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!
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!
Welcome to another day in Greece, today we will be making a refreshingly light soup that is great on a warm summer day or when you need a pick me up. This dish is dominated by the taste of lemon and dill.
This citrusy soup is a lesser known Greek classic and is believed to have made its way there with the Sephardic Jews. This ethnic group originating from the Iberian Peninsula has a cuisine that consists of stuffed vegetables, salads, fruits, nuts, herbs, lentils and chickpeas (to name a few). It was originally made with pomegranate or orange juice, but with the popularization of lemon juice in the 10th century it is now the preferred fruit juice.
Ian felt this recipe was straight forward, however there was a crucial part that you want to pay attention to. It was important to whisk the hot broth and egg/lemon juice mixture constantly to avoid cooking the egg. It is also the same method when adding it back into the remaining soup.
We thought the soup was unique compared to others we have made and enjoyed how the lemon and dill made it lighter and refreshing. We would have liked more rice than what was asked for since a 1/4 cup was not much.
If you prefer fish over chicken, a similar recipe we have cooked in the past called Lohikeitto might be the soup for you!
We did enjoy the Finnish lemon and dill soup a little more than this one. The rating we gave it was 7/10.
Hello again! Today we are in Moldova, a small Eastern European country that is well known for its extensive wine collections (Guiness World record actually). Moldova does not get a lot of foreign foot traffic since it is a more impoverished country, however there is more than what meets the eye! There are beautiful old monasteries that can be found throughout the cities and admirable country sides and forests. Moldovans love wine (and other booze) so much that they dedicate two days to wine in October as a National holiday. Sign me up!
I was originally going to make the national dish of Moldova which is mămăligă, but I decided the zeamă would suffice. Zeamă is like a chicken noodle soup with a European twist. This dish is very traditional in this country and served year round, even in hot weather. This soup is a sign of welcoming or celebration the morning before a wedding. It even pairs well with wine.. who would have thought! The recipe I referenced can be found here.
I did make some substitutions since lovage and borsch couldn’t be found in my local grocery store. I used celery salt and lemon juice as replacements and enjoyed the flavors they brought to the dish. I also substituted store bought egg noodles for homemade ones to save myself time.
It was pretty easy to make and took advantage of the perfect opportunity to use some of my dehydrated carrots I made up last year, they taste just as fresh! I also added tons of herbs- more than the suggested to bring out more flavors in the simple broth.
I let a cut jalapeno soak in the soup which did give a very mild heat to the soup which was nice. The lemon and dill combo will always rate high in our book, however I wish there was more flavor. I’m wondering if I had the recommended ingredients if it would have more gusto.
Due to this we rated it a little lower at 6/10 average.. sorry Moldova😔
Welcome to the beautiful San Marino, another country I had no idea existed! This beautiful slice of heaven sits in northern-central Italy and has been a microstate since 301 A.D (self proclaimed oldest republic of the world). The main attraction of the country is the three peaks of Mount Titano. On each peak there is a tower: Guaita, Cesta, and Montale. The public is able to visit Guaita and Cesta by climbing the cobblestone steps overlooking the scenic countryside. That being said how come we don’t hear more about this country with it being one of the oldest countries of Europe?
When researching, it was clear I would enjoy the cuisine.. it sits inside the country where my favorite food originates! The dish I chose to represent San Marino is known as swallows nests or nidi di rondine in Italian. It got its name from the presentation of the food which closely resembles bird nests- lasagna noodles filled with cheese, prosciutto, bechamel sauce and basil leaves are rolled up and placed on top of marinara sauce.. is your mouth watering yet?
Just when I thought it couldn’t get better I discovered fontina cheese was part of the filling (my favorite cheese) and I decided to replace prosciutto with speck -can I get a hell yeah?! Alright I need to chill I’m making myself hungry! The recipe I used can be found here.
It was a pretty easy recipe just time consuming to cook the lasagna noodles. We thought a little more marinara sauce wouldn’t have hurt, but that is our only critique. It was a beautiful combination or melting cheese, warm sauces, and meat. They were surprisingly filling, but they did not last long in our fridge! If you’re looking for a way to elevate a pasta dish or just need something delicious to get you out of a boring dinner rut this is the recipe for you!
