(82) Portugal – Caldo Verde Soup

Lisbon, Portugal. Source: Everything Overseas

Portugal, a southern European country is found on the Iberian Peninsula. It neighbors Spain and the Atlantic Ocean making it a hot surf spot. It is one of the oldest countries of Europe dating back to 1200 BC and is home to the oldest library in the capital Lisbon. Portugal is a large producer of Port Wine and cork (makes sense), one of the largest in the world! Other than surfing you can explore historical sites and take in the breath-taking views.

From Portuguese travel they developed a distinguished cuisine full of flavors from around the globe. The cuisine of Portugal is influenced by the spice trade of Asia, flavors and seasonings Europe, Africa, and South America. Some of the food comes from the region of Portugal with utilization of the Atlantic waters for fresh seafood. Kale, chicken, sausage, rice, cod, sardines, and olives are some of the more common ingredients found in Portuguese cooking, some of which are in this dish. Today I prepared caldo verde soup which is a hearty combination of chouriço sausage, kale, beans, and veggies. As you can see I substituted chorizo instead (no downfall there). The recipe can be found here.

Come to find out my chorizo would break apart into tiny bits once I added it to the stew. I would say that was the only downfall to the meal. It was pretty simple to follow the recipe and didn’t take too long to make. Just look at those colors!

We thought this soup had a nice balance of spicy and citrus flavors. The lemon zest definitely paired well with the creaminess of the broth. I loved the nice variety of veggies and overall thought the soup was hearty and savory. You could also do without the sausage and still have a wonderful meal. We would make this one again and rated it 8.25/10!

Italy Day 4 – Margherita Pizza

To close out our time in Italy I chose a classic known to most- the margherita pizza. This simple yet delicious masterpiece came to be on June 11th 1889 to honor the Queen consort of Italy-  Margherita of Savoy.  Raffaele Esposito created the pizza to represent the colors of the Italian flag by using basil for green, mozzarella for white, and tomato for red. Originally the pizza dough used was more of a flat bread compared to the sweeter, fuller crusts we are accustomed to most of the time.

Pizza dates back 7,000 years ago throughout Europe with various toppings placed on top of flatbreads and round breads. The pizza we know today dates back to the late 19th century when tomato and bread were being paired together.

We appreciated the simplicity that we only needed a few ingredients to have an amazing meal. Of course I used local basil Portland Pie Pizza Dough which just added to how yummy it was! As pretty as fresh basil looks on the pizza as you’re making it once it comes out of the oven it doesn’t have the same appeal. I would suggest added basil afterwards unless it is dried. We rated this dish 9.5/10 because it was just so good! How could you go wrong with pizza?

Italy Day 3 – Chicken Cacciatore

Welcome to day 3 in Italy! We are making the saucy chicken cacciatore today, a breaded chicken that bathes in a savory tomato-wine sauce. Cacciatore translates to hunter which were the first people to enjoy this dish. Because hunters first made this dish it was actually made with game instead of chicken. The dish was created sometime between the 14th and 16th century.

The dish is so popular it has its own holiday on the 15th of October! Although we know this dish to be adorned with tomato it was originally made without. Tomatoes were not introduced to Italy until later on!

I really appreciated that this meal took less than an hour to prepare (since the majority take longer). The sauce smelt ahhhmazing and picked up the flavors of the stewing veggies. The recipes I used can be found here.

I even made a caperse salad (although the chipmunk ate most of my basil!!)

In the end we were left with a beautiful Italian dinner. The chicken was coated with a nice thick and rich tomato sauce, but I could not tell it was breaded. The vegetables apart of the meal paired well and gave us stew vibes. The salad was nice and fresh and paired well with the hearty chicken. We really loved this dish and rated it 8.25/10!

To close out our week we will have a classic that is commonly seen American restaurants.

Italy Day 2 – Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

Hey everyone we’re back- who doesn’t love some meat sauce? This Italian classic is a labor of love, however totally worth all the work! There is something magical about making your own pasta sauce.

