Category Archives: Meats

Creole Tomatoes and Peppers Stuffed with Dirty Rice

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Sometimes I get such a jonesing, such a strong pull towards Creole food that I can’t stop myself.  What I can do though, is change-up some of the more rich ingredients and substitute them for more healthful ones.  That’s precisely what I did with traditional dirty rice and dinner was a triumph.  I want preparation to be a speedy, low-labor process and this was.  All my vegetables were organic and non-GMO plus I made use of organic chicken sausage in place of conventional sausage or ground beef.  The chicken livers melt into the other ingredients giving the meal a satiny finish.  So don’t get all scaredy cat over the word “liver”.  White rice was replaced by fragrant brown Basmati rice and with so many flavors ricocheting in your mouth, you’ll never notice the change.  This is the perfect dish to bake whenever you have leftover rice on hand.

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Creole Tomatoes and Peppers Stuffed with Dirty Rice

  • 5-6 medium sized tomatoes, cored and hollowed, tops reserved.  Save the inside of tomatoes for another recipe
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 5-6 small to medium sized bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, tops reserved
  • 3 cups cooked long grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 1 cup finely chopped cooked ham
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, out of casings, chicken or turkey is fine
  • 1 pound chicken livers, drained
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 large tomato, cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and cover the inside of a 9X13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Set dish aside.
  2. In a large, deep, non-stick skillet place 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bring heat up to medium-high.
  3. Add chopped ham to the pam and lightly brown.
  4. Remove browned ham, I throw it in with the rice so as not to dirty up another bowl, and add sausage to the pan, breaking it up as it browns.
  5. When sausage is thoroughly cooked remove from skillet leaving the pan drippings.  I put the sausage with the rice and ham.
  6. Add the drained chicken livers to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side.  You want them still pink inside as they’ll cook further in the oven.  Leave any pan juices in the pan.
  7. Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pan juices and add the onion, stirring and cooking until translucent.
  8. Add the celery, garlic and scallions, stirring well and cooking for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add the thyme and Worcestershire sauce and stir until all ingredients are well combined.
  10. Add the chopped tomato and stir to combine all flavors.
  11. Taste for any needed salt and/or pepper.
  12. Remove skillet from heat and mix in rice-meat mixture.
  13. Spoon dirty rice mixture into the hollowed out tomatoes and peppers, replace tops of the vegetables and position snugly in baking dish.
  14. Pour wine onto bottom of baking dish, cover with tin foil and bake in oven for 45-60 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.
  15. Cool for 10-15 minutes prior to serving.

 

 

www.theirreverentkitchen.com

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THE Classic Bolognese Sauce, Marcella Hazan’s

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This is the sauce you want.  And this is the recipe that will give it to you.  Almost creamy, silken in texture and rich beyond belief, this sauce is better than most restaurant’s Bolognese.  Marcella Hazan’s version of Bolognese is the linchpin of one of Italy’s fundamental sauces.  Have you ever spent hours in the kitchen, hunched over your cutting board and pot, to ultimately finish with a pasta dish that when plated resembles a scarlet island surrounded by a watery moat?  Well, I have.  But not with this dish.  Ain’t nothing sloshing around your bowl when you have this sauce.  Although it’s been around for years there is no better recipe than this robust and satisfying rendition.  For all its big, luscious flavor this dish is not expensive to prepare; it only requires time and high quality ingredients to render perfection in a bowl.  So, let’s get started.  Marcella’s recipe calls for ground beef chuck and she’s not giving permission to pick up a pack of 7% fat chuck.  Full fat is the only ratio that will give you the buttery consistency you’re looking for.  And that’s exactly what you’re looking for.  This is NOT a diet dish.  It’s a treat, a reward if you will, for finally losing those first 8 pounds, for biting your tongue and not saying all those hateful things you thought of this week when you exchanged a few words with a family member, for getting up, dusting yourself off and giving the middle finger to the latest thrashing life may have served you.  This is the dish that confirms what everyone else seems not to have noticed.  You ARE special and this is the dish that will bow down and quietly obey.  For that reason, use a cup of whole milk and not almond milk although I completely understanding you wanting to substitute ingredients…hell, it’s one of the crosses I bear.  But do that with another recipe, not this one.  To do it absolute justice, stick close to the recipe.  It is a wonderment. Oh, and make certain to wrap it up in a high quality pasta.  I chose pappardelle and my boys swooned.  Swooned.

