AMARANTHS

 
 
 
 

 

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Garden is a place of colors… Garden is a place of battle … Both gardener and plants battle against poor soil, unruly weeds, plant diseases and bad weather conditions. The pleasure of home vegetable garden is painful. But garden is a place of hope.

This week we have amaranths shooting towards sky….

 

Boiling is not the only way to cook them. Cooked with fresh beans, zucchini, tomato, potato, onion, garlic olive oil make one of the best vegetarian summer dishes. Amaranths tossed around in a pan with garlic, chopped onion and olive oil make a vey tasty main course or side dish or a pasta sauce which you will sit at room temperature for an hour or so.

I said room temperature because when you are ready to eat cover them with a tomato sauce made with two large, fresh grated tomatoes, 2 garlic cloves( grated), some olive oil, salt and pepper, left in the fridge for an hour to let the flavor permeate.

Mix with the amaranths and pour over the pasta.

As a variation, some feta cheese can be crumbled into the hot pan. I prefer to have this sauce without cheese though.

 

Amaranth pies.

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ

ΕΔΩ

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THE GIFTS OF THE GARDEN.

The quality of soil is of prime importance in growing a successful organic vegetable garden. Unfortunately, our Cretan garden has poor, heavy, tightly compacted clay soil.  To improve it, we  double dig it, amend it with lime,  add animal manure, organic minerals and grow plants -like legumes- that add nutrients into  it.  Vegetables are rotated each year. This  helps them resist  pests and diseases.   

Everyone knows how hard it is to grow organic -and  clay soil makes it harder- totally worth it though. Moreover,  the short duration of vegetable crop  makes us creative cooks while it lasts.

 

This  morning our garden provided those beauties you see below …

 

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The peppers were beautiful  to eat.  I stuffed them with  chopped tomato and  onion, mint,  barley bulgur and raisins. The filling was sprinkled with salt,  ground black pepper and olive oil. 

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I placed them on a bed of tomato/olive oil/ chopped garlic sauce and baked them at 180 C for about 20 minutes.

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I also made a salad of tiny tomato and purslane sprinkled with sea salt and coarsely ground pepper, then sprinkled with virgin olive oil and vinegar. 

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Although melon is full of strong aroma,  the mouth watering and thirst quenching watermelon is perfect for this hot, hot summer day.

But you already know it… 

 

And, of course,  if you grow some lavender, the second better thing is lavender  ice cream!

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HEARTS AND BEANS

” Their heart is like an artichoke” Greeks say, describing those who are in love with love and keep a leaf for everyone in sight, like an “I love you…. and you…. and you”.   Here,  the phrase retains the meaning of the original French expression  “avoir un coeur d´artichaut”: to  easily fall in love.

But they also say “Their heart is like an artichoke”  referring to those  who are prickly on the outside, though tender inside, like animated artichokes. It takes much patience and time to peel off their panoply of thorny leaves until you finally have their heart. 

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Just like human  hearts, the delicate hearts of the tough purple flower buds require care. 
Hence, add the juice of one lemon to a bowl of cool water. After cutting off artichokes’ stems to the bottom,  remove the hard outer leaves… keep going- removing leaves until you reveal very soft, yellow ones.  Cut off their tops and use a spoon to remove and discard the choke.  Halve the artichokes, rub the cut surfaces with one lemon cut in half, and place them in the lemon water until you’re ready to cook.  Artichokes brown very quickly and you don’t want to see your hearts changing color.
Of course, don’t throw away the stems. Peel them and cook along with the artichokes.
Of course, don’t throw away the leaves. Eat them one at at time, sprinkled with lemon juice. 

There is a plethora of ways to prepare artichokes. You can cook them, fry them, bake them, roast them, grill them, stuff them, use them in pies etc. or eat them raw~ sprinkled with sea salt and lemon juice. In Crete, the egg-size baby artichokes of the early spring  are  served raw, sprinkled with minced spring garlic,  lemon juice, virgin olive oil and chopped dill.  

