Greek-Style Caesar Salad With Pastourma and Saganaki Cheese

IMG_2723This is one those dishes where you are going to have to go to a Greek grocery store for many of the ingredients. There are ingredients like Pastourma, Cretan rusks, Saganaki cheese and there’s some more familiar ingredients like capers and sun-dried tomatoes. I served a version of this salad this past week at my latest Greek Supper Club and the dressing was a hit. The flavours of a classic Caesar dressing were there with some Greek accents.

Greeks love small fish like sardines and anchovies and one of my favourite mezes are marinated anchovies, or gavros as we call them. Fresh anchovies are butterflied, salted for a day then they are covered in vinegar and once they turn white, they are ready to be eaten. These are also known as white anchovies and you can find these throughout the Mediterranean.

The second switch in are the Cretan rusks, a twice baked dry bread that is often served drizzled with olive oil, fresh tomato purée, crumbled cheese and dried Greek oregano. I also like eating the rusks with some olives and here, they replace the usual croutons in a Caesar.

Finally, and my favourite is the cheese element – I cut some Krinos Saganaki cheese into small cubes and fry them until just golden and serve them warm as the final garnish to this unique and Greek take on  Caesar Salad. All the ingredients can be found at a Greek grocer and you’ll also find Pastourma at Middle Eastern shops.IMG_2717

Greek-Style Caesar Salad With Pastourma and Saganaki Cheese

(serves 8-10)

1 head of Romaine lettuce

Dressing
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 fresh farm egg yolks
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 fillets of white anchovies (Gavros)
2 Tbsp. chopped sun-dried tomatoes

2 Tbsp. of capers
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. black pepper
splash of water
1/3 cup olive oil + 2/3 cup vegetable oil
salt to taste

Garnishes

slices of pastourma (fried or as-is)

small cubes of Krinos Saganaki cheese

Cretan-style rusks, broken-up into fork-sized bites

  1. Using your food processor, add all the dressing ingredients except for the oil and the salt. Start processing on high speed for a couple of minutes or until you have a thick, creamy appearance.
  2. Slowly pour your oil through the spout until you get a thick, creamy Caesar dressing. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and sometimes, some more lemon juice. (Keeps for up to 1 week in the fridge).
  3. To make your Saganaki cheese cubes, wet them with water then lightly dredge with all-purpose flour and lightly pan-fry in some oil in a pan. Blot on a paper towel to remove excess oil and reserve.
  4. Rinse your salad greens and hand-tear them then place in a salad spinner. Add into a large salad bowl with the Cretan rusks and add your dressing (to taste) and toss to coat well. Divide and plate, top with a slice of pastourma and garnish with fried Saganaki cheese cubes.IMG_2724-001

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Monkfish Saganaki

IMG_0224-001From September and through the winter, I begin to see monkfish at shops in Greece and here in Canada. It’s not a pretty fish but it’s delish, no pin bones and the meat on the fish comes from two loins that are attached to the tail bone.IMG_8269

You would get two pieces of that resemble pork tenderloin. Monkfish is also known as angler fish or in Greek, peskandritsa. In Greece, I’ve enjoyed monkfish as souvlaki and in this instance, as a saganaki. Saganaki refers to any dish that is contained in a two-handled vessel.

This dish is served as an appetizer, to be shared with others. Seafood saganaki dishes are either tomato or mustard based, and seeing how fresh tomatoes are nowhere to be found, we’re going with the mustard based sauce.

Monkfish gets cut into think medallions then seasoned and dredged in flour. I then brown both sides and set the fish pieces aside. The sauce is built with sweet onions, green peppers and a chilli for heat, mustard, white wine and stock. The finishing touches are lemon juice, parsley, dried oregano and a crumbled Feta. What the heck, the festive season is here and a couple of knobs of cold butter make the sauce velvety and rich.IMG_0216

Monkfish Saganaki

(serves 4)

2 monkfish loins, cut into 1 1/2 inch medallions

salt and pepper

approx. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (for dredging)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic minced

