A Visit to Santorini

We didn’t fly off to Greek Isles yesterday, we just drove up to Chicago. The Husband needed to pick up a rather large box of ‘stuff’ for work and he’s been wanting to make it a Romantic Outing for about 2 wks. Yesterday we were finally able to get away, many thanks to Ramona and Nat. The trip to Chicago met the two major criteria we have for adventures to the Windy City — we didn’t get lost and we didn’t get in an accident. But driving in Chicago makes me freak out and the Husband and I discussed some major decisions in the car, our best place to talk, so it wasn’t exactly a relaxing day.

We drove right to the place to pick up the big box and then drove toward the lake and found a place to park for an exorbitant sum of money. We walked out to the end of Navy Pier and back to the car and then drove to Santorini at the corner of Halsted and Adams. One of the Husband’s former co-workers took us there about 6 yrs ago when we were in Chicago for an event at the Field Museum. It’s a nice Greek restaurant with white tablecloths and we had in tow two kids who were about 4 and 1.5 and who were tired after a day of travel and museum wandering. It’s not a place that is typically frequented by people with children but they were ever so gracious and seated us in a distant corner and gave the kids special things to eat. Ever since then the Husband has been wanting to us go back alone.

Santorini offers complimentary valet parking, which we didn’t realize and didn’t use. After you walk in the door of the terra cotta colored building, to your left is a display case of iced seafood. Both times we have been there, at least one octopus was prominently displayed. Santorini has a number of seafood specialties, but I’ve only had the kalimari, which was good. The restaurant interior is rustic with flagstone floors, a fireplace (with a fire yesterday), and homey decor.

They serve a hearty bread with butter and olive oil at the table while you peruse the menu. There are soups, salads, hot and cold appetizers, specials, kabobs, seafood, pasta and desserts. We ordered a fried eggplant appetizer that came with about six slices of deep fried eggplant covered with a delicious red sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. It would have been enough to make a meal by itself. I think it was about $5 with the most expensive appetizers (octopus being one of them) around $10-11.

For the entree, the Husband ordered Chicken Alexander, one of the specials that is served on Tuesdays and another day of the week (the menu labels the days that each special is served). It is a dish of chicken and vegetables (peas, carrots, celery, pepper, onion, etc) wrapped in phyllo dough and covered with the same delicious red sauce as was on the eggplant (I’ve got to learn how to make that stuff! YUM!) with cheese. It’s massive — about 8-10 inches long, 4 inches high and 4-5 inches deep; enough to fill the Husband and still have leftovers! It came with some very tasty potatoes that were cooked with onion. They serve something similar made with lamb, Lamb Stamnos, which I ordered the last time we were there and it was wonderful too. I didn’t take the camera with us so please excuse me for showing you pictures of cold leftovers — it doesn’t do justice to the goodness of the food.

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Showing the inside:

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I ordered Lamb Artichokes and it came with as much meat as I would use to serve the entire family. I’m afraid I ate most of the artichokes, all of the 4 or 5 thick slices of carrot, and part of the potato. The sauce has lemon and seasoning that is just scrumptious.

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I think our specials were both in the $11-12 range. The high end of the menu would be some seafood options around $22-25. The price is very reasonable for the quality and quantity of food you get.  I was hoping to try the baklava for dessert, but I was too stuffed. The service was perfect, the food was excellent, and I hope we don’t wait six years to go back! 🙂

Hazelnut Encrusted Crab Cakes with Berry Sauce

If you read yesterday’s post on stuffed mushrooms, you may have wondered why I talked about *cans* of crab meat (as in multiple) but used only half a can for the mushrooms. Here is the reason. The rest were used to make crab cakes.

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This is probably one of my top three favorite recipes ever. It came from my Grandmother, who loved to putter in the kitchen and try new things, not Grandma Smith.

I was out of celery and white pepper so they were left out but it’s still good. I wish there were leftovers for lunch today but it only made 14 small ones and people were fighting over the last one at dinner. Also, huckleberries are particularly difficult to get in the Midwest and I used all the huckleberry jam I got for Christmas in 2005 (side note of praise — this company was so great that when I called them to cry that one jar had arrived broken, they sent me another right away, no poking through the glass slivers to salvage the huckleberries!!) 😛 So, I used some seedless Marionberry jam (not to be confused with Marion Barry who was in a jam) 😉 I had a bottle of wine that was given to us as a gift and I knew nothing about it but I was a surprised to find it a fizzy sweet wine. Sauce still tasted good.

