Frittata-Strata with Squash

Adding leftover, stale bread to various dishes is an old Mediterranean tradition dictated by the frugal ways of our ancestors. Strata is a kind of savory bread pudding, a frittata with vegetables or greens that are ingeniously complemented by toasted stale bread cubes.

 

Soups, salads, and frittata get even better with crunchy, toasted bread cubes. We especially love the flavor and slight crunch the croutons from heavy, unshifted flour bread adds to any vegetable in the frittata. 

 

I slice and cube the leftovers of the mixed-grain, heavy, old-fashioned, wood-fired loaves that we get each week from our village bakery,  toss with olive oil and roast in the oven, until completely dry. When cool I keep in jars. 

 

It is wonderful added in any bean or vegetable soup, while on the islands of the Cyclades twice-baked bread often adorned the simple fish soups.

 

In our winter frittatas I often make with our neighbor’s incredible eggs, these delicious mixed-grain croutons complement beautifully the roasted squash omelet/strata that I make. (more…)

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Irresistible Plant Based Pasta Dishes

While in most parts of the world pasta is closely associated with butter and cheese, in Greece we have lots of traditional plant-based pasta dishes, without a trace of animal components. They were the staple of the numerous Lenten days, almost half the year –according to the old Orthodox calendar.

A humble leftover lentil soup becomes a delicious vegan pasta with complex flavor, while in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts  I created the Lebanese-inspired Linguine with Spicy Lentils and Caramelized Onions. 

 

 

Our plant-based, vegan dishes are not contrived, but created by the women who had to bring a delicious, filling dish to their family’s table.

 

(more…)

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ALMOND TREES in Bloom!

They are not impressive or particularly beautiful the almond trees that fill the slopes of Kèa, as well as most islands of the Cyclades. But when in bloom, around this time of the year, they are such a joy to look at! Their sweet aroma fills our bedroom as one of the old trees—we have more than 30 in the property—is right outside our window.

 

They come in various shades of pink, and some are pure white. I guess the people who planted the trees, many years ago, chose different kinds; some produce small round fruit, others larger, elongated and very hard, difficult to crack. In the old days almonds from the islands were considered particularly delicious and fetched high prices. Now, with plenty of cheaper imports, people don’t even bother to harvest and crack them…

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In a few weeks, when the green almonds reach the size of a small bean, or the nail of my small finger, as my neighbor says, I will collect a few to pickle. It is important to select green almonds that are crunchy but tender –before their shell hardens, and while the nut inside looks like a translucent jelly.

(more…)

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Spanakopita-like Bread with Greens, Scallions, Herbs, and Cheese

I usually have pieces of my basic bread or laganes dough in the fridge, so the other day I decided to use the wild greens Costas had collected from the garden to make this fast and irresistible greens and cheese tart, or pizza-like spanakopita. If you like, you can top the greens with a mixture of yogurt and egg just before transferring the skillet to the oven (see variation).

You can probably make this spanakopita-bread  with store-bought, whole-wheat pizza dough, if you are not up to making you own bread dough from scratch. 

 

For a 9-inch round bread, or 2 stuffed loaves  (more…)

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Very Lemony ‘Chess Pie’

I came across a picture of this wonderful, lemony pie at the bottom of my old friend Ari Weinzweig’s inspiring weekly newsletter. I was very intrigued; Ari had no recipe, just mentioned that the pie was sold at Zingerman’s Bakehouse, part of his iconic deli empire in Ann Arbor.

I never heard of this dessert and was baffled by its name. Looking it up I found lots of recipes online. I chose the one from King Arthur Mill, since I love their products, and know that their recipes work, as I have occasionally used them as starting point for my baking. 

 

I substituted olive oil for the shortening and butter in the recipe, as I always do, and added some carob flour to the crust, because I wanted to make it dark, thinking that the lemon cream would be light-colored, so the contrast would be nice. Of course the filling darkened considerably by the time it set, as the sugar-lemon-egg cream develops a deep dark caramel color…

 

In the notes, I read that the word “chess” in the recipe’s title “…some food historians say it’s a takeoff on “cheese,” as in English cheese pies, similar to American cheesecake — the filling is of a consistency similar to chess pie. Others say ‘chess’ refers to the chest in which pies used to be kept; due to the high degree of sugar, chess pies didn’t need to be refrigerated (though in these days of heightened awareness of food safety, we do recommend refrigeration). One final theory holds that chess refers to the simplicity of the pie itself. “What kind of pie is that?” “Jes’ pie.” Chess pie.”

 

For a 9″ pie  (8 to 12 servings) (more…)

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