We rated this dish 9/10- higher with more sauce. Next we travel to Moldova to sip on some savory soup😎
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its name translates to water, earned for its density of lakes, rivers and waterfalls. It also contains what is considered Europe’s last remaining rain forest know as the Perućica that houses trees over 300 years old.
The dish I decided to cook is called Kvrgusa. It’s similar to a chicken pot pie, but instead of the crust surrounding the filling, the batter is first laid down and then the filling is added which bakes as more of a single layer. The recipe referenced is here. The process was simple, I started by mixing the few ingredients for the batter until it was a pancake mix consistency.
The recipe called for a small amount of vegeta seasoning. I didn’t have this, but a quick search online gave a common list of ingredients for vegeta such as turmeric, salt and garlic. I used quite a bit more seasoning than what the recipe called for. Chicken was then placed into the batter and then popped into the oven. Off note- the traditional recipes often call for a whole chicken being parted or at least bone-in chicken. We had boneless chicken breasts so this is what I used. You need to be careful not to overcook the chicken when substituting boneless pieces.
After the dish had cooked to a browned crust an additional layer of sour cream and milk is added and the dish is then returned to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
The verdict: Even with the additional milk and sour cream the dish was dense and lacked the creaminess of the chicken pot pies I’ve grown up with. This may have been due to the pan not being big enough, resulting in a thicker pie. Despite adding more seasoning than what the recipe called for I still found the dish rather bland.
To start off this week we will be cooking a dish from The Czech Republic, a country where beer is cheaper than water! Yes you heard that right, beer is a biiiig deal here. It is consumed more by the Czech people than any other place in the world. Czechia is located in Central Europe bordered by Austria, Poland, Germany, and Slovakia. Its capital, Prague is well known for its history and medieval beauty complete with cobblestone streets and gothic churches. It is home to the most castles in Europe topping 2,000!
To honor this historic country I made their national dish- Vepro Knedlo Zelo. This literally translates to its ingredients- roasted pork, bread dumplings and sauerkraut. In the Czech culture meals are often served in several courses. First you start with a soup, then you get your main course, and afterwards either more commentary sides or a dessert. The recipe I followed had a stewed sauerkraut which made it sweeter and less potent smelling (thank goodness).
It took me several hours to complete this dish, however most of the work was done by my stove and the heat of my apartment. It can be done in a way that allows for you to go from one thing to the next seamlessly, that means something coming from me! The pork was able to roast while the sauerkraut and onions cooked and the dumpling dough was rising. It was an apartment full of wonderful smells!
I used this recipe to make the bread dumplings and ended up buying gluten flour for the first time ever.. my stomach has been getting more tolerant to my gluten-eating ways. Back to the dumplings- the proving is an important part of this process and gave me enough to make three large dumplings (they almost double in size when in the boiling water). I decided to freeze one for later since European dishes can often have these accompany the entrée to soak up all of the wonderful sauce!
I will admit the sauerkraut tasted much better after the cooking process, better than I had expected. I was also pleasantly surprised by the dumplings and how large they had become by the end of all the proving and cooking. The meat was slightly dry, but that was probably due to an error on my part.
The flavors worked well together, and we quickly discovered stacking each element on top of each other was an effective way to eat the dish. I still think cabbage is not my thing, sorry fellow Czechs! We rated this dish 6.25/10.
Welcome to our 30th country Switzerland! Switzerland is situated between Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Here you can find 7,000 lakes, Lake Geneva being the largest at 45 miles max length and 8.7 miles max width. Surprisingly all of those mountains and lakes fit into a country that is roughly the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined. This country is like much of Europe- stunning landscape and mouth-watering food. This dish is just that!
I found an incredible recipe for this cheesy masterpiece and I could not pass it up. This dish is a combination of caramelized onions that are sautéed in butter and light beer, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, eggs, Dijon mustard, Worchester sauce, and sour cream that is encased in pastry crust.
