Greece – The Cyclades

So far we’ve only reviewed SD restaurants but after a vacation in Greece I thought it’d be great to share some pictures of the local food. And the beaches. The beaches are pretty nice too.

Koufonissia - Pori Beach

Koufonissia – Pori Beach

So some of the dishes we tried were at the beach above. Koufonissia is a small island, part of the Little Cyclades. You can get to Pori Beach by boat or by taking a ferry to Koufonissia then taking a bus to Pori. There are exactly two restaurants on the beach and besides that you’d be hard pressed to find any other buildings around. The restaurant closer to the beach had way more people in it so that is where we went.

Restaurant in Pori

Restaurant in Pori

The first dish we tried was Taramasalata. Our waitress simply described it as a dip that came with bread and that it was very good, so we were game. Only after it came and we were already halfway through eating it that we discovered there was fish roe in it. This was totally fine by us but I guess if you are vegetarian or have allergies I would tread carefully as in a lot of restaurants their English may not be super extensive.

DSC00709 Taramasalata

The basic ingredients in taramasalata are carp roe, olive oil, bread crumbs, vinegar, lemon and salt. It has a very nice salty, creamy flavor and is nor overtly fishy, I thought it had more of a umami flavor than an obvious fish flavor. Really good with the pita chips that came although I wish some soft bread would have come too.

The next dish we tried was a favorite of the trip, Cretan Husk. Cretan husk is very simple but its the one dish I can’t wait to make at home. They use husk bread which is a stale ish whole wheat country bread and then top it with a very simply, barely cooked tomato sauce, capers and a fresh cheese. We saw feta used as the cheese often but in some islands they also used a mild local goat cheese. I think I’m gonna try chevre or really good feta in olive oil when I attempt to make it at home.

Cretan Husk

Cretan Husk

It’s deceptively simple but soooo tasty. We must have ordered it at almost every restaurant we went to after we discovered it. The bread sops up the fresh tomato sauce and you have the creamy cheese and a hint of sharpness from the capers. If you like panzanella this is right up your alley.

After our appetizers I ordered the Naxos Sausage with Lentils. The sausage I think was goat and it had nice char marks and a slightly gamey flavor. A lot of food for one plate. One positive side of Greece is that its quite inexpensive compared to the Western European countries. Things are a little pricier in Mykonos or Santorini but even then you can easily find yummy, large meals for very affordable prices. Like this one.

Naxos Sausage with Lentils

Naxos Sausage with Lentils

The lentils were smaller than I’m used too but excellent. They were mixed with very thinly dressed onions, tomatoes and a light dressing which contrasted nicely with the fatty, smoky sausage. The whole thing was pretty delicious. The only thing I disliked was that the sausage was studded with pieces of fat which are not my favorite but its pretty normal for sausages and no one else was complaining 🙂

The other entree we got was the Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree. The meat was super tender and a little gamey with a mild tomato sauce and a puree of smoky grilled eggplant. The braised meat with the slightly sweet tomato sauce and the silky, smoky puree was amazing.

Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree

Baby Goat with Eggplant Puree

Everything we had was tasty and the ingredients and preparation were of great quality. For dessert I had a banana, milk, honey, cinnamon and sesame smoothie I didn’t take any pictures of. We were pretty happy with this meal. They also turn into a bar with live music later at night, that night they had Brazilian bossa nova. It went really well with the great food and the great view. Highly recommended.

Sunset in Pori

Sunset in Pori

So the next meal we have pictures of was slightly less successful. This meal was in Paros island right by the private marina. Also can’t remember the name of this restaurant but it was at the end of the first row of restaurants.

Paros

Paros

For appetizers we got a Cretan Salad. This was described as tomatoes, olives, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, and Cretan bread. Weirdly instead of potatoes we got cubes of Swiss cheese in the salad.

Cretan Salad

Cretan Salad

This came with no dressing so we mixed red wine vinegar and olive oil and poured it over top. Almost every restaurant will have olive oil and red wine vinegar at the table which is nice because they normally give you bread but no butter or anything to put on the bread.

