Seafood Stew & My Ongoing Path to Wholeness: Part 1

Fish Stew

 

When I make and eat this stew, which I have several times already in the past few months, I feel like I am aligning with everything I want to when it comes to food in my life right now. I am eating something wholesome, bursting with flavor, absolutely nourishing, not to mention satisfying and when I am through eating, I feel good, not heavy and not deprived.

Over the last few months I have changed my relationship with food. This is probably a process that will be ongoing for the rest of my life, but I hope not. I hope to be the woman in the vision I had a few months ago. Sitting at a large table, outside, under a pergola. We are surrounded by hills of farmland and trees. The sun is warm on my skin and I see it glistening over everything. There is a beautiful breeze blowing and the air smells so clean with a hint of wood fire smoke lingering. There is laughter in the air and the murmuring of a large group of people. The table is crowded with family and friends and it is laden with delicious dishes – homegrown fruits and vegetables, succulent seafood, cheeses, olives, cold cuts, fresh baked bread, wine, various kinds of salads and a gorgeous dish of pasta, glistening with the freshest tomatoes and olive oil, the scent wafting in the air. I make a plate for Alba and then a plate for myself and I eat it all, enjoying each bite, savoring each moment.

In my body I feel light as a feather, nothing heavy weighing me down, physically, mentally or emotionally. In that moment I am happy, so happy I could just dance with glee. I feel free and vibrant, utterly alive and primal and full of the love that is in my life.

Over the past several months upon returning home after an extended trip to Italy, I have come to really embrace Italian eating habits and some of the Italian way of life. Before this last trip, I spent the last 3 years battling Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition that is currently under control. I was overwhelmingly tired, putting on weight quickly, developing some skin conditions and I was reacting to various foods. In my quest for optimum health, I turned towards the Paleo diet since it is touted as an anti-inflammatory diet that is especially good for autoimmune conditions.

I truly believed this way of eating would help me lose the weight I put on, clear up my rosacea and eczema, give me the energy of someone in their early 20’s and allow me to get super fit and buff again. The idea of Primal/Paleo appealed to me because I never did well as a vegetarian (in hindsight, I think being a low-fat veggie for over 10 years led to some of my health issues) and I liked the idea of sticking to certain foods and not having to count calories. All the books, blogs and articles led me to believe as long as I stayed away from the “bad foods” and ate of the “good foods” I would be at my optimal health. It was a done deal I had this thing beat. I was on my way!

In addition to starting a new regimen of supplements prescribed to me by my naturopath and which actually helped IMMENSLY, I also spent a lot of time eliminating foods from my diet – eggs, dairy, beans, corn, soy, refined sugar, in rotation trying to find the magic bullet to feel as wonderful as all the books, articles and blogs I read told me I would feel. Then when it didn’t, I would beat myself up and try to figure out what I was doing wrong.

I concentrated my efforts in the kitchen on making gut healthy foods – lots of ferments like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and yogurt. I made my own condiments and never ate sugar. I also quit coffee and tea. I took probiotics. I made my own bone broth and ate it often. I ate copious amounts of butter and coconut oil; lard and duck fat made regular appearances on my plate. I ate organ meat, fish eggs and fermented cod liver oil. I soaked my nuts before eating them. I drank raw milk.

But even with all of this, my rosacea continued to flare, my eczema didn’t go away, I gained a little more weight (maybe a pound or so a year in total, but it still added up). I still got tired often and my environmental allergies were so bad, I couldn’t take a sweater out of the closet and wear it without washing it first or my eyes would be so watery and I would become so congested I needed to take over the counter allergy medicine just to survive the day – and then I would beat myself up over that because I am the kind of person that doesn’t ever take things like that, and the cycle would start all over again.

On a recent trip to Sardinia in Italy, I was sitting down at an ocean front restaurant trying to figure out what to eat for lunch. I had just been to an Erboristeria (Herbalist) looking for something to relieve my dust allergy that was making me miserable. The herbalist there gave me a black currant tincture. He also told me to stay away from shellfish and when my gluten allergy came up, he suggested I might want to stay away from dairy as well, because those two allergies can sometimes be linked.

