Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries

Winter 2008 Newsletter
Copyright © 2004 Nikki Rose. All rights reserved.
It’s 12C/56F today.  Most of the olives have been
harvested in our region.  Village olive oil factories
have been bustling day and night for over two
months, pressing batches of liquid gold from family
farms and cooperatives.  

The pace of life is slowing down for most everyone
but fishermen.  Their season never ends -- this time
of year they endure bone-chilling nights on rough
seas.  Somehow, they are amazingly good humored
people (at least our friends in the biz!).

During the holidays, family and friends gave us
many precious gifts – gorgeous organic olive oil,
fish so fresh it seemed to have leaped from the sea
to our table, oranges, lemons, wild herbs for tea,
irresistible cookies and eggs from chickens we
know well.  These chickens enjoy a very free range
and stop by often for fresh greens.  From our
organic garden, the chili peppers, broccoli,
cabbage, arugula and radishes are ready to eat and
share.  Our house looks like a produce market with
fruit and vegetables piling up around us.  

Now that a few magnificent thunderstorms passed
through and shook the house, the horta (wild
greens) are thriving in the mountains.  The results
of strenuous collecting expeditions are wonderful,
such as braised artichoke stalks with a splash of
olive oil and lemon juice.  A pot of greens hits the
spot after weeks of feasting.  Easier still, the
stinging nettle grows right in our garden and adds a
unique, pungent dimension to soups and omelets.

Here are a few winter favorites that pack in flavor
and nutrients -- perfect comfort foods of the season.

Kali Orexi!
Nikki Rose and the CCS Network

Potato Soup with Mushrooms and Greens
Lentil Soup on the Lighter Side
Steamed Broccoli with Onions and Herbs
Roasted Fish with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
Olives in Net
The Bakery
Christophoros leading botanic hike
Balas Fish
Grilled Fish
Wild Oregano
We've designed a wide rage of seminars for both
professional researchers and food-culture enthusiasts.  
Each distinctive program revolves around agricultural
seasons and takes us to different regions to meet  
specialists focusing on culture, sustainable organic
agriculture, olive oil, wine and cuisine.

Wild Nature Adventures take us to the rugged coast
and mountains for cycling, canoeing and long hikes to
work up hearty appetites for excellent cuisine along the
way.  Our
Culture and Cuisine programs focus on
healthy cooking and artisan food production.  For
CCS featured in Islands Magazine, December 2007
Issue:  Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries was selected for
their Blue List of top innovators and practitioners in
Responsible Travel worldwide.  Highlights are on the
magazine's website

CCS in Kitchen Memories (new book):  A Legacy of
Family Recipes from Around the World (by Alexandra
Greeley and Ann Parsons).  CCS Founder Nikki Rose
contributed recipes and stories to this delightful
collection.  The outside link is

CCS in "Le Guide des Destinations Indigènes" by
Sylvie Blangy, Ecotourism specialist.  Outside

CCS photos (posted for Planeta's Rural Tourism
Conference).  Outside link is

I love potato-based soups and have worked on variations that suit my changing palate, address and availability
of ingredients.  This recipe incorporates flavor memories of few countries in each luscious bite without the
heaviness of a butter-cream formula.  The comforting aroma of potatoes and onions is complimented by other
ingredients for balance and texture.  The organic sausage is from a well known source (my in-laws).  It’s just
ground lean pork and veal with spices, salt and a little vinegar.  Any mild organic sausage will work, if available,
or use chicken thighs instead.  Avoid heavily smoked sausage; it would overpower other ingredients.  The
vegetarian version is excellent too; just use a robust vegetable stock.

