Fish Soup: Between Kakavia and Bouillabaisse

My fish soup, as I learned to make it from my mother, is time consuming, but wonderful, although not really a glorious bouillabaisse.

Its flavor depends on the incredible freshness of the simple fish I use, which in most cases is almost alive when I get it from the caïque, less than a few hours out of the water.

I usually make the broth the day before, refrigerate it, then finish the soup the next day.

 

In kakavia, the traditional fish soup of the Greek fishermen, all kinds of small fish that cannot be sold, the cheapest kinds you find that are not suitable for grilling or frying, are boiled for with plenty of olive oil and a few vegetables and herbs, until the flesh almost falls from the bones and the vegetables are very tender. Then all trhe ingredients of the pot are strained, and fish witrh vegetables served in a platter along with the broth which is dressed with more fruity olive oil and lemon juice. I heard that in Provence the somewhat scarry weevers are considered ideal for the bouillabaisse; we also use them in this simple traditional fish soup. (more…)

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Broccoli and Pepper Gratin with Yogurt and Feta

We love to eat this vegetarian, olive oil gratin all year round, especially these late fall days using locally grown, deliciously tender and flavorful broccoli, and the last long peppers we gather from the garden.

The tanginess of yogurt accentuated by the crumbled feta beautifully complement the sweetness of the broccoli and the peppers.

 

 

Serves 5-6: 12X9-inch (30X20cm) glass casserole (more…)

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Chicken and Potatoes with Lemon and Herbs

Adding chicken to the iconic Greek Lemon-Oregano potatoes creates a dish very few people can resist. The potatoes by themselves often steal the show from any kind of meat they accompany, even from roasted lamb; baked together with chicken legs or breast they become the ultimate one-pot dish for every season.

 

I baked it in a very old copper casserole, over several layers of parchment paper, as the traditional inside lining of the is somewhat worn, and there are very few itinerant craftsmen to renew it.

This dish is particularly good on islands like Naxos, or here on Kea, where the local potatoes have exceptional flavor. If you want to cook this dish using small potatoes there is no need to peel them, but I suggest that you halve them, because they taste best when they can absorb the flavorful juices.

 

Makes 4 to 6 servings (more…)

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Albanian Briani: Baked Rice with Milk, Feta, Peppers, and Dill

My late cousin Leonidas Harvalias, who lived on Kéa long before we decided to move here, got the recipe  from one of the first Albanian immigrants who worked on the island. It has become part of our family’s permanent repertoire and is one of our favorite casseroles. The name briani or briami, probably comes from the Persian biryan. Maria Kaneva in her book The Melting Pot: Balkan Food and Cookery, describes a rice, potato and tomato briani, and writes that there are many versions, which can be traced to the Balkans in the Middle Ages.

 

 

Makes 6 servings (more…)

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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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