Category Archives: GREEK CUISINE

WHEN “FUSION” IDEAS MAKE SENSE, SPAGHETTI WITH ALMOND OREGANO PESTO WITH LEMON AND FETA

003  FUSION CUISINE, for this home cook those words make me shudder.  Truth is I’m very closed minded about 95% of anything termed FUSION. They say good cooks need to have an open mind but let me explain myself here, and btw, my opinion is only …my opinion.  Even if I’m 100% right..LOL.  I believe Lidia Bastianich best said this, and I paraphrase..that food tastes best when the ingredients come from the same place.  Fusion when using that guideline can be a good thing.  The current craze in many 3d generation Italian American restaurants is the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe EGG ROLL.   Again, just my opinion, no thank you.  Chinese and Italian cooking have zero in common with each other on every level except they share the same regional philosophy of using great ingredients and they take great pride in their cuisines and their food culture.  I’ll enjoy the broccoli rabe and sausage filling inside of a fried calzone. That makes sense for me.  So…using that line of thinking..countries with different cuisines but sharing a general type of produce, weather, seafood, meats, etc..THOSE cuisines seem to be candidates for a fusion of sorts.  Let’s take the Mediterranean region rich in Olive Oil, Olives, similar seafoods, cheeses, produce, wines, herbs, fruits,nuts…with varying degrees many dishes are all decended from or related to other cuisines in the region.  Religious and local customs have created many of the subtle or not so subtle differences but whether it is Southern or Southeastern French, Corsican, Moroccan, Sicilian, Maltese, Tunisian, Israeli, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Italian, Dalmatian, Cypriot, Lebanese..well you get the idea…there’s a common thread in the region’s cuisine which then allows for lack of a better term, some “fusion”.  When the cuisines are unrelated fusion, for me, is disastrous.

Fresh herbs are part of the Summer season so…here’s a fusion of Greek and Italian ideas in a wonderfully bright and satisfying pasta dish…SPAGHETTI WITH ALMOND OREGANO PESTO with FETA AND LEMON.    Let’s cook!!!

SERVES:  4-6                       TIME: 1/2 hour

1 lb IMPORTED ITALIAN SPAGHETTI (or other long pasta) cooked al dente according to package directions

1/2 CUP FRESH OREGANO LEAVES, packed well..no stems, make sure leaves are gently cleaned

1 TBS. DRIED OREGANO

1/8 CUP FRESH CHOPPED ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY

1/4 CUP TOASTED UNSALTED ALMONDS

1/8 CUP GRATED PARMIGIANO REGGIANO

3 ROUGH CHOPPED PEELED GARLIC CLOVES

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

1 TSP. LEMON ZEST

1/4 CUP OF GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1/3 CUP OF GOOD QUALITY FETA CHEESE, CRUMBLED OR DICED, IMPORTED GREEK WOULD BE BEST

KOSHER SALT

FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER

Using a food processor, add the herbs, lemon juice and zest, garlic, and almonds.  Pulse until they are all crushed.  DON’T over pulse.  Next, slowly add the Olive Oil in stream while the blade is processing.  It should look like a pesto now, nice and smooth.  Now add the feta, reserving a little for garnish, and gently pulse until is somewhat blended in.  TASTE, based on what you think, add salt if necessary to taste and add about 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper.  Gently pulse. NOW..leave it out at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions in well salted water and only till AL DENTE. Drain. At that point, pour the pesto over the pasta a gently blend well. Top with some Feta and fresh sprigs of Oregano, even a little squeeze of lemon would be nice. Done..  Enjoy.

So here’s some sidebars…never cook pesto. ever.  If pesto is off colored it means it’s old or was cooked..make your own.  Herbs are one of the cheapest foods out there in the summer unless you are growing your own, even better.  The Consistency of the pesto even with the most exact and tested recipes can vary. If you find the pesto is too thick as more Olive Oil and Lemon juice to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Don’t over do the oil though as it will separated out from the mixture and it will get “oily”.  Mint (fresh) is an alternative to the grassy green flavor of the Parsley.  Feel free to use!  Fresh Thyme is another herb to use but it’s quite strong so don’t use too much of that.

