Chickpeas with Orange, Lemon and Squash

There are countless variations of slow-cooked chickpeas all over the Mediterranean. Most are vegetarian, like this one, inspired by a dish Stelios Tylirakis prepares in his wood-fired oven at Dounias tavern, high in the mountains above Chania, Crete.

In Crete chickpeas are commonly flavored with bitter (Seville) orange, while in most other islands lemon is used. I think orange peel is a wonderful substitute for the bitter orange, along with some lemon juice. This simple chickpea dish, like the one without squash, should be made with the best quality, preferably organic dried chickpeas, not the canned ones. Their flavor is so much more interesting. 

I add mustard, something I learned from my mother who claimed that it made all pulses more digestible. I’m not sure it does, but it certainly deepens the flavor of the beans and chickpeas.

 

I start describing the long, old fashioned oven-cooked method, and then I add my way of making the dish fast, with pre-cooked, frozen chickpeas without losing its original flavor and texture –by the way I, as most Greeks, like the chickpeas meltingly tender, somewhat mushy, not chewy.

 

I developed this recipe for EATING WELL magazine; part of a piece about the healthy Cooking of Crete (March 2020).

 

 

Serves 6-8 (more…)

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Baked Sweet Squash

This simple, wonderful Turkish treat is called kabak tatlisi, and is a favorite dessert served in all kinds of restaurants and taverns.

Paula Wolfert, in her wonderful book  The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, explains her most ingenious, simple way of making it perfect! All you need is time to bake the squash slowly. Use your phone timer if you have not an automatic oven that you can set it bake the squash for 1 ½ to 2 hours.

In my recipe below I have reduced the amount of sugar, as I find that butternut squash is by itself very sweet!

We like to serve it with mastic or vanilla ice cream sometimes adding the walnuts that Paula suggests sautéing in butter, something I don’t usually do.

In Turkey this baked squash is usually served with kaimak (clotted buffalo cream).

See also the elaborate Greek Squash or Pumpkin Preserves (rossoli).

 

 

 Serves 4

 

1 pound (500 gram) peeled butternut squash, cut into about 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces

 

2/3 cup superfine or baker’s sugar

 

Optional accompaniments:

 

About ½ cup toasted walnuts

 

1 cup crème fraîche, or thick yogurt, or ice cream

 

 

Mix the squash pieces with the sugar in a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish and let stand for at least 30 minutes, or until the squash weeps and the sugar melts.

 

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150 C). Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to mix the squash and sugar. Cover with a crumpled sheet of wet parchment paper, place in the oven, and bake for 1½ hours, or more, until the juices boil and the squash is tender.

 

Turn off the oven and leave the dish inside until completely cool. (The squash will continue to re-absorb their syrupy juices.)

 

 

Store in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Let return to room temperature before serving. If you like, sprinkle with walnut and/or accompany with crème fraiche, thick yogurt, or ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kolokotes: Squash-raisin-and-bulgur Hand Pies from Cyprus

Kolokotes are the old, delicious vegan pies from Cyprus: only three ingredients for the stuffing, plus an interesting spice combination.  They linger between savory and sweet and are a real treat, unlike any squash or pumpkin pie we bake in Greece.

You can enjoy kolokotes as snack, complemented with yogurt, labne, or fresh cheese; drizzled with honey, date or any fruit molasses they become a lovely dessert. 

Marilena Ioannides’ recipe is by far the best I have tried –and I did try lots over the years. She bakes the pies on camera –speaking Greek with no subtitles, unfortunately; but consulting my recipe below you can easily follow and understand how to make these simple, exquisite pies.

 

 

To collect the old, traditional dishes she included in her book Cyprus Food Treasures, Marilena traveled all over the island, even to the remotest villages, and managed to find some incredible dishes! Often they are the missing link between age-old foods we read about in old manuscripts and the more recent variations we still encounter in parts of Greece or in other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean.

 

NOTE in the video as she prepares the pies leisurely, in real time, she weighs all ingredients –even the olive oil and water– as she adds them, one by one in the bowl of the mixer, zeroing her electronic scale just before adding a new item. This is a wonderful trick that helps cooks use a minimum of  bowls and other measuring utensils. 

My recipe is adapted from Marilena Ioannides’ Kolokotes. I have increased the amount of raisins and doubled the pepper; also substituted fennel seeds for the fresh wild fennel she suggests.

 

 

Makes 6 large pies (more…)

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Butternut Squash Soup with Yogurt

This is the soup I make often varying the ingredients slightly –with more onion or leek, sometimes adding chopped, dried mushrooms instead of the chicken broth. The topping also may vary; once I made a kind of caper-scallion-chard pesto instead of the fried peas.

Just toasted pine nuts with chopped cilantro are also a fine, simpler topping for this comforting winter soup.

 

Serves 6-8  (more…)

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