In a large pot, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 10 ounces strawberries, and 6 lemons and 1 lime, both thinly sliced. Mash with a potato masher, 5 minutes. Stir in 6 cups of water and let sit 30 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large container, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Serve over ice. Makes about 6 cups.
Ana at Sweet Almond Tree chose this salad (which really was a salade nicoise) for today’s project. I used greens from the CSA instead of spinach. I added some cucumber and did not use olives since no one here likes them. I added some herbs and a pinch of sugar to the dressing to give it more flavor. I thought it was very tasty and I’ll be finishing the rest up for lunch today! I eat a lot of salads for lunch and this was a nice change.
The Greek Orthodox Church in Buffalo holds a Greek festival every year in the beginning of June. I started going when I was a junior in high school and my Latin teacher took us on a field trip (we also learned Greek that year, so it made sense). My husband and I went when we were dating. We missed a few years when our children were little but have been going pretty religiously since they got big enough to handle it.
This is, hands down, my favorite festival of the year. It’s held in and around the church. They put up giant tents so it is rain or shine. I admit I am nostalgic for when they called it the Hellenic Festival, but the new name probably draws more visitors in. The festival begins with parking, which is normally a hassle downtown, but Children’s Hospital owns an empty parking lot down the street and they sell parking for $4, all of which is donated to the hospital. So I walk into the festival already feeling good about that and happy to have parked conveniently!
They always have live music and Greek dancing: children, teens, and adults at different times in beautiful costumes. The dancing is always well done and very rousing. It makes me long to have a solid ethnic heritage like that. We always go inside the building because the Sunday school rooms are transformed into little shops. This year my friend and yoga teacher Kim Gionis had a shop where she sold her beautiful jewelry. After browsing the shops, we head upstairs where we inspect the incredible pastries for sale, all made by hand by church members. We walk by the traditional Greek costumes on display and then go into the church itself. I love to look at the ornate altar and beautiful artwork in the building. I always find this church very peaceful for some reason.
Then of course, there is the food. The food at this festival is to DIE for. We’ve settled on a combination of dishes that we get almost every year now and every year I still can’t believe how good they are. We always get a combo plate of savory dishes: spanokopita (spinach and cheese in phyllo), tiopita (cheese in phyllo), and pastisto (beef, bechamel, noodles and spices). The platter is supposed to come with moussaka but we don’t care for that, so we get a double order of spanokopita.
Next up are the meat dishes. We always get chicken souvlaki, which is marinated and full of flavor. The Greek salad with it is always crisp and refreshing and there is just enough dressing.
Then there is the beef gyro which has super thin beef, tomato, onion and a yogurt sauce. To die for. The best thing of all however, is the saganaki. Cheese is fried on a very, very hot griddle in front of your eyes and doused with lemon
juice and brandy – when it’s poured on and flames up, they yell “Opa!” It’s served on a pita and I could eat this every single day of the year with no problem. The outside of the cheese is brown and crisp. The inside is melted. It has a wonderful lemon flavor. Just heaven.
Someday we will find a way to be able eat some lamb too – but usually we’re just too full! After this wonderful spread we walk around a bit to make room for dessert.
Dessert is rice pudding and loukoumades, balls of light fluffy dough that are deep fried and doused with honey and cinnamon. We usually have to roll ourselves to the car after all of this indulging.
We look forward to it every single year and it has yet to
I’ve posted that we joined a CSA this year. I also signed up for a chicken share. A small local shop that carries only local foods instituted this. You sign up for 6 months and every month you come and pick up the amount of chicken you ordered. I signed up for 1 whole chicken and several packages of boneless breasts each month (there was a mix up though and I ended up with leg quarters instead for the first month). The chicken is pasture raised on a local farm, without antibiotics or hormones. If supplemental feed is used, it is organic.
I picked up our first share recently and we enjoyed a roast chicken from it. I’ve been buying organic chicken for a long time, but this is my first experience with local chicken, as well as pasture raised chicken. We all immediately noticed two things. First, the chicken had a different flavor than we were used to. It just had a stronger flavor. Secondly, the chicken was a little chewier than chicken we are used to. I think both of those things are due to the fact that these chickens lived like real animals, moving around a pasture, eating real food and I liked it. We’ll be trying the leg quarters next and I’ll report back on how we enjoyed those.
Eating locally comes with some compromises. They don’t have an exact date when the chicken will be ready to pick up and will be emailing and calling a day or two in advance, which makes it a little hard to plan for, but I do know it will be near the end of the month.
The shop also offers a beef share, but we eat very little beef, so it didn’t make sense to buy it. They also have a milk and egg share, but since it is farther than my grocery store and I already buy organic milk and organic pasture eggs there, that doesn’t make sense for us.
We picked up our first share from our CSA from Root Down Farm this week. Wow! We got 2 heads of lettuce, 2 bunches of radishes, 2 bunches of bok choy, 2 bunches of broccolini, 2 bunches of broccoli raab, and a big plastic produce bag of mixed greens: kale, arugula, tot soi (no idea how to use this) and komatsuna (again, no clue). It all looked so FRESH! Now begins my challenge of learning to cook from my CSA share each week! It’s going to be fun I think. It was a lot more food than I expected, so I’ve got to buckle down and arrange our dinners around this. I usually eat salad for lunch, so I can use at least one head of lettuce for that per week.
The way this worked was that we showed up on our appointed day, checked our name off on the list then read what we were to take on a blackboard (it listed how many of each thing you could take). They provided plastic bags, but next week I will bring my grocery totes. You walked around the bins inside a little shelter and picked up your share. Quick and easy and convenient.
I’ll be sharing my cooking adventures as I learn to use new produce and find new ways to use others.
Tiny Skillet chose Thai Chicken and Noodle Salad for today’s project. Loved it! I had to make some substitutions in this though! I was sure I had rice noodles and sure I had cucumbers, but I had only somen noodles and my cucumbers were rotten! So I used some zucchini and snap peas instead. I really enjoyed this and will be eating leftovers for lunch for a couple of days. It was super easy to put together and I like that you can assemble it in advance and then just dress it when ready to serve. A real winner in my book. Cool, refreshing, and perfect for summer.
YoungMartha (formerly TeenMartha) was in charge of dessert for the holiday weekend. I love it when she bakes, because she picks things I would never have thought of. She made Pink Lemonade Cupcakes, a Deen brothers recipe (the recipe is for layer cake, but she made cupcakes with it). I am prejudiced my friends. I just don’t make recipes that use cake mix, but this one does and it was good. Leave it to YoungMartha to know that! This recipe uses pink lemonade powder in the batter and frozen pink lemonade concentrate in the frosting. These cupcakes tasted just like pink lemonade and they were on the tart side, so my mother even liked them (she only likes tart desserts!). Points for YoungMartha. This is really a fun recipe – so pretty and such a nice flavor for summertime!