For an entree I got the Stuffed Calamari. It said it was stuffed with feta, peppers and sundried tomatoes and came with rice and fries. I asked for roasted potatoes instead and although the waiter agreed to it I got fries anyways.

Stuffed Calamari

Stuffed Calamari

The squid was definitely overcooked and but the tomatoes were fresh instead of sundried and the bell peppers were too raw for my liking. The fries are softer in style than normal American french fries but we saw that a lot. The tartar sauce was ok. Overall it was unremarkable and I gave the rest of my squid to one of the many stray kitties that seem to be everywhere in the islands…

The other entree we got was Cretan Casserole. This was also cooked goat but what we got was not very casserole-y. It came with fries and rice but the waiter forgot the rice.

Cretan Casserole

Cretan Casserole

Although it doesn’t look super appetizing the meat was actually pretty good. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of it and there was a lot of bone, fat, and assorted tissues. Nothing like the baby goat we had in Koufonissia!

Paros

Paros

Overall we ate a lot of good food in Greece. Our number one tip would be to not eat at the restaurants that are right on the water/boardwalk especially if they’re close to the port or where the ferry arrives. These restaurants are mostly there for the cheap drinks and the food is definitely secondary. If you meander in a little into the towns you’ll find cheaper and much better food. Naturally it always pays to ask a local as well or to do some internet sleuthing beforehand.

Our favorite restaurant was in Naxos island. It was only a row behind the boardwalk restaurants advertising 4 euro drinks but it was nice and friendly with only one older lady manning the entire place. She didn’t speak a lick on English and as soon as we sat she handed us the Greek-English menus and after we sat an older Greek lady with a scarf neatly tied around her head came and sat in the table next to us. Always a good sign. Her food was simple but so good. Everything tasted fresh and she did all the cooking.

Sadly we can’t remember the name something like “Family Tavern”, if you get to Naxos by ferry go straight to the boardwalk with all the restaurants and go behind them and walk to the right until you see a white and light teal building. If you find yourself seated in the patio below you are golden.

Our Favorite Restaurant in Naxos

Our Favorite Restaurant in Naxos

The roasted potatoes with oregano and lemon are out of this world and the lady always gave us free dessert whether it was a slice of homemade orange cake or perfectly ripe figs. If we go back we will definitely be stopping by here again.

Sunset over Mykonos

Sunset over Mykonos

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Greek Fattoush Salad & The Best Healthy Tzatziki Sauce

Salads get a bad rep as a main course because oftentimes what we picture as a stereotypical salad are just the saddest little leaves of iceberg lettuce with some grainy tomatoes, limp cucumber and dry shreds of carrots strewn over top. When people say they don’t like salads though I believe they just haven’t found the salad for them yet. There’s a salad out there you’ll like.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

From Thai som tam papaya salad with peanuts and shrimp to warm spinach salads with bacon, mushrooms and a poached egg. Jean George’s carrot and avocado salad is a must order at his restaurant ((or must make at home) and the pomegranate seeds on Joy the Baker’s apple and brussel sprouts salad really make the whole dish.

Anyways. Lately my favorite salads have been more Mediterranean leaning. I love fattoush salad which is a Lebanese salad that normally has lettuce (or purslane), cucumber, tomatoes, mint, radish, pita chips and a tangy dressing made of lime, garlic, olive oil and sumac. It sounds terribly simple but its quite addicting, plus a perfect complement to fatty, charred gyros. Another classic I think most people are familiar with is greek salad which has tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, feta, red onions and a dressing of red wine vinegar, oregano and olive oil.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

So my clever idea that mostly arose out of coincidentally having most of these ingredients at home was to combine both these salads. Unfortunately I did not have sumac lying around so I omitted it but I highly recommend it if you can find it. It’s a reddish tangy spice that really adds a lot to the dressing and almost vaguely tastes like cranberries.

