THE AUGUST 2020 CHALLENGE IS . . . . . GREECE

nicko

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mike9 mike9 WHOA what a COOL photo!!!! I wonder what it looks like today? One of the truly sad things about the rising taxes and debt in Chicago is Greek down has been been dwindling. Many long standing restaurants have closed and there isn't much left it makes me very sad. There was the pan Hellenic pastry shop and you could get wonderful fresh baked Greek pastries, Athen's grocery, and here is a list of restaurant's that have close. Pegasus, Roditys, Parthenon, Venus, Costas. Sadly only a handful of restaurants and shops are left.

Thanks for sharing that photo. Here is a shot of Greek Town in Paris 2007

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I live in Greektown aka Astoria in Queens, NY so I'm in the heart of it here. There are people that drive up in group tours from other towns and states to shop at our mediterranean specialty stores and I live within 5 minutes walking distance from at least 3 of them. The area is quite gentrified now with fancy condos and hipster coffee shops popping up everywhere but there are still plenty of old timers living here who don't speak a stitch of english.

Ok so I only found out about the challenge a few days ago and haven't been able to cook much in the last few days. But I searched around through my IG and my phone (because I annoyingly take pictures of everything I cook haha) to see if I had cooked any greek food this month. Of course I have, I'm greek. So here's my stuff.

First up is Pastitsio

Now remember, I eat gluten free so this heavily impacts this dish. I cannot find a gluten free version of the traditional bucatini noodles so I had to use these elbows by Jovial (by far the best GF noodles I have found, made of 100% brown rice). I cook the noodles and dump them into the bottom of my casserole dish, toss them with butter, a little bit of the ragu, and heaps of cheese. Normally I would use kefalograviera cheese but I only had parmesan on hand.
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Next I layer on the beef ragu which is scented with cinnamon and clove. Then I gently pour on a bucket of bechamel. I use a half liter of milk to make this sauce, plus one egg and one whole grated nutmeg.
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This next step is a bit disputed in our community. Most people leave the top layer of bechamel as is when they stick it in the oven. This results in a glossy, waxy, kind of burnt skin to form on the top. For some this is very desirable. I instead like to top with a thin layer of grated cheese and bread crumbs. It gives a really nice crunch.
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And voila. Sorry, Didn't take a picture of a cross slice. It was very good.
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Earlier in the month I made dolmades. These are completely vegan, with rice, onion, zucchini, scallion, tomato, finely diced artichoke and eggplant, chopped parlsley and mint. I also added a dash of cumin and paprika.

I line the bottom of the pot with slices of seasoned potato and a good bit of olive oil. This keeps the dolmades suspended while they poach. I add another layer of potatoes on top to bare weight on the dolmades, otherwise they can unravel as they poach. Some people weigh them down with an oven proof plate. I add enough water to come up to the potatoes, a bit more olive oil, and allow them to gently poach until the rice is cooked through.

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Last but not least, and this is the big project of the month, Gemista. I will stuff any vegetable that crosses my path, in this case I stuffed tomatoes, different colored bell peppers, eggplant, onions, and potato. I had a few grape leaves left over from making dolmades so I stuffed those too and stuck them in the pan in between the peppers.

I normally make these vegetarian but hubby begged for meat in them so I cooked up some italian sausage to add a little protein. The stuffing is similar to the dolmades, with the addition of tomato sauce and parmesan, and scraps from the cored vegetables.

Vacating the insides is the big job.
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You can't fill them all the way because the rice is raw and needs space to expand.
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After the caps go back on I stuff slices of potatoes in every nook and cranny between the vegetables. Then I drizzle olive oil, salt, and oregano all over the tops. I do not add water to the pan. By covering with foil and cooking it in the oven the rice steams inside the vegetable, the vegetables give off plenty of water. It takes over an hour. Then I uncover and allow them to pick up a golden color for another 45 minutes or so.
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phatch

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This is as close as I'm getting this month. Lemon, garlic, rosemary fusion pie.

Cut up some boneless skinless chicken thighs. Season
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Sear and season the other side.
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Add vegies, season, stir, add flour. Stir a bit.
Add milk, bring to a boil.
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Make olive oil biscuit topping. Lemon olive oil, garlic olive oil, regular extra virgin. And chopped fresh rosemary. Mix keeping oil clumps small.

