All posts tagged: healthy

Briam

Briam, a vegan extravaganza

This briam is made with the last vegetables and the first olive oil of the season. Nikos, who has the best stall with greens and vegetables in the Friday open market, said that those were the last zucchinis of the year (he meant not grown in a greenhouse). Briam is 90% of times boring – to say the least. Vegetables cut in big slices, undercooked, not the best quality of olive oil… Any of that can ruin a dish that depends on the quality of the raw materials and on attention to detail during preparation. We like our briam crunchy and thinly sliced. Serves 4 as main dish, 8 as starter 600g small eggplants, halved lengthways and cut into 1cm slices 300g zucchinis, thinly sliced 350g onions, peeled and thinly sliced 200g red and yellow bell peppers, cut into 1,5cm slices 100g green bell peppers, cut into 1,5cm slices 250g potatoes, peeled and cut into thin wedges 100g small okra, ends trimmed, (optional) 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 250g very ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled and pureed (or chopped …

Canapé Gaudi

Nothing prepares you for the sight of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. You have seen pictures and documentaries about this unfinished cathedral, but the scale of its surreality hits you in the face, no matter the sheer number of tourists flocking to take their selfies. It is surreal in the sense of Salvador Dali, but on a giant scale, an extravaganza of architectural components, not unlike exotic fruits, that somehow fit together to something bigger than the parts. And what a great introduction to the Spanish cuisine. At its best is it not a combination of heterogeneous ingredients exploding in the palate? Inspired from tapas based on tinned seafood served in Quimet & Quimet, here is a not so obvious canapé. Greek strained yogurt and thinly sliced smoked salmon on top of your preferred crackers, drizzled with truffled honey and glazed balsamic vinegar. Enjoy with a glass of sauvignon blanc!  

fig salad

Figs, rocket and ‘xinotyri’ salad

When in Naxos we have more figs than we can handle. Just two fig trees produce such quantities than we do not even have to stretch more than where our arms reach to collect whole baskets. We feel somehow obliged not to waste such glorious fruits and we try to come up with new ways to prepare and preserve them. Two years ago we decided to use them for chutney. I do not remember with how many kilos of dubious fig chutney we ended up. This year we continued to explore. We wanted to combine with other local ingredients. Potatoes, fish and protocyladic art were opted out… but honey and xinotyri    – the local variety of goat cheese – were a hit! We adapted the following salad from Ottolenghi’s ‘The Cookbook’. Serves 4 600g figs ( approximately 8 large figs), washed and cut into quarters 200g xinotyri from Naxos ( or any goat’s cheese of your liking), cut into large chunks 100g rocket leaves (preferably wild) handful of basil leaves 2 Tbsp thyme honey …

eggplants with tomato sauce and feta

‘Mad apples’ with tomato sauce and feta

Eggplants are a staple food of the Mediterranean summer. At the same time they never got rid of an air of mystery. First, the name. The Greeks call them ‘melintzana’, which is a strange sounding word for such a familiar crop. It is a byzantine combination of the Arab ‘bāḏinjān’ and the Greek ‘melas’ – black. The Italians call it melanzana , which sounds close to  mela insana – ‘mad apple’, echoing the origin of the crop from the toxic nightshade species. Then, the origin of the cultivated specie: is it India, China or SE Asia? Perhaps it was domesticated more than once, reminding us of the debate of origin of the homo sapiens. Did we play for eggplants the role nature played on us on our way out of Africa, combining different evolutionary trails, still not fully understood? Then it is the colour of the black variety, unlikely to anything other fruit: black and shiny, ready for interpretation by an oracle – or like a missed opportunity to inspire an Italian art nouveau movement in the early …

Summertime Spaghetti

Tomato, garlic, basil and feta pasta

In a hot summer day, we sometimes want something that is easy and fast to prepare. The first idea is pasta with fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, basil and garlic. And talking about garlic, Thannasis Veggos comes to mind, my favourite of all the Greek actors and comedians. He was the archetype of the poor working man in hard times, dignified and humane, always in a hurry, never giving up and trying to come into terms with social roles and en-vogue fashion.In one of his masterpieces of the 60s he is a detective, looking up to James Bond. In an assignment he has to mingle in a hippy – flower power community. Part of his disguise, and instead of a necklace of flowers around his neck, is a string of garlics, like the one you find in the open markets or old school groceries. What great art! So garlic, besides everything else, reminds me of Veggos. And there is plenty of garlic in this easy, summertime pasta. It is not even a recipe, but it suits …

spaghetti with bottarga

Spaghetti with Bottarga

Bottarga either you like or you don’t. As for us, we think it’s unique. The greek version (avgotaraho) is cured grey mullet roe and is produced in the lagoon of Messologi (and nearby Aitoliko) in western Greece, where the romantic poet Lord Byron caught a cold and died in 1824. The most renowned greek producer is Zafeiris Trikalinos, a man with a vision.  The family business started in 1856, when stories about Lord Byron were probably still told by people who witnessed them first hand. Mr. Trikalinos likes to stress the nutritional benefits of his product, as if anyone needs to be convinced to consume it! Avgotaraho is not cheep, nevertheless in the following recipe we advocate that more is better! Serves 4 500g spaghetti 8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 200g leeks, white and tender green parts, finely chopped 3 spring onions, finely chopped 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped 2 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 Tbsp lemon juice bottarga, 32 very thin slices zest of one lemon Mix the bottarga slices with …

chickpeas with leeks

Chickpeas and leeks, a vegan feast

Chickpeas have existed forever in the Mediterranean. They have been found in Jericho, and they were probably consumed under the walls of Troy by the Myrmidons. They are cheap, nutritious and connected to historical memory (ground chickpeas were used as a cheap alternative to coffee during the big wars of the 20th century). Most bizarrely, roasted chickpeas are eaten as a snack, similar to nuts; I had not had them for a number of years, and thinking about them reminds me of ‘simpler times’. They go exceptionally well with whiskey. To prepare the chickpeas 200g  dry chickpeas, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water 150g onions, finely chopped 800ml water 4 Tbsp olive oil 1 pinch sea salt For the leeks 6 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, cut into 2cm pieces (about 700g) 3/4 olive oil 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional) 1/2 cup white dry wine 1 cup grated or puréed tomatoes (fresh or canned) 1 tsp sugar (optional, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes) 3 cups very well drained boiled chickpeas sea salt and …