When I tell people that I love to cook the first thing they often ask is what my specialty is. Seriously, I don’t think I have one. There are just a handful of meals I make over and over again in exactly the same way. If anything, I guess my specialty is experimenting and coming up with new things! I’m not afraid to change things up.
I guess I’m just really indiscriminate when it comes to food. Heck, I don’t even have a favorite vegetable or a favorite fish, nevermind a favorite food of all time. There is absolutely no way I could pick a favorite dessert! So it’s kind of surprising that I can tell you exactly what my favorite food in Greece was without hesitating: the grilled Haloumi and tomatoes served with a honey-wine-tahini sauce that we ate at Strogili in Oia.
It was completely unexpected, and utterly delicious and different than anything else I’ve eaten. If I hadn’t harassed the waiter for the sauce ingredients, I could never have told you that it contained tahini, honey, wine, and mint. All I could say is that it was really freaking good and I savored every last bit. (Oh, yeah, I shared some with Ben too.)
I knew I’d be trying to recreate this at home, so when I saw a jar of tahini with honey in a grocery store in Mykonos (yes, I hit up grocery stores on vacation) I didn’t hesitate to buy it. When I opened it at home I was in love – this tahini was velvety soft and smooth unlike the regular tahini I’ve used.
“Can I buy this in the US?” I have no idea – check your local Mediterranean markets. “Can I make my own by blending tahini and honey?” I bet you can, but don’t ask me the proportions – just give it a shot!
Not surprisingly, I tested this out during our first week back. I didn’t have any haloumi, but I did have plenty of tilapia and it’s probably healthier to eat tilapia for dinner than just a plate of haloumi cheese. But I’ll do that some other time, regardless.
I didn’t have any wine open (not that I have a clue what kind they used) or mint, but I did have lemon juice, champagne vinegar, and basil, so I decided to employ those. After a few rounds of add-mix-taste-adjust (and using some water to thin it to the right consistency), I found something I was quite pleased with. Actually, make that very pleased. I will probably still tweak it next time, but this was pretty good for a first shot! I could have ate it all up with a spoon, but I spread resisted and saved it for the tilapia.
The sauce on the tilapia was nice and different – not quite as good as with haloumi, which gives a little salty contrast, but still very enjoyable. (I think salmon might have been a better choice since it works well with sweet flavors – I’ll have to try that next time!) We ate this alongside Swiss chard (a nice greeting from our garden upon our return!) sauteed with artichokes, garlic and lemon.
3 tablespoons tahini with honey
1 1/2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
splash of lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh basil or mint
water, to thin as necessary
salt, to taste
2 tilapia filets, about 4 1/2 ounces each (or other mild white fish, or salmon, because I think that would be really good though I haven’t tried it yet!)
salt, pepper, and lemon juice
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Combine tahini, champagne vinegar, lemon juice and basil. Whisk together, adding water as necessary to thin it out a bit. The sauce should be pourable, but not runny.
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place the fish on the foil and season with salt, pepper, and a splash of lemon juice.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until almost cooked through. Remove from oven, spread a little of the sauce on each piece of fish, and return to oven for 2-3 minutes. Before serving, drizzle the remaining sauce over the fish.
Note: I’m skipping the nutritional information on this one. Most Greek nutrition labels quantify the nutritional value per 100gm, not the actual serving size. I didn’t feel like doing the math. Just eat and enjoy, knowing that you are consuming wholesome, nutritious, unprocessed food!