Sunday, August 8, 2010

Today's the day...

Here I am, excited, energized and feeling positive...I am ready for my first recipe. I am going to start off with a classic...The PASTITSIO... and for those of you who are not familiar with it I would describe it as the Casablanca of the Greek cuisine, a Greek version of the Italian lasagna..an absolute indulgence of tasty layers made of noodles and ground beef cooked in tomato sauce and a super creamy bechamel sauce, finally baked so to satisfy any palate...


Here is the recipe I will follow:

Pastitsio (Serves 4-6)


200ml of extra virgin olive oil


1 small onion finely chopped


1lb (500gr) ground beef


2 cups of tomato sauce


1lb (500gr) noodles/pasta


2 1/2 cups (250gr) of grated Kefalotiri cheese


Salt


1/4 cup (60gr) butter


1/2 cup (60gr) flour


3 cups (750 ml) milk3 eggs, beaten


grated nutmeg to taste


Pepper to taste



P.S. The original recipe asked for 2 large onions. I used 1 small onion as I like the flavor that onions give food but I don't like it when my food tastes like onions too much because it leaves you with bad breath for the rest of the day…. so I think the choice of quantity in regards to the onion is very personal.



Begin by browning the meat in 100ml of olive oil, then add the onions and let those brown before you add the tomato sauce. The reason why you should brown the meat before the onions is because the onions tend to cook very quickly and if you cook them first, they will burn by the time your meat will brown (this is my little secret...well I shouldn’t really sell it as my secret, it's really my mother's but I'm sure she won't mind). Also add 1 cup of water 1 teaspoon of salt and let it simmer for about 30 minutes....and don't forget to stir every so often.

....alright....so far so good...

Now it is time to tackle the béchamel sauce...

Begin by melting the butter then add the flour, mix and gradually add milk stirring constantly over a very low flame. Once you have obtained a creamy consistency (and that may take you a few minutes so don’t despair) turn off the fire add the already beaten eggs, cheese, some salt and nutmeg. Stir thoroughly and set aside.

Now..while the sauce is simmering and the béchamel sauce is settling down, preheat the oven to 400F (200C) and cook the noodles in salted boiled water until al dente.

Let's talk about the noodles...if you can find a Greek grocery store in your area just walk in and ask for noodles used for pastitsio, otherwise you can buy bucatini from any supermarket (bucatini are spaghetti shaped pasta with a very small diameter).

Now in a large baking pan put half of the noodles (it should be a thin layer of noodles), sprinkle some cheese and cover with the meat sauce. Then put another thin layer of noodles and cover with the béchamel sauce. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and bake for about 30 minutes until browned on top.

Wow..I can’t believe I just put in the oven my very first Greek dish…

…30 minutes later…

Here we go…brown on top…looking creamy and hot..time to set the table and feast….

Hopefully my husband will let us know if it indeed tastes as good as it looks!

For now..Kali Orexi!

Martina

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Here we go...

Inspired by "Julie and Julia" I have decided to embark on a cooking project...an odyssey through some Greek recipes...hopefully I will be as lucky as Odysseus to find my sweet Penelope (My husband) waiting for me at the end of this trip!
You may be thinking "why Greek recipes?" Well for those of you who don't know me I am Italian, currently living in New York and married to a wonderful man of Greek origins. What does "of Greek origins" mean? well it basically means that my mother in law is super Greek, so Greek is what she speaks, understands and COOKS.
According to my husband her cooking is delicious. I feel the same way, that is why over the last 10 years of marriage I have been asking her for her delicious recipes but for some strange reason every time she decides to tell me how to make something she either forgets one (or at times two) ingredients...other times she'll tell me to add things that are not even supposed to be in it....the result...usually disastrous!
So..during the last few days I had been thinking and realized that when it comes to Italian cooking I am pretty good so why not make some Greek dishes by myself and see what happens. I figured I would have nothing to lose. Therefore I went out bought a few Greek recipes books and decided to give it a try. My husband and my children will be my judges (my husband has the wonderful quality of being brutally honest even when he shouldn't) and in the end if it doesn't work out....I'll stick to my Italian specialties! Hopefully it will be a success!
Hope you can stomach this!!!
Martina