Tuesday, June 30, 2009

happy memories

Okay, my blog is kind of a nostalgia trip of late. Sorry ‘bout that. I have been making new food, but as I’m only on the second week of a job and am (fortunately) recovering from a nasty flu, my meals have been more along the lines of “foraging” than “cooking”.

But tonight combines nostalgia with, in fact, cooking. Yay!

Greek-Style Green Beans with PotatoesDSCF1369

So okay, here’s some insight into the nostalgia behind this particular recipe. First of all, duh, we miss Greece. Have you noticed? Second of all, my Greek grandmother used to make green beans with tomato sauce all the time. It was always HEAVENLY. And I miss her.

And, yknow, we had a bunch of slightly old green beans (and now we have new, gorgeous green beans from my uncle’s garden).

This recipe kind of originated in a cookbook, but since my mom got it IN Greece, and got it on her previous trip which was a lonnnnng time ago cause she went on the trip with my dad, who she was married to (so a LONG time!), you all are not going to be able to find it.

Furthermore, the recipe contains things like this:


1 and a half teacups of olive oil.


The required amount of water. Very helpful, as ever, Greeks.

So since I came up with quantities for those, and halved the recipe, and added extra tomatoes, I think I’m cool posting this.

2 T olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

10 oz. green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved

3 tomatoes, fresh or canned (I used canned) finely chopped

1 potato, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into thin slices (like half moons)

1 T parsley

1/2 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil on medium. Add onions and garlic, and sauté until translucent. Then add your green beans and sauté on medium high for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add tomatoes, potato, parsley, water, and salt and pepper. Stir ingredients to combine, and try to push the potatoes down so they are submerged in the liquid, so they cook. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and then cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.



This recipe is astonishingly simple and almost ludicrously delicious. I kept going “Yum… YUM!” as I took bites of it.

The rest of dinner was scrounged together (wow, look at the chip on that plate… they’re beautiful plates and we keep them for nostalgic reasons… Wow, nostalgia again)


My husband Mark Bittman's bean salad, which also got brought to the barbecue I wasn’t allowed to bring my germy self to. I found the recipe and picked the mint in the community garden! We made it with canned butter beans, which Marky would probably think was heresy but it was still DELISH!


The pathetic looking bread heel, toasted, with the last of my hummus.



Now for the last of the nostalgia. As previously stated, my lil sis turned 18 on Saturday. We did not actually have her blow out candles on Saturday, since she decided to have dinner with her gross boyfriend (I mean… I love him so much!)

We didn’t make cake because my sister is adored by like 3 million people and typically they all make her cake. But this year they didn’t!

Soooooooo… this may sound weird, but bear with me and think of the wedding cake tradition…

Last year, back when she was still with us, my grandma made Malindi one of her SIGNATURE birthday cakes (she had several- this is my personal favorite, banana cake with caramel filling and seven minute frosting). We froze it, due to the aforementioned usual cake abundance, and I found it in the basement deep freeze.

So… thawed it, and stuck a candle in it!


And she blew it out, and we ate the cake, and it tasted wonderful, and I missed my grandma.


But man, kind of a powerful thing to have, eh?

Monday, June 29, 2009


Um… so we all really miss Greece. Cause… in case you couldn’t tell, there’s good food everywhere.

So, in an effort to recreate some goodness, we got ourselves some eggplant. Eggplant in Greece is both ubiquitous and delicious. Then we made ourselves some Island Eggplant, courtesy of Flavors of Greece. Here’s how it goes down.

Julienne yourself some veg:


I was on celery duty and it took me like half an hour. It was kind of ridiculous. Thank God I have this blog to document things like this so I can feel a sense of accomplishment.

Then you make your tomato and onion base (ONION HATERS, AVERT YOUR EYES):


Mm mm mm caramelized onions.

You sautee up your eggplant:


I really like this cookbook in part because it uses almost exclusively olive oil (and whole wheat flour, and generally whole foods) and it keeps the quantities reasonable. Cause eggplant can get a lil dangerous!

To your bases, you add the celery (which you blanch) and some red pepper (mmmm)


You add lots of flavoring in the form of dried oregano, fresh parsley, capers, and kalamata olives


And if, like us, you are fabulous enough to have a serving bowl with olives on it, put it in there :D


Ma and the sister brought this to our family barbecue, which I was not allowed to attend cause I’m friggin’ sick. Like, I was literally whining “I wanna goooooo” and my mom was like “YOU HAVE A FEVER! DON’T EXPOSE YOUR LOVED ONES!”

So I didn’t :( I went to work today cause I thought I was better (following my tried and true take some Nyquil and sleep for 10 and a half hours method) but apparently I have a fever again.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

birthday love

Yesterday was my baby sister’s 18th birthday. Man I feel old. Does that happen to other people? You don’t watch your own progression of the years, particularly, but when it’s your younger sibling, it’s crazy?

