Cooking in the Time of COVID – A Mediterranean Melange

Instagram Post 5/30/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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A Mediterranean mélange in the service of using up the last bits of saladworthy candidates from the pantry and fridge. Of primary significance, I’ve finally finished off the last of the dried chickpeas! 🙌

The slightly smaller spheres are Lebanese moghrabieh which are similar to their more diminutive Israeli couscous cousins. These wonderful starchy pearls deserve far better than the short shrift I’ve given them here – I almost wish I had left them in the pantry to star in some future culinary legerdemain. There’ll be a next time. In this case, I toasted them first to bring out their latent nuttiness; toasted almonds and currants made a considerable contribution as well.

From the refrigerator, I exhumed some jarred red pepper strips, Italian fried green peppers and agrodolce sun dried red peppers along with Moroccan pickled eggplant, Greek black olives and creamy feta cheese. Plated the medley over baby arugula and dressed it with olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, za’atar and sumac.

Tasted so much better than it looked!
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Cooking in the Time of COVID – Homemade Hummus

Instagram Post 5/25/2020

 
👨‍🍳 Cooking in the Time of COVID 👨‍🍳

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Partially homemade, so I guess it counts: the hummus is my own recipe that starts with dried then reconstituted chickpeas rather than their canned kin because I think I get a creamier result. (Anyone out there either concur or disagree?) Keeping the hummus humming are a rainbow of teeny tomatoes and some particularly rich Greek feta cheese.

The layered, griddled flatbread to the left is a signature North African work of culinary art found throughout Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Called msmen (you might see m’semen), it’s square in shape and commonly served for breakfast with butter, honey, jam or cheese but can also be found as a snack stuffed with ground meat or vegetables. If you see it anywhere, you should definitely check it out.
 
 
Stay safe, be well, and eat whatever it takes. ❤️
 
 

Taverna Kos

Instagram Post 2/16/2019

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With the nouveau communal aura of a private club at long last turned public, Taverna Kos, the restaurant wing of the Pancoan Society Hippocrates, has opened its doors to the hoi polloi. Entering at 41-19 23rd Ave in Astoria, Queens, we found the atmosphere as casual and comfortable as an old sandal, an adumbration of homestyle Greek cuisine.

[1] Octopus (χταπόδι). Perfectly tender and utterly delectable. One of two top notch appetizers, the other being…

[2] Loukaniko (λουκάνικο), the amazing sausage that’s often overlooked unless you’re among the cognoscenti or Greek. Excellent, with that all-important char, beefy and spicy; I tasted leeks, Greek oregano, and whole coriander seed. That lemon isn’t there just for show; give it a squeeze.

[3] We also ordered Pikilia (ποικιλία) which means a variety of choices, in this case a trio of dips: spicy feta with persuasive overtones of olive oil; skordalia (σκορδαλιά), often overwhelmed by garlic but which here had an unimpeachable balance between that and the puréed potatoes; and a demure tzatziki, barely herby and scarcely garlicky.

[4] Kalamari. We voted between fried and grilled. We ordered fried. I lost.

[5] Saganaki (σαγανάκι) is a luscious appetizer of fried kefalograviera, a deliciously intense Greek sheep’s cheese, melty and gooey, often set aflame before serving and sometimes topped with an egg. This rendition wasn’t up to snuff; maybe it had been away from the fire too long.
 
 

Tsirosalata – Titan Foods

Instagram Post 2/15/2019

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Since my friend and I were poking through Astoria prior to lunch at a nearby Greek taverna (more about that in an upcoming post), a visit to my favorite Greek market, Titan Foods at 2556 31st St, seemed a fitting appetizer. (Pro tip: the Greek pronunciation is tee-TAHN, stress on the final syllable.) It’s my go-to place for their overwhelming selection of feta and other cheeses, unparalleled olives, delicious homemade baked goods, and any Greek comestibles one could possibly crave. There, amid many tried and true delicacies in the refrigerator case, was something I had never tasted, tsirosalata. Needless to say, that was reason enough for me to buy some.

Tsirosalata (τσιροσαλάτα) is smoked mackerel preserved in oil, so it’s a triple threat: mackerel is a strong tasting fish to begin with, smoking it only doubles down on the intensity, and anything preserved in oil that super dense probably has the staying power of the Parthenon. Truth be told, it was a bit much even for me. Clearly, tsirosalata is not intended to be consumed straight out of the container unescorted, so my first action was to marinate it; I used a light vinegar with some sugar, onion and dill and let it luxuriate just until it capitulated.

Satisfied with its newly docile demeanor, my next step was to dress it. Thinly sliced cucumber and red onion, black and green Greek olives, fresh dill and lemon wedges were impeccable companions, but the capers and pink peppercorns made it perfect.
 
 

The World’s Fare – Avli

Instagram Post 5/9/2018

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🇬🇷 At last month’s World’s Fare in Queens, Avli, the “Little Greek Kitchen” in West Hempstead, brought out a number of specials like Yiayia’s Yiouvetsi, a saucy orzo and veal dish that tasted like something your Greek grandma used to lovingly prepare, but it was the grilled octopus 🐙 shown here that reached out to me. Mixed with red onion, seasoned with EVOO and red wine vinegar, and sprinkled with a hit of Greek oregano, the tender octopus was delicious. No wonder they called it “a neighborhood favorite!”