Tag Archives: Greek food

Happy Earth Day! …Unless You Like Greek Yogurt

22 Apr

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Happy Earth Day! …Unless, like me, you love Greek yogurt.

I just found out it takes 90 GALLONS of water to produce one teeny tiny container of Greek yogurt.

But if you are looking for a few Greek yogurt recipes, try these delicious recipes I made:

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The Starving Artist Eats Burgers on the BBQ

17 Jun

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Summertime was all about BBQing when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey. (So much so that it even found its way into my memoir!) We spent many humid nights outside under a canopy of green leaves and stars, swatting away mosquitoes, as we ate food from the BBQ. Most of the year, my family didn’t eat dinner altogether too often because my father worked long hours and got home late—and because he didn’t eat the same “American” foods that the rest of us ate. In the summer, when it was too hot to turn on the oven, he’d fire up the grill.

Now maybe it’s a regionalism, but I recently BBQed with someone not from the TriState area and discovered that “BBQ” to them meant something entirely different. BBQ to them is its own separate category of food. It’s a big deal. An art. What I call “BBQ,” they think is just basic “grilling.” To my ears, grilled anything sounds like something off a health-food menu. As in, you order grilled chicken when you’re on a diet, even though what you really want to eat is fried chicken.

But grilling doesn’t have to be equated with flavorless meat topped with zero-calorie iceberg lettuce. Nope, we made stuffed burgers. We stuffed it with Fontina cheese and mushrooms and onions and peppers and so much deliciousness. Or at least it looked delicious to me. As a vegetarian, I made due with veggie burgers luxuriously slathered in Stubbs BBQ sauce. My skinny little soy burgers weren’t nearly as exciting as the juicy stuffed burger. Sigh.

I just came across a recipe for a Feta-Stuffed BLT Burger, and my Greek American heart skipped a beat. I may not be able to eat it as a vegetarian, but for all you Greek cheese-loving carnivores out there I thought I’d pass it along: Feta-Stuffed BLT Burger recipe. And for those of us who abstain from meat, I’ll offer this alternative Greek vegetarian burger recipe:

  • BBQ your favorite veggie burger (I like Boca burgers) per the directions on the box
  • Grill some onions
  • Lightly grill a piece of pita bread
  • Once everything is grilled, place the veggie burger in the pocket of the pita
  • Stuff the pita with the BBQed onions
  • Also stuff the pita with a salad of feta, tomatoes, and cucumbers soaked in olive oil and oregano

Eat and enjoy!

This is part of a new series I’m doing called “The Starving Artist.” I used to do posts called “Tasty Tuesday,” but I’m switching it up a little now to focus on budget-friendly recipes for writers.

I’m always on the hunt for vegetarian-friendly Greek foods for the BBQ, so if you have any suggestions please post them in the comments section.

Also, did you know Greeks have a whole holiday devoted to BBQed meat?

If you’re not a meat-eater, you might also like this Greek vegetarian BBQ idea.

 

From the Ottoman Empire to Greenwich Village: Coffee Houses’ Literary History

23 Sep

It’s Coffee Week! Sunday, September 29, is International Coffee Day, so I’m devoting the entire week to all things coffee.

First, a bit about Coffee Day, via Squidoo:

After a comprehensive research, it looks like that people started to talk about this festival as early as 2005, but there has been virtually on mentioning of this term until 2009 when a few local coffee shops began offering free drinks and discount coupons. In 2010, there has been news on national newspaper that briefly talks about activities on the day.

My conclusion is that the history of this festival is relatively short and my own conspiracy theory is that some sort of a national coffee association started to promote it as a way to generate more business.

So why devote a whole week to International Coffee Day 2013?  Well, one of my missions here on this blog is “embracing the beatific.” For me, part of that means noticing and celebrating the little things in life. So often we get hung up on fancy restaurants that serve rich meals that we take the ordinary for granted, even though it sustains us. A cup of coffee can be a great comfort. A pot of coffee can be shared amongst friends. It can fuel a writer’s creativity.

As usual, I’ll be putting a literary spin on things.

