Friday, August 29, 2008

Dog days

I don’t know why I always get lulled into the false sense that by the time August comes, insufferable temperatures are not as likely. The reality is almost every place I’ve lived has the potential of facing extreme heat in August, as we’ve experienced here for the past few weeks. For most of the summer, the weather up here on the mountain has been a bit more temperate than the city, with cool, windy evenings. But not lately. It has been as hot up here as it has been downtown, with weeks of temperatures reaching 95 degrees and not much relief at night. Usually, even during the hottest days, our house would cool off some at night, but not lately. Luckily we have air conditioning upstairs, but any amount of cooking downstairs made it seem like I’d been schvitzing for several hours. We made the mistake of inviting people for dinner and by the time I served the meal I resembled a wet rat, but the food was good and the company pleasant so the sweat was worth it (not to mention a Clue tournament, which is a requirement for guests in this house). We are resolved to buy air conditioning for the downstairs next summer, which should make entertaining during the summer much more pleasant for us and our guests.

We managed to survive a wedding in the high heat of August. The church wasn’t air conditioned and from the looks of things, had the ceremony been any longer half the guests would have passed out from heat stroke. I also witnessed my first Greek Orthodox baptism, which made me feel slightly sorry for the two month old baby who had no idea what was going on and I think just wanted to sleep. My sister-in-law is the nona (her first time), so I was happy to be there to see her take on the responsibility. She handled it well, despite getting peed on (by the baby, not the priest), and I am certain she is truly “pandaxia” (always worthy). The couple couldn’t have picked a better godmother.

My husband and I have handled the heat by staying inside and embracing our inner geeks playing Lord of the Rings Online, watching Star Trek: Voyager, and playing Word Challenge on Facebook. Thank goodness last night offered the first real relief from the stifling weather, as a cool breeze flowed through the mountains and into our windows. I’m definitely looking forward to autumn.

Friday, August 15, 2008

God bless the internet

If we didn't have the internet, then where would people go when they wanted to know how to "make your own fake dog poop"?

Yes, I am the proud owner of a blog that ended up as a result of that search. Grats to me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Son of Sam called, he wants his M.O. back

I read with horror a story about a couple who were shot while eating at a pizzeria in a Thessaloniki neighborhood recently. I had heard about another incident in the same neighborhood, only this time the couple were shot while sitting in their car at a drive-in cinema. The media hasn't been very forthcoming with details, and the police are insisting that the crimes are unrelated, which means one of two things: either they have enough information about one or both incidents to be certain they are unrelated, or they don't want people to think there might be a serial killer stalking a Thessaloniki neighborhood. Of course, I hope that the crimes are unrelated and the perpetrators are caught quickly, but it got me to thinking - can Greek law enforcement handle a serial killer case?

This is not to say I think the police here are incompetent. Sure, there have been a few big gaffes lately, but we all know how we only hear about the bad things and never about the good things. But as with most things in Greece, I am not sure if law enforcement has the funding in order to have the tools necessary to solve a major case. Let's face it - most crimes in Greece fall under the "passion" category, which pretty much means you gotta watch out for your family members because you just never know when they might turn on you. These crimes are often solved quickly, so the headache of meticulous crime solving is unnecessary. But a serial killer? That is a whole new ball game.

For now, I'll trust what the police have to say and assume there isn't a serial killer in our midst, but I do think we'll be avoiding that neighborhood for now.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

All-Vegan Tofu Lasagna

I don't often post recipes, but I thought I'd share this one for tofu lasagna. It is basically an amalgamation of several recipes I've found in various places, suited for our tastes. It totally saves our fasting periods. It is so delicious, even people who don't eat vegan find it delightful. I'm not really used to compiling my own recipes, so the language may be a bit awkward, sorry for that. I'm also not 100% sure on conversions for U.S. products, so I've estimated.

