October 15, 2014

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - A Simple Guide

11:57 AM FlavorTeaze


So you think you know olive oil?


Extra virgin olive oil is one of the essential elements of the Mediterranean Diet. The truth is that when most people think “Mediterranean Diet” they are naturally drawn to the countries of the Mediterranean region. The reality about this diet though is the fact that it refers to the nutritional habits as well as lifestyle of two particular regions where this diet originated centuries ago...these regions are Southern Italy and most specifically the island of Sicily and Crete. When you think of Mediterranean Diet you don’t think Spanish jamón or pasta dishes or even the popular Greek lamb. The base of this healthy and well balanced diet consists of extra virgin olive oil, an integral part of this diet, legumes, fish, grains, seeds, fruits, vegetables, nuts, natural herbs and spices. It is no accident that all of the above food categories are natural medicine for your heart and body in general. Hippocrates’ phrase “Let food be your medicine” is no accident. Nowadays, we have scientific proof of the benefits of certain food categories and their curing attributes. Unfortunately, with the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet on the rise, and the popularity of the benefits of extra virgin olive oil, companies supplying olive oils found a way to market their products as essential, even those that are far inferior and harmful to your health and intelligence.

Here is a simple guide to help you avoid falling victim to extra virgin olive oil impostors.


Hint #1
Real olive oil (including extra virgin olive oil) will always have a note of peppery finish. This is due to the antioxidants that olive oil contains and although not all olive oils are the same due to the different varieties of olives used for their production, more or less the peppery finish will be there. If you are brave enough you should try olive oils plain, without dipping bread or other foods whenever it is offered by the seller, to determine aroma and flavor, much like you do with wine tastings. Whether a connoisseur or amateur, bad smell and taste will always be revealed so don’t be hard on your self or hesitate because you feel you don’t know enough.
Hint #2
Olive oils have a shelf life or 18 to 24 months depending on their variety and method of storage. Always refer to the expiration dates when purchasing olive oil especially finishing and gourmet extra virgin olive oils since you are paying for superior quality. Even an exceptional EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) will taste different fresh rather than 18 months later. 
Hint #3
Always study the label! The name of the brand does not mean anything. “Lakonia” for example, is used all the time in olive oil labels because the area of Lakonia in the Peloponnese peninsula is known for its superior quality production of extra virgin olive oil, so companies are using it to entice consumers to purchase it, even if the oil is a pomace (you can read about pomace production and what it means to your health in one of the following paragraphs).


Grades of Olive Oil 

The following is an olive oil grade classification according to the IOOC (International Olive Oil Council). The US does not acknowledge these grades nor require that labeling adhere to the definitions as standardized by the IOOC.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Produced by the first cold pressing process of the olive fruit (either by traditional methods or centrifuge) yielding olive oil with less than 0.8% acidity.

Virgin Olive Oil 


Produced by cold press methods as in the case of EVOO, however, the quality of olives used during this phase are of inferior quality in comparison to the ones used in the production of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The acidity of Virgin Olive Oils is less than 3%. If the acidity were to exceed the 3.5% range then the oil would be unfit for human consumption unless additional methods of refinement were used.

Refined Olive Oil (AKA best EVOO impostor)

Olive oil with less than 0.3% acidity but with no taste as it has been refined. This type of olive oil is often mixed with higher quality EVOO to add some aroma to it and pass as the “real thing”. Hence why over 70% of Greek EVOO is exported to other countries to be used as an additive to refined olive oils to fake the consumer’s experience and pass inferior olive oils as extra virgin.

 Pure Olive Oil 

This grade of olive oil is marketed as such and it is produced from a second cold pressing or the chemical extraction of the olive mash.

Pomace Oil

This is the olive oil grade we would suggest you avoid at all cost!  This oil is derived once the mechanical extraction of olive oil is complete and less than 8% of the oil remains. If you have not guessed it yet the left over oil is in the form of pulp or “pomace”. You will find pomace at the super market labeled as “olive oil” and yes, consumers are delighted by the charming price so they do purchase to use in their cooking. Pomace is certainly not medicine for your heart, and depending on its particular method of production can cause harm to you health as it can penetrate through the body cells and damage them.

