Archives for January 2014

Shrimp Flambe with Ouzo

Being part of the Greek Dinner Around The World event has been an extraordinary experience, in progress!

Thank you Katie Aliferis for you gracious invitation!

Thank you Keri Douglas for creating this amazing event in bringing together Hellenes from all over the world! You are an example of what Percy Bysshe Shelly meant when he said “We are all Hellenes.”  It’s an honor connecting with you! Looking forward to getting closer. 

Thank you participants and sponsors for your wonderful contriburions and friendships! Hellenes and Friends who joined  us!

We all came together sharing ourselves with each other. Our Greek roots, food, and recipes. Greek products and wisdom. Art, books, and words. With each other, friends, and family from different parts of the world.

I celebrated the day with three of my friends: Georgia Houpis, Martha Sakelariou, Paula Alexopulos.  We had fun and enjoyed Shrimp Saganaki with Feta and Ouzo, Tyropites, Fava Santorini’s, baked cheese with homemade orange marmalade. Ouzo pulled all the flavors together and brought back wonderful memories of Greek summers. The Melomacarouna and Kourambiethers and the freezing weather, grounded us to the season again.

What began as a hectic and challenging day due to some unexpected situations turned into an enjoyable, mellow afternoon.

Stay connected. Go to Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress. Lots more of sharing to come. Great relationships to be nurtured. Things to be learned.  Check out the hash tags below:

Facebook: #Greek Dinner Around the World

Instagram: #GreekDinner

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/keridouglas/greekdinner-around-the-world/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/9musesnews/lists/greekdinner

Open a bottle of ouzo or Greek wine. Put some Greek music on. Share photos to your social media, using hash tags.   Keep the celebration going. I share below my Shrimp recipe which is included in my soon-to-be-published book, Sailing to Ithaca: A Year’s Journey, Nurturing Body and Soul. I hope you’ll try it, because I know you will love this dish.:)

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Shrimp Flambe with Feta and Ouzo (Garides Saganaki)

Saganaki refers to some Greek recipes, specifically of hard cheese and shrimp, made in   a specific two-handled shallow heavy pan, called Sagani.  Of course, any heavy-bottom     skillet will do.

Such dishes are usually served as appetizers or as part of a meal.The process is more or less the same for both cheese and shrimp: after searing, drench with ouzo or cognac and ignite until flames die.

This creates a dramatic presentation, especially when OPA is exclaimed. Ancient as the Odyssey, OPA is voiced with joy and exuberance so as to express enthusiasm in life’s amusing times, in celebrations as well as surprises.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2-3 minced or pureed garlic cloves

½ teaspoon red hot pepper flakes (or to taste)

1 pound large shrimp, peeled (heads and tails on), rinsed, and dried (about 15-16)

Freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/3 pound crumbled firm Greek feta cheese

3 tablespoons ouzo (found in Greek food markets)

Serve with ouzo or wine, Kalamata olives, and fresh, crusty bread.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

  1. Combine in glass container 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2-3 minced or pureed garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon red hot pepper flakes (or to taste), freshly ground pepper, and shrimp. Toss to coat, cover and refrigerate for few hours or a day.
  2. When ready to serve, dissolve tomato paste in 1 tablespoon water. Crumble feta. Measure ouzo. Have them at hand.
  3. Heat a 10-12-inch skillet over medium-high temperature. Add seasoned shrimp and spread flat. As soon as they become pink on the bottom (not even a minute) turn and continue. They should be pink on the outside and barely opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes all together, depending on their size. Do not overcook; they will continue cooking.
  4. Add the tomato paste and toss to blend well.
  5. Stir in 1/3 pound crumbled feta and cook for 1 minute, until feta softens.
  6. Add 3 tablespoons ouzo and carefully ignite. Shout OPA!!!! Toss and turn shrimp to coat, allowing the flames to subside. Remove from heat, and serve immediately with crusty bread as appetizer.

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Share in the comments something you appreciate from the Greek culture. Subscribe and share a link, so we stay connected in more ways than one!

Thank you for coming over!

Katina

 

Musing over Ouzo and Greek Summers

Last summer, my husband Spyros and I invited some friends to our Dimitsana home for ouzo and appetizers.

Dimitsana, Greece

Dimitsana, Greece

Spyros watered the plants and hosed down the terrace. I made the hors d’oeuvre and dressed the small traditional tables in embroidered table linens. Comfortable chairs, enjoyable Greek music, and lit candles turned the veranda into a cozy and welcoming place. A bottle of cold Ouzo, a glass pitcher with iced water, and delicious food welcomed our friends and put us all into a great mood. What started as a simple early evening gathering turned into a magical and memorable night for all of us.

Times like these are battery chargers fostering and cultivating physical and mental wellness.

They are diversions from boring routine and hectic work, allowing us to pause and suspend in time, giving cares permission to drift away. The hours from sunset to complete darkness and beyond seemed like an eternity. Through it all, we were floating with the heightened awareness that what really matters is good friends and the mystery of the velvety starry sky. The perfectly cool night, the inter-play between ouzo sips and bites, and the pleasure of the here and the now was uplifting.

