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Magical Mastiha … Appetizers

The morning of the Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 event, I opened up the shopping bag I’d brought back from my visit to MastihashopNY and surveyed my mastiha bounty. I’d indulged in purchasing a box of mastiha resin, a jar of pistachio spoon sweet and the cookbook Mastiha Cuisine written by Diane Kochilas (which I haven’t even gotten to open yet but will soon sit down and pour over). And then I quickly set out to begin prepping the day’s dishes …

… A while back, I’d prepared a tomato sauce with mastiha and used it on a homemade pizza topped with various Greek cheeses. So when I wrote up my proposal for Foodbuzz, I knew I wanted to include a play on pizza using distinct Greek flavors such as mastiha, Ouzo and Feta. And that’s how my Greek Pizza was born…

 

Greek Pizza with a Mastiha Tomato Sauce, Crumbled Feta and Shrimp Sauteed in Ouzo

28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2-3 crystals mastiha, ground with a mortar/pestle
One small onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
A couple of pinches dried thrymbi (or savory)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

½ lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined (tails removed)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup Ouzo
2 tablespoons finely shopped parsley

Bread Dough (see instructions below)
Feta, crumbled

To make tomato sauce, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat  and sauté onion until soft. Add the garlic and thrymbi and cook for a minute longer. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce sauce to a simmer, stir in the ground mastic and cook 30 minutes. Set aside until you are ready to layer it over the pizza dough. (Mastic Tomato Sauce can be made 2 to 3 days in advance; cool completely upon cooking and then store covered tightly in the refrigerator.)

Prepare bread dough using the Boule recipe as featured in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Let the dough rise as directed (you can prepare the dough a few days ahead and place it covered in the refrigerator until ready to use). After the dough’s initial resting/rising, cut off a grapefruit-size ball and place it in an oiled tart pan or on a pizza peel dusted with cornmeal. Flatten the dough to a thick disk and let it rest some more, at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees at least 20 minutes before baking. Once the dough has rested, flatten the disk further using your fingers to extend the dough to the edge of the tart pan.  Prick dough with a fork all over then bake in center of oven for about 15 minutes. Remove tart pan from oven and spoon the mastiha tomato sauce over; sprinkle with crumbled Feta and then bake 15 minutes more until the dough is crisp.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add some chopped garlic and the shrimp; toss to coat and cook for about a minute. Turn the heat to high and add the Ouzo. Boil for a minute longer, then reduce heat and cook just a couple minutes until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.

Remove tart pan from oven and cool slightly. Top with sautéed shrimp, season with freshly ground pepper and serve.

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The Pork Keftedes were a great departure from the ordinary (though always good) keftedes we make on a more regular basis. I flavored the pork mixture with mastiha, thrymbi (dried savory), onion, garlic, parsley, egg and added not only bread as I usually do, but also a handful of cornmeal to bind it all together. According to my husband, the results were stellar!

Pork Keftedes with Mastiha
Makes about 4 Dozen Meatballs

2.5 lbs. ground pork
3 eggs
2 (1-inch) thick slices day old bread, soaked in milk
¼ cup corn meal
1 small onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thrymbi (savory)
3 mastic crystals, ground with a mortar/pestle
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Oil for frying

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients aside from the olive oil and knead briefly until combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat 1/2-inch of olive oil over medium-high heat. Begin forming the keftedes. Fry the keftedes in the hot oil (the oil should sizzle when the keftedes first touch it). Cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side until golden-brown then remove the keftedes to paper towels to drain. Serve hot or warm.

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Having never tried my hand at a ceviche, I thought it was high-time to do so for this Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 event using none other than the special flavor of mastiha to enhance this refreshing appetizer. I have to admit, however, that I wasn’t daring enough to “cook” the ceviche with just the acidity of the orange and lime juices but rather poached the seafood for a minute in simmering water before adding it to the marinade.

Scallop and Shrimp Ceviche with Mastiha and Ouzo 

1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup Ouzo
1/2 teaspoon tabasco
2 crystals mastiha, finely ground
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion 
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound sea scallops, halved horizontally
3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley 

Whisk together orange juice, lime juice, tabasco sauce, Ouzo, mastiha, onion and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

Heat some water in a large pot to just barely simmering and poach scallops and shrimp about 1 minute, stirring a couple times during cooking.

Drain seafood well in a colander and add to the bowl with the marinade. Place the bowl in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least 4 hours.

Stir in the chopped parsley just before serving. Spoon the scallops and shrimp into small cups, martini glasses or small bowls; spoon marinade over top and serve.

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7 Responses to “Magical Mastiha … Appetizers”

  1. maria says:

    that ceviche looks divine!

  2. elly says:

    Maria, you are always so innovative with ingredients. I like mastiha, but I’ve never cooked with it myself. These dishes all look so great!

  3. I’m curious to try that ceviche…sounds amazing (as do the keftedes).

  4. Peter says:

    Maria, all three offerings are fab but I’m gaping at that the Ceviche with mastiha…a show-stopper!

  5. Sue says:

    I am really intrigued by these dishes, especially the Ceviche which looks divine. Unfortunately, here in New Zealand I am almost certain the mastiha would not be available (will definitely be checking it out though). Lucky I am having a holiday in Greece in June so will try to bring some back. In the meantime, is there anything that you could substitute – I’m imagining that it is a rather unique taste and that it would be best to just leave it out if not available. I’d be grateful for anyone’s advice.

  6. I am absolutely loving the ouzo shrimp on the pizza and the ouzo in the ceviche. It’s a liquor I’ve never thought to use in a ceviche. I’ll keep an eye out for the mastiha…I don’t think I’ve tried it – what does it taste like?

  7. Anna A says:

    These truly are magical mezedes! I’m glad to be reading this in Athens now so I can find these mastiha crystals you speak of…

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