Let me kick things off by first telling you a little about the history of coffee. From what I’ve read, coffee originated in Africa, and by the sixteenth century had found its way over to the Middle East. From there it reached Europe and Asia, only coming to the Americas later on. Having first been cultivated by Arabs, coffee shops were prevalent in the Ottoman Empire. In fact, they became so popular in Mecca—not simply because they served coffee but because they became gathering spots, where people could discuss politics—that they were banned in the early 1500s. Imagine coffee shops as speakeasies!

It was about 1645 when the first European coffee shop opened, and that was in Venice, Italy. Apparently, Greeks had an impact on coffee culture, which is no surprise really when you think about the Greek Empire’s impact on history. Johannes Theodat was a Greek who set up the first coffee shop in Vienna. In any regard, coffee houses became the place for artists and writers to meet in nineteenth-century Europe. Again, it wasn’t so much about the coffee—though certainly there was an art to making a good cup of coffee. Much like Starbucks is today, coffee houses back then were places writers could go in, order a cup of coffee, and spend hours writing or conversing. Low on cost, high on value.

Here in America, we can thank Italian Americans for setting up coffee shops in places like Greenwich Village and North Beach. And wouldn’t you know it, these were the places the writers commonly associated with the Beats hung out. Tiny tenements made for cramped quarters, so eager to socialize on the cheap these poets and novelists met up at coffee shops in the 1940s. By the ’50s, they were doing poetry readings there. Today, many cafes offer poetry readings and live music.

92-Year-Old Greek Diner Shut Its Doors in Literary Neighborhood

24 Jan

Ninety-two-year-old Greek diner St. Clair has closed down, reports Grub Street, after learning the news from Brownstoner.

Owned by five Cypriot brothers, according to New York magazine, offered various Greek dishes such as the Greek Delight Platter, Corfu Salad, and Greek Moussaka alongside classic American dishes like The Best Baked Meatloaf and 14 Oz. new York Cut Sirloin Steak Sandwich. Brooklyn Daily provided a little history that when the diner was revamped in 1967 it was opened up as the New St. Clair by the Costa family. In 2007, they sold it to Spiro Katehis, who also owns the Carroll Gardens Classic Diner. The Greek diner was at the corner of Smith and Atlantic in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.

In The Town and the City, Jack Kerouac housed the parents of his main character in Brooklyn and mentioned the Boerum Hill neighborhood. Of course back then, the neighborhood hadn’t gone through its yuppie gentrification—Kerri Russell and Michelle Williams have called it home—and was known as South Brooklyn or North Gowanus.

Considering the establishment had already opened in 1920 and Kerouac was in the area in the 1940s and ‘50s, it’s possible—though not proven—that he could have stopped in the St. Clair Diner.

The neighborhood is famously home to another writer: Jonathan Lethem, who told the New York Sun,  “’My image of the writer came from people like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac.’” When he was younger, Letham hitchhiked to California and worked at used bookstores. In 2011, he was the Roy E. Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College, where I studied literature and Classical Greek.

Prepping for Hurricane Sandy

28 Oct

 

Just got word that the MTA is shutting down at 7 tonight for Hurricane Sandy.  Doesn’t make much difference to me.  I’ve been stuck sick in bed for two days.  Yesterday, started out well enough.  I went to Barnes & Noble and got a Pumpkin Spice latte and Dutch Apple cheesecake and then braved the grocery store.  Grocery shopping in New York City is always a nightmare with too many people and tight aisles, but yesterday was nuts as people were preparing for the storm.  It was like trying to shop the day before Thanksgiving.  I bought ingredients to make broccoli soup from a recipe out of one of the cookbooks I edited and fortunately made it before I got to feeling too sick so now I don’t have to cook at all.  I can just sit in bed and watch a million episodes of Color Splash, my favorite interior decorating show, and dream up my perfect home.

Are you prepared for Hurricane Sandy?

If you’re like me and totally unprepared for any sort of emergency and don’t own a flashlight, shame on you!  By now, all the flashlights are gone.  Even finding candles in the drugstores is getting hard.  Get creative.  Barnes & Noble* sells a wide variety of battery-operated reading lights.  Just because it’s for reading, doesn’t mean you can’t use it to find your can opener if the lights go out.

While you’re there, pick up the Barnes & Noble* ereader the nook if you don’t already have one.  Charge it up pronto and download some books.  If the power is out for a long time, you’ll have plenty of reading material.  My book recommendation is Jack Kerouac’s Dr. Sax perfect for Halloween.

