Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Joyous Season with a Guest Post

Over the last year,  I 've learned that blogging is like music and you need to play many tunes and several instruments in harmony and coordination to produce music that sounds perfect. As we draw towards the end of another successful year of cooking, I am introducing a new tune ---a guest post from both my daughters N and V.

On Christmas day, my husband R and I had the pleasant experience of being served this wonderful meal made from scratch by our children!  We appreciate the simple menu of pimento cheese finger sandwiches, Cioppino, crusty garlic bread, garden salad and a multitude of good wines ending with a Chocolate Souffle.  The sizzling hot seafood soup and sandwiches were so decadent that it made all the Christmas gifts look faded and unimportant. All the time I was saying to myself maybe I can sitback and relax for the rest of the years!! Is this my big break from the kitchen? Do you think they will let me get away with no more cooking at Christmas? Perhaps I can get out of cooking big dinners for the Holidays next year?

Anyway, today's theme is about the making of this meal in their own words, so with tremendous pride and joy I introduce N and V ............

"Hi this is a guest post written by V and N. We've been reading our mom's food blog and are so happy that she's taken this new endeavor on. For Christmas this year, we decided to make dinner for our parents. Usually our mom takes on the task of the Christmas meal. Last year, N helped out our mom, but this year we both decided to take dinner into our own hands. V came up with the idea of Ciopinno and N decided to make the crusty bread and salad. After watching Food Network, V had a craving for pimento "sammies".

Mini sandwiches made with homemade pimento cheese. Pimento cheese is quite commonly seen in grocery stores in the south, but we decided to make our own, as starters for our Christmas dinner! N bought the ingredients for the pimento sammies while V went on a trek to acquire the many complicated ingredients for the Ciopinno.

The local asian market proved to be the best place to get fresh seafood. We also decided to get the mixers to make some cocktails with Pisco and Vodka. The drinking began with the preparation of the Giada Cioppino, which made cooking the dish a whole lot more fun :) There was a lot of youtubing involved with figuring out how to clean all the seafood...deveining the shrimp, "debearding" a mussel. We were scared what improper "debearding" would cause for consumption of the mussels but we pressed forward. The clams and fish were the easiest to deal with. Clams merely require a rigorous scrubbing and cleaning, and since cod is boneless we just chopped up the filets and put them into the simmering cioppino broth. After much cleaning, chopping and simmering....a delicious concoction was created. Here's what it looked like..............."

The Chocolate Souffle is a Bailey's version of the Godiva Chocolate Souffle recipe which I have changed a bit to make it more chocolatey...the original recipe can be found here

 It is almost the last day of this month and 2011, I bid you good bye until next year, and Thank You for a wonderful dinner N and V!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

#175 Holiday Mithruffles from Paal Khoa

Have you ever wondered why red, green and gold are the colors of Christmas? Well, there is some in-depth meaning to them.  Many hundreds of years ago, Green was considered the color of life because people noticed that fir trees and holly bushes survived the winter much better than most other plants. They were thought of as ever green because something magical kept them strong through the harsh
winter. They were worshipped and feared and became associated with the color of life.  While red represents the blood of Christ and gold represents the gift of gold from one of the Three Kings.

Anyway, the days have been swinging by with Holiday cheer, gifts are all wrapped, the tree is brightly lit in my living room, the eggnog has been poured into goblets and the soft music of "Silent night holy night...." is playing faraway.  Cookies and milk from last night have been wiped out, with just a few remaining crumbs left by Santa on the plate,  and we are ready to open our gifts. The aroma of hot cocoa and melting chocolate wafting in from the kitchen truly makes it smell like Christmas:).

'Home is the essence of Christmas' and home is where I want to be on this day...but I've forgotten one thing this year and that's my Holiday platter of cookies. So today I'm treating my family to Truffles and coffee. Right after opening gifts, then breakfast, followed by truffles and coffee, we are going to N's for the Christmas Meal. ..........

