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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Skillet-grilled Asparagus, Red Peppers and Zucchini Slices

Green are the only fresh asparagus we find here, on the island. They come usually from the Peloponnese and are succulent, and wonderful.  We like to briefly grill them on a stovetop griddle, on a non-stick pan, simply rubbed with olive oil and serve them sprinkled with some local, delicious finishing salt. I love the taste peppers impart to the olive oil, and whatever is fried with or after them, see this variation of the simply grilled-fried asparagus, as I combine them with sliced zucchini. 

 

If you would like to make this a main course add some olive-oil-fried eggs.

 

 

Serves 4-5 as first course or side-dish (more…)

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Green, Spring Pasta (Pasta Primavera) with Asparagus, Fresh Fava, and Lemon

A very satisfying, brothy, lemony pasta that you can whip up in minutes, much like the tomato one-pot pasta. Use whatever fresh greens or vegetables you have at hand; the leftover asparagus stems give extra flavor –we like to save the tender spears and  simply grill them, instead of using them in the pasta. Fresh or frozen peas can be substituted for the fava.

You can also add parsley, tarragon, chervil or any other spring herbs you like. 

 

 

Serves 3-4 (more…)

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A Festive Winter Lunch

Since we do not celebrate Thanksgiving in our part of the world, and all over Europe, turkey, duck, occasionally goose, and on Kea usually rooster, is the central dish we serve for Christmas.  

 

 

I, too, cook poultry for our friends and us, and instead of potatoes I roast pieces of quince, carrots and maybe some yams and/or mushrooms. A very satisfying baked polenta –from David Tanis’ brilliant recipe— will accompany the bird, and I will probably begin with a salad of roasted butternut squash with a tangy tahini-garlic-lemon sauce, and/or braised red and white cabbage with cranberries. 

 

 

Preparing and Roasting the Bird: I start at least two days before the feast. I get the bird well in advance, as in most cases it has to be ordered since I like to get local meats and avoid the frozen turkeys. I ask my butcher to spatchcock the turkey or rooster I plan to roast. The technique looks much easier than it actually is, especially if you deal with a big bird and you have not particularly strong hands, as is my case. I reserve the backbone to boil along with the neck and the gizzards, to make the stock that I will use for basting and for the vegetables in the pan. 

I rub the bird inside-out with plenty of sea salt and a fair amount of coarsely ground black pepper, along with dried oregano, cumin, allspice, and ground coriander seeds.  Don’t be stringy, use at least 1/2 cup of this spice mix, or of my aromatic Aegean Herb & Spice Mix. Place the bird cut-side up in a pan lined with kitchen towels, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day turn the bird upside down on the pan, usually adding more spices, and store in the refrigerator again until the day you plan to roast it. On that day you need to take it out of the fridge 3-4 hours before you put it in the oven to bring it to room temperature. (more…)

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Quince, Raisin, and Walnut ‘Sharlotka’

As I wrote in our November Newsletter, Apple Sharlotka had become our favorite winter dessert. This “…labor-saving, timesaving and space-saving [cake]” is how author Darra Goldstein, author of  “Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore” described sharlotka to Olga Massov, who wrote about it in the Washington Post.

This wonderful cake has become our go-to early winter treat and I was making it all the time.  To the apples I often added a cup of last year’s quince preserves, before making the new batch. Now that we have plenty of quince from our trees, I adapted Darra’s basic recipe for these fragrant fruit.

 

It takes a bit more time, since the quince need to be poached or slow-baked to soften, but the result is worth the extra effort, as you can attest if you try it…

 

For a 9-inch round cake –or equivalent square, or 1 large or 2 small loaves 

 

(more…)

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