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Friday, July 22, 2011

Food Journeys

Michael and I both  adore Greek food. We simply love it. I spent a few weeks there as a kid with my family on a long layover before we moved  back to the United States.  Michael spent a summer in Greece as part of a study abroad course during college. Although our individual time there was years apart, it's interesting to think that our whispered  footsteps might have crossed paths somewhere in Greece.

 I've conjured up many Greek meals throughout the years, hoping to tap into Michael's food memories and shower him with pleasant feelings from his time there.  During my kitchen shenanigans, I've cooked them all; baklava, pasititio, spanakopita, moussaka, gyros, tzatziki, and souvlaki. 

Eventually, after a botched bechamel for yet another moussaka, Michael finally confessed that he never ate those foods while staying  in Greece. At fifty cents a shot, the youth hostel where he stayed offered spaghetti, meatloaf, and cheeseburgers.  Really?  All righty, then. 

That didn't stop me. I did, and still do, cook a lot of Greek inspired food.  I no longer do it in hopes of unlocking tucked away memories of steel blue skies enveloping stark white-washed terraced Santorini homes.  I cook Greek food because we love to eat it. We're seduced by the intoxicating tastes and aromas of garlic, lemon, oregano, and olive oil that identify the Greek flavor profile.

Last night was no exception.  Lately, it's been hotter than hades outside, but the heat hasn't kept me out of the kitchen. Although it alters what I do in the kitchen, I still get in there and play. Last night,  I didn't light a single burner or touch the oven. Nope.

I threw together a very classic Greek salad. A true Greek salad is very straightforward.  It doesn't arrive on a bed of lettuce or have a creamy feta flecked dressing. It's simply sliced tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, cucumbers, and green peppers topped with sliced Greek oregano-dusted feta cheese lightly dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.

On the way to work yesterday, I stopped by the farmers' market and picked up an assortment of tomatoes: baby yellow bells, small black bells, sun gold cherry tomatoes, and black branywine tomatoes. While negotiating the sight-seers, I bagged a few kirby cucumbers, green bell peppers, and baby purple candy onions.  On the way home from work, I literally ran into Fresh Market (wearing blinders to avoid distraction) and grabbed a fabulous block of Greek feta cheese along with a pint oil cured kalamata olives.

When I finally got home, I poured a goblet of chardonnay, sat down at the kitchen table, and lovingly sliced the farm fresh produce into bite sized pieces.  I adore prepping food, loving  the way it feels and smells while working with it. When it's as fresh as it was yesterday, it's shear joy. Each turn of my knife released burstingly fresh vegetable mist into the air and onto my face.  I could see it, smell it, and taste it. Non-cooking doesn't get any better than that. 

The dressing was a snap to prepare. Using a traditional ratio of one to three, I mixed 3/4 cups olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, a pinch of sugar, 1 teaspoon  minced garlic, 1  1/2 teaspoons Greek oregano, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, and whisked it together until the dressing emulsified.

I tossed the vegetables into a large bowl, showered them with dressing and gave them a gentle quick toss. After sliding  the vegetables into the refrigerator to marinate, I joined Micahel in the parlor for a few glasses of while we discussed our upcoming vacation. 

When it was time to eat, I tumbled the gorgeous Greek salad onto our plates, nestled sliced feta cheese on top with a sprinkling of dried oregano, scattered feathery fresh dill, and spooned additional dressing over everything.

It was the perfect foil for a hot summer evening. When sliced, the tangy feta crumbled into the glistening vegetables. Each bite of subtle slivered onions, crunchy cucumbers, meltingly fresh tomatoes, and velvety black kalamata olives  exploded with hints of garlic, soft acidity, and luscious olive oil.  Simply delicious.

Sometime during  the night, after falling asleep on the couch, I was awakened by a notification on my phone.

Michael had posted on Twitter: 
From my travel journal, Summer 1983.
Thank you for an exact duplication.  With
Kentucky tomatoes, and you.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Without even trying.

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