Friday, 26 November 2010

GREEK STYLE GREEN BEANS BRAISED IN TOMATO SAUCE (FASOLAKIA YIAHNI). A TADITIONAL RECIPE AND IT'S VEGAN, TOO!!!


It's around 11:30, Thanksgiving eve, and I am taking some time off from cooking. Just enough time to write down my recipe for fasolakia. You see, I decided that there should be very little cooking left to do tomorrow, Thanksgiving day. This way I can mingle with family, and as most of the cooking will have already be done, Thanksgiving day will unfold smoother and less hurried for us all. I'm going for simple and delicious this year. Uncomplicated recipes, easy to make, tasty to eat. OK, now I have to trot into the kitchen, do one final thing (finish cooking the fasolakia), and then I'll be ready for tomorrow. Be right back.

This is a popular Greek recipe, very easy to make and most often enjoyed in summer when green beans come fresh from the farm. Our Thanksgiving dinner is comprised of all the traditional fare, but it also contains this recipe, to remind us of our roots! I make it with flat Italian green beans, which taste great and are similar to the varieties found in Greece. This time of year I buy the frozen kind because these green beans are not found fresh in November.

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 pounds flat Italian green beans, frozen
1 can (28-ounces/800gr) San Marzano whole tomatoes
salt to taste 
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup vegetable broth or water (plus more as needed)


Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and saute until soft, but not burned. Halfway through cooking the onions add the garlic. Add all of the other ingredients and mix well.



The liquid should almost cover the green beans. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for about one hour, until the green beans are soft and fork - tender.



If the liquid evaporates before cooking is finished, you will need to add just a little bit more to the pan. You can use vegetable broth or water. The end result should be to have the green beans look juicy but not floating in liquid. Serve them with the pan juices, and enjoy them. This recipe can be used as a side dish and makes enough to feed a crowd but it can be cut in half and served as a main meal for about four people. 


I didn't make it back to my computer Thanksgiving Eve, so this entry was left to be finished and posted today, late at night, long after Thanksgiving was over. What can I say? The green beans came out really tasty. However, I can't write that all went well Thanksgiving Day. 

My father, 86 years old and suffering from dementia, was having a difficult time of it and that sent the whole house into an uproar. So much for a smooth and unhurried Thanksgiving. It turned out to be very stressful. 

Over and over in my mind, I think of the famous words the poet Robert Burns set down in 1785. How true they still ring today, in 2010:

"The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!

The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!"

(excerpt from "To a Mouse," by Robert Burns, Standard English Translation)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

TUNA SALAD SANDWICH



The very first time I had a tuna sandwich I was hooked. It became my favourite lunch, favourite sandwich, favourite snack! I loved it! I was in my teens, and I quickly learned how to make it: Mix canned tuna fish with mayonnaise, chopped celery, chopped onions, throw it between two slices of white bread and you're in business. Being Greek, I soon started adding lemon juice, an ingredient Greeks try their best to use in every recipe, even if it's a dessert. I experimented with different breads, I added garlic powder (don't try it), I added herbs, but I never strayed too far from the original. Until I ran into a version of this recipe on the Simply Recipes website. It's a little different from your basic tuna salad recipe, but it's full of good tasting ingredients. I still like the original, especially when my mother makes it, but this version of tuna salad is also a winner! It's probably one of the best ever tuna salads! 

To make this or any tuna salad, I always buy tuna packed in water. I drain the water and add a bit of good olive oil which helps all the ingredients fuse together. If you make it, have it on a sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes, or even eat it on a bed of lettuce without the bread. However, if you do choose to turn it into a sandwich, use a hearty, solid kind of bread. And please, enjoy it. It is really good! 

I made this sandwich for our dinner today, Wednesday, November 3, 2010. It's the day after Election Day. The candidate I supported, Joe Sestak for US Senate, the best man for the job, lost in a close race. I was very disappointed, especially since the winner, a man who is known as Darth Vadar Toomey, is more right wing than Metternich ever was. I don't drink ... But why not enjoy the comfort of a tuna salad sandwich for dinner, I thought! 

May we somehow come out of this political mess ... 

Ingredients:

2 cans (7 ounces each), tuna fish, packed in water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 or of a purple onion, chopped finely
3 celery stalks, chopped finely
2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed well
Juice of one lemon

zest of half a lemon
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
lettuce and sliced tomatoes, optional
sliced bread, your favourite, lightly toasted

Directions:

Drain the tuna fish and mix all of the ingredients. Serve on toast, with lettuce or tomatoes. You can also have it plain, open-faced, or in lettuce cups, if you would rather forgo some or all of the bread.