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Going Greek. June 12, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. A couple of years ago, our friend Ben and I were staying at our favorite vacation destination, the Log Cabin Motor Court in Asheville, North Carolina, where we have our own little log cabin complete with a full kitchen. We’d gone to a cheerful Greek restaurant down the road, and I’d ordered Greek salad and what the menu referred to as “Greek pasta.” The salad was delicious, but the pasta was boring, with a simple olive oil and crumbled feta topping. (Fortunately, OFB and I had ordered pita and tzatziki sauce as an appetizer, so between that and the salad, I was perfectly satisfied.)

Determined to turn the pasta into something delicious—especially since the huge portion could easily feed both of us if we added a salad—I had it boxed to go. The next night, I boiled broccoli florets until just bright green, then drained them. Meanwhile, I sauteed diced sweet onion and minced garlic with basil and oregano in olive oil in a deep pan. When the onions had clarified, I added the pasta and broccoli, lots of crushed red pepper, cracked black pepper, and salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare, hot herbed salt), turned the heat way low, stirred well to mix, and covered the pot to let the pasta heat through.

Yum!!! What a breakthrough! The dish was healthy and light—perfect for summer. It’s been part of my summer repertoire ever since. Best of all, it lends itself to endless variations.

I’ll be making it tomorrow night for dinner with friends. This is what I’ll do: Tonight, I’ll roast sheets of sweet onion wedges, quartered garlic cloves, small button mushrooms, corn cut off the cob, and miniature orange sweet bell pepper halves, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with cracked black pepper, salt, and a mix of dried oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. Once they’re cooked through and their flavors have deepened, I’ll stash them all together in a container in the fridge.

When OFB and I get to our friends’ house, I’ll cook the pasta (we like multigrain or Jerusalem artichoke pasta, and I like spaghetti with this, though fettucine would be excellent, too). While it cooks, I’ll reheat the roasted veggies in a deep pan and add quartered artichoke hearts, fresh basil leaves, and seeded Kalamata olives (you could go for sliced black olives or garlic-stuffed green olives if you preferred).

When the pasta’s al dente and the veggies are good and hot, I’ll drain the pasta and add it to the veggies, stirring well to blend, then serve it up and pass the crumbled feta cheese on the side so everyone can have as much as they want. (Now that I’m a vegan, I can’t indulge in real feta, but I’ve made some cubed tofu “feta” from a recipe I found in VegNews, and maybe I’ll try to get brave enough to actually try it. I suspect it might be a better idea to try it in the salad instead, though, so maybe I’ll do that.)  

Our friend Carolyn is making tomorrow night’s salad, so I’m not sure what it will include. But when I make Greek salad, I like to keep it good and simple: chopped Romaine lettuce, arugula, diced sweet Spanish onion, chopped green onion (scallion), pitted Kalamata olives, chunked cucumber, chopped ripe paste tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs like basil, thyme, and mint. Served up with a simple dressing of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, plus plenty of fresh-cracked black pepper and salt, and crumbled feta for those who want to add it. Yum!!!

Our friend Rudy is responsible for the red wine that will round out our meal. For a healthy dessert, rather than taking the baklava option (yummy, but not what I’d call healthy or low-cal), we’ll probably pass around pistachios and dried apricots. Non-vegans could chop and stir them into luscious Greek yogurt, or stir some plain Greek yogurt or tzatziki sauce into the pasta sauce for a richer flavor. But we find the lightness of the olive oil-based sauce ideal for summer. It practically begs for a minted, lime-juice infused melon ball appetizer, too.

Please try your own variations and share them with us!

                 ‘Til next time,

                              Silence

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