Pan Roasted Vegetables

No recipe needed for this glorious, yet very easy vegetable medley that can be the ideal accompaniment to charcoal-grilled meat or fish, but we mostly love to eat it by itself, with just feta cheese, along with a deeply-flavored, olive-oil-fried egg from our neighbor’s hens and slices of good, crusty whole-wheat bread.

 

 

Cut into chunks a couple of small, longish, tender eggplants, some peeled butternut squash, one or two bell peppers, add a sliced onion and a couple of garlic cloves and douse them all with olive oil; sprinkle with some cumin, ground coriander seeds, oregano or thyme, plenty of Aleppo (or Maras) pepper flakes and of course salt, and bake in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes, tossing once after 30 minutes or so.  

 

 

For my 15×12 inch (37×32 cm) deep pan I used about 1 1/2 pounds squash and more or less the same weight of tender (no seeds) eggplants. (more…)

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Yahnera: Braised Greens and Potatoes with Lemon and Herbs

In Crete, sweet and tart greens–tender pea shoots, sow thistle, wild spinach, sorrel, wild leeks—and if available tender fava pods, sweet peas, or a couple of artichokes bottoms and their peeled stems are all braised together with lots of wild fennel fronds. Freshly squeezed lemon juice gives zest to the stew.

The potatoes taste wonderful as they soak up the aromatic juices.

 

The beautiful juicer created by the potter Lorna Meaden.

 

 

Makes 4 servings (more…)

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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…)

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Gorgeous White Eggplants

My friend Hara Alexandrou gave me a basket with these wonderful white eggplants she grows in her garden. As I had mentioned before, we have not been able to produce decent eggplants of any kind in our sandy, poor soil, although we tried for years. I roasted slices of these wonderful eggplants simply dressed with plenty of olive oil, sprinkled with coarsely ground coriander, salt, and Aleppo pepper.

 

 

Only once we managed to harvest from our garden a few tiny white eggplants, full of seeds… (more…)

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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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