Oven-roasted Summer Vegetables, Briami

We often roast the vegetables in the wood-fired oven and they become even more delicious and smoky. But even in the conventional oven, with the addition of some pimenton –the Spanish smoked pepper– if you like, this is a glorious and extremely easy dish to make.

When we were kids, before we had an electric stove with an oven, my mother used to get to our neighborhood’s bakery a pan of mixed vegetables well-doused in olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and other herbs. It was roasted in the communal oven, after the breads were baked, and we collected it just before lunch. Especially practical on summer days when we went swimming, as the baker was left to cook our lunch!

Serve it either warm or at room temperature, preferably with the addition of feta cheese, and fresh, crusty bread! These days we may just roast eggplants and peppers, omitting the potatoes if we want to serve the vegetables with rice or bulgur (see the Variation).

 

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Our Small, Thorny Artichokes

Artichokes truly embody the essence of the Mediterranean: sentimental and sensual but at the same time hardy and a model of perseverance. They totally dry out in the summer, only to bud miraculously from the earth with the very first rains, their lush leaves emerging like artesian wells from the soil.

artichoke-cutting-small

They grow very easily, or so you might be told.  Artichokes don’t need much water, Greeks will tell you, neither do they require extra care; they simply take root, never to leave your garden.  Unfortunately, not in our garden! We have been trying to grow them for years, and we actually managed to get a glorious crop of the luscious large and meaty globe artichokes that thrive in the Peloponnese.

But the next year only two plants survived, and the year after not even one. We realized that these were not the kind of artichokes that were prepared to tolerate our poor, sandy soil. We have plenty of totally wild artichokes, or gaidouragantha (donkey’s thorns) as they are called in Greece. But only in Crete, in Sicily, and in Cyprus there are still people who appreciate them and peel them carefully so that they can enjoy their unique sweet-bitter flavor. (more…)

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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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