Saturday, 7 March 2015

Day 14 - March 7, 2015 - Easy Calamari with Garlic and Parsley - Εύκολο Καλαμάρι με σκόρδο και μαϊντανό

Cooking squid is not for everybody.  Some people don't like that it takes a while to clean squid, removing the ink sack, removing the beak, the eyes, and that piece of cartilage that looks like plastic.  The nice part about cooking squid is that you can find it already cleaned in the freezer section of the grocery store!  You will also find it at many fish counters, and definitely at a fish monger.  If the squid is already cleaned, this dish ill take 15 minutes to make from start to finish.  It is a nice, quick appetizer that can be served any time of year.  There are very few ingredients, and they are all ones that most people have on hand regularly.

For this recipe, you will need the following: 

1 pound (about 450 g) Calamari, cleaned
3 TBSP Lemon juice
3 TBSP Oil
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2 TBSP Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

First, put the cleaned and rinsed squid in a bowl with the lemon juice.  You have the choice to cut thee pieces of squid or leave them whole.  Most people would cut the calamari now before putting it into the lemon juice.  This time, we left ours whole because we thought it looked pretty.  In the past, we have cut it into large bite sized pieces, which works nicely.  Whether the calamari is cut or not, allowing it to soak in the lemon juice is a needed step.  Allow the squid to sit for 10 minutes to marinate.  This should be enough time for the acid of the lemon to help soften the outer layer of the  calamari.  

While the squid is soaking in the lemon juice, you have enough time to mince the garlic and measure the oil and parsley.  Ten minutes goes by quickly when you are busy!

Heat the oil in a frying pan using a medium high to high heat.  You don't want to fry at too high of a hat so not to affect the colour of the ingredients.  The amount of oil may seem excessive with only 3 cloves of garlic, but use all of it.  You are going to add the garlic right now, but in two minutes, you will add the squid, and you want to make sure there is enough hot oil for all the squid.  Keep the garlic moving around in the frying pan so that it does not turn brown.  

Now, add the squid.  Continue to move the garlic and squid around in the pan so that it cooks evenly all over.  When you see the colour change to a lovely darkened pink, with a purple hue to the tentacles, and some liquid forming in the pan, you know it is time to add the parsley.  This is only about three to four minutes, so you have to stay on top of it.

Add the parsley and mix it all through the calamari so that each piece is dressed with flakes of parsley leaves.  We used dried parsley here today, and in the past we have had the fresh parsley to add -- both are good, and if you are in a pinch, the dried parsley is an easy solution.

Once the parsley is softened and mixed in the pan, you can serve the calamari.  It should be nice and tender, and flavourful.  Remove the squid and put the pieces on a plate or bowl.  Then, you can pour whatever "sauce" is in the pan, or you can let the sauce cook down a bit on the high heat to make it stronger flavoured before adding it to the serving dish.  Husband likes this style of calamari without any of the juices poured on top, so he can get the bits of parsley and garlic stuck onto the pieces of squid, which is very flavourful.  Wife prefers to have a little sauce so she can dip her bread into the dish and enjoy the lingering flavour even more.  You should try it both ways and tell us which you prefer.

Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the squid before serving.  We also sprinkled some more parsley on top of the calamari for our garnish.  Serve this while it is hot -- that is when it tastes the best!

We like to serve a calamari when we need something different in our menu.  When having company over, this is a nice dish to serve because it is easy, but looks like a lot of work.  We think that the most work comes from having to buy the calamari, and if you buy the ones that are cleaned for you, this dish can be made (start to finish) in less than thirty minutes.  When your schedule is tight, and you need a good protein, this is an excellent choice.  Let us know how yours turned out!

A Christian must be courteous to all. His words and deeds should breath with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which abides in his soul, so that in this way he might glorify the name of God. He who regulates all of his speech also regulates all of his actions. He who keeps watch over the words he is about say also keeps watch over the deeds he intends to do, and he never goes out of the bounds good and benevolent conduct. The graceful speech of a Christian is characterized by delicateness and politeness. This fact, born of love, produces peace and joy. On the other hand, boorishness gives birth to hatred, enmity, affliction, competitiveness, disorder and wars. 

(St. Nektarius of Aegina, The Path to Happiness, 7)

Friday, 6 March 2015

Day 13 - March 6, 2015 - Greek Carbonated Loux Lemon Juice Drink and Home Made Version - Λούξ Αερούχα Λεμονάδα και Σπιτίσια Απομίμιση

Loux (pronounced looks) is a very common and popular soft drink in Greece.  Here in Toronto, it is quite popular throughout the Greek community.  It is a carbonated, citrus drink that offers refreshment and fresh flavours that may remind someone of Greece.  Surprisingly, Loux soft drinks are available in Germany, Italy, Canada, USA, Cyprus, Australia, Panama, United Kingdom, Israel, and China (as per the Loux website).  It is great to know that a Greek product can be shared with the world!

