As winter drags on and white loses some of its allure, our minds switch to the attractions of warmer climates, blue skies and sunshine. While I have never been to Greece, it is on my wish list, especially on frigid days. Many robust Greek dishes lend themselves to winter meals, because they too have winter and crave warming comfort food. The following hearty dishes, ideal for winter entertaining and fighting the February blahs, will help you remember there are blue skies and sunshine just around the corner.
Greek Meatballs (Keftedakia)
These Greek meatballs (really sausage-shaped) are yummy served with rice or lemon roasted potatoes (recipe follows) and, of course, a Greek salad.
1 lb (500 g) lean ground beef
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh bread crumbs
1 onion, peeled and grated
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh parsley
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each, salt, oregano and dried mint
1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
2 tbsp (25 mL) plain yogurt
2 tbsp (25 mL) feta cheese
4 cups (1 L) tomato sauce (basic tomato sauce recipe follows)
fresh chopped parsley and crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spray 13 x 9 inch (3 L) pan with baking spray.
In mixing bowl, blend together beef, bread crumbs, egg, onion, parsley, salt, oregano, mint, pepper, yogurt and feta cheese until well mixed. Form into 15 sausage-shaped logs about three inches (7.5 cm) by a half inch (1.2 cm) and arrange in single layer in baking pan. Cover evenly with sauce. Cover with foil and bake about 45 to 50 minutes, or until heated through.
Serve garnished with additional parsley and a sprinkle of feta cheese. Makes four servings.
Basic Tomato Sauce
Yes, you can use commercial sauce for the meatballs, or make this tasty sauce where you control the quality of the ingredients. It takes only a few minutes to put together and is well worth the effort. Serve over rice, pasta or as a sauce for pizza; add a cup or two of chicken stock for a wonderful soup.
1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz/ 796 mL) diced tomatoes
1 can (5 ½ oz /142 mL) tomato paste
1/4 cup (50 mL) dry red or white wine
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) oregano
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each, dried leaf thyme and salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Cook onions, leeks and garlic covered about five minutes or until softened, watching carefully to prevent burning. If mixture seems too dry, add about half a cup (125 mL) of water. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, sugar, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, crushing tomatoes as you stir. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Makes four cups (1 L). Sauce keeps well covered and refrigerated for two days; for longer storage spoon into freezer containers, date and label; freeze for up to three months.
Lemon Roast Potatoes
This Greek-style dish transforms the humble potato into a delicious accompaniment for any roasted meat. The vegetables become a mouth-watering appetizer if served with a garlic yogurt dipping sauce. For best flavour, use Yukon gold potatoes.
10 medium potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
1 cup (250 mL) water
2 lemons, squeezed and juice reserved
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp (10 mL) oregano
1 tsp (5 mL) each, salt and fresh black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Spray 13 x 9 inch (3 L) baking dish with baking spray. Set aside.
In large mixing bowl, add potato wedges. In measuring cup, whisk together water, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Pour over potatoes, tossing to coat. Arrange potatoes in single layer in prepared baking dish; pour sauce over to coat potatoes evenly. Bake potatoes covered for 30 minutes; uncover and continue baking until moisture has almost evaporated and potatoes are tender and beginning to crisp around edges, about 20 to 30 minutes. Makes six to eight servings.
Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer – firstname.lastname@example.org