My Big Fat Zsa-ZEE-kee

In food on 02/11/2009 at 7:58 pm

One of the places on our list to visit is Santorini, Greece. To find the culture locally, we go to Astoria and partake in the food, not the ‘Greek diners’ which I find distasteful, but the real deal joints that serve the ethnic cuisine. Grilled octopus with a squeeze of lemon can’t be beat. Our usual spot is the greenhouse-like Uncle George’s on the Broadway of Queens, followed by loukoumades around the corner, tiny donut holes piled up and drenched in honey.

The house wine at Uncle George’s can’t be beat. I drink it whilst watching the giant roasting spit filled with twenty or so chicken and rolls of lamb innards and legs churn over the fire. The wine is cheap and semi-sweet, not too dry. We prefer the red; the national beverage, retsina, a white wine which takes on the flavor of the pine resin seal, still needs to be eased into. There’s a sweetness to it that’s different from dessert wine. Further investigation is warranted. We always get the trio of appetizer dips: tzatziki, melitzanosalata and taramosolata. Tzatziki represents Greek food to me. So crisp and refreshing and light. The raw garlic doesn’t hurt. Makes me salivate just thinking about it.

I was introduced to melitzanosalata there, which the other half calls eggplant butter. It’s like baba ghanoush, sans chickpeas. A little mushy for me, but nice. The taramosolata is generally the weakest of the trio. It’s usually too salty and the quality of the fish egg, questionable. If I were to make anything with caviar, I probably wouldn’t mask it with other ingredients. When I was in Russia, our tour group’s luggage was forever being broken into between cities, and any caviar that was stashed was usually gone when it was returned to the owner. At least homeland security leaves a nice printed card telling you they were fumbling through your delicates.

Greek yogurt (any thick one is fine, or you can just strain regular American yogurt)
green or yellow zucchini (grated for a smooth dip, or chop into cubes for more crunch. I prefer zukes over cukes because there’s less inherent liquid so it won’t water down the dip)
lime or lemon juice
olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic (grate it so you get all the flavor but not the crunch. I’m not a fan of biting into it)

Put all ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. Serve with Cuban or French bread like they do at Uncle George’s; it’s a more satisfying chew than pita. QQ!

Bonus Recipe: Eggplant butter
lime or lemon juice
olive oil
salt and pepper
feta crumble

Bake whole eggplant at 375° until super soft and wrinkly, ~45 min. Let cool to touch. Gut out the eggplant in a bowl and add the other ingredients to taste. Skinny dip!


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