Lastly I added some simply cooked shrimp to the salad and made some amazing tzatziki sauce to go with this salad (and so that I could I dip extra pita chips in). This is an amazing tzatziki sauce recipe that’s pretty healthy to boot.

Chopping Away

Chopping Away

Chopped

Chopped

Chopped x2

Chopped x2

INGREDIENTS:

Serves 2 as a meal and 4 as a side.

1 pound of Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
2 tomatoes
1 cup chopped romaine
1 cup of fresh mint leaves
1 cup of plain salted pita chips (add more if you like)
1/3 cup of kalamata olives
2-3 ounces of good feta (the one packed in olive oil is my favorite)
Juice of 2 limes (or lemons)
4 teaspoons of ground sumac
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup of olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Mix the lime juice, sumac, oregano, red wine vinegar, minced garlic cloves and olive oil into a small bowl. Whisk vigorously until incorporated and set aside.
2. Chop the tomatoes and cucumbers into 1/2 inch pieces. Add to a bowl.
3. Add in romaine, mint leaves, pita chips, and kalamata olives.
4. Add dressing and toss everything together.
5. Crumble the feta over top.
6. It’s ready! I would add a protein to make this a meal or serve as a side.

Greek Fattoush Salad

Greek Fattoush Salad

Now for the tzatziki. I love having a creamy side to have with the tangy salad but this tzatziki is great for serving alongside kebabs, pita chips, lemon shrimp skewers, you name it. It is especially good as part of a meal when you dollop it over rice.

Tzaziki

Tzaziki

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup fat free greek yogurt (strained if you want it thicker, I used Trader Joe’s brand but I like Oikos too)
1 cup fat free sour cream
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 cucumber (any kind) peeled, seeded and diced into cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk together.
2. Add in all the ingredients except for the lemon and whisk together.
3. Add the juice of the lemon, adjusting for how tart you want it. Combine.
4. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over top before serving.

Tzaziki

Tzaziki

So yes. This is how I ate my huge salad. The good thing about this salad is that its quite substantial but because the dressing is fairly healthy you can eat a lot of until you’re quite full. When trying to be healthy its generally good to always control portion size but when you’re eating a big bowl of what mainly consists of cucumbers and tomatoes you can pretty much dismiss portion control and eat until you are pre-tty full. Provided you didn’t go too crazy with the pita chips.

Final Product: Greek Fattoush Salad with Shrimp and Tzaziki

Final Product: Greek Fattoush Salad with Shrimp and Tzaziki

This is the final product. I pretty much made this in a large salad serving bowl and then just kind of ate out of the bowl. Even after eating until my post-gym induced ravenous heart’s content I still have a good amount of salad left for the next day. The pita chips do get a tad soggy so if you have extra this is either an excuse for eating all the pita chips and adding more next time or for picking them out when you eat the salad later.

Close Up

Close Up

Fig, Honey, Thyme & Goat Cheese Yogurt Popsicle

So I’ve noticed a lot of our recipes have really long titles and this no exception. I just really want people to know what’s in them right off the bat I guess? I was going to call them red, white and blue popsicles in honor of the upcoming holiday but I thought that might be pushing it as figs are really more purple than blue on the outside…

Figs

Figs

Also I was way too excited to get a half day on Wednesday and with that and no work on Friday I basically did not really remember to finish this post until today. So I guess the red, white, and blue is not really applicable anymore…

Figs from the farmer's market

Figs from the farmer’s market

Figs are amazing. I am aware they are not the most popular fruit and as a kid I tried to pretend I didn’t like it because I thought the interior of the fig looked like “tentacles” but they are delicious. Plump, sweet, and incredibly fragrant I suggest you find yourself some figs before they’re gone!

