Yogurt and Herb Pies Wrapped in Grape Leaves

In this recipe, the cornmeal-thickened yogurt with scallions and herbs, baked or fried and wrapped in tangy grape leaves, develops into an unexpectedly sophisticated “pie” with complex flavor.

In an earlier version, I made a large pie that I baked in the oven. It was good, but difficult to divide into portions. Paula Wolfert suggested small fried “packets,” which worked much better. Now I propose something in between: individual little pies, baked in tartlet pans or shallow muffin tins. When finished under the broiler, the grape leaves caramelize beautifully! Serve with risotto or any grain pilaf.

My friend, David Tanis has created and published in the New York Times his own brilliant version of the recipe using chard leaves instead of the grape leaves.

 

 

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Our Daily Yogurt is not ‘Greek Yogurt’

Adapted from a piece I had written for the Atlantic Food/Health blog.

 

Among my fondest childhood memories are summer afternoons under the shade of our fig tree, my father just up from his siesta drinking coffee, as yaourtas (the yogurt man) came to deliver the red clay bowls of freshly made yogurt, not yet completely cold.

My mother was rushing to the kitchen to bring back yesterday’s cleaned pots, which our yogurt man placed at the top shelves of his tin, two-doored cupboard, which had a handle at the top for carrying. With his cupboard/briefcase briming with freshly made yougurt pots covered with parchment paper neatly crimped at the rim, he visited the homes around our neighborhood. We lived in Patissia, where houses were surrounded by vast gardens, and we often had to chase somebody’s sheep and goats that sneaked in my grandfather’s vast property parts of which he rented to flower growers. Then the area was the outskirts of Athens; now it is completely unrecognizable as it became one of the most densly built parts of the city. (more…)

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Oven-roasted Summer Vegetables, Briami

We often roast the vegetables in the wood-fired oven and they become even more delicious and smoky. But even in the conventional oven, with the addition of some pimenton –the Spanish smoked pepper– if you like, this is a glorious and extremely easy dish to make.

When we were kids, before we had an electric stove with an oven, my mother used to get to our neighborhood’s bakery a pan of mixed vegetables well-doused in olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and other herbs. It was roasted in the communal oven, after the breads were baked, and we collected it just before lunch. Especially practical on summer days when we went swimming, as the baker was left to cook our lunch!

Serve it either warm or at room temperature, preferably with the addition of feta cheese, and fresh, crusty bread! These days we may just roast eggplants and peppers, omitting the potatoes if we want to serve the vegetables with rice or bulgur (see the Variation).

 

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Our Small, Thorny Artichokes

Artichokes truly embody the essence of the Mediterranean: sentimental and sensual but at the same time hardy and a model of perseverance. They totally dry out in the summer, only to bud miraculously from the earth with the very first rains, their lush leaves emerging like artesian wells from the soil.

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They grow very easily, or so you might be told.  Artichokes don’t need much water, Greeks will tell you, neither do they require extra care; they simply take root, never to leave your garden.  Unfortunately, not in our garden! We have been trying to grow them for years, and we actually managed to get a glorious crop of the luscious large and meaty globe artichokes that thrive in the Peloponnese.

But the next year only two plants survived, and the year after not even one. We realized that these were not the kind of artichokes that were prepared to tolerate our poor, sandy soil. We have plenty of totally wild artichokes, or gaidouragantha (donkey’s thorns) as they are called in Greece. But only in Crete, in Sicily, and in Cyprus there are still people who appreciate them and peel them carefully so that they can enjoy their unique sweet-bitter flavor. (more…)

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Flowers: Wild and… Tamed

Thank you, o rain! After almost five years of little rain, this past winter brought plenty of water to Kea.

 

Rainfalls were soft and kind, without any flash flooding, long plentiful.  Roots had the opportunity to absorb a lot of water.  In our garden, even those plants that last year seemed to be slowly dying, like out Cistus puprupreus, this spring they are thriving, filled with flowers so ridiculously big that they remind of pancakes.

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