Monday, September 22, 2014

On the Homefront: Trip to the Greek Isles Table

Blue-eyed Dalmatians Apollo and Athene welcome you to
a Greek feast fit for the gods!

Before I start thinking about autumnal table settings, I felt the need to set one more summery theme based upon the color blue which has been obsessing me lately.  I have also been wanting to do a table featuring some pretty mosaic fish and starfish-patterned plates I have had for many years but rarely seem to use.  Mosaic patterns make me think of the Mediterranean, and Greece in particular for some reason.  I have also been craving Greek food like the sort we had in New Mexico a couple of months ago (you would think that living near a town called Athens we would have at least one Greek restaurant nearby, but no such luck!).  For these reasons, I decided to do a "Trip to the Greek Isles" table featuring lots of blue and white with a coastal Mediterranean feel:

Unfortunately all of the dark colors, especially the blue
tablecloth, resulted in very dark photos.  The table truly
was not so somber-looking as the pictures seem to suggest!

Blue place mat; fish and starfish mosaic dinner and salad plates (made in Italy) from Pier 1 many long years ago; blue fish print napkin and blue fish chopstick/knife rest, both gifts from my husband a while ago; white-handled-flatware and blue goblet from Target ages ago; white coastal design water glass from Big Lots years ago.

(Using the flash helped lighten the look in close-up shots, but there was too much contrast for photos taken at a distance.)

A closer look at the dinnerware.

Two blue fish-shaped bowls will hold the side dishes.

The mosaic dessert plates are for the baklava.

Aqua-colored glass beads resembling sea glass
surround a large white candle.

A white and blue tray depicting a sea life scene holds the
two little Dalmatians, blue salt and pepper shakers, and a
blue vase filled with white daisy mums.

White votive candles in blue starfish-shaped holders flank
the tray.

(The light was so tricky from this angle that none of the
photos came out well, with or without flash.)

The menu is simple and easy to make.  Fish is the main course for this coastal-themed table, served up Greek-style (adapted from a recipe for salmon) with side dishes of rice and salad.  I love the eggplant-based dip called Baba Ganoush and it is not difficult to make, but you could serve hummus instead.  Though I have made Baklava from scratch before, it is a bit tedious and time-consuming.  I can often find it in some of the local grocery stores, so I prefer to purchase it rather than make it myself, although I have linked to The Pioneer Woman's recipe in the menu if you are feeling adventurous (she gives detailed and easy to follow directions, as well as lots of photos).

Trip to the Greek Isles Menu:

Baba Ganoush*/Pita Chips
Greek Style Baked Cod**
Greek Rice
Greek Salad I

3 T. olive oil
2 eggplants
1/4 C. tahini (see Note)
juice of 1 large lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. minced fresh parsley

Rub the outsides of the eggplants with 2 T. olive oil and place in a foil-lined baking pan.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the eggplant skin is charred and the flesh is tender.  Cool the eggplants and then remove the peel (discard the seeds as well if you prefer).  Roughly chop the flesh and place in a food processor.  Add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, some salt and pepper, and 2-3 tsp. water (I used the liquid left behind in the baking pan by the eggplants).  Process the mixture to a coarse paste, adding more liquid as needed if the mixture is too thick.  Adjust the seasonings.  Spoon into a bowl, cover, and chill for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature and top with the minced parsley and remaining 1 T. olive oil.  Serve with pita chips.

Note: If you do not have or do not care for tahini, try using cashew or almond butter instead.  Stir in about 2 T. toasted sesame seeds for the flavor if you like.

**Greek-Style Baked Cod

2 T. olive oil
4 cod fillets (about 4 oz. each)
salt and pepper to taste
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 C. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 small red onion, diced
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
4 kalamata olives, sliced
2 tsp. lemon juice

Coat the bottom of a glass baking dish with the olive oil (choose a dish size in which the fish will fit snugly but without touching).  Add the cod fillets and turn to coat on all sides with the oil.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the remaining ingredients evenly over the top of the fish.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the fish just starts to flake with a fork.  Serves 4.

Greek Rice

1 C. uncooked long grain rice
2 1/4 C. chicken stock
2 tsp. minced fresh mint or oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the rice is tender and all of the liquid is absorbed (remove the pan from the burner and let sit, covered, until ready to use to ensure the rice is completely cooked).  Fluff the rice with a fork.  Serves 4.

Greek Salad I

3 T. olive oil
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/4 red onion, cut into slivers
1/2 English cucumber, cut into chunks
1/2 bell pepper, cut into slivers
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled or cut into cubes
16 kalamata olives

Whisk together the first six ingredients in a small bowl.  Place the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over and toss gently to combine.  Serves 4.

Dove milk chocolate candies in blue foil wrappers were lined up on two white ceramic fish-shaped plates:

(Just a bit of trivia - did you know that the dove is one
of the sacred animals of Aphrodite, the Greek
goddess of love, as is the fish?)

Lovely blue-eyed Dalmatian Aphrodite hopes you will
return again soon!

As they say in Greece, "καλή όρεξη", or bon appétit!

Breathtaking coastline on the Greek island of Santorini.

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