What are Mithruffles? Paal Khoa is concentrated milk and sugar, slow cooked until the milk fat solidifies into a sticky delicious concoction used to make Mithais and hence the name. The phenomenal taste of the creamy milk solids enhanced by the bits of crumbled pistachios make an exquisite truffle platter perfect for Christmas or any other Holiday!!

Whole Fat Milk- 1 litre
Sugar- 1 1/2 cups
Butter- 3 Tblspns
Roasted, shelled pistachios- 1/2 cup
Slivered Almonds- 1 cup
Your favorite colored sprinkles, chocolate sprinkles can be used too.

1. In a heavy bottomed crockpot, place the Whole milk and sugar and let it come slowly
to a boil. When the milk starts boiling, keep stirring the milk to make sure it does not burn or
stick to the bottom of the pan. If it sticks to the bottom, it will cause an unpleasant smoky flavor to the milk.
2. Keep this boiling on a slow flame stirring often until a thick soft solid is formed. Now, add all the butter and keep stirring until the solids are thickened enough to leave the sides of the pot. Remove from fire and cool.
3. When the above mixture is cool enough to handle, make sure the mass is hard enough to roll into balls. These can be rolled into small balls just like the traditional truffles made from melted chocolate.
4. Roll the balls in any or several different toppings. I've used pistachios, almonds and red sprinkles. But toasted coconut, chocolate,cocoa or  any Holiday sprinkles may be used.

Friday, December 23, 2011

#174 Minty Chicken Keftethes or Greek Meat Balls

These Keftethes or Greek meatballs are deliciously light with ground chicken and delicately flavored with loads of fresh parsley and mint. The name is derived from the Turkish word Kofte and also similar to the Hindi Kofta. I used chicken and broiled them as I usually do with most of my deep fried recipes. However
the meatballs maintained thier moist, juicy and deliriously good interior texture and needless to say they were just sinfully good. Traditionally they are served with Tsatziki Sauce but I tossed them in a sauce made from a can of diced tomatoes in garlic after reducing it down with salt and a pinch of sugar. These were the highlight of my Greek Mezze!

•2 lbs. ground chicken
•2 onions, finely chopped or grated
•2 cloves garlic, finely minced
•1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
•1 tbsp. dried mint
•1-cup breadcrumbs
•2 tbsp. grated cheese
•1/2 cup milk
•1 egg, lightly beaten
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
•Olive oil cooking spray or olive oil for brushing

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with either the cooking spray or brushed on olive oil.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Roll the meat mixture into balls about the size of a walnut. Place on greased baking sheet about an inch apart.
Bake in 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes, turning the meatballs midway through the cooking time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#173 Smoke Free and Sweet Baklava Cigars

This dessert is an inspiration from a recipe I read at Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade on the Food Network. I have made this my own with the addition of a mixture of nuts and making a light syrup with Orange juice and honey to pour over the little rolls converting a wonderful recipe into a total knockout dessert and a great ending to my Greek Mezze!! 
I am posting this recipe to catch up on my Greek Mezze menu that I promised ya'll earlier.... besides it would be an ideal treat for entertaining guests at Christmas this weekend...

Just like a cigar to a smoker, this cigar is a guilty pleasure providing instant gratification to anyone with a sweet tooth.  I felt like a kid again.... the sticky goeey syrup and crumbly nuts, the flaky layers will convince guests to go back for seconds, thirds and even four cigars and that too without the smoke:)

Butter-flavored cooking spray
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup pistachios
1/4 cup Cashew nuts
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 powdered nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup honey, divided
Orange extract- 1/4 tspn
12 sheets phyllo dough
1/2 cup Orange juice
1 Tblspn Honey
1 Tspn Sugar

The filling and how to roll the Cigars.....................