You might be thinking yikes this is a heavy dish, but don’t worry a side of soup or salad helps brighten and lighten it up. I was thankful for my very efficient Kitchenaid shredding attachment that made prepping a breeze! I highly recommend this if you don’t already own it.
I ended up opting out of making a homemade crust and used the Pillsbury pre-made crusts to save time. I thought it was fairly straight forward and we couldn’t wait to try it!
So as you may have predicted this recipe was a success and very savory. It has a rich, creamy texture and reminded us of French Onion soup in pie form. It was so good that we both went for seconds (which I never do). We rated highly at 8.75/10.
Onto our 28th country- Bulgaria! This Balkan country is known for having the second richest natural mineral springs, producing 85% of the world’s rose oil, and bordering the Black Sea. Bulgaria is also one of the oldest European countries estimated to by established in 681 A.D. This country has Greek, Ottoman, Persian, and Slavic influence that definitely impacts their cooking style and flavors.
For Bulgaria I made two smaller dishes that worked well together and are very traditional to the country. The first part of this meal is kebapcheta a minced beef sausage that is well seasoned with paprika, cumin, and a little bit of clove. The name kebapcheta is derived from the word kebab, -che meaning small aka small kebab! Typically they are served as three with a side of chips (fries).
The traditional way to cook these little guys in on a grill, but I decided to put my new air fryer to use! 8 minutes later and some flipping mid way they were done!
The second part of the meal was shopska salata, an easy to assemble salad that is made up of the three colors of the Bulgarian flag (I accidently grabbed an orange pepper, silly me) – red, green, and white! Chopped cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, and onion are the base of the meal. Parsley and a good amount of feta is mixed throughout. Vinaigrettes are great to use as a dressing, but any light dressing will work!
Together it makes a beautiful spread! We thought the meat was well seasoned, the salad was refreshing and crisp, and the fries obviously did not take away from the meal. It was quick and simple so this is another great option for week night cooking. We rated it 7/10.
Bonjour! We are ending the week with a lesser known dish that honors the mighty shrimp. This incredibly easy and flavorful dish can be whipped up in less than 45 minutes. All you need is shrimp, shallots, white wine, cognac (or similar brandy), lemon juice, heavy cream and LOTS of butter!
The beurre blanc sauce originates along the Loire Valley region of France. It’s comprised of a wonderful balance of acidic and rich flavors that transforms the simple shrimp to a creamy decadence.
As you probably guessed the cooking of shrimp in cognac brandy originated in Cognac, France. This added a nice sharpness to help contrast the sauce. I served this with toasted baguette and salad. Ian discovered leftover risotto paired well also.
We rated this final dish 7/10, although it left we feeling surprisingly full! We enjoyed the buttery sauce and found it was essential to dip the baguette in leftover sauce on the plate. This is a nice, straight forward meal that can be made during the week or a lazy weekend!
Day 2 of French cooking brings us to Ratatouille, a vegan dish that reminds me think of the Disney Pixar movie. In the movie, this was the dish that was served to Ego the harsh food critic and ultimately thawed his ice cold heart. I will admit I did play this movie while I was prepping the vegetables and it made me feel like a kid again!
Ratatouille hails from the providential region of Nice dating back to the 18th century. The name ratatouille is made up of the two French words rata (chunky stew) and touiller (toss up food). This is yet another modest peasant dish that has been elevated to a fine dinning experience. This meal often consisted of the farmers leftover harvest and can be made from using various different vegetables. I went by this recipe which used the more typical eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, potato, and red pepper. This is then placed on top of a tomato sauce and can be served with fish, meat, or rice.
After you have used your mandolin or sliced each vegetable very finely you start to assemble your ratatouille.
Voila! What a piece of art! I topped it off with salt and pepper before covering it to cook in the oven for almost an hour. When it was done cooking I served it with risotto!
We thought it was a nice vegetarian option and liked how with every bite you could taste each vegetable. Next time I would use more sauce. We rated the dish 6.5/10, a nice healthy option for dinner 😋