Monday, June 30, 2014

King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Bread = "Greek Toast" any day of the week!

Always wondered about King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Bread, as it silently called to me from countless grocery bread racks over the years. Recently, I had a chance to try it, and my worst fears were confirmed: I can easily toast some of that bread and think I am eating "Greek Toast" made with tsoureki bread any day of the week! 

Tsoureki is a braided sweet bread made with eggs, milk and butter, usually by your Yiayia (grandmother) twice a year. It is traditionally served on Easter with a red hard-boiled egg or 2 or 3 planted on top, or on New Year's Day as a "Vassilopita" with a lucky coin in it. I always look forward to toasting leftover tsoureki for breakfast and eating it with feta cheese. "Greek Toast" can easily become addictive.

The rest of the year there is usually no tsoureki and thus no "Greek Toast," unless you bake it yourself or are able to score a Jewish challah bread. But there is always King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Bread -- which comes in dinner rolls and sandwich rolls, as well as a large round bread and sliced bread. If you are on a budget, the small package of 4 dinner rolls will do just fine; I cut that square loaf into six neat slices. When toasting it, I savored the unmistakable scent of tsoureki.  And voila, "Greek Toast!"

Paula's Greek Toast
Tried it immediately with feta cheese, of course -- and, yes, real Greeks do eat olives for breakfast...Also tried it with orange marmalade and, for good measure, I slathered a slice with "Bees Knees" peanut butter w/honey. If I had some tzatziki handy, I would have tried that, too. Indeed, King's Hawaiian Sweet Bread Sandwich Rolls would probably make for fabulous gyro sandwiches. But for now, let's just keep it simple: King's Hawaiian Original Hawaiian Sweet Bread = "Greek Toast" any day of the week!

NOTE: “This post is part of my entry in to the KING’S HAWAIIAN® Go PupuleTM Recipe Sweepstakes. For details on how you too can enter for a chance to win the sweepstakes prize by entering the KING’S HAWAIIAN® Go PupuleTM Recipe Sweepstakes, go here:”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

There may be a Greek food truck in your future!

My disappointment in the outcome of tonight's Greece-Costa Rica soccer game was somewhat assuaged by finding The Original Greek food truck parked in my neighborhood. Michael from Cleveland and Karpathos (located between Crete and Rhodes) had been too busy to follow the game to conclusion. I gave him the bad news, and we wished that Greece had taken better advantage of the great opportunity it had. Greeks in Greece could have sure used a second soccer celebration...

Mom's Spinach Pies
I had seen the truck last weekend and was thinking either spinach pie (they looked so good!) or moussaka for dinner -- both reasonably priced as are the calamari, saganaki, and Greek fries w/feta. Michael's mother makes most of the truck's food, and this week it was pastitsio instead of moussaka. The seasonings were nicely-balanced both in the chopped meat filling and bechamel sauce. Nothing worse than pastitsio or moussaka that has been dumbed down seasoning-wise in fear that someone might not like it.

Michael and his real gyro!
Next time I might try the gyro sandwich, and for good reason.  Michael makes gyro the right way, by actually pressing individual pieces of steak meat down on a spit (see photo) and then trimming the edges off when they are cooked. Nowadays, too many Greek establishments use a large prefab gyro of pressed meat and the cuttings are smooth and not terribly tasty. Soon there will be spits for pork and chicken in that blue food truck, too -- OPA!

NOTE: The Original Greek food truck will be in Plantation and Pt. Lucie (Tradition Square) this coming week. And on the 4th of July at Royal Palm Beach Commons, 11 am - 8 pm. Just look for that blue truck, hopefully somewhere near me next Sunday. Call 305-501-1352 for more info and for catering services, or tweet to @originalgreekfl.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I do luv peanut butter, even if it's not exactly Greek!

Addictive Stragalia
Not that Greeks don't eat peanuts, they do. Salty things go particularly well with ouzo. So do most nuts and roasted chick peas called "stragalia."  Those little gems are totally addictive and can either be bought at your nearest Middle Eastern grocery store or roasted at home with various spices -- crunchy AND spicy!  If a Greek child is going to spread anything nutty on bread, it will be the hazelnut-chocolate spread "Nutella." 

