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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Spinach, Herb and Feta Skillet Pies (Gözleme)

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Skillet pies –tiganokouloures or tiganopsoma in Greek, and gözleme or saç böreği in Turkish— have become our everyday project these days. Read more HERE.

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Next to the popular markets in Istanbul, and in most other Turkish cities and villages, there is usually a lady preparing gözleme.  She sits on the floor, rolling phyllo (or yufka, as it is called in Turkish) on a sofra – a large, low, round wooden table. Next to her burns a makeshift charcoal stove with a piping-hot saç griddle, a large concave drum blackened and shiny from years of constant use.  With these humble instruments she creates the most tempting street food the market has to offer. The large, half-moon-shaped pies are made to order.  Sheet after sheet of thin phyllo is rolled with the help of a long rod in less than a minute. She spreads either a mixture of greens, herbs and fresh salty cheese, or just dabs of creamy cheese with hot pepper and some dried or fresh mint. The gözleme are briefly toasted on both sides atop the saç, then folded or rolled and handed to the customer to devour on the spot. Gözleme is soft, sometimes the dough is not even fully cooked; eaten piping hot, these super-fast pies are very popular and there is usually a line of people waiting patiently to enjoy their treat.

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My version of a delicious skillet pie inspired by gözleme  is easy to make, provided you can roll phyllo. Unfortunately, the frozen commercial kinds cannot be used. In some parts of the US fresh yufka sheets are available. If you have a pasta machine it is easy to make your own thin phyllo strips and to create rectangular or square gözleme. They may look different from the traditional pies, but they will be equally delicious, as they toast to crispy perfection.

See also my dessert version, Skillet Pies with Chocolate and Nuts.

Serves 6

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Stuffed Cabbage Leaves, Logs and Cabbage Heart

Based on a recipe from my book The Foods of the Greek Islands

I suggest using a combination of savoy cabbage and collards (or kale). The pink tomato-avgolemono sauce is my variation on the traditional recipe, and its lemony taste goes well with the sweetness of the stuffed cabbage leaves. As with most stews, it’s better to make this dish a day in advance and let the flavors develop overnight.

Since it contains meat, greens and rice, all you need to accompany it is a simple side dish of steamed carrots or turnips—pour some of the avgolemono sauce over them as well.cabbage-dolma1-Sw

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Makes 6 to 8 servings  (more…)

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Roasted Quince and Carrots with Garlic, Allspice and Turmeric

If you like, you can roast boned chicken legs together with the quince and carrots, basting them with the same combination of garlic, olive oil and spices (see variation).

chicken & quince carrots S

I know that quince is hardly a common ingredient for everybody, so I propose you roast instead a combination of cauliflower (briefly steamed first) and turnips if you have no quince. But do add a few tablespoons of lemon juice together with the olive oil and spices, since both cauliflower and turnips are sweet and lack the quince’s tartness that so well complements the roasted carrots’ flavor.

Quince cutting S

Quince Carrot Baked & UN S (more…)

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Aglaia’s Mousaka

My Mousaka with layers of eggplants, potatoes, and peppers, is topped with yogurt and olive oil béchamel.   Read HERE the origin of this iconic Greek dish.

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I serve large spoonfuls, as with gratin dishes, and not perfectly cut squares. If you prefer a more elegant presentation make it in individual portions. I recently added the spicy and smoky Kea sausage to the lamb, to deepen and enriche the flavor.

Makes 6 servings (more…)

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Braised Greens and Potatoes with Lemon and Fennel (Yahnera)

In Crete, sweet and tart greens–tender pea shoots, sow thistle, wild spinach, sorrel, wild leeks—and if available tender fava pods, sweet peas, or a couple of artichokes bottoms and their peeled stems are all braised together with lots of wild fennel fronds. Freshly squeezed lemon juice gives zest to the stew. The potatoes taste wonderful as they soak up the aromatic juices.

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Makes 4 servings (more…)

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