Soon after tasting a most delicious Greek red pepper and feta spread at Sugar, a new Greek food market opened near me aptly named Greek International Food Market, on the corner of Grove and Washington Streets in West Roxbury. The owners also run the longstanding restaurant Farm Grill & Rotisseria in Newton, serving traditional Greek fare. When you first enter the market, you may be struck by the scent of food that seemingly has been simmering all day. There is actually a kitchen below the store where they cook fresh food items daily to be sold in the deli. Then you may notice the bright and cheerful interior with neatly stocked shelves: long rows of olive oil in various tints of green, bags of bulgur, jars of mysterious spreads and pickled vegetables, frozen phyllo dough, and endless goat and feta cheeses. There were so many products I'd never seen, and it didn't help that at least half of the food labels were written in Greek. I’ve been to Greece so I guess I’ve eaten authentic Greek food. Unfortunately I don’t recall much about it, except that everything was served at room temperature including drinks (even if it was 98 degrees out!). Surprising since the red pepper spread and other items I tasted from this market are rich with memorable flavor. I tried a freshly made cream-colored eggplant spread from the deli and then a sweet and sour jarred eggplant salad with a tomato base called caponata. Both were low in calories and fat and very delicious on fresh pita or mini-toasts. They can also be used as a topping in sandwiches or wraps or served over chicken or fish. Greek food typically brings to mind meat gyros and kabobs marinated with a mélange of spices. But there are many vegetarian options at Greek International Food Market as seen with the bags of couscous and bulgar, imported pastas, dried legumes, a beautiful olive bar, and seasoned vegetables not found at traditional markets. Even the sweets of Turkish delight, baklava, and light biscuits are out of the ordinary. The staff is friendly; don't be shy in asking for advice on how to use their food products. Greek International Food Market is open Mon-Sat 8am-8pm with plenty of parking.
Tis the season, thought I'd test some Christmas recipes to share with you. An Eating Well recipe for low fat Fudge Chocolate Chip Ginger Cookies sounded like a yummy adult alternative to gingerbread cookies. I changed a few ingredients (the type and ratio of chocolate based on what was left on the supermarket shelves during this busy baking season, and using ground ginger instead of crystallized ginger—didn’t want to pay $10 for a little jar!), and then thought the amount of flour listed was a typo—the 1/4 cup it called for produced a batter with the consistency of thin ganache so I added another cup of flour. Oh, and I omitted the chocolate chips thinking it might become too sweet! Yikes, with so many changes it turned out more like a biscuit than a cookie, with a slightly bitter flavor reminiscent of French chocolate truffles (should have added those chocolate chips!). These would be fine with tea or cocoa but overall not a keeper recipe.
Thankfully the next one was a keeper! Almond and Tart Cherry Bark, modified from a Delish recipe originally using pistachios, was almost too easy. With just four ingredients, this no-bake fast recipe is fool-proof even for a novice. There's a lot of room for variation. I changed the amounts of the ingredients only to fit what was available in the store. I used presliced almonds but you can use any favorite nut. The fun part is breaking the bark into pieces; no clean cuts with a knife required here! The end result was pretty enough to pack in festive boxes and give as gifts.
Almond and Tart Cherry Bark
12 oz semisweet chocolate chips (or bittersweet chocolate if you prefer less sweet)
7 oz white chocolate
8 oz roasted sliced almonds
6 oz Craisins, cherry flavored
- Place semisweet chocolate and white chocolate in two separate microwave-safe bowls or measuring cups. Heat semisweet chocolate on high for a minute and stir; heat another minute and stir again. Heat additional 30 seconds if not completely melted and then stir well. Repeat melting process with white chocolate.
- Stir 1 cup of almonds and 1 cup of Craisins into semisweet chocolate. On large cookie sheet, spread chocolate mixture to about 1/4-inch thickness. Spoon dollops of white chocolate onto semisweet chocolate mixture and, with a tip of a knife, swirl chocolates together for a marbled look. Sprinkle with remanining almonds and Craisins.
- Refrigerate bark 1 hour or until firm. Break bark into pieces. Refrigerate in tightly sealed container up to 1 month.
Last night I dreamed of sugar plums dancing in my head, or was it the mocha frosted cupcakes I ate last weekend from Sugar Bakery? On what was once a forgotten corner of Centre Street in West Roxbury, Sugar now anchors a popular culinary spot with The Real Deal and iScream Works next door. Sugar carries what you'd expect: confections filled with sugar and topped with even more sugar. They offer classic chocolate chunk and oatmeal cookies, Italian biscotti, perfectly sized cupcakes, flaky pastries, muffins and croissants, and much more. They also bake fresh bread on the premises: I love the Cranberry Harvest Loaf and Multi-Grain Ciabatta.
So, what are your choices if you're trying to watch calories? 1) Walk quickly past the Sugar entrance and don't look back, 2) Exhibit enormous self-control and order a biscotti with a skim milk latte, or 3) Try a most incredible Greek red pepper and feta spread by Mt. Vikos usually on display at the cashier. If you're bored of hummus, you must sample this! It's tangy, slightly sweet, and rich-tasting even though it's low in fat and calories. I would eat it with a spoon except it would disappear too fast (not cheap at about $6 for a 7.7 ounce tub). Spread it on Sugar's onion rolls or baguettes. Your mouth will be so full of flavor that you'll forget about those fluffy snowmen cupcakes winking at you from the bakery case.