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

(more…)

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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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Vegetarian Beet Borscht

This is the meat-less version of the famous Russian and Eastern European hearty, winter beet soup, which David Tanis brilliantly changed, creating a refreshing summer treat.

I slightly adapted Tanis’ recipe, basically omitting the celery, because Costas is not fond of it. Kale is not available here, but the beets come with their greens which I used; you can alternatively add chard, kale, or any other green you like.

I simply top the wonderful soup with thick strained yogurt instead of the cream and freshly grated horseradish, which would be fantastic, if only we could get it on Kea!

 

In his introduction to the recipe, David Tanis talks about “…the long-gone resorts of the Catskills, in the so-called Jewish Alps. During their heyday, in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, these summer resorts hosted generations of Jewish Americans, at a time when virulent anti-Semitism prevented their admittance to non-Jewish resorts. Families would spend the whole summer in these mountains enclaves to escape the sweltering city. There were daily activities and nightly entertainment. Comedians who worked the circuit called it the Borscht Belt. And quite a lot of cold borscht was served in that era before air-conditioning.”

 

Serves 6 (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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Flowers in my Salad!

In the spring we often complement our green salad with all kinds of edible wild flowers adding them to the basic mix; plus any fragrant sprigs and leaves we find in the garden. 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

Ubiquitous all over Greece and on Kea, the pale yellow mustard greens’ blossoms, add a delicious kick to the salad, while the pink rose geranium, and the purple rosemary blossoms and sprigs add extra fragrance to the crunchy greens and herbs. 

It’s important to cut the greens at the last moment and to slice them very thin. If they are coarsely cut, the salad will taste different.

 

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! 

 

RECIPE:  Green, Winter Salad, and the Flowery, Spring Version

 

 

 

 

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