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Quick, Easy and Filling Greek Breakfast
Sep 21st, 2018 by

Yogurt with honey and an iced coffee.

(A Greek frappe and yogurt with honey makes a good filling breakfast.)

In Greece there’s a thing called a “frappe.” You see people drinking them everywhere, in restaurants, outdoor cafes and small bars. It’s an iced coffee but without any pretense. The beans aren’t exotic. They’re not roasted for hours over a Burmese fire pit by monks. In fact, no beans are sacrificed in the making of this coffee.

Instead (be ready to turn your nose up), the coffee is made with instant coffee: Nescafe, to be exact. But don’t be too snobby to try it or else you’ll be missing something really good: a dark, sweet, and bold coffee that mimics an iced espresso or iced cafe latte.

Invented by a Nescafe representative named Dimitris Vakondios in 1957 in the city of Thessaloniki, the frappé  is one of the most popular drinks in Greece and Cyprus, and is available at virtually all Greek cafés. In can be available in your home too by following this easy recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Nescafe instant coffee (Greek specialty stores sell the kind sold in Greece which I’m told makes a difference. I have some but it’s running out and recently purchased some American Nescafe instant coffee. I’ll update this post to let you know if that works too. I’m confident it will.), 1-2 teaspoons.
  • Milk or evaporated milk, to taste. (I use regular whole milk.)
  • Sugar. (I’d recommend at least one teaspoon).
  • Ice, enough to fill a tall glass at least half way.

What to do:

A plastic container with a small amount of coffee in it.

This is the container I use to make a Greek frappe.

You’ll need something to shake up the instant coffee. A jar or plastic container works, anything with a tight lid. You could also try a small cocktail shaker.

Put the instant coffee in the container or choice with a tight lid. Add a splash of water and shake it up for about 30 seconds, until there is only foam, no liquid.

Coffee foam over ice in a glass.

This is what the foam looks like poured over ice.

 

Pour the coffee foam over ice in a tall glass.

Rinse out the container with small amounts of water and shake again. And then pour the cold water over the ice and coffee foam in the glass.

Add milk.

Next, to complete your breakfast, put plain yogurt in a bowl and drizzle it with about a half teaspoon of honey. Opa!!

 

Hold on to Summer with a Healthy Green Gazpacho Soup
Sep 19th, 2018 by
A bowl of bright green soup next to an open-faced sandwich.

This soup tastes bright and sweet with a just a light note of sour. It pairs great with an open-faced sandwich and works well as a first course too.

I created this recipe after tasting green gazpacho soup for the first time last month. I bought a quart of green gazpacho at the Rosemont Market and Bakery in Portland, Maine. The container listed all of the ingredients and so I consulted a few online recipes for green gazpacho to figure out the right proportions. One of those online recipes also listed a little bit of lemon juice, something that was not on Rosemont’s list of ingredients, and so I added that too. I think it was a great addition.

This soup is very easy to make and takes only about 10-15 minutes, perfect for a late summer weeknight when you want to keep fall at bay.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Cucumbers (2, medium)
  • Vidalia onion (1, medium)
  • Green bell pepper (1, medium)
  • Garlic (1 clove)
  • Avocado (1, medium)
  • Parsley (About 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Cilantro (About 2-3 tablespoons)
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (2 tablespoons)
  • Salt (1 tablespoon)
  • Lemon Juice (1 tablespoon)
  • Red Wine Vinegar (2 tablespoons)
  • Water (1 cup)

What to do:

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds with a spoon. Chop cucumbers into chunks.

Remove seeds from green bell pepper and cut into chunks.

Chop onion into small pieces.

Add cucumbers, bell pepper, onion and peeled garlic clove to food processor and process until minced.

Add parsley and cilantro leaves to food processor, along with the olive oil, vinegar, and avocado. Puree the mixture in the food processor.

Add the water, the lemon juice and salt and puree again.

Taste the soup and add more salt or lemon juice if preferred.

You can serve this immediately, but it’s better if you put it in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so to chill.

How To Make Taiwanese Street Food
Aug 18th, 2018 by
A bowl of udon noodles with carrots and cucumber.

You can add chopped cucumber, raw carrots or even shredded chicken to this dish.

Cold Taiwanese sesame noodles with peanut sauce is a favorite street food there. I know because I got a subscription to Universal Yums for my birthday. Each month, I get a box of snacks from a different country along with a fact book about the country. This month’s booklet included this recipe, which is quick and very easy to make. And it tastes perfect on a hot, muggy night in August.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Noodles, close up.Peanut butter (or sesame paste), 1/4 cup
  • Soy sauce, 2 tbsp.
  • Rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp.
  • Sugar, 1 1/2 tbsp.
  • Garlic, 3 cloves finely minced
  • Ground ginger, 1 1/2 tbsp.
  • Water, warm, about 1/4 cup
  • Asian wheat noodles, like udon or soba
  • Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  • Spicy scallion stick (optional)
  • Cucumber slices (optional)
  • Raw carrot cut into thin matchsticks (optional)
  • Shredded chicken (optional)

What I did:

Combine peanut butter (or sesame paste), soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger, and warm water in a bowl. Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Then drain and rinse under cold water. Mix in optional ingredients and then the sauce and stir well.

 

Recipe Videos From Boston’s Best Chefs and Bartenders Found on YouTube
Jul 17th, 2018 by

(This is one of my favorite recipes from the weekly Dorm Room Chef series I produced. Watch the video above, or read the recipe here.)

