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A taste of Greece

Food writer Holly Ebel says Carolyn Page visited Greece, and brought back something much better than a T-shirt for her mother.

Greek Dinner - Carolyn Page
Ingredients used by Carolyn Page while cooking a Greek dinner for her mom's birthday dinner. 
Contributed / Holly Ebel
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Birthdays are always special but especially so if a daughter flies in to make you a celebration dinner.

That's exactly what Carolyn Page did for her mother Sandra Carroll of Rochester a few weeks ago. Page, a native of Stewartville now living in Colorado, was returning from escorting a group of women to Greece. Knowing her mother's birthday was coming up she decided to stop in Rochester. Fixing a traditional Greek dinner seemed just the perfect thing since the trip had also involved culinary events.

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"I chose the menu based exactly on one the group had been served at a beach resort in Mykonos," Page said. "Two Greek chefs had spent the better part of an afternoon cooking and putting the dinner together, and it was sensational. Of course the setting added to the overall ambiance. The Greeks eat long and slow and this was almost a four-hour event. When it was over we were given the recipes, an added bonus."

This was part of a cooking class where the women observed rather than a hands-on experience. Page's travel business had partnered with a Greek travel company of which culinary is a large part of the experience, and the menu observed and served turned out to be the one she decided to prepare for her mother.

Among the dishes were a traditional Greek salad, home-made tzatziki sauce with pita bread, Soutzoukakia (meatballs flavored with cinnamon, cumin and red wine) served with a tomato sauce over rice. Dessert was baked Feta drizzled with honey and sesame seeds. Though she planned to prepare it herself, it didn't quite work out that way. The best laid plans ...

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The two shopped for the ingredients together then traveled to another daughter's house in Racine where the meal was to be prepared.

After a delay, the culinary plan moved forward, and rather than just Page doing the cooking, there were five chefs at work – Page, her sister and husband, a friend and the birthday lady herself. In spite of the delay it went off just beautifully.

"It couldn't have been more perfect. The amazing thing to me is that growing up Carolyn wanted nothing to do with the kitchen or cooking," said Carroll.

Greek Dinner - Carolyn Page
Carolyn Page cooking a Greek dinner for her mom's birthday dinner. 
Contributed / Holly Ebel

Now with this side travel business (a joint venture with several women) she cooks many of their meals when they stay at Airbnb's. The Greek trip was their first overseas adventure with future trips planned for Spain and Scotland. When not leading trips, Page is a coding manager for a health care system in Denver.

Looking back on the trip itself what impressed her the most about the Greek cuisine?

"Everything was so fresh, like it had just come from the garden. I also loved the unique spices like the use of cinnamon and cumin as well as garlic. As there were 15 of us, we ate most of our dinners family style where large platters of Greek salad, meats, fish and vegetables were passed around so we were able to sample many typical dishes. The Greeks are known for their healthy diet and we certainly experienced that. As we left, we all vowed to eat more healthfully."

Opa!

Fresh Greek salad

2 medium tomatoes, chopped in bite-sized chunks
1 cucumber, sliced into half moons
1 green bell pepper, sliced in thin strips
1/2 red onion, sliced in thin strips
10-12 Kalamata olives
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice

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In a bowl, mix vegetables together, then add olives and mix in oregano. Salt and pepper to taste, then mix in olive oil and lemon juice. Top salad with feta.

Soutzoukakia

For the meatballs

1/2 pound each of ground beef and ground pork
1 egg
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper

Combine meats, then add in rest of ingredients. Refrigerate one hour, then shape into either round or oblong balls, roll in 4 tablespoons flour and saute in olive oil until golden brown.

For the sauce

1 red onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon ouzo
1 tsp. white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 14-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil to large saucepan and add grated onion and cook until fragrant. Add garlic and saute for a minute, then add Ouzo, vinegar and spices. Stir together. Add tomato paste and cook 30 seconds, then add tomatoes, bay leaf and sugar. Add wine and salt and pepper. Let sauce simmer for 15 minutes, then combine with meatballs and serve over white rice.

Baked feta

7-oz. block feta cheese
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons honey

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set up three dipping stations – the flour mixed with pepper, egg and lastly sesame seeds. Begin with coating the feta block with the flour/pepper, then dip into egg and finally into the sesame seeds. Transfer onto baking sheet with a rack. Bake 30 minutes (can broil at the end if desired). Drizzle with honey and serve with pita bread.

Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com .

Food for Thought - Holly Ebel column sig

Related Topics: FOODRECIPESHOLLY EBEL
Post Bulletin food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com.
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