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a cookie sheet with butter flavored spray. Reserve.
2. In a food processor, combine all three nuts. Pulse to coarsely chop. Add butter, cinnamon, and sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. Place 1 sheet of phyllo on a flat work surface, short side facing you. Spray with butter flavored spray. Repeat with second layer.
Spread 1/3 of nut mixture over the dough, leaving a 1-inch margin at the top and bottom.
4. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons honey.
5. Cover with a layer of phyllo, spray with butter-flavored spray. Repeat with second layer of phyllo. Spray with butter-flavored spray.
6.Starting from the bottom, roll up into a thin cylinder (like a cigar) to the top.
7. Seam-side down, cut crossways into 5 sections. Transfer to baking sheet, seam side down. Spray with butter-flavored spray. Repeat with second and third batch.
8. Bake until crust is evenly golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
9. Make a light syrup by mixing the syrup ingredients together in a small bowl, drizzle 3 tablespoons syrup over the golden rolls and serve.

Monday, December 19, 2011

From The Grand Splendour of the Backwaters ................To Kerala with Love

I am back home in Virginia after my India trip......
The last few weeks have flown by as if in a trance. The buzz of excitement and energy has sort of worn me down, the days of basking in the sun are on hold and I am back to dark winter weather, but the
good part is that it is the most wonderful time of the year around here-- Christmas!!. Nevertheless, I had a lovely time rushing from the homes of relatives to those of dear friends, malls to restaurants and
tasting street fare to Mom's home made food. Journeying to few distant towns in the excuse of visiting religious temples, stopping to do some sightseeing at tourist spots taking in as much of nature as I could
in the short time. In spite of the bumpy road trips, the hustle and noise ordinarily found in boisterous streets, it is always lovely to visit Kerala. I can see why Kerala's unique geographical features make it the
most sought after tourist destination in Asia. An equable climate, the long shoreline with beaches and emerald backwaters, sprawling plantations and rice fields, ayurvedic centers, historic and cultural
monuments, divine cuisine and charming destinations make it "God's own country", the best part is that we enjoy all the luxury of modern technology. The rides were a bit exhausting on the road, and finally I
understood why my younger daughter V had once described the bumpy autorikshaw ride as a "roller coaster" experience. LOL! She must have been about six years old when she made that announcement,
and her perspective is true. 

Tropical weather at its best--- the afternoon sun at its peak, the heat balanced by the cooling breeze from the swaying palm trees
 I shrugged the exhaustion off with all the excitement of R's nephew's wedding just before I was returning to the US. A wedding in India is incredibly would be an understatement to say that it
meant a time to rejoice with the entire family! Another reason to meet extended family I hadn't seen in ages. A family re-union accompanied by traditional before and after wedding ceremonies made a real celebration a good way to end the vacation.
Kochi has expanded beyond belief with the inaugaration of the Emmanuval Silks building, a shoppers paradise! The Gold Souk Grande Mall and the Oberon Mall in Kochi have turned into interesting hangouts with a plethora of food at the food court. You get to choose from Pizza Hut, KFC chicken and International food, popular in the area. The whole time I was in Kerala, I opted for nothing other than authentic Kerala Cuisine anything that fell in the category of 'local countryside cooking'. Shopping is the only form of excercise I participated in, mostly walking inside Malls. 

Any conception of a good portioned diet is almost impossible to follow when you are faced with real authentic South Indian delicacies!! Amma also decided to cook up a few of my old time favorite dishes. The
ideal meal where all the typical food from my childhood came to life was just heavenly. The joy of indulging in desserts, meals cooked with fresh vegetables and freshly caught fish all hard to resist and I was out to dig in and enjoy!!! Now, here's a small sample of Mom's food

Fish Mappas and Steamed Yuca root

Crispy Deep fried fresh Sardines

King fish Sections Fried in Spices

Shredded Masala Chicken Empanadas

A small sized white flesh fish "Netholi" and a local favorite in Kerala cooked in an earthen pot with coconut sauce.
Aahhh the guilty pleasures, the instant gratification of a healthy appetite and relaxatiion has definitely taken a toll on me. In conclusion I have turned into a lazy cook and gained some extra pounds!! Friends, would you believe me if I said.. I could barely get into my kitchen this morning to  get a fresh cup of coffee?  While recovering from 'jetlag' and surrendering to carry out pizza and Chinese in the last two days, I am 'charging up' and will be back soon with new until next time Kerala
Au revoir!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Not quite a Smorgasbord!!