But. At the farmers market we still have fresh and tender broad beans. And broad beans shine in a dish of artichokes. 

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ARTICHOKES WITH BROAD BEANS, AGINARES ME KOUKIA

7 medium artichokes

3/4 k. broad beans

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

2 spring garlics, finely chopped

3 tbs dill, finely chopped

lemon juice

olive oil

sea salt

ground pepper

Remove the broad beans from the tough pods and with the knife string the tender pods.

In a saute pan, heat 2 tbs olive oil and saute the onions. Add the broad beans, and the artichokes (drained), followed by olive oil, fresh onions, fresh garlic, water to cover, dill. Season with salt and pepper, stir well and cook until the vegetables are fork tender. Add lemon juice and remove from the heat. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Globe Artichokes With Fresh Broad Beans on Foodista
 

 

EDIBLE LITTLE SHOES (Papoutsakia, παπουτσάκια)

Is Aphrodite’s raised sandal a tease or is she intending to slap the goat-legged Pan with it, because she is not interested in an erotic adventure with him?

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 100 BC.  National Archaeological Museum of Athens.*

 

Beautifully decorated sandals were traditionally included in bride’s gifts. For jewelry, perfumes and sandals  provided her with the tools to maintain her beauty of the night of her marriage.

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Greek red-figure amphora with Hippodameia preparing for her wedding, ca 425 BC.
(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

 

 Homer called Dawn “Eos with pale- rose fingers”  but Sappho dressed her bare beet in golden sandals: “Standing by my bed / in gold sandals / Dawn that very / moment awoke me”.**

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Eos (Dawn) pursuing Tithonus.
(Attic red-figure oenochoe by Achilles painter. 470-460 BC, Louvre Museum.) 

 

And there were sandals with marked soles. Walking the dusty streets, the ancient prostitutes would leave footprints with  ΑΚΟΛΟΥΘΙ / AKOLOUTHI (“Follow me”) written on the ground.

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Tondo of an Attic red-figured cup. (ca 490 BC. British Museum) 

 

Elaborate Byzantine shoes, so brighlty colored but almost hidden by the long draped clothes….
Red was reserved for the Emperor and for women’s footwear in art. 

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 Theodora. Mosaic at San Vitale in Ravenna. ca 546 CE  

 

Fleeting glimpses of low cut slippers…

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Maiden of Livadeia, 1825.
(Dupre’s Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinople ou collection des portraits, de vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.  
commons.wikimedia.org)

 

Did the Queen and the Maids of honour wear boots or small heel silk bow shoes?

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 Queen Amalia, ca. 1850
(Philibert Perraud, ΦΑ_1_658, PhotoArchive, Mpenaki Museum)

 

A precious new pair of shoes, just after World War II.

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 New shoes by Voula Papaioannou  (PhotoArchive, Mpenaki Museum)

 

This is the one who got the perfect legs for such fire red velvet shoes. 

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Bracelet. 

 

A shoe that  is not made for walking  and certainly doesn’t  make every man pay close attention at women’s legs….  

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 Though, if  prepared with thoughtful care, it offers an unforgettable pleasure… 

 

AUBERGINE LITTLE SHOES (Melitzanes papoutsakia) 

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8 small aubergines

4 tbs virgin olive oil

MINCED MEAT- TOMATO SAUCE

300 gr minced beef

300 gr minced lamb

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 medium ripe peeled, cored tomatoes, finely chopped

 5-7  tbs virgin olive oil

2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cinnamon stick

1/3 tsp sugar

sea salt to taste

ground pepper

BECHAMEL

 1  2/3 cups milk

3 tbs all purpose- flour

2 tbs butter

sea salt to taste

ground pepper

3/4 cup grated graviera or Gruyere cheese

  Cut off the stems of the aubergines, then cut in half, lengthwise. With a  spoon, discard the pulp of the aubergine, leaving a shell about 1 cm thick. Salt and leave in a colander for 1 hour to rid of bitterness. Wash well and dry. Brush both sides with olive oil and roast until just soft. (Traditionally they are sautéed  in olive oil).

