Tag Archives: cheese

So, this tiropita thing:

19 Jul

I have written before about Greeks and their pies. I am now in the land of the ancients and have been eating cheeeeese like crazy. HListen: when I was at the Athens airport (which is now actually connected to the city by the metro) there was literally not a single food sold that did not have cheese in it. The best? Feta tiropita.
A tiropita is fillo dough stuffed with some mixture of Greek cheeses. It is sort of like a pasty, but more delicious (if that’s even possible). They make them with other stuffings sometimes, like spinach (technically a spanakopita), but cheese is the best. Sometimes we have them for lunch.
However, I have yet to have a gyros on this island because the gyros place only opens in the evening and it’s 2.5km uphill. Considering I walk 5km every day anyway, I am reluctant to go another 5km for a gyros, particularly as this island does not actually know when anything opens or if it’s open every day or what. Stores are only open from 10-12 (on certain days) and 6-midnight (theoretically), but lord help you if you show up for dinner at 6, since the usual eating time is 9:30 or later.
We are also getting tons and tons of feta in our Greek salads. I saw the bucket the feta comes in: it’s the kind one uses to transport live fish. Every meal is served with Greek salad. Breakfast is the only meal missing cheese, but there are like 30 cups of Greek yogurt on the table each morning. Oh, and the tzatziki I make every week and share with my three roommates.

Tzatziki, island style
The stuff: 1 pint Greek yogurt, 1 cucumber, 1 head of garlic
The method: Remove about three big scoops of yogurt – you’ll need the space. (We don’t have tupperware.) Peel the cucumber, scoop out the seeds, and chop it really, really small. (We don’t have a grater.) Crush the garlic with the spoon and then cut it up really small. Mix these into the yogurt. Let sit overnight so the garlic soaks in. Breathe deeply, but not deep enough to smell your neighbor’s breath, as they’ll definitely have their face in the garlic as well. I’m pretty sure all four of us go to sleep with the worst garlic breath EVER.


Double Event!

14 May

Hello, pieists! Apologies for the delay. I had 10,000 words to write and chemistry problems to solve and et lag to get over. But in return for your patience you get a DOUBLE EPISODE. A double event, one may say, to borrow the term from Ripperology. Two pies, one post.

The near-absence of pies on my travels (save Lee’s eponymous pie) was redeemed by my cooking an entire dinner centered around a Greek pie. My granny, an avid follower of this blog, came to visit Atlanta and requested a pie. Having pretty much never had the opportunity to cook for her, I decided to make a Greek extravaganza. (Note that my family is not, in fact, Greek. I just wish we were.) I decided on the Greek Vegetable Pie as it’s a guaranteed winner, a Greek salad, and a reprisal of my Greek chicken.

First the pie: I guess I’ve already written about it, but just to remind you, it has sautéed zucchini and onions stewed with tomatoes and finished with feta. The only spices are s+p and oregano.

The salad: first off, a Greek salad should NEVER have lettuce. If your Greek salad has lettuce, something has gone terribly wrong in the mind of the chef. Lettuce never appears in Greek food. A proper Greek salad at its simplest contains coarsely chopped cucumbers and tomatoes with cubes of marinated feta. Optionally, you can drizzle a little bit of olive oil on the top or add in some kalamata olives. The salad I made for this pie night was a little sad as I forgot to marinate the feta (in a mix of good olive oil and oregano), but it was also hindered by the feta being low-fat. Listen: low-fat feta is great in cooking. It keeps the feta taste and appearance while cutting the fat by about 800 calories (just a rough estimate). But in a salad, where the raw ingredients contribute their unmixed flavors, low-fat feta is a killer. It’s dry, hard, and has a quarter of the taste. Fortunately, though, I am a pie-maker and not a salad-maker, so it wasn’t a huge deal.

The chicken: this is pretty much the simplest chicken recipe known to man. First, whisk together olive oil and honey in a baking pan. Honey is an amazing product: it may solidify over time, but it never goes off. According to legend, Alexander the Great’s body was preserved in honey for 300 years. If one was talking about formaldehyde, which also preserves bodies, one might ask whether it was safe to eat; fortunately, honey is an amazing natural product with numerous health benefits that just happens to also preserve bodies! A recent study in Connecticut came to the conclusion that eating local honey doesn’t decrease allergies, but it’s still worth a shot. It’s the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie natural sweetener. It comes in more varieties, flavors, and textures than other sweeteners, can be produced locally pretty much anywhere (including the roofs of urban buildings), and is just all-around awesome. I just bought some acacia honey from Sardinia at a festival this weekend with a thick, grainy texture and a crazy fruity taste. Once you try real honey, you can never go back to the bear. Anyway, the honey I used for the chicken came from the Friday food market in my neighborhood in Athens two years ago. Once the oil and honey are blended, add the juice of 1 lemon and oregano (or a Greek spice mix if you have – this will generally contain rosemary, ground olives, and more oregano). Roll the chicken around in some s+p and then rub the sauce all over it. Slice the used lemon and lay the slices decoratively on top of the chicken pieces. (Oh yeah, I use chicken breasts and thighs, but you can do this with a whole chicken – just stuff lemons inside it!) Cover and stick it in the oven (200 C). In the meantime, caramelize some thin-cut onions. When the chicken has been cooking for about half an hour, put the onions on top and cook for another 10 minutes.