I almost had a melt-down at the table reading the menu. There was all this beautiful food on it that I couldn’t eat – all the pastas, the pizza and the bread. But then there was all the amazing cheeses and of course, being on the sea, tons and tons of shellfish. Since I was trying to be grain free and stick to my paleo diet, I was pretty much living on meat – prosciutto, mortadella and salami in all their various forms, as well as some delicious Sardinian sheep cheese. There was some fruit and yogurt involved in my meals as well, but if I was going to try cutting out dairy again, that was going to leave me with a very boring diet. It was just too much. I was asking too much.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream in frustration. I wanted mussels in marinara.

I remember looking across the table at Roberto and saying: “I feel like a self-flagellating nun in the land of decadence and debauchery”. He ordered the mussels and a glass of wine, he made me eat the mussles. I felt better.

After that moment I realized I was the one who was making myself miserable. Yes, I have a gluten allergy, but that’s it. Why was I depriving myself of all grains, beans, sugar, etc. ? I realized that for years now, I had been waking up every morning thinking that I was “unhealthy” and wondering if I really would ever be healthy again. I was identifying too much with my condition and letting it become a part of me. From that moment I knew I had to be the one to take control of this situation. So I started eating gluten free pasta and bread everyday and enjoyed several gluten free pizzas. I even had my first Coke in 20 years (in Italy they are still made with cane sugar). It was cathartic.

JennEatingPizza

When I came home I was determined to lose the weight I had put on over the years, between the Hashimoto’s and my diet. I found a wonderful book Flat Belly Diet! Gluten-Free Cookbook: 150 Delicious Fat-Blasting Recipes! and despite its cheesy name decided to work my way through it. It was tough, because I don’t really believe in diets and calorie counting. But I had also started to believe that I would never lose this weight again. Being in Italy, I talked with someone who had lost 40 pounds. How did she do it? She went on a diet. Was she worried that the weight was an underlying problem to a bigger health issue? No, she just ate too much and needed to rein it in. What a simple perspective! So I decided to try this book, the recipes looked delicious and I was excited about getting some new dishes into my repertoire. Within a month of eating this way I lost 10 pounds. After 2 months, I didn’t stick to the diet, but used techniques and the portions I had learned from the book to keep my eating in balance and have since lost another 5 pounds. Something that even the strictest version of the Paleo diet couldn’t do for me. After 3 months of eating this way, there has not been a return of Hashimoto’s flare ups, which was another concern I had and so I really feel like this is successful for me.

I came to learn that being a food lover doesn’t mean I always have to indulge, nor do I have to prove that all you have to do is eat high quality food in any amount and all will be well. I believe that food quality is still the most important thing, but I learned that I can’t stuff myself everyday and expect to remain at the weight I want. I can still enjoy amazing food, just smaller portions and make sure my meals are really balanced.

That is where this chowder comes in. Although everyone in my family, my husband, my father in law and even Alba, loved the recipes from the book, I felt the need to let my cooking creativity flow again and one day I made this chowder from leftovers and pantry staples. It was touted one of the best recipes I ever made and we have had it often since that first time.

It is full of delicious flavors, lots of wonderful vegetables and absolutely satisfying. I like to enjoy a steaming bowl of this with a nice slice of gluten free bread smeared with butter.

INGREDIENTS:
2 TBS olive oil
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
1 russet potato, diced
salt and pepper
1TBS turmeric powder
1 cup veggie broth (if not using homemade, I like Pacific Foods Organic Vegetable Broth
1 can organic tomato sauce
½ cup white wine
4 whole tomatoes diced (or 2 cans)
1 can filtered water
1 lb of seafood (fish, clams, shrimp)
2 TBS capers
1TBS lemon juice

METHOD: In a large soup pot heat the olive oil, then add the vegetables, salt and pepper. Once veggies are getting soft, about 5 minutes, add the turmeric and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the veggie broth, tomato sauce, wine, diced tomatoes and wine. Cover pot and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until potatoes and other veggies are tender.
Add seafood and continue to cook until cooked through – less time for shellfish and a bit longer for fish. I like to use halibut or cod for this, and I usually let it simmer in the broth for about 7-8 minutes. If you are doing a mixture of fish and shellfish, cook the fish for about 5 minutes and then add the shellfish.
Once all the seafood is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the capers and lemon juice.

