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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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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A Festive Winter Lunch

Since we do not celebrate Thanksgiving in our part of the world, and all over Europe, turkey, duck, occasionally goose, and on Kea usually rooster, is the central dish we serve for Christmas.  

 

 

I, too, cook poultry for our friends and us, and instead of potatoes I roast pieces of quince, carrots and maybe some yams and/or mushrooms. A very satisfying baked polenta –from David Tanis’ brilliant recipe— will accompany the bird, and I will probably begin with a salad of roasted butternut squash with a tangy tahini-garlic-lemon sauce, and/or braised red and white cabbage with cranberries. 

 

 

Preparing and Roasting the Bird: I start at least two days before the feast. I get the bird well in advance, as in most cases it has to be ordered since I like to get local meats and avoid the frozen turkeys. I ask my butcher to spatchcock the turkey or rooster I plan to roast. The technique looks much easier than it actually is, especially if you deal with a big bird and you have not particularly strong hands, as is my case. I reserve the backbone to boil along with the neck and the gizzards, to make the stock that I will use for basting and for the vegetables in the pan. 

I rub the bird inside-out with plenty of sea salt and a fair amount of coarsely ground black pepper, along with dried oregano, cumin, allspice, and ground coriander seeds.  Don’t be stringy, use at least 1/2 cup of this spice mix, or of my aromatic Aegean Herb & Spice Mix. Place the bird cut-side up in a pan lined with kitchen towels, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day turn the bird upside down on the pan, usually adding more spices, and store in the refrigerator again until the day you plan to roast it. On that day you need to take it out of the fridge 3-4 hours before you put it in the oven to bring it to room temperature. (more…)

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Cauliflower Gratin with Garlic and Feta

We are addicted to this comforting winter dish that uses all parts of the cauliflower, not just the florets, so I included it in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts. The first time I made it with anchovies to spice-up the cauliflower’s sweetness (see variation). I liked it a lot, but Costas definitely prefers the vegetarian, Feta version, so I begin there.

My recipe is loosely based on a broccoli and potato gratin from Provence, described by Guy Gedda in his classic book La Table d’un Provençal.

 

 

 

VEGETARIAN  

 

Serves 4-5   (I use a clay 9-by-8 inch  (23X20 cm) baking pan; a square, oval or round roughly 9 or 10-inch (23 or 20 cm) baking pan works just as well) 

(more…)

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