traditional paximadia / rusks

I’m not sure what you write about a rusk. On its own it’s not the most interesting of food items. It’s hard, dry, it will cut the roof of your mouth if not softened with oil or water first. Not really all that great, right?

Wrong.

Granted by itself it’s nothing to fuss over, but we haven’t even begun to discuss the possibilities when it’s not!

I like to drench mine in olive oil & drizzle honey over it in the mornings. Or a little garlic oil, salt, pepper & tomato as a snack. Mel soaks his in water to soften it & then covers it with maple syrup & almond butter. It also goes well crumbled up in salads or with a little cheese. We have one dish called ‘dakos’ where it’s covered in finely shopped tomatoes, herbs, salt pepper & then loaded with katiki cheese. Divine.

The reason we’re sharing this basic recipe is because we have something in mind that we really want to share. I can’t remember the last time I saw a gluten-free rusk around though so we needed to create a recipe for that before Mel could create an even better recipe for you.

Don’t underestimate the rusk though. It may be simple & uninteresting at first glance, but it’s a solid staple in our household & indeed many other households in Greece.

Also, don’t confuse it for a biscotti. That’s not what it is. The two are nothing alike.

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stuffed onions

While I was writing this recipe, I was getting that feeling of deja vu… A quick look to our recipe archives and the feeling was confirmed… apparently we like to stuff things. Vine leaves, pumpkins, peppers you name it… Lauren even stuffed a cookie inside of another cookie!

That sounds strange but anyhow we specialize in stuffing as it seems. Maybe we should call ourselves “Whatever’s Stuffed” or “We Stuff Everything” or something along those lines.

This recipe is essentially a steak with caramelized onion and a side of basmati rice… but all conveniently packed in one nice little package ideal for easily feeding many. Enjoy and stuff you next week.. erm I mean see you next week…

 – mel

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Burger 3 ways

Today I am really excited cause we are going to talk about burgers… one of my favorite meals. Let me begin by saying that we are not going to pretend to be experts in burger making… there are many sites out there that detail the science of using 1,000 different types of beef cuts and their advantages. Personally I believe a burger should be a simple affair with a complex and satisfying flavor. Here I will try to outline the basic goals you should aim to accomplish when making one, and from then on you can experiment with different combinations in order to achieve them. If you are already bored skip to the recipe and try it directly then come and comment. Otherwise keep reading the points below:

If you think about it, burgers are made from very simple ingredients, so the first thing you should be concerned about is their quality. Nice sweet onions, juicy plum tomatoes, but the king here is the meat. No pre-ground stuff please. Invest some time with a knowledgable butcher talk about the different cuts and above all be sure of its quality. What you are looking for is a way to make a patty as juicy as possible. To achieve that you want fat…which as it cooks melts. Around 20% of your ground meat should be fat and the rest, flavorful cuts of meat that give texture and body. (Some burger fanatics grind the fat separately with a finer plate and then mix it all together). The most important thing is to get the fat that is tender enough to melt in the short cooking process. Generally cuts that are used for burgers are brisket, chuck, sirloin and boneless rib. The more marbling the better… avoid big chunks of unchewable bits of fat that I’ve seen people discreetly spit out in restaurants that didn’t get it right. The second most important thing is to not grind the heck out of your meat. We want a coarse grind, passed no more that two times to achieve a good texture but still be able to cook it without crumbling. If you can’t find the balance, add an egg yolk to help it bind better. On the same note when shaping your patty, you don’t want to manhandle it for hours turning it into mush. Work it into a ball until it holds its shape and then just flatten it and work the edges a bit… but not to perfection we all love that nicely browned irregular texture.

Since we are talking of browning make sure to preheat your pan well, it makes a big difference in the flavor and texture (more or less like a stake). And that’s exactly how I like my patty to taste like… an amazing browned, juicy steak so I don’t really add any flavoring to the minced meat. You can experiment with anything from herbs (thyme, marjoram) and spices, to sauces like BBQ sauce, your call. One thing you should avoid for sure is seasoning with salt in advance… the more the salt interacts with the meat there the more it draws out juices and water that you normally want in. So either season at the last moment or season like a steak on both sides prior to cooking. Last but not least we have the toppings and the hundred different combinations you can try, and here you can really improvise depending on your tastes. For this post we try some tried and tested ones that I love and order most of the times when eating out. Also for this recipe we are gonna cook the burger on a skillet since some people don’t have a bbq. However the bbq-ed burger always tastes better, but in any case make sure your patties are at room temperature before you cook them otherwise the interior will remain raw. This is something you should always do when cooking a stake too.

So that’s all I think… ahh make sure to use a spatula for the cooking and transfer, it helps keep the patty in one piece.

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kid (goat) stew

Yesterday was not my day in the kitchen. Not at all. To make matters worse, Mel was perfectly on form. I know I should be happy that he’s getting it all right, but at the end of the day I’m competitive. In the presence of my failure, his success stings all the more. He made this fabulous kid stew, and by kid, I mean goat. Not actual kids, that would be wrong.

We were sitting there trying to assemble the dish & eating as we were arranging. I could barely take a picture of it all before we managed to inhale every bite. Sitting there salivating over the tender meat. It was ridiculous. As I was savoring every enormous mouthful (whilst at the same time trying to eat quickly so as to have a few before Mel downed it all, I was secretly swearing at him under my breath. It’s not fair.

I attempted to make myself feel better of course by telling myself that baking is chemistry whereas cooking you can just throw things in the pot & correct as you go along, but even that didn’t help.
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