HORTA, the Edible Wild Greens

We keep an overused, slightly rusted, wood-handled Opinel knife in the glove compartment of our car. It is there because we never know if and when we will spot some gorgeous edible greens during our rides around the island. Greeks probably foraged for horta —wild leafy greens— because they had little else to eat. We continue to gather and eat them today because we love them.

 

Watch the Video-Slideshow of the most important Edible Greens we forage, and more… 

 

 

During the rainy winter months, and as late as early spring, there are plenty of wild greens in the hills and mountains that surround the villages and the big cities. Middle-aged women and men gather them on special excursions. Armed with a knife and a plastic bag or a basket, the horta-gatherers can be spotted from a distance on a steep hill, but also next to a busy highway. A friend once told me that he has seen Greek-Americans gather greens on a sidewalk in New Jersey. These days, though, most city people buy horta from the weekly farmers’s markets; and they have become quite expensive, a real delicacy. (more…)

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Feta, Fig, and Herb Savory Cake, or Quick Bread

This is a wonderful and easy everyday treat “from France, where savory loaf cakes are often served with drinks before dinner,” writes Greenspan introducing the recipe she published in New York Times Cooking. She starts with soft goat’s cheese that I cannot get here, so I decided to try the recipe with feta, and it was wonderful!

 
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

 

 

I have only medium-small eggs –from our neighbors’ hens– so I increased the milk to 2\3 cup, and used the goat’s milk we drink with our coffee. Also, forgot to get parsley from the garden, so I omitted it –will add it next time. 

Rosemary and thyme, as well as the tangerine zest give it great aroma and complement beautifully the sweetness of the figs. “If you’d like, use olives or dried tomatoes instead of figs, basil instead of parsley, lemon instead of orange,”  Greenspan suggests;

she also notes that one can “experiment with other cheeses,” and this is exactly what I did.

“The loaf is pleasantly crumbly, and best enjoyed cut into thick slices,” she concludes.

 

Serves 8 (more…)

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Tyropita : Creamy Cheese Pie

As kids, my sister and I used to love this  sweet, creamy tyropita. I hadn’t found my mother’s recipe since I never made this particular pie until Costas and I happened upon the mention of Tyrini, the traditional cheese-eating day. It is the last non-vegan Sunday before Kathari Deftera, the colorful beginning of Lent that precedes Greek Easter (May 2).

As far as cheese pies are concerned, we often make the crunchy Lazy Woman’s Pie. This galette-like cheese treat is the epitome of the day we devote to phyllo making during our Kea Artisanal Cooking vacation; all participants learn how to roll phyllo and the crunchy pie we whip up is such a delight! 

 

 

My mother’s tyropita must have been similar to the well-explained one I found online, accompanied with a video that you can follow easily, even if you don’t speak Greek.

Since we roll our own phyllo and hardly ever make pies with commercial phyllo I had not kept up with the latest technique of spraying the sheets with seltzer or water, a very interesting suggestion that somehow prevents them from drying out completely and becoming like paper, as they usually do.  

I make the creamy base using my basic olive-oil-yogurt béchamel. The olive-oil-egg wash that is brushed on the top layer is the same one we use for the delicious Chicken Pie and it makes a very big difference to the commercial phyllo.

 

Serves 6-8 as main course, and 10-13 as meze (11 X 15 inch –30 Χ 40 cm– pie)  (more…)

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Roasted New Potatoes…without Recipe!

I often feel that the side dishes are more interesting than the meat or poultry that is traditionally served these days. A few years back when we dug out the second crop of potatoes from the garden I couldn’t wait to serve them simply roasted, rubbed with olive oil!

 

potatos

potatoes-roasted-square-hands

 

Besides olive oil I sprinkled the new, scrubbed potatoes with salt and pepper—I love to use Maras or Urfa pepper flakes that add deep, fruity flavor not just heat. I scattered a few sprigs of thyme, savory, rosemary or some sage leaves, whatever I could grab from the garden; I also added one or two onions, quartered, and two whole heads of garlic halved horizontally, tossing everything in a bowl with olive oil. Onion and garlic add their flavor to the new potatoes as they roast together on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This detail is very important: cleaning the pan afterwards is a breeze; otherwise the roasting vegetables caramelize and stick to the metal so it needs soaking and quite a bit of scrubbing… (more…)

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Santorini Fava with Two Toppings

Today Santorini Fava is served as a meze at taverns throughout Greece, often dressed simply with fruity olive oil, topped with sliced onions and dried Greek oregano. I like to top it with braised onions and capers, but also with chopped scallions, herbs, and bitter greens.

MORE about the legume’s history. 

 

A variation of this second version we prepared for the 2019 Oxford Symposium Dinner, we cooked with chef Michael Costa. He preferred a perfectly smooth fava puree, and added some basil leaves which made it perfect!   

 

Serves 8-10 as meze     (more…)

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