Saturday, 29 December 2012

Reminiscing about Greece and food

I was in Greece a few months ago.  At this moment, it feels like I never left Montreal but traces of Greece are in my pantry and freezer: pastelia, mizithra, "thyme blossom" honey and even whole wheat bread.  I wish I could have brought back more items because everything in Greece is just much more tastier!

For two weeks, my children and I stayed at my parent's place in Pylos.  Their home is situated on the beautiful hill of Pylos with a breathtaking view of Navarino Bay. Unlike any other trip, I spent a lot of time reminiscing the past probably because my son is at an age where I can share my childhood stories and especially all memories of my grand-parents.  So I took advantage of his tender years to reminisce because before I know it, he won't want to hear my stories over and over again!
Every evening, while admiring the sunset from our balcony, I would pinpoint a location in Pylos and start sharing memories such as how my grand-mother used to dry the hilopites and trahana on her rooftop and my sister and I would climb the ladder and go taste them; how my grand-father was a handyman and I caught him painting a facade of a house while his ladder was in the middle of a narrow and busy street and made me worry about him; how my giagia Karalina used to invite us over every morning for tiganopsomo (fried bread) with mizithra in her tiny little house. 
Speaking of "tiganopsomo", let me share this simple recipe: just simply open with a rolling pin a small piece of your favorite yeast dough and fry it in olive oil.  Sprinkle mizithra (type of Greek parmesan) on top and serve with any dip such as tzatziki, hummus, tyrokafteri or melitzanosalata.
Remember that a recipe always tastes better when shared with loved ones!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

My beautiful imperfect garden

Every year, my dad and I plant various vegetables and fine herbs: tomatoes, celery, zucchini, eggplant, swiss chard, yellow and red onions, garlic, basil, thyme, parsley and more.  Once everything has been planted, it is my responsibility to care of the beautiful potager.  I truly enjoy gardening and I would even more if it weren't for the following : I am not particularly fond of bugs and the act of removing weeds.  My neighbours know when I am in the garden because they hear a screeching voice every time I come across a bug or two (or more).  In addition, I only have time to remove the unwanted weeds once every two weeks.  Now you might ask "Why have a garden then?"  Because my imperfect little garden, no matter what it looks like, still yields beautiful vegetables that I am proud of.

What will I be cooking for the next few days?  Well, I must use the fresh produce therefore I will be cooking roasted eggplant tomato sauce with couscous, swiss chard with black eye peas and one of my favourite meals "Gemista".

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Where are the celery leaves? {Recipe: Xoirino me selino}

Every time I go to the supermarket, I am so disappointed to see the celery stalks with no leaves.  Look at the picture below....aren't the leaves the prettiest part of the celery? Why are they chopped off?  In my opinion, the green foliage is the best part especially for cooking.  They add so much flavor to my soups, to my sauces and even my salads when they are freshly chopped.

This week I was so excited to see the luscious celery leaves in my garden!  Just by looking at them, I knew instantly which recipe I would be sharing for today's post. My mouth is watering just thinking about this dish.

Lucky me, I will be eating this amazing dish tomorrow!   Double lucky because my dad's sister will be preparing it for me!  She is the expert at preparing "xoirino me selino."  I will be paying close attention to her cooking method and I will be sharing her secrets in another post.  For those that cannot wait, here is the recipe inspired by Lynn Livanos Athan:

{Xoirino me selino avgolemono} Pork stew with celery leaves:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3-1/2 lbs. pork shoulder (or pork butt) roast, trimmed of fat and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 small can of tomato juice
  • celery leaves from 20 stalks cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces and blanched
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Juice of two lemons (strained)
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • salt and pepper to taste