A few years ago I produced a series of weekly food videos for the Boston Globe. Both “Dorm Room Chef,” and “Drink of the Week,” ran for about a year and were catalogued in an online blog that unfortunately was lost when the Globe redesigned its website.

And that’s a shame because the videos featured some of Boston’s best chefs and bartenders explaining how to prepare easy-to-make meals and cocktails.

Recently, I discovered that most of these videos are still available on the Globe’s YouTube channel. Below are direct links to some of my favorite recipes as well as links to the index sites for both series.

Dorm Room Chef Favorites 

Drink of the Week Favorites

 

Nutella Cookies: Quick and Easy Makes This Recipe Sweet
May 20th, 2018 by

I suggest making a bunch of these in advance because the deep frying goes very quickly.

My friend Antoinette (who is one of the best cooks I know) brought these to my house for a dinner party. They’re so good, it’s hard to stop eating them. And then when she told me how easy and fast they are to make I had to try it. Here’s what you need to do:

Ingredients:

  • Nutella (buy a small jar)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vegetable oil

Procedure:

Powdered nutella cookies.

Here’s what they look like when they’re done.

Put a dab of Nutella (less than a teaspoon will do) into the middle of a wonton wrapper. Fold the wrapper over so that it creates a triangle. Press down the edges until they stick. (Some other recipes recommend sealing the edges with a beaten egg, but I found this wasn’t necessary).

I suggest making up a bunch of these before you start deep frying because the deep frying goes very quickly.

Nutella cookies frying in a cast iron pan.

It takes only seconds for these to cook.

Heat about an inch or so of vegetable oil over high heat in a good skillet (I used a cast iron skillet). Drop three or four wonton cookies into the oil and cook on each side for about 30 seconds or less (just until light golden brown). Remove cookies to a plate lined with paper towels so the oil can drain.

Put cookies on a platter and sprinkle powdered sugar over both sides. I used a sieve to sprinkle the sugar evenly.

That’s it. These cookies can be made well in advance. The cookies come out crunchy and sweet. And it’s very hard to stop eating them.

One final note: I always believed there were many similarities and/or opportunities to blend Italian cooking with Chinese cooking and this recipe proves it.

A Quick, Easy, One-Pan, Weeknight Eggplant Delight
Mar 23rd, 2018 by

Turkish Eggplant Casserole: Imam Bayildi

This dish takes about 20-30 minutes to prepare and then another 45 minutes to cook in the oven.

This recipe takes about 20-30 minutes to prepare and then another 45 minutes to cook in the oven.

RECIPE UPDATE (May, 30, 2018): So last night I made this dish by baking the eggplant instead of frying it and it tasted just as delicious. I couldn’t tell the difference, except maybe the meal was a little lighter (which was my goal). I’m sure it definitely had less calories. What I did was brush olive oil on both sides of the slices and then bake them on a cookie sheet in a hot (425 degree) oven, being careful to turn each slice over as it turned brown. I  then assembled the dish according to the recipe below.

This dish is similar to eggplant parmesan but without the cheese and without as much work. It is, however, as delicious as that Italian favorite. And a dash of cinnamon sends it to another world.

I got the recipe from the “Feed Me Phoebe” blog. Phoebe describes herself as a gluten-free chef, obsessed with finding the sweet spot between health and hedonism. And I can attest that this casserole feels very indulgent while you’re eating it.

I changed the original recipe slightly, most notably using a large eggplant rather than 2 medium eggplants, and I found that I needed a little more tomato sauce. The next time I make it, I may try baking the eggplant after brushing the slices with olive oil, as the eggplant slices soaked up a lot of oil during the frying process. But maybe, that’s why it tasted so good.

Here’s the recipe, which can be made using just one cast-iron pan:

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant (I don’t salt it as recommended in the original recipe as I believe that makes it more acidic. Instead, be careful to select a very firm eggplant with little or no blemishes. The color should be a deep purple. And then peel it vertically in strips so that it looks like it has thin purple stripes before you slice it into 1/4-inch slices, horizontally (the original recipe suggests slicing it lengthwise).
  • Sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Olive oil. Use a good grade regular frying-style olive oil, not extra-virgin
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • About 18-24 oz of diced tomatoes from a can or box. (The original recipe recommended 14.5 ounces but I found I needed more.)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided in half
What You Need To Do:

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a cast iron skillet (or oven-proof skillet). If you don’t have one, you can use a regular frying pan and then this dish becomes a two-pan meal as you’ll need to bake it all in the end in a small roasting pan or lasagna pan.

Fry eggplant slices over medium heat until golden brown (about 2 minutes on each side) and add more oil as needed so eggplant doesn’t stick or burn. Remove the cooked eggplant to a plate.

Add onion to skillet and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, chili flakes, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cinnamon. Cook for one minute more, until fragrant. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half the parsley.

Remove most of the tomato sauce from the pan, leaving only a thin layer (about 1/4 cup) spread evenly over the bottom. Add one layer of the eggplant in the pan over the sauce and then top with more sauce. Continue to add layers of eggplant and sauce, as if you were building a lasagna.

Cover with foil and cook in the oven for about 45 minutes until eggplant is soft and sauce is reduced. Garnish with remaining parsley and let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing it.

You can serve it warm or at room temperature.

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