Φαινομενικά Mακαρονάθα και Κρεμμύδια / Phenomenal Spaghetti and Onions

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Make no mistake, eating this dish is a phenomenal experience. This is a dish of the simple folk, the Greeks that had limited money to spend on food. But this is a culinary marvel, comfort food for us as children, cementing our lifelong love for sautéed onions.

99351E1F-2697-4FE6-958C-657DEF90CF21Lots of onions!

Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 pound spaghetti (NOT angel hair, not ziti, not rigatoni . . . Just spaghetti)

1/2 pound butter (Not margarine)

5 large onions, cut into thick slivers not cubes (I prefer sweet yellow onions like Vidalia.)

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

 

01E09300-EA96-4B65-A2A4-4D13C1CE2032Instructions:

Boil pasta in salted water until it reaches the al dente stage.

In the meantime, sauté onions in 2 tablespoons of the butter.

Add salt and sugar to onions as they caramelize. Onions are done when they are transparent and some of them are golden brown. Set aside.

Drain cooked spaghetti into a colander. If it wants to stick together, rinse it with just a bit of water.

Place the rest of the butter in the pan you cooked the spaghetti in. Sprinkle with salt and cook until it turns golden brown. Do not let it scorch.

Remove from heat and add spaghetti as you toss it gently to distribute butter evenly. It will sizzle when you dump it into the pan, so be ready to toss.

Add parmesan and toss to distribute, adding salt and pepper to taste.salt and pepper to taste.

Rewarm the onions if necessary and pour them into the pasta. Toss to mix.

Enjoy!

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Μπριάμ / Briam

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Briam is sometimes referred to as tourlou-tourlou (τουρλού-τουρλού), perhaps because of the topsy-turvy nature of this dish.  It’s a mish-mash of chopped vegetables and herbs swimming in a high quality extra virgin olive oil.

Briam is a phenomenal Greek dish that epitomizes everything that is great about Greek cuisine; real ingredients, prepared simply, allowing their natural flavours and textures to shine.

imageBriam is an amazing vegetable and olive oil based dish in the ladera family. Ladera (lathera) is a Greek word meaning “in oil”. These foods are usually vegetable or bean-based dishes that are cooked in copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil.

Briam is basically summer vegetables like peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and potatoes all cooked in a lot of fresh and dried herbs, onion, garlic, and a ridiculous amount of extra virgin olive oil. It is a completely vegan dish that isn’t lacking at all in flavor. These summer vegetables become melt in your mouth delicious. This is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables because they taste rich and decadent without being unhealthy.

If you’ve never had briam, you will be amazed at how perfect basic can be. Now let’s get to our recipe.

* Important note: I had hoped to add a photo so that you could take in the sheer beauty of a pan of briam, but, alas, there is not even one photo I could borrow that pictured the briam of my childhood. So I’ll take a picture the next time I make it.


Μπριάμ / Briam

ΜΑΚΑΡΟΝΆΘΑ ΜΕ ΚΙΜΆ /SPAGHETTI WITH MEAT SAUCE — GREEK STYLE

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MEAT SAUCE:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large can tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine (NOT cooking wine)

SPICES FOR SAUCE:
Spice selection is important in making this spaghetti sauce. The spices give it its unique flavor. I always use dried herbs unless I have fresh herbs on hand. Be aware that fresh herbs impart a very different flavor. Experiment until you get the flavor profile you like. Finally, I apologize in advance for not being able to give you definite amounts for each herb. I will give approximate amounts. I add herbs until it tastes good. That’s just the way we Greeks cook.

1 teaspoon Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
1 teaspoon Mediterranean oregano leaves, crushed (crush by rubbing your hands together
1/2 teaspoon thyme, crushed
1/2 teaspoon basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Three bay leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS FOR SAUCE:
Put olive oil in pan and allow to begin to heat. Add the onions, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, Cavendars, salt and pepper and sauté on medium to low heat until onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until it browns.

Skim off excess fat by tilting the meat mixture to one side and letting the grease gather on the other side. Place a wad of clean paper towel in the grease and let it absorb it. Repeat until you have removed most of the grease.