In a Dutch oven or stockpot, heat the olive oil together over medium high heat. Season the pork chunks with salt and freshly ground black pepper and then saute until nicely browned on both sides.
Remove the pork to a platter and keep warm. Add the onion to the pot and saute until nicely tender, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 tbsp. flour to the pot and cook for about a minute until incorporated. Add the pork (with the juices), the stock and tomato juice and allow the liquid to come to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered for about 30 minutes.  Add the celery leaves and the dill to the pot and simmer covered for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Prepare the Avgolemono sauce:
Using a whisk, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until frothy.  In another bowl beat egg yolks and slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Add egg yolk-lemon juice mixture to frothy egg whites.  Ladle one cup of the pot liquid little by little into egg-lemon mixture to temper the eggs.
Remove pot from heat and add egg-lemon mixture stirring gently. Heat over very low heat until sauce thickens and is heated through. Take care not to allow the sauce to boil or the eggs will curdle.
Re-season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Reminiscing... {a greek summer recipe: stuffed veggies}

I tend to reminisce a lot.  I know from now that I will probably be the type of grand-mother that likes repeating stories about her past over and over.  My husband already has a taste of this quite often.  Whenever I start remembering the past, my husband's response is "Here we go again!", while rolling his eyes.

Today, I am in a pensive mood because my trip to Greece has been booked.  The moment I knew that the air plane ticket was reserved, the first image that crossed my mind was the view of the sea as I am approaching my parents village, Pylos.

The second image is actually a collage of all the delicious food I will be eating during my stay. Greek salad, fresh bread, cheese pie, spinach pie, fresh fish, grilled octopus, gemista, "gournopoula" during a "panigiri" (festival), pita souvlaki with lots of tzatziki, zucchini patties and the list goes on and on. 

Speaking of "gemista", I have selected for this post a recipe that brings me back to the past; a recipe that my grand-mother used to make in her wood burning outdoor oven in Greece.  In her version, the vegetables used to swim in olive oil but the taste and smell still linger.

Nobody cooks like "my" grand-mother but today I'll be trying Elena Paravantes's "Gemista" (her mom's recipe) that is full of vegetables.  I will however add grated sweet potato and carrot in the stuffing.  As I prepare this recipe with the help of my son , I hope that the taste and smell will leave a lasting impression on him as my grand-mother's cooking did for me.

{GEMISTA} Stuffed vegetables by Elena Paravantes

Friday, 29 June 2012

A full house...

The past week, I had my sister and my parents staying over for the first time.  It was a full house indeed!  After one day, I think my dad realized that he didn't miss living under the same roof as me (he thinks that I have too much energy).  What my dad missed the most was not my presence but rather the fact of not having access to "Antenna" and his greek tv shows.  I, on the contrary, realized that I miss my mom and dad very much even though they both got on my nerves!  I especially noticed that the years have caught up with them.  I was happy to have them around so I can take care of them, do their laundry, prepare their meals...  I felt like a proud daughter for those three days.  It is interesting how the roles have reversed!

For this post I decided to share a greek recipe that my parents love.  Since they were over, I suggested preparing a meal that they hadn't had in a while.  They chose: "Kotopoulo kokkinisto me pilafi avgolemono".

{Kotopoulo kokkinisto pilafi avgolemono} Chicken pilaf with avgolemono sauce
(inspired by Vefa Alexiadou's recipe)

1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 kilo chicken (in servings)
1 large onion diced
1 carrot diced
1 celery stem diced
1 can San Marzano Tomatoes Pastene (squeeze the tomatoes with your hands)
2 basil leaves
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground clove
salt, pepper
3/4 cup calrose rice (or 1 cup: depends on the amount of liquid)

Avgolemono sauce: 2 eggs (seperate eggwhites from eggyolk), 1 or 2 lemons (juice), broth from the pilaf

Pour olive oil in a large pot on medium-high.  Add the chicken and sautee.  Add onion, carrot and celery and continue sauteing until soften.  Add tomatoes, basil, spices and add water until it covers the chicken.  Let it simmer on medium heat until chicken is tender.
Once chicken is cooked, remove from pot.  If enough liquid remains, I puree the veggies and this will thicken the sauce.  Then, I add 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and add rice.  Once the rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat. 
In a bowl beat the eggwhites until it forms peaks.  Add eggyolks and lemon juice and beat gently.  Slowly add broth/rice in the egg-lemon mixture while continuously beating (we don't want to cook the egg!)  When the egg mixture is warm enough, add everything back into the pot and continue mixing.  Should almost have the consistency of a risotto.  Serve warm.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Is the Mediterranean Diet really a challenge?

