July 4, 2014

Recipe: Zucchini Fritters with Garlicky Tzatziki Dip
from Debbie Matenopoulos' "It's All Greek to Me" {Book Review & Giveaway}


It's the 4th of July.
Happy birthday, America!
Today, as we celebrate our freedom,
we're also looking back and paying homage
to our ancestor, Anastassios Kolovos,
who at the age of 16, in 1908, immigrated to 
the U.S.A. from Vlahokerasia, Greece.
Anastassios represents the first chapter
in our family's American story.


Celebrating our cultural heritage has always been important to my family, and one way we stay connected with the traditions of generations past is through food.  I'm always eager to learn more about Greek cooking, so I was excited when I was invited to join the book tour for "It's All Greek to Me -- Transform Your Health the Mediterranean Way with my Family's Century-Old Recipes" from Debbie Matenopoulos.  


In Debbie's warm and authentic style, she weaves incredible family recipes, anecdotal storytelling, and stunning photography that will transport the reader to the Greek family table, and delight their taste buds with the flavorful, heart-healthy delicacies of the Mediterranean.  At the end of this post, you'll have the opportunity to enter to win a copy of It's All Greek to Me of your own.


Here are some of the recipes that I am most looking forward to trying:

Gigantes:  Greek Giant White Beans (page 183)

Horiatki Salata:  Greek Village Salad (page 86)

Kalamarakia Tiganita:  Lightly Fried Calamari (page 50)

Revani:  Almond, Orange, and Semolina Cake (page 254)


I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Debbie about her Greek heritage and her new cookbook:

Rook No. 17: If you had to name the three most characteristic Greek ingredients, what would they be?

Debbie:  The three most characteristic  Greek ingredients are oregano, lemon, and olive oil. Those are flavors that are very prevalent in most Greek cooking.  As we all are learning, the health benefits of lemon, olive oil, and oregano are immeasurable.  I believe that is one of the key reasons that The Mediterranean diet is so good for you.  ;) 
 
Rook No. 17: What is your most nostalgic Greek food from childhood? 

Debbie:  My most nostalgic Greek food from my childhood would have to be Gemista, otherwise known as stuffed peppers and tomatoes. I have such fond memories of coming home from track practice after school and walking in the house to that very recognizable smell. It would fill our home with the most amazing, mouthwatering scent. The tomatoes and peppers were filled with onions, flat leaf parsley, lean ground beef, and rice sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, and oregano. We'd crumble feta cheese on top of them sometimes. They are simply scrumptious.
 
Rook No. 17: What are common misconceptions about Greek food?
 
Debbie:  A common misconception about Greek food is that it is not good for you. I think people in the states think that because unfortunately most of them have only been introduced to things like Gyro's or Souvlaki's. The truth is those are the equivalent of Greek fast food.  That would be like telling someone in another country that all we eat here in America are hot dogs and hamburgers.  It's not exactly accurate. Greek food and the Mediterranean way of eating in my opinion is the most healthy way of eating on the planet. For years now, doctors and dietitians have agreed that not only is it heart healthy, but it also lowers cholesterol and helps you maintain a healthy weight.  The recipes in my book are proof of this. 

Rook No. 17: What region of Greece is your family from, and how does the cuisine of this region differ from what most American’s recognize as typical Greek food? Do you have a favorite regional dish?

Debbie:  My family is from northern Greece, a place called Xanthi. It's close to Thessaloniki (the second largest city in Greece) and also to Turkey.  There are different flavors in the food depending on the region of Greece you are from. In many regions, people put cinnamon in the savory dishes. I'm not a fan of that. The cuisine in Xanthi has been influenced by Turkish dishes given its close proximity to Turkey. There is a very popular dish that's often eaten in northern Greece called Imam Baldi, which means "the fainting priest" in Turkish. As the story goes, the dish was SO good that when the priest tasted it, he fainted. 

Rook No. 17: As a mother of two, I’ve enjoyed sharing my and my husband’s family heritage with our girls through traditions and cuisine. With a little one in your near future (congratulations!), what traditional dishes and customs will be most important for you to share with your child?

Debbie:  Thank you!! ;). I’m so excited about the baby. I am very proud of my Greek heritage and I want to share every aspect of being Greek with my baby. I will start speaking Greek with him or her from the beginning and hope to travel to Greece as often as possible to make sure my child has a comprehensive understanding of our culture. I will continue cooking Greek food and hopefully teach my child how to make my family's century-old recipes from an early age so that out family traditions will live on. The good news is, that if my child doesn't show an early interest in cooking like I did, at least I've compiled lots of family recipes in my cookbook so when he/she finally does come around, they'll all be there to explore. ;)


Today, we're celebrating our family's Greek heritage with the amazing, light as a lamb's tail Zucchini Fritters and Tzaziki from It's All Greek to Me. I'm a big fan of the french fry, the tater tot, the hush puppy, and the onion ring, but honestly, this crispy-fried fritter has them all beat. The ethereally light batter showcases the tender heart of the zucchini squash, sweet and briny feta cheese and mint, making for a toasty, melty little cheese puff that you'll want to pop till you drop.   Dip them in Tzatziki to put them totally over the top.




