Thursday, September 11, 2008

My trip to the Greek islands....sort of......

We've all got our go-to cookbooks or other sources of inspiration. Maybe you're...and who isn't...a fan of Marcella's "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking". Or perhaps you're a little old school and get you're "Silver Palate Cookbook" on. I know I also check out way too many food mags like Saveur, Gourmet, Food and Wine, The Atlantic Monthly.........ATLANTIC MONTHLY?? That's right, after slogging my way through their fifteen page features...okay, actually I think about reading their very in-depth analysis of some issue of the day, then quickly go to the back "Critics" section for their much shorter book, travel, and in this case food columns. Hey, if I'm spending a precious hour or so reading up on the upcoming Obama-McCain debates, I'm not going to have near enough time to spend on what really makes a difference in my world, namely stuffing my piehole, specifically with this awesome orzo risotto from Atlantic food writer Corby Kummer's September column.

Apparently the Atlantic sent Kummer to Greece (and why the hell was my high school guidance counselor NOT telling me about these jobs?) to attend a cooking school on the Greek island of Kea. He spent a few idyllic days "working" on his column by cooking, sailing in the Aegean, know, all the things you and I do at our jobs every day. Anyway, all my personal bitterness and resentment aside, among the sources of inspiration that came from his assignment was this fabulous, fresh, and bright 'risotto' made from orzo pasta. With its palate awakening lemon-zucchini jolt and classically Greek flavors of feta, olive oil, mint and garlic, this sounded too good not to make. We had it last night, and it was amazing. One of those dishes I could have eaten way too much of. Once again something quick, easy, very open to ingredient substitution, and simply delicious!
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Greek Orzo "Risotto"
From The Atlantic Monthly/ September '08

bb notes: I will just copy Kummer's recipe below. It makes plenty for six or so first courses/side dishes, or four substantial mains. Read through it, get your ingredients together, and get cooking while you dream of the Greek isles! For a prefect wine pairing, you couldn't do better than an all-stainless fermented sauvignon blanc. I had an inexpensive bottle from Chile's Montes winery that was spot on!
"The recipe that exemplified the week, and Kremezi’s style, was one she tossed off on the last day and says she makes all the time: risotto with orzo, the pasta shaped like ovoid grains of rice, and grated zucchini, lemon, and feta. It’s foolproof, and can be adapted to any number of vegetables you find at the farmer’s market or (overgrown) in your garden. It shows how crumbled feta becomes a thick, creamy sauce that absorbs and amplifies other flavors—and what a difference the two cornerstones of Greek cooking, olive oil and lemons, can make to a seemingly familiar dish.

To serve six as a main course or eight as a side dish, heat seven to eight cups of chicken or vegetable broth or, if you don’t have broth, water. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil and add four or five cloves of peeled and thinly sliced garlic and four cups of diced or grated zucchini or yellow squash (pictured at left). Sauté, stirring, for 10 minutes over medium-high heat; the squash will exude a good deal of liquid. Add 1/2 cup of white wine, a pound of orzo, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir to coat the pasta with oil. Pour in three cups of broth and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently and adding more liquid as needed. The pasta can be al dente, for the risotto effect, or cooked completely through, as you like.

Remove the cooked orzo from the heat and add 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice, three tablespoons of grated or shredded lemon zest, and 1 1/2 cups of feta cheese, mashed with a fork (and now: magic sauce). Buy the least salty feta you can find (if you get the feta fetish, as you should, order several of the barrel-aged fetas from, and save some of the crumbs for garnish. Snip over the risotto whatever combination you like of fennel fronds, fresh dill, and mint. That is, let the garden tell you how to season an irresistibly Greek, and simple, dish."

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