TIME FOR STORING!

Don’t you just love the smell of first rain? It was raining all night and morning yesterday. Chania saw the first rain in four months! The scents of Rosemary, Sage, Lemon Verbena, Thyme, Mint and Lavender filled the air. Autumn has finally arrived.

 first-autumn-rain

In the mean time, the sun dried tomatoes and figs are ready for storing. The old tradition and art of preserving foods is still alive. On the other hand, the last fresh okras of summer will not be hung in the half shade to dry; they will be prepared for freezing.

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They’ ll stay tender if you’ll follow this method: wash them after discarding stem edges and air dry before placing them in plastic bags in small quantities and freeze.

The seeds are well dried and are ready for storage until the next planting season.

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Old Cretan varieties of cucumbers, watermelons, melons, zucchinis, pumpkins, amaranths, beans…. a precious gift that I received from a local farmer. They are saved from plants that have grown in his family garden for four generations. Farmers like him don’t only preserve a heritage, they also preserve genetic biodiversity.

Fish with okra
(Cretan Cooking by M. & N. Psilakis, p. 72-3, Karmanor ed. 2000)

 

1 kilo fish (preferably sea-bass, red snapper or saupe)

1 kilo okra

½ cup olive oil

½ kilo tomatoes

1 or 2 onions

½ cup lemon juice or vinegar

salt, pepper
Clean the fish. Wash the okra, cut off the stems, and put them in a bowl doused with lemon juice or vinegar. Leave in the sun for 2-3 hours (this is so they won’t dissolve in the cooking).

Brown the onion in a pot and add the okra, the tomatoes, salt, pepper and 1-2 cups water and simmer till half cooked. Remove half the okra, place the fish on the okra in the pot and add the other half. Cook for another 20 minutes without stirring the food; only shake the pot from time to time to prevent the food from sticking.

(This dish can also be cooked in the oven).

Okra and tomatoes are a classic match in Crete. They are stewed together or when okra is fried chopped tomato is added too. Combining okra with fish is a characteristic of Cretan cuisine.

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CHICKEN WRAPPED IN DOUGH

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Two years ago, I visited with 4 friends the archaeological site of Eleftherna, at the northern foot of mountain Psiloritis (Rethymno, Crete). The day was very hot and the walk into the history brought us thirst and hunger. At the taverna we crawled in, we ordered drinks and something to eat. Having myself participated in the excavation for 5 years, I felt glad to see again the old lady who owned the place.

Since it was Sunday, she had almost boil a whole free-range chicken to make a pilaf. I was surprised when I saw her kneading dough, stuffing the chicken with rice and onions and wrapping dough up and over it. Rethymno, unlike Western Crete and other parts of Greece, has no tradition of meats wrapped in dough. The dear lady explained the reason she made this ‘pita’ was because she liked the challenge of creating an unusual and special dish, as a sign of hospitality.

Since that summer I have made the recipe again and again, though not exactly the same. One major change to it from the original is the use of tea, instead of water, in the dough. Brewed tea leaves are added to it as well, giving chicken and dough a slightly bitter, spicy flavor. It’s true that the recipe is not really traditional, but I love it because it’s gorgeous in taste.

 

Ingredients: 

1 whole chicken

Dough:

2 cups of black chinese tea

1 tbs. spent leaves from the brew

flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking (around 5 cups)

black pepper

Stuffing no 1:

1 medium onion, finely chopped

½ cup rice, Greek Carolina or Arborio

1/3 cup mushrooms, finely chopped

salt

pepper

Stuffing no 2:

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 garlic teeth, finely chopped

1 tabs. mustard

1 tbs. ground cinnamon

2 tbs. red wine

salt

black pepper

Prepare the dough:
Put the tea into your blender or food processor with the tea leaves and blend.
Put the mixture in the fridge for some minutes.
In a bowl combine as much flour is needed (around 4 ½ cups), salt and black pepper. Once the tea is cooled add it to the flour. Knead well on a floured surface. If the dough is too dry add some water or more tea, a little at a time.
Roll it back into a ball, put it into the bowl, put a towel over it and let it aside.

Remove giblets from the chicken and reserve for another use. Wash the chicken, then paper dry.

Mix the ingredients for the stuffing no 1 and put it into the cavity of the chicken. Secure tail end with small wooden skewers.

Mix the ingredients for the stuffing no 2. Push your fingers under the skin of the chicken until you’ll make a little pocket under all the skin.