Serves 6 dinner sized portions

Shakshouka: Eggs cooked in fragrant tomato sauce

 

Long time readers of this blog will know how much I love eggs. They are definitely one of my favorite foods and I have written about them often (this blog has almost 100 recipes featuring eggs!). In fact I have often bordered on waxing poetic about them. My one and only youtube video is all about eggs (from hen to pan) and one of my egg recipes was even featured in a cookbook on brain healthy foods, Think Food . So yeah, I am a big fan.

It is hard to say anything negative about eggs these days, especially now that people are hip to the understanding that eggs don’t increase your cholesterol or make you fat, more and more the egg is being praised again for its health benefits. It really is nature’s most perfect food and each day I marvel at the little miracles deposited in our hens’ nesting boxes. Studies are even speculating that those with egg allergies, really aren’t allergic to the eggs but to the soy  in the eggs from the feed chickens are given.

“Eggs are an amazing whole food. They are rich in choline, a key ingredient in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is necessary for the healthy communication between brain cells. Studies have shown that choline intake promotes recovery from learning memory disorders in the aging brain, and may even improve psychic function in those with senile dementia or Alzheimer’s. Egg yolks are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, yielding additional brain benefits”.ThinkFood, Recipes for Brain Fitness

Now I have already mentioned many times that you should make sure to find a source of good quality, organic, pasture raised eggs (and soy free if you can find them). But it doesn’t hurt to say it again. When it comes to eggs, meat and dairy, organic, pasture raised is a must. These are foods I will never skimp on. It is the way nature intended and this is the only way to ensure you aren’t getting GMOs, added hormones or antibiotics in your food, all things that make naturally good and healthy food, unhealthy. It really is that simple. What the animals we eat, eat, is what we eat. Hence the famous cliché – You Are What You Eat. Well, you really are.

One of my favorite things about eggs is that they are so easy to raise yourself. It is a way of getting cheap, local, sustainable food right in your backyard (or front yard, in our case)! Many towns allow people to keep at least 3 hens, backyard layers are becoming as popular as gardening these days! And this is good – we could all be a little more sustainable and self-sufficient. And if you can’t raise hens yourself, check out localharvest.org to find a local farm near you that does! A great way to support your local economy and find out from the farmer exactly what went into those eggs.

(Shakshouka served with gluten-free sourdough bread)

Now onto the recipe, I learned how to make Shakshouka from my best friend Liz. Shakshouka is an Israeli dish comprised of peppers, onions, garlic and eggs cooked in tomato sauce, spiced with cumin and it is absolutely delicious. In fact the first time we had it, her Israeli husband made it for us, for dinner. There were sweet and hot peppers in it and the flavors just popped! Combine that with perfectly poached eggs on top, breaking and releasing their delicious yolks and it is pretty much heaven on a dish (or in a bowl). They served it with pita and hummus. It was a satisfying and flavorful meal.

Wikipedia says that Shakshouka was introduced to Israeli cuisine by Tunisian Jews and so it is a popular dish in North Africa as well.

I don’t often have access to fresh peppers unless it is the height of summer. So I usually use roasted jarred peppers and a pinch of cayenne or hot smoked paprika to lend some heat to the dish. I use the best canned tomatoes I can find – usually that means home canned tomatoes. I also like Pomi brand tomatoes and Eden Organics (the cans are BPA free) and of course our farm fresh eggs! Sometimes if I have leftover potatoes, I will add them as well.

Add some spice to your morning eggs and get your day going with some delicious Shakshouka!

INGREDIENTS:

A nice glug of olive oil
1 roasted bell pepper (or fresh) cut into thin slices
½ a small onion
1 clove of garlic minced
2- 8 oz cans of diced tomatoes (or one box of Pomi)
Cumin, cayenne (or hot smoked paprika) salt and pepper to taste.
4 large farm fresh organic eggs

METHOD:
Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Gently sauté peppers, onions and garlic on medium-low heat until tender. Add tomatoes and spices/seasoning and simmer over medium heat until much of the liquid is evaporated and you have a nice spiced sauce (about 10 minutes). Crack eggs over pan, season, place lid over pan and let cook until egg whites are cooked and yolks are still runny.