When our guests left, we all were as sober and clear-headed as when we started our evening. Ouzo tickles the throat and warms the heart. But can only be enjoyed in small sips, between little bites. A glass or two can last for hours. If one gets intoxicated, it is not from the alcohol and the food but rather from the charm of such moments. Drinking ouzo is a ritual. There is no need to empty the glass with three big swigs. Water is for thirst. No need to devour the food either. The delight is in the quality, not quantity. The enjoyment, in the surroundings and the ritual itself.

Ouzo is the ethnic drink of Greece. The heart and the core of the Greek earth.  

Made from the best grapes, ouzo is flavored mainly with anise. Other sweet aromatics such as mastic of Chios, angelica, orange and lemon blossoms add variety with their individual aromas.

It is socially unacceptable in Greece to drink without food. Since ouzo is excessively strong on an empty stomach, whenever Greeks get together to share a drink, an array of traditional mezethes always follows. The term mezes (mezethes or mezethakia in plural) refers to small portions of appetizers. A version of tapas, with a distinct and piquant flavor.

Both ouzo and mezethakia are usually served before lunch or dinner to stimulate the appetite, not fill the stomach.

Ouzo does not replace the wine or beer of a normal lunch or dinner. It can, however, take the place of dinner altogether, as long as the appetizers keep coming and glasses are not empty. If the atmosphere is enticing and the conversation stimulating. Summer in Greece is unthinkable without it, whether served by the sea or in little authentic cafes and popular spots, in big cities and small villages.

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The typical mezes served in most cafés is a small plate with whatever is available. 

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Tomato wedges and crisp cucumber slices, sprinkled with sea salt, are a must during the summer. 

Greek semi-hard cheese, such as Graviera, small pieces of bread and Greek olives are staples throughout the year.

Any single ingredient such as nuts, cubes of cheese, tidbits of meat, vegetables or dips, and spreads will do.

 Elaborate mezethes such as keftethakia (small meatballs), grilled octopus, fried smelts, sardines marinated in olive oil with herbs definitely raise the bar. They create the right atmosphere for singing, shouting OPA, dancing, and . . . romancing.

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For years, ouzeries, tavernes, and psarotavernes serve ouzo with a collection of mouthwatering dishes, replacing dinner all together. Guests relax and enjoy delectable traditional bites and lovely music in open-air scenic atmosphere or in the comfort of the indoors.

The Greek summer flirts with ouzo more than any other drink. Maybe, it’s the other way around and ouzo does the flirting. Yet, it does not stop at simply easing the senses. Rather it invites a full romance and an Apollonian/Dionysian affair, arousing the senses to heightened awareness. Not into mischief or oblivion.

While ouzo is the cool drink for the summer, autumn and winter have their own grappa-like spirit, tsipouro. 

Greeks are proud of it and love it.  Also called raki and tsikoudia, this is the favorite distilled spirit in the countryside where vineyards are cultured. Its production is allowed by permit only.

Crafters make it at the end of the grape-harvest and the wine fermentation process. The pomace of skins, stems, and seeds left after the drawing of the new wine is brewed in sealed huge pots. The built in-the-pot-steam is then condensed under running cold water. The collected water-like tsipouro is an extract, almost pure alcohol. Usually, it is heated with honey or sugar, often ignited, and served hot with appetizers.

When I was young, my father took me once to a verdant site with running cold water rivulets, where raki was made. There, I witness both the process and the joyous playfulness exchanged between the generations, as the elders passed down to the younger men this traditional ritual, probably as old as Dionysus himself.

 What a mystical place and an awesome experience that was!

Have you ever tried Ouzo? Tsipouro? Go for a new experience! Dare serve ouzo or tsipouro and mezethakia!black-tapenade-toasts-5950008

Host an early night affair. Set a casual yet inviting table.

Choose Greek appetizers.

Serve the Greek ethnic drink, either cold, with ice or with water and ice. Drink in small sips, so that it lasts.

Leave room for observation or conversation. For jokes and intimacy.

Let the flavors and aromas of Greece take you and your guests to the sunny land where everything is simple yet marvelous.

No matter where you are, you can find magic, beauty, and romance.

It doesn’t have to be Greece. It does not have to include any hard spirit.

Take time to enjoy a glass of Greek wine, a glass of Perrier water, a Greek coffee or a cup of tea.

Make a ritual of it. Do not be in a hurry. Flirt with your surroundings. Romance your drink, the beauty, and the magic around and within. Do it alone or share with friends. Have a love affair of the senses and with each and every moment. Make it a celebration!

Both you and your friends deserve it. OUZO deserves it!!!

 

Note: This post was inspired by an essay in my book, Sailing to Ithaca: A Year’s Journey, Nurturing Body and Soul, soon be out. 

 

 

 

On Virtue: a mature perspective

Continuing from an earlier post

 As we begin the New Year, we try to reflect on the past and decide what worked and what did not.

Instead of making resolutions that we often break before the month is over, many decide to choose a word, or two, that will inspire and keep them focused on a specific idea or action for the whole year.

