Here's to Life! (September 27, 2001)
Here's to Life! And even more, here's a great new eponymous cookbook
that's going to show you how to live it up, eat it up and come out
healthier and happier in the long run…all this, and more. Perhaps
best of all, proceeds from this delightful new cookbook go to benefit
two great organizations, the National Breast Cancer Fund in Canada
and The Breast Cancer Fund in the United States.
Here's to Life! author Sharon Thomas is surely one of the
more remarkable and caring women we've ever met. A few years ago
she began to realize that in spite of the seeming "epidemic"
of breast cancer in the general female population, there were relatively
few women in her own Greek family and community that had been affected
by the disease. Ms. Thomas saw an obvious correlation; the traditional
diet of Greece and parts of the Mediterranean is, and always has
been, very different from the diet of many other developed countries
whose breast cancer rates are far higher. Flavourful Greek and Mediterranean
cuisine also features the extensive use of Omega-3 and Omega-9 fatty
acids and ingredients high in antioxidant value for optimum health.
It's an incredibly nutritious and healthy way to eat and, reasoned
Sharon Thomas, just may be the answer to less breast cancer.
Here's to Life! is the delicious result of Ms.Thomas' work
and research and caring. It's a great book, made better with the
endorsements of two of the top medical professionals in the field
of nutrition and health, Dr. Walter C. Willett and Dr. Dimitrios
Trichopoulos, both at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston,
plus the latest information on the nutritional benefits of the ingredients
from Susan Haines, R.D., Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.
As we mentioned earlier, Here's To Life! benefits the (Canadian)
National Breast Cancer Fund, a non-profit grassroots organization
funding breast cancer initiatives from resource centers to breast
cancer research in every province across Canada and the (American)
Breast Cancer Fund that seeks to end the breast cancer epidemic
and insure the best medical care and information for everyone.
We urge you to get a copy of this important book. We promise you'll
love the recipes and will benefit from the information, and at the
same time you'll be contributing to two terrific organizations who
help those whose lives have been affected by breast cancer. Cheers,
and Here's to Life!
On the menu today:
Exotic Caviar Dip
This is our favourite appetizer in the whole world. Taramasalata
is quintessentially Greek, salty, creamy, sweet and lemony
all at the same time. Tarama, also called caviar, is available
in Greek markets and gourmet specialty shops. Serve with warm,
toasted pita wedges and a side of chilled Retsina. Ah, the
Glory of Greece lives on right here!
1 jar tarama (4 oz is needed for the recipe)
10 slices white sliced bread (crusts removed)
¼ cup very soft mashed white potatoes (no milk or butter
added) (62.5 mL)
juice from 2 fresh lemons, to taste (not bottled)
2 Tbsp. finely grated white onion (30 mL)
½ cup canola oil or light olive oil (125 mL)
fresh dill weed for garnish
Place tarama in a strainer and rinse with cold water to remove
excess salt. Drain completely.
You'll need a white wine with lively acidity for Taramasalata.
You could go Greek and serve a well chilled Retsina but if that's
not to your taste, try Muscadet from the Loire, Chablis or a
Place tarama in a mixing bowl and beat with electric beater at
high speed. Add oil very gradually. Add grated onion. Continue beating.
Add bread, one slice at a time. Add mashed potatoes gradually. Add
fresh lemon juice and continue beating until consistency is light
and fluffy. Fished dip will have consistency of mayonnaise. If mixture
appears too dry, add cold water a few drops at a time.
Place dip in a serving bowl and garnish with chopped fresh dill
weed. Sprinkle with extra fresh lemon juice if desired. Dip should
have a distinct lemony taste. Surround with toasted pita bread wedges
or thinly sliced crusty Greek bread.
Spinach and Feta Stuffed Phyllo
Oh yum. This flavourful, tangy little appetizer is wrapped in hot,
flaky phyllo dough and eaten immediately. Phyllo is a lovely pastry
to learn about, and Sharon Thomas tells us how in Here's To Life!
It's an easy technique and, once tried, you'll use phyllo again
and again for all sorts of delicious recipes.
1 lb. Feta cheese, crumbled (450 g)
1 lb. ricotta cheese (450 g)
2 cups cooked, drained and squeezed dry fresh spinach (500 mL)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill weed (60 mL)
Combine cheeses, drained spinach, eggs and chopped dill in
a bowl. Blend well.
Stuffing the Phyllo:
Phyllo should be a room temperature when being stuffed in
order to allow maximum manipulation of the pastry for all
shapes. Phyllo waiting to be used should be kept covered with
plastic at all times to ensure softness. If phyllo dries out
it will break and is not usable.
Use two phyllo sheets at a time for the tube method. Brush the
entire surface of the phyllo sheets with melted butter. Place about
6 tbsp. of filling primarily along the bottom end of the sheets.
Roll the pastry in a jelly-roll fashion from bottom to top to form
a tube or strudel shape. Carefully lift the stuffed tube and place
on a buttered baking dish. Do not use a cookie sheet. Repeat this
procedure until all the phyllo dough and all the filling has been
used. Place the tubes side by side in the pan, just barely touching
each other. Do not crowd or overfill the pan. If necessary, use
a second pan. Allow space for tubes to rise during the baking process.
