Dinner and a Date: Grecian Style!

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This week, Ms. Jeannie is taking you on a little dinner date! From the look of things above you may think that her adventures have taken her abroad on an exotic travel vacation steeped in ancient history. If you guessed the destination to be time-traveled Greece, then you are correct! Sort of.

While the view looks like this…

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and the menu looks like this…

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Ms. Jeannie is excited to inform you that she has never actually left the U.S.. In fact she never left her city. That’s right dear readers, Ms. Jeannie is visiting Greece while never leaving Nashville. Let’s see how…

During other day explorations of her new city, Ms. Jeannie delightfully happened upon the United States’ only full scale replica of the Parthenon that famous historic ruin in Greece that was built in the 430’s B.C.  In case you need an art history refresher, this is what the original looks like …

The original Parthenon as it stands in Greece among all its ruined glory.

The original Parthenon as it stands in Greece among all its ruined glory.

And this is the American version…

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Standing elegantly (and so massively) in the city limits of Nashville’s Centennial Park, this American Parthenon is incredible in size, scope and detail.

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While it is not quite as old as the original (this one dates to 1897) it is a true work of art from all angles with the stories of Greek heroes and gods running all around the facade…

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Built in 1897 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the state becoming part of the union, Nashville’s Parthenon was built by Southern architect and Civil War veteran William Crawford Smith for a special event exposition that included several other copies of ancient ruins.

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This original photograph of the Nashville Parthenon was taken in 1909. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

With no intention of making a permanent structure, the Parthenon was built as a whimsical folly, fully expecting to be dismantled shortly after the celebrations ceased. But as an instant favorite among locals and visitors the Parthenon became a part of the permanent Nashville landscape in the 1920’s when it was completely rebuilt in more solid form. What was once the original wood and plaster model became much more weather resistant concrete. Now it is hard to imagine anything getting in its way.

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There is nothing petite, frail or breakable about this beauty. It is difficult to get a sense of size or scale from photographs but this father and son pictured below hint at the sheer size of both the steps and the columns…

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As the sun travels across the sky, the colors, shapes and shadows morph from sand shades to cinnamon to sweet potato to gold. And then the night sky darkens. The spotlights come on. And the Parthenon lights up in the most spectacular of ways…

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It is no wonder that the park stays open until 11:00pm. With wide sweeping lawns, a small meandering lake complete with floating geese and ducks and plenty of shade trees, the Parthenon makes an ideal romantic backdrop for a late summer/early fall picnic. Ms. Jeannie spotted lots of hand holders among all those columns!

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In celebration of the beauty and timeless appeal of the Greek culture Ms. Jeannie is including a recipe here for a Mediterranean meal that works great for brunch, lunch or dinner. Or perhaps that romantic picnic in the park! Pulling a traditional Greek recipe from a 2010 cookbook, Greek Revival by Patricia Moore-Pastides, Ms. Jeannie put her own spin on a classic recipe that could be served in a number of situations – hot out of the oven at home, room temperature straight from the picnic basket or cold out of the fridge for instant next day left-over gratification.

While the recipe is classified technically as a tart, it is more on the fluffy side like a crust-less quiche then a dense whole ingredient tart. Traditionally it is served as side dish but it can be easily adjusted serving size wise to accommodate hungrier appetites. Serve it with some toasted crusty bread drizzled with olive oil and garlic, or a simple side salad and a glass of a wine or honey smothered fresh fruit and you have some magical combinations of savory flavor pairings that could take you from morning to night.

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Sweet Potato, Zucchini and Feta Tart

1.5 tablespoons olive oil

1 large sweet potato

2 medium zucchini

8 oz. feta cheese

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pesto (you can make your own or buy a small jar already prepared)

2 eggs

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons flour

1/4  teaspoon pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Oil the bottom of a 9 x 11 inch baking dish. Grate the sweet potato and zucchini on the large hole section of a traditional box grater – this  should yield about 3 cups of each.  Toss both vegetables in a large bowl together…

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3. Spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

4. In a medium size bowl mix the feta and pesto and then sprinkle over the sweet potato and zucchini mixture.

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5. In a blender mix together the eggs, milk, flour and pepper. Pour over the the top of the cheese/vegetable mixture and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until well set and golden brown on top.

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The original Parthenon was built in Greece as a temple to honor Athena – the goddess of reason, intelligence, inspiration, art and literature. The American Parthenon was built to honor and represent the intelligent and cultured community of Nashville.. And this blog post was designed to honor you, dear dedicated readers of this blog for so many years now. Food and history go hand-in-hand, Ms. Jeannie sends a big cheers your way for encouraging and supporting both!

For more Greek recipes please visit this previous post here.

4 thoughts on “Dinner and a Date: Grecian Style!

  1. That tart looks delicious and I’m so lucky to have just visited Nashville and it’s Parthenon where I fell in love with the giant Athena! A friend suggested a day trip to Franklin and Leiper’s Fork which I did and can highly recommend them both. Can’t wait to try this recipe Ms. Jeannie. Thanks.

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    • Oh how exciting for your fun trip to town! Athena! She’s a whole other blog post in the making:) Franklin and Leiper’s Fork are definitely on the day trip itinerary. Can’t wait to see your Nashville photographs. They’ll be divine of course just like all your others:) So glad your trip was a big success.

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  2. Ms. Jeannie, I am going to make the Sweet Potato, Zucchini and Feta Tart. I remember past years of visiting the Nashville Parthenon when living in Nashville. Beautiful area and wonderful memories. Looking forward to your next article. Gloria

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