My friend Hara Alexandrou gave me a basket with these wonderful white eggplants she grows in her garden. As I had mentioned before, we have not been able to produce decent eggplants of any kind in our sandy, poor soil, although we tried for years. I roasted slices of these wonderful eggplants simply dressed with plenty of olive oil, sprinkled with coarsely ground coriander, salt, and Aleppo pepper.
Only once we managed to harvest from our garden a few tiny white eggplants, full of seeds… (more…)
South of Arles, in Provence, the legendary wetlands of Camargue produce a superb red long-grain rice. Grown in Europe’s largest delta, the rice tastes incredibly nutty and lends itself to all kinds of dishes, warm or cold. This colorful risotto is vegan, nourishing, and satisfying so it can be a main course or side dish.
Less known than the Italian Arborio or the Spanish Calasparra and Bomba – all medium grain rice – the red long grains of Camargue are easier to cook. They don’t require constant stirring and retain their shape and bite beautifully. The recipe is simple, and you can use it as the base to create your own variations with seasonal vegetables, greens and herbs, or with dried fruits and nuts.
I fondly remember a light and delicious herb-lime risotto I enjoyed one sunny September day some years ago. I was at La Fenière, the celebrated hotel and restaurant in Loumarin, Provence, and this was one of the dishes chef Reine Sammut’s offered in her Mediterranean olive oil tasting lunch. She served the risotto topped with thin strips of braised cuttlefish, drizzled with a few drops of its deep black ink sauce. The seafood was excellent, but the fragrant, fruity rice was the real revelation to me.
I didn’t get Sammut’s recipe, just a description, so this is my own rendition of the dish: a simple greens, garlic, herb, and lime risotto that I make often, using any leafy winter or spring greens, and all or some of the herbs on the list, whatever my garden provides. When I don’t have fresh herbs I use the ones I often freeze; unfortunately even good dried herbs will not give the same rich result.
I conclude by folding-in grated Parmesan, which brings out the flavors of the herbs, and very often top the risotto with a 7-minute cooked egg; the deeply-flavored ones from our neighbor’s hens.
You can also serve along with Baked or roasted Fish, or complement the risotto with grilled Halloumi.
Stringless green beans became widely available in Greece only in the last few years. As far back as I can remember, before we could cook this very popular summer dish we had to slave for hours trimming each one of the flattish beans – a kind of runner bean – that we cooked.
My mother often added sliced zucchini (see variation) when she wanted to save time, trimming fewer runner beans but still making enough food for all four of us. Fassolakia ladera, made with any kind of green beans, even with frozen ones, is an amazing dish! The potatoes take on a wonderful flavor cooked together with the beans in a rich tomato sauce, and I can’t resist eating them while still warm.
Sprinkle with the reserved parsley and serve warm or at room temperature, if you can wait, with crusty bread and Feta cheese.
It is fava time again, and this spring, after quite a long, wet, and cold winter, we seem to have lots of delicious, succulent pods.
Although we planted less beans last fall, the robust fava plants at the edge of our western garden are full of pods that I struggle to harvest before they grow large and stringy. We love eating them whole, much like green beans, as their velvety pods are tender and delicious. Over the years I have made the traditional braised fava with green onions and fennel, a more creative dish with preserved lemon and cilantro, and of course various kinds of fresh fava risotto, either with rice or orzo pasta. Inspired by a Spanish recipe by David Tanis I made a kind of fresh fava scrambled eggs, quite different from the traditional Greek island froutalia, the seasonal omelets with vegetables and potatoes.
Yesterday I cooked a new, apparently quite successful dish to showcase them: Inspired by the old, quick braised fava recipe with garlic, and both coriander seeds, and fresh coriander (cilantro) that I have in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, I created yet one more variation of the one-pot-pasta, this time with fresh fava and the two kinds of coriander/cilantro. Both Costas and I enjoyed it enormously, and we think that it is one of the best such simple pastas I made.
One-pot Pasta with Fava, Coriander Seeds, and Cilantro
1/2 cup good olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon coarsely ground coriander seeds
About 1 1/2 pound tender fava pods, ends trimmed, chopped into 1/4-inch slices
350 grams bavete, ditalini or a combination (this was what I had in my cupboard)
About 4 cups boiling water or vegetable broth, Or more, as needed
Salt and Aleppo or red pepper flakes, to taste
A large bunch cilantro, chopped —stems and all
Crumbled feta for serving
Warm the olive oil and saute the garlic and coriander in a medium pot, until the garlic starts to smell. Do not let it start to color.
Add the chopped fava and sauté 2 minutes, then add the pasta, turn a few times and pour in 3 cups of boiling water or broth. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring often in high heat for about 9 minutes, adding more boiling water or broth if it gets dry. Taste and if the pasta is almost al dente, stir in the cilantro, taste, correct the seasoning, and remove from the heat, making sure it has quite a bit of broth.
Cover and let sit for 3-4 minutes, before serving in bowls, sprinkled with feta, and drizzled with fruity olive oil, if you like.