Hunter’s Chicken and Clapshot

Once you become a farmer (and a hunter) certain things you never would have thought of before become hysterical. Like the idea of “Chicken Cacciatore” or Hunter’s Chicken. When chickens become part of your life, you start to imagine how a dish like this ever came to be, as “hunting” for chickens really makes no sense – there are very few wild chickens in the world, and raising animals for meat hardly equates to being a hunter. Historically, the dish seems to have been made with rabbit, which definitely makes more sense but it seems that even in Italy, where the dish originated, chicken is often used. For me it is just another reminder of how detached we are as a society from where our food actually comes from.

Semantics and doom aside, this dish is a definite favorite all over the world. In fact, the recipe I used to make this version of Hunter’s Chicken, is from one of my favorite cookbooks – Scottish Traditional Recipes: A Celebration of the Food and Cooking of Scotland.

A picture of the recipe even graces the front cover of the cookbook! However, this recipe seems to me to be a bit of a cross between the Italian Pollo alla Cacciatora and the French Coq au Vin. Perhaps because the Scottish and French had a very famous historical alliance, it is likely the Scots also learned about the cuisine and culture of the French. Since I was using a Scottish recipe for this dish, I decided to pair it with Clapshot – a mixture of mashed potatoes and golden turnips (or in this case a rutabaga), a classic Scottish side dish. I also used the Italian classic, Chianti wine to prepare the dish.

No matter the origins of this favorite dish, it is perfect hearty fare for the end of winter, or a quick spring cold-snap. The best is that most of you probably have all the ingredients already available in your freezer or pantry! Making this a quick and easy dish to prepare in a snap!

You can prepare it in a Dutch oven, cast iron skillet, or as I did, in my Tagine.

*This is also a good time to remind you, if you are interested in following my homesteading activities, please check out my blog Got Goats (and sheep too)? and the corresponding facebook page!

Hunter’s Chicken (adapted from Scottish Traditional Recipes)

INGREDIENTS:

2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
Half a chicken (or 4 chicken portions, like whole legs)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup of dry red wine
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 rosemary sprig finely chopped
4 oz. fresh field mushrooms (or portabellos), thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:
Heat oven to 350 F. Heat the oil and butter in the vessel you will be using to cook the dish. Add the chicken and fry for 5 minutes, remove chicken from the pan and drain in paper towels. Add the sliced onion to the pan and cook gently, stirring often for about 3 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes and red wine. Add the crushed garlic and chopped rosemary; bring to a boil stirring constantly. Return the chicken to the casserole, turn to coat with the sauce, cover with a tight fitting lid. At this point you can either keep it stove top and simmer for about 30-40 minutes, or you can add the mushrooms, season the dish with salt and pepper and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Serve with Clapshot (see recipe below).

Clapshot (adapted from Scottish Traditional Recipes)

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb of potatoes
1 lb of rutabaga (swede)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup milk or cream
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

METHOD:

Peel potatoes and rutabaga, then cut into evenly small chunks. Place the cut vegetables in a pan and cover with water, add about a tsp of salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until both vegetables are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the vegetables through a colander, return to the pan and allow the vegetables to dry out a bit over low heat, stirring often to prevent sticking. Melt butter with the milk in a small pan over low heat. Mash the dry potato and rutabaga mixture, then add the milk mixture. Grate the nutmeg and mix thoroughly, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Sardinian Purcavru in Agru Durci

Purcavru in Agru Durci garnished with mirto

I told you all I was going to be making things interesting on here with different recipes from a variety of different world cuisines!

With the first in this series, I am giving a nod to my husband’s Sardinian roots. Sardinia is a small island off the coast of Italy in the vicinity of Rome. I was lucky enough to go there this past year when Roberto and I went with our moms on the “roots tour” of Italy. Roberto was born in Sardinia to Sardinian parents, but grew up in Rome. On our visit there last fall, we spent time with the extended family. It was lovely.

Sardinia is an interesting place, I immediately loved it because it has a rich culture both with herding animals (sheep and goats) but is also the place in Europe which has the greatest amount of megalithic structures, making this farm girl and history buff very happy!

