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Chef On A Shoestring

Chef Jim Botsacos
New York, New York

Air date: Oct. 14, 2000

Plaki with Tomato, Garlic, and Onion



1 Large English Cucumber, peeled
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
1 Clove Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Cups Mediterranean-style yogurt (may substitute with strained conventional plain yogurt)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Mint, chopped
1 Tablespoon Fresh Dill, chopped
1 oz. Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

Method: Grate cucumbers into a mixing bowl using the medium-sized holes on a box grater. Combine with a pinch of salt and transfer to a colander lined with cheesecloth. Place colander over a bowl and drain the juices.

Squeeze the cheesecloth to extract any remaining juices from the cucumbers and transfer cucumber to a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with pita bread and cut into points.

Method for straining conventional yogurt: When straining your own yogurt, you will need to start with 4 cups to yield 2 cups for this recipe. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and set over a bowl. Note the bowl should support the strainer so it does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Put the yogurt in the strainer and let it drain overnight. Discard the liquid and use the strained yogurt as directed.

Plaki with Tomato, Onion, and Garlic


5 oz. Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus 2 Tablespoons for sauce
1 Tablespoon Butter
2 Medium Onions, peeled and cut into strips
Salt and Pepper to Season
4 7-oz. Spanish Mackerel Fillets (May sub. With flounder, cod, or another white fleshed fish), skin removed
8 Cloves Garlic, peeled and slice
1 Cup Red Wine
1 1/2 Cups Diced Plum Tomatoes (Canned) with their juices
2 Cups Chicken Stock (or canned low-sodium broth)
1/4 tsp. Dried Greek Oregano
1/4 Cup Whole Kalamata Olives
4 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley Chopped, plus additional for garnish
4 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes, cooked, cooled, and sliced

Method: Pour one quarter of the olive oil (1 oz) into a saute pan and place over medium heat. Add butter and swirl. When butter is melted and begins to foam, add the onions, stir to coat, and cook for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat and warm. Meanwhile, season fillets with salt and pepper. Add half of the remaining of oil (1 1/2 oz) to saute pan, swirl to coat, and add fillets to the pan. Saute for 2 minutes until lightly browned and turn fillets over. Place saute pan on the middle rack of the oven and continue cooking for 5-6 minutes, until flesh is opaque and tender. Remove from oven and set aside until ready to serve.

While the fish cooks in the oven, place another saute pan over medium heat to warm. When hot, add remaining 1 ½ oz. Olive oil, garlic, and caramelized onions. Saute for one minute and add the potatoes. Cook another two minutes and add red wine. Reduce the liquid until the pan is almost dry and add the tomatoes with their juices, chicken stock, a pinch of salt, and the oregano. Bring to a boil, add the olives, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook about 8 minutes until the sauce becomes rich in color, texture, and flavor. Finish sauce by adding 2 Tablespoons Olive oil and 4 Tablespoons parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

To serve: Lay 4 slices of potato in the center of a dinner plate — lay them in a circle with edges overlapping. Surrounding potatoes with a drizzle of sauce and top with one fillet. Spoon additional sauce over the top, sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve.


4 Cups Milk
4 Tablespoons Butter, plus 1 Cup (equals to 2 sticks)
1 Cup Granulated Sugar, plus ½ cup additional
Zest of one lemon
3/4 Cup Fine Semolina Flour
3 Eggs, Lightly Beaten
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
9 Leaves Phyllo Dough (Number 7)
1 Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon, plus 1 Tablespoon to combine with the confectioner's sugar
3 Tablespoons Confectioner's Sugar

Method: Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
In a saucepan, over low heat, combine the milk, 2 Tablespoons of butter, 1 cup sugar, and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer. Immediately whip in the semolina and cook, Stirring until it begins to thicken which takes about 4-5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and whip in the eggs. Return to heat and cook for 30 to 40 seconds more. Remove from heat and stir in 2 Tablespoons butter. Set aside and cool to room temperature (the custard will thicken).

Melt the remaining butter and combine with olive oil. This will be used for the cake pan and phyllo.

In a separate bowl, combine a ½ cup of granulated sugar with 1 Tablespoon cinnamon and set aside.

Using a pastry brush, thoroughly coat the inside of an 8" round cake pan with the butter/olive oil. Working with one sheet of phyllo at a time, place a corner in the center of the pan, and gently press the dough against the inside of the pan so that the dough adheres to every space (the phyllo corner should be centered in the pan, so that the 3 remaining edges overhang on all sides). Lay the corner of a second sheet into the center of the pan, slightly overlapping phyllo leaves so that much of the pan's surface is covered by dough.

Press into pan. Lay the third sheet in the same manner, covering the remainder of the pan's surface while overlapping slightly. Press dough into pan. Now you have on layer of dough.

Using a pastry brush, coat the dough with a generous amount of the butter/olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with the cinnamon and granulated sugar mixture.

Lay three more sheets of phyllo into the cake pan in the same manner and brush thoroughly with butter/oil. Sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon blend.

Repeat one more time, you will have 9 sheets to form 3 layers of phyllo in cake pan. Fill with the custard, use a rubber spatula to distribute the filling evenly.

Now, working with three sheets — or one layer — at a time, fold two opposite sides into the center to completely cover custard. Brush generously with butter/oil. Sprinkle with cinnamon and granulated sugar mixture. Fold over the two remaining sides in that layer (3 phyllo leaves each) and brush again with butter/oil. Sprinkle with granulated sugar/cinnamon. Repeat folding, buttering, and sprinkling until all layers have been folded to the center. Prick all over with a fork and place in oven for one hour. Remove and set aside on a heatproof surface to cool.

While the bogatsa is still warm, combine the remaining 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon with the 3 Tablespoons of confectionary sugar and sprinkle over bogatsa. Cut into portion and serve warm or room temperature.

**This dish is best when prepared and served in the same day.**

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