Drain the canned tomatoes, saving the juice. Place drained tomatoes in the meat mixture and sauté them for about a minute. Add the wine to deglaze.

Add the tomato paste, the reserved tomato juice, and enough water to make a slightly thick sauce. It will thicken as it cooks down. Add the bay leaves, the rest of the spices, and the sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Let sauce simmer on very low heat for about 30 minutes. While the sauce simmers, taste and adjust spices as needed.

PREPARING THE SPAGHETTI:
This part is very important in cooking Greek style spaghetti.

1 lb. package spaghetti
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
(Please do not substitute prepared, previously grated parmesan.)
Salt to taste

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Do not skimp on salt here because the spaghetti gets its slightly salted flavor only while it is boiling. Greek style spaghetti is NEVER made with angel hair pasta. Use regular spaghetti or, if you must, thin spaghetti. (And no fancy-shaped pasta for this recipe, please.)

When water comes to a rolling boil, add the pasta, stirring as you add it. Stil often and let the pasta boil gently until it is al dente. Drain and rince in a collander, using your hands to make sure the pasta strands are not sticking together.

In the meantime, melt butter over high heat. Use the same pan (rinsed) you used for the pasta. Sprinkle a little salt in the melting butter and watch it carefully. You want to see it get very frothy and then scorch. Remove from heat and stir the pasta into the browned butter. As you continue stirring, add half of the grated parmesan and salt to taste.

SERVING:
Remove bay leaves from the sauce. Plate the pasta, ladling the sauce on generously. Sprinkle on parmesan before serving.

Yia’ sou!  Γειά σου!

 

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ΣΠΑΝΑΚΟΡΙΖΟ / SPINACH AND RICE

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1/4 cup olive oil

2 sweet vidalia onions, chopped

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon Cavenders Greek Seasoning

1 teaspoon oregano

2 pounds fresh spinach, rinsed and stemmed

1 can tomato paste

2 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 to 1 cup uncooked Uncle Ben’s rice

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place onions in the skillet. Add sugar, Cavenders, oregano, salt and pepper to the onions and sauté until translucent. Add spinach, and cook stirring for a few minutes, then add the tomato paste and water. Bring to a boil, and adjust seasonings. Stir in rice, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender. Add more water if necessary.

Serve with fresh lemon juice, a Greek salad, crusty bread and, if you’re lucky, keftethes.

ΒΑΣΙΛΟΠΙΤΑ / NEW YEAR’S BREAD

2 cups milk

1 1/2 sticks butter

2 packages yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup lukewarm water and 2 tablespoons sugar

5 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon mastichi powder

Zest and juice of one orange

8-10 cups all purpose flour

1 beaten egg

Sesame seeds

Heat milk and butter. Let cool to lukewarm (about 110°). Dissolve yeast with water and sugar and let stand for 5 minutes. Beat the five eggs. Add the sugar and mix well. Mix with yeast and add to milk and butter. Add salt, mastichi powder and orange juice and zest. Mix well. Begin adding flour and knead until dough is no longer sticky (about an hour). You may also use a heavy duty mixer with a dough hook for most of the kneading.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down raised dough and shape into round loaves.

(OPTIONAL: I take two pieced of dough and, with my hands, roll each into a rope about 10 inches long. I place each rope in a cross shape on top of the bread, cutting down each of the four ends about 2 inches and twirling them into a flourish at each end of the cross.)

Place a dime in each loaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and lightly pat them down into the dough. Place in greased, round cake pans and let rise, covered, until doubled.

Beat the egg with a little water and brush on the loaves. Bake at 350 degrees until browned, about 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 if loaves brown too fast. Remove from overnight and cool wrapped in tea towels. Enjoy!

Cut the bread, naming each slice for a family member. The one who gets the dime has special luck in the new year.

NOTE: I use the same recipe to make Easter Bread, which is called tsoureki/ τσουρέκι. Two differences are: 1) to place a dyed egg, always red, on the bread, pressing in hard into the bread; and 2) to use sliced almonds instead of sesame seeds. See pictures below.

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Τσουρέκι/Tsoureki Photos