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 medium white onions, chopped (or one medium onion and 2 leeks, white part only, chopped)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, diced
½ cup mild organic sausage, diced (use any meat you prefer)
OR 2 fresh chicken thighs, skinned, boned and diced
4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups chicken stock
½ cup whole milk
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped (save half for garnish)
Salt, black pepper and a pinch of hot chili pepper to taste
1 cup fresh greens, chopped (such as spinach or Swiss chard)

  1. In a large heavy stock pot over medium-high heat, sauté the onions in olive oil and a pinch of salt until
    just soft.  
  2. Add the mushrooms and sausage and continue to sauté for about 5 to 7 minutes, until their aroma     
    fills the air.  You want them to brown lightly, to develop an aromatic base for the soup.  
  3. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.  
  4. Add the potatoes, and stir to coat with other flavors for 2 minutes.  
  5. Add the stock and remaining ingredients except the greens.  Bring to a gentle boil.    
  6. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally until        
    potatoes are soft.  Add more stock or water if it becomes too thick.
  7. Using a potato masher, ladle or spatula, gently mash some of the ingredients against the bottom and
    sides of the pot.  This creates a thick soup-stew without being a heavy puree.
  8. Add the fresh greens and simmer until they wilt (minutes, depending on the greens you use).
  9. Remove from heat and serve.  

Garnish with fresh parsley, oregano or thyme and serve with wholegrain toast (recipe below) or Cretan paximadi
if you can find it in your area.  This soup tastes great alongside a plate of sautéed greens (see the Recipe page
on this website) and plenty of seasonal raw vegetables.

Wholegrain Toast

4 thick slices of fresh wholegrain bread
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
a pinch of salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 175C or 350F

Line the bread slices on a cookie sheet or baking pan.  Brush or drizzle the olive over them.  Sprinkle with
spices and rub one against the other to coat lightly on both sides.  Bake until dry and browned so they retain
their crispiness in the soup.  Break into pieces and add to soup in stages.

Copyright© Nikki Rose all rights reserved.

Lentil Soup on the Lighter Side
Serves 4 to 6

If you’ve ever tried traditional Greek lentil soup, you’ll probably agree that it’s best not to alter such a good thing.  
However, I usually make soup as a main dish with a side of horta and seasonal vegetables.  A little lentil soup
goes a long way, so this version is lighter on the gut and includes complimentary ingredients.  FYI, lentils are a
good source of iron and Vitamin C is known to enhance iron absorption.  Lentils will overpower most everything
else in the pot, which alleviates the need to create more work than necessary.  The objective is to sauté the
vegetables in stages to create a rich stock yet help retain individual flavors.  It’s perfectly OK to sauté everything
at once, although the flavor might be muted (or it’s just my imagination).  Just before serving, vegetables are
added to refresh the soup.  As always, I try to use organic ingredients whenever possible.  

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced (reserve 3 tablespoons for later)
1 cup fresh mushrooms, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced (reserve 2 tablespoons)
½ cup robust organic sausage (pork, veal or beef) diced
5 medium cloves garlic, minced (reserve 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon cumin
2 medium tomatoes, diced (reserve ½ cup)
or 1 can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed (reserve the juice)
½ cup lentils (any variety available)
4 tablespoons raw rice (or brown rice or another grain previously boiled to al dente stage)
½ cup red wine
5 cups rich beef or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon fresh chili pepper, minced (or a pinch of dried)
Salt and black pepper to taste

  1. In a medium heavy stockpot over medium-high heat, sauté the onions in olive oil with a pinch of salt until
    soft (about 3 minutes).  
  2. Add the mushrooms, carrots, bell pepper and sausage and sauté 5 to 7 minutes more, stirring
    frequently until the vegetables begin to brown.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté until you can smell it, about 2 minutes (you don’t want it to brown).
  4. Create a small clear space in the bottom of the pot and add the cumin.  Leave it for a few seconds to  
    release the flavor, then stir it into the vegetables.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients, including the tomato juice and bring to a gentle boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for about an hour until lentils are soft.
  7. Remove from heat and add the reserved fresh vegetables.  Let the flavors meld while the soup cools.
  8. Serve with fresh bread or toast (dakos is perfect with lentils!), a hunk of good cheese, a side of horta and
    seasonal raw vegetables.  

