Gorgeous White Eggplants

My friend Hara Alexandrou gave me a basket with these wonderful white eggplants she grows in her garden. As I had mentioned before, we have not been able to produce decent eggplants of any kind in our sandy, poor soil, although we tried for years. I roasted slices of these wonderful eggplants simply dressed with plenty of olive oil, sprinkled with coarsely ground coriander, salt, and Aleppo pepper.

 

 

Only once we managed to harvest from our garden a few tiny white eggplants, full of seeds… (more…)

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Old-fashioned, Homemade Drinks

Long before shrubs became fashionable again, they used to be ancient Greeks’ favorite refreshments, called oxymeli (vinegar-honey syrup).

Equally almond milk, before becoming the favorite commercial dairy substitute, homemade milk from almonds and almond syrup, as well as the magnificent almond liqueur –called Crema alla Mandorla— were favorite Sicilian, and southern Italian drinks.

 

From my 1994, out of print book Mediterranean Pantry, with photos by the brilliant Martin Brigdale

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Feta on Barley Rusks with Cherry Tomato Relish

Inspired by the traditional Dakos/paximadia Salad from Crete, this is a somewhat different, delicious summer treat, or even an ideal lunch for the hot days. We prepared it with chef Michael Costa during the Greek Dinner we served to the 600+ participants of the 20019 Oxford Symposium, the last one that actually took place in Oxford; it has since moved to Zoom, due to the pandemic…

 

The dressing/relish is versatile and you can also use it over grilled chicken, fish or meat. This bright and fresh dish is ideal for picnics and garden dining.

See also the purslane-tomato relish I had posted earlier. 

 

 

Serves about 20 as a meze and 10-12 as summer lunch

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Giant Bean and Green Olive Salad

I first made this with a few leftover, homemade cracked green olives from the batch my friend Yiannis Tsivourakis had sent me from Hania, Crete. They were cured in a wonderful lemony brine, part of which I used in the beans’ dressing.

When I made the salad again I wanted to imitate this brine, but also somehow incorporate into the beans the flavor of the traditional lemon-coriander green olives from Cyprus, which I love. I was in luck, as I found the perfect rendition of these exquisite olives described in Dimitra’s blog.  She write that she is “a Greek Cypriot girl born and raised in London,’ and in her blog posts lots of traditional Cypriot dishes, but also foods from all over the world, things she cooks at home for her family. 

I suggest you dress and make lots of Dimitra’s wonderful green olives –not just the ones you need for the bean salad. I am sure you will enjoy nibbling on them with some good, crusty bread, anytime of the day… 

 

 

Serves 4-6 as part of a meze spread (more…)

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Flowers in my Salad!

In the spring we often complement our green salad with all kinds of edible wild flowers adding them to the basic mix; plus any fragrant sprigs and leaves we find in the garden. 

The green salad I described is inspired from the traditional Lesbos winter salad as I adapted it from my book The Foods of the Greek Islands.  

 

 

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.

 

For the spring version we often create “a multisensory food experience,” as Mind Body Green proposes. “When flavor, texture, appearance, fragrance, and beauty come together on your plate—the result is sheer culinary delight.” 

About the very common, slightly bitter dandelion blossoms —Taraxacum officinale — we read that “the golden blossoms are nutritious edible flowers beloved by herbalists, gourmets, and culinary devotees alike. Their bioactive chemical compounds have been touted for diuretic, liver-supporting, and anti-inflammatory benefits, among others. Some research has even found the dandelion plant may increase Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two valuable types of probiotics associated with gut health, ” the article point out.

 

 

Ubiquitous all over Greece and on Kea, the pale yellow mustard greens’ blossoms, add a delicious kick to the salad, while the pink rose geranium, and the purple rosemary blossoms and sprigs add extra fragrance to the crunchy greens and herbs. 

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.

 

WORD of CAUTION: Not all flowers are edible; unless you are sure what exactly you are foraging, be careful because many flowers may be toxic! 

 

RECIPE:  Green, Winter Salad, and the Flowery, Spring Version

 

 

 

 

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