Posts Tagged ‘Greek’

Garides Saganaki with Fennel

March 31, 2010

Ingredients: shrimp, tomato, fennel, breadcrumbs, feta, absinthe, fish stock, onion, garlic, chive, oregano, parsley, mint, bay leaf, sugar, olive oil, butter, black pepper, salt.

Served with: basmati rice.

I’d been wanting to try a dish with stewed fennel and tomato, as I happen to like fennel but don’t have a single “go-to” recipe for it. Part of the problem is that my mom never cooked with fennel, so its distinctive licorice flavor is not “intuitive” to me. What I mean is that I have to think pretty hard when I’m planning a fennel dish, because I can’t fall back on memories of what works and what doesn’t.

What I decided to make was a variation/bastardization of the Greek dish garides saganaki, which is basically jumbo shrimp in herby tomato sauce, topped with feta cheese and broiled. I figured it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to work some fennel into the tomato stew. I was also excited to accent the dish with flambéed absinthe (an analogue to the anise-flavored Greek liqueur ouzo).

I started by sautéing sliced fennel and onion in olive oil, then adding some crushed garlic and a bay leaf before emptying in a can of whole peeled tomatoes (plus a pinch of sugar to counteract the acidity). For some reason, whole tomatoes give me better results than diced, crushed, or puréed tomatoes, so that’s what I use exclusively.

While the tomatoes stewed, I prepped my tiger shrimp and tossed the shells into a pan with some butter, planning to rescue their flavor before discarding them. When the shells became pink, I added some fish stock, plus a splash of absinthe (the good stuff, not that neon green crap). Then, like a pro, I held a lighter to the pan to burn off the alcohol and develop the liqueur’s flavor. I also singed the hair off the back of my right hand. It was all on purpose, and it was way cool. I then strained the shrimp broth and added it to the tomato and fennel stew. I also removed the bay leaf, and added some oregano and parsley (which I like to postpone as long as possible, to preserve their flavor).

Next to prepare was the topping. I crumbled a block of feta into a bowl, and mixed in a handful of prepared breadcrumbs, plus some larger cubes from a slice of stale bread. I seasoned this mixture with salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, mint, and fresh chives, plus a tablespoon of olive oil.

I mixed the raw shrimp into the tomato & fennel, then poured it into a casserole and sprinkled the breadcrumb & feta on top. The dish was complete after about 10 minutes in the oven. I couldn’t wait to dig in!

Overall, this was very tasty. The tomatoes were warm and comforting, the shrimp tender and sweet-salty, the breadcrumbs crunchy and cheesy. I also loved the licorice accent from the fennel and absinthe, which kept making me think of Italian sausage. I would use twice as much feta next time though, and I’d skip the tiny breadcrumbs (the large ones were great) because they absorbed too much of the broth.

Advertisements

Kolokithokeftedes

November 17, 2009

Ingredients: zucchini, Travnicki cheese, bulgur wheat, egg, scallion, lemon, bread crumbs, oregano, mint, black pepper, salt.

I came across recipes for kolokithokeftedes (Greek for “zucchini meatballs”) a few times while browsing other people’s food blogs, and finally got around to making them at home. This was an instance of being fairly sure I’d enjoy what I was cooking, yet with hardly a clue as to what it would taste like.

I started by preparing some coarse wheat bulgur. I love the chewiness of bulgur, and figured it would blend into and fortify the texture of my fritters. Most recipes suggested either breadcrumbs or plain flour, but I wanted more “tooth.”

When the bulgur had cooled, I combined it with the rest of the ingredients: an entire grated zucchini, an egg, chopped scallion, oregano, mint, a big squeeze of lemon, and plenty of salt & pepper. I also crumbled and blended in a block of Travnicki Sir, which is a Bosnian brined sheep’s milk cheese similar to mild feta. Although it surely didn’t matter for this particular recipe, I just love the texture of Travnicki. It’s light, nowhere near as dense as feta, yet with a stiff integrity and springy resistance to the bite. I often enjoy it with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.

Many of the kolokithokeftedes I saw online were flat patties, like latkes (Jewish potato pancakes, the only fritters Mom used to make). For some reason I wanted mine to be spherical. Another common feature I wished to avoid were the dark burned bits of zucchini flecking the outside of the fritters. So, before frying, I shaped the dough into golfballs, and gave them an extra roll-around in some bread crumbs. This provided a protective layer that saved the zucchini bits from blackening.

The results were spectacular, if a bit hard to describe. The outsides were crispy of course, but gave way quickly in the mouth to a creamy-yet-chewy filling, almost like risotto. There was no zucchini texture, but its flavor lurked in the background, providing a slightly bitter “healthy” taste. The foreground of the flavor profile was all Greek: herby from mint & oregano, tangy from lemon and feta, rich from the olive oil I used for frying.