These megalithic structures, round tower-fortresses called nuraghi, which ancient villages were built around are over 35,000 years old and there are over 8,000 of them on Sardinia, an island that is about the size and shape as Vermont. So that is a lot of pre-history going on there! If you aren’t into history, Sardinia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, La Costa Smeralda- The Emerald Coast. There are also beautiful mountains (yes they get snow!) and lunar looking rock formations. There is an area towards the middle of the island that is called Valle Della Luna – The Valley of the Moon and looks just like Rohan from the Lord of the Rings movies. Fascinating landscape!

But the thing I loved about it most is that it is home to some of the oldest trees in Europe. We were able to visit 2 of these old olives, the oldest being 5,000 years old and the second oldest being around 3,000 – and still producing olives!!! For me, a nature worshiper it was akin to meeting Gandhi. The most amazing thing about Italy in general is that you can grow so much food! Nearly everyone that has even a small plot of land has fruit trees, some grapes to make homemade wine, nut and olive trees, veggie gardens, etc. I saw tons of pomegranate and fig trees. There is just so much abundance there!

Sardinia actually has its own language, Sardu, of which there are several dialects. Sardu has been influenced by Catalan, Spanish and indigenous Nuragic elements with some roots from Phoenician and Etruscan. So instead of the more familiar Italian “a” and “o” word endings, Sardinian words end with “u” and “s”, like our last name, Campus. This is because Sardinian is much like Latin. You can see this in the name of this dish Purcavru Agru Durci, which in Italian would be Cinghiale Agrodolce.

So what about the food? Well because of its location, Sardinian cuisine has been able to capture tastes from various Mediterranean influences: Catalan, Corsican, Spanish, Italian. The diet is rich in meats, like lamb, goat and pork, fresh vegetables, wonderful cheeses, fresh veggies and of course copious amounts of olive oil and rich red wine, famed for its high level of antioxidants- Cannonou. On the coast, where we didn’t spend much time, there is also a lot of fish and seafood consumed. And, like the rest of Italy the population consumes large amounts of pasta and bread. In fact as a gluten-intolerant, I had a hard time in Italy in general staying away from wheat as it is in almost everything from bread and pasta, to a thickener in sauces and a coating on vegetables and meats. I asked the question on facebook the other day after reading an article about how wheat is killing the world, how people like Italians, and especially Sardinians, known the world over as healthy and one of the longest living peoples could be in such a good state of health (the island has the world’s highest documented percentage of people who have passed the century threshold.) if wheat is the only factor. It was an interesting discussion, but none of us were able to really make sense of that!

But I digress. One thing which is very unique to Sardinian cuisine is the use of Mirto, or Myrtle. The plant is symbolic of love and immortality, and in Sardinia it is an essential plant. The berries (which look a bit like small blueberries, although there is a white version as well )are used to make a delicious aperitif, called “mirto”, which uses both varieties of berries separately, creating a red and white version and the leaves. Sardinians also use the leaves in cooking, similar in manner to bay leaves or other herbaceous plants. I was able to get some to bring home with me, and this is one of the ingredients that really makes this dish. The taste is very hard to place for me, but is most similar to a bay leaf.

I wasn’t able to get wild boar for this dish, but we did use meat from the half pig we bought this year (and butchered ourselves) from a local farmer.

Purcavru in Agru Durci (from Cooking in Sardinia)

INGREDIENTS:

4-5 TBS olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp myrtle leaves (substitute bay leaf)
1 ½ lbs boneless boar or pork meat, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tsp sugar
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 TBS tomato Paste
Salt to taste

METHOD:
Sauté onion in a pan (I used cast iron) with 4-5 TBS of olive oil. Add about a tsp of chopped myrtle leaves. Add the meat and a pinch of salt and brown over medium heat. Blend sugar and vinegar, stir and pour over the meat. Then dilute tomato paste in a cup of warm water, add to the pan, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 45 mins. You will have to add more water intermittently so the stew doesn’t dry out. During the last five minutes, uncover pan to reduce the sauce.

Cooking from the Pantry: Chicken with Artichokes, Garbanzos and Tomatoes

I have a few food goals this year; one is to start creating meals solely from the pantry and freezer. We are fortunate to be well stocked in those areas – for the past two years we have been buying whole or half animals for meat and also started raising a batch of meat chickens every summer and I do a lot of canning, preserving and freezing (as well as storing root vegetables) from our summer garden.