 Push the stuffing, filling all the space out.

Roll out dough, large enough to wrap the whole chicken. Place it onto the center of dough. Fold dough up and over it, pressing ends together to seal.

Place chicken in a shallow greased baking pan. Bake in oven (in a slow heat) for around 2- 2 1/2 hours.

 Crack the dough and serve.

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This is my entry for Meeta’s Monthly Mingle: Coffee and Tea 

 

 

A REFRESHMENT(4) & A GARLIC SAUCE

droseriko 

Here’s what farmers from West Crete and Thrace could do with all those cucumbers in their summer gardens! Cucumber salads, greek salads, tzatziki and a thirst quenching refreshment, a DROSSERIKO. It is delicious and really easy.

 DROSSERIKO

In your blender, add:

1 large Greek cucumber, peeled and cut into 2 cm cubes

3 cups cold water

1 pinch of salt

few drops of lemon juice

ice cubes as many as needed

Blend until smooth. Add the ice cubes and serve immediately.

 SKORDALIA

skordalia 

This is a family- recipe of skordalia. Garlic sauces have a long history going back to ancient Greece. For instance, tuna fish was served with mittotos, a sauce based on garlics, leeks and cheese. Byzantine cookery was also awash with recipes that employed garlic in sauces for meats, fishes and vegetables. The well known skordalia (skordo= garlic) is a Greek garlic based sauce that appears around the Mediterranean and is esteemeted by all, judging by the large number of recipes for it. It is made of mashed potatoes or breadcrumbs or rusk soaked in water, olive oil, salt, vinegar or/and lemon. In modern Greece it is used for a variety of foods; it is served with fried salt cod, fried frog legs, oysters, grilled fish, beet salad, green bean salad, slices fried vegetable slices or is cooked with rabbit, meat, oysters and fish. Cooks in Macedonia, Ionian islands and Crete often add walnuts or almonds to mashed potatoes or soaked bread. Greek recipes from Minor Asia add pine nuts and the old cook books base the skordalia on a combination of blanched almonds and mashed potatoes. All these combinations of garlic, bread and nuts owe a lot to Middle Ages recipes. The Medieval agliata or ailléé (ital. & french version) was made of garlics, bread soaked in fish of meat broth and nuts.

5 teeth minced garlic.

1 cup black bread, crusts removed, or 1 cup black rusk, soaked in 1 cup cold water and squeezed dry

3/4 -1 cup virgin olive oil

250 gr. chopped almonds

1/3 cup lemon juice, or more if you like

70 gr. capers

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

½ cup green olive oils, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine garlic with few drops of olive oil and pound in a mortar until mushy. Add the almonds and the cappers and pound to form a paste. Pass the bread or the rusk through a food mill or colander. Blend the bread or rusk, almonds/garlic paste and olives together with a fork in a bowl. Add virgin olive oil and lemon juice alternately in very small amounts, stirring briskly. Add salt and pepper. Continue to whisk until sauce is thick. Refrigerate until needed and serve it topped with the sunflower seeds.

You can refine the recipe by using: a) blanched almonds and b) white bread and/or mashed potatoes.

The skordalia is wonderful if served with some matured graviera cheese and a piece of fresh home made bread. If you will not add olives try it with some fresh figs.

Refreshments 3. BIRAL, ΜΠΥΡΑΛ

I watched a music festival last night. Some high school students organized a three nights rock festival in Chania (Two Festival) and school groups around Greece threw their voices expressing their anxieties, aspirations and expectations. And there were some great voices, indeed.

festival

Here is the cantina for the service of festival’s visitors. Orange juice and carbonated soft drinks: coca cola (of course), carbonated lemon and orange juice and biral, though these are not the only drinks available. There was also beer. Alcohol consumption among teenagers is an emerging problem in Greece, however during this festival most teens drunk refreshments and water.

 biral

Biral is a carbonated soft drink available since 1928. At that year a Cretan immigrant to USA returned to his village and at his back yard he created his first carbonated drinks.

For a kid born in the 50s or 60s few things were so delicious as biral. This brown colored refreshment is made with caramel and has a sweet childish taste. Now I find it too sweet, but when I was kid I adored it. Anyway, it is a perfect drink to go along with salted sunflower seeds and summer (open air) cinemas. Yes, during summer the Greeks go to open air cinemas and while watching the film they chew sunflower or pumpkin seeds and drink biral.