Cooking class: Helen of Caesarea

Celebrate the end of summer with Greek-style meze including meatballs, grilled sardines, fish and feta cheese.

Cooking class: Helen of Caesarea (photo credit: Boaz Lavi)
Cooking class: Helen of Caesarea
(photo credit: Boaz Lavi)
Now is the best time to enjoy the afternoon hours by the beach.
The sun’s rays are not so dazzling, and their touch is softer. The atmosphere of after the holidays is more relaxed, and there is no better way to celebrate our short-but-sweet fall than with a few Greek-style dishes and a glass of an anise drink on the Mediterranean seashore, much like the Greeks and the Turks.
In Greece, meals often begin with small plates of snacks, meze, which can range from dips and olives to fish and meatballs.
At Helena in the Port, a restaurant in the old Caesarea port, you can try a selection of small dishes created by chef Amos Seeon, who loves the Aegean cuisine.
He says that the cooking traditions and dining so typical to the area of Greece, Turkey and Cyprus sometimes differ from each other only by name and thinks this cuisine is perfect for Israel. In his kitchen, he combines dishes from those countries and gives them a local twist, adding ingredients that are used in Arab and Israeli cuisines.
With the backdrop of antiquities on one side and the blue water of the Mediterranean on the other, Helena in the Port is a great place to bring guests or enjoy a romantic dinner.
The chef gave us the recipes for a few of his favorite meze dishes, which are perfect for the end of summer.
KEFTEDES (GREEK MEATBALLS) Serves 4-6 These are traditionally made with lamb or goat meat. The bread helps create a lighter texture, and the wine adds a nice acidity. Serve with a hot tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes and garlic, or eat hot straight from the skillet.
500 gr. ground lamb 2 thick slices of day-old bread, soaked in water and squeezed ✔ 1⁄2 cup red wine 2 garlic cloves, minced 1⁄2 onion, finely chopped Bunch each mint and basil, chopped Salt and white pepper, to taste A little flour Olive oil for frying
Mix the ingredients and work until smooth. Create round patties and flour them lightly. Fry the patties in olive oil until golden. Place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Serve with a lemon wedge.GRILLED SARDINES IN VINE LEAVES Makes 2-4 4 fresh sardines, cleaned 2 garlic cloves, minced Zest of 1 lemon 1 Tbsp. chopped marjoram leaves Young fresh or preserved vine leaves, soaked in ouzo or arak for 30 minutes If you cannot find young fresh vine leaves, use the preserved kind, soak them in water, wash, squeeze the water out and then soak in arak.
Mix together the garlic, lemon zest and marjoram. Stuff the fish with the garlic mixture. Wrap the sardines with the vine leaves and roll tightly. Heat a lightly oiled iron skillet or a barbecue and roast the sardines 1-2 minutes on each side.
Serve with lemon wedges and tomato sauce or with thick Greek-style yogurt.
PICKLED FISH 500 gr. fresh anchovies clean and filleted (If anchovies are not available, use small filleted sardines or other very small fish) 100 ml. olive oil 200 ml. canola oil 1⁄2 parsley root, peeled and sliced very thinly. Use a peeler. 1⁄2 cup ouzo or arak 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 1 bunch thyme 1⁄2 kg. coarse salt 1 dried hot chili pepper
Spread the salt evenly on a baking sheet. Arrange the anchovies skin side down on the salt and leave for 15 minutes.
Turn and leave on the salt for another 15 minutes. Wash the salt from the fish. Layer the anchovies, garlic, thyme and parsley root in a glass jar. Pour the oils in and seal tight.
Serve the next day with tzatziki and black olives.
TZATZIKI 400 ml. (2 cups) thick Greek style yogurt Bunch chopped mint 2 cloves garlic, minced 4 small cucumbers, shredded 1⁄3 cup ouzo or arak Salt and pepper to taste Olive oil Green chili, chopped
Mix all the ingredients except oil and chili in a bowl.
To serve, spread on a plate, garnish with olive oil and a little chili. Serve with bread.
ARTICHOKE WITH FETA CHEESE Makes 4 8 artichoke hearts with the stalk attached. You can use frozen, but try to use fresh artichokes, which are in season now 500 gr. kadaif noodles 100 gr. melted butter Feta cheese, use high fat A few sage leaves Salt and pepper to taste 1⁄2 cup white wine A few thyme leaves 2 Tbsp. of olive oil
Remove the artichoke leaves and cook the clean hearts in water with 1⁄2 cup white wine, a few thyme leaves and 2 Tbsp. olive oil until partially cooked, about 35 minutes, and let cool.
Heat the oven to 180º.
Halve the artichokes lengthwise, but do not cut all the way through. Fill with the cheese and close, season with a little salt and pepper. Place 1 sage leaf on each artichoke.
Mix the noodles with the melted butter and tightly wrap each artichoke with a thin layer of noodles. Bake on an greased baking sheet until golden.
Serve with lemon wedges.
Recipes and photos courtesy of Helena in the Port, Old Caesarea.
Helena in the Port serves a la carte dinners, as well as a tasting menu of seven dishes at NIS 195 per person. The restaurant is not kosher. Call (04) 610-1018.