The sauce originates from Bologna, no surprise, and involves hours of slow cooking to get the desired texture and flavor. The first recordings of this recipe being prepared comes from the late 18th century and was first featured in a cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi in 1891. This first mentioning of the sauce did not include tomatoes until Alberto Avisi in Imola (near Bologna) when he made a tomato meat sauce which he served over macaroni. Often times you would want fresh tagliatelle to serve the sauce on, but I was unable to get any locally so I got the thickest pasta I could find instead!

This sauce contains minced beef and pork (sometimes veal), celery, carrots, onion, wine, cream, tomato paste, puree, and whole tomatoes. The recipe I used can be found here (obviously it is a good one since the author is Italian!) There are as always several variations of the sauce, all having a similar core of ingredients.

I had attempted to cheat the cooking time, but once again it was not successful. The Instant Pot quickly gave me a burn warning and I had to go back to the original plan with several pots in use (you can see my struggle of a tiny stove and pots with splattering sauce).

As you can probably tell just by staring at this photo it was damn good! The sauce was hearty, rich, and filling but was not too sweet like many commercial sauces are. I felt the addition of herbs and garlic would have really blown the sauce out of the water. The bread and thicker noodles definitely worked well. We thought this meal was worthy of 8.25/10.

Next we dive into another saucy meal, stay tuned 😛

(81) Italy Day 1 – Peposo

Guys we have made it to ITALY! I am super excited to dive in, especially since Italian food is my favorite!

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Source: CNN

Italy, one of the most well known European countries, is actually one of the youngest even though Rome is over 2,000 years old. The country is home to the most UNECO sites in the world including the Roman Colosseum and Castel del Monte. The only three active volcanos of Europe can be found along with over 1,500 lakes! Italy produces the most wine out of any other country (shocker) and is the creator of the sacred comfort food, pizza. Over the next few days we will cover the Italian classics that will take your taste buds on a journey to one of the most popular travel destinations in the world!

Italian cuisine of course includes hearty tomato sauces, pastas, heavenly bread, salty cheeses, lots of olive oil and wine. All types of protein sources such as seafood, poultry, and beef can be found in daily meals. Cuisine can vary depending on what regions you are in, but every region goes by the same rule- quality above all. Many admire Italian cuisine for its simplicity requiring few ingredients for easy preparation and for the comfort a fresh bowl of pasta or slice of pizza can bring. Today I made a dish I knew nothing about, Peposo. Named for the spicy kick it offers the simplicity of only 6 ingredients. The dish originates from Florence and is a classic slow-cooker recipe that was created by furnace workers. These workers placed the diced beef, red wine, garlic, pepper, and oil in a terracotta pot to slow cook while they worked. The recipe only covers the preparation of the beef, however it was suggested the meat be served over polenta.

I guess I was feeling bold, but I decided to forgo the recipe and make my own rendition of the meal. I thought I could cheat with the help of my Instant Pot and cut some time off the preparation- wrong! After 40 minutes of pressure cooking and 10 or so minutes of building pressure/releasing I was left with very bitter, potent beef. In a panic, Ian and I tried to add ingredients to improve the flavor like butter and tomato paste. We were left with a slightly more tolerable taste and unfortunately could not finish our meals.

I opted to use up the orzo I had acquired from other meals which as you known is typically partially cooked in the sauce or broth it is being added to.. I also became bitter 😐 At the end of it all an importance lessen was learned.. when cooking with wine- especially an ENTIRE BOTTLE, make sure to follow to cooking directions to burn off the unwanted flavors. We could not give this meal a good rating as you probably know by now. We plan to make it up eventually with another traditional Italian dish.

I promise the next meal was a success!