1 cubanelle (sweet green) pepper, halved and sliced

1 small red chilli, chopped

1/4 cup mustard

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 – 2 cups hot stock (chicken or vegetable)

salt to taste

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. of unsalted cold butter

2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

extra lemon juice to taste

1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

  1. Season your monkfish medallions with salt and pepper and dredge lightly in flour. Pour the oil in a large skillet and bring up to medium-high. Brown both sides of the medallions until just golden and set aside.
  2. Now add the onions, peppers, garlic and chilli and sweat for 5-6 minutes. Add the mustard and stir in  for a minute or until incorporated. Now add the wine and place the monfish pieces back in the skillet. Add enough stock to almost come up to the fish pieces, add some more salt to taste and lemon juice. Bring up to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the cover, reduce another 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking. Take off the heat, add the cold butter and swirl in, the chopped fresh parsley, oregano and crumbled Feta. Add an extra squeeze of lemon juice if desired.
  4. Serve with good homemade bread, serving with Ouzo, Tsipouro or a Kir Yanni Samaropetra.

 

 

 

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Wasabi Mussels Saganaki

IMG_8987-001If you’ve visited Thessaloniki and the nearby Halkidiki, you likely will have enjoyed mussels saganaki. This dish is a specialty of the region where mussels are served in  two-handles vessel, a wonderful appetizer on all seafood tavernas in the area.

The most common versions are a tomato based mussels saganaki with a touch of got peppers, crumbled Feta and Greek oregano. The other is similar but with a mustard base. Both equally delicious and they beg for crusty bread to be dunked in the soup-like sauce that comes with the plump mussel meat.

Today, I’m making another version – one that uses the base elements of mussels saganaki – with a twist. Here, I’m introducing wasabi paste into the mix. It’s another way of adding some heat to the dish and it worked!IMG_8968-001

There’s sweet red peppers and mussel meat, rich Greek olive oil and tart mustard with sharp wasabi paste. Wasabi is related to horseradish and the good stuff is freshly grated at finer sushi bars but the pre-made tubes of wasabi paste are more common and that’s what I’m using here.

Another interesting surprise here is that Feta cheese and wasabi work well together and I loved this dish. By and large sticking to the traditional mussels saganaki and switching one the ingredients (hot peppers) and introducing wasabi. I recommend adding 1-2 Tbsp. of the paste but if you want it even hotter….squeeze away!IMG_8991-001

Wasabi Mussels Saganaki

(makes an appetizer for 4)

2lbs. of live mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded, rinsed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 diced red pepper

1-2 Tbsp. wasabi paste

1 Tbsp. plain mustard

1/3 dry white wine

1 cup of crumbled Feta cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

1/4 sliced scallion greens

  1. Place a large pot on your stove-top over medium heat with the  olive oil, onions, peppers and garlic and sweat for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the wasabi, mussels, mustard, wine and turn the heat to high and cover. Steam until the mussels have opened up (about 5-6 minutes). Pour the mussels through a strainer (to remove any sediment) and reserve the mussels (and any vegetables). Place the liquid back in the pot and add the crumbled Feta and stir for a minute or two over low heat. Your sauce should just coat a wooden spoon (You may at this time remove the mussel meat from the shells if you wish).
  3. Add the mussels back into the pot along with the dried Greek oregano, parsley and stir to incorporate. Discard any un-opened mussels. Top with scallions and serve with crusty bread and pour some Ouzo on ice. Kali Orexi!IMG_8998-001

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Batzos Saganaki

One of the cornerstones of Greek cuisine has to be it’s cheeses…varied in taste, texture and many offerings coming from all parts of the country. I brought a cheese from Greece is called Batzos – not Batsos (Greek slang for Police/Cop). Batzos come from northern Greece and more specifically from central to western Macedonia (Naoussa to Kastoria) and northern Thessaly. Batzos gets its name from the Vlach word for the mountain huts in which this cheese used to be made in and it’s also a PDO-protected product (since 1996).

This is a firm cheese, a little spongy and porous, made of sheep’s or goat’s milk and briny with a back-end tang on the palate. It has a colour that ranges from egg-white to yellow. The cheese is in essence a Kefalotyri (salty) that’s shaped like a large head after being strained in cheesecloth then it’s sliced into slabs and place in metal containers with coarse sea salt sprinkled in between each piece and topped with the whey ( or a brine).

Batzos is often enjoyed in the style of “saganaki”, that is to say it’s fried in the two-handled vessel and often flambeed with Tsipouro (local eau de vie) or brandy and finished with a good squeeze of lemon. Fried cheese is enjoyed by most Greeks and those who patronize Greek restaurants order this favourite all the time. You won’t find Batzos here in Toronto but it’s certainly avaialable in Thessaloniki and surrounding regions.