Light Olive Oil

If you thought of a low calorie olive oil, think again. This grade of olive oil contains the same amount of calories but under no circumstances should be consumed unless it has been chemically processed in which case we would suggest you leave it alone...

Next time you find yourself at the grocery aisle looking at olive oils, use this simple guide to help you make an intelligent decision. Do you have insight or experiences you wish to share regarding your favorite olive oils, or frustrations with what you find in the market? Use the comments box below and share with us.


To shop our premium selection of Extra Virgin Olive Oils click HERE





September 10, 2014

Garlic Alioli

11:37 AM FlavorTeaze


Galric Alioli is a signature Spanish sauce widely used with fried fish and seafood. For a mouthwatering experience try it with some fried bacalao. 

Ingredients:

3 large cloves of garlic (mashed)
2 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt 

Begin with the cloves of garlic which you mash to a paste with a pinch of salt. Transfer to a food processor and add the egg yolks and lemon juice.

As the mix is running start to slowly add the extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube until you get a nice smooth creamy texture as the sauce thickens. Get a taste and adjust the salt according to your taste. Once ready, transfer the alioli to a bowl, cover with a plastic wrap and chill for 3-4 hours before serving.

September 07, 2014

Greek Coffee - Ελληνικος Καφες



Wake up with a Greek cup of coffee.  

In Greece you will hear the phrase "vale briki" which literally means place the briki, but in its translation it refers to the act of making Greek coffee.  What signals coffee time for us? An early morning! 

Greek Coffee is prepared in a briki, a brass coffee pot which allows for the even distribution of heat as the coffee is bought to a boiling point. Unlike espresso coffee, Greek coffee is smooth and even if served without sugar it will still taste smooth, just not sweet. The key to a fabulous cup of Greek coffee is its quality and freshness; old Greek coffee will leave you with a sour aftertaste not to mention it won't be enjoyable at all. At Flavorteaze, we offer only one brand of Greek coffee which we guarantee is going to be super aromatic and fresh.

Join us in preparing an exquisite cup of Greek coffee and jump start your day like a Greek...


Ingredients: 

Water
Sugar (optional)

Preparation:

In a briki measure the number of cups of coffee you would like to prepare and add the corresponding number of cups of water. For example, if you are making a coffee just for you, one (espresso size) cup of coffee would be equal to one cup of water. The beauty of measuring with the actual cup you will drink from is that you would always be using the right amount of water. Consequently, if you are making three cups of Greek coffee you would place three cups of water in the briki. 

To prepare one cup of Greek coffee use one teaspoon of coffee and one teaspoon of sugar. That combination will make a "metrio cafe" which means it will be neither sweet nor bitter. For those who love black coffee you would only add one teaspoon of coffee and omit the sugar altogether. 
For two cups of coffee you would use two teaspoon of coffee and two of sugar and so forth...

Bring the coffee to a boil and then just before it overflows remove the briki from the heat and pour into a cup but only about a quarter of it. The goal is to transfer the kaimaki (crust of the coffee) first and then return the briki to the heat. Let the coffee rise again and remove from the heat. Transfer the remaining coffee to your cup and let it sit for a couple of minutes before you attempt to take a sip.

Sit back and enjoy!

Στην υγεια μας!


August 31, 2014

Greek Honey Puffs - Loukoumades



Loukoumades are the ultimate comfort food. Most of us know them as Greek Honey Puffs, but their name is Loukoumades or more accurately Loukoumathes. As fancy as they seem, they are fairly simple to make; however, they have to be served hot which is why often times you won't find them at Greek gatherings. This sweet temptation is ideal for the late days of summer, which is why we chose them to be our first recipe as Fall is just around the corner.

