White washed buildings with colourful balconies and roofs suspended above the sea over sheer cliffs , azure waters, spectacular sunsets, ancient ruins, picturesque villages and vibrant cities. Sounds breathtaking doesn’t it ?? It is the birth place of democracy, drama, medicine , science and the Olympics . Yes I am talking about Greece……well at least the Greece that I have seen in movies and travel brochures !!! One of the wishes on my bucket list is to go to Greece. When I was in school , I loved to read greek mythology……..stories about Zeus , adventures of Hercules etc !!! It looks like N has taken after me ….they are at present reading about the adventures of Odysseus and he has informed me that he loves it . Of course politicians had to go and ruin the country but at least its beauty remains unaffected !!! Well for now !!!
Since I have always wanted to visit , I ended up reading about the food and I was fascinated …..for a country that is not suited for agriculture, its food is rich in tastes and textures !!! Greek food is influenced by the cuisines of Italy, Turkey, the Balkans ( Albania, Serbia, Bosnia etc ) and the Middle East…..though some of the dishes can be traced back to ancient times !!! Imagine, eating something that was made and eaten by ancient civilizations !!! Olive oil is very important and adds a distinctive taste to the cuisine. Vegetables are widely used and beef is used very rarely !!! Lamb and fish are the most popular . Cheese is also popular. Here Greek Cuisine is synonymous with a few dishes…..spanakopita, souvlaki, gyros, moussaka, tzatziki !! I am pretty sure that there are so many more dishes that make greek cuisine what it is but these are on every menu that I have come across !!! In fact once when I called a greek restaurant to find out more about its food , she told me that unless I eat meat and cheese to not even bother coming !!!!
V is not a fan of cheese so I have never ventured into greek food at least the food I was told was greek….but later I found out more about the cuisine and realized how wrong I was !! Anyway, except for my forays in spanakopita I still never bothered ! During the planning process for N’s b’day party , trying to figure out the food….I had one baked dish, one deep fried, one stewed when I thought….. how about quesadillas but instead of the usual, I thought …how about a Mediterranean version !! Onions, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts and feta all wrapped in a tortilla with some jalapeño jack cheese served with tomato- olive salsa and tzatziki !!! I went into venture with a lot of trepidation but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
2 cups chopped Spinach ( I used frozen )
¼ cup chopped Red Onions
2 – 3 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped
½ – 1 tsp Red Chili Flakes
¼ cup Sun Dried Tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp dried Oregano
2 – 3 tbsp Pine Nuts
1 tsp Salt
4 – 6 oz Feta Cheese, crumbled
½ cup shredded Jalapeño Jack Cheese
6 10 “ Flour Tortillas
In oil, sauté the onions and garlic over a medium low heat till the onions are soft and caramelized.
Add the spinach, red chilli flakes, oregano and salt. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
Add the pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes. Sauté further for 2-3 minutes.
Heat another pan. While it is heating up, lay a tortilla flat. Spread some jack cheese on one half of the tortilla, about 2 tbsp.
Then spoon some of the spinach mixture on top of the cheese.
Spread a tbsp or so of feta cheese on top of the spinach mixture.
Fold over the other half of the tortilla on top.
Cook in the pan till both sides are light brown and crunchy.
Serve with salsa and tzatziki.
TOMATO AND OLIVE SALSA:
1 cup chopped Roma / Plum Tomatoes
½ cup Kalamata Olives , pitted and chopped
2-3 tbsp chopped Red Onion
1 Green Chilli, chopped
1-2 tbsp Mint , cut in a chiffonade
½ tsp Salt
1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Mix together all the ingredients. Let sit for an hour before serving.
½ cup Greek Yogurt
½ cup Sour Cream
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Lime Juice
1 clove Garlic , finely minced
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Black Pepper
½ cup Cucumber, shredded and squeezed dry
1 tbsp Mint, finely chopped
Mix together all the ingredients except for ½ tbsp olive oil.
Chill for at least an hour before serving.
Before serving drizzle the ½ tbsp olive oil.
I loved these quesadillas. I am also glad to say that my friends shared these sentiments. Tasty spinach with a hint of sweetness from caramelized onions, slightly sour and chewy sun dried tomatoes, buttery pine nuts, salty feta with a hint of spice from oregano, a little heat from the jalapeños in the jack cheese all encased in crunchy tortillas served with a salsa made with sweet juicy tomatoes , meaty, chewy kalamata olive with fresh aromatic mint and a cool tzatziki made with cucumbers and thick greek yogurt. I salivate just thinking about it !!!
Initially I was just going to serve these with a normal salsa but it did just not seem right !! So I figured since Greece and Italy are in close proximity though they do not share borders, the heel of the shoe of Italy is across the sea from Greece !!! So I decided on a tomato olive salsa except that I love kalamata olives so I used those and balsamic vinegar is one of my favourite vinegars. Greek Yogurt is an absolute must in my household ……I love its thick, slightly sour intensity almost like a yogurt cheese. A, my youngest , loves to eat fruit flavoured greek yogurts. Its more expensive than normal yogurt but since I am the only one in my house who eats plain yogurt as is and not camouflaged …it works for us !!! Anyway, because I love yogurt , tzatziki was the only thing to make in place of the sour cream !!
I named these the Mediterranean Quesadillas as they borrow from other countries in the mediterranean though there are primarily Greek influences. I might not be able to go there right now….I will later, but until then I certainly can enjoy flavours from that part of the world !!!
This is off to Bloggers around the world -World Cup 2014 at Cooking around the World.