It’s still a good idea to have some candles on hand.  If you can’t find any at the drugstore or grocery store, that’s okay.  Class it up with some scented candles from Bath & Body Works.  I picked up the Cranberry Woods and Lemon ones during their 2-for-1 sale.

Speaking of scents, if we don’t have access to water that means you won’t be able to shower.  I suggest some perfume or body splash to keep you smelling fresh.  I’ve got Bath & Body Works‘ Plumeria body splash (which always makes me think of my Hawaiian friend from undergrad).

Now you may not be able to wash your hair but you can use an oil-absorbing dry shampoo.  I’ve used the TRESemme dry shampoo with mixed results.  That said, I do favor their regular shampoo and condition.  And, they don’t test on animals.

Another great animal- and eco-friendly company is The Body Shop, where I’ve been shopping since middle school.  I love the Tea Tree Oil line, and today stocked up on their cleansing wipes in case I won’t have access to water to wash my face.

While at The Body Shop, I also picked up anti-bacterial hand sanitzers in my most favorite scents satsuma and pink grapefruit.  I normally advise against these sorts of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers because I fear using it will lead to the creation of a resistant super-bug, but hey, you’ve got to have clean hands somehow if there isn’t good old-fashioned soap and water.  Plus these ones smell amazing, unlike some brands that smell like rubbing alcohol.

If you wear contacts, keep your stylish glasses in an easy to locate place.  In fact, make a to-go bag of all your critical necessities (medication, keys, cash, etc.).

Now in terms of food, non-perishables does not have to mean SPAM!  There are lots of great foods that are either non-perishable or that don’t require cooking.  Go Greek with canned domathes, Kalamata olive spread, raw almonds, honey on bread, and sesame candies.

How are you staying storm stylin’?

 

*I work for a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble.

Tasty Tuesday: Photos of Meze at Parea Bistro

28 Aug

 

 

My friend Demetrios and I went to Parea Bistro for dinner.  I let him do all the ordering, and we got a ton of different meze.  Every single thing was delicious!  I think my favorite might have been the htipiti, which is a spicy feta cheese dip that has jalopenos in it.  I also got a Santorini Sunset, which is a Makedonikos rose semi-dry wine with elderflower liquor and a splash of tonic water.  Hey, if you can’t make it to Greece, at least you can drink like you’re on an island!

Parea Bistro is located at 36 E. 20th Street, New York City.

Tasty Tuesday: Corn on the Cob as Street Food

14 Aug

 

In Greece a popular street food is grilled corn on the cob.  But unlike here in the States, the husk is left on while the corn grills.  Then it’s doused with a heavy portion of salt.

I found these ears of corn at a market along the side of the road in the Hamptons.  They tasted so much fresher than the corn at the grocery in the city.

Tasty Tuesday: mamagyro

24 Jul

I didn’t feel like cooking so I decided to check out mamagyro.  Isn’t that such a cute name?!  It’s fast-food Greek food on the Upper East Side.

mamagyro is at 1113 Lexington Avenue, New York City.

Tasty Tuesday: Pictures from Dinner at Village Taverna

10 Jul

 

 

 

While I was getting my MFA in creative nonfiction at The New School, I kept walking by a Greek restaurant that was being built on University Place.  When it finally opened, I was drowning in writing my thesis and Burning Furiously Beautiful.  Right before the semester ended my writer friend Allison–who is obsessed with Greece (a good thing considering all the Greek stories I shared in class)–and I went to check it out.  Village Taverna was definitely worth the wait.

The food at Village Taverna is classic Greek taverna fare served up in a spacious, beautiful dining area with a casual vibe.  The portions were generous–and delicious.  I didn’t try the wine, but they have an impressive Greek wine list.  Village Taverna has the best vegetarian gyro in New York–the grilled vegetables pita wrap.  I want to go back and try their meze–tzatziki and veggie chips, namely–and vegetarian moussaka (it has artichokes in it!).

Who’s with me?!

Tasty Tuesday: Pictures from Brunch at Ovelia in Astoria

26 Jun

I went to brunch at Ovelia in Astoria with my sister and cousins when they visited.  Ovelia is one of my favorite Greek restaurants in New York.  I love their modern take on traditional Greek foods!  And it’s got a great funky vibe going on with the decor.