Clabber milk with fresh lemon juice. Mix in and form dough
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Add zuchinni just before adding biscuits, stir to mix.
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Roll out infloured hands then press a bit flat. Top pie. Bake IMG_20200831_172457967_HDR.jpg

I'll be back with the final pics and to clean up formatting
 
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I love this last minute rush - it's exhilarating !!! Being the last day I thought I'd throw a dish together with a couple of the things I mentioned in the "Value Added" thread.

Loukaniko grilled with hickory, grilled pita, marinated tomato and red onion, fire roasted artichokes, tsatziki and Jasmine rice cooked in tomato essence (also from the Value Added thread). It was worth the late meal as it was an unexpectedly busy day.



And yes that is the smallest sausage in the world - :lol:
 
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I made some beef souvlaki with sourdough (pita style) bread.
Alas, no pictures.
Marinated the beef fillet with salt, oregano, garlic and oilive oil. Added some ground chili pepper as wel (gotta have some heat)
Sprinkled with lemon juice before grilling over charcoal.
Kept drizzling with lemon juice.
Was nice, but almost like it was missing something....
 

nicko

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koukouvagia koukouvagia BEAUTIFUL thank you for sharing. Your dishes have me so hungry right now and it is lunch time so I better go eat. What type of rice do you use for your stuffed peppers etc?
 

nicko

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phatch phatch That looks like some good down home cooking right there. Wonderful dish and thanks for sharing.
 
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All of a sudden we had a race and a lot of really good entries over the corse of the month. If I had to put a catered meal together for a party it would be Nicko's lamb chops, Koukouvagia's stuffed vegetables, a side of Abefroman's gigantic beans and Iceman's Baklava along with plenty of good Retsina and maybe an Ouzo, or two with a demitasse. Hmmm . . . now I'm getting hungry.

Anyway I have to choose and the August 2020 winner is . . . nicko nicko . . . Your dishes are truly inspirational - congratulations!!!!
 
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Congratulations Nicko... well deserved! I’ll raise a glass of ouzo (might have to substitute Pernod, though) and offer a loud “opah “ in your honor. Since I’m not the least bit Greek (that I’m aware of) I’ll refrain from breaking a glass or plate!
 
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Here is where I spent a lot of time in my 20s. Greektown in Detroit circa 1970's. Most of that time spent at The International Restaurant and I learned a lot from Guss who owned the place. The only other place we ate was the Hellas who had octopus in wine sauce to die for. Good times . . .
Those cars!

Hellas was where I had my first octopus during a school trip to Greektown about a decade after that picture. I was a young pup and ordered it becasue it was something I'd never had. It was on a salad of some sort, and is the only thing I remember about that trip with any clarity. It was so good, and subsiquent octopus elewhere was always disappointing as a result.
 
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This is the first time I added Mint and cinnamon to a moussaka and it really made such an impact. Sigh... still learning after all these years. You would think I had figured some of these dishes out by and perfected them.
When I try something new, and delicious, with a dish I've made for ages; I usually wonder "why have we never tried this before now" (with the alternate "now we know why we don't do" this if it is not a success).

But I think it is good thing - think of how boring cooking would become if we stopped improving and discovering for the rest of our lives. Keep learning, and keep enjoying :)

And congratulations!
 
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Those cars! Hellas was where I had my first octopus during a school trip to Greektown about a decade after that picture. I was a young pup and ordered it because it was something I'd never had. It was on a salad of some sort, and is the only thing I remember about that trip with any clarity. It was so good, and subsiquent octopus elewhere was always disappointing as a result.
In my day it was served on rice with a wine sauce and it was superb. Was your's grilled?

koukouvagia koukouvagia - I remember going to Astoria in the early 80's as you couldn't get a decent Greek meal in Manhattan. It wasn't a trendy neighborhood then and one could move about freely. I remember one place in particular we used to get grilled octopus at and it was excellent.

I'm looking forward to see what nicko nicko comes up with for the September challenge.
 
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Excellent choice for winner, nicko nicko it was nice to see you step up to the plate with such fantastic dishes. Super impressive entrées from everyone. mike9 mike9 thanks for hosting, this was a good challenge but I’m biased haha.
 

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