Batzos Saganaki (Μπάτζος Σαγανάκι)

1 piece of Batzo 1/2″ inch thick

1 generous Tbsp. of olive oil

all-purpose flour for dredging

optional for flambe: 1/2 shot glass of Metaxa (brandy) or Ouzo

wedge of lemon

  1. Pre-heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (a cast-iron pan works very well) to a medium-high heat. Place your slab of cheese under running tap water then dredge in all-purpose flour. Shake off any excess flour.
  2. Add your olive oil to the skillet. Add a sprinkle of flour into the pan to test if the oil is hot enough. As soon as it sizzles, add your cheese to the skillet and sear for a couple of minutes. Carefully flip the cheese with a spatula and allow to sear for a couple of minutes on the other side.
  3. Turn off your heat source and carefully carry your cheese saganaki to your table and pour the brandy ( or Ouzo) over the cheese and ignite with a lighter. Move your head back, shout “OPA” and squeeze the wedge of lemon over the cheese.
  4. Serve immediately with crusty bread, some Ouzo on ice.

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Lobster Saganaki (Αστακος Σαγανακι)

It’s time for another saganaki dish. There are a lot of “saganaki” dishes on this blog but this one is the tastiest. REALLY! Most of you are familiar with the flaming cheese saganaki (a taverna favourite) but there are many types of saganaki dishes. Saganaki is the two-handled dish that it’s served in – so anything served in a saganaki dish could be called one. Think “paella” or “tagine”.

This is not a difficult dish to prepare and the despite the list of ingredients for this recipe, they complement and lift the lobster flavour. The lobster lends a hand to the sauce and the sauce helps the lobster along. The hardest part about preparing this dish is dispatching the lobster – yes, you’re going to have to kill your meal. The best fish or seafood is the freshest fish or seafood and when it comes to lobster (or crab), you should always begin with a live one.

You don’t have to have a saganaki vessel to pull this dish off but live lobster is a must: the meat is succulent, tastes better and the liquid and shells will make the sauce and overall dish tastier. I’ve added some heat to this dish with the addition of a moderately hot banana pepper but you can adjust the heat in this dish to your liking. There’s also a roasted red pepper that I blistered on top of my gas stove to get that nice smoky flavour in the dish.

This dish contains Greek extra-virgin olive oil, some orange zest and thinly-sliced fennel, white wine and Metaxa – the Greek brandy. I’ve used some tomato paste diluted with water as it’s now October and those ripe, sweet garden tomatoes are but a memory. If you have good tomatoes or make this in the summer, grate 2 large tomatoes into the mix or some good jarred pomodoro will do the trick too!

There’s no need to oversell this dish – it’s one of the tastiest I’ve created in awhile and it begs for good, crusty homemade bread to dunk in. Beyond slice bread for toast, I make my own bread at home at you can try making some at home too! Go on, get going and make some bread because you’re gonna want to mop-up all the sauce in this sublime Lobster Saganaki.

Lobster Saganaki (Αστακος Σαγανακι)

(appetizer for two)

2 Tbsp. butter

1 live lobster ( 1 1/2lb.)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 scallions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 chopped sliced or chopped fennel

1/2 roasted red bell pepper, cut into ribbons

1 mildly hot green or banana pepper, sliced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup seafood or vegetable stock

splash of Metaxa brandy

2 Tbsp. of tomato paste

approx. 2 tsp. orange zest

cold butter or heavy cream (optional)

