Tag Archives: pepper

Feta, Honey and Black Pepper Appetizer

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Greece 2016…and I can’t wait!  With a bangin’ new pair of sunnies I had been lusting after, also came the Christmas gift of vaca back in Greece this coming summer.  Although it’s hot and the sun shines year round in south Florida, it’s a different kind of heat.  There’s no humidity; it’s dry as a bone.  In all the years we’ve been traveling to Greece we’ve experienced rain TWICE.  That’s it.  Two times.  I’ve never been in the winter but the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous.  We typically travel to the Northern Aegean where they have seasons including autumn and winter.  It snows often, not huge amounts, just enough to be pretty.  And fall brings blustery winds that sometimes are downright cold!  Greeks are incredibly social people but the colder weather does at times keep them inside.  But we’ll be back for summer on Lesvos, where the white-hot rays of sunlight can be blinding and the ink-black night skies are covered with thousands of stars that look like tiny, twinkling pin-pricks.  That’s the Greece I love.  From the balcony of the bar at the resort where we stay, which juts out over the twisted, silver trunks of ancient olive trees; or our breezy balcony nestled into the side of a hill, to the waterfront dinners at the harbor of Molyvos, the night skies are a galactic showcase.  Anywhere on this magnificent island is the best place to star gaze.  So, more often than not, it’s Molyvos where we watch the sun set and the stars come out.  Along with all the locals and tourists, albeit not many tourists but there are some, we scan the harbor restaurants for the best seats of the night at the best eating places.  Sturdy, ladder-back chairs with woven rush seating do not beckon as they are not known for comfort.  But that is all you’ll find at the harbor; each leaning against the table on two legs until their patron for the night whips them out, legs clattering against the smooth but uneven cobblestones, and plops down.  All tables are square but can be quickly joined together for larger groups.  Each table is covered with a paper tablecloth, usually white with a large, blue map of the island printed in the middle.  And since the nights are typically windy, the table coverings are held down in one of two ways.  Either a huge, knotted, cloth-covered elastic, (think your hair!), slipped over and under the lip of the table or four steel pins which slide over the table rim, one on each side.  Really, really standard.  Any person reading this who has been to Greece is probably shaking their head, chuckling and thinking, “yup”.  I haven’t been the biggest fan of Greek wine here in the States but in Greece it’s a whole other kettle of grapes.  Wine is produced everywhere and produced well.  Think Plato and Socrates.  And don’t forget Dionysus, god of wine.  I’ve only had excellent cold, crisp whites and big, full-bodied reds and typically these are house wines.  Glasses in hand, we peruse the menus we know by heart.  We pretty much order the same dishes from our own predictable menu.  We begin with maybe a small bowl of local olives in olive oil with fresh oregano strewn on top.  While savoring those we might discuss what time we want to pick up the ferry to the other side of the island for tomorrows adventure.  I always go with early so we have the day ahead of us but that’s just me.  Plus the air is cold and fresh, the morning sunlight is blinding on the water, the salt spray is positively intoxicating.  The captain and I usually kick our shoes off and sometimes he lets me take over.  Scary but true!

And you thought I was telling stories.
And you thought I was telling stories.

Post olives we may order some grilled bread and a little feta.  Dinner we’ll share.  The ever-present and proper Greek salad comes out crisp and oh, so satisfying.  Grilled octopus?  Sounds good.  With lemon and olive oil.  And it comes with french fries which I never order but can’t keep my hands off.  Greek french fries can be exquisitely delectable.  Fried in olive oil from the island to a golden crisp, dusted with fresh rosemary and local sea salt they are a treat.  Jimmy and I don’t really order meat in Greece because the Greek cuisine treats vegetables and fish so well.  The seafood and produce are like nothing we can get in the states.  Typically the owner of the restaurant or taverna will bring out a platter of fresh fruit with the check.  The fruit is their gift for patronizing their establishment.  Gorgeous, hot pink slabs of watermelon are common.  Or you may be surprised with fresh figs.  It’s heaven and I can’t wait!

Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who'd like more.
Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who’d like more.