Figs

Figs

Perhaps the only downside with figs is that they are indeed highly seasonal and a touch on the more expensive side. I have bought figs from Trader Joe’s ($2.99 for a basket not bad at all), from the Little Italy Farmer’s Market ($4.99 for a basket) and Whole Foods ($5.99 for a basket) and sadly despite the TJ’s one being super cheap they were also not quite worth the money as they were still green on the outside and even after ripening were mostly hollow and dry inside. The one’s from the farmer’s market were the best, and I will be picking more up this weekend!

Figs

Figs

There is not much you need to do to enjoy figs, I find that they’re best when super fresh, it almost seems like a waste to cook them into anything unless they are dry or past their prime.

Figs

Figs

One of my favorite ways to eat them is as a light snack, drizzled with honey and then sprinkled with thyme and good feta or with a dollop of thick greek yogurt if you are not into the salty and sweet thing.

Fig with Thyme & Honey

Fig with Thyme & Honey

Fig + Honey  + Thyme + Greek Yogurt

Fig + Honey + Thyme + Greek Yogurt

And as much as I like them fresh, I perhaps got too excited about figs and having bought some from the farmer’s market and Trader Joe’s I decided to use some of the Trader Joe’s ones to make popsicles. More specifically: fig, greek yogurt, goat cheese, thyme and honey popsicles. This might have also been influenced by me recently acquiring these nifty little Zoku popsicles molds.

Zoku Popsicle Molds

Zoku Popsicle Molds

Zoku Popsicle Molds

Zoku Popsicle Molds

I got these from Pigment in North Park, this store sells all kinds of interesting decor, books and food items as well as all the components you would need to build your own terrarium. Zoku also has these other instant popsicle molds that will have your popsicle ready in 6 minutes or something of that sort. I can wait more than 6 minutes for my popsicles so I got the regular kind but those are a good option too for you more impatient types 🙂

Fig, Honey, Thyme and Goat Cheese Popsicle

Fig, Honey, Thyme and Goat Cheese Popsicle

INGREDIENTS:

Makes 2 popsicles with my molds, to make more double, triple, etc. accordingly.

1 cup of greek yogurt
4 tablespoons of goat cheese
sugar/agave/sweetener to taste
4 tablespoons honey
1 sprig of thyme
3 figs, chopped
popsicle molds

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Whisk the greek yogurt, goat cheese and sugar/agave/sweetener together until smooth.
2. Taste to see if its sweet enough for your liking, keeping in mind we are adding some honey after. Add more if necessary.
3. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the honey, thyme leaves, and chopped figs. Beat the figs around with the whisk a little so they break down a little until the whole mixture is the lightest shade of pink.
4. Add the last 2 tablespoons of honey but only mix in slightly so you still have swirls of honey.
5. Pour into popsicle molds and let freeze for at least 3 hours or according to popsicle mold instructions.
6. Eat!

Yogurt and Goat Cheese

Yogurt and Goat Cheese

Cherry Blossom Honey

Cherry Blossom Honey

So basically with popsicles or ice cream the more impurities you add to your liquid base the less solid it will be. Adding sugar, fat or alcohol all will make your popsicle softer. For this recipe I used nonfat Greek yogurt but using full fat would give you a creamier popsicle.

Greek yogurt, goat cheese, honey and thyme

Greek yogurt, goat cheese, honey and thyme

Greek yogurt, goat cheese, honey and thyme

Greek yogurt, goat cheese, honey and thyme

This is a lovely very grown up popsicle with good tang from the goat cheese, a floral flavor from the honey and figs and lastly a slight herbal earthiness from thyme. I don’t know that kids would enjoy it as much as adults but this is a perfect light dessert to serve after a summer BBQ.

Fig, Goat Cheese, Honey & Thyme Popsicles

Fig, Goat Cheese, Honey & Thyme Popsicles

Fig, Goat Cheese, Honey & Thyme Popsicles

Fig, Goat Cheese, Honey & Thyme Popsicles

TIPS:
– If you don’t like figs other fruits that can be substituted would be strawberries, apricots, grapes, blueberries or peaches.
– Thyme and the goat cheese could also be omitted. For the herb component you could also substitute it, some herbs that play nicely with sweeter flavors are rosemary, tarragon, mint, lavender, and basil.
– Different kinds of honey would add different dimensions to the flavor, I used a light cherry blossom honey but buckwheat honey would add a deeper honey flavor that would be lovely with the thyme.
– Lastly, if you want a really creamy popsicle you could always substitute heavy cream for the greek yogurt! But just make sure the cook the cream with the sugar before so that the sugar is properly dissolved.

