The absolute BEST thing about living on this island is the FOOD.
OK…well…there’s this too…
But seriously, the freshness and abundance of cheap, just plain good food is awesome. You have to look pretty hard to find bad food here in any taverna or market place. The mountain villages especially have some phenomenal traditional Cretan cooking straight out of mama’s (or in this case, baba’s) kitchen. No menu necessary – you are invited to step into the kitchen and they will lift the lids on all the pots and pans filled with Greek delights for you to sample and choose.
After eating my way through Crete, I figured it was time to devote an entire blog to honor some Greek food. And a good place to start is at the local farmer’s market – the Laiki. Saturday is the big market day in the center of Hania although there are Laikis every day of the week tucked away in different locations around the city neighborhoods. My personal favorite is the Thursday morning Laiki near Nea Chora on the west side of Hania. It’s smaller, less crowded and in a beautiful setting under the tamarisk trees that shade the seaside street.
After a morning of shopping for freshness, I am rewarded with bags and bags of seasonal vegies and fruits and can’t wait to get home to get started on some kitchen creations. Call me crazy, but I LOVE to chop, mince and dice. You’ll never find a food processor in my kitchen (OK, I do have a mini one – but I only use it for making hummus.) There is something relaxing and satisfying in carefully chopping ripe red tomatoes or a bunch of fragrant cilantro. My husband and I make good cooking partners. I chop, he stirs and tastes, and tastes, and tastes some more. He also does a bang-up job of cleaning after me – gotta love that!
One of our favorite appetizers is Baked Feta. So simple and Oh! So Good!
½ C. Olive oil
12 oz. slab of Feta cheese
1 clove garlic – minced
2 C. vegetables chopped finely (Onion; tomato; red, green, yellow peppers)
¼ C. black Greek olives – chopped
Red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, oregano
Pour half of the olive oil into oven proof crock. Crumble feta into crock and top with the garlic, vegetables and olives. Season with red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and fresh oregano. Drizzle remaining olive oil on top. Bake in 350 oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with fresh baguette bread.
Or for breakfast, try this variation we had in Bulgaria:
Drizzle honey liberally onto a big slice of feta and top with crushed walnuts. Bake (or grill) in aluminum foil, tightly closed. Serve with toasted grain bread.
And now that Autumn is around the corner, here’s a fantastic spin on Chicken Soup. (Avgo means egg and lemoni is lemon):
Chicken Soup with Avgolemono Sauce
3 lb. roasting chicken
2 to 2 ½ quarts water
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
1 cup rice or orzo
Salt and pepper
3 T. fresh lemon juice
Wash chicken and place in heavy pot in water to cover. Add pepper, carrot, onion, and celery. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for 2 hours, or until chicken is tender, adding salt to taste during last hour of cooking. Remove chicken and keep warm. Add rice or orzo and simmer until done. Take meat off carcass and return to the pot.
Make the Avgolemono sauce:
Beat eggs well and gradually beat in lemon juice. Add two cups hot, strained broth slowly to egg sauce, beating constantly. Return to soup to heat and stir vigorously until thickened. Serve with crusty bread.
Finish off your meal Greek-style – with fresh fruit or a generous scoop of yogurt with honey. And of course, don’t forget the wine!
Καλή όρεξη! (Kalí óreksi! Bon appetit!)