Its Thanksgiving and if your'e like me you just finished digging into the side dishes and completely ignored the centerpiece-the roast bird.  We celebrate with the quintessential roast Turkey and lots
of sides giving thanks for tons of terrific vegetables and side dishes. All day the center of attention was the meal I've  been planning for a few days, just so that everyone is equally happy with their favorites and I think I made my goal! I made a simple meal since I will be going overseas tomorrow.  While you cannot go wrong with the traditional turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and vegetables, I love to think of ways to put a different spin on the standard Thanksgiving dinner. I've eliminated the mashed potatoes and stuffing. But here's to Macaroni and cheese, ravioli, Orange-cranberry sauce and gravy for the meal, and greens have taken over the green bean casserole. It's really hard to find a bird that is less than 13 pounds so if I were to roast one it would leave us tons of left overs to disperse and so I went with an organic turkey breast!!

This time I got a small organic turkey breast slathered it with herb butter after the overnight brining process.  I used about 3 liters of water, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup salt, 2 Tablespoons whole black pepper, 4 cloves and 1 large stick of rosemary.  Let the mixture boil well, cool until it is room temperature. Place the Turkey breast in it and refrigerate for 24 hours. The next day, remove the turkey from the water and pat dry. The Moisture has now been retained inside and you are now ready to marinate with herbed butter or spiced butter or any flavors of your choice and then roast to perfection basting the juices along the roasting process.

After all this, would you be surprised if I said that Turkey is not R's favorite bird to roast? The girls and I agree that our favorites are the Orange-Cranberry Sauce with a slice of moist turkey, Greens, Butternut squash ravioli and Pecan Pie with fresh whipped cream.. Yumm.....  Last year I designed my Thanksgiving meal around Indian spices rubbing it all over the bird before roasting it. The bird looked heavenly on the table but now the display is less  like Thanksgiving!!

As usual, we go through good times and bad but this year had its share of ups and downs too. So when I go over the events since last Thanksgiving, I am surely thankful for recouperating from the Earth Quake, surviving Natural calamities like hurricanes, and the Snowmageddon Blizzard I drove in for hours just to get home. I am happy just to be together with my family.
I apologize for not posting all of my Greek Mezze recipes yet. But before I get to my Butternut Squash Ravioli photos and the rest of the Thanksgiving meal,  I must leave you all for a short time.  I am flying to India tomorrow to spend a couple of weeks with my Mother at the same time enjoy her home cooked meals!!! I promise to have interesting photos of my travel and new recipes when I get back !!
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

#172 Dolmathakia or Mini Stuffed Grape Leaves

Dolmathakias are mini dolmades or stuffed grape leaves with as many variations on recipes. I used the same tender grape leaves and wrapped these little parcels into small dolmades. It was easy for me since I purchased pre-prepared grape leaves in a bottle.

Instead of using the traditional filling of rice, I used quinoa and crumbled sausage and my version also has goat cheese for a creamy texture making it perfect for special occasions.  Unlike other recipes for stuffed grape leaves, this one calls for sautéing/ grilling. This is off my Greek Mezze!!