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp. Greek basil

salt and pepper to taste

  1. You’re going to have to kill your lobster just before cooking it so place it in the freezer for 20 minutes so that the beastie becomes dormant before you dispatch it. Place a cutting board inside a roasting pan and lay your lobster on the board. Using your butcher’s knife, stick the knife into the head, about an inch behind the eyes and now cut the lobster in half (lengthwise). The lobster is now dead but it will still move a bit. Now twist off the tail, claws, knuckles (do this over the pan so you can collect the liquid).
  2. Place a skillet on your stove-top over medium-high heat and add the butter. As soon as the butter has melted and stops foaming, add ALL the lobster pieces in the skillet and sauté until the shells just turn red then remove and reserve. Now add the olive oil, scallions, garlic, fennel, roasted red pepper and hot pepper and stir. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes or until the veggies have softened.
  3. Now add the tomato paste and stir in then add wine, stock, Metaxa, reserve lobster liquid and orange zest and stir in. Bring up to a boil then reduce back to a simmer and cook for about another 5-6 minutes. If you want your sauce thicker, simmer a little longer and this is moment where you will adjust flavours (with any of the other ingredients) and you likely will not need any salt.
  4. Add the lobster pieces into the skillet and cover. You want the lobster to gently finish cooking through – adjust heat to a medium-medium low and cook for another 5 minutes or until tail meat is fork-tender.
  5. Add one or pads of cold butter into the sauce and swirl-in or add a splash of heavy cream. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and fresh basil and serve with lots of crusty homemade bread. The sauce should not be left behind!
  6. Serve with a Gerovassilou White from Epanomi, near Thessaloniki.

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Gavros Saganaki (Γαύρος Σαγανάκι)

There are some things that just MUST be eaten when in Greece: vine-ripe tomatoes, freshly pressed olive oil, tree-ripened figs, watermelon and cantaloupe and the fresh fish – anchovies in particular. Erase whatever preconceived notion you have of the anchovy. Forget about the salty tinned or jarred variety or that pizza with the dreaded anchovies on top. FORGET IT!

Anchovies in Greece are abundant (for now), are affordable and they are just as healthy as they are delicious. Anchovies are found at the many local fish mongers fresh – not in a can or salted. Greeks do cure fresh anchovies and store them in the fridge for future Ouzo sessions but again, they are homemade using fresh anchovies. Another favourite is the fried anchovy where everything but the tail is eaten….spine and all (get your calcium kick)!

fresh anchovies

Anchovies are much like sardines (smaller of course) in that they are packed with the same Omega-3 fatty acids that have attracted us to salmon. Anchovies are wild-caught in the sea, are sustainable and since they are low in the food chain, no fear of mercury exposure (as with larger fish like salmon or tuna).

A visitor to Greece will find larger fish at fishmongers and on display at finer fish and seafood tavernas but they are either farm-raised or quite expensive. Eat what the locals eat – you will find Greeks eaten bogue, smelts, sardines and anchovies…all fresh, all delish and very affordable. Today’s dish is a quick an easy dish that’s delicious beyond the ease of preparation. Simplicity rules here and the success of the dish hinges on fresh anchovies, in season ingredients and the best olive oil you can find (Greek of course). Us Greeks call anchovies “gavros’ and this dish is called Gavros Saganaki. Saganaki refers to the tw0-handled vessel that it’s served in and there are many varieties of saganaki dishes. Think beyond the “flaming cheese”.

fishing as the sun sets over the Thermaic Gulf

Gavros are easy to clean as they have no scales and when you cut the head of most of the guts give away as well. This dish is served as a meze offering that’s good with either an Ouzo or white wine. From cleaning the anchovies to cooking up the dish, it’s served in about 30 minutes. You’ll need a vegetable or seafood stock (or salted water), white wine, olive oil and sweet red peppers along with some hot banana peppers for a little heat. The mustard helps thicken the sauce and offers some tangy bottom while the parsley and oregano brighten the dish along with the mandatory squeeze of lemon juice. I think I’ll make this again for Fish Friday.

Gavros Saganaki (Γαύρος Σαγανάκι)

(makes a meze/appetizer plate for 4)

approx. 1 lb. of fresh anchovies (25-30), heads removed & gutted (rinsed wel)

1/2 cup vegetable stock (or seasoned water)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + extra oil for drizzling

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tsp. good mustard (Dijon)

1/4 cup diced red peppers

1 mildly hot banana pepper, sliced into rings

1 tsp. dried Greek oregano

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

squeeze of lemon juice

  1. Add the stock, wine, olive and mustard in a bowl and whisk until incorporated. Now place a small skillet on your stove-top over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the liquid for 5-7 minutes or until slightly thickened. Adjust the flavourings of the liquid with salt, more wine (if needed) or olive oil.
  2. Now add the diced red peppers and stir in followed by adding the anchovies into the skillet (arrange them in a circular fashion for a nice presentation). Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes then turn the heat off , add the slice hot peppers (cover again) and allow the anchovies to cook through with the residual heat for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover and add the dried Greek oregano, chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Adjust seasoning and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with some good crusty bread and a chilled bottle of Domaine Claudia Papayianni Ex Arnon White 2010.

