Good Reads: “The Summer of My Greek Taverna-a Memoir” by Tom Stone

April24

I read this book many years ago, almost all in one sitting.  D and I had driven up to our beach house for one last fall weekend and to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  We have a lovely time on this annual weekend, walking the beach, lying on the deck and watching the stars and cooking up delectable little treats to eat.  But it is also the first Sunday in the NFL Season and D is often anxious to make his way over to the “big cottage” that is equipped with satellite TV.  In the mean while, I will make a cup of tea and cozy up on the deck or if the weather is still really fair, down to the beach for an afternoon read.

Tom Stone lived in Greece for twenty-two years and one summer, was partner and cook of a tavern which catered to the fishermen of the area in the mornings, locals at lunch and tourists in the evening and sometime early into the morning.

Here is an excerpt from the chapter entitled “The Main Course”, with the sub-head of “First Lessons” about the weekend before the Taverna opens for business (page 104-105):

That Saturday morning, I unpacked the rest of my things and began making space for myself in the kitchen.

It was, of course, infinitely smaller than the one I had remembered when I was indulging in my fantasies back in Rethymnon.  Barely large enough to accommodate tiny Demetra and myself, much less Memis and the boys, every available space in it seemed to be utilized twice over.  The walls were lined with shelves, cupboards, plates, glasses, flour, pastas, herbs, matches, old lottery tickets, nails, string, and, among other useless items, a broken telephone.  In the center stood a large working table, and another, smaller table was in a nook leading to the glass-fronted display units.  Along the back wall crouched a huge, blackened electric stove with four hot plates on top.  Next to it was a gas-operated three-burner range.

To the left of the stove, also along the back wall, were two stained, stainless steel sinks and a draining board, and leading off that to the rear, a long, narrow space that Theologos had recently added on in one of his attempts at improvement.  It was a bedroom, dressing and storage room, with two narrow cots that were used both for quick naps and for the boys to sleep at night.  A narrow passageway running behind the walk in refrigerator linked it to the taverna’s single toilet, also accessible from the dining area, and barely larger than those you find on airplanes.  In an alcove was a wash basin and a door that led to the outside storage area, mainly used for empty creates and bottles and for washing and peeling vegetables.

I staked a claim to the small table between the kitchen area and the refrigerated display units and set up my food processor and work area there.  Since Memis was apparently also going to help (at no extra cost, it seemed) and had clearly fallen for one potato cutter, I left him to find a space for it.

One of the features of this and many of my favourite stories of living in a foreign place, are the appendices of recipes in the back of the book:

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Greek Meatballs
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Greek
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4-6
 

Good either as marble-sized hors d’oeuvres or, when walnut sized or larger, as a main course. Try to serve these hot or at least warm, otherwise the congealing fat in the meat will make them increasing less appetizing. There are infinite varieties throughout Greece. The ones that I prefer are those that I remember Eleni making, flavoured in the spicy Levantine style of northern Greece. I have been told, but never come across proof, that keftedes were on the menus of classical Athens.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound beef or lamb, ground several times over or kneaded or pounded in a mortar until almost a paste.
  • 2-3 slices of bread, crusts removed
  • 1 T vegetable or olive oil
  • 4 T grated onion
  • 4 T finely chopped parsley
  • 4 T finely chopped mint (I substituted cilantro)
  • ½ t oregano
  • ½ t cumin
  • ¼ t nutmeg
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ⅛ t cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ red wine
  • flour for dusting

Instructions
  1. Once the meat is ground or pounded to a paste, moisten the bread, squeeze the liquid out, and mix into the meat with all the remaining ingredients except the flour for dusting. Shape into walnut sized balls and dust with the flour.
  2. Fry in oil in a skillet or in a deep fat fryer until brown on the outside but still moist within.
  3. Variations on this recipe include the addition of a few pine nuts and mint in place of the parsley.
  4. Also, the meat mixture can be shaped around skewers, fried or grilled, and served wither as brochettes or wrapped in a pita bread as a variety of gyro (pronounced “yeero”).
  5. Finally, the meatballs can be served in a tomato sauce of your choosing (usually a simple one of tomato paste, water, cinnamon or cumin, and a little lemon juice) and served as a main course with rice.

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I was going to fashion these around a skewer to grill but the weather turned cold, so I didn’t want D to have to fire up the barbeque.  There were moist and delicious and reminded me of my own time in Greece.

