22 May 2012
Today Bob and I took a cooking class with Katerina (www.odysseyapartmentporos.gr). The three of us prepared a five course meal for 18 people! As daunting as that may sound, she made it both easy and fun.
The menu was planned around food choices that we had previously enjoyed and wanted to learn to prepare: a creamy smoked eggplant spread, mushrooms in cream sauce, pork in a garlicky lemon sauce, and chicken in a lemon sauce with mastika–a Greek liqueur seasoned with the resin of the mastic tree, a small native pine tree. The dessert would be made with lemon also–sensing a theme?
We got started at 3:30 with a tasting of mastika, comparing it with Sambuca. The latter is an apperitif that is strongly flavored with anise; mastika has a slight anise taste, but mostly the resin flavor comes through. It’s definitely acquired taste.
Then we did the prep work. Most of the ingredients were homemade or home groown, including their own cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil made from olives on their farm. First we shelled peas, sliced carrots and Spring onions, diced garlic and herbs–mint, oregano, rosemary–and grated and squeezed lemons. Then we pierced the eggplant and put them in the oven to sear their skin.
Then the cooking started. Key to each dish was to start with plenty of olive oil. We:
– sauteed onions at high heat, then added peas and carrots, lowered the heat and let them cook slowly;
– sauteed more onions and garlic, browned the cubed pork, and added white wine and lemon juice and let that cook slowly;
– sauteed yet more onions and garlic, browned chopped chicken, added mastika and lemon juice and let that cook slowly;
– made little nests of shredded filo dough, brushed them with olive oil and put them in the oven to bake– these would be topped with the chicken for presentation at dinner;
After a wine break, which Katerina said was also custom while preparing dinner, we made a pesto of green peas, olive oil, garlic and cheese that woud be served on bread rounds as an appetizer;
Then we assembled the dessert–little filo cups that would be filled with an exquisite lemon cream made of yogurt, a soft cheese, and some flour and topped with pine nuts.
A special touch was to prepare homemade pasta, that would be served with the pork.
Lastly, we made the mushrooms in cream sauce.
– thickly sliced the mushrooms, sauteed them, added white wine and simmered them, then added soy cream.
Dinner, served around 8:30, was enjoyed by all as we basked in the glory of being hailed as superb chefs.