 

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Mussels Saganaki With Mustard

In the town near to our summer home in Greece, is a “psaro taverna” or seafood tavern that’s been a favourite of our family & friends for years. The taverna’s name is Kapetan Giakoumis and the proprietor is this portly fellow with long curly dark brown hair. Think rolly-polly Diego Maradona.

Our summer home is located near Thessaloniki, in northern Greece in a resort area called Halkidiki. We vacation near the town of Nea Kallikratia. It (Halkidiki) is not as well known as the Greek Islands but you’ll find some of the best beaches in Greece and most of the beaches offer warm waters to bathe in.

Mussels are a specialty of northern Greece as three rivers empty into the Thermaic Gulf and mussels thrive in waters where fresh & sea water meet. There are a multitude of recipes for mussels saganaki but with the most well-known being the tomato & Feta-based one. The other mussels saganaki is a tangy offering with mustard and Feta and I’m often in a conundrum with which version I like best. Let’s say I’ll let my mood decide and perhaps I’ll wait for the summer to return with ripe, sweet tomatoes before I tackle the tomato-based mussels saganaki.

It seems that the Winter Blues have arrived and I always grow sentimental, thinking of last summer in Greece and I often drift away and think about any one of the prior 21 visits to Greece. Below is a slide show with some pics of Thessaloniki and neighboring summer vacation region of Halkidiki. After your done viewing these pics, you may want to go one step further and try this local meze (appetizer), Mussels Saganaki with Mustard.

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Mussels Saganaki With Mustard (Μυδια Σαγανακι με Μουσταρδα)


(appetizer for 4)

2 lbs. of fresh mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded, rinsed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 sweet Cubanele (or Anaheim) pepper, halved and sliced

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 whole dried chilli

2 Tbsp. of plain mustard

1 shot of Ouzo

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup of crumbled Greek feta

splash of heavy cream

chili flakes for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tsp. dried Greek oregano

Additional chilli flakes (for those that like it hot)

  1. Place a large pot on your stove-top over medium heat with the  olive oil, onions, peppers and garlic and sweat for 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the mussels, mustard, wine, Ouzo, lemon juice and turn the heat to high and cover. Steam until the mussels have opened up (about 5-6 minutes). Pour the mussels through a strainer (to remove any sediment) and reserve the mussels (and any vegetables). Place the liquid back in the pot and add the cream, crumbled Feta and stir for a minute or two over low heat. Your sauce should just coat a wooden spoon (You may at this time remove the mussel meat from the shells if you wish).*
  3. Add the mussels back into the pot along with the dried Greek oregano and fresh parsley and stir to incorporate. Discard any un-opened mussels.
  4. Serve with crusty bread and pour some Ouzo on ice. Kali Orexi!

*Many tavernas in Thessaloniki  (and surrounding) areas will serve Mussels Saganaki without the shells – you may choose if you like to present the dish with the shells or without.

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Flaming Cheese Saganaki

This appetizer meze is one that you will find both in Greece and in the tavernas around the world. The glaring difference in the Cheese Saganaki served in Greece and abroad is that in Greece it will simply be pan-seared and brought to your table. Abroad (Canada, US, Australia, western Europe) you will also get some showmanship with the waiter lighting up the cheese with either Metaxa (Greek brandy) or Ouzo (anise aperatif). This “flaming cheese” theatric got its beginnings in Chicago’s Greektown. The Liakouras brothers, founding owners of the Parthenon, claim to be the first to light the fried cheese with brandy (Metaxa).

Non-Greek friends get a kick out this spectacle and both Greeks and non-Greeks order this almost every time at the local taverna. If  you scan down to the recipe instructions you’ll be amazed at how easy this meze is to reproduce but they are many caveats – things you must be aware of and details.

Once again, “saganaki” refers to many dishes in Greek cookery (not just this cheese meze). Saganaki refers to the two-handled vessel wherein such appetizers are served in. There is Shrimp Saganaki, Mussels Saganaki, one of my own creations in Scallops Saganaki and of course the famed Cheese Saganaki (I know you want to yell OPA!).

