Last night we were supposed to go out to dinner but with the major snowstorm upstate, we chose not to travel, built a fire and stayed put. Instead we traveled to Greece with a French side trip!
We started with store bought hummus – Sabra brand with roasted garlic. Now what I always do, and I think this makes it just a little more special, is drizzle high quality, extra virgin (of course) olive oil on top and then sprinkle on some ground cumin. I served it with whole grain pita chips and some fresh red pepper strips. Fast, easy and delicious!
I then made Melissa Clark’s recipe for Moussaka that was in the NY Times Dining section this past week. It was called “Greece on a Speedboat” – which was supposed to mean that this was the speedy, sort of short-cut version of moussaka. Well, it still took 2 1/2 hours! And it was good but it wasn’t great. To me, when you spend that much time on something, it should be great. And I guess to make the authentic version takes even longer! We have been to Greece several times. I love Greece, even Athens, and Santorini used to be our special place but now it’s too crowded. The Greeks are lovely laid back people yet all their traditional dishes are very labor intensive. Ever make Baklava or watch someone make it? All those separate sheets of thin pastry, each one buttered, layer upon layer. Yikes!
But let me tell you about the salad I made. It was a Jacques Pepin recipe also from the Times the week before this last. He wants you to make it with frisee but my little local market doesn’t even sell that. I guess it’s too expensive and they don’t have a calling for it. So I substituted a bunch of watercress and a sliced endive. I figured these two combined could substitute the slightly bitter frisee bite he was looking for. It was delicious – I’m thinking it may have even been better! You tell me.
Here’s the recipe. I love his way of making the croutons rather than roasting in the oven. You must constantly toss them but you have more control and can achieve beautifully colored croutons with just the perfect crunch and this uses much less oil than oven roasting which equals less calories. Yay! The dressing is more mustardy – very French and very delicious.
FRISEE WITH CROUTONS AND SPICY OLIVES
Adapted from “Essential Pépin” by Jacques Pépin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)
1 1/2 cups 1-inch bread cubes
1 tablespoon olive, canola or peanut oil (I used olive oil)
1 tablespoon spicy mustard
1 teaspoon crushed and finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small heads frisée, cut into 2-inch pieces (5 to 6 cups) or one bunch of watercress, large stems removed and one endive sliced in rounds
1/4 cup pitted spicy green olives, cut in half
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, each cut in half or thirds
Drop bread cubes into a skillet and sprinkle oil over them. Toss gently and cook over high heat, tossing constantly, until cubes are browned on all sides. Remove from skillet.
Mix mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and vinegar in a large serving bowl. Whisk in oil.
Add the frisée or watercress and endive, olives and sun-dried tomatoes to the bowl and toss thoroughly. Divide among 4 salad plates and sprinkle the croutons on top.