I told her I’d make her whatever she wanted for breakfast, and she requested “some kind of eggs… with maybe some cheese”, so I saw an opportunity for culinary creativity. I give you… fried eggs with cheddar hearts!


Easy peasy—take your skillet, grease it with cooking spray, heat to medium high or so and fry your eggs. After flipping them, top with wee slices of cheese that you have cut into hearts (I just used a paring knife, it was super easy). This is, however, real cheddar- something like the Kraft slices might be too delicate for this.


There was some melty action- it’s such a conundrum- do you cook it longer so it’s more melty and delicious, or do you cook it less so the heart stays preserved?

Ultimately, even with a little melting, they were pretty darn cute.


And then my crazy sister attacked them with some ketchup (ewwwwwww), but it was actually kind of awesome, cause then they looked like bleeding hearts!


Gruesome, eh?

Last night was fun, cause I finally got to catch up with my bff- we’ve both had crazy vacation schedules followed with immediate jumps into internships, and last night we fiiiiiiinally hung out. We went, with my ma and her friend, to an exhibit opening in DC (where we ate a good amount of free food), and then Lyddie and me wandered around Palisades (my mom’s friend’s neighborhood). I reaaaaaally wanted to go to Figs Fine Foods, cause I’ve heard so much about it, but they close at EIGHT on SATURDAYS!!!!! Maddening! So instead we ended up at Palisades Pizzeria, where we split a SINGLE slice of pizza because it was SO GIGANTIC! Here’s the action shot of Lydia cutting it:


And here’s my HALF slice:


It was quite tasty pizza. VERY crisp crust, which I love. That’s my problem- I love the idea of baking pizza at home, but you just cannot get sufficient crust crispness.

And of course, what is better than, outdoors on a warm summer night, some soft serve?


In strawberry flavor. Heaven!

Friday, June 26, 2009

to be beside the sea side

Is a lovely thing!


Our guidebook called Prevali, a spot along the southern coast of Crete with a Libyan Sea beach, the prettiest beach in Crete. So we went!

We hopped on the bus (which, incidentally, had one of the most heart stoppingly handsome men I have ever seen as its conductor) and made our way through some ridiculously beautiful terrain. As you go south on Crete, the landscape starts to get drier, and it’s said to resemble Africa. It was beautiful!

Our first stop in Prevali was the monastery, which was the site of some pretty serious action! First it was the first site on Crete where the flag was raised for Greek independence from Turkey. Then, during WWII, the monks and villagers, at great risk to themselves, sheltered British and Australian airmen from the Nazis.

I couldn’t take pictures in the monastery, but here’s the somewhat startling memorial:


Monk with gun!

Then we made our way over the hillside to the beach path. The air was soooooooooo fragrant with the smell of wild herbs. Here’s some sage, just by the side of the road:


Then we made our way down the frighteningly steep hill to the beach. The views were unreal:


But so was the walk!


That smile was not totally sincere. Note my totally inappropriate footwear! We walked down for QUITE awhile, almost VERTICALLY.

We were relieved at the bottom, however, to immediately see a sign at the bottom for the BOAT that took you to the beach at Plakias, which had a  bus stop at BEACH LEVEL. Yessss. So we could enjoy this lovely sight:


Let me tell you, it was tricky to take this picture and stay within the Blogger rules of conduct. French ladies don’t wear swimsuit tops!

After the intense walk, we were hunnnnnnnngry. There was just a simple cantina serving food, but it was CRAZY TASTY!

prevali lunch

What you’re seeing there is the first whole wheat bread that we had at a restaurant in Greece! (and it was DELICIOUS, and I must recreate it!), khoriatiki salata (again, no lettuce! That is proper Greek salad! And a slab of feta, with oodles of oregano, on top, the traditional and more delicious way of incorporating the feta), and….

the best spinach pie ever. Everyone who’s had so-so spinach pies at greasy diners (yes, my people go to America and immediately build diners with greasy food and bad coffee), everyone who’s had that happen needs to taste this.

The phyllo dough was definitely THICKER and HEARTIER than any phyllo I’ve had in America, and wasn’t greasy at all. It was flaky and luscious! But ohhhhhhh the filling. The filling had that AMAZING CRETAN NOTFETA CHEESE! That and fresh spinach, some simple seasoning. Heaven!

So we hopped aboard the boat and headed for beautiful beach #2 at Plakias. The view from the boat was of some seriously intense coastal caves, but the pictures don’t do it justice. So we move on to the beach!


