Soutzoukakia (try saying that 10x fast!)

Earlier this week I had ground pork and beef out and was debating whether to go "loaf" or "ball." Italian flavors? Maybe Thai? How about Greek? I was leaning toward a feta/spinach flavor combination which is sort of Greek, so I thought of looking at Laurie's Mediterranean cooking site, Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, for other ways to go. Wouldn't you know it, her latest post was for Soutzoukakia (soo-tsoo-kah-kee-ah), a hand-formed sausage made from ground pork and beef, and simmered in a red wine sauce. I'm pre-disposed to like anything long-simmered in a red wine sauce, so this was a no-brainer. It also allowed me to play with Aleppo pepper again since both the meat "balls" and sauce had this special pepper. After tracking down this spice for 2 years, I finally happened upon it at The Souk spice store at Pike Place Market in Seattle last January. The Plasto recipe that we had last week also called for Aleppo pepper, but it's flavor was not as pronounced as it was this time. It's a very flavorful and mild heat that reminded me of Spanish hot pimenton.

The recipe calls for the meats and spices to be combined, then formed into football-shaped "sausages" and browned before being added to the simmering red wine tomato sauce. It comes together fairly quickly, and the house was redolent with a rich meaty smell that T commented on as soon as he stepped through the door. We served this as recommended, with feta (I still got my cheese fix!) and kalamata olives; but skipped the rice in favor of fresh-garlic bruschetta to sop up the wonderful sauce and to ensure we got our garlic dose for the day. The cumin and pepper really differentiate this from its Italian cousin, as does the surprise addition of red wine vinegar. This is another one for the keeper files. Here is Laurie's Soutzoukakia recipe on her site. I used only half the given quantity for the sausages (11 palm-sized footballs), and shaped the rest as meatballs, fried them, and immediately froze them for future use (maybe with grilled polenta?).

1 loaf of French bread or a baguette
2-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
olive oil

Halve loaf or baguette lengthwise. Toast or broil until just golden brown. Immediately rub garlic cloves over all cut surfaces of the loaves. Drizzle with olive oil. Great with any dish with a sauce, especially these Soutzoukakia, but also
Crab Cioppino, Crawfish Etouffe, Chicken Barbera, and Stuffed Cabbage.

We only ate half the sausages for dinner so there were these tempting ground meat things swimming in delicious gravy in the fridge the next morning. You know what that means, don't you? Loco-moco, of course! For the yet-to-be-initiated, loco-moco is an Hawaiian breakfast favorite consisting of a bed of rice topped with a meat patty and fried egg, and covered in brown gravy! We christened this version . . . you guessed it
the Soutzou-moco! (You heard it here first, Folks!)

A Taste of Greece: Plasto

Greek Plasto

The day before Thanksgiving our trusty toaster oven gave up the ghost after 50 months of nearly daily use. We really test the limits of our table-top ovens — roasts, casseroles, tians, cakes, brownies, and yes, even, toast are produced each day in its energy-efficient cave. I had intended to roast the 9lb. organic turkey breast we secured for turkey day in the toaster, instead T was called upon to work his Grillmeister skills on the bird that day. We also had to do our Friday night turkey tetrazzini on the grill, and that worked pretty well.

Thanksgiving bird on the grill Turkey tetrazzini ala grill

We were all set to prepare Monday's new recipe on the grill as well when lo and behold, the FedEx man came with my new DeLonghi convection oven with rotisserie. Yay! This is the third DeLonghi toaster oven we've had, the first with either convection function or a rotisserie. I thought about baking this dish on the grill anyway to go into more detail about using a grill as an alternative oven, but let's be serious, I wanted to play with my new oven! : P
Plasto baking in our new oven!

So the inaugural meal from the new toaster oven was from Laurie at Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska — Laurie writes about Greek cooking from her home in Alaska. She speaks with the perspective of a native Greek chef (she has a second home in the islands there), and she's adapted traditional Greek recipes to the North American kitchen. Her posts include history, anecdotes, and cultural insight (distilled from 400 Greek cookbooks in her collection!) into the many dishes she prepares and shares. I love those sort of details, don't you? The first of the many recipes I've earmarked to try is called Plasto, but Laurie notes it has many other names as well. Basically it's a braise of mixed greens and cheeses enveloped in a cornbread crust. Doesn't sound like a typical Greek dish you'd find in a restaurant, does it? We love greens, we love cheese, I love corn — this recipe had our names written all over it. Here is Laurie's recipe.
Greek cornbread and greens: Plasto
The beauty of this dish is that it seems so adaptable. Change the greens, change the cheese and you'll have a different experience. We used Chinese broccoli, watercress and garlic chives for the greens, and a mild sheep's milk cheese (Ossau-Irarty) this time. It was a delicious combination of savory (greens) and sweet (cornbread). If you like collard greens and pot likker with cornbread, it's kind of like that, but in a casserole. And Laurie notes that this dish is equally good cold, and it is — you can eat it like a sandwich. Brilliant!