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. Here, the firm, fragrant fruit, with its appealing tart flavor, is balanced with the sweet wine and the plums, or pearl onions.

This stew can be prepared almost entirely in advance and refrigerated. Then you need only simmer the meat in the sauce for a few minutes and caramelize the quinces just before serving. Accompany with potatoes, especially with David Tanis’ Olive oil and Garlic Mashed Potatoes, or with polenta.

Leftover sauce makes an unusual but excellent pasta sauce, or it can be a great topping for fava, instead of the caramelized onions.

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Makes 4 servings      (more…)

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Quince and Mini-squash Stuffed with Wheat Berries, Nuts and Raisins

This is my suggestion for a glorious vegetarian main course. I bet that even avid meat-eaters will enjoy it. The combination of the sweet, mini squash with the tart quince is perfect!  For the stuffing I adapted the recipe for the Stuffed Quince I have in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts (page 156). But I omitted the tomato sauce.  

The small squash can be an interesting substitute for quince in case you cannot get the fragrant old apple-like fruit, which is the epitome of our Mediterranean winter. I actually envy my American friends because they can get these absolutely fantastic mini butternut squash, or honey-nut-squash as they are called. They were developed by Michael Mazourek, a plant breeder at Cornell University, in collaboration with the visionary Dan Barber.

If you are going to stuff just the squash, I suggest you add some tart apple to the stuffing or spike its sweetness with pomegranate molasses. (more…)

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Eating our way through the North and South of Greece

Highlights from a sixteen-day exploration of the culture and gastronomy of the two wonderful, diverse ends of the country.

PART ONE: The North and Northwest

I arrived in Kavala one day before the official beginning of the trip.  What a wise decision that was!  It gave me more time to spend in Imaret.

This incredible, five-star hotel, is housed in an historic, 1817 building, a masterpiece of late Ottoman architecture.  Hardly a place for those expecting a Ritz-like accommodation, its 26 charming rooms are full of character, one different from the other.  Their appeal is original and uncommon, but quickly grows on you as you get immersed into the charm of this structure which was originally a religious school.

There are pools and serene inner gardens, long marble verandas and arcades that offer spectacular views of the bay of Kavala and the Aegean beyond.  Looking at the bay, I enjoyed my exquisite breakfast as the golden morning sun sparkled on the water, an experience I will never forget!

Caught up in all sorts of everyday chores on Kea, even when we don’t prepare for a program or cook with our Kea Artisanal guests, I haven’t had the chance to travel within Greece for a very long time.  The invitation of Georgeann Morekas and the Baltimore Women’s Guild of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation to accompany them as they explored parts of northern Greece and Crete was a most welcome change.  (more…)

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Eating our way through the North and South of Greece (II)

Spinalonga, Lasithi and Archanes

At Elounda Bay hotel, on the northern coast of Crete, the sea was warm and inviting in the late afternoon as the sun was setting.  We reached this popular southeastern resort of Crete flying from Ioannina, Epirus, to Athens, then to Heraklion, and finally driving through areas I used to know well but found so much changed. (more…)

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Basic Tomato Sauce (Saltsa Domata)

In the winter, when good, ripe tomatoes are not available, use canned, or slice and roast the pale available tomatoes to make them more flavorful. Instead of sugar, I like to sweeten the sauce with currents.  

Beyond pasta, the sauce can be used on flat,  breads complemented with crumbled feta or any other cheese. It is the basis for the vegetarian mousaka, and also for the stuffing for papoutsakia (eggplant slippers), with the addition of chopped, sauteed bell peppers and feta, graviera or any other cheese, with or without walnuts, or other nuts.

Yields about 3 cups sauce, enough for 1 pound pasta          

(more…)

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An Ancient Legume, Revisited

Braised capers are an ideal topping for the local fava, the trademark dish of Santorini. Today Santorini Fava is served as a meze at taverns throughout Greece, usually prepared with mashed, imported yellow split peas (dal), dressed simply with fruity olive oil, topped with sliced onions and dried Greek oregano.

In the old days, though, fava was made from dried fava beans and/or from an indigenous, ancient legume, a variant of Lathyrus sativus (chickling vetch or grass pea), called cicerchia in Italian and almorta in Spanish.

Legumes such as Grass pea, and fava (broad) beans were planted in alternate years, instead of barley or other cereals, in many parts of Greece, especially on the islands where the soil is often very poor. My neighbor, Zenovia Stefa, told me that in the small gardens and terraces around Otzias, where we live, her late father used to plant grass peas (Lathyrus sativus), the legume for which the generic name ‘fava’ is used throughout Greece. (more…)

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Santorini Fava with Caramelized Onions and Capers

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Braised capers are an ideal topping for the local fava, the trademark dish of Santorini. Today Santorini Fava is served as a meze at taverns throughout Greece, usually prepared with mashed, imported yellow split peas (dal), dressed simply with fruity olive oil, topped with sliced onions and dried Greek oregano.  In the old days, though, fava was made from dried fava beans and/or from an indigenous, ancient legume, a variant of Lathyrus sativus (chickling vetch or grass pea), called cicerchia in Italian and almorta in Spanish.

Inspired chef Dimitris Mavrakis, in Kritamon, his wonderful restaurant in Archanes, Crete, makes fava with a combination of legumes: dried fava beans, split peas and some lentils, and the flavor of the pureed beans is wonderful, even without any topping (see variation).

8-10 Meze servings (more…)

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Youvetsi: Baked Lamb with Pasta in Tomato Sauce

Adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands.

This is the basic recipe for the very popular meat and pasta dish. You can prepare it with beef –I very often make it with the local, beef-like, veal shank on Kea (pictured here) but also with free range, gamy chicken (see variations).

Although I think that orzo-pasta works best, you can also find the dish made with hilopites (the small squares, or the flat, ribbon-like traditional pasta).

Makes 8 servings       (more…)

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Figs in my Bread!

FIGS green 014 S

These days of fig abundance are here again, and if I am not making fig jam I use the leftover figs, the overripe or the ones that start to dry on our old tree in the back of the house, as stuffing for bread.

Fig Bread cut SMany years ago I had eaten in Paris delicious bread twists with figs and I tried to reproduce them in my kitchen with dried figs in the winter, but the results were not memorable. With dried figs and Rockford cheese I top a savory flat bread that I often serve as meze, before the main meal, and I included it in my last book. (more…)

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Bread Stuffed with Figs and Brown Sugar

Fig Bread cut SServe as dessert, with xynomysithra –the tangy ricotta-like fresh cheese from Chania, Crete. It is great for breakfast with yogurt and fruits, but can also be paired with aged and spicy cheeses. It is wonderful with gorgonzola and kopanisti –the Greek fermented cheese– especially complemented with Vinsanto of Santorini, with Mavrodaphne of Patras or port wine, but also with my aromatic lemon liqueur. (more…)

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