Turkish? Greek? No, Cypriot!

2010.Oct.04 Monday · 4 comments

in Casa SaltShaker, Food & Recipes

“When I was a boy we didn’t wake up with Vietnam and have Cyprus for lunch and the Congo for dinner.”

– Lyndon B. Johnson, president of the U.S.

Independence Day in Cyprus is likely a difficult time, after all, one-third of the island is occupied by Turkey and claimed by them as a sovereign state (not recognized internationally, but a buffer zone is maintained by the U.N.), and small parts are occupied by the British for military bases. When you’re country is as small as this one, that’s a lot of land to give up. We thought we’d give them a piece of Buenos Aires for the night to supplement the acreage, and play around a bit with some classic flavors of the island.

Grilled Halloumi salad

Halloumi cheese is perhaps Cyprus’ most famous product, adopted by other countries, but its origins lie on the island. And surprisingly, it’s easy to make, and since it’s unavailable here in BA, I whipped up about a kilo of it during the week beforehand and had it ready to go on the weekend (if you can’t find any and don’t want to make it, feta, particularly goats’ milk feta, works really well for this too). Sliced and marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and orange peel, I pan seared it on one side and then placed it atop a salad of arugula, black olives, diced orange segments, and warm chickpeas that had been cooked in olive oil with mint, parsley and basil, salt and smoked paprika. Winning dish of the day!

Avgolemoni soup

One of my favorite simple soups, avgolemoni – normally made with chicken stock but we had a couple of pescetarian requests, so I made it with vegetable stock, to which I simply add rice and cook it through, and at the last moment, prior to serving, whisk a mix of eggs and lemon juice into it to create a creamy texture. A little salt, white pepper and mint to finish it off, delicious!

Braised Octopus and Fried Onion Pizzetta

There are a couple of classic octopus dishes in the Cypriot canon, one of which is braised in red wine with bay, cinnamon, cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper, the other a fried dish with onions. I sort of combined them – braised the octopus for about four hours until it was completely tender – though I added a splash of vinegar and sherry to the liquid mix, then chopped it up. Meanwhile, caramelized a good amount of yellow onions. Then, put them both atop a pizza crust with a bit of cornmeal in it for texture, drizzled it with hazelnut oil and baked them until they were puffy and golden brown. Happy campers all around.

Roasted sea bass with lemon-thyme potatoes

I was a touch worried about this dish at the onset, I’m not sure why, but I was. Shouldn’t have been, it turned out great – fillets of sea bass simply sprinkled with salt, pepper and olive oil, roasted in the oven. Served over garlic spinach and topped with a little chopped green olives and roasted green pepper, a schmear of sun dried tomato puree to the side, and little potatoes that were baked in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and thyme.

Honey Cinnamon Tart

Originally I was planning to make classic loukoumades, a deep-fried cinnamon fritter doused in honey, but trying to get out that number of deep fried items to the table (loukoumades are not all that exciting once they start to cool off), without a deep fryer, wasn’t a good option. I went with the honey tart/pie that I’ve made recently and simply added cinnamon, nutmeg and mace to the honey, and then sprinkled the tart with a mix of cinnamon and sugar.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Alli October 5, 2010 at 02:59

Wow the menu looks fabulous…I wish I had been one of the guests :o)

dan October 5, 2010 at 09:56

Alli – I have to thank you for the homemade halloumi recipe! It was one of the stars of the evening.

Michael October 12, 2010 at 13:10

As always, a mouthwatering compilation that makes me wish I was there.

I was wondering if you could post the ratios for the honey tart/pie filling. I clicked the trackback which listed ingredients without amounts. I’m thinking of trying to make this in a sheet pan like lemon bars for a friend’s party – the picture above makes it look like it could work well cut into bite-sized squares.

I’m also considering a little fresh-cracked black pepper on top with the cinnamon/sugar for some bite, but I am crazy that way (and will try it myself first, of course). 🙂

dan October 13, 2010 at 00:14

1 cup of honey and 3 tablespoons butter warmed together until butter is melted. Whisk into 4 lightly beaten eggs; add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a good pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon.

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