We were at the grocery store and saw a large bottle of Loux (1.5 litres) for $2.29.  We thought that was a little expensive, seeing how we can purchase another soft drink in a 2 litre bottle for $1.29.  As we discussed what Loux really was, we thought we could just make our own.  The ingredients list on the bottle show, in order, carbonated water, natural juice (20%), sugar, citric acid. That is how we knew we could make our own.  In order to show you all how easy this is, and how closely similar the two products are, we bought two of the small bottles (330 ml each) at $0.99 each.  We already had the carbonated water, juice, and sugar to make our version of this drink without any preservatives.

One reason to make this drink at home instead of buying it is that you can save a little money.  But, more importantly, you can reduce the amount of your sugar intake.  When we made the orange "Loux-alike", we did not add sugar.  But, with the lemon flavoured one, we had to add a little bit of sugar to compensate for the very tart lemon juice flavour.

Here is how we did it:

We started with a half cup of each orange juice and club soda.  Tonic water does not work because the flavour of the tonic water interferes with the taste of the orange juice.  Mix the club soda and orange juice together and serve in a glass of ice.  We did end up adding another 2 TBSP of orange juice to the glass because we wanted the flavour a little stronger and a little sweeter.

Then we put the bottled Loux in a glass of ice and placed that next to our homemade version.  Can you tell them apart?  Do you see the difference?  On the left is the Loux brand drink, on the right is the homemade beverage.  They are very similar in colour, but the Loux brand is much sweeter, and slightly more carbonated than the other.  But, we did not add sugar.  Had we added a Tablespoon or so, they would have been nearly identical.

Next, we made our version of the lemon Loux.  Again, we used 1/2 cup of club soda and 1/2 cup lemon juice.  This time, we added 2 teaspoons of sugar, as if we were making lemonade with club soda.  And, that is exactly what the lemon Loux tasted like -- carbonated lemonade.  So, with a little adjustment of the sugar, adding a bit more to personal tastes, we had made a fine substitute for the lemon Loux. 

The drink on the left is the Loux brand lemon juice drink, and the one on the right is the homemade drink.  You can see they are the same colour, the same cloudiness from the sugar, but the one on the left is clearly more carbonated.  We could use a seltzer spritzer (or a SodaStream dispenser, if you have one at hand) so that our "Loux-alike" drink is even more similar.  For now, it "loux" like we made a good imitation for half the cost.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes. 3:1-8

Day 12 - March 5, 2014: Lenten Beets and Greens - Νηστήσιμα Παντζάρια

Beets are a food that you like or you don't.  When the beets are cooked with the stems and the greens, they seem to be a new vegetable with a different taste.  When cooked, beets are sweet and full of sugar.  However, the stems are bitter and the greens (leaves) are peppery.  It is a great combination of flavours, and it is a very nutritious side dish that can accompany any meal.  In October, we are able to find purple beets, golden beets, and red beets, but for this recipe, we had only the traditional red beets.  Since beets are good any time of year, you can buy the various colours at various times of year.  Or, if you are adventurous, you can grow the beets in your garden and have a whole variety of colours.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

1 bunch red beets with stems and leaves
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the beets. Since they are grown in the ground, it is important to clean them well.  Wash the dirt out of the stems and leaves, too.  We have found that with many root vegetables, there are small bugs caught in the leaves, and they  need to be washed out.  Some folks will put the stems and leaves in a sink full of water and let them to sit in cold water for about thirty minutes.  This will allow the dirt (and bugs) to rinse off and sink to the bottom, where the greens will float.  If you have that kind of time, you can do that.  If not, wash well.

Separate the three parts of the beets. Cut the beets off of the stems as close to the bulb as you can.  We usually allow an inch of stem to remain on the bulb so we can use it like a handle after the beets are cooked.  Also, cut the tail (root) end of the beet.  

The second (and middle) part of the beet is the stem.  They are long, and some are thick.  Cut the stem at the point where the leaves start to grow.  Now, you have three piles of three parts of beets.

