Fall in our Island Garden

The first rain on Kea confirmed the coming of our 21st fall on the island!

We were very grateful not only for the much-needed water, but for the comforting, cool  temperatures after a very hot summer.  We still have some vegetables, and hope for a few nice oranges, soon.

We started to get ripe, yet small fruit from the arbutus bush, and soon we will be harvesting the first oranges. 

The few, aromatic quinces we got are ripening in a basket, and are soon going to be used in meat and vegetarian dishes, also, of course in our cakes as well as in jams, and spoon sweets (fruit preserves).  

A low layer of green grass now covers the property, and our rose bushes are filled with tiny oblong red berries, and the big carob tree is filled with foul-smelling flowers buzzing with bees –an unexpected end-of-season treat for them. In Crete, where carob trees are ubiquitous in the rocky mountains, I heard that the densely-flavored carob honey is considered the best for melomakarona, the Christmas cookies.    

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With Garden Castoffs and Leftovers

I have almost forgotten the last time I thought of a dish first, and then went to buy the necessary ingredients.

The radish seeds we planted once grew tall, with lush leaves but no radishes. ‘There was some problem with the seeds,” said our friend at the nursery when I asked him if the reason was my planting too many in a small space.

 

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 “Take them out and throw them to the neighbor’s sheep,” he said, offering to give me new, guaranteed radish seeds. But the greens looked wonderful, tender, crunchy and somewhat spicy, so I braised them with garlic, adding slices of the delicious, smoked local sausage I got from Yiannis, the butcher at the port. I complemented the dish with some of the half-cooked wheat berries or farro (see the Note HERE) that I keep in the freezer. We loved this dish of greens and grains, flavored with pepper flakes and turmeric, and drizzled with lemon juice.

I probably will never be able to make the exact same one again, though, as I doubt that I will be able to grow this kind of mock-radish greens anytime soon. See the easy recipe for Risotto with Greens though, which you can make with spinach, chard, or with red beet stems and leaves that make an impressive deep red risotto.

 

This is an example of how I choose what to cook every day, looking first at the garden, then opening the cupboards, my fridge and the freezer to decide what I could use to supplement the fresh produce and create an interesting and wholesome meal.

I chop and freeze the beet stems and use them to make the bright red Beet Risotto, a Variation of my basic Risotto with Greens.

 

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Upside-down Nectarine, Peach, or Apple Tart

I whipped up this fast and quite delicious dessert using the last nectarines of the year. But you can also use apples, instead.

I caramelized some sugar, then laid the peach or apple segments on it and cooked for a few minutes, before covering with two layers of pastry and baking. 

 

I bought quite a few nectarines the other day, as we at end of October, far beyond peach season. Although they looked unripe, when cut, their flesh was overripe, almost rotten around the stone –probably because they were refrigerated for far too long.

Since they were not good to enjoy as part of my morning fruit-plate, I thought of using them to make an upside-down tart, using frozen, store-bought puff pastry as the crust.

I have had quite a lot of misses in the past trying to bake upside-down fruit tarts, but this time I used my new, very light, aluminum, non-stick Neoflam skillet which made it so easy to bake and invert the tart perfectly, for the very first time…

 

 

Serves 8-12 (more…)

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Our Summer Garden

The past few years had spoiled us, being somewhat cool and nice, with lots of rainfall in the winter.  This dry, extremely hot summer almost destroyed our trees. On the other hand, less rain and humidity brought less bugs, and with the appropriate drip irrigation we managed to produce more vegetables.

 

Last winter we did not get much rain in Kea, and this, the 2021, summer was particularly hot for more than a couple of days: for about two exhausting weeks the temperature remaining very high, even at night, something quite rare.  

 

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Bulgur Salad with Nuts, Spices, and Tomato Paste Dressing

My recipe is inspired by the Syrian Jewish Bazargan, yet one more wonderful dish introduced to the world by the unsurpassed Claudia Roden in her 1968 classic Book of Middle Eastern Food, that she later updated.  

I am surprised that we don’t find this irresistible bulgur ‘salad’ along with the ubiquitous hummus and the other Mediterranean-inspired prepared foods offered at the counters of the gourmet supermarkets.

Bazargan is traditionally eaten together with other meze; but it is filling and very satisfying, so we often eat it as main course during  our summer lunches, accompanied by a simple tomato or cucumber salad.

 

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Assertively spiced with cumin and seasoned with tangy tamarind, bazargan makes a terrific appetizer especially if you serve it elegantly on lettuce leaves, or on toasted pita bread. Once you’ve tasted it, you will want to keep eating it until every last grain has disappeared…

 

Make sure you listen to the latest long, wonderful interview of the incredible Claudia Roden! She is such an inspiration for all of us!

 

Makes 6-8 servings, 10-12 as appetizer  

 

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