This water was shallow! That is me wayyyyyy out there! And, yknow, astoundingly clear, because wayyyyyy out there I could still perrrrrrrfectly see the bottom. Yay Libyan Sea. The Atlantic Ocean is just not going to do it for me anymore.prevali cafe

After our swimsie, we went to a nice lil cafe along the promenade to refresh ourselves (again, a bunch of virtually identical places with the same fab view. Again, did the “which has the most happy looking people” test).

I had one of my looooooooooooooove:

prevali frappe

They had Nescafe at work. I tried to make plain coffee with it, thinking it would at least REMIND me of a frappe. It did not x_x

lusciously local

Dinner last night was just me due to, as my mother put it in the text message she sent me to work “a kerfuffle in the emergency room” involving my sister. She’s totally fine, but guys—don’t go to boot camp workout and then drink whole milk.

I knew my dinner had to involve the goooooooooorgeous lettuce from the community garden. I grabbed something else local--


The chives from our deck planter! This dressing was way simple and way tasty- mustard, chives, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and olive oil.

Atop gorgeous local greens, with nice H mart shrooms. Not local, but vair high quality and nice.

DSCF1340 To accompany, more local-licious! Well, maybe not the ingredients, but I made the products.


It don’t get more local than homemade bread! Homemade pita bread! This is another winner from what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite cookbooks, Flavors of Greece. Incidentally, I saw no pita bread in Greece (well other than my french fry gyro, but that wasn’t necessarily *authentic Greek*). It really is more of a Middle Eastern thing. But delish!

Accompanied with more homemade hummus. Still delish!


I had it with some apple that I hadn’t been feelin’ with lunch, and went to bedsie.

I fueled up for a looooooooong, rawther tiring day at work, with a good breakfast.

This was not actually the breakfast I was PLANNING, but since my sister inhaled an entire box of my personal favorite parfait topper Life cereal (I had literally 3/4 of a cup, my mom didn’t have any, we bought it less than a week ago), I had some Smart Start, which was enjoyable (but this was the last of it—basically, we need to buy cereal, stat! And, based on my sister’s appetite, a lot!)

I also had a banana with peanut butter, which is just such a good combination.


I had the EXACT same lunch as yesterday, cause it was just so good. Including the brownies to impress the coworkers again (I was at a different site today, so I impressed my OTHER boss. Yay!)

And now… it is the weekend, PRAISE BE.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

cliffside perfection

This may- MAY- have been ONE OF my favorite meals in Greece. Qualifiers are always necessary when discussing favorite meals in Greece, cause… everything is flippin’ delicious!

On our first day in Rhethymno (the city we stayed on the outskirts of in Crete—if anyone wants any travel advice, feel free to ask—I wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing what we did, actually), my little sister demanded that we vegetatate on the beach.

While I lurve the beach, when I spend too much lying still getting direct sunlight, some weird physiological reaction happens and… I ralph! So in an effort to prevent this I went for a looooooooooong walk into town. At the end of my walk, I found a string of ADORABLE restaurants in the Old Town, overlooking the Venetian harbor. I know I had to get back there!

On the day after Sumeria Gorge, we knew we wanted to keep it low key. My sister was actually feeling sick, so she stayed home (her sick food of choice was an entire Toblerone bar and a bag of Cheetos… can you tell we have different eating habits?), but my Mom and I decided that it would be a perfect day for a leisurely walk to the beautiful harbor.

Here was the restaurant we picked (there were a bunch of similar ones lined up, as there are apt to be in pretty locales in Greece. I did my usual selection process—which has the most happy looking people. It served me well!)

rhethymno restaurant

And here was the view from our table (!!!):

rethymno restaurant view

Not bad, eh?

The meal began with some SUPER fab bread. The bread we had in Greece was really just divided into Good and Even Better, but this was definitely in the Even Better category. Fabulous soft crumb on the inside, seriously yummy sesame seeded crust.

rhethymno cliffside lunch bread

And dippers! Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasty tapenade and what I thought was just butter and kind of neglected cause I was going nuts on the tapenade, but then my Mom was all “!!! There is yogurt cheese action happening in here!” mmmmm.

rhethymno cliffside lunch bread spreads  

So as per usual, we ordered mezze to share. Our cousins had gotten us Cretan bread salad in Athens as a preview for our later trip, and we knew some was in order. The one that came was HUGE!

rhethymno cliffside lunch salad

I actually tried to ask our waitress how many different kinds of greens were in there, and she had no idea. MANY! And they were all SO GOOD! There were some standard (delicious) ones- your raddichio and arugula, mm. However, there is a green that is pretty much only found in Crete (do I remember the name? Of course not), and it’s that bad boy gorgeously topping our salad. IT IS SO GOOD!

Along with the faaaaaaaabulous greens, the salad had tomatoes, shredded carrots, the not-feta cheese, bread, and tasty tasty dressing. The overall flavor profile skewed sweet, actually, and it was SO GOOD! The best salad I’ve had… I really can’t think of a better one I’ve had. Perfect ingredients, perfect flavors.