•1/2 jar of grape leaves (30-35 leaves)
•1/4 cup of quinoa cooked
•1 teaspoon of ground cumin
•1 medium/small tomato, peeled, seeded, cut in small cubes
•1/8 cup of fresh parsley, finely chopped and 2 Tblspn fresh dill chopped.
•1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil (+ a little more for brushing)
•1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
•8 oz goat cheese, crumbled
•sea salt
•freshly ground black pepper
•1/2 cup cooked, crumbled sausage

1. Rinse the grape leaves well and separate. Place in a baking pan and cover with boiling water. Let sit until the water cools a little (about 8-10 minutes). Rinse well under cold running water and drain. Dry each leaf individually, and remove stem. Set leaves aside, on absorbent paper towels.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the quinoa, and the cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste and allow to sit about 5 minutes. Transfer to a larger bowl and add tomatoes, parsley, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, crumbled cheese and cooked,crumbled sausage and lemon juice. Combine well and add more salt and pepper. The mixture should be slightly salty.
3. Place a grape leaf on a clean work surface, shiny side down. Place 1 teaspoon of the quinoa mixture on top. Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the filling, fold the sides in, brushing with a little olive oil to help seal, and roll to form a small packet. Place seam side down and continue to make the rest.
4. Brush the dolmathakia with olive oil. Cook on a preheated grill or fry in a non-stick frying pan for 2 minutes on each side, until they start to brown.
When cooking, start with seam side up, then turn and finish seam side down. Take care when turning so as not to break.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#171 Melitzana me Yiaourti or Eggplant Dip with Yogurt

Don't let the name "Melitzana me Yiaourti" throw you off, it is one of the easiest and most versatile dips I have tasted. The refreshing eggplant dip with Greek yogurt is so versatile that it can be eaten with almost anything... veggies, crackers or bread and also called Baba Ghanouj. As you read this recipe you will also see how easily you can make it in five steps and that too with very few ingredients. The addition of strained Greek yogurt and Tahini(Sesame Paste) nurtures the roasted eggplant mash to 'dip' perfection.
Smooth and creamy, my Melitzana me Yiaourti was a clean bowl hit with my family and I served this creamy smooth dip with Rosemary-Sundried tomato bread as part of my Greek Mezze!!

•2 round eggplants
•3 tablespoons of Greek extra virgin olive oil
•juice of 1 lemon
•2 tablespoons of tahini
•1 cup of strained Greek yogurt
•salt to taste
•1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
A pinch of Paprika and 1 tspn Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Before I get to the steps on how to make this incredibly delicious dip, I must take some time to mention Sonali Pradhan from, who has been so generous as to send me this award. I am truly humbled and accept it with great honor. Thank You Sonali:)

It would be a shame if I didn't pass it on to five of my foodie friends. I have so many people who inspired me it is hard to pick five from the crowd.  But you have drawn me to return to your blogs so much so that I just keep coming back to see what you've conjured up every week. I am never dissappointed because there is always something deliciously divine waiting for me:)

Jessica from
Charles from
Jay from
Divya from
Sarah from

To keep the ball rolling..................
1. Please accept the award. Post it in your blog with the name of the blogger who has given you this award with a link to his/her blog.
2.Be generous and pass it on to 5 other blogger friends.
3. Inform the nominated blogger by leaving acomment in their most recent post to let them know about the award. It's a good feeling to be recognized:)

1. I pierced the eggplant with a fork and broiled them for 10-15 minutes until the eggplant turned black and was very soft. (Alternatively, char it on the grill, or over an open flame.)
2. Set to cool on a rack with paper towels underneath. Peel as soon as they can be handled.
3. Place one eggplant at a time in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add olive oil and lemon juice and mix well with a wire whisk.
4. Add tahini and whisk until thoroughly blended. Add yogurt and continue to whisk. Add salt to taste.
5. Place dip in a serving bowl, sprinkle with parsley, paprika and olive oil and chill before serving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#170 Spanakopita or Greek Spinach Turnovers