A few weeks ago, I decided to challenge myself by eating only Greek food for a month.  As a mom with two kids and a full-time job, I was a bit worried that I wouldn't have enough time to cook some of these healthy and delicious traditional meals.  This made me realize that I needed to change my attitude:  I wasn't simply following the "Mediterranean "Diet" but rather living the Mediterranean "lifestyle".  My passion for Greek food became my motivation and the healthy benefits behind it encouraged me to not give up.  This isn't a challenge anymore; it is a journey I do not wish to stop.

The word Mediterranean reminds me of a culture that is family oriented; a culture that takes time to enjoy life; a culture that likes simplicity and appreciates the results of hard work.  This is the image that I have and has been passed down from my grand-parents and my parents.
view of Pylos, Greece

During the first week of the challenge, I was still on maternity leave hence I had more time to spend in the kitchen.  Within the first few days of eating traditional mediterranean meals, I started having more energy and felt lighter.  Since I knew that the countdown to going back to work had begun, I had to think of a schedule that would allow me to continue my passion for cooking.  I quickly became aware that I was saving a lot of time by doing all the preparations from the night before.  As soon as we finish dinner, I start chopping onions and carrots, washing and peeling potatoes, making my bechamel sauce and assembling my "pastitsio" etc. However, I also noticed that the cooking time for most of the vegetarian meals, poultry and some beans is less than an hour.  Meat is slowly becoming part of the menu only on the weekends. 

Another interesting point that came to my attention is that numerous Greek dishes are vegetarian and gluten-free!  I will try to share some of these recipes in future posts. 

Therefore, is the Mediterranean Diet month a challenge?  Not at all!  It is simply a change of attitude and a step closer to a healthier you!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Olive Oil Addiction

Hi, I'm Anthi and I am addicted to Olive oil! I do not know if such an addiction exists but if it does, I must be an example.  I have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is the only source of fat that I use for cooking: in all of my meals, on salads, on bread and even in some desserts.  I discovered that olive oil had become my obsession the day I became the butt of jokes at work (since I have a bottle of olive oil with my name on it in the cafeteria): "Anthi, have you had your olive oil shot yet?" "Anthi, soon you'll be consuming it intravenously!"  Statistics show that each Greek consumes approximately 26 litres of olive oil per year.  It may sound absurd but I believe it.  I am one of them.

I know that I should be using it in moderation but food has so much more flavor with EVOO.  Like I mentioned in my first post, I am very fortunate because I have never needed to buy olive oil: for as long as I can remember, my grand-father (and now my uncle) has sent us gallons of it every year.  My annual consumption may be high but I comfort myself by remembering the health benefits of each an every golden drop! 

Are you addicted to Olive Oil? 

Here's a delicious recipe for Lemon Cake with Olive Oil and Greek Yogurt from Diane Kochilas.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Mediterranean Month Challenge has begun!

May 1st!  "Kalo mina" as we say every beginning of the month. What better way to begin the Mediterranean cuisine month on "Protomagia"!  I have spent the last days researching for recipes and I am amazed at the extensive list that I have compiled.  My biggest challenges for Mediterranean Month are to cook something different everyday while working full-time and to keep a balanced weekly menu (meat, poultry, fish, beans and vegetarian meals).
My inspiration for this week's menu are my grandparents.  I truly believe that their healthy eating habits (Mediterranean diet), their walks to the "plateia", socialising in the "plateia" as well as having a  fixed schedule contributed to their longevity.  Mou lypete!

Note: My 3 year old son loves the recipes below!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012.

