September 3, 2014

Eat the World/Aegean Kakavia (Greece)

Before I get to the recipe, I have some house-keeping to attend to.  My small fellowship of readers, should they return for this new journey, have probably noticed that this blog has been dormant for over a year.  I'm not going to go into a long explanation of where I've been or what I've been doing.  If you are one of my real life friends or if you follow me on Twitter, you already know the gist of it, and if you don't then you're probably just here for the food.  But I do need to explain the adventure we're about to set out upon.

At the end of last school year my son expressed a desire to eat Japanese food, but when it was suggested that we could visit a restaurant, he seemed disappointed.  When asked, he explained that he didn't just want to have some random Japanese dish and then resume the normal routine of baked potatoes with chili and pizza.  He wanted to immerse himself.  That was when the kernel of the idea was formed; I suggested that we could do just that at home.  I'd already become accustomed to going to the Asian Market when I wanted to make Momofuku Ramen or Pho; it wouldn't be much of a stretch to shop there for an entire week's worth of groceries.  Well, Boy loved this idea.  As a matter of fact, he loved it so much that he followed it to its logical extreme.

"Well," he asked, "if we can do a whole week based around Japan, we could do a whole week of Chinese food for my sister too, right?"  Girl loves Chinese food.

"Yeah, I guess," I admitted, "we could do Chinese."  I could already see what was coming.  My son's eyes lit up like it was Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled up into one.

"We should do a week for EVERY country!"

And so here we are.  I didn't make up a menu for every country, of course.  That's a bit excessive.  But I did plan out twenty-five weeks worth of menus.  Some I'm excited for (Spain stands out), others less so (unless the internet is lying, there isn't a whole lot going on in Canada, food-wise).  I've tried manage the menus so they have a familiar set up each week; with the exception of England, every Sunday I'll be cooking fish.  Fridays are for desserts; Saturday morning we'll sample breakfasts.  Saturday nights Wife gets a respite (most likely pizza), the same with Sunday morning.  Lunches aren't a part of the plan, though if we make something truly exotic Boy has claimed dibs on the leftovers so he can show his school friends.

Finally, you may have guessed, but with a project of this magnitude I am not claiming to have made any of these recipes.  Normally, that would mean they'd earn the "Other People's Recipes" designation in the title of my post, but for this project I'm simply going to list the country I'm cooking in.  Credit will still be given; I found all of my recipes on Google, and I will link to them in each article; if you feel like it, go to their sites and click around on their ads.  These posts are more about the journey, anyway.  You can come with me, if you'd like.

First up on the agenda is Greece.  You might have thought it would be Japan, since that's what started us down the road, but after spending a summer away at his Bio-Dad's house, Boy wanted to begin with the home of the gyro.  I can't say that I blame him.  But Sunday was to be fish night.

To that end, I chose Aegean Kakavia, or "beautiful fish stew."  We don't do a lot of fish in the household traditionally, because we live inland and try and do all of our shopping on one day, so a stew seemed a gentle way to break into the habit. It's traditionally a fisherman's stew, using the day's fresh catch and water straight from that ocean.  And yes, I lifted that bit of trivia directly from the Jamie Oliver recipe I cooked from.  I feel like it's important to the dish's mystique.

The first thing you want to do is roughly chop two onions and four stalks of celery.  These will go into your soup pot with some olive oil that has already been heated to medium heat, and allowed to cook down for five minutes. Then add five cloves of garlic--also roughly chopped--and cook for five minutes more. 

 On top of that goes four potatoes and three large beefsteak tomatoes--you guessed it--roughly chopped.  Toss in three bay leaves and a quart of vegetable broth, and bring things to a boil.  (Quick note--in an attempt to make things healthier, I used low sodium broth.  Unless you have an actual medical reason for avoiding salt, DO NOT DO THIS.  The next step of the recipe is to season liberally with sea salt and pepper, but let me reiterate.  This is a fisherman's stew, originally made with ocean water, making the salt a featured ingredient and not just an afterthought.)

Once you've got a boiling pot of soup, drop it back down to a simmer and wait fifteen minutes.  I spent mine watching a John Oliver segment on Youtube.  When the timer beeps, return the pot to a boil, add a pound and a half of white fish (I used cod) and repeat the process.  There's no need to mess with the fish if it's been butchered, except to double check for pin bones.  It will break apart when it's done cooking. All that's left is to chop a small bunch of parsley, a small bunch of dill, and juice one lemon.  Toss those wonderful aromatics on top of your soup and serve.

I really enjoyed this stew, and it was a good introduction to Greek cuisine. Some of the flavors reminded me of the Roasted Tomato Soup I made last year, and when I make this again I'll almost certainly roast my tomatoes and garlic first to try and get that depth of flavor.  And I will make this again, without a doubt.  It was easy, cheap, and most importantly, comforting.

Looking at the menu spreadsheet one more time as I prepare to post this, it is clear that we have a long road ahead of us.  Some weeks will be expensive.  In spite of all of my research, some recipes just won't work.  But day one of week one is in the books, and I'd call it a success.  We all ended up adding salt, but we all cleared our bowls, and Boy asked for seconds.  Not too shabby.