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)


  1. Congratulations on the XX anniversary:) One of the nicest breads I have ever eaten was made with sundried tomato. I have not been able to replicate it. It wasn't focaccia but this recipe looks great

  2. Happy Anniversary!! Many More!!
    I think as we get older, what is left but eating? Not quite that bad, but food does play an important part in our lives.

    Your bread looks amazing. MMMmmm I need to go get something to eat before I try to eat your food off my computer screen.

  3. Thank you for your good wishes and kind words.
    My Journey with Candida,
    You are so we get older food 'rules'!! LOL:)

  4. Delicious food spread, love everything you made. Thanks for visiting my blog. You have a wonderful blog too.

  5. WOW!! Your foccacia looks amazing!! And I loooove dolmas! Did you make those, too? If so, brave girl! haha, I have yet to be brave enough to make them, I just buy 'em :P

  6. Happy Anniversary! This is quite the spread :)

  7. beautiful pics and very nice recipe... welcome, so glad you like the cakes, yup, I do not care for a lot of filler myself, rather have it all crab with just enough of the others for binding and taste extras...

  8. Happy anniversary you guys. You know what's weird, I was talking about our "ideal meals" just last night with my wife, and I was saying I'm on a real Greek kick at the moment. Your mezze is basically exactly what I described, although I added some olives, feta cheese and hummus too (just because I have a hummus fetish :p, it's not really Greek :p)

    Your dish looks so nice... I never tried foccacia. Yours is so orange and delicious - I must try this soon.

  9. look at that spread and that delicious loaf of bread. I could eat that with anything or all by itself- it looks beautiful!


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