Flowers: Wild and… Tamed

Thank you, o rain! After almost five years of little rain, this past winter brought plenty of water to Kea.

 

Rainfalls were soft and kind, without any flash flooding, long plentiful.  Roots had the opportunity to absorb a lot of water.  In our garden, even those plants that last year seemed to be slowly dying, like out Cistus puprupreus, this spring they are thriving, filled with flowers so ridiculously big that they remind of pancakes.

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TAHINOPITES: Tahini, Cinnamon, and Walnut Cookies, in Lemon Syrup

Traditionally made in Cyprus before Easter, during the spring Lent – when all foods deriving from animals are prohibited – tahinopites are 6-7-inch round, syrupy breads, coiled and stuffed with a tahini mixture. As the coiled tahinopites bake, the thin layer of dough cracks and the stuffing oozes out, caramelizing; these crunchy, darkened, sugary tahini bits are the best bites.

Why not have more of the best parts of the pie? I decided to shape the dough differently in order to increase the caramelized area. The results are bite-size, cookie-like tahinopites — a kind of Eastern Mediterranean Cinnamon Rolls. It is important to get the highest quality tahini paste for these cookies. They taste best made a day in advance.  As they cool, they absorb and fully incorporate the lemony syrup.

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Makes about 56 cookies

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With Succulent Fava Pods

It is fava time again, and this spring, after quite a long, wet, and cold winter, we seem to have lots of delicious, succulent pods.

Although we planted less beans last fall, the robust fava plants at the edge of our western garden are full of pods that I struggle to harvest before they grow large and stringy. We love eating them whole, much like green beans, as their velvety pods are tender and delicious. Over the years I have made the traditional braised fava with green onions and fennel, a more creative dish with preserved lemon and cilantro, and of course various kinds of fresh fava risotto, either with rice or orzo pasta. Inspired by a Spanish recipe by David Tanis I made a kind of fresh fava scrambled eggs, quite different from the traditional Greek island froutalia, the seasonal omelets with vegetables and potatoes.

Yesterday I cooked a new, apparently quite successful dish to showcase them: Inspired by the old, quick braised fava recipe with garlic, and both coriander seeds, and fresh coriander (cilantro) that I have in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, I created yet one more variation of the one-pot-pasta, this time with fresh fava and the two kinds of coriander/cilantro. Both Costas and I enjoyed it enormously, and we think that it is one of the best such simple pastas I made.

One-pot Pasta with Fava, Coriander Seeds, and Cilantro

Serves 3-4

1/2 cup good olive oil

4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon coarsely ground coriander seeds

About 1 1/2 pound tender fava pods, ends trimmed, chopped into 1/4-inch slices

350 grams bavete, ditalini or a combination (this was what I had in my cupboard)

About 4 cups boiling water or vegetable broth, Or more, as needed

Salt and Aleppo or red pepper flakes, to taste

A large bunch cilantro, chopped —stems and all

Crumbled feta for serving

Warm the olive oil and saute the garlic and coriander in a medium pot, until the garlic starts to smell. Do not let it start to color.

Add the chopped fava and sauté 2 minutes, then add the pasta, turn a few times and pour in 3 cups of boiling water or broth. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring often in high heat for about 9 minutes, adding more boiling water or broth if it gets dry. Taste and if the pasta is almost al dente, stir in the cilantro, taste, correct the seasoning, and remove from the heat, making sure it has quite a bit of broth.

Cover and let sit for 3-4 minutes, before serving in bowls, sprinkled with feta, and drizzled with fruity olive oil, if you like.

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Greens, again…

Porihia or Vrouves —the fresh shoots of wild mustard— are the horta (wild greens) we most love here on Kea! 

Their flavor is strong and somewhat bitter, much like the Italian cime di rapa or brocoletti. I am very proud of the bunch I gathered during our morning excursion up, in the mountainous Kato Meria. Feels like spring but we are told that more cold, wind, and maybe snow is coming…

With the bunch of porihia –wild mustard shoots– I gathered, instead of just boiling them as salad I made a fast, one-pot-pasta substituting greens and garlic for the tomatoes etc. of the original recipe. I could include anchovies, but I decided not to, this time. We didn’t miss them. 