Kath’s quote: Diogenes, the ancient Greek philosopher, once advised a young courtier, “If you lived on cabbage, you would not be obliged to flatter the powerful.” To which the courtier replied, “If you flattered the powerful, you would not be obliged to live upon cabbage.” - Diogenes

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Love-that is all.

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar & Penfolds host Wine Dinner for Special Olympics Manitoba

April22

The 2014 version of the Winnipeg Wine Festival is scheduled for April 27-May 3, 2014 at the RBC Convention Centre.  In conjunction with the public tastings, there are a number of additional events including nine Wine Down events, with five of these events already sold out.

This festival’s Theme Country is Australia.  The Keg Steakhouse+ Bar at 115 Garry St. is thrilled to be hosting one of the Wine Down events: The Penfolds Luxury Wine Dinner, which will be hosted by Treasury Wine Estates, Fine Wine Ambassador Natasha Susylinski.

Penfolds is said to be one of Australia’s oldest and most iconic wineries, dating back to 1844. Christopher Penfold, a physician and his wife Mary, originally opened the winery in the hopes that the could discover a potion that would help cure his patients’ anemia.  I am a strong proponent of the medicinal benefits of wine, red wine in particular and I think that I would have really liked this adventurous couple.

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Meanwhile, The Keg has put together an inspired six course dinner including appetizers of Tuna Tacos and Mini Shrimp Cocktails, a first course Lobster & Shrimp Salad, a second course Creole Chicken, a third course Mustard Salmon, a fourth course of Tenderloin Medallions and Dessert of Chocolate Cake and fresh raspberries.  These will all be paired with some of Penfolds most famous wines, including a taste of some back vintages from their private cellar.

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The date is Monday, April 28, 2014 with dinner following a reception.  But unfortunately the $100. tickets are completely sold out.  The annual Wine Festival enriches the lives of Manitobans with an intellectual disability through active participation in sport through Special Olympics Manitoba.  The Keg has long been a supporter of the Special Olympians and indeed many not-for-profit and charitable organizations in our province through financial donations and gift certificates that can be used to raise even more money.

Since this event is sold out, please go on line to what other Wine Down events you may be able to support or come out for one of the numerous public wine tasting events taking place. Lucky for me, I’ve got my ticket for the wine dinner already…

Kath’s quote: “Part of what Special Olympics is trying to do is break down stereotypes that still exist for people. There is still a lot of fear.”-Maria Shriver

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

Nutritious Substitute for Cream of Mushroom Soup

April21

In the olden days when I was a young Mom, I had a couple of go-to recipe books where many of our family’s meals originated.  The Best of Bridge was one resource and the Company’s Coming cookbooks another.  But the most family meals likely came from The Campbell Soup Cookbook.  With a few simple ingredients, a can of cream soup (it didn’t much matter whether it was cream of chicken, cream of mushroom or cream of celery) could be transformed into supper.

Fast forward to present day where I try to cook as “clean” as possible, avoiding processed foods, “white” ingredients, reducing fat and increasing fibre.  BUT, my family still have favourite dishes that they love the taste and memories of.  This week our youngest was writing her last major paper of her winter semester at university.  On the day that she successfully sent it off,  I asked her what she would like me to make for dinner to celebrate her hard work.  The answer: Chicken Enchiladas and I knew that I better not muck around with the recipe too much because this particular offspring is a stickler for tradition and authenticity.  So I had to be sneaky about it.  I prefer to refer to my tactics as “clever”.

The original recipe is pretty basic: cook up fresh or left over chicken with diced onion and chili powder.  In the mean time, mix a can of cream soup with equal parts of sour cream.  Add a couple of dollops of this mixture to the chicken.  Place the chicken mixture in a line across the edge of a flour tortilla.  Roll up, place in a pan and spread with the sour cream mixture.  Cover with foil and bake until the centre of the middle wrap is heated through and add grated cheese over top.

I modified the recipe by mixing up a batch of the soup substitute:

Nutritious Substitute for Cream of Mushroom Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

 

This makes a multi-use batch. Keep the remainders in an air tight container on your pantry shelf.
Ingredients
  • 2 c non-fat dried milk
  • ¾ c cornstarch
  • ¼ c chicken bouillon (the measurement is of the dry before rehydration)
  • 2 T dehydrated minced onion
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1 t basil
  • ½ t pepper

Instructions
  1. Add ⅓ c of the soup mixture above to 1¼ c cold water
  2. Add 1 T canola oil
  3. Heat until completely consolidated

I also substituted no-fat sour cream, whole wheat tortilla shells and fat reduced marble cheese.  The result? My family a) could not tell the difference and b) preferred the modified version to the original.