First, it is important that you choose the right kind of cheese. It should be a Greek cheese and it should be a firm cheese – something that will hold-up well to heat. Luckily, you also have some options:

Graviera cheese is a sheep’s milk cheese, off-white to yellow in colour, not too salty and it has a slight sweetness and some of the best Graviera is produced on the islands of Crete, Naxos and Mytlini.

Kefalograviera is the cheese I like the best for Cheese Saganaki. It is again a sheep’s milk cheese that is saltier than graviera but not as salty as Kefalotyri cheese.

Kefalotyri is definitely a salty cheese, often compared in flavour to a Romano Peccorino and both cheeses are made of sheep’s milk. If you’re the type that likes piquant flavours and your cheese quite briny, you may also use Kefalotyri for saganaki.

Many Greek grocers will also carry pre-cut and packaged portions of cheese labeled as “Saganaki cheese”. The source of this cheese varies and you should ask a clerk for more info, including how salty this cheese is.

Kasseri is a mild sheep’s milk cheese that often appears on Greek tables for nibbling during dinner. It’s probably the least salty of all the cheeses mentioned here yet it also holds up well to high heat.

Halloumi cheese from Cyprus can also be used to make Saganaki. Primarily made of sheep’s milk, it is buttery in flavour, amounts of salt vary from brand to brand and it’s usually packed in a brine with some dry mint.

Those are you cheese options that are widely available and accessible in most markets outside of Greece. Inside Greece, the variery of cheeses that are available and suitable for “saganaki” are a multitude. I am now depressed just thinking of the variety of cheeses in Greece.

Now another important step is in slicing the cheese. You may choose to cut a square or triangular piece (the shape is often determined by whether you bought a wedge of cheese from a wheel or a brick). The thickness of the cheese is most important. Being stingy with the portion will only result in a cheese that will melt ito a gooey blob in your skillet. Slice your cheese to the thickness of about 1/2 inch (or width of yout index finger).

Finally, I must address the safety issue – lighting up the cheese. NEVER pour the alcohol from the bottle to the pan. Flare-ups can occur where the alcohol you poured into the pan will ignite and travel up into the bottle of booze you are holding in your hand. The SAFE way is to pour the alcohol into a shot glass and then pour it into the pan and ignite.

When lighting the alcohol on fire for Saganaki it is safest to turn off your stove, carry the hot cheese to your serving table and light away from any other heat source and for pure entertainment purposes. Also, make sure you have a high ceiling (or even do it outdoors during the warm months).

Cheese Saganaki (Τυρι σαγανακι)

1 slab of cheese, 4″ x 4″ and 1/2″ inch thick, trimmed of any rind

1 heaping Tbsp. of olive oil

all-purpose flour for dredging

1/2 shot glass of Metaxa (brandy or Ouzo)

wedge of lemon

  1. Pre-heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (a cast-iron pan works very well) to a medium-high heat. Place your slab of cheese under running tap water then dredge in all-purpose flour. Shake off any excess flour.
  2. Add your olive oil to the skillet. Add a sprinkle of flour into the pan to test if the oil is hot enough. As soon as it sizzles, add your cheese to the skillet and sear for a couple of minutes. Carefully flip the cheese with a spatula and allow to sear for a couple of minutes on the other side.
  3. Turn off your heat source and carefully carry your cheese saganaki to your table and pour the brandy ( or Ouzo) over the cheese and ignite with a lighter. Move your head back, shout “OPA” and squeeze the wedge of lemon over the cheese.
  4. Serve immediately with crusty bread, some Ouzo on ice or a Savatianno white.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

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Scallops Saganaki (xτένια-Σαγανάκι)

I get my inspiration from many sources: my mother and other family members and friends who I consider culinary wizards, frequent visits to Greece, chatting about food with other Greek food enthusiasts, other bloggers who I respect and consider friends and of course, the well known food and cooking celebrities who enter our homes via the TV set.

Today I watched Ina Garten make a Scallop Gratin. I loved her idea and ran with it. Inspired by her fabulous and easy dish and coupled with my Greek tastes, I think i have a delicious and unique dish that brings you the flavours of the Aegean to your table. This dish is buttery without using butter, you have a mellow undertones of anise with the use of Ouzo, garlic and parsley fight for the attention of your palate, the sweetness of the scallops balanced by the heat of a red chilli and Greek olive oil and leeks, offerings from the soil.

