It was while visiting my grandparents as a small child that I remember going to a Greek restaurant down near the waterfront in Mobile. I don’t remember much about the restaurant but I do remember the food. It was so good. They were famous for their vegetable soup and fresh Gulf coast caught seafood that was turned into the most scrumptious seafood platters that I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know what they used for seasoning but it worked. I still think about that place after all these years. I have often wondered what happened to it.
The second time that I remember enjoying Greek food was in the cooking classes that I took from a friend who was from Athens. She taught me how to make really good spinach pie, and baklava. It was such an interesting class, and she always made it a dinner with other foods that she had cooked prior to the class’s arrival.
Several years ago when I was asked to fill in for a cooking class teacher that couldn’t make it to teach that evening, I had to come up with a few Greek recipes myself. I searched the internet and cookbooks for ideas, and I was able to put together a menu of Greek salad, pork tenderloin with sun-dried tomatoes and Greek potatoes. It was a good combination.
I thought I’d share the Greek cooking class recipes with you this week. I know that it may seem like a little work but it’s pretty easy. These recipes use lots of fresh herbs, which enhance the flavor even more. Enjoy. PS-If you want the Baklava recipe, let me know. I’ll send it to you.
2 large tomatoes cut into large cubes or wedges
1 English or hothouse cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into rings
1 large red onion cut into thin wedges
1/2 pound feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Greek oregano
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup good olive oil
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, and toss well to combine. Crumble the feta cheese over the vegetables and add the olives.
Sprinkle with oregano, parsley, and lemon juice and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss again. Serve with bread.
Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes
8 medium baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons or about 1/2 cup
1 tablespoon fresh Greek oregano, finely chopped
2 tablespoons salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat oven to 475º. Place potatoes in a heavy metal roasting pan in a single layer. Add the 1-cup water, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper. Toss potatoes until well coated. Bake uncovered until tender and starting to brown around the edges. Turn potatoes half way through cooking. Serve the potatoes on a large platter with fresh oregano sprigs and lemon wedges. Serve with pork tenderloin with sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic sauce. Serves 8.
Greek Pork Tenderloin with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach and Fresh Herbs
1 package pork tenderloins (package of 2)
1/2 package (10-ounce) chopped spinach (thawed and squeezed of excess water)
2 green onions, including tops, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh Greek oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and finely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Cut a slice almost through the center of the pork tenderloins making sure that your knife does not cut all the way through to the other side. Place the tenderloins between sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper and pound flat.
For the stuffing: Sauté the onion and spinach in 2 tablespoons olive oil. In another bowl, add the oregano, dill, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese. Add the spinach and onions.
Place half the mixture into one tenderloin, and the other half in the other tenderloin. Roll the tenderloins and tie each with string by looping it from end to end. Cook tenderloins in a pre-heated 400° oven until the internal temperature of the tenderloin is 155 degrees. Remove the string, cover and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with balsamic sauce.
1 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
6 cloves chopped fresh garlic
6 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, mix all ingredients except butter, salt and pepper. Cook rapidly until sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat and add butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste.
By Stacey Hirvela, Spring Meadow Nursery
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners/ColorChoice Shrubs
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