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Crab Cakes with Huckleberry Sauce

2 cups or 1 lb Dungeness crab, flaked
1 egg
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 Tablespoons finely chopped celery
4 Tablespoons bread crumbs
1 ½ teaspoon Old Bay Spice
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
Huckleberry Sauce (recipe below)

Whip the egg and add all other ingredients, except the nuts. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 15 minutes to one hour. Form into 1 inch balls, flatten and roll in hazelnuts. Saute in virgin olive oil about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve with Huckleberry Sauce.

If you wish, you may refrigerate overnight and reheat to eat or serve cold. After sauteeing, drain on paper towels.

Huckleberry Sauce:
½ cup huckleberry jam or syrup
½ teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons dry or semi-dry white wine

Heat jam over low heat, add lemon juice and blend. Add wine just before serving.

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I like to use the same basic recipe to make salmon cakes from leftover baked or grilled salmon.

Stuffed Mushrooms

I was inspired by Brilynn at Jumbo Empanadas and her special creations for the Food Holidays. Today is ‘Stuffed Mushroom Day’. I have been saving some cans of crab meat that were originally intended for the New Year’s Eve party and, boy, am I glad I used them this way!! Actually, tonight’s dinner is going to be the source of three separate posts . . . the Husband came home and wondered if it was my birthday and he forgot! 😉

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I didn’t follow a recipe for these and, as usual, I didn’t measure anything, so this is going to be a ‘free form’ recipe.

I bought four ‘baby portabella’ mushrooms — but they were still a good 2.5-3 inches across. I cleaned those up and scraped out the pretty ridges inside the cap. I saved two of the stems and chopped them into a bowl. I added half a can of crab meat, an egg white, a dab of mayo (2 tsp?), a pinch of breadcrumbs, a couple of squirts of Tabasco, about a tablespoon of very finely minced turkey ham, and about a 1/4 cup of finely shredded mozzarella b/c I didn’t have any more interesting cheese on hand.

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I put a bit of that on top of each mushroom, to fill the caps. I topped it with some more finely shredded mozzarella.

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I baked them in a 350 F oven for about 20 minutes.

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Then I served them with dinner. The kids, who moaned in agony that I would cook yucky blecky mushrooms (despite my telling them it wasn’t for them, but a treat for Mom and Dad), suddenly wished I had made more than 4 because, man, these are GREAT!!!

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Recipe of the Day — Coconut Shrimp

Tonight we were all thankful the coconut shrimp was cut from the New Year’s Eve menu . . . b/c it was our dinner! 😀 This is a relatively simple recipe, but it *is* time consuming. When I was planning this for the party I thought I would simplify the process for myself by buying the peeled and cooked shrimp and then just coat it and quickly cook it . . . boy, am I glad I did that since deveining and peeling shrimp takes me *forever* as it is.

I had 2 lbs of 36-40 count shrimp defrosted in the fridge and I wanted to cook it all tonight and between coating and cooking, it took me at least 1.5 hrs. I was also working on more bread sticks for the rehearsal dinner on Friday so it actually took me more than 2 hrs to get it all done and, by that time, the family was starving. I served it with rice, mango salsa, fresh fruit and green salad.

Oh, and there were only three shrimp out of the 2 lbs left at the end! (“oink, oink” says the family — they loved it!)

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Coconut Shrimp

whisk together:

2 egg whites

3 Tablespoons corn starch

ground black pepper

Dip the shrimp in the egg mixture, dip in coconut. Fry. Eat.

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On the Fifth Day of Christmas . . .

My true love gave to me an 8 megapixel camera. Well, it sounds better that way than to say the Husband didn’t get my gift until yesterday, which cost him big points. Not that we keep score or anything . . . 😛

So today I’m busily prepping for our New Year’s Eve party, which may be a bit smaller than some years so I’ve axed a few items from the menu — the onion & pancetta tassies will have to wait for another year, for example. But we’re definitely having mini-calzones/pizza pockets (see below), a version of Spicy Skewered Chicken, some beef skewers (I decided against the chipotle flavor in favor of a mild balsamic/Italian flavor), some Lime Jerk chicken skewers, some quesadillas but without artichoke (instead we’re going to have some plain ones, mushroom, and some with brie, pear and cranberry) and my favorite hot artichoke dip.

Here are some pictures from my new camera showing the calzone process. I used my standard pizza crust recipe. You can see my high-tech cutting instrument — a kid’s cup — it’s the perfect size!

minicalzone construction

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Here is a picture of my little calzone tester, also known as Thing 3:

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She gave them a hearty approval rating.

I also used the pizza crust recipe to make pesto bread sticks for a wedding rehearsal dinner I’m catering next week. Here are some pictures of that process:

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