Sauté the onions in 2 tbs of olive oil. When they soften add the minced meat and sauté briefly. Add the  wine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, cinnamon stick, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the minced meat is tender. Add a little water if necessary.  The sauce should be lightly moist and strongly flavored. Remove from the heat, remove cinnamon stick and stir in parsley and half cheese.
In a saucepan mix the butter with flour over low heat. Stir with a wire whisk. Remove from the heat and add  milk slowly, stirring constantly. Place again over low heat and add salt and pepper.  Stir with the whisk until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the other half of cheese. Allow to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the aubergines on a baking pan and spoon in the filling. Spoon over  1 – 1 1/2 tbs bechamel sauce.  Cook on the bottom oven rank, until the aubergines are soft and the bechamel top is  browned (about 45 minutes – 1 hour). Serve warm.

 

VEGETARIAN VARIATION ON THE MEAT SAUCE

  2 large onions, finely chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large green pepper, minced

2 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup walnuts, blanched, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/3 cup currants (optional)

ground cinnamon

5 tbs virgin olive oil

sea salt and ground pepper

3/4 cup grated graviera or Gruyere cheese.

In a skillet, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and add the onions and green pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 3tbs olive oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer until sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in currants, walnuts and cheece. Let cool slightly before filling.

 

 *The group of statues bears a solemn votive inscription: “Dionysios, son of Zeno, son of Theodoros of Berytus, benefactor, [dedicates this] on behalf of himself and of his children to the ancestral gods”.

**SAPPHO  A new translation,  by M. Barnard, 1958.

AFTER THREE MONTHS….

Four weeks ago, we arrived back in Athens, after being gone for 3 months. This time I’ve brought  several tons of olives and cheeses, herbs, books and I managed to forget half my clothes.
What I miss while here:
The view from my sister’s kitchen window

 

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And the view from my balcony

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Writing under the olive tree very early in the morning

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Weekends in Karranou

Wandering around Chania’s old town

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 and harbour

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I miss the sea….

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… always the sea.

And I miss the lazy summer noons

The first autumn rain

The smell of the herbs

My mother and my sister

Sunday morning chat over a cup of coffee

 The old women, who brought me food gifts saying: eat, in order to remember Chania.

Knowing that my friends are either a short drive or a phone call away…
…. always my friends.
Yes I miss my summer home.
However, I am back…
I am back in the swing.
But eating with friends lift my spirits. Oh yes, my Athenian friends….

dinner

Apaki is smoked pork meat. Zelokoumpe or zylokoumpi is a goat or sheep cheese.

Vinegar or lemon juice or fig juice is used instead of rennet

Lentils (fakes)

3 cups lentils

6 cups water

½ cup olive oil + 1tbs

1 medium onion chopped

15 baby onions

4 garlic teeth chopped

3 medium green bell peppers cut into pieces

2 tbs tomato paste

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp grated orange peel

salt and pepper

3 tbs red wine

Rinse the lentils under running water and set aside to drain. Place the peppers and the baby onions in an olive oiled pan and roast them. Place the lentils in a casserole, add the chopped onion, cover with water and cook for 15 minutes. Add peppers and onions into the lentils, stir in the garlic and olive oil, season with salt. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and add the tomato paste, the bay leaves and the orange peel. Cook until thick (adding some water if necessary). Stir in the wine, remove the bay leaves, season with pepper. Serve hot or cold.

Trahanas

This pasta is one of the many recipes for thrahana that are found in Greece. It is made with flour, leaves of white beat, onion, garlic, leek and white fennel and comes from Chios island.

Stir in 2 cups trahana in 4 cups boiling water, add 2 tbs olive oil and cook about 10 minutes (add more water if necessary, to make a thick soup). Then add ½ cup strained yoghurt, ½ cup crumbled feta cheese and stir. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve.