An authentic Greek, really rich spinach and feta cheese turnover that can be made like a pie and used as a main meal or as packaged turnovers served on a Greek Mezze Menu.  This savory pastry enfolded in layers of buttery, crispy, flaky phyllo dough turned out ridiculously good and I was happy with the results .
From my Greek Mezze

•10 ounces lbs. chopped  frozen spinach
•1/4 cup olive oil
•1 large onion, diced
•1 bunches green onions, diced
•1/4 cup dill and parsley, chopped
•1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
•1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
•2 eggs, lightly beaten
•1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
•1/4 cup butter, melted
•1/4 cup olive oil
•1/2 lb. phyllo pastry sheets
1.Take the frozen spinach, thaw completely and squeeze out excess water. Spinach should be completely dry.
2.Heat the olive oil in a deep saute pan or large dutch oven. Saute the onions and green onions until tender.
3. Add the spinach, parsley, and dill and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the spinach is wilted and heated through.
4. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
5. If using frozen spinach, you will want to cook until excess moisture evaporates. Spinach mixture should be on the dry side.
Remove from heat and set the spinach aside to cool.
6. In a large mixing bowl, combine the feta, eggs, and grated cheese. Add the cooled spinach mixture and mix until combined.
7. Combine the melted butter with the olive oil in a seperate bowl.

Unwrap the Phyllo:
8. Carefully remove the Phyllo roll from the plastic sleeve. Most packages come in 12 x 18 inch sheets when opened fully.
Using a scissor or sharp knife, cut the sheets in half to make two stacks of 9x12 inch sheets.
9. To prevent drying, cover one stack with wax paper and a damp paper towel while working with the other.

Prepare the Turnover:
10. Layer about 6 sheets on top of a cutting board or flat surface making sure to brush each sheet with the butter/olive oil mixture. Going Lengthwise, cut the layered rectangle into half. Now you have two long strips.
11. Add a Tablespoon of the spinach mixture in a corner of each of these strips and shape in a traingle. Fold starting from the corner of the phyllo where you placed the spinach mixture making a small triangle.

12. Forming a triangle; keep folding back and forth into a triangle to the end of strip.Brush with melted oil mixture.

13. Repeat with more layers and make turnovers until you run out of the spinach mixture. Now place them on a baking sheet about an inch apart seam side down.

14. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the turnover turns a slight golden brown.  approximately 20 to 25 minutes of cooking time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

#169 Bedtime Stories around the Greek Mezze Table Rosemary Tomato Foccaccia

The food we eat says something about us and how we want to live or so they say.  Of course, we are what we eat and eat we must!! But how do you celebrate a birthday, anniversary or any other occasion? what matters most is the exceptional food isn't it? good qualtiy meals and desserts to match just to celebrate life's best moments!! Of course, R and I do not need an excuse to celebrate with food and we live for the moment we call it "everyday pleasures for health and happiness"!LOL.

Anyway, destiny brought us together 30 plus years ago!! So on our----- th anniversary this weekend here's a heartwarming, refreshingly uncomplicated meal we enjoyed together.  R and I had dinner at Marcel's in downtown DC where French food is cooked delicately to perfection and served artfully to you. The final touch was when they brought out the Mission Fig and Almond Tartine with Happy Anniversary painted in chocolate !!..Very nice of the waiters there.. Thank You Marcel's.
The girls were home for Sunday dinner and we could continue talking about a subject that had once come up--story telling and why it is so interesting to everyone.  Who doesn't like stories? From ancient Greek, Roman and Buddhist to Hindu Mythology the concepts are quite similar in that they have been passed down from generation to generation through carefully stored scriptures. OK maybe the characters and places are varied, but the beliefs, dreams and fears felt in these stories are universal. The stories in Hindu Mythology vary from subtle tales of the Panchatantra to the Bhagvad Gita, Ramayana and Mahabharata(religious books mostly about Gods and Goddesses). 

