It is boiling hot in Athens. I cannot bear to be in the kitchen, at least not too far from the fridge where it is cool. So, no cooking. We have to make do with salads and fruit and cheese. Really, I have never asked you: Do you like mixing fruit and vegetables? Or are you strict purists? I do not like all combinations, my absolute worst is watermelon and feta cheese, which totally kills off the freshness of the watermelon. So, what is your favourite fruit and vegetable combination? (erm, wine and a green salad don't count).
For 3 servings
200 gr shredded lettuce leaves or other salad greens
150 gr seedless grapes
250 gr haloumi cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
For the dressing
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt – pepper
Toss walnuts and grapes with mixed salad greens or lettuce. Add pine nuts, parsley, and the cheese. Dress the salad with olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste. Serve cold.
salads do not come any easier or simpler than this one. And to be honest this
is a Cretan salad, and you do know that the people of Crete
are among the healthiest on the planet. Their secret is lots and lots of extra
virgin olive oil.
This is my
version of dakos and I only diverted from the original because I had run out of
feta cheese. So I used greek yogurt -full fat, unflavoured, no sugar, of
course- and a sprinkle of parmesan for texture.
It is a bit
like a bruschetta but it is much bigger and a meal in itself. Some people add
onion but I think it detracts from the freshness of the salad. You can also add
some cucumber. Do not put lots of different vegetables though. The idea is to
taste the olive oil and the tomato.
For 2 servings if it is a salad or 1 serving as a main meal
tablespoons olive oil
crumbled feta cheese (or in this case 2 spoonfuls of greek yogurt and a
sprinkle of parmesan)
of oregano (optional)
barley rusk. Wet it a bit. Just a bit, maybe 3-4 tablespoons of water. You don’t
need to skin off the tomato as the skin is going to come off when you grate it.
So, yes, grate the tomato. Do not put it into a food processor, it will turn to
water and we don’t want it to be runny. Place the
tomato on top of the rusk. Pour 2 spoons of olive oil on the tomato. Chop the
bell pepper and arrange it on the tomato. Put some crumbled feta cheese or as I
have done here –and this is just my version, real dakos is with feta or
mizithra cheese- two spoonfuls of greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cheese. If you
do my version with the yogurt skip the water in the beginning. Sprinkle
with oregano or some olives if you have them and serve.
"Watermelon -- it's a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face." Enrico Caruso
The gypsies would drive from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in their open trucks and sell watermelons, just a few years ago in Athens. I think they still do it in rural areas. And in the early afternoon, you’d hear their voices through the loudspeakers in their cars, shouting “karpouziaaaaaaa”, because karpouzi is what we call a watermelon in Greece. If you wanted to, they would carve it open for you so you could testify to the freshness of the fruit. Today I buy my watermelons from the supermarket, or the open market, every Wednesday in my area. But I still miss the gypsies. I found this recipe in Veggie Life , the printed version. I adapted a bit and here it is. I have never found the magazine in Greece, but my good friend Gina, sent it to me from the US. So this recipe is for her. I wish we could have some of it together Gina.
For 6 servings
5 cups watermelon chunks (try to seed the chunks as much as you can)
6 tablespoons non fat milk
1-1 ½ tablespoon sugar
In a food processor combine ingredients and liquefy. Place a sieve over a bowl and strain out remaining seeds. Press with a spoon so as to get as much pulp through the sieve as possible. Discard seeds and excess pulp. Put liquid into ice cube trays and freeze. When ready, whirl cubes in a blender or food processor, to make it look like a sherbet. Serve in glasses. You are a happy person.
I can live on salads, fruit and juices for the whole duration of summer. In Greece, that’s about 5 months. Sometimes, I consider myself lucky that as a vegetarian, I live in a Mediterranean country where there are lots of vegetables and fruit, but when I am in a bad mood, I just miss the variety I could find at british supermarkets. Being a vegetarian is so much easier in Britain. There is no convenience food for vegetarians in Greece. Veggie burgers are really difficult to find, and I haven’t even mentioned the lack of soya milk or tofu. I am not vegan, but if I were, I don’t know how I’d manage. You can’t always rely on health food shops to buy basic things like tofu. Not only are they sparse, they are ridiculously expensive too. So I am constantly trying to find tasty things that can be made quickly. This salad is one of them because couscous is so versatile and you just need to boil some water to make it. And then, you just chop the vegetables. You could sauté them, I prefer to roast them when I have time.
Couscous, cherry tomatoes and roast vegetables salad For 6 servings
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
15 cherry tomatoes
2 courgettes, sliced in 3
1 aubergine, sliced in 3
1 red bell pepper, in strips
5-6 garlic cloves (don’t peel them)
4 tablespoons olive oil plus some more (about ¼ cup)
Preheat grill or oven at 200 C. Prepare vegetables, except tomatoes and onion. Place them on a baking tin and drizzle them with 4 tablespoons olive oil, herbs, garlic, salt, pepper. They should become tender but not too much. Make sure they are evenly roasted from both sides. Remove garlic cloves and we leave vegetables to cool. Boil the water. Place the couscous in a big bowl and pour boiling water over it. Let it absorb the water for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the roasted vegetables to pieces that should be the size of a mouthful. When the couscous is ready, add the vegetables, the tomatoes, the onion. Add the olives and caper. Next come the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and basil. Toss the salad and serve. If you want the salad to be served cold, refrigerate it for a while, but in that case you should add the tomatoes at the last minute before serving. They really don’t behave well in the fridge.