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Marcella Hazan's Bolognese Sauce

  • Servings: 2 heaping cups
  • Print

 

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing pasta
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 3/4 pound ground beef chuck
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table
  1. Put the oil, butter and onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium.  Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot.  Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.
  2. Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper.  Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
  3. Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely.  Add a tiny grating – about 1/8 teaspoon – of nutmeg and stir.
  4. Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well.  When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface.  Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time.  While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find out that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat.  To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary.  At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce.  Taste and  correct for salt.
  5. Toss with the cooked, drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter and serve with freshly grated parmesan on the side.

Shrimp, Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya…let the good times roll

Mardi Gras is coming to a close, people.  Ash Wednesday is day after tomorrow and this is the time when suddenly I begin to crave pork and beef and chicken and all manner of dishes that will be given up by me once I get that black cross of ashes traced onto my forehead.  Every year I say “Oh, I don’t care about meat.  I don’t even like it!  I never eat it anyway.”  That’s right about the time when visions of $12.00 bacon cheeseburgers, spicy, homemade jambalaya and hot, crispy chicken wings begin to pop up in my head.  I pulled out my giant pot, the one big enough to bathe a baby, and set about to make the best pot of jambalaya I’ve ever had.  I’ve been making this for the longest time and I think I’ve worked out the kinks.  That said, no shortcuts may be taken ie: frozen bags of the Trinity which always leave you waiting for the promised burst of flavor.  This iconic dish begs, no, DESERVES, to be prepared properly…leisurely, and it will reward you by delivering that slow and sultry combination of Louisiana flavors that cause you to roll your eyes back in your head.  Well-made jambalaya, good jambalaya, is like finger-poppin’ music in your mouth.  Layer upon layer of ingredients make themselves known, some subtly others not so discreetly.  It is a one-pot marvel of unpretentious components that ultimately yield a sophisticated dinner of comfort food while at the same time an over-the-top indulgence.  And it is the best possible way to celebrate Fat Tuesday.  So put on some boom-boom radio or zydeco, haul out your big pot and get to it.  Laissez le bon temps rouler!

My pot holds 3.5 gallons. the spoon could probably be used as a paddle in a row boat!
My pot holds 4 gallons. The spoon could probably be used as a paddle for a row-boat!

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Jambalaya is a great dish for a crowd.  It’s best prepared in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a lid that fits well.  Having all your ingredients cut, chopped and ready to go will also ensure a fantastic meal.  If you’re not able to locate converted Louisiana white rice just substitute it for a good quality, converted, white, long grain rice.  What cannot be substituted is the Andouille sausage.  I get mine from the butcher’s  and if they’re out I use Aidell’s brand which is stocked at Publix.  I find using sausage other than Andouille in this dish ends up tasting like hot dogs.  Not a flavor I want after I’ve been standing in the kitchen for a few hours.  So put off making jambalaya until you can find the real thing.  I use a mammoth, wooden spoon to stir this dish.  You’ll want to use the largest spoon you can get your hands on as the ingredients become heavy and bulky as you get further into the cooking.

Shrimp, Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 5 cups converted long grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 3 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound ground pork sausage, preferably spicy
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound Andouille sausage or 1 12-ounce package from the grocery store, thinly sliced
  • 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 3 large, sweet onions, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 6 stalks of celery, leaves included, diced
  • 1 large head of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 fresh bay leaves
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 3 pounds medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined, preferably not farmed
  • salt and pepper
  1. In a medium-sized bowl add paprika, celery salt, thyme, cayenne pepper and rice.  Stir well to break up any lumps in the spices.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot up to medium heat and add ground sausage, breaking up and stirring while it browns.
  3. When sausage is browned add oil and Andouille sausage.  Stir occasionally but allow Andouille to brown and get color.
  4. Add chicken pieces and cook until golden.  Stir occasionally.
  5. Add the onions to the pot and stir continuously.  Cook until clear.
  6. Add the bell pepper, celery and garlic and cook for another 7-10 minutes stirring all the while.
  7. Add the rice mixture to the pot and stir so the grains of rice are evenly coated with the contents of the pot.
  8. Raise heat to high, add bay leaves, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and stir well.  Taste broth for seasoning and add salt and black pepper as needed.
  9. When pot comes to the boil, drop the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and simmer until rice is cooked according to package instructions.
  10. When rice is cooked, gently mix in the shrimp, this is where you truly need a big spoon, again cover the pot and turn off the heat.
  11. Allow the shrimp to cook in residual heat another 15 minutes then serve.