 

 

 

AN ACT OF GRATITUDE: BAKE A CAKE.

One must sacrifice to the gods for three purposes: to give honor, to show gratitude, or because of one’s need of good things. (Theophrastus, On Piety, frag. 12, Potscher, 42-4). And in return, the ancient gods were pleased with the expressions of human gratitude (sacrifices, libations, offerings, dances etc.) to them.

This complex of ideas ‘ man asks, gods give, man gets and shows gratitude, gods are pleased’  is expressed in ancient  greek with the term charis (χάρις). Charis means favor, a favor which is expected to be repaid. The idea of charis plays a particularly important role in Orhodox Christianity as well.  That’s why the ‘oral’ statement becomes more prominent when there is an exchange between God or  Saint and the offerer.

The photos are from St. Fanourios’ celebration (Kalamaki, Hania/Crete). As his name implies,  Saint Fanourios reveals lost things, people, animals, even solutions to problems if one invokes his name (Fanourios < ancient greek verb Faino = reveal).  The promised offering in return for Saint’s help is a sweet pie, a fanouropita. Sweet breads and cakes are  important part of many Christian traditions and their origins are traced back in time.  In ancient Greece they were a very common form of offering ; many different kinds of them are mentioned in ancient  literature.

According to St. Fanourios’ custom, the pies are brought to the church (especially those dedicated to the Saint) where they are blessed by the priest.

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 After Mass, they are offered to the faithful.

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Today, as in ancient times, these sweet offerings are not only objects which are given as gifts to the Saint but also unify the community, bringing it together for a solemn and also festive occasion.

(Not much is known about Saint’s  life, except that his icon was discovered in Rhodes, around 1500 AD. The torture scenes on the icon shows Fanourios being stoned, in prison, being slashed, standing in front a Roman magistrate, tied to a frame,  thrown to wild animals, crushed by a boulder, holding hot coals etc.  According to one tradition that is not formally hold by the Church, the pies are also offered to grant rest to the soul of  the saint’s immoral mother. St. Fanourios is commemorated on August 27th, the day his icon was found.)

FANOUROPITA

1 cup olive oil

1 cup sugar

2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup cognac

1 tbs lemon zest

1/2 cup  black raisins

1/2 cup  blonde raisins

1 1/2 cup  walnuts roughly chopped.

1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground clove

4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 3 tsp baking powder

Beat the olive oil with the sugar until creamy. Add the baking powder dissolved in the cognac and the baking soda dissolved in the orange juice. Add the raisins and the walnuts, the cinnamon, the clove and the zest, beating all the time.

Add the flour slowly, beating until you have a thick batter.

Pour the batter into an oiled baking pan and bake in a moderate oven for  +- 50 minutes. (recipe: Smaragda Desipri, 1920 -2005)

STILL SUMMER….

Still summer…. the tomato- plants still bear gorgeous, sweet and full flavored red fruits.

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You can eat them plain, of course, or make a home- made sun –dried tomato paste. Choose 3 kilos vine-ripened tomatoes, cut them into pieces, sprinkle with sea-salt, leave them under the sun for a day.

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The next morning put them in the blender (if you like add 2 garlic teeth and/or some basil leaves), press the paste into the bottom of a baking dish and dry it under the sun. At 3-4 days it is probably done. Keep it in jars, covered with olive oil.

 

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Use it in the place of regular tomato paste, to heat things up, or spread it on a piece of fresh bread. Or, while frying eggs, add some of it in the frying olive oil.

Still summer…. put some ice cubes into a bowl, cover them with a fig leaf, arrange 2 sliced cucumbers on it (I used klossoudi, a traditional  Greek landrace), sprinkle with salt, add few drops of white vinegar and chopped dill from the garden.

 

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They are crisp, cold… and of course dill – scented.

Still summer… toss peppers on the grill.