Saganaki. So many varieties of Saganaki. The most common one being the flaming cheese dish (Greektown favourite) or shrimp and mussels saganaki. Saganaki refers to the two-handled utensil that the dish is served in. In the loosest sense, serve something in a saganki pan and you can call it a “saganaki”. Think of the Paella…the meal itself and Paellera the utentsil. In Greek cuisine, saganaki is the dish and the utensil.

So, join me in enjoying this dish. It’s succulent, it’s sweet, it’s velvety, it’s Lent-friendly and it’s my Greek ode to scallops. I have a bit of heat, the use of Greece’s national aperatif Ouzo, Greek white wine and extra-virgin olive oil from….you guessed it….Greece!

Scallops Saganaki (Xτένια Σαγανάκι)

(makes 4 appetizer servings)

16 scallops, rinsed and patted dry

1/2 cup olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/3 cup of dry white wine

2 shots of Ouzo

1/2 tsp. of sweet paprika

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/3 cup of leeks, julienne into matchsticks

1 red chilli, thinly sliced

1 tsp of sea coarse sea salt

fresh ground pepper

1/2-3/4 cup of coarse bread crumbs (I make my own)

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

lemon wedges for garnish

Pre-heated 450F oven, rack set set to second position from the top

  1. Rinse and pat-dry your scallops and season both sides with coarse sea salt and ground pepper, set aside. In a bowl, add the olive oil, wine, Ouzo, lemon juice, garlic, chilli,  sweet paprika. Whisk to mix well.
  2. Place four scallops in each oven-proof baking vessel. Pour equal amounts of the sauce mixture into each vessel. Divide & top with leek matchsticks and now sprinkle the coarse bread crumbs over each serving.
  3. Place onto a baking sheet and insert into your pre-heated oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Now set your oven to “broil” and bake for another 2 minutes or until the breadcrumbs become golden.
  4. Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley over each serving and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread. Enjoy with one of my favourite wines, a Vatistas Malagousia white.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

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Manoura Cheese From Sifnos

IMG_3683-002This past summer, I visited the island of Sifnos, located in the Cyclades chain of islands in the Aegean. The first time I visited Sifnos was back in 2008 and the although the island was busy, it was full of tourists who were more low key, looking to relax – have  real vacation.

Eight years later and the same holds true, it’s popularity has risen but Sifnos attracts the same crowd – a mix of families, singles and couples just looking to get away from the city and escape for R & R on this beautiful island.

Plati Gialos, Sifnos
Plati Gialos, Sifnos

Sifnos is where Nikos Tselementes (father of modern Greek cuisine) is from and the local cuisine is rich, boasting of its chickpea stew baked in terra cotta vessels, lamb cooked in mastelo, another terra cotta vessel, chickpea fritters, melopita (honey cakes) and the subject of this post (finally), manoura cheese.IMG_3685-001

Manoura can be made of sheep or and it is formed and aged in round moulds. This cheese comes in two varieties…white and black. The latter is more interesting in that it is rubbed with grape must and herbs then it is aged.

It’s a semi-firm cheese, made from anthotyro (a combo of fresh cheese and whey) which is salted then allowed to age. When I bought my manoura from a deli in Apollonia (main town of Sifnos), the shopkeeper told me to never place it in the fridge, not even after it is cut!

Manoura Saganaki
Manoura Saganaki

Again, the aging and salt preserve the cheese and after it is cut, she insisted I resist the temptation to place in the fridge. To do so would dry out the cheese. Instead, one should merely place in a tupperware, closed and stored in a cool spot in the kitchen.

Manoura is made Sifnos and Folegandros and now some of the neighboring islands in the Cyclades carry it and I have seen it sold in some delis in both Athens and Thessaloniki. This cheese is slightly tangy, it’s salty, gritty, chaulky mouth feel and the wheel of cheese I have, looks dry inside but with moist spots in it – likely fats from the milk. It’s delicious!IMG_3688-001

This cheese is best served on its own with rusks/paximadia, it’s wonderful dredged in flour and fried saganaki style, drizzled with honey and certainly goes well with a red wine like Paros Moraitis Meltemi Red or a VinSanto by Santo Wines.IMG_3689-001

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