 

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

P-i-c-n-i-c PICNIC in France

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Everyone loves picnics but, really, how often do we go on one?  Not nearly enough, tho, when on vacation and you find yourselves spending over $100.00 every night for dinner for two, one finds ways to cut back.  That said the four of us, Stephen and Selene, Jimmy and I, established picnics on countless sunny lawns many vacations ago.  Picnics are just wonderful!  Not only does one save beaucoup €’s but you’re also creating delightful memories.  Lunches in restaurants can be quickly forgotten but a picnic?  Well!  It’s almost always an adventure!  Here are some tips that will almost guarantee your pique-nique abroad to be a crazy success!  Before leaving Stateside pack several pocketknives and corkscrews in your checked luggage.  If in France and you need to buy some, Laguiole is the brand you want.  They make a super efficient product and are incredibly handsome.  And you’ll use them at home.  You’ll need them for saucisson, cheeses and fruit.  Walking about the town of Arromanches-les-Bains, Selene and I found the French version of Home Goods and popped in.  Four lovely, etched wine glasses later we had our future lunches and wine hours well set and we spent only 2€ per stem.  As we were driving through the outskirts of the town of Bessin we spotted the Gallic equivalent of our super WalMart.  (I’ve never been in a super Walmart, however, this is how I envision it but just loaded with a bunch of crap from China.)  Holy Moly!  They had huge flat screen television sets alongside cases of wine in gorgeous, wooden boxes next to Hello Kitty bath mats and pocket calculators.  Kind of weird but that was all incidental to me. I was focused on the food end and was NOT disappointed.  Loaves of country bread were out and HOT from the oven.  We grabbed one and threw it in the basket, we meaning Selene and I.  Head after ruffly head of soft, green, butter lettuce peeked through wooden, stand-up display cases.  A crisp bunch of brilliant pink and white baby radishes sashayed straight into my basket.  Not only would they add crunch to our mid-day repast but they would look good, too.  And those radishes knew it!  Crunchy apples and pears would round out out the meal and fruit would be easy to carry.  We made our way to the cheese and prepared meats case.  O.M.G. is all I can say.  Påté after påté, terrine after terrine.  Small rounds and pyramids of artisanal cheeses rested on freshly cut hay and richly colored Autumn leaves. And they just went on forever each boasting a more gorgeous, elaborate label than the previous.  All this, in their version of WalMart.  Boy, do we here in the US have a lot to learn!  We chose several cheeses using the same method of choice that I use for wine.  The label.  The prettier more elaborate, the sooner it will find itself rolling around the bottom of my basket.  I picked out a few cheeses and saucisson while Selene chose a few bottles of LOCAL wine.  I also asked that the saucisson be sliced…way easier than wrestling with it on grass.  We picked up a case of water and a roll of paper towels.  And I think we were all set.

Road trip!
Road trip!

We hit the road, the long drive to Saint Emilion ahead with only our picnic to break up the trip.  Oh, wait!!  I almost forgot!!  Selene also made a stop on the CHOCOLATE AISLE…we decided on chocolate with hazelnuts. 🙂  Hours later we stopped in the medieval town Fougeres, (grave accent over the first e but I can’t find it on my keyboard), finding the PERFECT picnic spot.  Sunny day, castle, moat and a couple of vacant tables.  Heaven!!  We set up and jumped in.  Good Lord, food never tasted so good!!  I poured some of the bottled water over the lettuce to rinse off the dirt.  Selene opened the wine and poured.

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What a memory!!  And what a perfect day!  A few locals strolled by and called out their wishes so sweetly, “Bon appetit!”  And we did.  After cleaning up our mess we each took our photos and peaked into the ancient church across the street.

Hail, Holy Queen.....
Hail, Holy Queen…..

I lit my candle for my peeps, said my small prayer and we were on our way!

