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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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          

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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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Liver Pâté with Thyme, Orange, and Pistachios

A fast and easy pâté that I make with the flavorful innards from the free-range turkey or the rooster we get for our festive winter lunches.

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I no longer remember which pâté recipe served as the base for my adaptation. As is my habit, I start by sautéing the onions with olive oil, instead of butter or duck fat, adding orange jest and also pomegranate molasses, which give it a lovely, fruity flavor. I prefer to use unsalted pistachios, but if you cannot get them, salted are fine.

This pâté is an ideal appetizer or first course, served with a simple green salad, like the one we make from the Romaine and other lettuce leaves and arugula from the garden.

I am sure your friends will appreciate a jar of this homemade pâté, so you may like to double the recipe.

Serves 6-8, about 2 ½ cups 
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QUINCE Pie Rolls with Almonds, Raisins and Honey

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Inspired from apple strudel, the stuffing I propose has no sugar; the fruit is simmered in sweet wine with raisins and honey. I just sprinkle it with light brown sugar and cinnamon as I roll the pies. If you like the pie sweeter, sprinkle each piece with confectioner’s sugar as you cut to serve.

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If you are familiar, or you want to try the traditional Austrian way of making the dough and rolling the strudel on a piece of cloth you can roll one or two larger strudels with that filling instead of four pie rolls. And if you have no quince, use apples, following the instruction for the thinly-sliced, raw apple filing that is used in the strudel.

Makes 4 pie rolls; about 16-20 pieces  (more…)

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Octopus or Fish Pie

Adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands

The filling of this delicious pie from Cephalonia is unusual. The salty taste of seafood is complemented by the fresh flavor of zucchini, tomatoes, onions and garlic. The pie needs long, slow baking so that the rice can absorb the moisture in the filling and cook. The result is unbelievable. Octopus pies, a typical Lenten dish, are also prepared on Lesbos and other islands of the Aegean, but I love this particular version because of the special fragrance the cinnamon gives it.

This is a large pie, but any leftovers keep well for about 3 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to 3 months, wrapped in aluminum foil and sealed in a zipperlock bag.

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I often make it into small individual pies, especially if I use our homemade phyllo. Leftover, charcoal-grilled octopus can also be used in the stuffing, and a bay leaf at the bottom of the pan makes the pies fragrant.

 

Makes 10 to 12 servings    (more…)

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