A dry white wine with oak ageing - preferably Sauvignon
Blanc from the Loire (Sancerre, Menetou-Salon) or Pouilly-Fume
or from Ontario (Henry of Pelham, Creekside) or the terrific
St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc 2000 from Napa.
Generously brush the tops of the tubes with melted butter. Cover
with a clean cloth and allow to stand at room temperature for about
20 minutes before baking. Bake in a 350°F (175°C) oven for
approximately 30-45 minutes or until phyllo turns golden brown.
Check occasionally to avoid overcooking but do not open the oven
for the first 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with a clean
towel during the cooling process. This ensures that the phyllo remains
flaky but does not dry out and become brittle. When cool, the tubes
may be cut diagonally to create diamond shapes. If being used for
canapés, cut in smaller pieces; for a main dish, the pieces
may be larger.
Tangy Stuffed Grape Leaves with Fresh Ground
We have to confess, we love this dish and make it all summer long
from the grape leaves growing in our downtown garden. Dolmadas,
as they're also known, are a perfect appetizer or main meal, and
a great afternoon snack! Keep them in the fridge for a few days
after making a batch – they'll go fast. Don't be put off by
the lengthy directions; this is an easy technique, and you'll learn
the shortcuts quickly.
1½ lb. fresh ground lamb (may substitute lean beef) (675 g)
2 jars prepared grape leaves (available in all Greek and gourmet
1 cup white onion, very finely chopped (259 mL)
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 Tbsp. olive oil (30 mL)
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped (125 mL)
4 tsp. dry oregano flakes (20 mL)
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper (10 mL)
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (60 mL)
3 cups partially cooked, short grain white rice (750 mL)
½ cup olive oil (125 mL)
1½ cups water, for boiling (375 mL)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (80 mL)
Grape leaves are used directly from the jar. Remove them from the
water in the jar, and unfold them, using one at a time. With a sharp
knife, cut off the stem portion of the leaf and discard it.
Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to
a boil and simmer for about 2-3 minutes, or just until the rice
begins to soften slightly. Strain the rice from the hot water, and
run under cold water. Set aside to cool. Place cooled, strained
rice in a large bowl. Add raw ground lamb, chopped onion, crushed
garlic, chopped parsley and spices. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Blend
all ingredients by hand. The mixture should stick together when
pressed in one hand. If it is too dry, add a few drops of cold water
Place about 1 tbsp. (15mL) of the meat and rice mixture at the
bottom of each grape leaf. Roll the leaf from the bottom up, tucking
the edges inward, toward the center, continuing to roll, snugly
on the top of the leaf – you should have a slightly rectangular
shaped firm roll. The jar of leaves will contain a few very small
leaves. These leaves are too small to roll. Place them on the bottom
of a deep stainless steel saucepan, drizzled with 2 Tbsp. (15 mL)
of olive oil. The leaves should completely cover the bottom of the
saucepan. This will prevent any sticking during the cooking process.
Arrange the grape leaf rolls in layers, snugly touching. Once the
first layer is complete, repeat the second and third layer in the
same way until all of the rice and meat mixture and all of the grape
leaves are used.
Combine approximately ½ cup olive oil with cold water and
fresh lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Pour gently over the stuffed
grape leaves, barely covering the leaves. Place three inverted plates
over the leaves, fitting almost to the edges of the saucepan. This
weight prevents the stuffed grape leaves from opening during cooking.
Cover tightly and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat
to low and continue to cook for approximately 1½ hours. Remove
cover and check often for liquid content. If liquid has been absorbed,
add more of the remaining liquid in small amounts. After about 1½
hours, test to see if the rice is cooked. If the rice is completely
fluffy and soft, remove from heat and allow the grape leaves to
sit, covered, for about 15 minutes. At this time, carefully tip
the saucepan, draining all excess liquid. After the liquid has been
removed, cover the saucepan again and allow it to sit for an additional
15 minutes. Remove the plates used as weighs. Invert a wide shallow
bowl over the top of the saucepan. Very carefully turn the saucepan
upside down, allowing g the stuffed grape leaves to fall into the
dish. This method prevents breakage from occurring when trying to
remove the grape leaves one at a time.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Cool
to room temperature and cover tightly before refrigerating. Serve
cold as a main dish or an appetizer.
Select a light-bodied red wine with good acidity - a Beaujolais-Villages
would be perfect or a Valpolicella. From the New World, try
Ontario Gamay or Pinot Noir.
Your guests will be delighted and amazed!
Note: If using fresh picked grape leaves, wash and remove
stem with a sharp paring knife. Blanch one leaf at a time in boiling
water for 10 seconds; remove and drain on paper towels. Ready to
use when cool.
To see more of Here's to Life!, tune in to Global TV
October 5 at 5:55 pm. The "Health Matters" segment
of the news will be
showing two of Sharon Thomas' favourite finished dishes from the
We can't wait!
Here's To Life! may be purchased by sending a cheque or
money order made out to "Here's To Life" in care of:
C.T.S. Enterprises, PO Box 126
Brampton, Ontario L6V 2K7.
The book is $24.99 in Canada. Shipping and handling included.
For more information about:
National Breast Cancer Fund. Toronto, ON, Canada
416-544-8487 or 1-800-788-NBCF (6223)
Web site: www.nbcf.net
The Breast Cancer Fund, San Francisco, CA, USA
Web site: www.breastcancerfund.org
Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.