Grain Risotto with Kale or Cabbage

I love to make risotto with our Mediterranean wheat berries (farro) or with pearl barley. I use the grains on their own or complemented with some rice; in these combinations I prefer to add the long, basmati rice instead of Arborio or medium gran rice.

The cooking is a variation of my usual risotto with leafy greens, but on this occasion I prefer to cook the grains with a more substantial green, like kale or cabbage. 

A few years back we managed to grow some Russian, as well as Tuscan Kale in the garden; but unfortunately we have not been able to grow these wonderful greens again, so I use cabbage for my hearty grain risotto.

See also Kapuska: Cabbage with Ground Meat and Cabbage.

 

 

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

Share

Read More

Chickpeas with Orange, Lemon and Squash

There are countless variations of slow-cooked chickpeas all over the Mediterranean. Most are vegetarian, like this one, inspired by a dish Stelios Tylirakis prepares in his wood-fired oven at Dounias tavern, high in the mountains above Chania, Crete.

In Crete chickpeas are commonly flavored with bitter (Seville) orange, while in most other islands lemon is used. I think orange peel is a wonderful substitute for the bitter orange, along with some lemon juice. This simple chickpea dish, like the one without squash, should be made with the best quality, preferably organic dried chickpeas, not the canned ones. Their flavor is so much more interesting. 

I add mustard, something I learned from my mother who claimed that it made all pulses more digestible. I’m not sure it does, but it certainly deepens the flavor of the beans and chickpeas.

 

I start describing the long, old fashioned oven-cooked method, and then I add my way of making the dish fast, with pre-cooked, frozen chickpeas without losing its original flavor and texture –by the way I, as most Greeks, like the chickpeas meltingly tender, somewhat mushy, not chewy.

 

I developed this recipe for EATING WELL magazine; part of a piece about the healthy Cooking of Crete (March 2020).

 

 

Serves 6-8 (more…)

Share

Read More

Bulgur Pilaf with Eggplants, Peppers, and Tomatoes (Hondros me Melitzanes)

This pilaf is often made not with plain bulgur (hondros in Crete) but with xynohondros, the traditional tangy ‘pasta’ of Crete, which is prepared early in the summer by simmering cracked wheat in goat’s milk that has been left to sour for 3-4 days. Tablespoons of the porridge-like mixture are spread on cloths and left in the sun, turned over a few times, until bone-dry. Usually the pieces are crumbled before drying completely, to facilitate the cooking. Kept in cloth bags xynohondros is used all year round for pilafs, soups, and added to stews with vegetables, meat or poultry.

To imitate the xynohondros flavor I suggest you serve the pilaf with dollops of yogurt and/or crumbled feta.

 

I developed this recipe for EATING WELL magazine; 

part of a piece about the healthy Cooking of Crete (March 2020).

 

 

Makes 4 servings   (more…)

Share

Read More

Lemony, Spicy Pasta with Chickpeas (Cecci con la tria)

The very interesting combination of pasta and chickpeas originally comes from Puglia, on the heel of the Italian boot. It is served drizzled with diauliciu (the Devil’s condiment), as the Chili Olive Oil is called in many parts of the Italian south.  All the versions I tasted were made with fresh homemade pasta, part of which was fried, adding a lovely crisp to the dish. 

You can achieve a similar effect with the dried commercial pasta (see Note).

 

Scroll down for the variation, based on the NYT Roman version of the Pasta with Chickpeas with rosemary and tomatoes, instead of lemon.

 

 

Serves 4

 

1 cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, or 3 cups pre-cooked, frozen chickpeas

 

1/2 cup olive oil

 

1 pound homemade fettucine, or any commercial dried pasta –linguini, spaghetti etc.

 

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

 

1-3 dried pepperoncini, or good pinches Aleppo or Maras pepper, to taste

 

Sea salt

 

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth or more, as needed

 

2 bay leaves

 

3 tablespoons or more freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

 

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

 

Flat leaf parsley to sprinkle

 

Fruity olive Oil to drizzle

 

 

If using dried chickpeas, drain and cook in plenty of water, over low heat, for an hour or, until tender.  Drain the chickpeas, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

 

If you like, and you are using homemade pasta warm the olive oil in a large heavy skillet, and fry about a quarter of the fresh pasta, until crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. 

If you are using dried commercial pasta skip this or see Note. 

In the same olive oil, sauté the garlic and chilies for less than a minute, without letting the garlic color.  Add the cooked chickpeas sprinkle with salt to taste, and sauté 2 -3 minutes more.  Pour in 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid, or broth, add the bay leaves, and cook for another 5 minutes or more, until chickpeas are tender, adding more broth as needed.

 Stir in the lemon juice, taste and adjust the seasoning with freshly ground pepper and more lemon juice, or salt, if you like.

 

You can prepare the dish a few hours in advance up to this point.

 

About 20 minutes before serving, boil the pasta al dente, following the package instructions, drain it, and add it to the simmering chickpeas. Crumble the fried pasta, add to the skillet, toss and adjust the seasoning.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve, drizzling each plate with fruity olive oil.

 

NOTE:  If you are using commercial dried pasta, boil a handful for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to soften.  Drain well on paper towels and then fry it in olive oil until crisp.

 

VARIATION:

Pasta with Chickpeas with Tomatoes, Rosemary, and Chicory

Adapted from the NYT recipe, by Colu Henry

Sautee one coarsely chopped onion and the garlic, then add 2-3 fresh, diced tomatoes and 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary with the chickpeas; cook until tender, then add 1 cup ditalini pasta into the broth.  After 5-6 minutes, add 2-3 cups coarsely shredded kale, or radicchio. Toss and cook until pasta is done. 

 

 

 

Share

Read More

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

(more…)

Share

Read More