But they mostly likely have not yet tried "Dark Chocolate Dreams" by Peanut Butter & Company.  I met PB&C reps at the recent BlogHerFood in Miami, and they were kind enough to share a few of their 10 natural peanut butters with me.  "Dark Chocolate Dreams" was awesome on strawberries and would probably be even better on bananas. "The Bees Knees" peanut butter w/honey is another version that might make many Greeks happy.  I do luv peanut butter, and no-stir "Crunch Time" fits right into my (unfortunate) eat-it-with-a-spoon mentality.

And along came something totally different -- "The Heat is On," an all-natural peanut butter "blended with fiery spices" and right up my alley. And fiery it is -- peanuts blended with chili powder, cayenne peppers, crushed red peppers, paprika, palm fruit oil, vinegar and salt (and also gluten free, vegan and kosher like their other peanut butters). Hot stuff!

Paula's Rojak Plate
So I immediately thought of "Rojak," a sauce/spread including crunchy peanut butter, chili sauce, and crushed red pepper that I have made for many years from a recipe taken originally from Sunset magazine and adjusted over time. It's also something totally different and not difficult to put together -- and people usually like it served with carrot sticks and other raw veggies. The dish Rojak is actually more complicated than just the spread or sauce that might be served on it. But when my version is put on vegetables and/or fruit, it does square with rojaks made in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia...

Here is my newly-readjusted version of "Rojak" using PB&C peanut butters: 1/3 c. "The Heat is On," 1/3 c. "Crunch Time," 3 T. firmly packed brown sugar, 1/4 c. lemon juice, 4 T. ketchup (catsup), and 1/2 t. soy sauce. You can adjust the amount of hot peanut butter accordingly or add the aforementioned spices to regular peanut butter...and I am wondering how 1-2 T. tamarind paste instead of lemon juice might taste. In any case, mix and enjoy with carrot sticks and apple slices.

NOTE: It's all Greek to me!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Greek Tarama prospers in Paris -- who knew?!

I have always loved "Taramasalata" or simply Tarama -- a Greek caviar spread made basically with fish roe blended with bread (or mashed potatoes), olive oil, and lemon juice. It goes very well with ouzo and seems to be somewhat of an acquired taste in the U.S. (just like ouzo)...and is certainly cheaper than pure caviar, I might add.

Grand Epicerie
So when in Paris recently, I was flabbergasted to find a variety of Taramas in a variety of stores, from the Bon Marche's Grand Epicerie (VII) to La Maree Beauvau traiteur in the historic Beauvais Market (XII) to the Franprix supermarket near our hotel on Rue Duret (XVI) -- proof-positive that the French really do know something about food, AND how to save money! 

(I suffered a similar shock when I first visited Canada and discovered "tzatziki" in almost every supermarket throughout Ontario. But there is only one kind of tzatziki, as long as you add enough dill - no matter how you cut or grate the cucumbers or how much garlic you add, and even though the commercial versions often include cream cheese and other strange things.)

Franprix Taramas
Here are the roe-based taramas I found in Paris:  Rose (regular pink), Ouefs de Cabillaud Sauvage (wild cod eggs), Corail d'Oursin (w/coral sea urchin), Piment d'Espilette (w/Basque chili pepper), Blanc (white w/cream or white cheese), Oeufs de Truite (trout eggs), Crabe (w/crab), and one made with Boutarque Memmi (dried mullet roe preserved in wax that is often shaved by chefs and used in lieu of Parmesan cheese).  In the end, I had to be settle for the basic pink tarama that Mr. Antonis of "Au P-Tit Grec" slathered onto a galette for my last meal in Paris.    

Amazingly enough, I discovered an 8 oz. jar of Krinos prepared Taramasalata (w/carp roe) in my downtown Miami neighborhood Price Choice Supermarket, which also has delightful seafood department with many off-beat offerings. My own rule of thumb is that if you can see the orange fish eggs in any "prepared" Taramasalata, it needs to be further blended and balanced with wet bread, olive oil (preferably Greek Koroneiki) and lemon juice until it thins out and is not too salty. (The Oriental Bakery & Grocery on Coral Way also carries the Krinos pure carp roe Tarama, which means you have to start the blend from scratch using the ingredients listed above.)

Today's re-blended batch will be tasted by the Miami Shores Library Recipe/Travel Book Club on Thursday. Let's see what they say...

