Thursday, March 5, 2015

Greece

Flag of Greece
via the Wikimedia Commons
Location: Southern Europe, bordering the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas; between Albania and Turkey
Capital: Athens
Area: Over 130,000 sq km; 97th biggest in the world
          Slightly smaller than Alabama
Highest point: Mount Olympus
Religion: 98% Greek Orthodox
Population: Just over 10.75 million; 81st largest in the world
Names of Some of Their Political Parties:
    Anticapitalist Left Cooperation for the Overthrow
    Golden Dawn
    Popular Orthodox Rally
Three Main Foreign Relations Issues, according to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
       Turkish challenges to Greek sovereignty in the Aegean Sea
       Legitimacy of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
       Naming dispute of Macedonia (see more here)

Sources: CIA World Factbook, Wikipedia

Within the last two year or so, it seems like most of the news out of Greece has been the economic crisis in Europe and a lot of angst over the Euro.  In school, you learn a lot about the history of Ancient Greece: the gods, the philosophers, the culture.  In this house, it is all about the food.

If Kevin were to pick one cuisine to eat for the rest of his life, he would pick Mexican (or at least our American understand of it).  I would choose Italian.  Brendan, I'm fairly certain, would go with Greek.  His favorite food since before he was one has always been olives.  Green, black, kalamata: it doesn't matter.  We use those as bribes more effectively than candy.  He loves "white salad cheese" AKA feta.  And the boy can put away some lamb.  So, if he had understood what was going on, he would have been pumped.

There are certainly a lot more Greek restaurants and access to Greek food in the states than, say, Ghana.  I felt it was something I could definitely do more than once.  Plus, I found so many good recipes.  I picked a few from my international cookbooks and started sourcing ingredients.  And got hungry.

For the first meal I picked two recipes from my International Cuisine cookbook that I've used a few times before. The first was Afelia, which is fried pork with coriander.  It was supposed to be served with Pourgouri Pilafi, or pilaf of cracked wheat.  Neither one of these is what I, in my limited knowledge, would consider American-Greek or anything, so I thought it would be a good thing to try.

For the Afelia, you use a pork tenderloin and marinate it in wine, salt, pepper, coriander, and even a cinnamon stick.  Then it gets sauteed after draining the marinade.  Yummy smells ensue.
While the meat was draining, I worked on the Pilafi.  After cooking some onion, you saute it with crumbled, uncooked vermicelli, which is very fine pasta.  Through this blog I have learned to pre-cook rice, but not pasta before.  The noodles are supposed to absorb the oil I was using for the onions.
Then you add chicken stock and the pourgouri, which is cracked wheat.  Wait, doesn't this sound familiar? I used the same thing for Burundi and Armenia.  I wouldn't have guessed that this would be a repeating ingredient but there you go.  They're not exactly next to each other geographically, either.

Homemade stock that I forgot to defrost on time...
Then it all gets boiled together in the stock for a while while you finish up the meat!  The remaining meat marinade gets adjusted and cooked to create a sauce.  You toss the pork in this so it is all warm together.

Tossed pork.

I don't know why I don't have a plated picture, but there you are.  Pork with a side of noodles and wheat.  The verdict?  Delicious!

The pork had plenty of flavor, and not something that I would consider stereotypical - at least not in my palate.  The pilafi was a nice compliment - yummy, but not overpowering the meat.  And, really, it was one of the easier dishes on the international cooking scale.  Yay!

I was happy, but I knew I needed to do some more with Greece.  Where is the lamb?  These aren't the dishes I normally see on a Greek menu!  So I continued on for another adventure.

Next time: Greece Revisited

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