Stories such as these have been told and cherished over many generations and are bound to be read until eternity. They do fire up our imagination to identify what is virtous, fair, good or beautiful. Lingering memories of traditional stories from around the world help us discover what we value most highly, fear most deeply or maybe learn a valuable lesson or two?

The significance of literary epics on the lives of people may not be noticeable these days, but many folks derive some inspiration  from stories of heroism and bravery applying it to daily life. Everyday, we hear stories and News broadcasts of heroism and people saving the lives of others. Whether they're myths, urban legends, fables or fairytales there's always at least one lesson we remember many years after reading it!

When we talk about Greek Mythology we also talk about Greece. The love of good food is universal and the people of Greece especially love leisure and excellent food !! But the epitome of Greek entertaining is the Meze table where friends and family gather together for small plates of food, appetizer style with drinks. So what better way to celebrate a wedding anniversary than to get together to spend an evening of conversation and laughter over delectable food. Mezze literally means a taste or a bite - not an appetizer nor hors d'ouvres but small plates . So I've brought Greece to my table today although small plates could never satisfy my family it was a memorable evening!!  The table was spread with shareable portions of hot or cold, spicy, savory dishes. Succulent vegetarian and meat dishes that we took time to relish, relaxing with  warm exotic tea. 

Camomile is the best tea to be served on such ocassions, but you know what is even more flavorful---Mint and Honey Tea!! Some of the recipes here were sourced from Lynn Livanos but with many little twists of my own.
My Greek Mezze spread

1. Rosemary and Sundried Tomato Foccaccia
(Some of you may say "Now that is Italian!",  but feel free to use Pita bread instead)
2. Dolmathakia
3. Keftethes in Tomato
4. Spanakopita
5. Melitzana me Yiaourti or Eggplant Dip with Yogurt
6. Baklava Rolls
7. Mint Honey Tea

This post is the first of a series of Greek recipes from my Greek Mezze Menu.The recipe stream starts flowing with Rosemary and Sundried Tomato Foccaccia in this post, but come back and keep reading for the next few weeks I will introduce you to every recipe in the picture above, and also my Baklava Cigars that didn't quite make it in this photo since they were browning in the oven !!!

Wait, before we go straight to the recipe, do you remember reading Hans Christian Anderson's and Aesops' Fairy Tales as a child and in turn reading a few of them to your children? As a child, I remember stories read from Anderson's Fairytales, but did you know that it was an actual English translation from the Danish original? Don't you think some classic stories like the Little Mermaid, The Princess on the Pea and the Ugly Duckling never lost their charm? The author Hans Christian Anderson was born and raised in Odense, Denmark and his father(a poor shoemaker) despite his lack of formal education loved literature and read aloud to Hans from simple books. This encouraged him to read and learn further, however his father passed away when he was eleven years. At that time, he was forced to support his family leaving school and going to work in the local factories. He was lucky to have a good singing voice, so he ended up working at the local theater. Soon, the governor of the Royal Theater financed Hans with a grant allowing him to study at a grammar school. Hans hated that only because he was 17 and was placed in a class of 12 yr olds.  Being bullied and ridiculed,  he had to go to a private tutor to make it through school. He finally completed University education at 23 yrs and openly chose writing as his career. Hans Anderson never married but he fell in love with many women and as a result wrote his stories based on them. In his own words his stories were "exactly as I would tell them to a child", and so he had a personal touch to all his stories and every character was from real life.

Does anyone remember the story of the foolish Lion and clever Rabbit? Another classic story parents read to children over the years back in India. A ferocious lion or King of the forest who decided to kill one animal at a time and ended killing almost all the animals. The last few remaining animals in the forest were devastated. There was a wise old rabbit who cleverly convinced the Lion that he had a competitor and another Lion was challenging his supremacy. When the Lion demanded to see the location of his challenger the wise rabbit took him to a deep well filled with water and asked him to look down. The lion lost his temper in an effort to attack his challenger he plunged into the well ends up killing himself. Needless to say, the animals live happily
ever after! What a pleasant ending to the story. 

