Yet one more ingenious Mediterranean way to combine the garden’s vegetables with eggs and make a hearty, fast and enticing dish!

Usually it is served as an appetizer but it is quite filling and I prefer it as a main course for lunch or dinner, complemented with good bread –my own, of course.
Shakshouka means "a mixture" in Arabic slang, and the dish is believed to be of Tunisian origin. Another theory is that chakchouka derives from a Berber word used for vegetable ragout. According to a cookbook about the cuisine of Jerusalem the name’s origin is the Hebrew verb leshakshek (to shake).

Whatever its roots, the dish is served all over the Middle East, and recently all over the world!


PHOTO BY ANASTASSIOS MENTIS

The best shakchouka I’ve tasted was served in a restaurant called Doctor Shakchouka, in Jaffa, Israel. The owner brings the dish to the table in the skillet in which it is cooked, and diners dip big pieces of crusty bread into it, devouring them instantly.

Last week, for the first time, I made my own concentrated sour grape juice. I have written about it before, as I became addicted to the Lebanese dark and syrupy condiment that I can no longer get…

From the very old and robust grape vines that engulf the fence of our property in Kea we gather and stuff tender grape leaves in May for our trademark dolmades. But the dark grapes our vines produce later in the summer, although sweet, are filled with seeds and difficult to swallow. Plus we hardly ever manage to harvest them when they ripen, since wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush. Come harvest time we just find bunches of rotten half-eaten grapes.

The night before I planned to start the process, Costas gathered all the green bunches from the vines.

Ever since I was a child and my mother occasionally made thick syrupy, concentrated lemonade --which I didn’t particularly love-- I had never tried to make my own. When my dear friend Barbara Abdeni Massaad visited us in Kea and saw our lemon trees brimming with fruit, she pointed me to a very different lemonade recipe…


First and foremost this lemonade is not boiled, like my mother’s, and so retains its fresh fruity flavor. In her beautiful, extensively researched and documented book Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry, Barbara writes that she got the recipe for the ‘out of this world’ lemonade from Dolly Shammah, a Syrian lady originally from Aleppo.

This fragrant liqueur is a variation from a recipe for Thyme Liqueur that I got from the south of France and is part of my new book. Since I still have tons of lemons, and also because my Lemon Liqueur is so popular with our friends, I came up with this fusion of the two flavors that I think are the epitome of the Mediterranean Summer!


The French believe that thyme tisane is an excellent digestive and the perfect treatment for a hangover. But I suggest thyme not for its medicinal properties, but because its aroma, especially complemented with the lemon peels and with a bit of help from the alcohol, will transport you to the rugged hills overlooking the dark-blue sea—and if that is not therapeutic, I don’t know what is.

Sliced, drizzled with olive oil and roasted in the oven, our delicious lemons add tartness and aroma to the sweet fennel from the garden. Together they become an irresistible treat…


I took out the last fennel bulbs, some large, others not fully grown, yet starting to bloom. Our two trees are still brimming with large and beautiful lemons which I have to use up, store and preserve as the days get warmer. Soon we won’t have any more juicy fresh lemons, so I have to freeze as much juice as I can, and of course made more lemon curd and marmalade. I will also plan to make the unusual lemonade my friend Barbara Abdeni-Massad has in her spectacular book Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry; I hope I will post my version of her lemonade soon.

This year is the first time I managed to gather a substantial amount of fragrant rose petals to make a small batch of jam.


The kitchen is filled with the haunting, sensual aroma and although I try, I cannot remember for what reason during my childhood I so hated rose petal jam. I had probably associated it with endless and boring visits to monasteries on family excursions throughout Greece. Nuns traditionally prepare and offer visitors a spoonful of rodozahari (rose petal jam), which I always declined to taste.

Inspired by the exquisite “tasty, bite size, fruit candy” my friend June Taylor--the marmalade-maker par excellence— makes.

Trying to take advantage of our fragrant, thick-skinned lemons, I took the time and candied some lemon and Seville orange peels, after tasting June’s treats. I posted a recipe, the result of my very first try following the Greek way for making ‘spoon sweets.’ The peels were good, somewhat chewy, but nothing like the tender and fragrant citrus triangles June makes.

A brilliant English invention, this tart, lemony cream is truly irresistible!

Our trees are brimming with fragrant lemons and I made lots of marmalade with and without Seville oranges; I also made lemon liqueur, and this year I took the time and candied some peels (see recipe). I was inspired by the exquisite “tasty, bite size, fruit candy” my friend June Taylor--the marmalade-maker par excellence--makes!

With plenty of eggs from our neighbor’s hens, I decided to cook a lot because what I like most is pickled huevos haminados, which are simply delicious!


Sephardic Jews who live in Salonika, and all around the Mediterranean, prepare huevos haminados (baked eggs) as they were called in Ladino, the dialect of the Jews who were expelled from Spain. Prepared on Fridays to serve on the Sabbath, they were originally placed in a covered clay pot filled with onion skins and water and baked in a communal oven, hence the name. Later, the eggs were simmered for hours on top of the stove. The onion skins darken the white shells and give the eggs a distinctive flavor and creamy texture. 

I substituted my garden’s fava pods for the elegant green asparagus in David Tanis’ brilliant Spanish Asparagus Revuelto; the result is a humble, yet deliciously satisfying dish of scrambled eggs with fava and garlic.


Inventive Mediterranean cooks use any seasonal vegetable, herb or green, and combine them with eggs to make frittata or froutalia —the Greek version. I am thrilled to discover revueltos, the simple Spanish stir-fry of vegetables and eggs, similar to what we call strapatsada in Greece --from the Italian uova strapazzate (scrambled eggs).

On Saturday before the Holy Week, in many parts of Greece women used to bake anthropomorphic breads called ‘lazarakia’ to celebrate St Lazarus’ resurrection.

According to the old customs groups of girls called lazarines used to go around the village from home to home carrying baskets decorated with spring flowers and aromatic herbs, singing Lazarus’s carols and announcing the coming Easter feast...

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