Cooking Class at Klimataria Tavern in Athens, Greece

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Jay and I crave culture and love food we have been taking a cooking class in every country we go to and learn so many new ways to cook. Although when we try to re-make some of the things at home we realize we might need more than just 1 class! I had randomly booked this class last minute on one of my friends travel websites it was only $62 per person and the only thing related to cooking that was available in Athens so I just booked it not expecting anything special. Walking into this totally blind all I had was the name of a train stop we were supposed to meet at and what I thought was the name of a restaurant emailed to me in the form of a voucher. After printing this out at the hotel I asked the front desk if they knew how far away it was. Knowing from the past experiences train stations and stops can be very confusing I thought we would just take a taxi directly to the restaurant. Assuming we would be schlepped away in a stuffy van then cooking in a corporate kitchen style setting with a bunch of other couples. The man handed me a paper with the address of the restaurant and said that he had never heard of it. I'm thinking... Great!! This is going to be an interesting experience!!

When we got ready to leave the bell boy pulled up a taxi for us and I handed him the paper. The first thing he said to me was "I'm taking you to a really amazing restaurant." Now I'm thinking we are way under dressed because he talked it up like it was the best restaurant in town. After driving down a few alleyways going away from the city I started seeing a lot of graffiti and a lot less people. Jay and I just looked at each other with that "Oh Shit" look and the car stopped outside this brightly yellow painted building with a cute little sign out front that said "Klimataria Tavern" I walked in a little hesitant only because I really had no idea what I was in store for.

Inside it's a little wonderland of wine barrels, vines grown down from the ceiling and little fun trinkets hidden everywhere in the decor. Not what I was expecting at all but as I saw the table filled with spices, herbs, and fresh produce my face lit up as a man handed me a glass of wine.

We were greeted by Maria the owner of the restaurant. She was one of the most wonderful people we met while in Greece. Down to earth and teaching me how to cook like her Grandma, that's my kind of woman! She laid out some kind of tomato pie appeared to be made with Phylo dough and said "What do you taste?"  I tasted obviously tomatoes and onions, Jay tasted mint and dill but most of all you could taste the love and see it in her eyes as she watched us taste her pie. This was then followed by a hospitality aperitif shot of Raki apparently your supposed to sip it not shoot it. Honestly it's so strong and potent I don't see how anyone sips the stuff. It's similar to Ouzo and the official drink in Turkey which is where we first tried it.

"Why do we cook?"- she asked. My sarcastic answer was obviously "because it tastes good" like duh? It goes much deeper than that though as she goes on to explain that we cook for love or memories. Our holidays are surrounded by large meals and loved ones, our kitchens are stocked fresh with love and memories.
"Good food surrounds good people."- she said. If you find yourself in a restaurant eating bad food the people who made it don't love it so why would you eat that? Your putting bad energy into your body. You can't add love to your food it comes from within. It's not something that can be created by adding more salt or less flour. (I think the same is true for wine too hehe)
"Traditional is simple. There is no waste."- Fill a banana pepper with your leftover cheese pie filling and bake it. Roll some cured meat and cheese in your leftover pastry dough then bake for an appetizer. Melt some local cheese in a pot with pasturmas or cappicola and serve with bread. Never leave yourself with leftovers they can easily be turned into something new and delicious. Red peppers about to go bad? roast and can them or mix with feta cheese and some olive oil and serve with bread.
"We cook the same as our Grandmother"- Took a stroll down memory lane when she said this. It really is true. I should say "The best cooking secrets you learn from your Grandma." I remember one of the first things I learned how to "cook" was German Potato Salad my Grandma's way. Still to this day I make it almost exactly like she did regardless of all the other BS recipes I've come across. She taught me to cook the potatoes a day before and refrigerate them overnight so they cut easily when you go to make the salad. I still do that to this day and I always keep my leftover bacon grease in the fridge. Grandma taught me how to cook with that too ;) She also taught me how to make Potato Noodles or badische schupfnudeln which still to this day my Dad can't even perfect. To credit my Dad I still use his Saur Braten recipe ;)

After a few more glasses of wine we finally got started cooking. I guess we had to get on her level first ;)
She then went through all of the spices, herbs, and produce we would be using and I started to get the idea that we were about to make a feast little did I know we would be making:

  • Pastry Dough (used for pies and what I call "Drunk Snacks")
  • Mini Roasted Eggplant Pies (Mpourekakia)
  • Feta Cheese Pie with Yogurt and Herbs
  • Greek Salad (Horiatiki) 
  • Roasted Eggplant Salad 2 ways (Melitzanosalata) (which is more like a spread you could serve next to... 
  • Feta Cheese Salad (is the bomb!!) 
  • Dolmas or Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmadakia Gialantzi) 
  • Tzatziki
  • Lamb in Hull 
Basically we were making a TON of stuff!!