To cook, put the beet bulbs in a pot full of water and bring it to a boil.  Add the stems to the pot once the water comes to a boil.  Boil the beets until they are soft and will fall off a fork when poked (like a potato).  They should be soft all the way through the centre.  The stems will be done in the amount of time it takes to cook the beets.  Drain the water from the beets and stems and rinse the bulbs under cool water.  While rinsing, rub the skin on the beet, and the skin will peel off easily.  We do this under running water so we have fewer stains on our hands from the beet juice.  You can wear gloves if that is easier for you.

Once the beets are peeled, slice them or quarter them and set the beets aside.  Set aside the stems without doing anything to them.

Boil the water and add a pinch of salt for the greens.  Add the leaves into the pot of boiling water.  Cook the stems long enough to become soft.  The greens take about 3 minutes to cook full.  The greens will wilt and turn a deep shade of green.  When the leaves are tender, drain the water, but do not rinse the stems.

With all three parts cooked, it is time to assemble them into a dish (bowl, or shallow bowl) and dress them for dinner.  It is not formal attire, though, but the beets will get dressed.  Lay the greens in the serving dish.

In a separate bowl, put the cut beets with the stems.  Pour oil and vinegar on top to coat all the vegetables and mix well.  Now, put the mixture of beets and stems into the bed of greens.  Pour any remaining oil and vinegar on top of the beets in the serving dish.  Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top, to your liking, and serve.  The oil and vinegar will dress the greens as they all sit together in the serving dish.  This is very traditional way to serve beets.  

"Everybody wants to change the world, but nobody thinks about changing himself."Dostoevsky

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Day 11 - March 4, 2015 - Marinated Mixed Seafood - Ξυδάτη Σαλάτα με Θαλλασινά

Certain types of seafood are acceptable during Great Lent, since there is no blood in these species.  Mussels, Shrimp, Oysters, Squid, Octopus, and Clams are good as individual dishes, but when they are combined into one mix, they are "pentanostimo!" dish (literally translated as "5 times tasty", a common expression by Greeks when describing a very tasty food).

 In many grocery stores, in the frozen seafood section, there are the packages of mixed seafood.  The one we used, we bought at Costco, and the mix contained squid, shrimp, mussels, and clams.  That was a nice combination for this dish.  These mixes are rather inexpensive and give the variety of seafood that may just be the answer to the question, "What's for dinner?"  Using one of these pre-fabricated mixes makes the process easier than shucking shellfish and faster!

We decided to make a marinated seafood, which we pass by in the market aisles.  We look at the jars with small pieces of seafood and some morsels of vegetables, and then, we consider the price of $12.49 for 500 ml, we think that is too expensive for something that we can make for under $6.00.  So, we spent the time to make our version of marinated seafood.

For this recipe, you will need the following: 

1 bag Seafood Mix (Medley) - we used approximately 3 lbs (approximately 1.4 kg)
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 TBSP capers
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup oil
1 cup vinegar (red wine or white)
1 TBSP oregano, more or less to taste
1 TBSP salt
pepper to taste

Chop the celery and carrots to a small dice.  The pieces should be about the same size as the seafood pieces, or, if needed, smaller.  In a pot of boiling water, blanch the vegetables.  This means that you have the pot of boiling water ready, put the vegetables in a strainer or sieve, and submerge the strainer into the boiling water.  Allow the vegetables to boil for about 2 minutes, to take the hard crunch off.  Then,  since the vegetables are already in a strainer, they are easy to remove from the boiling water.  Drain the vegetables and put them in a bowl of ice to stop the cooking process.  We blanched the celery  and carrots separately because they take different amounts of time to cook (carrots take longer).  Then, drain the ice water and put the vegetables in a bowl.

Now, it is time to prepare the seafood.

Using a steamer basket or a tall colander that fully fits inside a pot, boil some water in a pot for the seafood.  Some seafood mixes are pre-cooked, ours was not.  Therefore, we have to steam or boil the mix before marinating.  We used a steamer basket in a large pot, which made it easy to take the seafood out of the boiling water.  While the seafood is cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, that is enough time to make the marinade.  You want to add the hot seafood to the cool marinade.

Mix together the oil, vinegar, salt, oregano, and pepper.  Then, add the capers and adjust seasonings as you need to.  Mix this well, and add the hot seafood to this mixture.  Give the seafood a mix so it is all coated with the liquid.  Then, add the cooked carrots and celery.  Mix so that all the components are well combines and fully coated with the marinade.

Allow this to cool to room temperature.  We chose to put ours in a Mason jar to keep in the fridge for a few days. Afterwards, we refrigerated the jar to cool it. We also had remaining seafood mixture which we served directly from the mixing bowl.  Enjoy yours a a "toursi" (marinated/pickled food), on top of a bed of lettuce, or with some fresh bread.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:8-10