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...

The large and rich-flavored goose eggs are just an extra bonus! 

Our neighbor’s coop was repeatedly attacked by martens, the small European wild predators that seem to thrive on the island. Twice in the winter they have nested inside the engine of our pickup truck and we had to shower them with the hose because we couldn’t otherwise scare them enough to make them leave. They somehow manage to get into the coops, even if they are well-fenced with strong wire on all sides, and kill the chicken severing their heads.

The last of the broccoli braised with potatoes and plenty of garlic, just before we uprooted the flowering plants.

Although slugs and snails feasted on our broccoli, we had quite an abundant crop this year; certainly more than we could possibly eat. I froze a couple of bags, gave to friends throughout the winter, and now that the time has come to free the space to plant zucchini and the first tomatoes, I decided to make a quick lunch with these very last sprigs. Even Costas enjoyed this extremely simple dish, although he told me he is fed up--he was never a broccoli enthusiast, anyway.

To follow the Greek tradition I cook bacala --salt cod-- on March 25 (Annunciation day). But instead of the usual cod fritters that most people prepare, I decided to roll chard leaves around a multi-colored stuffing of fish and vegetables.

Salt cod was called ‘mountain fish,’ or ‘poor people’s fish,’ in Greece because in the old days it was cheap and affordable all over the Mediterranean, even in the remotest villages. Imported from Norway or Iceland it has now become a kind of delicacy, especially the best pieces. In Barcelona’s spectacular Boqueria market there are many different kinds of salted cod, sold already soaked and boned. In Genoa, in the maze of the old Medieval neighborhood I came across this spectacular shop where salted cod was soaking in marble basins!

Waste not, want not, and most Mediterranean dishes adhere to this maxim. In fact, many are conceived to make use of any combination of abundant seasonal vegetables, greens and herbs, and they often combine them with eggs or simply bind them with cornmeal to create a substantive, satisfying, and nourishing family dish.

One of the most glorious spring dishes is the dark green kuku sabzi (kookoo-ye sabzi or kukuye sabsi), the traditional Iranian New Year's Day dish. Nowruz --as the Persian New Year is called -- marks the Equinox, the first day of spring that we just passed, that unique time of year when day and night are equally split. In her unsurpassed New Book of Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden writes that "its greenness is believed to be a symbol of fruitfulness in the coming year, bringing prosperity and happiness." Kuku sabzi consists of just scallions or tender leeks and herbs – any combination of parsley, dill, mint, coriander, etc. – often with the addition of a few spinach leaves. Ground walnuts and turmeric, or the aromatic Persian spice blend advieh may flavor the dish. Since I am not an expert in old or modern Persian/Iranian dishes I leave others more qualified to provide the recipe and step by step instructions for fried kuku sabzi; and here is an easier, baked version.  

This was the second mild winter in a row for us here on Kea, proving the common view that when it is fiercely cold and wet up north, down south it stays mild and mainly dry. After a few good rains in November, January turned up full of sunshine, and February left us hoping for more rain, but in vain. Signs of spring are here, with colorful patches of flowers on the green slopes. In our corner of the world green is the color of winter.

Last November, after about ten years, we drastically pruned the old almond trees. They seemed to like it and in February, during some of our coldest days, they filled with glorious blossoms in different shades of pink and white; the air was carrying the sweet smell and soon bees came buzzing as if it was summer. Now the trees are green with fresh leaves and the flowers have turned to fruit that has started to ripen; the green almonds are still tiny, fuzzy and crunchy-soft inviting us to pick and bite, ready for pickling. Those of you who will join us this year will taste them, probably at the welcome dinner.

Yesterday I harvested the first favas from the garden. I could probably have done it earlier, as a few of the pods were already so large that needed shelling! 

To the freshly harvested fava I added a bag of frozen shelled beans from last year, when I discovered that they were in perfect condition, very easily peeled, as if I had blanched them. At the end of the spring I freeze fresh, tender fava pods as well as shelled fava in zip-top bags so that I can cook fava dishes all year round; but I seldom do. There are always new vegetables and greens every season, so I had almost forgotten these beans...

It was love at first bite! A couple of years back I added carob flour to my bread dough -- actually I used far too much the first time—but still the deep earthy flavor won me over; and Costas loved the dark brown bread even more…

For me carob’s taste has nothing to do with chocolate for which it is supposed to be a substitute. The brown color of the bread would be, I suppose, similar to one made with cocoa powder, although I have never added cocoa to my yeasted breads; only occasionally I stuff my breads with pieces of bitter chocolate. I am sure the ‘carob chips’ I read about in the Whole Foods blog will be a somewhat strange substitution for chocolate chips, especially the dark, chocolaty ones I use in my baking. Carob is now advertised as ‘a healthy chocolate substitute;’ mind you, I never considered chocolate, especially the bitter kind Costas and I consume, an ‘unhealthy’ food, but maybe others do. Whatever the reason—mine is its flavor--carob is getting quite popular these days. The Whole Foods blog and the sleek website for carob products from Crete is ample proof…

Kathari Deftera (Clean Monday), the first day of Lent is traditionally celebrated out of doors. During the long weekend people travel to the country to eat, drink, fly kites and dance to the tunes of live bands provided by various municipalities. But this year it was a rainy day, a welcome change for us after a long period of dry weather, but the city people who came to enjoy the island were really miserable…

Just before the rain, Costas and I gathered the first sweet peas from the garden; the wind had broken a large branch which we decided to use as decoration for our humble table. I briefly sautéed the peas with garlic, and dressed some of my pre-cooked beans with spicy ladolemono--lemon and olive oil with chopped scallions and Maras pepper.

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