Chicken with Sour Cherries and Onions

An easy and delicious dish that combines Eastern Mediterranean and Asian traditions.

The tart sour cherries are traditionally cooked with meatballs in Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and since I love the combination of fruit with all kinds of meat, I thought chicken would be great with cherries. Boned and skinned chicken thighs cook fast, so the cherries don’t lose their bright color when the dish is done.

Last but not least, I balance the cherries’ tartness with plenty of sliced Kea onions which are wonderfully sweet.  

 

 

I marinate the chicken with soy sauce and wine, as I do when I make a stir-fry, and this adds an extra layer of flavor.   

 

Serve with just fresh crusty bread, or with toasted pita triangles, like Anissa Helou’s Kabab Karaz. Great with a simple bulgur pilaf, as well as with mashed or roasted potatoes. In the winter it is ideally complemented with David Tanis’ Baked Polenta.   

 

Serves 4-5 (more…)

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Chicken Kleftiko with Vegetables Wrapped in Parchment Paper

This simple chicken recipe is inspired from Arni Stamnas, baked in an unglazed clay jar called stamna, which was used by women to bring water from the village fountain. The story goes that some women secretly fed their sons or husbands who were guerrillas in the mountains, during the war of independence from the Ottomans in the 19th cen. by leaving water jars filled with food near the fountain. In the night, the men came secretly and collected it.

Since the water jar has a small opening, small pieces of meat and vegetables were inserted in the jar, which was then sealed with dough and slow-roasted in the wood-fired oven.

 

On the other hand,Arni Kleftiko (Guerillas’ Lamb) is a variation of the previous recipe. It was a simpler dish the guerillas prepared and baked in holes in the ground, where just a few charcoals warmed the stones keeping a slow, smokeless fire that didn’t betray their position, as they roasted pieces of lamb or goat wrapped in leaves and goat or lamb skin. ‘Kleftiko’ included small pieces of aged, spicy cheese, and is flavored with lemon and herbs. Unfortunately the Kleftiko most taverns make today, has lots of mostly melted cheese and it is far from the original recipe, I feel. 

 

The version of Arni Stamnas’ I puiblished in my first book was given to me by Electra Kalamboka from Kavalla in northern Greece, and it is obviously a more contemporary recipe with tomatoes, which came to be a common ingredient in Greek cooking around the end of the 19th cen. after Greece became an independent country.  

Somehow merging the two previous recipes, to cook chicken wrapped in parchment paper. Placing the wrapped food in a clay pot enhances the flavors, as it slows the roasting even further.

 

 

Serve with bulgur pilaf, or with plain olive-oil-and- pepper spaghetti or orzo, dousing the pasta with the delicious Kleftiko juices.

 

 

Serves 4-5 (more…)

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Braised Chicken with Beet Greens in Avgolemono Sauce

We love to make this delicious, yet very simple dish with the greens and stems from the local beets that we get on Kea almost all through the winter, until early in the spring. Manuela, my neighbor often gives me beets from her garden that are especially delicious. Later in April, as the actual beets get tough, we only cook the greens, as we would spinach, chard, or any other local leaves. 

The sweet beet greens are especially delicious flavored with the tart, avgolemono sauce.

 

 

Serves 6 (more…)

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Irresistible Plant Based Pasta Dishes

While in most parts of the world pasta is closely associated with butter and cheese, in Greece we have lots of traditional plant-based pasta dishes, without a trace of animal components. They were the staple of the numerous Lenten days, almost half the year –according to the old Orthodox calendar.

A humble leftover lentil soup becomes a delicious vegan pasta with complex flavor, while in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts  I created the Lebanese-inspired Linguine with Spicy Lentils and Caramelized Onions. 

 

 

Our plant-based, vegan dishes are not contrived, but created by the women who had to bring a delicious, filling dish to their family’s table.

 

(more…)

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Olive and Greens Pasta with Garlic and Lemon

I often make pasta with greens and lemon. Recently I found a recipe for pasta with green olives and feta in the NYT which was very close to what I often whip up.

But I wanted to try and make a completely plant based dish, with no cheese at all.

I was intrigued by a vegan pasta with greens and lemon in Food and Wine: It had white miso to add umami, but this ubiquitous Asian component is not part of our everyday ingredients, so I decided to use sliced Kalamata olives, the Mediterranean umami equivalent…

The resulting pasta is truly delicious, even for non-vegans like us!

 

See also my humble leftover lentil soup and the Lebanese-inspired Linguine with Spicy Lentils and Caramelized Onions. 

Serves 4-5 (more…)

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