Paula's Tarama
NOTE: We have been reading Eurydice Street (A Place in Athens) by Sofka Zinovieff (2004), an authentic and well-written memoir by a British anthropologist who married a Greek man and moved w/2 small children to an Athens suburb. It brought back many memories of my 10 years in Thessaloniki and updated me, too. Many things have changed, but some things will never change -- OPA!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"La Picada" is simply elegant!

Recently I got caught up in finding an appropriate dish for a wine-tasting featuring the Bonarda grape -- the second most grown red grape in Argentina next to Malbec (even though both come originally from Italy and France).

It took only moments to discover the Argentine "Picada" on Google. Picadas are not complicated. They can be small with 1-2 items for a nibble before dinner. Or quite large and elegant, making up an entire meal. And everything is simple and easily obtainable. The beauty is in the presentation.

Oft-mentioned ingredients: cured meats (including hard salamis and ham), cheeses (including Laughing Cow wedges), green olives (not-pitted), peanuts, bread-sticks, potato chips, and pickled veggies. Cheeses and ham should be cubed. Roll-ups of salami and cheese are the most labor-intensive. The fun is in arranging everything on a platter or cutting board.

My Picada consisted of peanuts, cured pork loin, sesame bread-sticks, smoked Provolone cheese rolled in Sopressa salami,  green olives stuffed with (a hint of) Blue cheese, and Danish Fontina (which was fabulous w/the Bonarda). Tooth picks, of course, abounded.

I loved putting my Picada together. And something that seems common was both beautiful and satisfying -- like a Super Meze Plate. To that I say, "OLE!"

NOTE: One of the wine favorites was sustainably-produced Santa Julia "Innovacion" 2013 (90% Bonarda, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon)  -- a one liter bottle going for about $10 at Whole Foods...

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Friday is for fishy stuff, how about calamari w/rice?

Yesterday was Friday, which is traditionally a day for fish among Greeks. So I walked down to a neighborhood supermarket here in downtown Miami where there is always an unusual array of seafood, including cooked octopus and wild-caught smelts. I even discovered the makings for tarama in the deli box near the yoghurt, a bonus! 

5" squids (calamari) caught my eye, and I immediately thought of calamari w/rice and tomatoes. Spinach or leeks w/rice -- which I enjoyed many times in my 10 years living in Thessaloniki -- are a typical Greek comfort food and fasting dish, especially during Lent. Squid, like octopus and shellfish, qualify for Lenten dishes because they do not have spines or bleed...I had never made the rice w/calamari, so I consulted my current favorite Greek cookbook and veritable fount of information, The Olive and The Caper by Susanna Hoffman.

"Spinach Pilaf" on p. 239 addresses the gamut of rice w/various -- including shrimp, snails or's an easy dish to make: sauté one medium, finely-chopped onion and 1 cup short-grained rice in 3T of olive oil until translucent; stir in 1 cup of tomatoes and their juices; cover and reduce heat to cook for about 12 minutes. 5 minutes before rice is ready, add 1 cup of washed and cut-up squid. When all is cooked, stir in 2T chopped fresh dill, 2T chopped fresh mint, 3T chopped flat-leafed parsley, 1t lemon zest, 3T lemon juice, pinch of ground nutmeg, 1t salt, and 1/2 t ground pepper. Remove from the heat, fluff and serve.

Being on a use-what-you-have-on-hand kick, I used about 1t freshly dried dill (leftover from making tzatziki 2 weeks ago) and 1t dried mint (culled a few weeks ago from a live Mojito Mint plant). No parsley. And no lemon zest, just about 1-2 T. lemon juice. No salt, especially since I used canned tomatoes. It took longer to cook w/the squid, and I added water to extend the process. Next time I will add the squid from the beginning and perhaps cut them into narrower rings. Or I might take a tip from Alice Waters' The Chez Panisse Restaurant Menu Cookbook and sauté the squid for 1-2 minutes before adding it (per  a recipe for "Squid w/Leeks and Red Wine"). 

The real key -- as for many Greek dishes -- is a balance of herbs/spices and lemon juice. So taste and adjust as needed. The dill, mint and lemon are really wonderful with these rice dishes. And the finished product really made my day -- OPA!