I chose to BE STILL. Getting frenzied often last year left me anxious and worried. This year I intend to totally focus on Being Still.

Every word is a world unto itself. It motivates the young, soothes the old and the sick, and generates revolutions throughout the ages of mankind. No matter what we choose as our motivational word this year, unless we live life in virtue, one word won’t be enough to keep us focused, help us grow, or connect us to our inner psyche and wisdom and to that of the Divine Universe.

g_acropolisThrough extensive reading and several courses, I have discovered that great teachers have been sent to the world at different times, to diverse cultures, according to each society’s individual needs and maturity. The ones I am more familiar with are the ancient Greek philosophers, two of which stand out for me because I have studied them more: Socrates and Pythagoras whose teachings and life was closer to Jesus than all the others. They were the forerunners who paved the path for Jesus and His teachings.

What do we exactly mean by “Virtue?”

To my understanding, Virtue is a good, moral habit or a character trait, valued as being good, not by specific groups or societies but by the entire Universe, throughout time.

As Pythagoras said over Twenty five centuries ago,

“Virtue is the power of getting Good with Justice.”

And Socrates advocated that

“You should improve yourself by acting good and be truly good from within your soul.”

(Ancient Greek Pearls of Wisdom for the 21st Century, available at: https://www.createspace.com/4324169)

Consider the following virtues and their meaning:

Acceptance means to believe that the circumstances we cannot alter are valuable and fitting to growth.

Benevolence or kindness is a personal temperament that enables an individual to be sensitive to the needs of others and act upon Good.

Honesty requires authenticity. Not to stage a fictitious image while keeping the precise one well hidden. As Pythagoras said,

It is necessary to be good, rather than to appear so.” 

Humbleness is the disposition to be humble as opposed to arrogant. To act from the heart. Not from the ego.

Integrity is moral dependability. It suggests both values and actions should be consistent.

Hope can only exist under the umbrella of faith. It’s a feeling that a need will be satisfied when the right time comes.

Compassion is an emotion. It cannot be seen or touched but can be felt in our inner heart as we deeply feel for another’s distress and have the longing to alleviate his pain.

Patience is the gift to endure hindrance, nuisances or pain.

Devotion is great love and loyalty for another being, a cause or idea

Faith is the key to a virtuous life. It means to have complete confidence in a person, a plan or on a set of beliefs and values.

Excellence is the fact of having good qualities in a high degree.

Magnanimity is bigheartedness. Refusing to be small.  Undertaking noble actions.

Trust means having confidence in self, others, and the Higher Power.

Truthfulness makes us trustworthy to the eyes of others.

Prudence suggests being careful in a sensible way, avoiding the excess, and living within our means. Socrates said:

“He is richest who is content with the least. For content is the wealth of nature.”

Generosity is openhandedness free of expectations. Sophocles said:

“Be beneficial to others with what you have and what you can; it’s your most kind act.”

Reverence is profound awe and respect.

Selflessness implies to thinking of, and acting for, the welfare of others rather the self.

Silence, both verbal and inner, is indispensable to our welfare and spiritual growth.

Strength can be revealed not only on the physical level but in the quiet and enduring way that helps us deal with life’s hardships.

Wisdom is a gift found in the heart within.  Once we have access to it, mainly by suffering, we’ll be empowered to utilize both knowledge and experience sensibly.

Courage is not just a physical attribute but rather a spiritual quality that enables one to face danger or pain without fear.

Justice is the concept of fairness and impartiality. Ethical correctness based on divine or natural laws, not our own narrow mildness.

Temperance denotes moderation and self restraint. The ability of staying calm and peaceful under all circumstances.

Instead of taking you to Scriptures, I thought of opening a small window and giving you the opportunity to glance at the Ancient Greek Philosophers’ perspective on virtue.  Taking it a little further, to show you how the Greek ideals might support you to improve both your personal and professional life. If you want the full view, open Ancient Greek Pearls of Wisdom for the 21st Century, a book written by John Kyriazoglou (https://www.createspace.com/4324169).

A CICA (Certified Internal Controls Auditor), B.A. (Hon-University of Toronto Canada) and an International Business Thinker, John, in his excellent book of Ancient Greek Pearls of Wisdom, has succeeded in making the challenging subject of ancient Greek philosophy uncomplicated and applicable to our problems in the 21st century. This straight forward inspiring handbook reflects the author’s in-depth knowledge of ancient and modern philosophies and his attitude on divinity, universal truths, and the power of the human spirit. His enlightening introductions, extraordinary collection of inspirational maxims and quotations – and their application to today’s life – his stories, recommendations, and prayers, all can help you unlock the divine powers of self and those or our emerging world, during a time when mostly needed. I particularly like his golden rules and recommendations, which I find relevant to today’s social context. I certainly recommend this book to everyone. Whether you are already on the right path or not, this book will keep you moving forward, as these rules can inspire and enable you to master the game of every aspect of life, fulfill your potential, and empower you to live the virtuous and blessed life you were meant to live.

What other  virtues would you add to my list? How does Virtue fit in your life?

Love to read your thoughts in the comments!