Old-fashioned, Homemade Drinks

Long before shrubs became fashionable again, they used to be ancient Greeks’ favorite refreshments, called oxymeli (vinegar-honey syrup).

Equally almond milk, before becoming the favorite commercial dairy substitute, homemade milk from almonds and almond syrup, as well as the magnificent almond liqueur –called Crema alla Mandorla— were favorite Sicilian, and southern Italian drinks.

 

From my 1994, out of print book Mediterranean Pantry, with photos by the brilliant Martin Brigdale

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Feta on Barley Rusks with Cherry Tomato Relish

Inspired by the traditional Dakos/paximadia Salad from Crete, this is a somewhat different, delicious summer treat, or even an ideal lunch for the hot days. We prepared it with chef Michael Costa during the Greek Dinner we served to the 600+ participants of the 20019 Oxford Symposium, the last one that actually took place in Oxford; it has since moved to Zoom, due to the pandemic…

 

The dressing/relish is versatile and you can also use it over grilled chicken, fish or meat. This bright and fresh dish is ideal for picnics and garden dining.

See also the purslane-tomato relish I had posted earlier. 

 

 

Serves about 20 as a meze and 10-12 as summer lunch

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Lemon-marinated Carrots with Finocchio, Mint, and Arugula

This is a salad even the more avid meat-eaters –like my friend Stathi— will love. I first made it for our joined Easter table, early in May, inspired by a salad we had whipped up some years back with thin slices of butternut squash that I had marinated in lemon, then served with equally thin slices of zucchini. I think I had sprinkled the mixture with crumbled feta, but I don’t remember, really. This carrot salad was a big success, and our friends, in whose house we had the Easter lunch, loved it, saying that the leftover were even better the next day.

 

As I was writing this, I remembered another carrot salad, that one a classic from North Africa: The Tunisian Carrot Salad is also laced with lots of lemon juice, and unexpectedly scented with caraway seeds. Dietician will tell you that lemon makes you absorb all the wonderful nutrients of carrots; but this is an added bonus to the really brilliant combination of sweet and sour, that we, in the Mediterranean, adore!

 

Note the beautiful stoneware ceramic bowl my dear friend Hara Bahariou has created. I am so happy to have many of her exquisite creations in which I serve my dishes; makes such difference at the table!

 

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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Giant Bean and Green Olive Salad

I first made this with a few leftover, homemade cracked green olives from the batch my friend Yiannis Tsivourakis had sent me from Hania, Crete. They were cured in a wonderful lemony brine, part of which I used in the beans’ dressing.

When I made the salad again I wanted to imitate this brine, but also somehow incorporate into the beans the flavor of the traditional lemon-coriander green olives from Cyprus, which I love. I was in luck, as I found the perfect rendition of these exquisite olives described in Dimitra’s blog.  She write that she is “a Greek Cypriot girl born and raised in London,’ and in her blog posts lots of traditional Cypriot dishes, but also foods from all over the world, things she cooks at home for her family. 

I suggest you dress and make lots of Dimitra’s wonderful green olives –not just the ones you need for the bean salad. I am sure you will enjoy nibbling on them with some good, crusty bread, anytime of the day… 

 

 

Serves 4-6 as part of a meze spread (more…)

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Shanklish: Spicy Levantine Cheese

Syrian-born chef Mohammed Antabli makes a modern version of this age-old sun-dried cheese of the Levant, using a mixture of yogurt and feta, then rolls the little balls in spices, and serves them at Al Waha, considered one of London’s top Middle Eastern restaurants. I used his recipe, but varied the spices slightly, following his brilliant way of ‘aging’ these wonderful cheese balls.

Crumble them over salads, like the one with beets and arugula, or slice the log-shaped cheese and serve it on its own as an appetizer, drizzled with good, fruity olive oil.

You can also preserve shanklish in jars, submerged in olive oil, in the refrigerator; it will keep for up to 4 months or more.

Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

 

Detail from a photo by Penny De Los Santos

 

Sun-drying laban—a fresh cheese made by straining yogurt—was one means, before the invention of cold storage, to preserve perishable dairy products. The cheese was shaped into balls and then rolled in an aromatic mix of seasonings—za’atar, red pepper flakes, or a mixture of local herbs and spices—and then dried completely until rock-hard, finally ready for extended storage in clay jars.

These fermented, extremely pungent shanklish balls are a multipurpose spice in their own right. Ground with a mortar and pestle, they can be used to provide different dimensions of flavor to salads and vegetable dishes.

 

For about 32 golf-ball-size pieces, or 2 logs (more…)

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