I had been looking forward to this meal for several days now. Whether anyone else cared or not, I knew I had something to look forward to this weekend. And I was really hoping this would go well since our cat Algeria ran out the door, and we haven’t seen her since. And of course my eight-year-old daughter is sincerely heartbroken about this. Our other cat Morocco is an introvert like my husband and I, so she’s not quite the playful, frisky cat the kids want her to be. She’s the type that’ll stare at a wall for hours. But I’m sure I can make them feel better with food. It always works with me, and my kids are merely a slow genetic leak.
The bread I made today was called Koulouri-Cypriot Village Bread, or as my husband calls it, Bread With Rocks, Sticks, Pinecones, and Other Debris. The dough starts out with flour, salt, olive oil, ground anise seed, water, and a yeast mixture. It’s kneaded until it becomes a sticky dough and is formed into a ball. It needs to rest for about an hour. After kneading it one more time, I put all of the seeds – sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and caraway seeds – into a bowl with a little water. I took my dough ball and rolled it around in the seeds and let it sit for another 45 minutes. After laying it on some parchment paper (I was surprised I even had some left), I put it in the oven for 30 minutes. It came out smelling wonderful and the black and white seeds on the golden bread looked amazing. And what’s better is the taste. The crust pulled away from the inside of the bread, and it was best when it was fresh out of the oven and steam rose out of it a bit after cutting it. I did forget to score the bread before baking, but no worries. Even my husband ate a piece and acknowledged that debris-laden bread isn’t all that bad, and can even be – what’s the word? – tasty. Seeds are actually very good for you, so I’m counting this a health food.
|Picture perfect. Well, for a bread covered with rocks and sticks and debris.|
The next dish I made was called Village Salad. It’s a simple salad filled to the brim with vegetables and flavors that can be served throughout the year (but probably best in summer. This is October, and it’s still in the upper 70s during the day). I used chopped cherry tomatoes, sliced baby cucumbers, a little bit of onion, a half of a green bell pepper, feta cheese, some black olives, and I added a few capers that weren’t mentioned in the recipe but should have in my opinion. I gave it a good shake and topped with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, fresh oregano leaves, and lemon zest. The lemon zest is what did it – it completely changed it flavor and brought out the bright notes in it and cut the acidity of the olives and vinegar. Who knew what a little lemon zest could do?
|All of my favorites. My finicky four-year-old picked out all of the feta cheese and left the rest.|
The main dish is called Afelia, or Cypriot Braised Pork. To braise a piece of meat means to lightly pan fry it and then slowly stew the meat. My guess is that by pan-frying the outsides, it helps to lock in the natural juices on the inside, allowing you to create a very tender piece of meat. The recipe called for pork belly, but I used boneless pork ribs instead, cut into small pieces. I placed it into a large bowl, covered it in merlot wine, added crushed coriander seeds, and a couple of bay leaves, and let it marinate for about an hour. Then I took the meat out and pan-fried it in a skillet. Afterwards, I added the marinade back into the skillet and added a little bit of cinnamon, and some salt and pepper and let simmer for about an hour (although the recipe just said 40 minutes). My daughter called it “purple pork” because it looked purple after marinating and simmering in the wine. When it was done, it was so tender, it practically melted in your mouth. The red wine was discreet and the sweet spices counterbalanced the dryness of the wine. I thought it was simply divine.
|And the best part? I still have half the bottle of wine left!|
And to go with this is a recipe I found for Cypriot rice pilaf. Unlike the rice pilaf that I was familiar with, apparently in Cyprus, a popular recipe calls to use vermicelli in it. However, the recipe I found wasn’t exactly complete, and I had to fill in the blanks (like most of the quantities). First I started cooking the vermicelli pasta, and after it was done, I drained the water and added some minced garlic. Then you’ll need to half a cup and a quarter of chicken stock (because I only added a cup, and it wasn’t quite enough), a little turmeric, and some minced onion. I also added a small can of peas and carrots. Once everything’s been stirred up and heated together, I added ¾ cup of uncooked rice and let simmer for 15 minutes. Because I didn’t have enough stock, the bottom got a little scorched and was a little thick, but otherwise, it was really good. Once I tweak the recipe a bit, I think it could be awesome.
|At least I know MY rice pilaf doesn't have MSG in it.|
The food was excellent. Definitely a do-again. And each dish was fairly simple to make, yet each was packed full of flavor. These would be the perfect dish to make for your next get-together, holiday, or dinner party. Although I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone has the same discerning tastes that I do which is often disappointing. And I struggle with this. I either need to learn to deal with them or get better friends. (Haha.) But one person who loved the food and ate the entire plate was my daughter. I suppose maybe having her helping me in the kitchen helped to take a load off of her mind about that cat. Food is powerful: it brings people together, it separates you from the people who have dull taste buds, it makes you feel better inside and out.
|Awesome meal. Now about that half bottle of wine...|
Up next: Czech Republic