bitter greens, like escarole and chicory)

Sauté the first three items, then add the next three after the first ingredients are tender.  Add the chickpeas and greens.  Season with wild Calabrian fennel seed, dried Italian oregano (not Mexican, please), salt & pepper, and a sprinkle of hot Calabrian red pepper flakes.  If you cooked your own dried chickpeas, then use the broth from the legumes for the soup.  If not, add water or vegetable stock.  Cook for 30 minutes to an hour, until the potatoes are cooked through and the collards are smooth and silky.

Serve with a crusty loaf of bread and a medium-bodied white wine, like Rkatsiteli from Georgia or Falanghina from Campania.  I actually had made an Overnight White Bread (Ken Forkish bread recipe) last weekend, and topped the broiled slices with a Bistro Cooking Provençal anchoïade (anchovy, garlic, parsley and red wine vinegar), which complemented the soup beautifully.

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East Meets West, in the Pasta Bowl

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you will know that I have great admiration for the culture, food and wine of countries I love.  And my cooking tends to respect those traditions pretty closely.  On the other hand, you may also discern that my love of diversity and natural playfulness sometimes cause me to blend radically disparate cultures, to see what comes out.  Such was the case tonight.

I began with a desire to use a package of Bunapi Mushrooms I bought last week at Russo’s.  These are Japanese White Beech Mushrooms, organic and subtle, and I wanted to see where I could go with them.  I had recently explored some Bow Tie pasta recipes (Farfalle), and I thought they would go well.  Then, a funny thing happened on the way to the stove and table.  As I often do, I went to the internet for some ideas or a refresher on how to prepare an unusual item.  I explored a few recipes — nothing extraordinary — and then I looked at Pinterest, when the search page showed an attractive photo.  Guess what?  It was a picture from my own blog, posted in August, 2011, Vegan Delights: Grilled Polenta and Bunapi Mushrooms!  And it looked good!

I was in no mood to make polenta, but I figured it would also work with pasta, so I forged ahead, using the basic ideas and adapting to what I had available:

  • salt one zucchine, cut into julienne strips, let sit for 30 minutes and then wipe dry
  • dice one shallot and sauté in olive oil, adding the zucchine and cooking until tender
  • sauté the Bunapi as described
  • cook the farfalle (250 gm.) in a big pot of boiling salted water

Now for the big cross-cultural event: I flash-fried some flowering Chinese chives, also from Russo’s late last week, and added them to the pasta as I mixed it all together.   These are garlic chives with small, edible yellow flower buds on the tips, and they worked beautifully with some rock shrimp and farro I made last week.

Now all I needed to do was take the eggplant slices I had baked with tomato last night, add a bit of Scamorza cheese and olive oil, and broil, to serve with the pasta.  Here’s how it looked:

I actually had two different wines with the dish.  The first was Rkatsiteli, a white wine from the Republic of Georgia.  It was delicious last night with soup –more about that later — and it went well with the pasta.  When I finished that bottle, I opened a Costa D’Amalfi Rosato from Le Vigne di Raito, which I brought back from there during our visit in April.  It was excellent, particularly with the eggplant.

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Crazy Combinations

I have all kinds of different motivations about what to make and how to prepare it, when I have time to do some cooking.  Sometimes that makes for some weird — and occasionally fortuitous — combinations of food and wine.

Tonight’s dinner is an example.  It was my first time to cook in three days.  One motivation was to explore the capabilities of the “professional” mandoline I bought last year.

Another motivation is often “use what you’ve got available”.  Cooking for just myself, the logical choice was to play with the julienne settings on the mandoline and to make matchstick potatoes.  A single Russet potato would suffice, and I also had some virgin olive oil (not ‘extra virgin’) in a jar from previous use.

I started with the smaller julienne, and I found those crisped up nicely but barely made a mouthful, so I switched to the larger size, which was still pretty small, compared to restaurant french fries.  I fried the larger potatoes twice, finishing at a higher temperature, approaching 360º F. to crisp them up.  I drained the oil on paper towels, added salt and pepper, and set aside.

Next, it was time to explore a new ingredient.  As a recovering omnivore, I find that I still have a hankering for dishes using pork shoulder, such as pulled pork sandwiches and carnitas tacos and burritos.  A few weeks ago I found a packaged item that intrigued me at Whole Foods: Bar-B-Que Jackfruit, from Upton Foods.  I had bought it then, because I had seen on Facebook a homemade version of jackfruit, prepared as pulled pork sandwiches.  A friend of mine from Jamaica had posted the article.  Starting with raw jackfruit was labor-intensive, so I was curious to see if the packed version was adequate.

After exploring Upton’s website for recipes, I had some ideas, so I made up my own concoction.    I sautéed chopped onion and garlic scapes (regular garlic will work fine) in olive oil, salt and pepper, until tender.  Then I chopped up the greens of two scallions, and I added them to the onions and garlic, after moving them to a separate bowl.

I opened the package of Bar-B-Que Jackfruit, pulled out half of the contents, and sautéed in the remaining olive oil for 10 minutes.  As the skillet dried out, I added water a couple of times, which helped soften the jackfruit so it could be shredded, and it made the result more tender, to resemble the texture of pulled pork when pulled apart with a fork.  The result was very appealing in taste and looks:

Last (as usual) was the wine selection.  The sweet and sour nature of the sauce, and the unusual meat-like texture of the fruit was a real challenge, so my choices covered almost all the bases.  First was a Grenache Gris white grape, from Utah, of all places!  Why not?  After all, what precedents do we have for this dish?  Verdict: quite good.

Next, I tried the Vermentino di Sardegna, which went so well with my pasta dish earlier in the week.  Unfortunately, a short taste from my glass was enough to conclude: Blah!!  Not even close!

Finally, Jeff at Farfalle in Concord had raved about Pecchenino, a Dolcetto from Dogliani, so I figured that would be a long shot as a red wine to try.  Result:  BINGO!  Perfetto.

Overall, the meal was a success, and I learned a bunch about new food, grapes, and compatibility of flavors.  Ersatz pulled pork sandwiches with Barbara’s pickles on a grilled hamburger rolls or Ciabatta is next!

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June Dinner for Friends

Friday night I went into Boston for a late visit to Eataly.  I’ve been looking forward to visiting the store again.  They have excellent fresh produce and fish, and a superb array of specialties in jars and pasta in packages.  I came home with a fine selection, but limited quantities, since I might be cooking just for me for the next two days.

Fortunately, it turned out that our friends, Laura and Molly, could come for dinner, so I had a grand time yesterday afternoon preparing and serving dinner when they arrived.  Here is the menu, plus a few of the best photos.  A full slide show is to be found at the end of this post.

Here is a one-minutes slideshow of the whole story:

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Letter to the Winemaker, Bryan Harrington: Greek Dinner with a 2011 Harrington Charbono

Dear Bryan,

One of the hazards of making great wines is that your delighted customers are prone to writing to you with the consumption of each miraculous bottle.

Such was my experience tonight with 2011 Charbono.  This is just the second night this summer I can be alone at home after parking my wife comfortably at our summer home. She loves the beach, but I don’t.

When on my own, I love cooking the way I like best, without constraints (“not so much olive, too much salt, no Aleppo pepper, serve everything hot, I don’t like beets or vinegar”).  So dinner tonight was pan-fried Halloumi cheese with beets and red wine vinegar plus Lucque olives, a baked Greek vegetable dish (Briami), toasted flatbread, and the Charbono.

I was transported.  The match was perfect, and the fruit in the wine was so alive, it seemed as if it were still fermenting.  I loved it all. Here are the photos.

Thanks again.


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