Enjoy this sunny dish from my kitchen to yours!!

 

LEMON AND OREGANO GREEK BAKED CHICKEN..KOTA RIGANATI

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Much of my inspiration for cooking comes from the immediate world around me and this KOTA RIGANATI, Greek Baked Lemon and Oregano Chicken is no exception.  At a recent local Greek Festival (the Jersey Shore Greek Festival at St.George’s Greek Orthodox Church) there was a vast array of all the most popular Greek dishes here in America.  Although I didn’t chose it, the tray of Kota Riganati stuck with me and never left…( a food obsession indeed!) until I cooked the dish myself.  At the risk of sounding like that semi-homemade cooking hack Sandra Lee you will love the ease of this one.  The chicken is always on the bone, generally a full split chicken, which is my preference, but not a large one..or a whole cut chicken.  The bird is marinated in a mix of fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried oregano (Greek would be best!), Olive Oil (Greek would be best!!) and garlic. There is a harmony of all the ingredients, not too lemony, oily, salty, herb-y or garlicky.  I love garlic, I hate overuse of garlic where it’s the ONLY flavor you taste. Balance.  It’s what you strive for with your dishes with some flavors take front stage but not punching you in the teeth.  Make sense?   Good.

The dish is cooked with potatoes so I will include that in this recipe.  You will thank me for all of this!!

Let’s Cook!

This will feed 4-5 and will take up to 12 hours if you factor in the overnight marinating or 2 hours start to finish if you decide to not marinate.  Up to you. more flavor though when you marinade this.

3 lbs of a medium sized chicken, NOT an Oven-Stuffer type. either whole, but I prefer it split, or cut into 8 pieces

1/3 cup of Greek Olive Oil (if possible, if not a good fruity one will work, you want pronounced Olive flavor)

Kosher salt, Ground Black Pepper

2 finely minced cloves of garlic

1/4 stick of unsalted butter cut into a small dice

1 tbs. of dried Oregano  (again, be authentic if you can, find Greek oregano)

Juice of 2 lemons

1/2 tsp of sweet paprika

3 potatoes peeled and sliced into wedges or cubes, let them sit in salted water until you are ready to use them, you will do this on the day you cook the chicken

 

Pat the chicken down (sound racy doesn’t it?) with paper towels..season with salt and pepper liberally.  Whisk together all the ingredients except the potatoes of course.  Pour over the chicken in a non-reactive pan and make sure they are completely coated and sitting in the marinade. Cover tightly and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, optimally, overnight will impart the most flavor.kotariganati 005

If marinating for a longer period of time, take the chicken out of the fridge at least one hour before you are going to cook it.  This helps the chicken to cook more evenly.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Make sure the chicken is SKIN SIDE UP or you risk having rubber chicken skin which is foul (or fowl in this case..sorry, couldn’t resist that corny joke).  Place into the middle rack of the oven and check on it in 15 minutes.  Is it browning yet?  If not, close the oven and at the 20 minute mark you should definitely have started browning on the skin.  At this point add the potatoes to the bottom of the pan around the chicken and lower the heat to 325 degrees F.  Make sure the potatoes are all coated in the juices.  Top the chicken with the butter pieces , season with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper and bake uncovered for 1 to 1 1/4 hours .  The chicken juices should run clear and the potatoes should be browned on top and very tender.  That’s it. You are done…a nice Greek Wine with this, a spinach salad maybe? It’s really very delicious.

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I like my cooking to take me back to somewhere I’ve been or where I’d like to go. Imagine yourself on a terrace in Fira, Santorini looking out at the Mediterranean Sea (actually the Aegean) and sit back and relax..You can certainly imagine that from you kitchen table.  This pic was taken in August of 2006 on a family trip to the Greek Isles.

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