Home Marinated Sardines: Simply Irresistible!

anchovies-marinated-loxo-SaSardeles Marinates is part of my daily summer lunch, accompanying any vegetables, beans, rice or pasta I cook. Sometimes it is even the centerpiece. I enjoy the sardines with slices of my bread – toasted if it is more than a day old – and of course with a large tomato, onion, and caper salad.

Sardines & bread1 SI never get tired of them, and one of the beauties of home-marinated sardines is that they keep for a week or more in the refrigerator, so I don’t have to make them often. (more…)

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Our ‘Florina’ Peppers

Peppers-pan-SPeppers-plant1-SBesides adding peppers to sauces, fry, and stuff with rice, vegetables, meat, or fish. I love the combination of flavors created by olive-oil-sautéed peppers and use them in my Eggplant, Pepper and Parsley Spread and in my simple Tyrokafteri (Feta and Pepper Spread) that can be made with either red or green sweet peppers. In the summer, when we have our vine-ripened peppers I simply like to grill them for my favorite Grilled Sweet Peppers with Two Dressings.

Peppers-GRILLED-SaAlthough peppers are New World vegetables and became part of the Mediterranean food basket quite late –sometime in mid-18th century— we very happily adopted them as our own and it is hard to imagine how we did without them. (more…)

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Bringing Cyclades Summer to the Oxford Symposium

The July 5 lunch that concludes the 2015 Symposium meals is a mostly Vegetarian Greek / Mediterranean Feast conceived to communicate the richness of the region’s meat-less tradition.

Savor simple dishes bursting with flavor created with the best traditional ingredients combined with seasonal produce. Taste exquisite olives, cheeses, savory biscuits, along with surprising, hearty vegetable and bean salads that are flavored with my own spicy-fragrant condiments. A selection of seven award-winning Greek wines will accompany the meal which will conclude with three ‘spoon sweets’ –the best artisanal fruit preserves– along with special Cypriot wedding cookies and an aromatic herbal tea brewed with wild plants gathered from the Greek mountains. (more…)

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Ashure: The Ancient Vegan Pudding

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The Turkish and Greek ashure, also called ‘Noah’s pudding’ in Istanbul, is a delicious, sweetened grain risotto with nuts and fruit, both dried and fresh.

Ashure is probably the continuation of polysporia the mixture of grains symbolically offered by ancient Greeks and other Eastern Mediterranean people to their gods, especially Demeter (Ceres), the goddess of agriculture, much like kollyva which in ancient Greek the meant “small coin” or “small golden weight,” as well as “small cakes.” The Turkish and Greek ashure or assourés, also called ‘Noah’s pudding’ in Istanbul, is a similar age-old sweet. (more…)

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The Non-irrigated Kea Almonds

The frail-looking trees have adapted perfectly to the dry climate of the islands.

At last people started to package and sell the local, small but delicious almonds! Keans say that almond trees, much like the olive trees, blossom bountifully every second year, and last summer we did have something of a bumper crop.

But until recently very few bothered even for their own use to harvest the fruits of the trees that grow all over the island.

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The very labor-intensive work of harvesting, peeling the semi-dried outer green peel, and then cracking the hard shell to get the kernels was not worth the effort; imported California almonds were so cheap… (more…)

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Progevma* Past and Present: Burned Grains and Old-fashioned Yogurt

Warm porridge mixed with yogurt in the morning, a staple in my breakfast routine, goes back more than 25 years. (Before that I used to start my days with toasted bread and cheese, as I never liked sweets for breakfast.) To flavor my porridge, I used a good pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes – a sweet-smoky, sun-dried and mildly hot Mediterranean pepper. I discovered this deeply-flavored condiment around the time I made the switch to oats, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

To make the porridge, I used rolled oats since it was the only kind available here. Tins of Quaker Oats became quite popular in Greece in the 1960s, and mothers all over the country prepared kouaker (pronounced koo-Ah-kehr), the word that came to mean ‘porridge’ in Greek. It was usually served sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar or drizzled with honey.

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This piece was written and posted at Team Yogurt.

Later, imported cornflakes and other crunchy breakfast cereals cornered the market. I was quite happy with my tart and spicy yogurt-porridge, which I complemented with two pieces of seasonal fruit: orange and apple, pear and strawberries, loquats and cherries, nectarines and figs or plums. I never ate bananas; we didn’t grow them in Greece. Now that I think of it, I never bought imported fruit at all. The local fruit from my weekly farmer’s market, at the foot of the Acropolis, was so fresh and irresistible that it made no sense to seek fruit grown outside the country.
It took me years to overcome the harrowing experience of my childhood breakfast: two slices of bread spread with a thick coat of margarine, washed down with a large cup of warm evaporated milk. (more…)

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Vegetarian Elbasan : Mushroom, Peppers and Rice Baked in Yogurt

Based on the iconic Albanian dish of baked lamb with rice, I came up with a meatless version for my book Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts. The recipe didn’t make the final cut, and my friend Cheryl Sherman Rulecooked, fine-tuned and photographed it for Team Yogurt.

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Photo by Cheryl Sherman Rule

Having eaten the delicious, creamy Albanian Elbasan or Tave Kosi my neighbor Ela prepared for us, I was determined to come up with a vegetarian version. Ela cooked lamb shanks on the stove with a little water and a quartered onion, then boned the meat and cut it into bite size pieces, discarding all fat. She left the broth to cool completely and skimmed it, getting about 1 cup broth which she mixed with her homemade yogurt that has the consistency of thick cream. She sautéed onions and cooked the flour in a mixture of olive oil and butter before adding the yogurt and eggs. She sprinkled the rice directly to the pan, with the meat, then poured in the broth-yogurt liquid. She was very careful not to over-bake and dry the food, letting the pan set at room temperature; this made her Tave Kosi so special. Mushrooms, both dried and fresh, together with peppers create a very different, but also flavorful base for the creamy yogurt-baked rice.
Instead of peppers, you could make it with diced zucchini, eggplants or any other seasonal vegetables.

(more…)

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The Formidable Cabbages of Kea

By February gardeners on the island pick the remaining cabbages from the garden, as they start to prepare the soil for the spring and summer vegetables.

Local cabbages are huge this time of the year but not particularly heavy; the heads are no longer tight and compact because the cabbage leaves start to loosen as the central stem grows. For us now is the ideal time to make lahano-dolmades, or yaprakia (stuffed cabbage leaves). It is much easier to separate the outer leaves of these late-season cabbages to blanch and stuff them. Our neighbor Stathis gave me two large cabbages the other day, as he was digging out his winter garden. He got six cabbages, more than Ela could use. (more…)

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Rovitsa: the Exotic Mung Beans!

Between the rich feasts of Christmas and the New Year, this humble yet delicious mung bean soup is what I would love to cook and eat!

Last year a friend of mine, a Greek-American retired archeologist who lives permanently in Kea and travels often with her husband all over Greece, brought me a bag of mung beans from the north, thinking that she had discovered a new kind of indigenous bean. She hadn’t seen them in the market before as they seem to be half-forgotten now after they created a sensation in the ‘80ies. My friend, like many others, didn’t know that this ancient Asian bean called rovitsa (pron. rov-EE-tsah) in Greek was “recently moved from the genusPhaseolus to Vigna,” according to Wikipedia, and was first domesticated in Mongolia where it occurs wild. In Punjab and other parts of India archaeologists have found evidence of cultivated mung beans dating back 4,500 years! (more…)

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