Sugarless Rice Pudding with Dates and Almonds

I first made the vegan version of the traditional Greek ryzogalo, without sugar (see variation) researching and testing my recipes for the Plant Forward Summit; same ingredients and method only with oat and almond milk instead of regular cow’s milk.

 

I use dates instead of sugar and I think it is  as delicious, or maybe better, than the one my mother used to make…

 

 

Serves 8-10 (more…)

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Preserved Lemons: Fast, Truly Edible, and Fragrant

The problem with the straightforward whole preserved lemons made the traditional way is that they take ages to ferment

 

But most importantly when they finally do ferment and their pith becomes soft and nearly translucent, they usually have such a strong, salty and bitter taste that their use as flavoring are extremely limited. Even few pieces added to rubs or marinades for meat or oily fish can overpower all other flavors and aromatics in a way that is not actually pleasant even for the most avid lemon lovers as myself; Costas really hates them.

 

 

So last year I had a revelation reading the recipe for ‘Preserve Lemon Chutney’ by chef Floyd Cardoz. His description of how to make fast and fruity fermented lemon wedges, in order to use them for his chutney, was really what I was looking for. I tested and played with his instructions –not the chutney, but just the preserved lemons— and here is what I now make and use and love!

 

 

“At the restaurant we preserve lemons all year round, and use them endlessly in salads, dishes with a north African feel, or puréed with crème fraîche, which we serve on roasted fish,” writes chef Cardoz.

 

 

I would add that these wonderful lemon pieces are complimenting my skordalia (garlic sauce), as well as potato salads, boiled greens (horta), steamed broccoli or cauliflower, and of course poached fish or chicken. I like to julienne the preserved lemon pieces and use in my salad dressings, and to flavor freshly cured olives, and all kinds of bean salads.

 

Fast Preserved Lemon Wedges

 

For 1 litre (quart) Jar (more…)

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The Green, Winter Greek Salad

Inspired from the traditional Lesbos winter salad as I adapted it from the recipe in my book The Foods of the Greek Islands.   Greek Salad is seasonal here; in the summer tomatoes are its basic ingredient but in the winter it is definitely green.

 

 

Greek Salad is seasonal here; in the summer tomatoes are its basic ingredient, but in the winter it is definitely green.  From the first October rains up until the end of April, the greengrocers of Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos, used to sell each head of romaine lettuce tied together with two or three sprigs of borage (often with its little blue flowers), two or three scallions, several sprigs of peppery arugula, four or five sprigs of dill or fennel fronds, a few sprigs of peppery wild cress and either fresh mint or a little wild celery. Once home, these essential ingredients for the local green winter salad are thinly sliced and tossed with a simple vinaigrette.

It’s important to cut the greens at the last moment and to slice them very thin. If they are coarsely cut, the salad will taste different.

 

 

Makes 4 servings (more…)

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Comforting, Olive-oil-fried Potatoes, and Eggs

Slightly soggy, not particularly crunchy olive-oil-fried potatoes, accompanied by an olive-oil-fried egg, or just yogurt, or a piece of tangy feta, was the ultimate comfort dinner for my sister and me.

 

Many older Greeks share the experience; I guess now pizza –ordered out or microwaved– has replaced our beloved tiganites patates (fried potatoes) which need dedicated mothers to peel, cut, and fry the potatoes from scratch, since the frozen kind was never an option…

 

Shallow frying any kind of vegetables, meatballs, or fish in olive oil is the tradition for home cooks around the Mediterranean. My mother was re-using the frying olive oil 2-3 times, passing it through a fine sieve after frying the potatoes. She was keeping it in a separate bottle, to have it handy for the next time she had to fry potatoes, zucchini or meatballs. Of course, after frying meatballs or fish the oil had to be discarded. My mother sometimes added pieces of dried bread or leftover rice to soak up this frying oil and feed the semi-stray cats that roamed around our vast garden in the outskirts of the city, where I grew up.

I was very pleasantly surprised when I found this humble childhood comfort food served at the prestigious Paco Meralgo tapas restaurant in Barcelona. Called “ous de pages ferrats” (meaning ‘fried farm eggs’ in Catalan) the dish was exactly like our favorite childhood dinner; only it had two, instead of just one eggs with the fried potatoes. My friend, the renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés has demonstrated on US television his special technique for frying each egg in olive oil so that the white is cooked and firm, but the yolk stays wonderfully soft and runny.

 

Apparently, Catalans as all Spaniards share our affinity for olive-oil-fried eggs, as it is obvious from the famous ‘Old Woman Frying Eggs,’ Diego Velázquez’ early 17th c. painting. Like the old lady in the painting, Stelios Trilyrakis at his Dounias tavern, fries his incredible potatoes in a clay pot over live fire. No wonder people from all over the world brave the long, winding, and often harrowing road to drive to the village Drakona, high in the mountains of western Crete, not just for the potatoes but for all the delicious age-old traditional dishes Stelios prepares.

 

Fried potatoes are always my favorite comfort food, and when, ten years ago, my dear friend, the famous chef and author Deborah Madison asked me to send her my favorite recipe for her book ‘What we Eat when we Eat Alone,’ I described my beloved olive-oil-fried potatoes which I often accompany with a simple sauce of yogurt with some spicy Dijon mustard these days; my deep-flavored fried eggs, usually from our neighbor’s hens, I prefer to enjoy with toasted slices of my home-made bread.

 

 

 

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