Ingredients:

0.5 ounces of active dry yeast
31/2 cups of flour
1 cup of warm water
1 cup of milk
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp olive oil

For the toppings you will use:
Honey
Cinnamon
Crushed walnuts (optional)


Directions:

1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water. 
2. Add the rest of the ingredients in the same bowl and mix well until you get a porridge like consistency. That will be your base batter for loukoumades.
3. Cover the batter and set it near a warm place for 1-2 hours and allow it to rise. You will notice that it will develop bubbles on top. That is normal and a good sign that the yeast is doing its magic.
4. In a deep fryer, pour vegetable oil and set on high heat. The vegetable oil should be hot, but not smoking; this is key for a beautiful consistency of loukoumades as you will avoid burning the outside before the inside is sufficiently cooked.
4. Drop tablespoon sized dough balls (use your hands to squeeze tablespoon size doses of dough into a spoon) in the hot oil and deep fry. Make sure the dough is golden on all sides.
5. Take the puffs out of the oil and set in a bowl or plate lined with paper towels (they will absorb the majority of the grease from deep frying). Allow them to sit for a few minutes and top them off with honey and cinnamon.

If you find that you like a thinner consistency in honey, you can mix some of it with water and bring to a boil. You will then remove the bubbles that develop and use the syrup like mix that remains as your honey topping for the loukoumades. 


August 18, 2014

Greek Style Meatballs with Feta (Κεφτεδακια με Φετα)



This recipe serves 6-8 (excellent appetizer)

Ingredients:

1lb ground beef
1 garlic clove (smashed into very small pieces)
1 cup of breadcrumbs or stale bread (if you use the stale bread option wet and strain the bread before adding to the mix)
1 egg
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of Feta in small cubes
1/2 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
Pinch of salt and pepper

Bake:

Preheat oven to 425F or 375F if you are using a convection oven.
In a large bowl combine the ground beef, egg, garlic, breadcrumbs and mix well by hand adding the olive oil and parsley last.
With your hands use small portions of the mixture to form small round meatballs about 1'' in diameter and place the Feta cubes in the center. 
Place in a baking casserole or pan and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown - please note that the baking time differs from oven to oven so it is advised to check them after 15 minutes.
Serve individually or along with fresh bread, tomatoes, olives, or Greek yogurt.

Καλη σας ορεξη!







July 17, 2014

Traditional Greek Tyropita with Myzithra




We are excited to share this recipe with you, because it is absolutely delicious and reminds us of the traditional way our yiayias used to make all the pies (forget the easy way out on this one...you will have to roll your own dough).

Serves 8 (4 if you are Greek)

Ingredients for phyllo dough preparation:

2.2lbs of flour
1 tbsp salt
1 cup of olive oil
2 cups of warm water
3 tsp vinegar

Ingredients for the pita filling:

1 cup whole milk
1.5lbs of grated Myzithra cheese
2 tbsp semolina
2 tbsp cornflour
4 eggs
Freshly grated pepper to your liking

Recipe instructions:

To prepare the phyllo dough, place the ingredients in a mixer and blend until you obtain a soft manageable dough texture. We often recommend that towards the end you mix by hand to get a feel of the dough's consistency. Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes, covered with a towel or plastic wrap. 

In a saucepan, boil the milk and add the semolina to it while mixing. 
Remove from heat and let the mixture cool.
Add the remaining ingredients to it and mix well - you can use your hands just like yiayia or if this is too traditional for you, use a mixer to blend all the filling ingredients together. Once you get a uniform mixture you can add the crushed fresh pepper on top and mix again.

Now that your filling is ready, it's time to roll the dough.
Depending on the pan you are using you can "open phyllo" in square or round shapes.  It all depends on the shape of the pan you decide to use. The goal is to cover the pan's surface with the freshly rolled dough.  The thickness of the phyllo sheet should not exceed 1/6th of an inch. 
After you lay the first layer of phyllo dough, brush it with some egg and olive oil and spread some of the Myzithra filling.  Continue this process with four to eight phyllo layers. How much of the filling you use, it will depend on the layers you can create. The layers might vary based on the size of the pan you are using and on how thin you can get the single phyllo sheets to be; the thinner the phyllo the greater number of layers you will be able to create.  Ideally, more and thinner layers will create a fun crispy dough that will have a flaky look and crunchy texture.

When you place the last layer of phyllo, brush with egg yolk blended in some warm water (just enough to help the york be spreadable) and bake in the oven at 375F (if you are using a convection oven use 350F) for 30-40 minutes. When your pie takes a beautiful golden color this is your hint that another delicious adventure awaits.