This is a wonderful hors d’oeuvre which can be served alone or on a platter with other indulgences.  And you don’t really need amounts.  Let me walk you through this.  Place your Greek feta, and PLEASE purchase a high quality feta.  None of this store brand in cryovac, okay?  Anyway, put your feta on your tray or platter.  Drizzle it well with your favorite honey.  Throw a pinch of red pepper flakes on the cheese and follow with a heavy dusting, or to your taste, of freshly cracked black pepper.  Present and enjoy with pride!

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In Jamaica They Call It “Fish Tea”

WOW.  I just made the most outrageous, EASY, and fast, fish soup!!!  I’m trying to cool down with a HUGE ice-cold, crisp Pinot Grigio!!  And, thankfully, it’s working.   It rained a bit today, the temperature dropped a stunning 4 degrees, I’m down for soup.  But I didn’t want some cook-all-day, roiling, thick, stew thing.  So… a gorgeously colored fish soup.  Always light but incredibly savory.  Dad gets a beautiful fish soup just about every Saturday at the Swap Shop, it’s so darned good but so darned expensive.  $12.00 for a cup.  Are you kidding?  Kiss my lily, white ass.  I looked all through my cookbooks for different recipes but they all did the “fish stock” thing.  I didn’t have any made or frozen and I just didn’t want to kill myself making it.  It’s fish soup, dammit, fish soup.  “I’m Gumby, dammit!! Gumby”.  Well, that’s how I felt.  Anyway, I wanted something rich in flavor, but at the same time, light and pretty.  Apparently I wanted it all.  And guess what?  Through hard work and diligence I got it.  I started with a good knob of butter, maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons, and a good splash of olive oil in a medium hot dutch oven/stock pot.  To that I added a HUGE onion that I had finely chopped and when that had cooked to soft and clear I added 7 or 8 finely chopped garlic cloves.  My feeling is, if I don’t have a good seafood stock then I need to unquestionably produce a broth that is strong, luxurious and full-bodied.  And I did.  After the garlic had softened sufficiently, I heightened the flavor by adding three large, peeled and cubed  red-skinned boiling potatoes, two whole scotch bonnet peppers, and a large bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and finely chopped.  We enjoy a lot of heat in our food and although scotch bonnets are small, they DO pack a considerable amount of heat!!  Fair warning!  I also threw in a good measure of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Actually, I added more than I usually would because the potatoes will soak up a lot of the salt, they need it to bring out their own flavor.  I found some saffron and tossed a few threads into the mix.  A little color is ALWAYS good.  I chopped and included another onion to deepen the taste.  And a healthy glass of the grape I was enjoying, my snappy Pinot Grigio.  To the juice of four lemons I added six cups of water and into the pot that went. I brought it up to a good simmer, covered it and walked away.  I had set aside a large bowl with two pounds of shelled and cleaned shrimp and a couple of pounds of cod fillets cut into small cubes.  After poking around on the computer and watching a little junky daytime television with Jimmy, I tasted the broth to see what it needed.  Just a little salt and pepper.  I added the seafood and another bunch of washed, chopped cilantro, to brighten the pot.  And turned up the heat, just enough to cook the fish but not toughen it.  Two minutes later… voila!!  It was gorgeous!  Just the right amount of heat, citrus and aromatics.  Even Jimmy liked it and he HATES soup!  I think snapper, dolphin or wahoo would be outrageous in this and, of course, lime in place of lemon.  Lemon grass would be lovely as would some marjoram.  Play around with it or focus on the flavor YOU like.  If you like the anise flavor use fennel in place of cilantro and add  a splash of Pernod.  I few chopped tomatoes might be nice.  And I ever so carefully took the scotch bonnets out and discarded them.  Well, Jimmy just called from the Panther’s game, in some fancy, hoity-toity box, to say he can’t wait to come home and have some of the soup. I say, “Get out!”.  He hates beans and he hates soup and he’s going to start liking it now?  Well, fine by me!  Nothing makes me happier than when he likes what I love!  Soup is a luxury to me so if there’s motivation to prepare it, bring it!!  This is a fine soup, delicate and light, still satisfying and potent.  In MY kingdom, this would be the consummate meal if served in an individual, footed soup bowl in my formal porcelain pattern.  Would that it were.  But it’s still the best regardless of it’s serving vessel!