Saturday, March 31, 2012

Modern Greek REcipes

Modern Greek Sampler
at Different Drummers Kitchen, Stuyvesant Plaza

Ric Orlando, Chef
New World Bistro Bar, Albany, NY
New World Home Cooking Cafe and New World Catering, Saugerties, NY
GreekCuisine, once thought of as overcooked elbows in tomato sauce with cinnamon, greasy spanikopita and dry lamb with brown gravy, is now becoming of of America’s trendier cuisines. It is intrinsically healthy, using olive oil, fish, beans, greens and grass-fed cheeses at its core. And it it immensely flavorful, as most cuisines from Sunny climates are!
The Greek “Mezze”, like Spanish Tapas has spawned a new style of Dining in America--the Small Plate Experience and Ingredient Driven Cooking. Tonight we’ll cook some classics, spruced up, and we’ll twist some old into something new, all served as small plates, creating a complete meal without the “Meat and Potatoes” experience.

Salmon “Tarama”
Taramasalata-- or Caviar salad is a classic dip served as a part of the Pikilia, or assorted dips plate. Always served with warm flatbread, this dip is using a little smoked salmon to enhance it’s flavor and make it modern!
2 1/2-3 cups crustless country-style bread, cut in cubes
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
1/3 cup chopped shallots
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
3 garlic cloves
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup tarama (pale orange carp roe)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill plus more for garnish

Combine bread and milk in medium bowl. Let soak 5 minutes, tossing to moisten. Squeeze bread to release milk; reserve milk. Place bread in processor. Add next 4 ingredients; blend until smooth. With machine running, gradually add 5 tablespoons olive oil; transfer to medium bowl. Stir in tarama, 2 tablespoons dill, and enough reserved milk by tablespoonfuls to reach spreadable consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Can be made up to 48 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Greek Grilled Cheese = Grilled Haloumi
Haloumi is a dry sheeps cheese, sort of like squeaky mozzarella but considerably drier and saltier. While is t tasty raw on salads, it really excels when grilled, broiled or sauteed. The tasty caramelization adds a new character to the flavor.

Grilled Haloumi
serves 2
2 4 oz package of Haloumi cheese, sliced 1/4 thick
1 medium ripe tomato, sliced 1/4 in thick half moons
1 loaf pita, cut into wedges similar to the size of the haloumi
1/4 cup olive oil
dry oregano
juice tow lemons

Simple as can be.
Mix the olive oil, lemon. oregano in a small bowl. This is your baste/drizzle.
Heat up your grill, grill pan or broiler. If using a grill pan or grill, dip a paper towel in oil lightly rub the grill area you are going to use.
When your cooking apparatus is hot, grill the cheese, tomatoes and pita, turning once to get a nice grill flavor.
Baste the cheese and tomatoes with the lemon-oil mix lightly while grilling.
Arrange the grilled pita on your plate(s).
Top each piece of pita with a slice of tomato and then top with a pice of haloumi.
Drizzle with more of the olive oil lemon mix. Add a light sprinkling of salt and a cracking of pepper and enjoy hot.

Greek Country Salad
So, you have all had Greek Salad in every diner. Lettuce, olives, feta, anchovies, onions. That is the Americanized version. The real real deal, the “country” salad, is all garden veggies-tomatoes, onions, peppers, cukes--well marinated, with olives, feta---super healthy and awesome for summer BBQS.
We are going to keep it Vegan today but making “tofu feta”,but feel free to use goat, sheep or cow milk feta if you prefer.

Try next time you visit a farmer’s market!

Serves 4
3 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into generous wedges
2 large cucumbers peeled, quartered and cut into 1 1/2 inch batons
1 while onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
2 large bell peppers (any color), cut into generous strips
1/4 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup tofu feta ( recipe below) or regular feta
1 small bunch fresh dill, roughly chopped
1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dry oregano
juice of two lemons
black pepper to taste
Wash and prep all veggies and put int a large bowl.
Add the olives, dill and parsley.
Add the tofu feta.
Mix the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, oregano.
Pour over the veggies and toss to coat.Allow to marinated at room temperature for up to two hours or refrigerated over night.
Serve cool or at room temp.

Tofu feta
I block firm tofu, 1/2 inch dice
2 tbls white vinegar
2 tsp salt
Toss together and let marinated for at least one hour at room temperature or overnight refrigerated.

Greek “Greens” and Beans”
This is a ubiquitous dish in the Mediterranean; vital, simple, a clear reflection of the peasant diet. Can you gather your own dandelion greens? You bet. Just avoid gathering them by the side of the road because our friends at the NY D.O.T. are allowing many suspect chemicals to be sprayed in the roads these days in the name of safety---yes, the insurance lobby has its way with us!!