Καλη Ορεξη!






June 30, 2014

Ρυζογαλο (Rizogalo - Rice Pudding)



A very popular Greek recipe and a refreshing dessert, especially during the hot summer months...

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 8oz whole milk
  • 1tsp. Vanilla powder
  • 6 tbsp. Sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. Corn flour
Recipe:

Wash the rice thoroughly and drain. 

In a saucepan, combine the 3 cups of water, the rice, the cinnamon and the vanilla and bring to a slow boil.
Cook until the mixture gets an oatmeal like consistency. 

As soon as the mixture becomes oatmeal like add the milk. It is best that the milk is room temperature and not cold. 

Add the sugar and keep mixing until it is all dissolved. Using a wooden spoon continue to slow cook and swirl so that the rice pudding does not stick to the pan.

Dissolve the 2 tbsp. of corn flour to warm water and add to the saucepan with the rice pudding mix. Mix well.

Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to a container of your choice. You can use a large glass bowl or even distribute the mix among small bowls to create individual portions for serving. You will notice that as the rice pudding sits, consistency will change and the mixture will become more solid. 

As soon as the mixture cools (at room temperature) place in the refrigerator for two to three hours.

You can sprinkle some cinnamon on top of the cold rice pudding right before serving.

Enjoy!

June 27, 2014

Traditional Greek Salad




Greek Salad is one of the most simple, nutritious, refreshing, and light fares. Follow this recipe using fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and top with authentic Greek Feta to create a juicy natural dressing at the bottom of your salad bowl like one you've never tasted before! The natural juices of the tomatoes along with the juice from the creamy Feta make a heavenly combination as they blend with Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil. One thing is for sure... it will leave your guests wondering how you made the "salad dressing".

Ingredients:
  • 2 whole tomatoes
  • 6 oz. of authentic Greek Feta
  • 1 sliced red onion
  • 1/2 a cup of olive oil
  • 1 sliced cucumber
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Directions:

  1. Slice the tomatoes into eight pieces (each) and put them into a medium bowl. Add the sliced cucumber, onions, and olives.
  2. Pour the olive oil and salt on top and gently stir the salad making sure the oil and salt are distributed evenly. 
  3. Add the Feta (in cubes or as a whole slice) and sprinkle some more olive oil.
  4. Add the dried oregano on top and stir the salad again.
  5. Serve as a side dish or a light fare. Enjoy!

June 25, 2014

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
This recipe makes 30 Zucchini Flowers

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
15 tbsp. White rice
2 scallions (chopped)
1/2 bunch of fresh parsley (minced)
1/2 bunch of fresh mint (minced)
1/2 bunch of fresh dill
1 onion (minced)
1 large juicy lemon (lemon juice)
1 tsp salt

For the Avgolemono:

1 Lemon (lemon juice)
1 Egg

Recipe:

Remove the stamens and wash the zucchini flowers - set them aside to dry. 



In a pan sauté in low heat the minced onion along with the scallions for 2-3 minutes until they blend well. Add the rice and continue to mix with a wooden spoon for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and turn off the heat while you continue to blend the ingredients for a few more seconds.  Let this mixture which will serve as a stuffing rest for 10 minutes.
At this point your stuffing should look like the one in the images below:





Using a spoon open up and fill the zucchini flowers with the rice stuffing. 


In a casserole, place the zucchini flowers as you stuff them so they are tight together. Once you fill the casserole, cover the flowers with a plate to prevent them from shifting while cooking. Add enough water to barely cover them. Once the water starts to boil, lower the heat, add 3-4 tbsp. of olive oil and let the flowers slow cook for 20-25 minutes.  

In the meantime, prepare the Avgolemono sauce. 
Beat together the egg with the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice while adding to it a few tablespoons of the broth from the zucchini flowers. Usually 4-5 tablespoons of broth will do the trick.

When the zucchini flowers are ready to pour the Avgolemono sauce on top and let it rest for 5 minutes prior to serving. 
For best presentation, arrange the flowers in a platter.


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