Feta in Phyllo Packages

I first had this clever and simple version of feta package in Eumelia, the Organic Agrotourism Farm in southern Peloponnese. Marilena, the owner, cook, and instructor, served us a large, home-rolled phyllo and feta package, which, as she explained, she prepares in advance, freezes it, and then briefly fries in a hot oil skillet whenever she needs to present a quick snack or meze. Her twist on the common phyllo triangles served at most taverns, is that the thin slices of feta inside the frozen phyllo are adequately heated through as the package is briefly fried, becoming particularly delicious. The soft cheese does not disintegrate inside the crunchy phyllo, as in most versions of the appetizer.

 

Chef Uri Eshet at Kea Retreat serves the packages with sliced figs; you can pair them with other fresh, seasonal fruit and/or with fruit preserves. Drizzle with honey or any syrup, and sprinkled with sesame seeds or nigella, if you like.

 

I bet that this easy, convenient, and delicious morsel, whipped up with commercial phyllo, will become your next favorite appetizer.  The pieces are quite filling, so one per person is enough.

 

To make 9 feta-phyllo packages (more…)

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Chicken and Potatoes with Lemon and Herbs

Adding chicken to the iconic Greek Lemon-Oregano potatoes creates a dish very few people can resist. The potatoes by themselves often steal the show from any kind of meat they accompany, even from roasted lamb; baked together with chicken legs or breast they become the ultimate one-pot dish for every season.

 

I baked it in a very old copper casserole, over several layers of parchment paper, as the traditional inside lining of the is somewhat worn, and there are very few itinerant craftsmen to renew it.

This dish is particularly good on islands like Naxos, or here on Kea, where the local potatoes have exceptional flavor. If you want to cook this dish using small potatoes there is no need to peel them, but I suggest that you halve them, because they taste best when they can absorb the flavorful juices.

 

Makes 4 to 6 servings (more…)

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Albanian Briani: Baked Rice with Milk, Feta, Peppers, and Dill

My late cousin Leonidas Harvalias, who lived on Kéa long before we decided to move here, got the recipe  from one of the first Albanian immigrants who worked on the island. It has become part of our family’s permanent repertoire and is one of our favorite casseroles. The name briani or briami, probably comes from the Persian biryan. Maria Kaneva in her book The Melting Pot: Balkan Food and Cookery, describes a rice, potato and tomato briani, and writes that there are many versions, which can be traced to the Balkans in the Middle Ages.

 

 

Makes 6 servings (more…)

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Chicken with Sour Cherries and Onions

An easy and delicious dish that combines Eastern Mediterranean and Asian traditions.

The tart sour cherries are traditionally cooked with meatballs in Iran, Syria, and Turkey, and since I love the combination of fruit with all kinds of meat, I thought chicken would be great with cherries. Boned and skinned chicken thighs cook fast, so the cherries don’t lose their bright color when the dish is done.

Last but not least, I balance the cherries’ tartness with plenty of sliced Kea onions which are wonderfully sweet.  

 

 

I marinate the chicken with soy sauce and wine, as I do when I make a stir-fry, and this adds an extra layer of flavor.   

 

Serve with just fresh crusty bread, or with toasted pita triangles, like Anissa Helou’s Kabab Karaz. Great with a simple bulgur pilaf, as well as with mashed or roasted potatoes. In the winter it is ideally complemented with David Tanis’ Baked Polenta.   

 

Serves 4-5 (more…)

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My Boiled Vegetable Salad

This is a simple, delicious salad/lunch that you can make any season with the most wonderful local vegetables and greens you can find. With Claudia Roden, we shared our happiness that boiling vegetables have at last become the IN thing to do!  Our book editors, until recently, had stricken out of our recipes the mere mention of boiling any vegetable or green, replacing it by ‘blanching’ or ‘steaming…’ Read more

 

Potatoes, carrots and a couple of onions are boiled first, in a pot with 1-2 teaspoons salt, until tender and easily pierced with a fork. 

 

 

We discard nothing in our part of the world, and we have learned that for example the root-ends of spinach are delicious when fresh, (more…)

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