Roast Beef

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Beginning in Junior High I was fortunate enough to fit into the smallest size at my father’s clothing store.  The Tack Room was a clothing store for women which in its heyday was the hottest thing in Fort Lauderdale.  There was no Galleria Mall or any other mall for that matter!  It was Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.  I remember cars pulling up with Palm Beach plates driven by liveried chauffeurs.  They pulled right in front of the store, the doors would open and laughing, excited teenage girls would come spilling out followed by their wealthy mamas.  Dad always chuckled when he saw them.  He liked that.  A certain electricity cracked in the shopping air.  When I was a little girl I begged Dad to give me something to do, some work…anything in the store.  In 8th grade I no longer wanted to work.  Dad had decided that I was responsible for the display in the front window.  It had to be changed completely at least every two weeks; every week was better.  The problem was that it had to be changed when the least number of people would be window shopping or strolling the boulevard.  And that meant Sunday after church before Sunday dinner.  That was also prime beach time.  I took a little consolation in the fact that Dad said Cynthia had to drive me AND help.  I have always been inclined to feel if I have to go to hell at least let me drag someone, ANYONE, with me.  True to form, we were predictably in dark, surly moods often snapping at each other before we even got in the car.  Ah!  Teenage girls.  Ya gotta love ’em.  Dad would give me the keys to the store, we would park in the back and let ourselves in.  Unfailingly, we would be assaulted with heavy, muggy air that would put us in fouler moods knowing that our hair would also not be happy.  Dad had entire walls of fish tanks encircling the back room bubbling away with his priceless Discus breeders serenely gliding through the water.  The store was hot.  The AC had been off since Saturday afternoon, it smelled of…well, hundred gallon fish tanks and we were missing choice beach time and maybe even the chance to win the hearts of our secret crushes.  No, we weren’t happy.  I flipped on the air and we went through the double doors to the front of the store.  Lights on I took a quick inventory of which merchandise was new and which pieces went with which.  Then I needed music.  Dad didn’t play music in the store.  “Not necessary” was his sentiment.  However, there was a small tape deck with one (1) cassette tape.  Yes.  It was the original score from the musical “Hair”.   And, truly, if you need jump up-get-damn-creative-indignant-move-your-ass music then THAT is the soundtrack for you.

When we were older there were NO smiling faces when we had to change the window. Cynthia and I are in the middle with Mom and Dad behind us. 1960
When we were older there were NO smiling faces when we had to change the window. Cynthia and I are in the middle with Mom and Dad behind us. 1960

We had to get all the display merchandise out of the window, steam and fluff all the pieces and hang them back up.  Tops, shorts, dresses, belts, shoes and bags.  Everything back.  Slowly we would turn the music louder and louder.  We loved it.  I loved the fact that there are ALL kinds of bad words and dirty words and I could sing my heart out and not get into any trouble.  And we danced.  Boy, did we dance.  The front display window was raised up on a platform and we would sail off and jump back up all the while gyrating to “Donna” and his “sixteen year old virgin” or “Ain’t Got No” with some of Daddy’s favorite lyrics that we still quote to this day.  He’ll say “ain’t got no money” and in unison, whoever is around him, automatically responds “ain’t got no underwear!”  I’d toss Cynthia a pair of white Bernardos and ask for the new navy pair that just came in.  She’d chuck back the sandals along with the navy, jewel-neck, sleeveless, cotton pique top and madras Villager shorts I’d pulled.  The window was taking shape.  All the while singing and dancing to the delight and entertainment of the passersby.  We were tanned, barefoot and, though loathe to admit it, happy.  By the time “Black Boys” and “White Boys” came on we were adding the finishing touches.  A straw bag at the foot of the white, navy and green, sleeveless color-blocked Villager dress.  White canvas and hemp espadrilles over there.  And don’t forget the belt on the shorts.  Then to the finger-poppin’ beat of “Abie Baby” we’d put away the empty shoe boxes, careful not to muss the pretty, patterned tissue inside.  While wailing, “Bang?  BANG?  Shiiiiit, I ain’t dying for no white man.”, we’d make sure the final product was perfect.  Collars were popped or straight.  No pins showed.  And the final detail?  No smudges on the glass.  Dad would just have a fit if there were smudges on the glass although he regularly told me how popular our windows were based on the number of nose prints he had to wipe off Monday morning.  Tape deck back in place, AC and lights turned off we’d jump in Cynthia’s VW and drive home.  To Sunday dinner.  And, if we were lucky, this is what we would have.

I served my Roast Beast with Provencal Roasted Tomatoes and a Ragout of Wild and Domestic Mushrooms.
I served my Roast Beast with Provencal Roasted Tomatoes and a Ragout of Wild and Domestic Mushrooms.

