Spring is on its way, so salad is on the menu. This is no side dish - it's huge.
"I like salads a lot," said Konstantinos Kouvas, owner of the Four-Star Diner in Cortland. "It's probably the only thing I can eat this much."
This dish looks good too, probably because Kouvas really cares about what he's doing.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Michelle Robbins
Konstantinos “Gus” Kouvas shows his grilled pecan chicken salad recently at his restaurant, the Four Star Diner in Cortland.
Kouvas was born in Athens, Greece. When he was 10 years old, his parents moved him to the United States. At 19, he went back.
While there, he met his wife and started a family.
He also owned a company there, and it had nothing to do with food. This man who "likes to cook everything" owned a clothing manufacturing business.
Grilled pecan chicken salad
Boneless chicken breast
Crushed pecans (for meat and on salad)
Spring mix greens
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Sliced, hard-boiled egg
Grill chicken four to six minutes on each side. Add pecans to chicken while cooking, and use a sandwich press to work them into the meat. Also add butter while cooking.
Put all fresh ingredients in bowl, including some of the mozzarella cheese. Slice the chicken and put on top of the salad, and sprinkle with more mozzarella cheese and parsley. Garnish with the sliced hard-boiled egg.
Use a dressing of your choice, but the one Gus Kouvas serves with this salad is a homemade and includes olive oil, red wine vinegar, spices and feta cheese.
When he moved back to the United States, it was to give his daughter better educational choices. She's now 27 and on her way to becoming a doctor.
Kouvas, called "Gus" by his employees, said he knew the business he had been in would not be successful here.
"I always liked cooking," he said. "I always wanted to create a restaurant."
So that's what he set out to do right here in the Valley.
"I worked with some really good names," he said.
He said he worked with Jimmy Chieffo and also worked at Leo's Ristorante for a while, as well as a lot of other places.
"When I started to see the basic things, then I started to put my ideas in," he said. "Keeping the old recipes but adding something new."
He said he thinks people are eating differently now, getting out of the old routine and making it healthier.
"Cooking is lighter," he said.
Kouvas wanted to meet at the restaurant for this interview, mostly because he's not home much. But he said his pecan chicken salad is something he would make at home, where he also does most of the cooking.
"I would never serve anything that I wouldn't serve my family," he said of his menu offerings. "From eggs to steak to fish to lobster, I give the same attention and same love to everything."
Kouvas, who now has a young granddaughter, did say he's trying to take a couple hours off every day to spend some time at home.
"Thank God for the holidays," he said.
When he is there, he makes a few things he doesn't offer at Four-Star.
"I was born in Greece, and my wife is Greek - it's a different culture," he said. Those specialties might include roasted lamb and other Mediterranean dishes.
He did name one essential for his pantry at home.
"Olive oil - because you can't do anything without it."