Cauliflower Gratin with Garlic and Feta

We are addicted to this comforting winter dish that uses all parts of the cauliflower, not just the florets, so I included it in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts. The first time I made it with anchovies to spice-up the cauliflower’s sweetness (see variation). I liked it a lot, but Costas definitely prefers the vegetarian, Feta version, so I begin there.

My recipe is loosely based on a broccoli and potato gratin from Provence, described by Guy Gedda in his classic book La Table d’un Provençal.

 

 

 

VEGETARIAN  

 

Serves 4-5   (I use a clay 9-by-8 inch  (23X20 cm) baking pan; a square, oval or round roughly 9 or 10-inch (23 or 20 cm) baking pan works just as well) 

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Braised Chicken with Quince

On Chios, quinces are paired with free-range chicken; on Crete, with lamb; and on Lesbos, with veal. With quince from our trees on Kea I make a stew with the  delicious local veal shank, but I also cook pork with quince. I give any meat extra flavor by tying the cores of the fruit in cheesecloth and adding them to the cooking broth. This recipe is a somewhat faster version variation of my Veal Stew with Quince.

 

 

Serves 6 (more…)

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Stuffed Summer Vegetables with Rice, Farro and Pine Nuts

The stuffing is simply a mixture of chopped vegetables, the bits and pieces removed to make room for the stuffing – this dish wastes nothing. Together they create an unexpectedly tasty combination. Eggplants, peppers, onions and tomatoes, with herbs, grains, pine nuts and raisins cook slowly in the oven inside the vegetables for an hour or more. Once cooled completely their flavors meld together and make the perfect summer lunch.

 

 

Some people think that the idea of stuffed vegetables came to Continental Europe from Sicily, where it was introduced by Arab Moors. But I have my doubts. Italian stuffed tomatoes and zucchini are quite different from those of the Near East. They are usually rich with parmesan and other cheeses, as well as with prosciutto.  In the Eastern Mediterranean cooks had to be frugal, making the most with the scraps from their hallowed and hollowed vegetables and rice or other grains.

 

 

 

Start by choosing a pan and that will hold, somewhat snugly, the vegetables you plan to stuff. The rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon rice for each vegetable you stuff, plus 3-4 tablespoons ‘for the pan’. But don’t worry; if you have leftover stuffing transfer to a saucepan, add some water and simmer, stirring every now and then, to make a delicious risotto.

 

 

This dish is time-consuming but worthwhile, and you can prepare it in stages. We often cook it together with our guest at Kea Artisanal. Tomatoes take longer to hollow than peppers or eggplant, so you can start them a day in advance. Once emptied, keep the tomatoes upside down over kitchen paper in the refrigerator and complete the preparation the next day.

 

Serves 6       (more…)

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Butternut Squash Soup with Yogurt

This is the soup I make often varying the ingredients slightly –with more onion or leek, sometimes adding chopped, dried mushrooms instead of the chicken broth. The topping also may vary; once I made a kind of caper-scallion-chard pesto instead of the fried peas.

Just toasted pine nuts with chopped cilantro are also a fine, simpler topping for this comforting winter soup.

 

Serves 6-8  (more…)

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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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