One of the two dishes Mama just rocked.  Roast beef.  I don’t know how or why but it ALWAYS came out dark and black on the outside, red and juicy on the inside and always tender.  Actually, I know how she did it it’s just she was so unbelievably bad in the kitchen and then she would come out with this gorgeous piece of beef?  Anyway, I know most of us eat very little meat now, some of us eschewing it altogether.  But my boy Jamesy loves it and I want him to have this receipt because the preparation is supremely easy and from this one dish you can make at least three more meals.  Obviously, sandwiches but how about a Cold Beef Salad?  Thin, thin slices of rare roast beef on top of a cold and crunchy romaine salad tossed with a Dijon mustard and walnut oil dressing?  Or Shepherd’s Pie?  Or throw it in the crock pot with a chopped onion and either homemade or your favorite bottled BBQ sauce?  Saute some vegetable and make fajitas.  If you have a restrained portion the damage is minimal to your digestive system.  Especially if you never have it.  But, again, this is for the young, meat-lovers in the family.  So, enjoy, and “Let the Sunshine In”!

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  • Servings: 2-3 servings per pound
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 eye of round, sirloin tip or rump roast.  Today I’m roasting a 3 1/2 pound bottom round roast.
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master (totally optional!  Mama used it, I use it!)
  1. Remove roast from refrigerator 2-3 hours prior to roasting.  It needs to be at room temperature when it goes into the oven otherwise it will steam and come out looking grey and nasty.
  2. Preheat oven to 550°.
  3. Place the meat fat side up in a shallow roasting pan sprayed with non-stick spray.  If your roast has a very thick cap of fat, place the meat still fat side up but on a rack.
  4.   If using, rub the roast all over with Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master.
  5. Pat on salt and pepper.
  6. Place in the middle of your oven and immediately lower temperature to 350°.
  7. Roast 18-20 minutes per pound for medium-rare.  140° for rare and, (please tell me you wouldn’t do this!), 170° for well-done.
  8. Towards the end of roasting insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast not touching the fat or bone if your roast is bone-in.
  9. After removing from the oven let the beef rest for at least 30 minutes.  If you wish you can lightly cover or “tent” with tin foil.
  10. Carve into thin slices AGAINST the grain for a more tender result.
  11. And that’s all there is to it!!

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Leader of the Pack

Athens, a contradiction in time.

October 26th is Jimmy’s and James’ name day.  In the Greek Orthodox Church that is as important as your birthday if not more.  A person’s name day is the feast day of the saint for whom he or she was named.  And so October 26 th is a special day for all the Dimitri’s and Dimitra’s of the world.  I, on the other hand, am sick as a dog, stuck in bed with a high fever and with only enough energy to try to breathe.  As I lie here I allow my mind to wander freely and my memories take me back to the first time we took James to Greece.  Jim had never contacted his family on any of our earlier trips and I asked him if he was going to on this one.  “We’ll see.” was one of his more gentle responses.  It ran the gamut all the way to a heated, “Dammit!  You don’t know my family!  If they know we’re there they’ll NEVER leave us alone!”  “Okay!  Okay!”, I thought.  “I’m just asking!”  That first trip with James was also my first trip to the island of Lesvos.  It was also the first time we invited James’ cousin Elizabeth to join us.  The two cousins have always had a great relationship and not only would her perspective be appreciated but James would now have someone to hang out with now that they no longer fought over the blue popsicle.  My sister, Cynthia, kept repeating her instructions to me.  “Chicken.  You CANNOT take your eyes off those children for one moment.  DO YOU HEAR ME?”  In the days leading up to our departure it became her mantra.  We left without a hitch and spent a wonderful week in Athens, making friends with the hotel staff, discovering new dishes and soaking in all that the Acropolis has to offer…which is quite a bit! We spent countless hours in the big museums and patted ourselves on the backs for having the foresight to bring Elizabeth.  It was more than once we heard James mutter, “Mama.  You’ve seen one 570 BC pediment, you’ve seen ’em all.”  We took a day trip to the island of Aegina…we had a blast!  After an exhausting but fulfilling week on the mainland we left for the island of Lesvos, the island of Jim’s family.  We boarded a rather large ferry secure in the knowledge that we had nonsmoking space reserved for the four of us in the first class cabin.  I don’t know why but all the passengers were to stay below.  We weren’t allowed topside maybe because we were traveling at night.  But to say the trip was hideous is an understatement.  It lasted an eternity.  Everyone smoked, EVERYWHERE, including the nonsmoking sections.  Even the babies were smoking!  Well, maybe not the babies but there WAS a woman accompanying her father who was one step away from death.  He was lying on a gurney with an IV and oxygen.  He had that “death rattle”.  And just what do you think was dangling from his daughter’s fingers the entire ferry ride?  It was vile, JUST VILE!!  We did, however, strike up a conversation with a terrific man who turned out to be world traveler and Greek blogger Matt Barrett!  On that initial trip we decided on our hotel stay based on his comments which we had read in his blog.  We have been staying at that same hotel, the Sunrise, ever since and consider the owners and many of the staff our good friends! We finally arrived on the island at two or three in the morning and took the last unoccupied taxi to a nearby hotel.  After a quick rest and breakfast we took off for our final destination, Molyvos!  Our rental car had been delivered to us, the young agent eschewing our offers to drive him back to his office.  He said it was a beautiful walk and that he enjoyed it greatly, but thank you very much.  And off he went!!  I understood completely.  In the soft light of the morning the sweet town of Pirgi glowed, with it’s narrow streets and historic, colonial estates framed by huge, iron gates that looked liked frosting on a cake.  We loaded the car and started off with the excitement and anticipation of the beginning of an adventure heightened by the promise of a new day.  Up and down mountain roads, snaking hair pin turns and shuddering at the sheer drop from the side of the road to ravines and gorges below we finally made it to the Sunrise.

