Pasta with Purslane and Tomato

This easy, fresh, and utterly delicious summer dish is based on a Cypriot recipe my friend Marilena Ioannides cooked on Facebook Live during one of her brilliant weekly presentations.

Even if you don’t speak Greek you can easily follow her cooking method, which in that case is extremely simple.

Marilena uses scallions but I prefer to flavor the tangy purslane and tomatoes with garlic. Also I substituted basil for the mint, as we have plenty in the garden. Note that contrary to Italy, the traditional herb used in Cyprus, as well as in Greece is mint, not basil.

But of course you can choose either, depending on your taste, and whatever you have in your garden…

 

We ate purslane in the summer, since I was a child, as it is one of the very few greens we have this very dry season in our part of the world. Lately it has become much sought-after for its health benefits. Yet, as I will never cease to repeat, my choice of ingredients and way of cooking is always based on what I learned from my mother and grandmother, as well as from friends who recorded old regional dishes of our area. I choose seasonal produce and combine them simply, to create wonderful, fresh flavors; whatever health benefits they have is an extra bonus!

 

Serves 4

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Ginger-Grape Molasses Cookies

My take on the classic Ginger Snap Cookies, based on the recipe of King Arthur Baking.

I reduced the amount of sugar in the mix since the topping makes them far too sweet, anyway. Also I choose to make them with olive oil, instead of any ‘shortening,’ and of course I use grated fresh ginger that gives them a lovely, fragrant kick.

As for the ‘molasses’ mentioned, the only kind we have here is Grape Molasses, which have a wonderfully deep flavor. In Greece the traditional Moustokouloura (grape molasses cookies) are vegan –no egg– as they are a favorite Lenten treat. But frankly, these gingery ones are far better-tasting and easier (!)

 

 

As for the ‘molasses’ mentioned, the only kind we have here is Grape Molasses, which has a wonderfully deep flavor. In Greece the traditional Moustokouloura (grape molasses cookies) are vegan –no egg– as they are a favorite Lenten treat. But frankly, these gingery ones are far better-tasting and easier (!)

 

 

 For about 3 dozen cookies (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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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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Kolokotes: Squash-raisin-and-bulgur Hand Pies from Cyprus

Kolokotes are the old, delicious vegan pies from Cyprus: only three ingredients for the stuffing, plus an interesting spice combination.  They linger between savory and sweet and are a real treat, unlike any squash or pumpkin pie we bake in Greece.

You can enjoy kolokotes as snack, complemented with yogurt, labne, or fresh cheese; drizzled with honey, date or any fruit molasses they become a lovely dessert. 

Marilena Ioannides’ recipe is by far the best I have tried –and I did try lots over the years. She bakes the pies on camera –speaking Greek with no subtitles, unfortunately; but consulting my recipe below you can easily follow and understand how to make these simple, exquisite pies.

 

 

To collect the old, traditional dishes she included in her book Cyprus Food Treasures, Marilena traveled all over the island, even to the remotest villages, and managed to find some incredible dishes! Often they are the missing link between age-old foods we read about in old manuscripts and the more recent variations we still encounter in parts of Greece or in other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean.

 

NOTE in the video as she prepares the pies leisurely, in real time, she weighs all ingredients –even the olive oil and water– as she adds them, one by one in the bowl of the mixer, zeroing her electronic scale just before adding a new item. This is a wonderful trick that helps cooks use a minimum of  bowls and other measuring utensils. 

My recipe is adapted from Marilena Ioannides’ Kolokotes. I have increased the amount of raisins and doubled the pepper; also substituted fennel seeds for the fresh wild fennel she suggests.

 

 

Makes 6 large pies (more…)

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