Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ode To The Artichoke

Ode to the Artichoke
The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention,
It built a small helmet under it’s scales... 

 ~Pablo Neruda, Ode To The Artichoke 

Do not let the thorny leaves of the artichoke discourage you. Within this member of the thistle family lies a treasure for the palate and a boon to the body. An important element of Mediterranean cuisine, and a native to the region, the artichoke is the edible flower bud of a thistle-like plant in the sunflower family and is eaten as a vegetable. It is low in calories and according to the USDA, one medium artichoke is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, folate, magnesium as well as a natural source of antioxidants.

We love to eat artichokes too much to let them bloom, but if we did, we’d be blessed with a beautiful lavender flower. However, judging by its popularity in international cuisines, seems most folks feel that the taste of the artichoke heart in Greek salads and artichoke dips is a worthy trade-off.

Some interesting tidbits about artichokes include: 

  • Artichokes are one of the oldest foods know to humans.
  • Nearly one hundred percent of all artichokes grown commercially in the United States are grown in California.
  • Marilyn Monroe was the first official California Artichoke Queen in 1949.

Humm…if Miss Monroe ate artichokes, was that the secret behind her appeal? Quick, rush to Ziziki’s for your daily dose of artichokes!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Herodeion

No trip to Athens is complete without a trip to the Herodeion Theatre located at the heart of the culture center right under the Acropolis on Dionysiou Areopagitou Pedestrian Street. Also known as the Odeon of Herodus Atticus in Athens, The Herodeion is considered the first example of a complex of buildings dedicated to performances of the arts. The Roman philosopher, teacher and Politian Herodes Atticus built the theater in about 161 AD. The splendid, semi-circular amphitheater was dedicated to the memory of Herodes Atticus’ wife, Aspasia Regilla who died in 160 AD.

The 1,250-foot radius of the amphitheater originally seated more than 6,000 people. Various marbles and ceramic pieces decorated the original three-story wall of the stage. Marble adorned the enormous seating area; overhead, a wooden roof of cedar kept the elements out.

A renovation took place in 1950. Today, the Herodeion is the home of the Athens Art Festival, musical concerts, and classical tragedies. All this under the night sky and with exquisite acoustic experience built into the structure over two thousand years ago. So if you visit Athens in the summer, don’t miss out on a fabulous experience of Greek comedy and tragedy. Meanwhile, while you plan your sojourn to beautiful Athens, drop by Ziziki’s Dallas Restaurants for an authentic Greek dining experience - and the perfect flavor for your itinerary.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A True Greek Tradition - Horta

What is "horta"?

In Greek cuisine, Horta (HOR-tah), or "greens" are a common side dish, usually eaten cold and seasoned with olive oil and lemon.  Of course - horta, or 'greens' of this sort are found all over the world, from Africa to the deep-South of the United States.

Greens used range from typical cultivated veggies like spinach, mustard and turnip - to wild plants like dandelion, wild leeks and smooth sow-thistle.

These boiled greens are a staple in nearly every Greek household. These are easy to prepare, super-healthy, inexpensive - and you will really enjoy the clean, pure taste.

Like spinach, boiled greens wilt and reduce when cooked to a fraction of their original quantity. For four ample servings, one would typically boil approximately 3 lbs. of greens. Here's the details of a traditional Greek recipe for horta:

Greek Horta
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

• 3 lbs. curly Endive or any leafy green of your choice (Chicory, Chard)
• White vinegar (for adding to soaking water)
• 1 tbsp. salt
• Extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tbsp.)
• Fresh lemon juice to taste (juice of 1 lemon)
• Salt and Pepper to taste


The most important part is your preparation. Wash the greens well before cooking and trim any coarse stems. Discard any brown leaves.

Soak the greens in a clean and rinsed sink with plenty of water - and about a cup of white vinegar. Any sand or residue will sink to the bottom of the sink, while the greens will float on top. Remove the greens to a colander before draining the water.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then add about a tablespoon of salt to the water. Carefully submerge the greens in the pot and boil for about 20 minutes or until the thickest parts of the stems are tender. Be careful not to over boil.

Drain in a colander and place in a bowl. Dress with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and a bit of salt and pepper (to your desired taste).

It's your choice! You can serve the greens warm, at room temperature or even cold. They're a very common side dish in real Greek cuisine.