Oh, boy! Lunch!!

What a splendid escape!!  The resort was  carved out of the hills each level of rooms terraced with a killer number of steps.  I made a mental note not to forget ANYTHING when going down to the pool!  Our days were filled with exploring the hotel, neighboring towns and local dishes.

Our beloved Molyvos.

We decided to go to Jimmy’s mother’s village, Morea, and check out the ancient Roman aqueduct.  We easily found the village, signage in Greece is pretty darned good, and started poking around on foot.  After taking in the aqueduct, the beautiful church where his parents had wed and the different Turkish watering holes for horses and travelers, Jimmy said, “Maybe I’ll see if we can find my favorite cousin.  I heard she moved back here from Athens.”  We went to a kiosk in the middle of the town square and after buying the children sweets he asked if there were any people around with the last name of “Hondrobilas”, his mother’s maiden name.  “Oh, sure”, the man replied, “just go down this street and it’ll be the fifth house on the left.”  Okay. We went to the fifth house on the left and knocked on the door.  And knocked.  And knocked.  And pounded!  When we were just about to turn and leave a very irritated young man came to the door and asked if he could help us.  Jimmy answered yes and explained that we were from America, that his family’s last name was Hondrobilas and would he know of any in town or could he actually BE a family member.  The young man responded yes, reluctantly invited us in and invited us to sit down.  He was a third cousin and explained whom we really wanted to see was another cousin, Athena, and he left us to call her.  Jimmy and I sat quietly in the living room whispering vagaries to each other to break the stillness of the atmosphere.  While the cousin was talking on the phone in his rapid-fire Greek we heard a rustling from upstairs.  In unison we turned  to the staircase not believing what we saw.  With big eyes and jaws dropped we watched as the cousin’s daughter came downstairs.  She was the EXACT 16-year-old mirror image of Jimmy’s sister in Boston, Tina, (actually Athena)!!  The same high cheek bones, the same light blondish brown hair, THE SAME CLEAR AQUAMARINE EYES.  We were positively stunned!  As much as we tried to explain, the family just looked at us with complacent amusement and moved right on to the business at hand.  “Okay,” the cousin briskly started, “Athena’s going to meet you in the town square, just go back the way you came in.  Bye-bye!”  We shook hands, gave him our thanks and headed back to the town square which was just a stone’s throw away.

Greater downtown Morea

We stood in the square, the kids chatting with each other, Jimmy and I took pictures.  I slowly acknowledged a mounting clamor increasingly creeping into my consciousness.  It began as just a little din and rose and rose to a small commotion.  As if in slow motion Jimmy and I both turned at the same time to see a crowd approaching us, dogs jumping and yipping about as if THEY knew something was going to happen, the sea of villagers headed by a petite woman in a very cute linen outfit.  Well.  Everyone was talking a mile a minute and then the woman had her arms outstretched and Jimmy had his arms outstretched and they’re hugging and crying and smiling and crying.  It was, indeed, Jimmy’s favorite cousin, vivacious, slightly naughty, always laughing and smiling, Athena.