1 small can Gigante beans, or cannelini or kidney beans. or 1 cup dried.
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small ion, diced
olive oil
1 tbls chopped fresh dill
1 bay leaf
juice of one lemon
1 bunch dandelion greens, chickory or escarole ( about 1 lb)

Bring a pot of water to the boil, Salt well, so it tastes almost of sea water. the salt removes some of the bitterness.
Clean and chop the dandelion greens into 2 inch pieces.
Meanwhile in a heavy, large pan heat some olive oil and add the onions. Cook over medium heat to lightly caramelize them. Add the garlic and cook some more until golden around the edges.
Drain the beans and add them to the pan. Add the dill and bay leaf and saute lightly over medium low heat.
Not drop the greens into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Using a “spider” or mesh skimmer, remove the beans from he water and to the bean pan. Add abot 4 ounces of the greens water to the pan and turn up the heat.
Cook for 3-4 more minutes, or until the greens are nicely wilted tender. Garlic with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of fresh olive oil. Enjoy!

Crispy Skin Branzino with Skordalia ( Score-doll-YAH!)
Branzino is a small bass and one of the most popular fish in Greece. is is delicate, clean and lends itself to light Mediterranean cooking well. It is often served whole with herbs and lemon, but can also be filets. They are usually a little bigger than a trout so allow at least one fish per person for an entree portion, or one whole fish for 3-4 appetizer portions.
Skordalia is another on of those tangy, creamy greek dips. There are so many! This one is made with potatoes. It is yummy on its own with crudite or pita, and I really love it with grilled scallops!

Serve 4 as an appetizer
2 Branzino filets, skin on, cut into 4 equal-ish pieces
Have your fish monger ( even at Price Chopper) filet the branzino for you if you are scared.
Olive oil
2 tsp fresh thyme
juice of 2 lemons

1 large russet potato, scrubbed but not peeled
8 garlic cloves
1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup club soda
white pepper to taste

In salted water, boil the potato in its skin for 15-20 minutes or until done when pieced with a fork. Remove from the water and allow to cool.
In a food processor, puree the garlic, scraping down the sides. Add the vinegar and process into a smooth paste.
When the potato is cool enough to handle, chop into chunks and add to the processor. Puree well and drizzle the oil into the running machine. This will make a smooth paste.
Add the club soda and season with salt and white pepper to taste.
Hold warm.
Now, in a non stick or well seasoned skillet drizzle a little olive oil. Heat until shimmering.
Season the fish with salt and carefully place, skin side down into the hot oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until he skin is golden brown.
Turn over carefully, and turn off the pan
Add the lemon juice and fresh thyme and allow the fish to rest and finish cooking.
Put dollop of skordalia on each plate.
Place a piece of fish, skin side up on top of the skordalia.
Add a little more olive oil to the pan and swirl with the lemon, fish juices and thyme.
Drizzle a little of this jus over each filet. Eat!

Classic Greek Dessert of Yogurt and Macerated Fruit
This is a perfect sumer finish to a Mediterranean meal. Light, clean, also aids in digestion. you can use most any fruit here.
Serves 2
2 cups greek yogurt
2 cup fresh berries, pitted cherries, diced peaches or pears, dried apricots, figs or dates
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup sweet, white dessert wine like Greek Efreni, ice wine or NY State Vignoles
1 spring fresh mint
Whisk a little hone and cinnamon into the yogurt to taste.
Not too sweet, not too spiced!

Heat the water, wine and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the spring of mint. Cook for 5-10 minutes to reduce by about 25% in volume.
If using berries, pour the hot liquid over prepared berries and let marinate for 20 minutes at least.
If your harder fruit like pears or apples, add the diced, peeled fruit to the liquid and cook for an additional 10 minutes and allow to cool in liquid.
If using dried fruit like figs or apricots. double the water and allow to cook at a medium simmer for twenty minutes and allow to cool in liquid.
Make sure fruit has cooled.
Portion the yogurt into attractive vessels.
Spoon on fruit. Drizzle with some of the liquid

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eating the Neighborhood

I cook everything. I want to hang out and cook with everyone's Grandmother. I want to share their comfort and pride. I call my cooking Global Neighborhood Cuisine.  It is dedicated to the heritage of flavors brought to America. I love the concept that immigrants bring their idea of comfort food to America and open small shoestring budget restaurants to share it.  It is a great story.
Eating the Neighborhood is my story.

It was oddly warm and damp for a November afternoon as I prepared to zip to NYC and back in my muddy C-RV. I first did my usual morning chores at New World--bank shuffling, vendor groveling, personnel coddling--then sped off to Manhattan to a brain storming meeting with my new agent, Linda Epstein, and her boss Jenifer DiChiara. I have a previous connection to Linda. Her brother David is a friend from Woodstock. He is involved with the Indy program in our school district. No, not formula one racing car stuff, but Indy as in independent art, film, video etc. He is also a teacher. He's an all around nice sensitive guy, a foodie, and fun to hang around with. I met Linda at New World Home Cooking a few times over the last couple of years. She is a fan. She is also an editor turned agent. That is good. We have chatted in the past about teaming up. It is finally happening.