Copyright© Nikki Rose all rights reserved.

Steamed Broccoli
a template, serving 1 to 6 people, depending on who’s eating and what else you are serving

1 medium head of broccoli, divided into large segments, including stems
2 tablespoons of robust extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onions, chopped (scallions, white onions, whatever you have)
Fresh parsley, chopped, amounting to ½ cup
Salt and pepper to taste
2 lemons, quartered

  1. Prepare the steam pot and bring the water to a boil.
  2. Clean the broccoli and divide flowerets into large pieces, including about 1/2 inch of stem.    
  3. Peel off the tough outer layer of remaining stems and slice them on the bias, about 1 inch long.
  4. Steam broccoli in the covered pot until it just begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat       
    and remove the lid.
  5. Meanwhile, in a heavy pot large enough to hold the broccoli, sauté the onions in the olive oil until soft    
    but not brown.  Add the parsley and broccoli and let the flavors meld for 2 minutes.  If you do not plan to
    serve immediately, keep the lid off (so it does not continue to cook and turn into mush).  Quickly reheat  
    when ready to eat.
  6. Serve in shallow bowls with a generous splash of lemon juice.

To add color, flavor and more vitamin C:  Add a cup of fresh or marinated red bell pepper, sliced and/or a pinch
of hot chili pepper.  

To make it a meal:  Sauté thinly sliced green or yellow squash with the onions until tender (about 5 minutes).  
Add a handful of precooked beans, diced potatoes or peas to the onions just to re-warm, then add the broccoli.  
Add more olive oil as necessary or a little stock if it gets too dry.

Copyright© Nikki Rose all rights reserved.

Roasted Fish with Olive Oil and Lemon Juice
Serves 2

There’s nothing more heavenly and simple than roasted whole fish.  The cooking time will vary, depending on
the size and type of fish you choose.  It’s done when the fish just begins to flake and the flesh still glistens with
moisture.  Other ways to check for doneness are when the juices begin to coagulate around the fish and the
cavity is no longer pink.  If you prefer to use filets, just be sure of the source or buy a whole fish and have the
fishmonger filet it for you.  Freeze the scraps for fish stock later.

When shopping for fish, the eyes should be so clear, you could swear it could blink at you.  Press the flesh with
your finger and if it feels mushy or leaves a dent that doesn’t bounce back, just buy something else for dinner.  
Depending on your source and your interest in gutting and scaling the fish yourself, you can always ask the
fishmonger to clean it for you, unless you really love that job!

Once you choose your fish, proceed as follows:

2 whole fish, about 1 ½ pounds each, scaled and gutted (such as snapper, grouper, sea bream).  
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus a little extra to coat the fish)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon quarters

  1. Preheat oven 230C/450F.  Place an oven rack in the upper-middle part of the oven.
  2. Place fish in a heavy roasting pan, rub with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  If desired, toss a     
    big spring of fresh dill on top.  Cover the pan tightly with foil.  Place in oven.  Roast until done (about 7 to
    20 minutes depending on the type and weight).           
  3. Combine the olive oil and lemon juice in a jar and shake it up until it’s emulsified.  Or place in a bowl   
    and whisk it.  This is called latholemeno (olive oil and lemon juice).  Add dill if desired.  
  4. Have all of your accompaniments ready to serve.  Fish waits for no one.  It cooks rapidly and can dry out
    quickly.  If you realize dinner will be delayed, remove the fish from the oven before it’s done and the  
    internal heat (carryover cooking) will finish it off in a short amount of time.  You can always return it to the
    oven if need be, but cannot return the moisture once it’s overcooked.
  5. Filet the fish and drizzle latholemeno on top as desired.

Great accompaniments are a horta and roasted potatoes.

Kali Orexi!  Stay tuned for our Spring News with Lenten and Vegetarian Recipes!