Vegetarian Beet Borscht

This is the meat-less version of the famous Russian and Eastern European hearty, winter beet soup, which David Tanis brilliantly changed, creating a refreshing summer treat.

I slightly adapted Tanis’ recipe, basically omitting the celery, because Costas is not fond of it. Kale is not available here, but the beets come with their greens which I used; you can alternatively add chard, kale, or any other green you like.

I simply top the wonderful soup with thick strained yogurt instead of the cream and freshly grated horseradish, which would be fantastic, if only we could get it on Kea!

 

In his introduction to the recipe, David Tanis talks about “…the long-gone resorts of the Catskills, in the so-called Jewish Alps. During their heyday, in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, these summer resorts hosted generations of Jewish Americans, at a time when virulent anti-Semitism prevented their admittance to non-Jewish resorts. Families would spend the whole summer in these mountains enclaves to escape the sweltering city. There were daily activities and nightly entertainment. Comedians who worked the circuit called it the Borscht Belt. And quite a lot of cold borscht was served in that era before air-conditioning.”

 

Serves 6 (more…)

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Green, Winter Salad, and the Flowery, Spring Version

Greek Salad is seasonal here; in the summer tomatoes are its base, but in the winter the salad is definitely green.

The green salad I describe is inspired from the traditional Lesbos winter salad as I adapted it from the recipe in my book The Foods of the Greek Islands.  

In the spring, though, we often add all kinds of edible wild flowers to the basic mix, plus any fragrant sprigs and leaves we find in the garden (scroll down for the VARIATION).

 

 

From the first October rains up until the end of April, the greengrocers of Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos, used to sell each head of romaine lettuce tied together with two or three sprigs of borage (often with its little blue flowers), two or three scallions, several sprigs of peppery arugula, four or five sprigs of dill or fennel fronds, a few sprigs of peppery wild cress and either fresh mint or a little wild celery. Once home, these essential ingredients for the local green winter salad are thinly sliced and tossed with a simple vinaigrette.

 

For the spring version we often create “a multisensory food experience,” as Mind Body Green proposes. “When flavor, texture, appearance, fragrance, and beauty come together on your plate—the result is sheer culinary delight.” 

About the very common, slightly bitter dandelion blossoms —Taraxacum officinale — we read that “the golden blossoms are nutritious edible flowers beloved by herbalists, gourmets, and culinary devotees alike. Their bioactive chemical compounds have been touted for diuretic, liver-supporting, and anti-inflammatory benefits, among others. Some research has even found the dandelion plant may increase Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two valuable types of probiotics associated with gut health, ” the article point out.

 

WORD of CAUTION: Not all flowers are edible; unless you are sure what exactly you are foraging, be careful because many flowers may be toxic! 

 

Makes 4 servings (more…)

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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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Grilled Asparagus with Olive-oil-fried-eggs

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 simply serve them sprinkled with some local, delicious finishing salt.

See also the  variation with Peppers and Zucchini slices. 

Recently we started combining the incredibly-tasting olive-oil-fried eggs from our neighbor’s hens with the grilled asparagus making a full dish. Elizabeth Minchilli calls this ‘Asparagus Bizmarck’ –probably an Italian term for the dish; she blanches her asparagus instead of grilling them. 

 

I fry the eggs separately, and only until the white is no longer transparent. If you like to see the correct, Spanish way of frying eggs in olive oil check Jose Andres’ method.  

We like to complement with feta cheese the asparagus and eggs, and of course serve slices of my latest homemade bread alongside.   

The much sought-after white asparagus are cultivated in the north of Greece, and as far as I know are mostly exported in Germany and other parts of Europe.  

 

To trim the green asparagus simply bend them until they snap. The top is the tender part you would like to grill and the bottom, somewhat tougher is ideal to flavor pasta, risotto, or any broth. Chop and keep in a the freezer until needed. 

 

My recipe loosely-based on Giada in Italy (episode 5) 

 

Serves 4 (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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