Chicken Soup Avgolemono

Egg-and-lemon-thickened chicken soup is the iconic, typically Greek variation on a much-loved, comforting, winter soup.

It is the traditional one-pot Christmas dish on Rhodes and other Dodecanese islands. Christmas in the Greek islands is not the big feast celebrated in the United States or northern Europe: Easter and the Virgin Mary’s Assumption (August 15) are the important island festivals.

 

The addition of ginger and a piece of lemon peel is my twist on the basic recipe I got from my mother. I think their flavor and aroma deepens the broth’s taste. I prefer making the soup lighter, with vermicelli instead of rice, or even plain — just the broth and pieces of chicken. In that case you may want to add one more egg if you want to make it thicker, creamier.

Sometimes instead of chicken meat,  meatballs such as the Scallion Meatballs,  are cooked in a chicken or meat avgolemono  soup.  

 

 

Until the late 1960s, chicken was considered a great delicacy on the islands. It was the most expensive of all meats and, except for important feasts, it was usually reserved for children and the sick as the lighter of all meats.  The free-range chickens or capons of Greece need a long time to cook, and even then, their flesh can sometimes be tough and stringy. But they make the most delicious soup or youvetsi.

Instead of chicken you can make the soup with de-fatted broth from beef bones or make an exquisite fish soup (psarosoupa) boiling down fish heads, bones, and small fish. I try to always have various homemade stocks in my freezer so that I can make not just soups, but flavor risotto and all kinds of sauces.  

 

 

 Makes 6 to 8 servings as a first course, 4 to 6 as a main course 

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Winter Cold and Spectacular Moon!

January is cold, often very windy and it may even snow for a day or two. But we also enjoy some occasional sunny days, to do the needed garden work.

We also experience THE most spectacular  moon this January, not just in the evening, but also early in the morning… 

 

We may even get some snow on Kea this coming weekend!  

People are often surprised to hear that we occasionally get snow on the island, but we do; not much, and mainly high, on the mountains. It only lasts for a couple of days at the most.  But we do experience snow once a year, usually in January or February, as you can see in the pictures from previous years.  
 

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Dried Fruit and Nuts for Sweetness and Strength

Nuts and dried fruit are associated with the Holiday Season and the New Year.

They are supposed to bring luck and help start the year with sweetness and strength, something we particularly need these difficult times…

 

English pudding is one of such festive cakes, but it is somewhat too complicated, with lots of strange ingredients, while the Boozy Fruitcake I propose is quite simple, provided you have help chopping dried fruit, and do not spare the cost of real, aged Cognac, Armagnac, or Grand Marnier needed to douse the cake. 

 

There is also our morning treat: the somewhat heavy yeasted Seedy, Fruity and Nutty Bread, close to a fruit-nut cake, with complex, bold flavor I always have sliced in the freezer. We toast pieces to enjoy with our coffee.

A variation of this bread can become a vassilopita —the New Year’s cake where the lucky coin is hidden.

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Cabbage Salad in Orange-vinegar Dressing

Cabbage is associated with winter in Greece. “You can’t have tender, sweet cabbage before the winter cold,” a farmer in Kea told me one October morning. The trick to turn almost any cabbage into a good salad is to “knead” the finely shredded leaves with salt and lemon juice. Here, instead of lemon a combination of orange and white ‘balsamic’ vinegar is used. The cabbage and carrots wilt and shrink, becoming juicy and delicious.

I tasted this salad recently at Ourania’s Tavern, on Samos island, and was fascinated. Ourania, the owner and cook, told us that the longer you leave the salad in the fridge, the better it gets;  she was right,  of course. 

 

 

4 to 6 servings

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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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