NOTE: My vegan friends can add 3 lbs. of washed, torn-into-small-pieces spinach (to a larger pot, it will cook down) OR 2 bunches of leeks (minus stem ends and green parts) when adding the tomatoes -- then cook as proscribed.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sunday Paris Foray Mostly about Chocolate Shops (and Greek Galettes)

My last hours in Paris turned into a choco-centric foray, from our haven near the Eiffel Tower into arrondisements V and VI. Did my niece Rachel kinda plan it that way?

"Sonia Rykiel"
First we stopped in at the beautiful Hotel de Matignon gardens at 36 Rue de Babylone, which were open to the public on this quiet Sunday morning. Then on to 37 Rue d'Assas, the Christian Constant shop. I had read about the killer hot chocolate there, but did not expect a full-fledged patisserie with beautiful chocolates and petits gateaux in such an odd location. And I wouldn't have thought from perusing his 3 trendy restaurants on the Rue Saint Dominique that Christian Constant was a master chocolatier as well -- another star chef with a multi-market brand...One tantalizing tart (chocolate ganache w/thin-sliced bananas) was named "Sonia Rykiel" in honor of his 84-year-old designer friend. Rachel gave it a thumbs up!

Nicolsen Chocolate
Fast forward to the Rue Mouffetard where we entered a mesmerizing alley of restaurants, boulangeries, crepe places, and chocolate shops --including Nicolsen ("L'Artisan du Chocolat") at #112, w/products hand-made in the company's laboratoire in Chavenay from single-origin chocolate from around the world....and with an inviting smell of chocolate not as prevalent in other such shops. Purchased some dark chocolate bars w/orange and eclats de feves (cacao nibs). Then lunch!

Mr. Antonis in action!
I had also read about long lines for crepes at Aux P'Tit Grec at #68, so here was a chance to check out "a Greek Place" in Paris. Quelle surprise! It was all about Mr. Antonis from Thessaloniki, who updated me on the subway system being built there while he built me an amazing galette sandwich on a hot round grill. It was a Greek galette -- part gyro-type sandwich, part French crepe. Brilliant!

Rachel enjoying her galette
The galette itself is made with buckwheat and is thicker than a crepe. My sandwich was filled with tarama, feta, onions, lettuce and tomato. He built others (4.50 - 5.50 Euros each) like Galette du Chef w/cheese of your choice and chorizo, which he expertly folded into cones and wrapped while I watched and we chatted. By the time I ate my lunch and looked around, there was a crowd of people inside and out awaiting Antonis' creations.  Ordinary gyro sandwiches with pita bread pale next to the galette experience -- you have got to try it!

Angelina's Chocolat Chaud

Time was now of the essence, and I still had not located any large green (pistachio) meringues.So we did the next best thing: stopped by the Pierre Herme shop located near St. Sulpice (72 Rue Bonaparte), also with a line out the door. But wait we did, so I could score a tin of "Preparation" for hot chocolate (13.50 Euros). Just stir it into boiling mineral water. Will the result be as good as Angelina's?

Eat me with a spoon!
And, yes, I did break down and buy 2 macarons for the road at 2.10 Euros each (about $2.95). Settled on Infinite Rose, and how could I not try the green Olive Oil and Vanilla model? No box for just 2 macarons, just a little cellophane bag. So they did not travel well to the airport, but made for a sublime special dessert nonetheless on my 9-hour ride home -- even if I had to eat them with a plastic spoon.

Much to think about on that ride home, like my next trip to Paris. No more baguettes for me till then!

NOTE: Was happy to satisfy my craving for tarama, a Greek dip/sauce made from fish roe. I not only saw it at the Beauvais Market, neighborhood Franprix, and The Grand Epicerie -- but there were several variations everywhere, not just the classic pink. More on that another time...

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Busman's Holiday Part VI - A bientot!

Great blood sausage last night cooked with apples by Monsieur Philippe at La Varangue at27 Rue Augereau just around the corner in the VII. And I finally had some Ricard (almost as good as ouzo!)...Alas, my 6-day Busman's Holiday is coming to an end later today after a last twirl around the Latin Quarter. Will I find that giant pistachio merengue again or something better? A Greek restaurant worth writing about? A culinary or cultural experience that I didn't foresee? Stay tuned for my last report and all the photos at -- meanwhile, a bientot!

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