All-Vegan Tofu Lasagna


2 T. olive oil

1-2 onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

400 gr. (8 oz)jar pasta sauce (I use Barilla Pomodoro)

500 gr. (10 oz) tomato sauce (just the plain sauce, I use Pommaro classico)

1 t. to 1 T. parsley flakes (depending on taste preference)

1 t. to 1 T. basil (depending on taste preference)

1 t. salt

¼ t. pepper


2 349 gr. (almost a pound) boxes silken tofu (you can use regular tofu, I prefer the silken because it has a similar consistency to Ricotta)

¼ lb. soy cheese, grated

1 t. parsley flakes

1 t. basil

½ t. salt

¼ t. pepper

pinch garlic powder

Barilla Spinach Lasagna – 12 “sheets” (these do not require cooking before making the lasagna)

Preheat oven to 200 degree Celsius (400 F.). Grease lightly (with Pam or other spray on no-stick product) 9x13 baking dish. Put oil, onions and garlic into large skillet, sauté until soft (about five minutes), then add sauces and seasonings. Cook until heated through.

Mix tofu, half of the soy cheese and spices thoroughly in a medium bowl.

Line bottom of dish with a layer of sauce. Place a layer of noodles (4)over sauce, then top with half of the filling. Dot with a small amount of sauce, then another layer of noodles. Top with the majority of the leftover filling (leave a small amount to dot the top of the lasagna), dot with small amount of sauce, and add the last layer of noodles. Place the rest of the filling, and top with all the remaining sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and sprinkle top with remainder of soy cheese. Bake for another 5 minutes, cool for ten minutes, and serve. 8 servings.

*You can easily convert this recipe into a carnivore’s delight by browning a pound of ground beef for the sauce, substituting Ricotta for the tofu and mozzarella for the soy cheese. Both versions are equally tasty.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Out, out, damn cake!

The one recipe that has saved us during fasting times is this vegan chocolate cake recipe, which is so good I actually make it sometimes when we aren't fasting. It is a quick and easy cake, so it is nice to serve last-minute guests when they come for coffee. The catch - I can't, no matter what I do, make it come out of the pan clean. Almost every time the bottom of the cake sticks to the pan. I've tried triple greasing the pan, baking the cake a few minutes longer, having the pan rest on it's side during cooling(which is usually the trick when it comes to getting stuff out of loaf pans), and finally I've tried letting it cool for various lengths of time, from the traditional ten minutes to 20 minutes to letting the cake cool entirely in the pan. No dice. I'm at the point of frustration where I feel like making the damn cake over and over until I can get it perfect. Yea, it is just a stupid cake, but it isn't quite so presentable with it's bottom sheared off.

I just know some of you cooking experts out there must have some tips for extracting stubborn cakes from their pans. Well, I hope you do. It is driving me nuts because I usually don't have sticking problems, and whenever I bake, it just has to be perfect.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


You know that blender I was bitching about a couple of weeks ago? Well, it broke. It fell from the dish drainer into the sink and shattered. I know what you some of you are thinking - it was my passive aggressive way of getting a new blender. But I was actually starting to get the hang of it thanks to y'all's advice. I was making granita and milkshakes and having all sorts of fun. Plus it was part of a set, so we'll have to find a replacement that goes with that model (what a pain). I guess we can buy a cheap blender for temporary use, but I'm bummed. I guess I shouldn't ever bitch about things - this is what happens!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Even in tragedy, hope can be found

It seems that summers in Greece are always full of tragedy – fires and tourist deaths are at the top of the list. I’m appalled at one of the most recent events – the deadly beating of a 20-year-old at the hands of nightclub bouncers in Mykonos. I can’t pretend to know all the details of what exactly happened, but it seems that there was some suspicion that the victim had stolen items from the patrons of the club (I don’t know if there has been any evidence to support this claim) and the bouncers followed him and beat him with what would prove to be fatal blows.

I’ve heard that there are often problems of this kind involving bouncers at clubs on these “party” islands, which is rather inexcusable. Last I heard, bouncers were not able to take the law into their own hands, and if they were, they certainly wouldn’t be allowed to beat people, stolen property or not. I respect the bouncer’s authority to keep people out of the club and to stop brawls within the club (with restrained means) but their authority stops at the door of the club. Hunting someone down is beyond the pale.

I wish I had the grace of this boy’s family, who generously donated his organs to save the lives of Greeks around the country and have shown aplomb in the face of such tragedy. My general feeling is to punish these thugs in the worst way possible (which isn’t death, by the way, that would be too generous for slubberdegullions such as these), and I am afraid that if I were the boy’s family, I would have so much anger I wouldn’t be in a position to make such a decision as to donate his organs. This death was unacceptable and needless.

May Doujon Zammit rest in peace, blessed by the lives he saved in death, and may his family find justice, peace, and comfort in the future.