{Lunch: Mung bean soup - psilofasoula}

1 cup of dried mung beans (rinsed well)
1 large onion chopped
1/4 cup of dried oregano
1 litre water and more if needed (approx.)
1 or 1 1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice & salt to taste (added towards the end of cooking time)
1 tbsp of olive oil per serving
1. Add water and mung beans in large pot.  When it starts to simmer, remove the outer shells of the bean that will begin to surface.
2. Add the onion and oregano.  When the beans are fully cooked, add the salt and lemon juice to taste.  If the soup is to thick, simply add water until wanted concistency.
3. Add a tablespoon of olive oil per serving

Serve with bread, olives and feta on the side
Note: I like adding the olive oil when serving the dish because it is much more flavorful.

{Dinner: Yiouvarlakia} (see previous post for recipe)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

*My mother-in-law's cooking* {gluten-free recipe}

The first time I met my mother-in-law, we knew right away that we had at least one thing in common: our "love" and passion for cooking.  Our first encounter was at my father-in-law's restaurant. I mentioned at one point in our conversation that I liked cooking and that was the beginning of a beautiful culinary friendship!  We spent an hour talking about our favourite recipes and how we execute them.  Nowadays, food still brings us together no matter what: we compare recipes, we experiment with new ingredients, we even try out new cookware.

What I love about my mother-in-law's Mediterranean dishes is that they are light and prepared with lots of love. I try to achieve her recipes in my kitchen but I have yet to master them like her.  She has her own interpretation of numerous Greek classics and today I felt like sharing one of my favourites: Yiouvarlakia (which happens to be gluten-free).  This dish is basically "meatball soup" but my mother-in-law reinvented this classic meal in order for my son to eat more veggies.  It is usually made with an egg-lemon sauce which I adore but I prefer the simplicity of the recipe below because it freezes well.



1 chopped carrot
1 chopped celery stalk
1 small potato diced
1 small can tomato juice
750ml water or veggie broth

1 lbs minced veal
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp olive oil
1 egg
1 grated onion
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup calrose rice
salt & pepper

1. Bring to a simmer the first six ingredients.
2. In a bowl, mix well the rest of the ingredients.  Make small meatballs and put them in the simmering broth.  Let them simmer on low heat for an hour. 
3.  Remove all the meatballs and puree the veggies in the broth.  Transfer the meatballs back to the "pureed" broth and serve warm.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Sunday coffee

After a long week, my husband and I always look forward to our Sunday coffee.  After breakfast, we prepare the kids and off we go to our favorite cafes in the city.  More and more coffeeshops are opening up in Montreal. Some of these java houses are not aesthetically pleasing to the eye but a sip of their coffee makes you forget about the decor and come back for more.  Another beauty about these locations is that they are family oriented and our kids make friends while we enjoy our espresso macchiato.

Last weekend, we visited one of my favorites: Café Névé.  The single snowflake in its logo may remind us of cold weather but the scent of fresh coffee as you enter the shop just warms up your heart.  "Two medium lattees and a chocolate chip cookie" my husband orders.  Only one cookie you might ask but just by looking at the selection, you can see how decadent it would be to have one all to yourself.  There are plenty of scrumptious items on the menu however, on this particular Sunday we just wanted to sit by the sunshine at the window and enjoy the frothy caffeine while our son twirled around in the high stool.

Café Névé
151 Rue Rachel Est Montreal, QC H2W
(514) 903-9294

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Family food adventures

My first blog!  At this point, it feels like I am talking to myself since there is probably noone out there reading this.  My name is Anthi and I am passionate about food!  Why blog about it one might ask?  Because I want to keep a journal of my "food adventures".  By "food adventures" I mean, meals that I create, restaurants/coffee shops that I discover, recipes that I revisit, and always sharing these adventures with my beautiful family.

Why did I choose the name Olive Citron Oregano?  These ingredients are cooking staples of mediterranean cuisine (olive is for olive oil).  I am of Greek origin and I grew up eating these three ingredients on practically everything.  The only olive oil that I am familiar with is the one that comes from my grand-father's orchard in Pylos, Greece.  My grand-father planted each and every olive tree with his own hands.  He is no longer with us but every golden drop reminds me of him on a daily basis.

Welcome to "Olive Citron Oregano"!  Please join me in my "food adventures"!