I sauteed four garlic cloves in olive oil, added the greens, and some white wine, then about two cups boiling water, and half a packet of pasta. I cooked them stirring often, for about 9 min. Served the green’s pasta drizzled with fresh lemon juice, and more fruity olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and a handful of chopped fennel. We loved it!

See more recipes with greens, and the original One-Pot Pasta 

Braised Greens with potatoes

Lamb or Pork braised with Greens

Hortopsomo: Crust-less pie with Greens and Herbs

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Melomakarona – Honey-Infused, Olive Oil, Orange and Spice Cookies

The traditional, fragrant, old-fashioned Christmas cookies are my favorites! They are vegan because people ate them during the days of Lent that precede Christmas. I have updated my mothers recipe, adding ground nuts in the dough.

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I think you will find these cookies irresistible. If you manage to save them for later, they will get even better the next days.They keep for up to 1 month so you may want to double the recipe, especially if you bake melomakarona with friends, as we usually do.

 

Makes about 45 cookies

 

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Baked Giant Beans with Garlic and Dill (Gigantes Skordati)

In this, somewhat unusual dish, the beans have a lovely sweet, creamy and garlicky taste, scented with oregano and plenty of dill.

Photo by MANOUSOS DASKALOGIANNIS 

I got the recipe from the North of Greece and I particularly love to bake it in the winter, but also all year round, as I am fed up with the common baked gigantes in tomato sauce that all taverns serve.

From my first book The Foods of Greece

 

Serves 6 

 

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Veal Stew with Quinces (Moschari Kydonato)

This is my favorite winter stew. Quinces are equally delicious in savory and sweet dishes, and Greek islanders cook all kinds of meats with quince.

On Chios, they pair quinces with free-range chicken; on Crete, with lamb; and on Lesbos, with veal. As with most stews I make on Kea, our local veal shank is my first choice; but I also make pork with quince. I give the meat extra flavor by tying the cores of the fruit in cheesecloth and adding them to the cooking broth.

The combination of meat with quinces is not new. In the Roman cookery of Apicius we find similar stews, and quinces have been quite common in old traditional Greek cooking. (more…)

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More Fig Jam Experiments

After reading about the aromatic and complex fig jam we created three years ago, scroll down for a description of the plain, chunky new version Costas and I made last week. Fig Jam 2 bowl & basket S

Figs purple & green SI used to not particularly like fig jam; seemed too sweet and one-dimensional. But we always have too many figs so, a few years ago, for the first time, I decided to create my own different version of this jam, adding equal amounts of figs and lemons –my favorite fruit– making a Fig and Lemon Jam. I thought it came out quite nice, but Costas wasn’t impressed. He loves sweets much more than I do, and he longed for the thick fig jam his mother used to make in Volos, Central Greece.   Fig Jam 2 bowl SFigs: Preserving Summer’s Bounty the piece I did for the Atlantic in 2009 will tell you more about this luscious fruit! (more…)

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A Pie-like Stuffed Bread with Broccoli

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Bread Broccoli close S

As it often happens with my garden’s vegetables, I forgot to cut the broccoli when it was still hard and firm. Now it had opened and was soon going to fill with tiny yellow flowers, but I knew that this didn’t mean it wasn’t still delicious. I separated the stems from the very tender tops, and cooked them in boiling water for about ten minutes; I added the tops and cooked for another four minutes, then drained everything through a fine colander.

There was quite a bit of green mash at the bottom of the colander, from the over-ripe florets. I diced the stems, added the green mash and decided to use it as stuffing for breads. I was inspired by Scacciata con i Broccoli, a Sicilian stuffed focaccia from Catania originally made with the purple, very flavorful broccoli that was once the only kind we had in Greece. (more…)

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A Rainy Clean Monday!

I did this post two years ago but the weather this weekend seems very similar. Only our peas are not yet ready for picking, and their blossoms are white. But I guess I will cook and bake similar dishes. 

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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 seems it will be a rainy or quite windy day, a welcome change for us after a long period of sunny and dry weather, but the city people who will come to enjoy the island will probably feel miserable…

Yesterday the rain and the wind scattered the almond blossoms everywhere. 

rainfront

Two years ago the moving feast had happened later, in March.

Just before the rain {two years ago} 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. This year our lettuces are prolific and we share them with friends.

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