Go ahead, travel to Greece – in your kitchen!
A food-related discovery we’ve enjoyed during quarantine is the public television program, “My Greek Table.” Hosted by Diane Kochilas, the show is in its third season showcasing the culture and culinary richness of the Greek Islands. Each episode takes the viewer to a different part of Greece for an introduction to that region’s signature dishes, sometimes including popular local beverages.
All of the recipes she shares can be found in one of her eight cookbooks, ranging in focus from “good carbs” to vegetarian food to grilling. Her most recent book, based on the show, is a gorgeous combination of travel guide, memoir and cookbook. She offers week-long classes and immersion experience on the Greek island of Ikaria, as well as tours and online classes.
If you want to purchase the ingredients she uses in her demos, she has an extensive shop on her website. You can find a variety of olive oils, dried fruits, savory dips, dried beans, teas, sweets and spices. I was intrigued by the elegant packaging and details about how each item was sourced. She also includes links to her shop in her online recipes.
What I enjoy about her program is her enthusiasm for sampling new flavors and experimenting with new ingredients. Her style when interacting with local experts or purveyors is outgoing and engaging. When she is in the kitchen conducting a demo, her manner is unassuming and her style of instruction accessible.
One of the things I’m looking forward to trying (when my eggplant harvest is ready) is a baked eggplant dish that includes a rustic tomato sauce and lots of garlic. She calls for both vinegar and honey in the sauce to create a sweet-sour flavor characteristic of this dish. I’ll tell you how that goes later this summer.
I’m definitely going to make her ground meat omelet from the island of Chios, which can be done with either ground beef or (as she demonstrated on the show) with gyro meat. Seasonings for the meat filling include cinnamon and allspice, similar to the flavors found in pastitsio, a baked casserole of pasta and beef topped with Béchamel sauce.
We did try her Greek yogurt pancakes for breakfast last week, but mine didn’t look anything like the photos with the recipe on her website. Mine were very thick and puffy, while hers looked like regular pancakes. I also made a substitution, adding blueberries instead of currants or raisins.
Pancakes have been on the menu for centuries, especially in ancient Greece where pancakes were made from wheat flour, olive oil, honey, and curdled milk. They’ve been discussed by characters on stage in the work of ancient Greek playwright Cratinus, and Magnes wrote about pancakes in his poetry.
The recipe for these pancakes is based on a traditional version popular on the island of Corfu, according to Kochilas. Unlike most pancake recipes, this one doesn’t call for melted butter, and the time the batter spends resting in the refrigerator gives the two leavening agents a chance to work, adding to the puff.
After browsing the recipes and watching “My Greek Table,” I’m inspired to try my hand at a few of these dishes. And, when we’re once again able to travel without fear, I might need a trip to Greece. In the meantime, you can take an armchair journey starting out from www.dianekochilas.com.
Greek Yogurt Pancakes*
2 C flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 C plain Greek yogurt
1 C milk
1/2 C currants
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg until smooth. Add yogurt and milk; whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients a half-cup at a time, whisking after each addition. Stir in the currants. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or up to overnight. When ready to cook, melt 2 T butter in a nonstick skillet over medium. Pour in batter to form 4-inch pancakes. Cook until golden, then flip and cook the other side. Continue with the remaining batter, adding more butter to the skillet as needed. Serve with syrup, a dollop of yogurt and fresh fruit. *Note: adapted from My Greek Table.
Ground Meat Omelet*
1/4 C olive oil
1 minced onion
2 C chopped gyro meat
1 tomato, grated
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
6 T water
1 T flour
salt, to taste
1 T butter
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the meat, tomato and spices; cook, stirring often until juices have been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat to cool slightly. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk until uniform. Stir together flour and water until smooth. Add to the eggs and stir to combine. Melt butter in an omelet pan and pour in half the egg mixture. Cook just until egg starts to set and place half the filling mixture in a line along the center. Roll the omelet to form a cylinder and cook until lightly golden. Repeat with remaining egg and filling. *Note: adapted from My Greek Table.