This was so delicious I can not even tell you. You just have to try it.

Now, on to the second. This Sunday I went to the Real Food Festival at Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre (which I will write about later). I am pleased to say that I have never had more free samples of cheese in my life; it was wondrous. The best by far was the original type from a small Welsh creamery called Bleanaefon (pronounced Blen-AYVon). I tasted this cheese and pretty much started dancing with joy. Literally. I was jumping around and waving my hands (when they weren’t reaching for more cheese). I decided to buy the cheese and include it in my pie: a Welsh cheese pie!

I got home from the festival and promptly googled “traditional Welsh food” and discovered that Wales, once famous for nothing but sheep, is experiencing a culinary renaissance, part of the back-to-the-farm movement. Cider is apparently huge, and recent cider popularity has increased interest in traditional brewing methods and heritage apple varietals. Pork is big, but so are heritage breeds of sheep, which look amazingly picturesque wandering around the countryside. Root vegetables of all types have always been popular. The NYT even had a feature on luxury camping in Wales where you can stay in an old caravan or on a farm and eat in Michelin-starred country restaurants. I hopped off to TPS and bought a variety of root vegetables and a boatload of parsley.

The veg: turnip, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potato, purple cabbage

The spice: s+p, parsley

The rest: cheese, milk, pastry

The method: Peel and chop the root vegetables and boil til edible. Chop and boil the cabbage separately. Drain and put into a large mixing bowl; roughly mash, then add in the cabbage. Add in about half a cup of milk and, well, as much cheese as you like. Season with s+p and about a handful of parsley. Cover with pastry and bake til the pastry is done.

This pie night was so successful! 8 people showed up, and we had lots of additional food. Anna made pizzas, Katy brought dessert fruit, Ben made gluten-free pastry and covered the little pies beautifully, and Laura J brought wine (and her new bf!) and potatoes (both were very helpful in the kitchen!) I also made cheesy bread (one could call it Welsh rarebit, but it wasn’t really) and potato scones, which are basically mashed potatoes made into little patties and roasted. Everything was delicious!

Leek and Gruyere Tart

22 Jan

My first attempt at making a tart: not so hot. I think I’m just not a big fan of things that taste too much like egg. However, I was trying to use some leftover leeks and found a recipe in my Easy Pies book  that I could easily modify. The original, called Caramelized Onion Tart, sounded quite delicious, and my version tasted ok, just not really what I felt like. At least I didn’t feel sick like I always do with the museum’s cafeteria quiches.

The Stuff: leeks (I used 4), about 75g gruyere, 1 egg, some milk, puff pastry, parmesan

The Seasoning: salt and pepper

The Method: Caramelize the leeks in butter. Line a small pie tin with puff pastry and blind bake at 190C until mostly cooked.

Meanwhile, beat the egg and mix it with a small amount of milk, the gruyere, and seasoning. When they’re ready, add in the leeks and pour the mixture into the crust. Top with parmesan and bake for 15 minutes; let sit for 10.

Clearly, I can make some improvements on this. I liked the taste of the leeks, but I would definitely use fresh-grated gruyere from Neal’s Yard instead of store brand pre-grated. Cheese is just better fresh, yes? (I will probably write more about cheese later. It deserves its own post.) I don’t know the chemistry of eggs and whether I could replace a whole egg with two egg whites, but I’d definitely try it: in addition to being lower in cholesterol, they don’t seem to have that characteristically eggy taste (sulphurous, I read). However, I’ll have to check if they will work in a tart.

Second, a tart should have a certain look. It should be evenly spread and fit nicely into the crust. As you can see in the picture, I messed up big-time. My friend Ramya’s mother Lee’s father, in an oft-repeated phrase, said that the foods that look the worst taste the best. The leftovers of Lee’s Pie, which look like a disaster, taste absolutely fabulous. That is not true in this case, where I think the look is integral to the sensation of eating (if not the actual taste). Part of the reason for my oversize crust is my use of puff pastry in places where it doesn’t belong, and another part is my laziness in actually shaping the pastry to the size of the pan. These are things to work on.

Anyway. Next one should be better.