Archive | 9:25 am

Hellas Yeah!

14 Jan

I love Greek food.

For a brief, shining period, my work lunches were blissfully delicious. One day, *poof* a Greek restaurant appeared a few blocks away from my office.

On the bridge, heading home

I went in for a Greek salad. I got back to the office and figured there had to be some mistake. There was no lettuce. The next time I went back I told the guy behind the counter. He laughed. “That’s a real Greek salad,” he said, “no lettuce. Never any lettuce.” It wasn’t my thing. So I tried another of their salads, this time with lettuce, and scallions and dill and olives and feta cheese and the world’s most tender, fragrant grilled chicken. I was in love.

But woman cannot live on salad alone. So I ventured into Greek soups. Avgolemono. Chicken, rice, eggs, lemon… What’s not to love? And it was. Love. I became a Seinfeld-esque regular. I didn’t even have to voice my order. I’d walk in, and they’d already be preparing my soup and salad.

It was so good I even violated my cardinal rule of work lunch places: Never go there on the weekends. I had to take Isaac. He had to have the salad, and the soup, and all the other lovely, fresh, delicious things they cooked there. He loved it as much as I did.

And then, one day *poof* Greek Village was gone.

Paper Whites at home

I went to get lunch, and the grate was down. The equipment was gone. I had been there the week before! I rattled the grate, looked to the heavens and wailed, “Why God? Why!?!” Okay, maybe it wasn’t that traumatic, but it is true. My work lunches have never been the same, so it’s been a nice surprise to discover a place out here in Bay Ridge that is just as good, but with a twist.

It’s called Pegasus and is known for its breakfasts; for pancakes and eggs and bacon, a concept I will never understand. But perhaps that’s just because I don’t care for breakfast foods in a breakfast context. I’d much rather break my fast on a salad, or sushi, or a sandwich or, heck, even leftover pasta.

Football Mums, at home

But I digress…. What Pegasus should be known for is the dishes the owner has put on the menu that remind him of his homeland, Cyprus. When we moved here last winter we became addicted to his avgolemono which he promptly stopped serving the minute the weather turned warm (the menu states that it is not served in summer).

Nonetheless it was heartbreaking. So we went back the first weekend of autumn. But alas, it was still too hot. And then for no known reason, we stopped trying. Until a few weeks ago. It was chilly and we were hungry, so rather than wait for a table we sat at the counter. I looked at the menu, it was different… And there, under the panini section was one of the most beautiful words in the culinary lexicon, “Halloumi.”

Salad

As Isaac and I dived into our bowls of lemony, creamy chicken soup the owner wandered over and peered into our bowls. “How do you know Greek soup?” he asked. Between slurps I got out a version of my tale of woe. “Oh, if you like Greek food, you must try panini number 5,” he said. I set my spoon down with a contented sigh and replied, “That’s what I ordered! I love halloumi!” I swear I saw a tear sparkle in the old man’s eye. “You know halloumi? It is the cheese of my homeland!”

And so we chatted between bites about authenticity and pancakes and cheese. At the end of our meal, the owner slipped away and returned with a shy smile and a plate of cheese. Special cheese. Drizzled in olive oil and dusted with oregano. “The very best feta in the world!” he beamed, “My personal supply, imported from Greece. Try it!” And so we did. It was the most fantastic feta I’ve ever eaten. Simultaneously creamy, and yet old, with hints of the barnyard and the very best Vermont aged cheddar. We rolled out vowing to go back as soon as possible.

Greekesque Spinach Pie

Which turned out to be yesterday. It was a struggle. Our new mattress came an hour and a half early, so it took two tries to get a chance to sit down and eat. But we did. Avgolemono and halloumi, more friendly banter and a deeper understanding of why making avgolemono in summer is a bad idea (so much whisking). In fact, the food was so good, it wasn’t enough.

After lunch we walked around the corner to the Greek imports place and bought the fixings for dinner. Basically anything that struck our fancies. Phyllo. Olives. Cheeses. Olive Oil. Almonds. I caramelized some onions and garlic, olives and a hot dried chile, added spinach, threw in slivered almonds and crumbles of a hard Bulgarian goat’s milk feta or sirene then wrapped it all in layers of phyllo and baked until golden and delicious. My only regret is that I didn’t throw in a handful of raisins.

Radish, by the dining room light

Isaac concocted a salad of lettuce, radishes and dill (the radish/dill combo may be my new favorite flavor in the world). The meal was a riff on everything that is delicious about the cooking of the Aegean. So many people think only of 50s era diner food when they think about Greek food (including some elder members of my family, you know who you are) which is a shame.

Greek food is just as sophisticated, nuanced and delicious as Italian or Turkish food. If it’s been awhile since you tried some, go on, give Greece a chance.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Greekesque Spinach Pie.

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