5 Minute Healthy Salad – Strawberries, Feta, Almonds, Turkey + Thyme

One of the best ways to eat healthy during the work week is to BYOL – Bring Your Own Lunch. Cooking a bigger portion ensures you have extra leftovers to bring to work. However there are days when there are no leftovers to be had and very little time in the morning to prep something to take to work. Even though I have turned to Trader Joe’s frozen meals and PB&J’s, I also learned how to make tasty, filling salads that I can throw together in 5 minutes. I love salads with berries and this an easy strawberry salad that requires minimal cooking and will be ready to go in your trusty tupperware in less time than you take to shower in the morning.

strawberry, salad

Strawberry Salad

The best part about this recipe is that the basic concept is there but you can substitute whatever you have in your fridge: if I don’t have strawberries I throw in blueberries, if I don’t have feta I use goat cheese…No turkey? A tiny bit of bacon is not going to kill you. It’s all good 🙂

strawberry, salad

Strawberry Salad

INGREDIENTS:

Mixed greens
5 strawberries
2-3 slices of roasted turkey breast (not the cheap rubber-y kind please)
Handful of almonds
Feta
3 sprigs of thyme
2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat up a small frying pan and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to it.
2. Rip up the turkey in small pieces and add it to the hot pan. Season to taste and let it get crispy and brown around the edges.
3. While the turkey is browning fill your plate/bowl with the mixed greens and slice up your strawberries and place them on top of the greens.
4. Add almonds, thyme leaves, then crumble feta on top.
5. Add the turkey thats browned.
6. Combine the 2 tbsp of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and honey in a small bowl then whisk together and season to taste. If you are eating this right away pour it on top and toss to combine. If taking to work add it to the bottom of the container so everything doesn’t wilt and you can toss it all together before eating.

Amounts in this recipe are fairly loose because you should not be measuring things that early in the morning. Just add however much you want of each ingredient. I recommend adding A LOT of toppings so that the salad feels like a meal and you’re not just eating greens by themselves like a rabbit :/

You could also always add more meat like chicken breast. I like using meat as just an accent as opposed to the main ingredient in this salad because reducing your meat intake is good for you (but hard to do!) and although we tend to cook full meals for dinner (complete with steaks or salmon filets and whatnot) there are so many tasty ingredients you don’t miss it in this salad.

Strawberry

Strawberry

A great way to make salads more flavorful too is to use herbs like salad greens. If you have ever had tabbouleh or fattoush or other Middle Eastern salads, they use parsley and mint as if they were salad greens not just accent herbs. So have herbs on hand! I grow rosemary, basil, parsley and thyme. All are doing pretty well except for the parsley which apparently cats like to eat…

For this salad basil, rosemary, or mint would also pair beautifully with the strawberries.

Thyme

Thyme

Basil

Basil

Rosemary

Rosemary

So this is a lovely 5 minute salad for spring, look out for future posts on a super fast nicoise style salad and citrus-avocado based salad…

TIPS:
– If you don’t have strawberries: blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries would all do – just make sure its fresh fruit!
– We used fat free feta but using real feta makes the salad creamier and using goat cheese even more so!
– If you don’t have almonds, hazelnuts would be particularly good here. Or else pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachio and most nuts would work…perhaps not peanuts.
– Candied nuts always are really good in berry salads as well! Those have a lot of calories so we stayed away from them this time.
– Any mixed greens maybe with the exception of iceberg lettuce could be used as a base – butter lettuce, romaine, spinach, etc.
– If you use a pre-made low fat dressing that would save you even more time!