Sunday, February 22, 2004

Ode to Myzithra

I'm not really sure why I've got an obsession with this cheese. It's pretty salty and actually dry. But ever since I ate my first bowl for Spaghetti with Browned Butter and Myzithra Cheese at the Spaghetti Factory as a child, I think I've always had a softspot for the stuff. You won't ever catch me eating at the Spaghetti Factory again. I can't stand having to wait in line or to eat near tables with screaming children. My general rule about frequenting restaurants is that I don't patronize places where the wait-staff sings Happy Birthday loudly and out of tune. I think I would honestly die If I had to work in such a place. "It's your birthday. Well good for you- who gives a ...." I've since learned how to make my favorite spaghetti dish on my own, so I can enjoy it safely at home, and undisturbed by anyone's birthday.

Myzithra's magic comes from it's nutty flavor. Naturally, this flavor is complimented extremely well with butter (browned) and lemon. I do also have a partiality to the saltier cheeses and Myzithra is by far one of the saltiest I have tasted. In my online search I came across an intriguing recipe. I think that I will try this in the future if I get a chance:
Roasted Eggplant and Myzithra Cheese Puree
1-3/4 pounds eggplant
1/2 cup grated Myzithra cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat broiler. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until charred all over and softened, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, peel eggplant and roughly chop, reserving liquid. Sauté garlic in olive oil . Mix in remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Yield: 6 servings

Because of all this exposure to Mediterranean cooking, I'm now on a Greek cusine kick as a result of my craving for this salty cheese. I'm on my way to the grocery... so I think I'm going to fix the following:

  • Avgolemono soup with acini pepe and fresh parsley

  • Bourekakia (Cheese Pastries)

  • Oven baked chicken with lemon and oregano

  • Spinach Salad with Feta and Tomatoes

Here's my grocery list:

  • Pasta- Acini Pepe
  • Chicken (one whole broiler)
  • Chicken (cut-up fryer)
  • Eggs
  • White rice
  • Fresh Oregano
  • Myzithra Cheese
  • Feta Cheese
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Filo Dough
  • Spinach (pre-washed)
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Parsley

Yesterday, I put up a version of my recipe for Bourekakia (cheese filo pastries) and I had a computer melt down. I will re-write and put it up here soon. These buttery cheese pastries are the best. You must make a score and share with all your friends.

Added 2/24...
Please note that this version is a bit toned down. If you want your Bourekakia to be salty and, I guess, authentic then use only feta cheese.
1/2 lb. feta, drained and crumbled
1/2 lb. myzithra, grated
1 lb. ricotta cheese, drained of all liquid
3 eggs
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 c. chopped parsley
1 c. butter, melted and clarified
1 package of filo dough sheets, thawed.

Mix the cheeses well in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs in one at a time and combine well. Mix in the flour and white pepper and chopped parsley. Set aside. Work with one package of filo at a time. Lay them flat and cover with a piece of saran wrap and a damp dish cloth. If you've worked with filo before you know that it dries fast when exposed to air. Take all layers of the unfolded package of dough sheets and cut them length-wise into either thirds or halves. I'm pretty lazy so I cut them in halves. So I get bigger pastries. Return the filo under the saran-wrap-and-dish-cloth blanket. Work with only two long rectangular sheets at a time. Brush each pastry sheet lightly with the clarified butter. By the way, if you were thinking of not clarifying the butter, I tried baking them without doing this and they browned and burned faster. Drop a some of the cheese filling onto one end of the sheet (if you are using the filo cut in halves then put a little more than 1 heaping tbsp of the filling). Roll up the pastry as if you were folding a flag. You should end up with a triangular form. If you remember having flag duty in elementary school fold up the buttered filo similar to the way you folded the flag.

Bake on lightly greased cookie sheets (I use canola spray) for 15-20 minutes at 350F degrees or until golden brown. Cool and serve as soon as possible. These taste great with fresh Tzatziki.


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