This fable is from the Panchatantra -a collection of Indian fables written in Sanskrit featuring animals in morally instructive tales. The lessons from stories such as this improve mature thinking and are critical to the growth of young minds- themes of beauty, brotherly love, cleverness, disobedience, greed, happiness, love, patience, generosity and virtues that go into the growth of a healthy human.
The Panchatantra is one of the earliest collections of tales/fables written in India more than 2500 yrs ago. The work is divided into five books(Pancha=five, Tantra=parts). The Panchatantra tales written for the sons of kings were used by learned Brahmins to teach the art of kingship and worldly wisdom. The five topics are (1) disunion of friends, (2) gaining of friends, (3) war and peace, (4) loss of possession, (5) consequence of rash action. It is said that the book's original text is no longer existent. The oldest version was circulated in the West and now there are adaptations and translations in Persian and other languages out of which the most influential was the Latin version called the Directorium vitae humanae(Manual of Instructions for
human life). A few traces of the stories from this book can also be found in the fairy tales of Brothers Grimm.
Here's a short story from the Panchatantra called the Three Fishes, that recently caught my attention...
Once there lived three little fishes in a pond in India. One evening, some fishermen passing by the pond saw that it was full of fish. They were so happy.
'We have never fished here, so we must return first thing tomorrow with our nets and fish right here" , so saying they left for home.
When the eldest of the three fishes heard this, he was troubled, He called the rest of the fish together and said, "Did you hear what the fishermen said?
We must leave this pond at once before they return and kill us all!'
The second fish agreed with him " You are absolutely right", he said. "We must leave the pond immediately".
However, the youngest and bravest fish laughed."No need to panic friends", he said. "We have lived in this pond all our lives, and no fishermen has ever
come by. Why do you think these men will return? I am not going anywhere--- my luck will keep me safe."
By the end of the day, the eldest of the fishes left the pond with his entire family. The second fish waited for dawn. When he saw the fishermen coming
in the distance he too left taking with him his relatives and family. The third fish refused to leave and decided to keep his kingdom.
The fishermen on the other hand arrived, spread the nets and caught all the remaining fish in the pond. The third little fish was out of luck this time--he too was caught and killed.  The lesson learned is that the fish who saw trouble and fled before it arrived as well as the fish who acted as soon as it approached both survived.
But the fish who relied only on luck and did nothing about it all died.

It is such an ancient story but doesn't the lesson still hold true in the Modern World? Doesn't it remind you of an imaginary illustration of the Origin of Species and Charles Darwin's Theory of "Survival of the Fittest"?

Now for my first recipe .................

Rosemary and Sundried Tomato Foccaccia

2 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 T honey
 1 - 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1-2 T oil from the jar of sun dried tomatoes
6-7 pieces of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 T chopped fresh rosemary

How To:
1. Let the yeast bloom in 1 1/4 cup water and a little sugar until frothy.
2. Now, Sift flours into the large bowl of the electric mixer with a paddle attachment.
3. Add the yeast, rosemary, Sundried tomatoes, salt and the rest of the yeast water.
4. Mix on low speed and add water if needed to make a soft and slightly sticky dough.
5. Turn onto lightly floured board and knead well for at least 10 minutes. until the
dough is smooth and elastic. Add a little dusting of flour if needed and leave the dough a bit sticky.
6. Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow

to rest until doubled. When it is double in size, when your finger depression stays that way without bouncing back, remove and knead for another 5 minutes. Let rise again until double in size.

7. Now, shape into a flattened bread or foccaccia and score the top with a blade or sharp knife.
8. Let rise until this dough is double in size and very light. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes.
9. Remove and dust with flour lightly. Bake for another 20 minutes until done.

10. Test by tapping the bottom of the bread, if it sounds hollow it is done. Slice and enjoy with Eggplant Dip(Coming Soon)

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