But I am like every other foodie, I love going food shopping and I found that every few weeks, when we would go, I would come home with enough stuff to basically feed us without dipping into the reserves too much. I was cooking the meat, using some core products from the pantry but kind of turning a blind eye to the preserves and such. I guess that is the folly of this modern world, where even those of us who are hyper-aware about where our food comes from, who take extra time and effort to grow food and preserve it and who cares deeply about sustainability still can be dazzled by all the fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets. Humans can be so silly sometimes…

I decided that this pattern of mine had to end.  So I started by pretending that my house was the market, and I started shopping here and realize that we have so much bounty! I also started going through all my many shelves of cookbooks and marking recipes that I would like to try. Then I took the next step, and actually make a document, listing and categorizing the recipes. Then once a week, we look at the list and pick out several things to try – maybe 3 dinners, some breakfast and lunch ideas, a dessert or two, several sides or salads, that kind of thing. Then I put the meals on a dry-erase board and that is our menu board for the week, leaving some days open for spontaneity and of course pizza night (every Friday).

This is a creation I came up with on my own, but I think in the coming months you will see that I am drawing inspiration from many cookbooks of various genres. I am excited about this project as it is keeping me creative and entertained in the kitchen, exploring some new cuisines I haven’t spent much time with lately and learning some new techniques.

This dish is very simple and extremely flavorful. The best part is that everything I needed was at home. The chicken is one we raised and the other items came from the pantry or freezer. Since we live in a rural area, we have found that shopping in bulk (through Amazon Prime, mostly) saves us a lot of time, money and gas, so we stock up on interesting things, like artichoke hearts. I hope you enjoy this recipe, good enough for Sunday night dinner, without much effort.

INGREDIENTS:

1 TBS lard (When I am browning meat I like to use lard, so I can get it nice and hot without smoking – and lard from healthy animals can be a healthy part of your diet in moderation – no Crisco! That is not real lard).

4 whole chicken legs

Salt, thyme and basil to taste

1 tsp red wine vinegar

1 can of artichoke hearts (we use Native Harvest – their cans are BPA free)

½ a leek, sliced thin

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 jar or can of chick peas (I use dry beans, soak them, partially cook them and then freeze them in canning jars for easy use, but you can use canned if you like)

1 can of diced tomatoes (a small can – I know Eden Organics has BPA free cans available)

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

 METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat a cast iron tagine, cast iron skillet or dutch oven on low for about 5 minutes (this makes it hot but prevents burning) and add the lard. Rub the chicken legs with the herbs and spices. Brown chicken on all sides and drizzle with red wine vinegar. Add the artichoke hearts, leeks, garlic, chick peas, tomatoes and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place the lid on and let slow cook for 2 hours. Serve with bread and butter.

“Greek” Green Beans

 

I am going to start off by stating clearly, that I  make no claims to the authenticity of this recipe.  I got it from one of my very first cookbooks, ever, when I was still in high school. “Greek Green Beans” is just what we have been calling it for years. The book is called A Little Greek CookbookCooking, Food & Wine References) and it was given to me by my mom as a gift when I discovered my love for Mediterranean cuisine. There are some great tasting recipes in there and I have been using it ever since.

I have been making this dish for about 20 years now! I have only eaten something similar in one Greek restaurant that was near my house growing up –Athens Grill, so maybe it is a regional dish? The restaurant was a family restaurant, owned by Greek immigrants from Athens. I loved their food so much and begged my mom to take me there often! We used to get gyro platters, or souvlaki served with Greek salad, pita bread and the best French fries ever. Sometimes we would eat at the restaurant, al fresco, on little wrought iron tables right off the parking lot. Other times, we would take it home to eat while watching a movie. I thought it was the best food ever. What I wouldn’t give to pop over there for lunch today!

In the cookbook, the name they give this recipe is Fasolakia Freska or Green Bean Casserole, in English. It is a simple recipe with a lot of flavor. I am making it tonight to accompany some pan seared fish. But it also goes well with chicken or beef dishes, and of course lamb. Sometimes I like to sprinkle feta cheese on it, and eat a large bowl full for lunch. This is a great recipe to double – and it is also one of those recipes that tastes all the better a day or two later. It has a large amount of olive oil in it – but don’t skimp on it – that is what makes this dish so rich and flavorful.