I arrived at East 32nd street, Suite 300-- a few minutes early and waited on a small polyester chair that could have been chopped from a Budget Rent-a-car Toyota Yaris. It didn't nearly fit my manly back and it made me itch. It also, when combined with my five block hurried walk from the parking lot, had me a little bit dewy with sweat. Thankfully, after three or four minutes, Linda and Jennifer emerged from behind the receptionist's cove, Linda chuckling happily.  I like people who laugh so freely. Linda has a strong Jewish face with nice lines and a sturdy structure. Her eyes are creased in a perpetual grin. Jennifer was short with milky skin and black hair. She wore only black and look like a grown up goth girl. We all meeted and greeted, and then journeyed three or four steps into a shoebox of a rental office that smelled oddly of Campbell's chicken soup. The previous tenant who smiled as he departed the room for us obviously enjoyed microwaved soup for lunch or had KFC farts.
Am I excited yet? 
We settled into the small darkish room around a brown table. I felt like I was in a college radio DJ booth. The girls sat on either side, Linda on my left and Jennifer on my right with me on the end. It was the only place I would fit. 
We quickly fell into an enthusiastic chat about what should be done with my media aspirations. Should we develop and market a TV cooking show, a reality show, a hybrid show, book, graphic novel, blog, kids’ book? And then of course we batted around the next step: which project first, which network to work? Yea, I can be a pain in the ass to marketers, but in a good way (I think). I have too many ideas. I guess I have a little Darren Stevens streak in me. I could spit out valid concepts rapid fire, keeping up with the best of ad men. What makes me different from a real ad man is that I truly love and believe in the possibility of every idea like it was my first puppy. 
We chatted around the table for precisely one hour. The discussion was well engaged and we all contributed, though I did talk a little too much as usual. We debated about whether we should focus the project on my love and knowledge of chiles and spice and my "Ric-Ter" scale, or my dedication to local, organic and "clean" food, or my life as a renegade Woodstock musician turned restaurateur, or .. or...or what?
The dial stopped spinning somewhere between the Clean Food concept and The Ric-ter Scale idea with some Woodstock history lubing the edges. They all had potential, but I left the meeting a little confused. I want to move forward, but I wasn't as sold on any of the ideas as they were. They all have merit, but the overall direction seemed lacking a hook. 

I left the office at 4:05 pm and hustled 5 blocks to my car. I dreaded being stuck in get-out-of-the-city hell. If, when I got to the West Side Highway the traffic was already jammed, I was resigned to parking the car in Chelsea and hanging out in the city until 6:30, eating, drinking and spending money, to avoid sitting in rush hour traffic. Fortunately, I jolted across town in astoundingly short time and got onto the West Side highway by 4:25. I shot north, passing cars and switching lanes left and right contrary to my normal driving habits. The aggressiveness paid off. I made it over the GWB and onto the Palisades Parkway before the 5 o'clock rush. What a relief.  I grabbed a coffee and a bag of insipid chili-lime pork rinds (too hard, not puffy, rude) at the Citgo and headed home to my country house, my wife Liz and our Portuguese Water Dog Gambit.

I made great time getting home, arriving at 6:40.  I was home before Liz, who stopped off at Hurley Ridge Market to get a couple of Campanelli's chickens on her way home from her law job in Poughkeepsie. When I hopped up the side stairs to the French doors the house was literally vibrating. Nautilus was practicing in the basement. Nautilus is a band. Our son Terry generously offers our basement to local death metal bands to rehearse in exchange for considerations we'd rather not know about, as long as they clear out the empties and are done playing by 7 PM.

Liz arrived right at 7, just as the music died. She dumped the groceries on the kitchen island and promptly took on the chore of concocting two blood orange-pomegranate martinis, chatting all the time about law office drama. I fell into restaurant mode, nodding and smiling. I cranked the convection oven to 475, whipped up a quick Moroccan rub; sea salt, fennel, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, coriander, cayenne, long pepper and cinnamon, then rubbed up the chickens with olive oil and some of the spice mix, stuffed each with a clementine split in half and slammed them in the oven to roast. Thirty-five minutes from heaven, I diced up an onion, some garlic, an eggplant (scored with a peeler but not fully peeled), a big carrot (oblique cut), a half dry Italian hot pepper from the garden and a red bell pepper. I dumped it all in a heavy pan with some olive oil and some of the spice mix. High heat. Once softened, I added the juice of a lemon and a clementine, a can of plum tomatoes (squished through my fingers) and a little water and let it simmer away. I also started a pot of brown rice (Liz is of the Gluten Free persuasion and cannot enjoy cous cous). The almost Moroccan meal was rolling in the oven and on two burners in the time it took Liz to suss out her issues with the blood orange juice and finish the drinks. She rejected it on the grounds that it was full of food coloring and sugar, then redesigned the martinis and got them into chilled glasses.
I set the oven timer for 30 minutes and we retreated to the cool leather couch in the formerly garage - now family-room to chill out and reflect upon our frenetic day.