Before and after shots of our Roasted Eggplant pies. I missed out on the picture of the Feta Cheese Pie but it was amazing. The dough is easy to make and the fillings are very simple. Quick and easy appetizer I can now make and fill with anything. Obviously you can tell we need some practice on folding the dough over to seal. We rolled up some of the leftover dough with black sesame seeds and shredded cheese for what I explained as "Drunk Snacks."

Feta Cheese Salad! I didn't get a clear picture of this but had to post because it is SO DAMN good!! So simple too!! Puree 1 roasted pepper with red pepper flakes and olive oil. Mix into really good feta cheese crumble until it forms a chunky paste. Serve with toasty bread slices or vegetable sticks.

Roasted Eggplant Salad with roasted red peppers on top! Another quick and easy way to make a healthy first course or a different type of "salad." It's traditional greek and simple to make just 1 roasted egg plant cut open and topped with S&P, good olive oil, fresh parsley, and roasted red peppers.

This is the second version of Roasted Eggplant "Salad." It's 1 roasted eggplant with some of the burnt skin, 1/2 of a cooked potato (no skin), garlic, lemon juice, S&P and olive oil. Blend in blender, mix in fresh parsley. Simple and yummy!! Used to top toasty bread and I'm thinking it will be good on some fresh grilled fish!! 

Stuffed Grape Leaves are really really good if they are made fresh!! I've only had the canned version up until this day. They can be stuffed with ground beef or pork but here we used rice and a mix of fresh herbs. I really enjoyed these unfortunately we were starting to get full at this point and Jay was saving room for the lamb leg. They are really easy and fun to make!! As you can see lots of olive oil!! One cannot be shy with olive oil in Greece!! 

Tzatziki!!! Keeping with the "Traditional is simple" theme it's very easy to make!! Grate 1 cucumber, squeeze the juice out and drain. Add cut garlic 2 cloves and dill a few tablespoons, add good quality greek yogurt enough for your liking, olive oil and vinegar. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Eat. Serve with bread or use as a sandwich spread. You can also serve as a side dish. 

Jay is learning attentively.

Real Tzatziki!! Made in Athens, Greece using her grandmother's recipe.

We were so full and tired after making everything previously shown was over the course of 4-5 hours of cooking, drinking wine, and talking that I didn't get a very good pic of the "Grand Finale" Leg of lamb in a ceramic dish. Personally I don't eat lamb, what I learned from this was she cut little pockets everywhere in the meat. Then Maria took peeled and crushed garlic cloves covered in S&P and shoved them in the pockets she made in the lamb. I'm going to try that with my next pot roast.. BEEF pot roast ;)

Jay said lamb was delish very tender. 

By this time if your not tired from reading all of this imagine how tired and full we were after making all of this!! I've have to hand it to Maria I don't know how she does cooking classes like this nightly. The entire time she was effervescent and full of positive energy. She kept saying Angie and Jay "Look at me, see what I'm doing here." Then she would get our attention again if we weren't actually looking. It was a lot but I'm glad it was I learned so many new ways to prepare simple menu items. Maria put me back in touch with my cooking soul. When we made it home I cooked everything I first learned how to cook as a kid and it tastes like home. Now I can see that is what she was trying to show us through this variety of dishes what she ate growing up and exactly how her grandmother made it. I will take the lessons I learned here everywhere I go and take more pride in every dish I make. I will continue to cook from the heart and make memories that will last a lifetime. Certainly neither Jay and I will ever forget this cooking experience. It has been one that touched our hearts and kept us coming back for more.

 During our 3 day Athens trip we ate here twice. The second time was a little bit annoying because we got stuck in a taxi for 1 hour only because lied to us when he said he knew where the restaurant was. Eventually we were so lost he was asking people for directions. Luckily I had Maria's phone number and we were able to find it! Anyways. We took one last picture together and said our goodbyes. Someday we will be back!! 


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