Everything on the menu sounded equally delicious, so the other things we ordered were specials. Generally specials are a good idea in Greece- the chef goes “Hey, look at beautiful fresh produce item X, I think I’ll make dish Y out of it”. You can’t go wrong.

Fava bean puree:

rhethymno cliffside lunch fava dip

SO GOOD! I think it was probably quite simple in terms of ingredients-- fava beans, olive oil, onions, parsley, salt and pepper… not a whole lot else?—but when you have fresh perfect fava beans, why adorn them with a bunch of other stuff? This was craaaaaazy good shmeared on the bread.

Finally, the piece de resistance:

rhethymno cliffside lunch sardines


There are no words. The English language is just lacking in the ability to describe the perfect smokey charry olive oily fresh vibrant flavor of these sardines.

Perfect. They were perfect.

At this point our chairs were kind of buckling. We didn’t finish all that food, but we came really quite closer than I thought we would. However, in Crete they have a little practice called COMPLIMENTARY DESSERT.

Look, just look, at this beautiful heavenly thing:

rhethymno cliffside lunch dessert

That is perfect Greek yogurt (not Greek-style yogurt! Actually Greek, hahahah!), and on top are preserved oranges. OH MY GOODNESS! I don’t know how they do it (although you can bet I’m going to try and learn) but I take it that the wise, awesome-cooking people of Crete concluded that two seasons of fresh perfect ripe oranges just isn’t enough, so they should preserve their oranges in sweet syrup, somehow making them soft enough (while still retaining a pleasant chewy flavor) to eat the entire zesty sweet thing, peel and all.

I was trying to think of the words to describe this, and I decided an analogy would be somewhat apt (my mother agreed with me): what fine wine is to Welsch’s grape juice, this is to orange marmalade.


Finally, this menu had a cute typo:


Aw, Gordon.

And another one we encountered in Prevali, tee hee!


work should not be a bad word

Because I have a totally rad internship and I really love where I work! I’m interning for the director of resident services in low-income housing. How awesome is that?!?!?! I’m so over being around annoying entitled college students and so into being around real people who are taking amazing steps to improve the lives of the next generation (both the people who live in the communities who accomplish amazing things and the rather tireless people who I work for who try to help them).

I actually really love having a schedule, and do really poorly with free time. So here were my meals today:


Yay oatmeal! Oatmeal is just so perfect. The only thing I missed about home was oatmeal. Like literally, pretty much the only thing. This batch was with craisins, currants, and walnuts and was delish!

I had it with some of our PERFECT HONEYDEW.


Seriously, I can’t remember life before H Mart and their fantastic produce. I’m so grateful for it, because it would be suuuuuch a downer to leave all the beautiful fruit in Greece and come home to lackluster grocery store stuff. But this honeydew is exceptionally lovely.

Here’s lunch, pre-packing:


That is “egg salad” that’s actually a blend of 1 egg and 1/2 a packet of silken tofu- again, we have a glut- , combined with green onion, lotsa mustard, bit o sour cream, bit o vinegar, lotsa paprika, and garlic powder, which was really what pulled it together (to clarify that recipe makes like 3 servings; I left a bunch in the kitchen so we could all have quick work lunches).

On toasted spelt bread (I ended up throwing on some lettuce, too, before I packed it). The bread did not get soggy AT ALL! I was so stoked!

I also had some carrot sticks on the side (which I didn’t bother to peel, since no one else on the internet does, and it really makes no difference. Good to know cause I’m laaazy).

And no, I didn’t eat all those brownies. I brought them to make my coworkers loooobe me! Except only one of them was actually THERE today, lol, but she said peanut butter and chocolate were her favorite combination EVER (incidentally, this was my boss, so I was thrilled to have brought her favorite combination ever!), so I was still happy I brought them. We each had one, and I brought the other two home. So there are still a whole lotta brownies in my house!

After work, I unwound on the decksie with a snacksie:


Yogurt and my awesome homemade iced tea, enjoyed with the crossword puzzle. Ahh.

Finally, I have the BEST WORK PERK EVER, in the form of FRESH LOCAL PRODUCE from the COMMUNITY GARDEN!


In addition to having a great meaningful job and a super nice, peanut butter and chocolate loving boss, one of my jobs is to GARDEN! In the past I have been the typical East Coast liberal who loves the ideal of the Small Local Farmer but is actually incapable of not killing anything she tries to grow. However, this is already an established garden! Today I weeded and planted potatoes and watered! It was awesome!

And then I got sent home with fresh lettuce and mint (which, incidentally, grows like a WEED, and it is thus MYSTIFYING why it is so DISPROPORTIONALLY EXPENSIVE at the grocery store!)