by Kate Heyhoe
The French drink pastis, Italians savor Sambuca, Turks toast with raki, and the Greeks imbibe ouzo. While other countries sport similar drinks (such as Arabia's Arak), the Mediterranean region seductively beckons countrymen and travelers alike to partake in short glasses of these anise, or licorice, flavored liqueurs. Served as aperitifs or after-dinner drinks, these crystal clear liquids swirl mysteriously into a shade of milky alabaster when water is added, as if conjured up by spirits or playful gods. In some parts of France, water is dripped into a glass of pastis through a sugar cube, held in a perforated spoon.
I myself enjoy a splash of ouzo, topped with 3 coffee beans, after a warm summer meal—just as I used to do on Mikanos—but I relish just as much a meal made with ouzo. If you're bored with routine or looking for a perky new flavor twist, try cooking with ouzo or any other aniseed-flavored drink. The best food candidates for complementing the licorice taste are seafood, salads, desserts, sausages, lamb and pork. Think of recipes where you would use fennelseed (or raw fennel), and try this liquid liqueur version instead.
I wouldn't serve the following recipes together—that's a bit of aniseed overkill in the same meal, but they each add their own Mediterranean mystique to other rustic outdoorsy dishes. The Grilled Greek Shrimp spotlights ouzo as the main attraction, with shrimp, grilled bread, garlic and ham as the supporting cast. The Mesclun Greens with Kumquat-Lemon Vinaigrette more subtly showcases ouzo in a most complementary way—the licorice taste is barely noticeable, just enough to make the citrus and honey flavors sing. Finally, serve the Wilted Ouzo Onions as a condiment fitting for sandwiches, salads, burgers and grilled meats; try them in a Greek salad, mixed with feta, tomatoes, and cucumbers, or adorn them on a summer sub of mixed meats, shredded lettuce and cheeses.
Start or end the meal with a thin chilled glass of very cold ouzo, accompanied by a small pitcher of ice water or simply a cube of ice. Some folks prefer their ouzo opaquely white and slightly tamed, while others would rather sip and savor it straight, strong and clear.
But fair warning: like any liqueur, this drink is intensely concentrated alcohol, so use prudence—add just enough ouzo to give a hint of the licorice taste—and fair warning: pour your drinks with a light touch! If not, your morning mood may be as lifeless as an ancient Greek statue, and your head may feel just as heavy.
Kate's Mediterranean Menus for May...
Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created May 1999
Copyright © 1994-2017,