Green, Winter Salad, and the Flowery, Spring Version

Greek Salad is seasonal here; in the summer tomatoes are its base, but in the winter the salad is definitely green.

The green salad I describe is inspired from the traditional Lesbos winter salad as I adapted it from the recipe in my book The Foods of the Greek Islands.  

In the spring, though, we often add all kinds of edible wild flowers to the basic mix, plus any fragrant sprigs and leaves we find in the garden (scroll down for the VARIATION).

 

 

From the first October rains up until the end of April, the greengrocers of Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos, used to sell each head of romaine lettuce tied together with two or three sprigs of borage (often with its little blue flowers), two or three scallions, several sprigs of peppery arugula, four or five sprigs of dill or fennel fronds, a few sprigs of peppery wild cress and either fresh mint or a little wild celery. Once home, these essential ingredients for the local green winter salad are thinly sliced and tossed with a simple vinaigrette.

 

For the spring version we often create “a multisensory food experience,” as Mind Body Green proposes. “When flavor, texture, appearance, fragrance, and beauty come together on your plate—the result is sheer culinary delight.” 

About the very common, slightly bitter dandelion blossoms —Taraxacum officinale — we read that “the golden blossoms are nutritious edible flowers beloved by herbalists, gourmets, and culinary devotees alike. Their bioactive chemical compounds have been touted for diuretic, liver-supporting, and anti-inflammatory benefits, among others. Some research has even found the dandelion plant may increase Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two valuable types of probiotics associated with gut health, ” the article point out.

 

WORD of CAUTION: Not all flowers are edible; unless you are sure what exactly you are foraging, be careful because many flowers may be toxic! 

 

Makes 4 servings (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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‘Fava’ and the History of the Humble Lathyrus Pea

Santorini Fava is served as meze at taverns throughout Greece and few suspect its long history and roots…

A somewhat spectacular variation of the common dish we offered at the 2019 Oxford Symposium Dinner we cooked with chef Michael Costa. He preferred a perfectly smooth fava puree, and added basil leaves to my chopped scallions, herbs, and bitter greens, which made it perfect!  I also like to top fava with sweet-wine-braised capers and onions, a traditional Santorini condiment.

 

Long before Santorini became one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations it was one of Greece’s most destitute islands.  Poor on natural resources and badly exposed to the harsh winds of the Aegean, Santorini’s impoverished but ingenious inhabitants survived on whatever they could forage or cultivate in small terraced gardens on steep rocky hills. (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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