Spring’s Cold Beginning

Although we passed the spring equinox, it still feels like we are in the heart of winter.  Northern winds bring a humid cold to the Aegean, and it is expected to last into the end of March.  

But even in this wintry weather certain plants thrive, triumphantly marking the beginning of spring.  

 

Most of the flowers this time of year are yellow, and only our favas break the rule with their delicate whitish blossoms. (more…)

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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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