A libertine's green limousine was lately seen in Saint Vereen. The libertine wore aubergine. In Saint Vereen they're not so keen on aubergine. The party scene in Saint Vereen is all crepe-de-chine and gabardine, beauty queens and Charlie Sheen. The libertine in aubergine moves between these beauty queens: his feet careen from scene to scene, taking in the magazines, the tall Marines, the jumping beans, the snarling face of Charlie Sheen. The libertine leaves Saint Vereen. Saint Vereen is not his scene--he likes a scene that's more serene.
Vals-en-Deen is just that scene. He sights the sheen of Vals-en-Deen. Its woods are green; are tourmaline. With carabine, he'll hunt that green, the libertine in aubergine. The birds that preen in Vals-en-Deen are not quite serene when there's been seen in their woodsy green the libertine in aubergine. His carabine for them spells "fin." But when libertines in limousines leave Vals-en-Deen for Saint Vereen, those birds that preen are quite serene.
Though the birds may vent their spleen, the libertine in aubergine suffers only improved mien when Vals-en-Deen is dimly seen from the dark windscreen of his limousine. Then, our heroic libertine, rid at last of Charlie Sheen, of magazines, of beauty queens, of crepe-de-chine and gabardine, bounces like a jumping bean, a jumping bean on too much caffeine, decked out in cloth of aubergine.
Abouttwo years ago there was a meme going around in blogs, the aubergine meme. The goal was to end a poem with the word “aubergine”, a task as difficult as rhyming the word “orange” (try it). So I found this delightful poem in this awesome blog and I think, you’ll agree it’s the best aubergine poem ever. Three cheers to Reen for creating it. Another aubergine poem (okay, not really) is the recipe that follows. It’s the easiest thing to do with aubergines, far easier than writing a poem, not as elegant though. Feta cheese is never elegant, damn it.
For 8 rolls
2 aubergines, cut into 4 slices lengthways
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsps fresh chives, chopped
2 tbsps fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsps pine nuts
1 big garlic clove, peeled, crushed
1. Preheat oven to 250C 2. Heat olive in a big frying pan. 3. Brush the slices of aubergine with the oil before placing the slices in the pan. Turn the slices of aubergine, to cook both sides. 4. Remove the pan from the heat, let aubergines cool a little. 5. Put feta, parsley, chives, pine nuts and garlic in a small bowl and stir. 6. Take a slice of aubergine and place a tablespoon of the feta mixture in the centre of the slice. 7. Carefully roll the aubergine upwards. Place the aubergine roll on a baking tray before repeating the process with the 3 other aubergine slices. If it doesn’t remain sealed, secure it with a toothpick. 8. Place aubergine rolls in the oven for 5 minutes. Serve hot or cold. If you want you can make some simple tomato sauce and serve a spoonful on the side.
This is a recipe that combines two or three recipes I found in the New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas and in the BBC recipes section (sadly, I had done this a long time ago and it seems I have cooked up the exact link). I had bought the Vegetarian Epicure when I was a student and needed to cook for myself, and I remember reading it at night in bed, like a novel. Because Anna Thomas writes so beautifully. All the recipes I have tried from her book are excellent and really really work. I made this for the magazine and after the shoot, we had some out in the balcony, under the sun. It is a recipe for summer lunches.
For 4-6 servings
For the shortcrust pastry
1 ½ cups flour
½ -3/4 tsp salt
4 oz/115 g cold butter
2 ½ fl oz / 70 ml ice water
For the filling
2 zucchinis in slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
400 gr potatoes, peeled, cooked and in slices
350 gr tomatoes in slices
100 gr gruyere cheese, grated
A handful of basil leaves
200 ml double cream
4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Sift together flour and salt. Slice butter and drop the slices into the flour. Work the mixture until it resembles big breadcrumbs. Pour the cold water over the flour butter mixture and stir it in very quickly with a fork, until the dough gathers together. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in foil and chill it for about two hours.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out into a circle about 2 ½ in/62 mm larger than your quiche or flan tin. Roll the circle of dough round the rolling pin and unroll it over the tart tin, centering it as well as possible. Press the sides in against the rim of the tin, pushing the extra dough down, to make an edge slightly thicker than the bottom. Crimp the ridge of dough neatly just above the rim of the tin. Prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork and chill the shell for 30 minutes.
Line the inside of the shell with aluminium foil and fill it with dried beans or nuts so that the pastry won’t puff up. Bake the shell in a preheated oven at 450 F /230 C for about 8 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and bake for another 5 minutes until the bottom of the shell begins to colour. Allow the shell to cool slightly, then fill the tart shell with the filling.
Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté zucchinis. Layer potatoes, zucchinis and tomatoes in the pastry shell, season between layers and sprinkle with a little gruyere and basil leaves. Repeat, finishing with a layer of tomatoes. Beat together the eggs and cream. Season, stir in the remaining gruyere and half the parmesan. Pour this over the filling and sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden and firm. Scatter with the remaining basil. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.
I have been
neglecting this blog and neglecting cooking in general, but I haven’t neglected
eating. I had my Easter Holiday on Mount. Pilion, in Makrinitsa village and the food our hosts -Kostas
and Elena- prepared for us was delicious.
The central Makrinitsa square
They had stocked the fridge with the
most amazing cheeses which we devoured along with the best wines one can find
So a big
thank you to our friends. Please invite us back, next time we'll behave.
I want to
confess I have a problem with most people who run taverns in Greek villages.
Why can’t I find mushrooms, almost anywhere?
Greece is full of mushrooms and
some of them are rare and delicious. But somehow, they haven’t made it into the
kitchens of professionals. I don’t know the reason to that, except maybe that
people don’t like to experiment, and that they are content with a good old
thing that bothers me in Greek villages is the lack of homemade, lovely,
savoury pies (not in Makrinitsa though, because we had a very nice leek pie in
Theofilos café). Really, people are
I want to find a village where people bake bread, make pies and cook
mushrooms. And that’s not because I want to validate my village life
stereotypes, but because that is what I look for in cities too.
Real food, that
sometimes takes more time and effort. Theofilos cafe is one such place in Makrinitsa, where you can taste delicious food that a.is fresh and cooked with skillb.doesn't cost a fortune.
This is firiki preserve, a small but very taste apple is used to make it
greek villages have though, is preserves. Usually, these are fruits that have
been boiled in sugar and water, so they end up very syrupy and are stored in
jars. Cherry, rose petals, orange, bergamot, fig, apple, grape and quince
preserves, are the most common. But you can also find tomato preserves or
aubergine preserves, and these are sweets! They go by
the generic name “glyka koutaliou” that means spoon sweets, because you only
have a spoonful (supposedly) with coffee or a glass of water. But you can very
well use them to top your ice cream or yogurt, they are perfect partners.
Potato salad and a yummy leek pie we had at Theofilos cafe
good thing you can find is tsipouro, a strong drink -that has nothing to do
with ouzo- which if good, never gives you a headache. You drink it in little
shots and always with food, especially, pickled or spicy food, like this baked feta with onions and peppers. I wish I
could send all of you some tsipouro (tsipouraki for friends)
because it is the best thing when the sun is shining
and it is even better when it is cold outside. Here you can see some of the -come on, tiny!- empty bottles on our table.
Asparagus? If your mother wasn't so fancy, we could shop at the gas station
like normal people." Homer Simpson
That’saspringtimeclassic. I should have made the ravioli
myself. But I wanted this for a picnic and since it wouldn’t be served
immediately and would be eaten cold, I thought “why bother”. I was
inspired to make this recipe by Jamie Oliver’s asparagus recipes and by several I found on the
internet. And of course by Homer.
For 4 servings
packet of ravioli or 2 small ones. You need about 40-50 ravioli.
mascarpone or other cream cheese
chopped basil or mint
parmesan to serve
You don’t need
a knife to cut asparagus. Just bend the spear until you see where it breaks
naturally. Snap off there and they are ready to be cooked. Heat olive
oil in a skillet and sauté garlic. Add the
asparagus and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in the
butter and add the vegetable stock. Lower heat and cook the ravioli in salted,
boiling water. When they
float to the top they are ready. But because I never believe science, I try
ravioli and add to the asparagus sauce. Add the mascarpone, but keep 4 teaspoons
aside for serving. Season to taste. Serve with some more mascarpone on top,
parmesan and chopped basil or mint leaves.
Life definitely isn't too short too stuff a mushroom, especially if it's a big and juicy portobello mushroom. So I bought some portobellos the other day but didn't want to just grill them or stuff them with cheeses. I wanted to make a meal out of them, so I decided to stuff them with some bulgur, which is wholesome and delicious. If you want a richer taste, add some tomato sauce to the boiling water.
1 big bell
parmesan (1 tablespoon for each mushroom)
2 cups bulgur
(cracked wheat in this case)
Cut the portobello
stalks and carve the inside using a small spoon, reserving the flesh. Cover the
portobellos with a little oil, using your hands so that the oil goes everywhere.
Put them in
the oven and grill them until they are almost done. Bring 6
cups of water to the boil, add one tbsp of olive oil and some salt. Add bulgur, stir to prevent sticking. Taste to see if it is cooked after about 10 minutes. Drain.
In a pan, heat
some olive oil, sauté bell pepper, garlic, onion, spinach and portobello flesh.
Add the bulgur and stir everything together. Salt and pepper to taste. With this
mixture, stuff the portobellos, sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 5 minutes
or until the cheese has melted.