Kolokithopites (koh-loh-kee-THO-pee-tes)

Zucchini Fritters

(from It's All Greek to Me, courtesy of BenBella Books, Inc.)
*my notes in red* 


This dish is traditionally made to use up the zucchini pulp that is left when making Kolokithakia Gemista me Kima (Stuffed Zucchini, page 202). Greek families feel it is disrespectful to waste food, so they always find a way to use every part of the fruit, the vegetables, or even the animals they are consuming. These fritters are charmingly rustic, so don’t worry if they are not perfectly round.

SERVES 4 TO 6

  • 3 pounds medium zucchini, washed and stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint (I used only 2 TB)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 to 8 ounces brine-packed Greek feta (about
  • 11/2 cups), crumbled small
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese (I used Parmesan)
  • Olive or vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 recipe Tzatziki (page 76) (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Step 1:  Cut the zucchini in half down the center into half cylinders. With a small teaspoon or a grapefruit spoon, hollow out the zucchini skins by scooping out all the pulp, leaving about 1/8 inch of zucchini intact next to the skin. Leave the bottoms intact so that you are left with a “zucchini cup” that can be stuffed later. Take care not to crack or puncture the skins. Cover the zucchini skins and reserve in the refrigerator to make Kolokithakia Gemista me Kima.


Step 2:  Transfer the pulp to the bowl of a food processor or high-performance blender and pulse a few times to chop finely. Place the finely chopped zucchini pulp into a colander and toss with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cover the zucchini with a plate and put a weight on top (such as a large can of tomatoes). Drain for 10 minutes, briefly rinse, then squeeze as much moisture as possible from the pulp with impeccably clean hands.


Step 3:  Whisk the flour, eggs, mint, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Gently fold the drained zucchini pulp into the flour mixture along with the feta and kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese (if using). Stir until the mixture resembles a thick batter.

In a deep skillet or Dutch oven set over medium heat, heat about 1/2 inch of the oil until it shimmers (see tip, page 42). Working in batches if necessary to prevent overcrowding, scoop out heaping tablespoons of the batter and carefully drop into the oil. The fritters will naturally flatten out. 

I found that my batter didn't perfectly flatten out in my oil.  So, I decided to form them with two large spoons, quenelles-style, and cooked them for 2 minutes on each side.

Cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until golden brown, flipping them over carefully, just as you would a pancake. Remove the fritters from the oil and drain on a large, oven-safe plate lined with paper towels. Keep fritters warm in the preheated oven as you continue to fry the remaining fritters in batches. Serve plain or with Tzatziki.

For the Garlicky Tzatziki (halved and adapted from It's All Greek to Me):

  • 1/4 seedless English cucumber, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and mashed into a paste
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon minced fresh dill

Coarsly grate the cucumber using a box grater or food processor and toss with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.  Place the grated cucumber in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and drain for 10 minutes.  Squeeze as much  remaining water from the cucumber as possible, transferring the drained cucumber to a medium mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and mix well.  chill for at least an hour before serving. 

------------------------------------

GIVEAWAY

Enter to win a copy of It's All Greek to Me by Debbie Matenopoulos, courtesy of BenBella Books, Inc. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

17 comments:

  1. I have a baked bean recipe rich with molasses & brown sugar. No runny beans here! Thanks for the chance at this great book. OPA!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have a potato and macaroni salad recipe that I have been making for over 30 years.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes! I am Romanian and I make my mom's version of potato salad with chicken "salata de boeuf cu pui"

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have a chess pie that has been in my family for many years! We have a family reunion coming up this month- the perfect time to make it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh my gosh! Those fritters look delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love to make watergate salad,

    ReplyDelete
  7. I made my grandmother's shortbread cookies to take to the family reunion this year. They were a hit!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think that I'll try to make my mom's potato salad this summer. kristiedonelson(at)gmail(dot)com Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. My mom makes graham cookie bars from a recipe passed down from her grandmother. They're easy and delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Love Zucchini and can't wait to make these.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've already been making lots of my grandma's sweet tea recipe this summer.

    ReplyDelete
  12. No summer get together is complete without my mom's potato salad. Just wish she was still around to share it with us.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I will make some of my grandmother's recipes like congo squares.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Blueberry crunch and banana pudding! Both are my mil's recipes!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I will make old fashioned strawberry shortcake! glindathegood@bellsouth.net

    ReplyDelete
  16. No special recipe for this summer. Just lots and lots of fruits!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm going to make my mom's bread for a birthday celebration

    ReplyDelete

I enjoy hearing from you! Thank you so much for taking the time to be part of the creative and positive spirit here at Rook No. 17! xoxo Jenn

Pin It button on image hover