Monday, August 31, 2009

STAPATSADA: TOMATOES AND EGGS WITH FETA CHEESE


This Greek dish is light, summery and flavorful. I was introduced to it at a very young age, and at the time, its name sounded mysterious to me. I remember asking people to repeat it, trying to take in the full sound of it, but it made no sense. While the word strapatsada is a word pronounced best by grownups, both children and adults love this tomato, egg and cheese concoction. It’s a wonderful way to use the ripe, luscious tomatoes of summer. Strapatsada is quick and easy to prepare, so when it’s  hot outside and you don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, get yourself some gorgeous tomatoes and make a strapatsada. In a jiffy, you'll have delicious results!

This dish is a star in my father's cooking repertoire, and whenever I have it I can't help but think of him. He used to cook it for us when we were children. Even today, if there's ever a day when he doesn't like what my mother has made for dinner, or if the two of them have had a tiff, he'll go to the refrigerator, get some eggs and tomatoes, some feta cheese, and he'll make himself a strapatsada. 

Even though this dish is of Greek heritage, its name is borrowed from the Italian strapazzare, which means to scramble. The Greeks and Italians are geographic neighbours, so it's easy for aspects of their languages and cultures to commingle, especially where food is concerned. I am always fascinated at how history influences every aspect of our lives, even our lives in the kitchen! 

It's like a savory custard!



Ingredients: (serves 2 or more) 

4 (maybe 5) large summer-fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 eggs
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

In a bowl, beat the eggs and add the cheeses. Beat until all the ingredients are combined, season with pepper and a little salt, then set the mixture aside. 
In another bowl, mix the tomatoes with the tomato paste, garlic, mint, and oregano. Season with salt and pepper.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the tomato mixture and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. 

Pour the reserved egg mixture over the tomatoes and fold in with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to medium and keep folding while cooking, until the eggs are done. This should take around four minutes. Remember that eggs continue to cook even after the heat is off, so don't overcook them. The mixture should be custard like. Plate the strapatsada, season it with ground black pepper and sprinkle with the parsley to garnish. Serve accompanied with toasted country bread.


For the country bread:
4 slices of good country bread
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
Rub the garlic over the bread slices and flavor them with olive oil. Toast them in the oven, or grill them.

To peel and seed the tomatoes:

The strapatsada is one dish where tomato skin has to definitely be removed. To do this score the tomatoes and then drop them in rapidly boiling water. In about 2 minutes or so, the skin starts to peel away from the tomatoes. Remove the tomatoes from the water and let them sit until they are cool enough to handle. 


Peel the tomatoes and slice in half. All the seeds will be visible and easy to remove. Once that's done, it's time to chop and add the tomatoes to the cooking pot (or skillet).