Fresh Green Beans

These are delicious, fresh and rich at the same time. A perfect healthy side dish for the spring and summer. No more discussion required.

Ingredients:
Big bunch of green beans, maybe 1 or 2 lbs
Lemon or lime, zested
Olive oil
Dill, freshly chopped
Walnuts, toasted
Bowl of ice water

Directions:

1. Bring a big pot of water to boil, slightly salted. Prepare ice water and keep it close. Once water is boiling, blanch the beans about 30 seconds to 1 minute, remove with tongs, shaking off the water, and plop them into the ice water to stop the cooking. They will be beautifully crunchy.

2. Zest a lemon, chop fresh dill, and toast almonds and allow to cool. Set all aside.

3. Once ready to eat, heat a bit olive oil on high, then toss in the green beans and sautee until just warmed through. Move them to a bowl and toss in all the toppings, and a squeeze of the lime if you’d like. Add more olive oil if desired. Salt and black pepper to taste.

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Seafood Avgolemono (Greek Style Egg Lemon Soup with Calamari and Tilapia)

Avegolemono - Rings of Squid

Avgolemono soup reminds me of Solonica, located on 57th Street in Hyde Park Chicago. It was just two blocks from my place, and was a frequent breakfast stop, especially mornings (or afternoons) after a party. It is a diner-style restaurant but the menu is sprinkled with Greek-style culinary treats such as moussaka, omelettes with spinach and fetta, spinach pie and, my favorite, baklava. Avgolemono was also on the menu. It traditionally is an chicken stock thickened with eggs, scented with lemon, and served with rice, and sometimes herbs such as mint or dil.

My recipe is slightly different. In fact, I began making this stew with something completely different in mind. I was going to make a simple seafood stew, featuring the many pounds of squid we recently bough without taking note of the expiration date (thats why it was so inexpensive…) But didn’t read the recipe carefully. After I finished making the stock (step #1 in my recipe below) I realized that the recipe called for mayo. It called for mayo. I despise mayo. So I thought and I though. What can I put in place of the mayo? I didn’t have yogurt prepared, which is my number one go to substitute for mayo. I thought milk would be too watery for the consistency I was looking for. I don’t do cream any more willingly than I do mayo. But what is mayo, anyway? Eggs, lemon, salt, and oil. Huh. Eggs and lemon sounds an awful lot like Avgolemono…and lemon goes wonderfully with seafood. So it was settled. Instead of they mayo I added the juice of two lemons (limes actually- lemons are almost impossible to find in Guate, but I found the limes to work just as well) and 4 eggs.

LeeksAvgolemono - With Veggies

The result was a lovely light lemony cream sauce, and rich in protein. I followed most of the directions of my original inspiration, but the lemon and eggs took the dish hostage-which I was greatful for. The dish was perfect. There were groans of joy throughout the entire meal. In addition, the veggies I used added a nice texture, color, and flavor that traditional chicken broth wouldn’t have provided. This broth was a perfect way to feature the calamari and tilapia.

Seafood Avgolemono (Serves 6 -8)
For Vegetarian version, use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and omit seafood. Perhaps chickpeas or white beans would be a nice addition.

Ingredients:
1 pound squid, cut into rings
4 tilapia filettes
1 pound new potatoes, boiled separately and put aside (optional)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 carrot, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tomato
1 bayleaf
4 eggs
2 lemons or limes
1/4 teaspoon paprika
large pinch of salt
8 garlic cloves
Olive oil and generous fresh black pepper. This is important!

Directions: 1. Add olive oil to a 4 quart pot, and add carrots, leeks, and onion. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes, making sure not to brown the veggies. One the veggies are tender, add the tomato, and cook another two minutes. Add the fennel, thyme, and bay leaf, along with the chicken stock, water, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3o minutes. At this point I prefer to strain the veggies, and set them aside. I will add them in later. For me, it makes preparing a creamy broth much easier. However you can keep them in if you prefer.

2. Prepare the egg mixture: Beat the eggs well. Add the juice of the lemons and whisk together. Peel all the garlic, and place in separate bowl or plate. Add the salt, and grind together to form a nice paste. This will ensure that the garlic combines well into the soup. Once into a fine paste, whisk the garlic into the eggs. Set aside.

3. If you want to make this ahead of time (lets say the night before, or in the morning), you can let the stock cool, and cover it and the eggs well and keep in the fridge up to 24 hours. When you are ready to prepare the rest, about a half hour before eating, bring the broth to a simmmer and let the eggs sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

4. Temper the eggs. Ladle a half cup of the hot broth into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously. Add another half cup and continue whisking. This ensure that the egg does not “seize” and start cooking when it enters the hot broth. Add the egg mixture to the broth and whisk until well combined.

5. Add the squid and tilapia (torn into bite-sized pieces) and cook for a few minutes until opaque and flaky. If you removed the veggies and wish to have them in your soup, you can add them at this point. Add the potatoes, if desired, at this point as well. (So, Alton Brown says that the veggies after being cooked for so long are “worthless” as far as nutrients go. But for me they still have flavor, texture, color, and fiber. So I keep them. It doesn’t hurt.)

6. Serve drizzled with olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper. Look at the picture below…this is important. A few mint leaves would also add a lovely touch.

Avgolemono - Pepper and Olive Oil

A Mediterranean Meal: Babaganoush, Balsamic Tomatoes, and Lemon Pepper Parmesan Chickpeas

Med

A wonderfully light and well-balanced, yet rich Mediterranean meal that might cost you a good $30.00 at any restaurant in Chicago serving similar stuff. And its good for you. Beat that.

Babaganoush - Shriveled EggplantBabaganoush - Finished

Babaganoush:
2 Eggplans
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1.5 tablespoons tahini (I heard suggested once my Mark Bitten to use peanutbutter as a sub, but never tried it)
Juice of half a lime
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika

Directions:
1. Roast the eggplant. There are many methods for this. Grill it (30 minutes, rotating), bake it (30 minutes), roast it in the pan (30 something minutes, also rotating), and I’ve even heard of microwaving it. Use the method easiest to you. The times are estimates. You want it (if you are grilling or roasting in a pan) charred on the outside, and heavy and completely shirveled. It will look very sad compared to its fresh form, but thats what you want.

2. Scrape out the insides, it should come easily. Don’t use the charred skin. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree in your blender or hand mixer until very very smooth. Fix salt and hot paprika to your taste. Serve with crackers or toasted pita bread.

Marinated Tomatoes

Tomatoes:
6 Roma tomatoes (or any that look really good and ripe)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Basil and Thyme, about a teaspoon of each
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions: Chop and seed tomatoes. Mix with all ingredients and let marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Lemony Chickpeas

Lemony Pepper Parmesan Chickpeas:
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1/4 cup freshly shredded salty cheese (parmesan or romano is good)
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
Salt
Fresh ground pepper (be generous here, it’s important. Maybe 1 teaspoon?)
A drizzle of olive oil if you desire.

Directions: Roast the chickpeas in the oven or in a pan until browned on the outside. Let cool to room temperature. Add lime, salt, and finely grated cheese, and toss. Cover generously with black pepper.