Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries

Summer Newsletter, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Nikki Rose. All rights reserved.  No portion of
this website can be copied without express written consent.
                 The Magnificent
                 Bounties of Summer
                 Let the garden
                 do the cooking!   

It's officially hot and sunny in Crete until further
notice.  The weather forecasters can take a
few months off.  The current temperature of
32C/90F is bound to rise until the fall.  The
occasional strong winds (meltemi) will provide
relief to some and trouble for others.  

The cicadas have taken center stage in the Sounds of
concert.  The children are on the beach from
morning to dusk ...until their parents plead with them
to break for food and sleep.  

On the docks, the fishermen are weary from working
double time in an attempt to supply demand for fresh
seafood.  The stream of visitors seem unaware of the
crisis of dwindling fish stocks (or that the huge hotels
serve farmed seafood from the other side of the

In our organic garden, the heirloom tomatoes,
eggplant, peppers, and cucumbers are holding up to
the usual summer threats of bugs, wind, scorching
sun and drought.  It's survival of the fittest in the plant
world and we appreciate their efforts.  These
conditions magnify the flavor of fresh produce --
intensely sweet tomatoes, peppers and melon, to
name just a few of Crete's summer bounties.

The refreshing cucumbers balance out perfectly with
tomatoes in our usual horiatiki (aka village or Greek
salad).  If we do not have to cook in this weather,
there's no reason to bother!

    Kali Orexi!  Nikki Rose
    and the CCS Network
                           Fall 2008 Programs

Join the CCS Network for an exciting range of small-
group seminars.  Limited space still available:

September 1 – 2:  Cretan Cuisine Goes Global:
Daytime cooking classes on the gorgeous coast.
We'll collect our ingredients from the fishermen and
gardeners a few meters away.

September 15 – 19:  Culture and Cuisine
Travel with us to the coast and mountains to explore
ancient sites, organic farms, vineyards and tranquil
villages.  Cooking demos are on the menu.

October 12 – 18:   Professional Series:
Traditional, Sustainable Foodways
An intensive seminar for professionals from the
culinary, agriculture and sustainable development
fields. Program presented by organic farmers,
vintners, botanists and historians.  Scholarships
available.  35 CDR and ACF CE hours.  Registration
Deadline August 18, 2008.

Full details are on our  
Schedule Page

The words "raw food" don't do justice to the beautiful plants in our garden.  When I take a quick
assessment (walk out the front door) to determine what is ready for dinner, I know that the ripe tomatoes are
so sweet and juicy, they could be mistaken for plums.  The heirloom varieties of cucumbers clinging to the
trellis all have their own personality and levels of pungency (they actually have flavor).  The wax peppers, bell
peppers and hot peppers have earned a special place on our plates.  Lettuces, summer cabbage, onions,
parsley and dill are always welcome to dinner.  These few things will play starring roles during the heat of the
summer for as long as we have a supply.  

There are only a few plants in the garden that require cooking.  The tiny purple eggplant with white stripes
requires nothing more than a coating olive oil and fresh herbs before we toss them on the grill.  

Building a Salad for Dinner

Thinking out of the western diet PR box -- a heavy, hot meal is not the only dinner that is "real."

The first thing to do when building a salad is to assess the flavor of the ingredients.  If the tomatoes or
cucumbers have no flavor, marinate them first in a few teaspoons of olive oil, sliced onions and fresh herbs.  
That will become the foundation for the salad dressing.  Place them in the refrigerator for 20 minutes then toss
together with lettuce and other delicate vegetables like avocado just before serving.  Use vinegar or lemon
juice sparingly, as it will overpower the flavor of vegetables and good olive oil.    

Summer Salad (a template)
Serves 4 - 6 people

3 medium potatoes, boiled in their skins until just tender, cooled, peeled, chopped into bite-size pieces
3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 cup of green or purple cabbage, sliced into bite-size strips
2 cups of lettuce, sliced into strips (like fat linguine)
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 large tomato, quartered
1 large cucumber, sliced
1 small hot chili pepper, minced (or a pinch of dried pepper)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss together and enjoy!   Serve with whole grain bread and a hunk of
real cheese and you've got a great summer meal.

Add your imagination to the above -- what is in season or your pantry , including beans, corn, olives, marinated
peppers or artichoke hearts.  

Chickpea Salad
Serves 4-6 people as part of meze

We eat a lot of chickpeas in Crete.  They are made into fritters and added to a long list of vegetable or meat
dishes.  We also use the flour for rustic breads.  I like them as the star of a salad.  Plan to make this about an
hour before serving to let the flavors meld.

2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 small onion, diced (purple onions work great for this)
¼ cup mild olives, pitted and chopped
1 small sweet pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small chili pepper, minced or a pinch of dried pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.  

Melitsana Salata (eggplant salad)
Serves 6-8 people as an appetizer

Melitsana Salata can be prepared in several different ways.  The eggplant can be grilled, which produces an
intense, smoky flavor.  It can also be roasted, which creates subtle results.   We grow several different varieties
of eggplant.  A long, thin variety (photo top left) similar to what is referred to Japanese eggplant in the USA, is
what we normally use for this recipe.

1 large eggplant or 3 medium Japanese eggplant
2 cloves garlic, crushed (about 1 tablespoon max)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Grilled version:  Grill whole eggplant over a medium fire, turn occasionally and let it go until it is very soft and
the skin is relatively charred (about 15 minutes).  

Roasted version:  Preheat oven 375F / 190C.  Coat whole eggplant with a little olive oil, prick the skin with a fork
in four places.  Roast on a baking sheet until it is very soft and deflated (about 1 hour).  

1.  Let the eggplant cool.  Remove and discard the stems and skin.  Coarsely chop the pulp and set aside.
2.  Crush the garlic cloves as finely as possible.*
3.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the garlic paste, olive oil and vinegar.  
4.  Add the eggplant and mash the pulp with a fork and break up any strings.  You want it to be chunky.  Fold in
the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
5.  Place the salad in the refrigerator until ready use.  It will keep under refrigeration for up to 3 days.  

It’s best to let the flavors meld for at least ½ hour before serving.   Serve cold or at room temperature as part of
a meze with crusty bread or toasted pita triangles.

Kali Orexi!  
Nikki Rose
Copyright© 2008 Nikki Rose
      Recipes in this Issue:

R&E Favorites (Rinse and Eat)
                    Summer Garden Salad                 
Meze: Horta, Fava, Dakos and Mezithra