grilled cauliflower & aubergine salad

I don’t travel abroad very often, (especially if it involves a plane,) since my beloved country has wonderful beaches, beautiful mountains, breathtaking islands all within a 4 hour driving range. That is why now that we (Greece) have put ourselves in a bad position, the “developed” northern part of Europe is moving in for the kill…. Noone, no matter how wealthy, wants to spend all their lives in a dull, cloudy environment, and so our nice beaches & failing economy make for the ideal target. OMG, I am becoming like my granfather, rambling off-topic, talking politics in a food blog… let’s get back to cooking & its relevance to me recent travels. Every time I do end up venturing outside of Greece, I am reminded that the true value of the experience is meeting new people, experiencing different ways of life, & seeing diverse cultures. Food is always a big part of any culture, & my recent trip to the Middle east was filled with new flavors & experiences. I loved the spicy teas they treated us to everywhere we went, and the amazing dates that were abundantly present. I had cheese & chocolate made from camel milk and the best lamb I have ever tasted, always accompanied by a fragrant rice side-dish every time I ordered it. One of the dishes that impressed me the most, was this fragrant starter that seemed so representative of the local ingredients and cooking style. This dish however stuck with me and I share with you my attempt to recreate it. Enjoy.

– mel

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sweet stuffed peppers with mushroom eggplant & cheese

 

First things first…we take no responsibility for the devastating effects of choosing the wrong pepper variety here. I don’t know how these peppers are called in English so I’ll just describe them and link a photo. In case something does go wrong, I saw a mythbusters episode where milk was the best antidote to a burning tongue from a fiery pepper. The peppers I use are called “Florina peppers” and they are red, horn shaped, with a delicate and sweet flavor… no burning at all. A similar variety comes in other colors as well but for this recipe the big red ones are the best in flavor and in size for optimal stuffing. The others are impressive to serve and photograph.

– mel

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smokey eggplant dip

This dish is found everywhere in Greece and the smokey eggplant flavor steals the show. It’s in simple dishes like this that the basic flavor of an ingredient can shine and therefore the quality of the produce must be top. Paired with a rustic farmers style bread a few olives and feta cheese you get a perfect example of Mediterranean flavors. Sure you can bake them with the feta cheese, layered with some tomato and onion but trust me less is more.

– mel

burnt aubergine salad

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Hünkar Begendi

…which translated means sultans delight, which is basically a stew on a rich aubergine puree. Traditionally this is made with lamb but i tried it here with beef and it wasn’t a bad substitution at all. This is a dish with a long history and many stories tell the tale of its creation. In the end, all stories have a common happy ending… the sultan liked it, hence the name. Given the intertwined history of Greece and Turkey, the dish has flavors that are very common in this part of the Mediterranean. The roasted aubergine technique used here, is basically used for many recipes like eggplant salad which anyone having visited a Greek island will have tried. The simple tomato beef stew by itself is very common here also, and often enjoyed with either pasta, rice or my favorite… grandma’s extra crunchy fried potatoes and feta cheese.

– mel

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miso glazed aubergine

A few years ago I would never had guessed that sushi would become one of my favorite foods for weekend nights out. I used to write it off as being too simple and blunt. It’s anything but. It’s very healthy and surprisingly easy to make after you buy some simple and cheap equipment. We keep going to one specific restaurant that seems to have the best quality of fish, and mostly we order the same things each time. So, one night I decided to order none of the usual, and try all the items that sounded weird. Most of them were exactly that… weird, but one surprised me with its simple combination. Aubergine and miso paste. Here is my interpretation of the dish….

-mel

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