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When they are cold enough stuff them with crumbled feta cheese seasoned with red pepper flakes (boukovo). Cover them with extra virgin olive oil, drizzle a bit of red vinegar and add 1-2 chopped garlic teeth. Serve them after 24 hours… Don’t forget to tear some basil leaves over them, about 15 minutes before serving.

Still summer

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Clean ½ kg fresh beans, cover them with water and boil them. Then drain well and let them cool. Chop them up fine, spread them on a plate, top with 1 chopped large onion, 1 chopped large green pepper, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve with fresh, warm village- bread.

Still summer… amaranths and zucchinis grow profusely in the garden.

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Well clean and wash 700 gr amaranths, let them drain and chop them up very fine. Peel 2 large onions, wash 4 medium zucchinis and 15 zucchini flowers. Finely chop onions and zucchinis, cut the flowers into pieces. Salt them all together, mix them, put them in a colander and let them stand for 2-3 hours. Then add ½ cup olive oil, pepper, chopped dill and wild fennel. You can also add 1 ½ cup (or more) drained myzithra cheese or ricotta, if you like. Prepare the dough with 1 kg flour, about 1 ½ cup water, ½ tsp salt, 5 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice. Roll the dough out ½ cm thick. Cut out 10 cm circles or rectangulars and place 1 tbs of the mixture on the centre. Fold and close the edges. Deep fry in olive oil until golden on both sides or brush kallitsounia with olive oil or beaten egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake till golden.

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Still summer…. eating sea urchins is always at the top of my agenda when I visit islands.

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If you can’t collect them yourself (only the female urchins are edible), buy their coral from the fish market and serve it dizzled with virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

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Or, boil spaghetti for four persons, take two cups of chopped tomatoes, season them with salt, serve the spaghetti sprinkled with black pepper and topped with tomatoes, coral, extra virgin olive oil and few drops of lemon juice.

Still summer… baby melons and watermelons grow in the home gardens and fig-trees are full of ripen palatable fruits…

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watermelon

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Eat them plain, at first, then serve with mature graviera cheese or feta or spicy kopanisti.

Still summer… make small galakroboureka (milk pies).

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You’ll need ½ k. ready made baklava phyllo, ½ cup unsalted butter for the phyllo sheets (I use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter). For the custard, heat 7 cups of milk, add ½ cup fine semolina, 4 tbs corn flout, ¾ cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and stir constantly until mixture becomes thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and add 1 beaten egg, 1 tsp vanilla extra and the zest of 1 ½ lemon, stirring constantly. Cut phyllo sheets into rectangulars of 12 cm. Lay 3 rectangulars into a buttered or olive oiled baking dish, brushing each one with butter or olive oil. Place 2 tbs custard on the centre. Fold and close the edges, sprinkle with little water and bake in a moderate oven until golden. In the meantime simmer 3 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 1 cinnamon stick, the juice and zest of 1 lemon. As soon as gakaktoboureka are cooked, pour syrup over them. Serve them still warm, topped with vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with cinnamon powder.

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Still summer

 

ROASTED PEPPERS SPRINKLED WITH VERJUICE (ΠΙΠΕΡΙΕΣ ΜΕ ΑΓΓΟΥΡΙΔΑ)

Verjuice, the juice that is made if we squeeze immature, green grapes, added a  great depth of flavor and a titillating kick to foods, until lemons and various vinegars became more accessible.

 

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Verjuice, called aggourida (=immature), was used extensively in Northern Greek cuisine.

peppers

8 bell peppers

2 garlic teeth, crushed

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virgin olive oil

salt

black pepper

Preheat the oven to 170 C degrees. Place peppers on a tray and roast until they are tender. Remove from the oven and let them cool. Remove skin and seeds from peppers and cut them into slices. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with verjuice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Serve them with toasted bread.

Here, we may also add the juice of immature pomegranates or apples, which also have acidic taste.