As we start saying goodbye to summer and navigating the uncharted territory of a new normal, I admit that being so close with my family these past weeks is something I will miss. We spent real quality time together, without any of the usual distractions of social life, sports, outings, meetings, classes...and we had such an awesome time! It was an opportunity for some heartfelt conversations, deep discussions and sharing a lot of love through cooking and food. After all, wasn’t food the biggest comfort everyone had during quarantine?! Oh yes, we all cooked and baked, at least that’s what the statistics show!
My family was, of course, no exception, and during our time together in Greece, we cooked a lot with the wonderful Greek vegetables that you can still find. If you've ever visited Greece during the summer, then you know that especially tomatoes in Greece taste like no other: truly fragrant, flavorful, they taste as a tomato should. Many people, including yours truly, eat them as the fruit they really are, with a tiny bit of salt, not even the usual drizzle of olive oil. Believe me, nothing beats a freshly-cut, vine-ripened Greek tomato!
Tomatoes are at the heart of Greek cuisine and the healthy Mediterranean diet in general, and are used widely in so many recipes. But once summer is over, and we’re back home in the States, I run into a challenge. Despite the endless aisles of tomato sauces in our supermarkets, I can’t tell you how much I’ve always struggled to find a good tomato sauce to use when I cook. Most of them seem to be overwhelmingly salty and pseudo-garlicky, completely artificial...if you're a foodie or a chef, you know exactly what I mean! So I usually ended up making my own…until I discovered Elli & Manos.
Those of you that follow my blog and my Zelos journey might have read about these little gems and how my love for Greek tomatoes prompted me to bring Elli & Manos' Greek Flavor Bursts to the States - I called that blog post and these little jars Greek Summer Goodness in a Jar, because they are exactly that! They became my go-to staple during quarantine cooking and now that we’re getting into the Fall Frenzy, they’re my favorite time-saver. These are the inspiration of Elli & Manos founder, Elli Nikolaou, and she's given these Greek Flavor Bursts such a REAL, natural flavor and fragrance. Thehe rich consistency makes them so easy to use, whether as a finishing sauce or dip or condiment, or even mixed with broth or wine for simmering or on pasta.
Here are a few of our family favorites from these past months, using Elli & Manos’ time-savers, that you might want to give a try - I know we’ll be repeating them this fall for sure!
1. Tomato-Baked Eggs
We made tomato-baked eggs for lunch, adding Elli & Manos Tomato & Thyme and Tomato & Feta Greek Flavor Bursts. My next effort will be for a shakshuka, which is so similar to Greek strapatsada - don’t worry if you can’t pronounce it, it’s eggs simmered in tomatoes and you can use other veggies to enrich the flavor…stay tuned for that recipe!
2. Speedy Chicken Casserole
One of our go-to dinners, just because it was so easy and tasty, was to just sauté thinly-sliced onion, sear some cubed chicken breast, and add one of Elli & Manos’ Greek Flavor Bursts, with some water to simmer for 20 minutes or so. The Tomato & Thyme seemed to be the favorite, especially the time I added sweet potatoes, don’t ask why!
Funny enough, we got an email from Zelos fan, Georgia, who told us she had made a similar dish with leftover pork loin: “the roast wasn’t as tender as we’d have liked, so for the lefovers I cubed the meat, added some of Elli & Manos’ sauce, simmered it for a while, and it was fantastic!”. Too bad she didn't send us a picture, but she did send us one of her traditional Greek Green Bean Casserole with Elli's Tomato & Thyme...even her husband raved about it!
But back to my own family's favorites...
3. Lamb Youvetsi
We used Elli & Manos' Tomato & Sweet Red Wine Greek Flavor Burst (but you can use any other flavor from Elli & Manos) with lamb to make an Easter Sunday youvetsi, a traditional dish where oven-baked orzo, lamb and tomato sauce combine for a hearty dish. But don't wait for Easter, try our recipe with Agrozimi's egg & milk orzo (or the the lower-gluten spelt orzo). whenever you have a hungry crowd to feed!
4. Tomato Trahana Soup
Lighter dinners often called for traditional trahaná soup, especially when we were tired of cooking…speedy Greek comfort food to the rescue! The Agrozimi trahaná is delicious on its own but adding a few spoonfuls of any tomato-based Greek Flavor Burst takes this dish to the next level...and we did that often!
5. Tomato & Feta Spaghetti with Shrimp
I'm sure we weren't the only ones to rely on Pasta Nights during the quarantine! It was fun to try new flavors and combinations and was I glad we'd just gotten in new products from Agrozimi!! One favorite, thanks to its hearty flavor and texture, was the new Agrozimi spelt spaghetti mixed with a jar of the Tomato & Feta flavor - that is definitely one to try, especially if you top with some sautéed shrimp or tofu!
We had a lot more delicious (and healthy!) meals together and I'm looking forward to playing around more in the kitchen as we head into fall. For a Meatless Monday dish, or for a vegan or vegetarian dinner, try mixing some cooked chickpeas with Elli & Manos’ Tomato & Thyme, a generous drizzle of olive oil, and bake for half an hour. It's just delicious, either as a side or main dish with some salad. You can see the picture at the top of the blog.
Enjoy the delicious taste of PDO Kimi figs from the island of Evia and bring the flavors of a Greek summer to your table. Hand-crafted by Kumilio using traditional techniques with no additives, preservatives, artificial coloring or flavors.