Normally I follow the recipe as is, but sometimes I might add Kalamata olives for bite, or pearl onions instead of the sliced onions, for pretty. You can also omit the potatoes, but that would be silly.

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb of fresh green beans, topped and tailed (I have also used frozen with great success)
1 large onion, finely sliced – or half a bag of pearl onions
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 cup olive oil
14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
This is not part of the recipe, but I usually add some oregano as well.

METHOD:
Slice beans in half, rinse and drain. Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil until pale golden. Add beans and potatoes and sauté together until well coated in the oil. Add the tomatoes and seasoning. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes or until beans and potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. If needed, add a little hot water to keep from burning. This can be served hot, or at room temperature.

Isn’t it fun trying something from one of your favorite restaurants? I thought so too.

Pulled Pork with Apple Barbecue Sauce

This was the runner-up from last week’s informal poll on my facebook page about what recipes you wanted to see first from my list of back-logged posts. We enjoyed this dish for New Year’s Day – and many days after! This is a perfect dish for entertaining, because there is very little hands-on work. Just let the crock pot do all the work.  Plus it feeds so many mouths and you can make amazing soups and stews with the leftovers of leftovers!

We served it with homemade Sauerkraut with Juniper Berries and an updated version of Nana’s Beans. The post for the beans shows you how my recipes have evolved as I have gotten into more healthy ways of preparing foods.

I was inspired to make an apple barbecue sauce because I wanted a sweeter sauce and have been experimenting a lot lately with fruit-sweetening. I had quite a few apples in the fridge and some apple cider left over from the holidays, and so a plan was born.

This was delicious! The pork fell off the bone and melted in your mouth. The sauce was a nice accompaniment, but absolutely not necessary – the pork honestly stands alone in this dish. Granted it was a nice roast, made from local pork. So you use your discretion on that one. But the sauce is worth making as it is great with chicken, on burgers and sweet potato fries too. A really nice all around homemade condiment that you will enjoy having in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS:

6 lb, bone in, pasture-raised Pork Roast
1 TBS maple sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp each: smoked paprika, green chili powder, Mexican mole seasoning, dried thyme and basil
Salt & pepper
¼ cup raw apple cider

For the Sauce:

½ an organic apple, cut in chunks
1/3 cup raw apple cider
1 cup tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
2 TBS maple sugar
¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp each: coriander, cumin, paprika, thyme, basil

METHOD:

Rub pork with maple sugar and spices, wrap up tightly and store in fridge overnight. Next day put roast in crockpot with apple cider. Put crockpot on high for 8 hours, flip the roast and continue to cook on low for about another 2 hours.
Meanwhile make the sauce. Place the apple chunks and apple cider in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn down heat to a simmer and cook down for about 15 minutes. Place apple mixture and the rest of the ingredients in the blender and whirl until blended. Set aside.
Using a fork, pull the meat away from the bone, continue to shred the meat this way until finished. Then serve with the sauce. YUM!

Thanksgiving Leftovers!

Need some ideas of what to do with your Thanksgiving holiday leftovers? Try these delicious potato croquettes using leftover mashed potatoes, and other pantry staples!

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup  olive oil
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
Leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg
2 TBS capers, chopped
salt and pepper
2 TBS fresh rosemary
1/2 cup bread crumbs

METHOD:

In a small skillet sautee the garlic and onion in about 2 TBS of olive oil. In a mixing bowl mix together mashed potatoes, egg, capers and salt and pepper and fresh rosemary. Add in the onion and garlic and 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and stir to combine.

Mold croquettes and roll in bread crumbs. In a large skillet heat the rest of the oil and sautee croquettes until browned on both sides. I did this all ahead and then put them in the oven on a cookie sheet about 15 minutes before dinner so they were nice and hot.

Marinara Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
2 TBS olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 a small onion
1 small can of diced tomatoes
1 can of organic tomato paste
salt and pepper
dried oregano
splash of balsamic vinegar

METHOD:
In a saucepan, sautee the onions and garlic in 2 TBS olive oil. Once soft, add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the salt, pepper and dash of oregano and balsamic vinegar. Stir and let simmer for about an hour. Serve with croquettes.

For more ideas, check out my Day After Thanksgiving Leftovers Party!