Sweet Athena with her handsome Yiorgos, George

After all the runaway emotions were reined in we made plans to go to their house for dinner the following day.  We drove back to the hotel marveling over the fact that this reunion had taken place.   Jimmy thought back on his time with Athena’s father, his dearest uncle, walking the streets of Athens discussing different philosophers and choice authors.  Dinner the following evening was magical!  Athena had gathered all the family members  in addition to making a feast that just did not quit!!  We met Athena’s equally generous brother Dimitri and his fabulous wife, Evangelia, along with their remarkable children.  Neither Athena nor Evangelia have sisters so they are to each other not only sisters-in-law but best friends… soul sisters.  Each a treasure to the other.  And now treasures to me.  James and Elizabeth met their cousins and disappeared through the narrow streets of the village, running and playing as if they had all known each other since birth.  We laughed and ate and drank until the wee hours.  Athena and her handsome husband, Yiorgos, (he looks just like Clark Gable), with Dimitri and Evangelia hosted us at countless seaside tavernas each one better than the former to remote all-night, tear it up, Greek parties taking place in the most unlikely, remote, never to be found again mountains!  We would have to follow Yiorgos in the car as there were no street lights and sometimes no streets!!  White lights had been strung from tree to tree, the local band was playing songs and their delighted audience was dancing, and clapping to the strains of the classic Greek music.  They were all brilliant celebrations of sheer love of life and joy.  Our Greek family has enriched our lives beyond belief and now we always… ALWAYS look forward to the phone call when we can say to Athena, “Tekanes, sister!!  Eimaste etho!”  “We’re here!”

The REAL, somewhat naughty Athena!!! We love you, sister!

When there’s a reason to celebrate one needs roasted lamb!  This is an incredibly easy and wholly satisfying dish whether you prepare just a leg of lamb or the entire animal.  To a good cup of olive oil mix in 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, one head of garlic minced, a couple of tablespoons of oregano, and a tablespoon or two of salt and pepper.  Mix all together and rub all over lamb.  Chill lamb with marinade in the refrigerator three or four hours.  Before cooking bring to room temperature.  Based on a 7 or 8 pound leg of lamb, boned, grill for 2-3 hours.  In the oven it can be roasted for 2-2 1/2 hours at 400° basting frequently.  Greeks eat their lamb well done but tender.  And there’s no reason you can’t throw some potatoes in with that meat either!!

Quick Turkey Meat Sauce for pasta

We recently learned that Elizabeth is coming to visit.  Sweet, brilliant, older cousin of James, Catherine, Christopher, Meg and Annie.  They adore her and she them.  As a new-born Elizabeth began her summer journeys down to South Florida.  After James was born she was the perfect summer playmate, being four years older and a girl.    Cynthia and she would fly down and stay for a month.  Or two.  It was most splendid.  They always, always stayed at Mom and Dad’s.  But come 4:00 p.m. those two girls would be at MY house.  It was hot out, damned hot, and respite could be found out back in the cement  pond.  Well, at least for “the cur-dren”, white-trash talk for “children”.  We would get them all greased up with 75 SPF sunscreen while they protested, tried to wiggle away and when we just couldn’t bear it any more allowed them into the pool.  Then came our preparations.  The Mama’s preparations.  In spite of the killer, oppressive heat we had to cover every inch of our flesh with sticky, bad-smelling mosquito repellant.  Foreheads, backs of hands, toes, ears…every inch of exposed flesh had to be covered.  The mosquitos were huge.  There were times you thought you had  reached down to pet the dog but turns out it was a really big mosquito.  Then we had to select tunes.  Everyday we would deliberate between the same two cd’s, K.D. Lang’s “Absolute Torch and Twang” or Sarah Vaughan’s “Brazilian Romance”.  If it had been a good day, meaning the children had been getting along,  then K.D. Lang was scorching the outside speakers.  But.  If it had been a bad day, and they had been quarreling, more likely than not, Say-ruh Vaughan was crooning in the back ground.  It was 5:00 in the afternoon by then and hotter than blue blazes outside.  We’d pour ourselves liquid anesthesia, take it outside, gather our chairs and settle in.  While K.D. Lang belted out “She was a big-boned gal from southern Alberta, you just couldn’t call her small…” we would be getting in that “don’t move, barely breathe and it’s almost cool.  Or at least tolerable” mindset.  But James and Elizabeth were in their element.  Happy and shrieking, water splashing everywhere, the children were loving their pool time.  Cousins have such a bond.

Co-love!