(73) Hungary – Hungarian Bean Goulash

Szechenyi Spa Baths Outdoor Pool, Budapest, Hungary. Source: Baths Budapest

Back to Europe we go! Today we are in Hungary, a central, landlocked country found next to Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, and Ukraine. Hungary is one of the older countries of Europe and came to be after the fall of Roman Empire in 897. Thermal Springs are are a big deal here and are known for their healing and cleansing properties. There are here over 1,300 in the entire country, some being an outdoor attraction and others in luxurious bath houses. Many well known composers call Hungary their home including  Franz Liszt, György Ligeti, and  Béla Bartók. I don’t know about you but I think I’m Hungary for more 😉

Hungarian or Magyarian cuisine often includes paprika, onion, black pepper, and other spices to make their dishes flavorful. The focus of each meal is well seasoned meat and vegetables and the use of fresh dairy and baked goods. Their national dish goulash is a one pot dish that was traditionally cooked over an open flame consisting over various vegetables, beef or beans seasoned with the above spices. Goulash gets its name from the Hungarian word gulyás for cow herder since they were the inventor of this meal. The goulash I am making today is vegetarian and using beans to substitute the meat (which was traditionally done when beef was scarce. You can find the recipe here.

I made a few alternations to the recipe to make my life easier and to match the authenticity. I used liquid smoke once again to capture the smokiness it would have had if cooked traditionally and instead of grinding my caraway seeds I let them steep in a tea bag will the stew was cooking (pictured bellow)! Pro tip, make your on veggie broth (pictured above) by using veggie scraps will you are prepping! Make sure to compost them when you’re done 😁

We thought the stew was spicy, smoky and had a nice tomato-based broth. You could almost say it had a barbecue like flavor! It had a hearty mixture of vegetables which made me think of how this would be a great fall or winter meal. We thought it was worthy of a 7/10 rating.

Next we make something truly unique in Bhutan, see you then!

(66) Northern Macedonia – Tavče Gravče

Hello again, welcome back to The Messy Aprons! Today Ian and I traveled to the lesser known European country of Northern Macedonia (once known as Macedonia). You can find this beautiful Balkan country bordering Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Bulgaria.

Church of Saint John the Theologian. Source: TheCurrent

Mother Teresa was a Macedonian and was born in the country’s capital Skopje in 1910. Northern Macedonia is home to another well-known person as well- Alexander the Great. He was once the king of the former Kingdom of Macedonia, which at the time was the most dominating state in the world. Additionally it is home to one of the world’s oldest lakes clocking in at 4 million years old and has a staggering depth of 288 meters -that’s 864ft!

Macedonian cuisine is like its neighboring countries which reflect Balkan and Middle Eastern influence. Due to its mild, warm climate they are able to grow much of their own produce which shown in today’s dish, Tavče Gravče. This is Northern Macedonia’s national dish which consists of beans, pork (most of the time), peppers and onions, tomatoes, and spices/herbs. The name literally translates to “beans cooked in a pan” and has a lengthy prep time to prepare the beans for cooking, however I opted for canned beans to make things easier. The recipe I used had chorizo instead which we felt brought a nice mild kick to the dish, no complaints here!

Because I had opted for the canned beans the cook/prep time was a fraction of what it typically is. Although I followed the steps a little differently I was happy with its flavors and appreciated that I could easily make this during my hectic work week. To really do things in a work-week friendly manner I brought out my Instant Pot and allowed the dish to pressure cook which worked out well.

We loved this super savory bean and sausage dish. There was a subtle hint of herbs along with the mild kick of the sausage. The roux ended up mixing well with the tomato juices which ended up making a nice, thick sauce. As I stated earlier the spicy sausage definitely made a difference and would be preferable over the pork (no offense to the traditional way). We say this dish is a keeper and rated it 9/10.

A Greek Breakfast- Feta and Sundried Tomato Egg Skillet with Honey and Walnut topped Greek Yogurt

To top off our week in Greece I made a Greek breakfast spread. Ian often had Greek yogurt with walnuts and honey on his vacation along with other traditional foods such as fruits, pastries, and eggs. To pair with the yogurt and accruements I made a Greek inspired scramble with sundried tomatoes, feta, and some herbs.

It was simple, quick, and delicious although the addition of spinach would have brought the eggs to another level. I liked that this breakfast was not only easy, but had several foods that are often staples of the kitchen (at least my kitchen). The point being you don’t have to buy expensive or fancy ingredients to make a meal that perfectly represents a country. I have been spending more money on groceries lately with uncommon ingredients so I decided to take a step back and keep it simple for this bonus recipe.