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The consistency was different, the substitute version in foreground.

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The two versions looked identical when added to the chicken and heated.

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The difference in consistency was evident before they were placed into the oven.

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Both versions side by side and you couldn’t tell the difference (even to the discerning taste buds of Daughter #2).

Lucky for us, J1, J2 and the Wee One arrived at our door right at supper time so we had another expert judge at the table and at our house at dinner time, it is always to more, the merrier.

Kath’s quote: “Serve this dish with much too much wine for your guests, along with some cooked green vegetables and a huge salad. You will be famous in about half an hour.” -Jeff Smith (The Frugal Gourmet)

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Love-that is all.

 

posted under Recipes | 1 Comment »

Sping Means it is Tea Time

April16

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We attend a wonderful church in our neighbourhood.  Not only do we have the opportunity to worship together, we get together for fun and fellowship whenever the opportunity arises.  Recently one friend thought that the idea of having an old fashioned tea would be a lovely way to get us all through the end of a very long winter.  Now I have run a number of teas in the past and they take a lot of co-ordination and very hard work.  But she had a really clever way of distributing the share of work.  She asked a number of us to “host” a table which meant that we were to completely set and decorate it as well as provide a dessert for everyone sitting at our table.

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So we packed up our best china (it is so nice to have an excuse to do so) and polished up the silverware.  Each table was distinctively different and I would say depicted something of each hosts’ personality.

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Our table is below.  When I say “our” that is because I enlisted the help of Sister #3 to co-host with me.  I don’t have any cups and saucers with my china set so she contributed those as well as our Mom’s silverware which she is an excellent caretaker of.

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Lucky for me, she also volunteered to make the dessert.  We were both ga-ga for coconut that I had found while we were both together on Isla Mujeres.  She managed to purchase the last bag in the grocery store to bring home and keep until the right event came along.  Her coconut cake with coconut cream cheese icing was a delicious and decadent contribution to the afternoon.

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Other attendees contributed fruit , scones and fancy sandwiches.

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There was a lovely turn out.

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There were wide brimmed chapeaus

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and some younger attendees in their fascinators.

The afternoon was an absolutely lovely way to herald in the spring.

Kath’s quote: “A woman is like a tea bag — only in hot water do you realize how strong she really is.”-Nancy Reagan

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

Isla Mujeres Trip Report Day 8-Clubhouse Sandwiches on the Beach

April14

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We waited patiently for another glorious sunrise.

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We were rewarded beautifully with the commencement of another splendid day.

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D could have happily spent the entire time, just so.  But I managed to talk him into venturing to North Beach.

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I wanted to spend some time with my brother and his wife and I knew exactly where to find them on the beach.  This was what my sister-in-law had waited for, for months.

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My brother has opposite colouring to mine-he with black hair, dark brown eyes and skin that just loves to soak up the sun.  Me with blue eyes, fair hair and freckled skin.

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I had made Clubhouse sandwiches for lunch with left over rotisserie chicken, excess Canadian bacon from our Olympic hockey breakfast, the reddest/freshest market tomatoes and lime mayonnaise.  They were so delicious that two separate groups of people asked us where they could buy the same sandwiches.

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As the sun started to descend in the afternoon sky, D was back in his favourite spot.

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We watched the setting sun as we walked along Medina to meet our extended gang at La Brisas on the water for dinner.

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What  a beautiful sight right from our table set on the beach.

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J2 and the Wee One joined us.  We hadn’t seen them all day and we had missed them.

 

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Both D and the Wee One’s Other Grandma ordered and loved the garlic fish.  Unfortunately the latter’s wasn’t served with the rest of us.  After Sister #3 firmly expressed our disappointment to the kitchen, they quickly responded.  By this time though, Wee One was long past her bedtime and they had to make a quick exit.

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Sister #3 and I both ordered frutti de mare linguine.  She accurately pointed out that the kitchen had been a bit too heavy handed with the chicken stock and the dish was a bit on the salty side.  The noodles and seafood were both cooked perfectly and I was pleased with the abundance of both.

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My sister in law and Dona both ordered the fried fish, encouraged by D who had savoured it on his snorkelling trip.

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J2 did enjoy her chicken fajitas until she had to high tail it back to the hotel with an overtired baby.

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In the mean time, there was still lots of evening left, so headed to one of Centro’s many fine gelato shops, this one right at the corner of Hidalgo and the square.

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Sister #3 delighted with her choice and another remarkable day.

Kath’s quote: “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.”-Voltaire

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Love-that is all.

 

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