Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dreamy carrot soup

To dream of carrots, portends prosperity and health. For a young woman to eat them, denotes that she will contract an early marriage and be the mother of several hardy children.
10 000 Dream Interpretations, by Gustavus Hindman Miller

One of the main reasons I love autumn is because I can serve soup, especially carrot soup, and not be given the crazy/angry/disapproving glance. Because people in Greece only eat soup when they are sick. Or in funerals.
What I love about Britain is that if you are in a hurry, you go to the supermarket and grab a fresh soup and just heat it and it usually tastes very good (the ones I had from Waitrose at least).
Many times when I have been thinking with friends about future business ventures, the conversation leads us to soup in cartons, but half a minute later one of us says "who is going to eat soup?" and we sulk in our corners, sipping the soup that apparently nobody else would.
So, yes, carrot soup. Clean your plates.

4-6 Servings
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 big onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1kg carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1400 ml vegetable stock
  • rind and juice of 1 large orange
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large pan, add the onions, leave them for 2 - 3 minutes.
Add carrots and the stock to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Do not throw the stock away.
Liquidise all the ingredients and add the puree in the stock.
Reheat gently for a couple of minutes. Season to taste.
Before you serve, add the orange juice. Grate the orange rind and garnish the individual bowls.I think this soup needs a good crunchy bread, preferably wholemeal.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Apple salad with beet

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious."
Tom Robbins

Why is it that when people see beets turn the other way? They are meaty and have this earthy flavour, not to mention this ruby colour that shouts out "I am alive". I have been trying to make the little person in the house eat beets, not very successfully. When I ask why he would not even try them, he says "I don't eat red things". Maybe because he is a kid and as Tom Robbins said, they are deadly serious?

For 6 servings

  • 4 medium beets, cooked and cut in medium strips
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (you might want it oilier, in that case make it ½ cup)
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons shredded orange peel
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 medium red onion chopped
  • a handful of non salted cashew nuts
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint or 2 teaspoons dried mint
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tsp pink pepper berries
  • 4 cups torn romaine lettuce
  • 2 medium green apples chopped

Make the dressing by combining oil, vinegar, orange peel, orange juice, onion, mint, pink pepper and honey in jar. Cover firmly and shake well.
Combine beet, romaine lettuce, cashews and chopped apple in a bowl. Add the dressing, mix everything very well and serve.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Comfort me with apples

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.”
Dr. Carl Sagan

I found the basis for this easy, yum and all round nice recipe in Cooking Light. I’ve had a difficult week both on the work as well as on the insomnia front, so I wasn’t going to make my own pastry, obviously. I changed it a little –the original asks you to microwave honey at full power, and that makes honey lose all its beneficial qualities.
Think of it like a very quick way to accompany your coffee with something sweet that is not going to end up on your thighs (well, not 100% of it at least), and as a way to use your apples.

Quick and Thin Apple Tart
6 servings
  • ½ package refrigerated pie dough
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 800 gr. Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 280 K, 425 F.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface, roll into a circle. Place on a tart dish. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar mixture over dough. Arrange apple slices in a circle moving towards the centre. Sprinkle apple slices with remaining sugar mixture. Bake at 280 K, 425° F for 30 minutes.
In a little cup, thin honey with one teaspoon of water. Brush honey over warm tart.

This pie was baked while listening to the Smashing Pumpkins' song "Appels and Oranjes".

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Haloumi and grape salad

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.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Greek for beginners: Dakos salad

Greek 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

  • A barley rusk
  • Some water
  • One tomato
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (or in this case 2 spoonfuls of greek yogurt and a sprinkle of parmesan)
  • A sprinkle of oregano (optional)

Take a 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.

A watermelon sun

"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.

Just eat it, don't make me repeat it

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)
* 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 6 tablespoons herbs:

-2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
-2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
-2 tablespoons oregano, chopped

* 2 ½ cups water
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 300 gr. couscous
* 1 cup pitted olives, cut in two
* 4 tablespoons caper
* 6 tablespoons lemon juice
* 4 tablespoons chopped basil

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.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The aubergine poem

The aubergine libertine in his green limousine

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.

About two 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.

Aubergine rolls

For 8 rolls

  • 2 aubergines, cut into 4 slices lengthways
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g feta
  • 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.