Monday, August 27, 2012

Super Antioxidant & Fat Burning Smoothie with Watermelon, Chili & Lime

One of the most classic detox schemes is the watermelon diet, in which for 2 days (or more) you eat and drink just watermelon and water. Watermelon is really beneficial for our health! This exotic, tasty and refreshing summer fruit, is high in vitamins A and C, which makes it a powerful antioxidant and helps neutralize free radicals that can lead to inflammation, general sickness and chronic illnesses such as stroke and heart attack. Beta-carotene, which gives watermelon its beautiful pink color, works against many types of cancer, and in particular colon cancer. Watermelon is also very rich in “lycopene”, a very beneficial carotenoid also found in tomatoes, which too is very effective in fighting cancer. The high water content of watermelon is, partly, what gives its fat burning benefits, helping to make your metabolism work more efficiently.  Fresh watermelon, or the tea made from its seeds, has been used in traditional and alternative medicine as a natural remedy for treating kidney or bladder problems.
When choosing a watermelon look at the color of the skin; it should be brightly colored and not too shiny or dull. Many employ the thump test, that is you thump on the top of a watermelon with your finger, and if you hear a dull thud, then it means the fruit should be ripe. But the best option is weight. A ripe, sweet watermelon should feel heavy for its size.
This is a very effective detox-smoothie  recipe, loaded with vitamins. I added some chili pepper in it to make it more interesting in taste and add to it all these magnificent benefits that chilies are known for (read here for the health benefits of chilies). If you can’t find fresh chilies you may add some cayenne pepper instead. I used a juicer to avoid the hassle of removing the seeds but if you ‘ve got the time and patience you can remove the seeds and make it in a blender adding ice too for a more thick-frozen result!

So here is the recipe:
4 big slices of watermelon cut in smaller chunks
1 fresh chili pepper / 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (you may add more if you like it more spicy)
Juice of half a lime
Blend well and enjoy a spicy taste of summer!!!



Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rice-Stuffed Vine Leaves ("Dolmadakia")

This is a very traditional and popular Greek dish with small variations from region to region. It has its origins in ancient Greece, when they used to call them “thria” (“θρία”), but after the Ottoman invasion the dish was renamed “dolmadakia” (or “yaprakia”), deriving from the Turkish verb “dolmak”, which means “to be stuffed”. 
It’s always best to be made with fresh vine leaves and the best time to pick them (or buy them fresh) in Greece is between April and June, when they are still small, soft and tender. In some cases, you may pick tender ones even later in the summer.  I pick them or buy them in large quantities and I preserve them in the freezer for about a year! 
Here are the instructions on how to preserve vine leaves in the freezer for up to a year:
1.    Wash them well
2.    Fill a large pot with water, add salt and let it boil
3.    Gradually soak them in the boiling water for a couple of minutes until they become  slightly darker in colour (blanch about ten at a time)
4.    Pat them dry and divide them in bunches of 40-60 pieces
5.    Wrap them well and freeze them
If you don’t have access to fresh vine leaves you can always buy the ones preserved in brine, which you can find in most supermarkets or deli shops.

“Dolmadakia” can be eaten as an appetizer or a main course and they can be served plain with some lemon juice, with hummus, or Greek-style strained yogurt.

Here is the recipe:

60 vine leaves (fresh or in brine)
2 cups short grained white rice (can be replaced with quinoa or cracked wheat)
2 onions, chopped
7 spring onions, chopped
1 cup chopped dill (keep the stalks)
½ cup chopped mint
1 cup chopped parsley (keep the stalks)
½ cup chopped chives
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
2½ cups of water
Juice of two lemons (plus extra lemons to serve)
Sea salt

If you are using fresh vine leaves, first you need to wash them and blanch them for couple of minutes (the same procedure described above for preserving them in the freezer). Put them aside and let them cool. 
 In the meanwhile start preparing the rice. In a large bowl add the rice, chopped onions (dry and fresh), the mint, dill, chives, and parsley, the lemon zest, half cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands or a spoon.
Place the vine leaves smooth side down on a clean surface and heap a teaspoon of filling into the centre, then fold the stem end and sides over the filling and roll as seen in the photos (you can make them as small as you like, just keep in mind that the rice will double in size when cooked, so don’t use more than a teaspoon of rice filling for each vine leaf or they will end up quite large in size or they might open).

                             gif creator online
Lightly oil a heavy-based large pan and line it first with the parsley and dill stalks and plain vine leaves on top (we do this to protect the stuffed ones from sticking onto the pan or burning plus the stalks add an extra aroma to it!). 

Tightly pack and arrange the vine leaf rolls in a circular manner, seam side down, as seen in the photos. You do this in layers until all your rolls are neatly arranged in the pot. 
Pour the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice and some extra salt and pepper. Cover again with plain vine leaves and invert a plate over them  to keep them packed firmly.
Add the water (it should reach the plate, so you might need to add some more according to the pot you use) and cover the pot with a lid.  Simmer on low heat for about an hour or until the rice is cooked, checking occasionally whether you need to add some more water. When ready, allow them to cool down for a while. Remove them from the pot (straining them from the remaining liquids) and transfer them onto a serving plate. You may serve them with additional lemon, yogurt or hummus.