Cynthia and I would sip on our G & T’s, occasionally moving our chairs to miss the tidal wave coming straight for us from the pool.  After an hour of happy shrieks and splashing water; of races and cannonballs we could see the kids had slowed down and were getting a little frayed around the edges, if ya catch my drift.  The children were tuckered out and needed to be fed.  It was time for some frozen sugar recreation to avoid total meltdown.  Unfortunately, that’s when the tears, bitterness and recriminations would set in.  I’d go inside, get the bottomless box of popsicles out of the freezer and bring it out to the pool.  “Who wants a popsicle?”, I cheerfully called.  And, predictably, it was always the same tired response, “I do! I do! I CALL THE BLUE ONE!”  Well, guess what?  In that big ol’ box there were probably four orange, (yuck), four green, (that’s even worse), one red, (okay),  and one prized, coveted tropical blue popsicle.  And just who’s gonna get it?  Well, the arms were waving in the pool, the children were jumping like little fools with excitement.  Cynthia would tell me to give it to James and pull Elizabeth aside.  Then we had melt down. Big, fat alligator tears would fall out of poor Elizabeth’s eyes and stream down her red, sunburned cheeks.  Cynthia would drape her towel over her and hold her tightly and say in her calm, soothing way, “Elizabeth, darling.  You’re older than James.  Let him have the blue popsicle.  You’re older, darling, have the red one.”  Poor Elizabeth by that time was sobbing; face all splotchy and swollen from crying.  She always responded the same way, “But, Mama.  He ALWAYS gets the blue one and you always say he can have it because I’m older and I never, EVER, MAMA, get the blue one!”  Sob, sob, hiccup, hiccup.  Meanwhile K.D. was just a wailing in the background, “Coyote, coyote, can you tell me why?  Every time that moon big moon shines you sit right down and cryyyyy…”  Well, who’s cryin’ now?  And pitiful  Elizabeth would reply, “Fine, Mama!”,  with all the anger in her tiny, bony body.  She, predictably, turned to James and under her breath say, “How’d you like it if I left and went back to New Jersey ?  Tomorrow?  I’m leaving!”  Of course, James would burst into tears and wail, “Mama! Elizabeth is leaving us! She’s leaving!  Tomorrow!  To New Jersey!”  Ugh. Every single day we replayed this scenario. Clearly, play time was over…WAY OVER.  Cynthia and I would bundle the sobbing, heaving little ones in their beach towels, put the chairs back, grab the remains of our worn out, tepid gin and tonics and head into the house.  Into the bathtub she’d put them while I rustled up spaghetti with meat sauce, apple slices and organic skim milk to tame the savage beasts.  She’d dress and deposit those tired, hungry babies onto the sofa and pop one of their favorite Disney movies in the DVR, Robinhood or Lady ON The Tramp, as Elizabeth called it.  We’d quote lines from the movie as we served them their dinners.  “Oh, Marion! What a bonny, wee bunny!”, we’d sing as they munched on their apple slices served on melamine plates.  Well, they ain’t fighting over the blue popsicle anymore, nor are they watching Robinhood.  But they still laugh at each other and verbally shove each other during a rousing game of Scrabble.  They go to concerts and work out together.  They support each other in times of disappointment and revel in each other’s accomplishments and achievements.  They call each other the “Co-Bro” and “Co-Sis”.  And they’ve gotten to that special place where they’ll gladly share the blue popsicle….I think.

The following recipe is a little more sophisticated than what we gave the children but it is still a magnificent way to squeeze in more vegetables.  I grate zucchini and add it to so many of my dishes, this being one.  Grated zucchini and chopped spinach both seem to disappear in this so with a large amount of savory vegetables it packs quite the nutritious punch.  If you’re really pressed for time, by all means use frozen chopped onion and bell pepper.  I also use a great deal of turkey products.  In this dish I use ground turkey and spicy turkey sausage which really isn’t spicy but just well seasoned.  Jennie-O brand is great in this dish.  When it comes to pasta I’m crazy about the whole grain lines out on the market.  Whole wheat pasta is not the block of sticky lead it used to be.  Use which ever brand strikes your fancy but do try it.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Quick Turkey Meat Sauce for pasta

Quick Meat Sauce (for pasta)

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 package ground turkey
  • 1 package turkey sausage
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, grated on large holes of box grater or 1 bag frozen, chopped spinach defrosted with all water squeezed out
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of good oregano
  • 1 or 2 six-ounce cans tomato paste, I use organic
  • 2 28 ounce cans San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta of your choice, cooked to al dente stage
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional
  1. In a large pot bring olive oil to medium heat and brown ground turkey.
  2. Take sausage out of casings and brown in pot with ground turkey, breaking up sausage with a spoon.
  3. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic.  Stir well.
  4. Add oregano and tomato paste. Stir well making sure paste is combined.
  5. Add whole tomatoes and break apart with spoon.
  6. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Tear fresh basil leaves and add to pot.
  8. Taste for salt and pepper.
  9. Serve over pasta with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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