With my Greek egg creation being so simple I don’t feel it needs a written recipe- add the desired eggs (fried or scrambled), fresh or sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese, herbs (oregano and parsley is what I used), salt, pepper, and paprika. If you discover a Greek-inspired egg scramble combination that worked well for you let us know in the comments below!

Next we head to a US territory for a twist on an American classic!

Greece Day 4 – Ian’s Gyro (Tzatziki recipe included)

For our final meal of the week we had a classic street foot of Greece- the Gyro. Pronounced like “yee-roh” (Greek for spin) this savory wrap is traditionally filled with a grilled meat (lamb or beef), tzatziki sauce, sliced tomato, and red onion wrapped inside pita bread. The sandwich did not become mass produced like it is now until the 1970s as American tourism quickly made it a fast food. It is now popular in the US especially in New York City.

It does originate from Greece, however it is believed to be very similar to the Turkish döner kebabs. The term gyro refers to the method the meat is traditionally cooked, rotating vertically on a spit. The Turkish kebabs are cooked in a similar fashion and alike ingredients. We were unable to achieve that, however we broke out our little Colman grill and got the job done. We used sirloin tips for our meat of choice, yum!

As for the tzatziki sauce it is a refreshing combination of Greek yogurt (make sure its plain!), shredded cucumber, lemon juice, and herbs. This sauce can be found in cuisine along the Balkans and the Middle East along with Greece with slightly different preparations. We were glad to use our nifty shredding attachment to make this step even more of a breeze!

This meal wasn’t new to us, but that wasn’t going to stop us from making it one of our four. We loved the tender meat with the cooling tzatziki and fresh vegetables. Our only downfall (slight) was the naan bread since I could not find pita bread anywhere! The naan made it VERY filling, but nonetheless it is one of our favorite dinners to make. With that said we rated it 9.5/10 (10/10 with pita). We hope you enjoy Ian’s recipes just as much as we do!

Greece Day 3 – Garides tou Fournou

For our third day in Greece Ian made another recipe from Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors. He has great understanding of Greek food from his experience as a line cook in a Greek-Italian restaurant and is part Greek himself. For those reasons that is why we decided to spend a week here – what a rough decision!

Ian and his family enjoying the ocean views

With Greece’s vast coastline and numerous islands it makes sense why seafood is a staple of their cuisine. Garides tou fournou roughly translates to baked shrimp and honors the delicious crustacean. Other common seafood that is used widely in Greek cuisine include sardines, squid, anchovies, smelt, mackerel, and bogue. It is not uncommon to find other varieties of seafood on the plate since this country is all about fresh ingredients. In this dish you will find shrimp that are topped with a flavorful shell-infused stock/tomato sauce and a healthy amount of feta. Yum yum!

The additional of dill to the sauce took me by surprise at first, but remembering our track record of dill and seafood pairing I knew it was going to be good. Thinking back to Libya as well we discovered the beautiful combination of dill, cinnamon, and tomatoes. You never know what unique pairings you are going to find by traveling by taste bud!

All aspects of the preparation and cooking was straightforward and easy to follow. The ingredients can easily be found in most grocery stores and it did not take long to finish. Making your own seafood stock is simple and a great way to save a little moolah. I don’t know why I had never thought to do that before..

We really enjoyed this meal and thought the addition of orzo was a must. Cooking the shrimp at a higher temperature allowed for a wonderful crust to form and give the dish a nice contrasting texture. Feta being incorporated in the sauce and garnished on top gave the sweet sauce a punch of saltiness (don’t go overboard adding salt to the dish!).

We loved this elevated shrimp dish and rated it 8.5/10. We give props to the orzo as well since this dish would be incomplete without it. If you don’t like shrimp you might be able to get away with scallops- let us know how that goes of course! If you still feel it needs more try pairing it with a fresh salad and a glass of your favorite white wine. Onto the last meal in Greece!