Zorba has nothing on these Greek-themed recipes | TheUnion.com
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Zorba has nothing on these Greek-themed recipes

I’m taking dance lessons again. This time it’s salsa. Although I wear jeans and a T-shirt to class, I imagine myself in a slinky red dress, black stilettos, and fruit basket hat.

Twenty years ago, I had another fantasy. I was destined to be a tap dancer.

I signed up for classes and joyfully hop-stepped my way through the year. I was hesitant about performing at the recital but couldn’t resist when I found out about the costume.



The night of the recital, I waited backstage in my top hat, fish-net stockings, black heels and bow tie and watched sweet kindergarten bunnies twirl and jazzy teens jitterbug.

Finally, my group was on.




We shuffled in, swinging our canes to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” I was delighted by the huge audience and bright lights and smiled my widest to acknowledge every section of the large auditorium. The next thing I remember was another dancer hissing at me to shuffle off the stage. I was wonderstruck and had forgotten to dance.

I hoped no one noticed my catatonic performance, but later I heard someone say, “Was she supposed to just stand there?” My tap career ended that night.

Luckily, hoofing it into the kitchen and cooking is a piece of cake for me.

Spinach Nests

(6 servings)

I’m a spinach junkie. Here’s one more way I feed my addiction.

1 pound baby spinach leaves

1 tablespoon tamari

1Ú4 teaspoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons white sugar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Wash the spinach. Steam it until just wilted in the water that clings to the leaves. Put the spinach in a strainer and press out any liquid. Toss all the ingredients together until well mixed and form into six nests. Chill well before serving. Are you ready to join spinach anonymous now?

Moussaka

(6-8 servings)

Even though I haven’t been to Greece in over 30 years, I remember the savories I ate there. Here’s a meatless version of one of my favorites.

2 medium eggplants, cut in 1Ú2-inch slices

1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, chopped

6 ounces tomato paste

1Ú4 cup water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

2 teaspoons oregano

1Ú2 cup grated mozzarella

Custard:

1Ú4 cup butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1Ú4 cup white flour

3 cups low-fat milk

2 eggs, beaten

1Ú4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper

Salt the eggplant slices lightly and spread them on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees until the eggplant is easily pierced with a fork.

Put the mushrooms, onion, and oil in a pan. Cover and stir occasionally until the veggies are soft. Add the tomato paste and water and stir until well combined. Add the basil.

To make the custard, melt the butter over a low flame. Add the oil and flour, stirring until smooth. Turn up the flame to medium and add the milk a little at a time, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Add a little milk to the eggs, whisk well and then pour this back into the milk mixture.

Whisk for about 2 minutes until it thickens more. Turn off the flame and stir in the cinnamon and salt and pepper.

Mix the breadcrumbs with the oregano. Lightly oil a 9 X 13-inch glass pan. Layer on half the eggplant, half the veggie mixture, and half the mozzarella. Top this with all the breadcrumbs. Then layer on the remaining eggplant, veggies, and cheese. Pour on the custard and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 55 minutes until brown on top.

Greek Rice

(6 servings)

Here’s the perfect accompaniment to Moussaka.

1 cup white basmati rice

13Ú4 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

11Ú2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 scallions

1Ú2 cup toasted pine nuts

1 teaspoon dried dill

1Ú4 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1Ú2 cup golden raisins

Salt and pepper

Cook the rice in the water. (I’d go bananas without my trusty rice cooker.) Mix together the oil and lemon juice and stir well. When the rice has cooled a bit, add the remaining ingredients and stir in the dressing. Are you ready to plan a Greek vacation yet?

Artichoke-Cheese Spread

(1 cup)

Okay, so I got carried away with a Greek-style evening!

2 ounces Neufchatel, softened

1Ú2 tablespoon grated Parmesan

1Ú2 teaspoon lemon juice

1Ú2 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon chopped red onion

2 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper

6 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

Salt and pepper

Mix together the Neufchatel, Parmesan, and lemon juice until fairly smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Chill and serve with thin baguette slices.

I’m off to my salsa lesson now. Thank goodness there’s no spring recital for this class.

ooo

Ronnie Paul can be reached at rpaul@theunion.net


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