Slow Cooked Eggs (Huevos Haminados) Decorated with Leaves

Two years ago, with eggs from our neighbor’s hens, I made these onion-skin-colored Easter eggs, most of which I later pickled, because what I like most is pickled huevos haminados, which are simply delicious!

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Sephardic Jews who live in Salonika, and all around the Mediterranean, prepare huevos haminados (baked eggs) as they were called in Ladino, the dialect of the Jews who were expelled from Spain. Prepared on Fridays to serve on the Sabbath, they were originally placed in a covered clay pot filled with onion skins and water and baked in a communal oven, hence the name. Later, the eggs were simmered for hours on top of the stove. The onion skins darken the white shells and give the eggs a distinctive flavor and creamy texture.

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With Lemon Verbena and Lemon

I love lemon verbena, and I insist we keep planting shrubs, although they don’t thrive in our poor soil and dry island climate. They are never lush, with shiny green leaves, as they are supposed to; their leaves are tiny and come in small clusters here and there, on long woody stems. But I keep trying, so, last year we decided to keep one in a large clay pot, instead of planting it in the ground. It seems to be doing a bit better, and so far, looks green and happy.

Lemon verbena is called ‘louisa’ in Greek –like in Spanish– and I find this romantic name better suited to this exquisite, fragrant plant. (more…)

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Strudel-like Quince Pie Rolls

 

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The stuffing I propose has no sugar; the fruit is cooked in sweet wine with raisins and honey. I just sprinkle with light brown sugar and cinnamon as I roll the pies…

More than a year passed but I still remember the wonderful strudel our friend Martina Kolbinger-Reiner baked while she and her husband, Peter came to Kea. They rented a studio flat in Hora for a week and when we decided to have lunch at a friend’s beautiful garden with dishes I would cook, Martina suggested to make a strudel for dessert.

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I am not very familiar with strudels –one or two I had in the past were too heavy with butter and soggy— but I knew Martina’s would be the real thing. I thought that she was going to use frozen phyllo or puff pastry for the casing, but when she brought her strudel I was amazed by its delicate, silky phyllo-like crust.  (more…)

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HORIATIKI, the peasant roots of Greek Salad

It is curious how a salad called ‘horiatiki’ became such a hit in Athens and all over the country. The term may be translated as ‘from the village,’ or ‘peasant,’ a welcome suggestion today as it brings to mind authentic good-quality foods, but when it was first introduced –probably in the 1960ies or early ‘70ies– the country was desperately trying to shed its agricultural, Eastern Mediterranean past, and become urban and European. It was common to dismiss a garment or a conduct as ‘horiatiki,’ not modern and worthy of the new urban middle class.

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Obviously, whoever first combined these basic ingredients created a salad delicious enough to be copied, improved upon and even exported and become a household dish all over the world! (more…)

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A Mediterranean Version of the English Summer Pudding

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This is my variation on the renowned English Summer Pudding. It was originally created and tested for my book, but was omitted, along with other desserts, to make room for more savory recipes and also for the gorgeous Penny De Los Santos’ pictures.

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It is neither Mediterranean nor an old and traditional British dessert.  It seems to have been invented at a health spa at the beginning of the 20th century. (more…)

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The Original 19c. Pasticcio from Syros

Greeks love pasticcio (or pastitsio), a dish of ground meat cooked with onions in a cinnamon-scented tomato sauce which is mixed with macaroni, cheese and béchamel, then baked topped with more béchamel. It is our version of Macaroni and Cheese, a comforting filling dish that mothers bake for their kids even when they are grownups… 

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Although its name is Italian (it means, literally, “a mess”), pasticcio as such does not exist in Italy, but its roots are in the elaborate old timbales—pastry-enrobed pasta, meat, vegetable and egg pies prepared there for special occasions. When I first visited Kythera, the island at the edge between the Aegean and the Ionian Sea, which divides Greece and Italy, I asked around about local dishes; the standard answer I received was “You must find the recipe for the Venetian Pasticcio”. Pasticcio, of course, is a dish prepared all over Greece and if you have visited the country, you have probably seen it listed on the menu of a tavern or restaurant.

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A Leafy Sweet Pie from Provence (Tourte de Blettes)

CHARD-Tourte-INGR---Piece1-This is an unusual dessert from Provence where chard leaves are the main ingredient, complemented by pears and raisins or currants, soaked in Pernod, the anise-flavored liquor. The pastry has yeast, olive oil and eggs, and is scented with lemon zest.

My recipe is based on the Tourte de Blettes posted by Camille Oger. In her very interesting blog Le Manger she collects recipes from France and from Asia. She is an anthropologists interested in the roots and history of the dishes. Her introductions to the recipes are often fascinating, but unfortunately only some of them, the ones from Asia, are also in English while those from France are only in French.

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Chards are used in sweet pies or turnovers in Catalonia and also on the Greek island of Tinos. In my book The Foods of the Greek Islands I have a recipe for the delicious Seskoulopita, the fried chard turnovers. In my head-note I write: “Cooks on the island of Tinos use the leaves of Swiss chard the way Westerners use rhubarb, tucking them into these festive turnovers. Traditionally made for Christmas, these turnovers are fried and sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.”

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Octopus, Calamari, and Classical Music

Octopus, cuttlefish, and calamari replace meat during the forty days of Lent preceding Easter giving us one more excuse to enjoy our beloved cephalopods!

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Schools close for two weeks for Easter in Greece, which we celebrate on May 1st this year. But when I was growing up Easter was the most frustrating ‘vacation.’ Theaters and cinemas were dark during holy week, except for the few that showed the Passion of Christ and other biblical-Hollywood films, which we ended up seeing repeatedly.

Most were low budget black and white movies, which my friends and I identified with code-names. One we called “the merci” because, although dubbed into Greek, Mary Magdalene in one scene thanked Christ in perfect French.  In another of those movies, dubbed ‘the bicycle,’ an anachronistic two-wheeler was clearly visible traversing the background of the frame during the climactic crucifixion scene. (more…)

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Recycling my Marmalade

We still have quite a few jars of perfectly delicious marmalade and various jams from years past, I realized as I was arranging in my cupboards the new pots of Seville orange marmalade I made last week. Besides offering to friends, using it as an ingredient –instead of sugar—in cakes and breads, I thought that maybe I could use these leftover marmalades to make some kind of fruit ‘cheese,’ or a locum (Turkish delight). These intensely citrus-flavored pastes would surely make bites infinitely more interesting than the usual colored rose-water, I thought.

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Looking up recipes, I was sure somebody else had probably thought of thickening a jam to create fruity bites, but I didn’t find anything on the web, so I decided to improvise, starting from the basic recipes for Turkish delights. (more…)

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A Spicy, Versatile Meat Sauce

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Ground meat, from the local free-range veal of the island, is something that I use a lot. The dark red meat is delicious, but quite tough and stringy, and for that reason I prefer to choose a nice piece, usually soon after my butcher has slaughtered an animal, and mince the meat somewhat coarsely. Unlike most of our neighbors, I rarely make Keftedes, but sometimes I do make my kind of burger, mixing the minced meat with bacon, onion, herbs and plenty of breadcrumbs or ground rolled oats.

Spicy Ground Meat is one of the latest all-purpose sauces I try to have in my fridge or freezer, divided into cups. (more…)

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