Veggies In The Kitchen

Our market – the laiki – pared down over August, the month when it seems everyone flees Athens and many of the local shops post ‘gone on holiday’ signs. Only a few market vendors persisted in setting up their weekly stalls. There was plenty of street space for an improptu game of tavli.

market_tavli_players

Of course, in the middle of the month, on the 15th of August was one of Greece’s most popular holidays – the Feast of the Panagia (Virgin Mary). Then, everything stopped. Slowly, it is beginning to start again.

madonna_fresco_withlight

In the past few months, we have had quite a few vegetables and a number of vegetarian dishes in the kitchen – some culled from the laiki, others from the garden. Many traditional Greek summer vegetarian dishes are sautéed greens, warm ‘salads’ served at room temperature. First was Summer Tsigarista with vlita, glystrida and fresh tomatoes. I know it doesn’t look like much, but it is delicious! Both vlita (leaf amaranth) and glystrida (purslane) are common summer greens available in the market.

summer_tsigarista

Like that tsigarista, I recently encountered an unusual greens sauté in the Peloponnese, said to be a speciality of the Laconian region. But, take this with a grain of salt as I’ve been told it can be found in other places in Greece where they make a similar claim. It uses many parts of the courgette (zucchini) plant – the tender leaves (yes, you read that right – leaves), the tiny baby courgettes and their yellow blossoms. It is called kolokythokorfades, quite a mouthful, but it simply breaks down into two words meaning courgette tips (or ends). Sometimes it is simply called korfades. With the instructions I’ve been given, I hope to make it once I can assemble all the ingredients.

courgette_laiki

Meanwhile, we have a plentiful supply of other greens. Vlita, the leafy bits and tender stalks of amaranth, are often encountered in restaurants as horta (the generic word for greens). It is a warm, wilted ‘salad’ frequently paired with boiled baby courgettes (these from our garden) and liberally dressed with fresh lemon juice and green olive oil.

vlita_salad

Vlita it is a incredibly versitile vegetable that can be used in the same way as chards, kales and even spinach. Although, it is wise to remember that it is slightly bitter.

vlita_laiki

A few pieces of an unusual pita (pie) of multiple layers of homemade phyllo sheets alternating with thin layers of greens made its way to my kitchen this past month. It arrived as a gift from Thessaly – a region known for its pies – packed unassumingly in foil. This pita was made using a combination of courgette leaves & flowers (korfades), vlita and spinach. Something to investigate – perhaps visit its place of origin to see how it is made. Any excuse to go travelling.

layered_hortopita

I’ve also had a love affair with that other common summer green – glystrida (purslane) – ever since I first encountered its fleshy leaves in a Greek salad (horiatiki) years ago. I’ve since eaten it raw in salads many times, but have only just been starting to cook with it.

glystrida

We absolutely loved this Purslane Risotto. In fact, it even received the thumbs up from my risotto-ambivalent spouse.

Yet another interesting green that turned up in the summer market was almyriki, a relative of tamarisk that grows wild on the beaches all over Greece. It is slightly salty, high in iodine and is blanched like vlita to make a warm salad.  It is a natural accompaniment for fish.

almyriki_in_laiki

Meanwhile, throughout the month, the garden continued producing aubergines, peppers, courgettes and a few tomatoes. The usual response was briam, a Greek stew of these vegetables plus a few potatoes which I recently posted about in Basic Briam.

briam_onplate

Then there are a multitude of beans available. One of my favouites is the fresh borlotti beans in their speckled pods. These are fantastic made as Fagioli Borlotti all’ olio that I posted on almost two years ago. The procedure is the same was as with dried beans, but no soaking is involved and there is less cooking time required.

borlotti_featureDried Borlotti Beans in my UK kitchen two years ago
borlotti_beans_liakiFresh Borlotti Beans in their pods from the Athens laiki

Skinny flat-ish green beans (stringless, of course, but I’m not sure what variety) from the market made a good fasolakia, a traditional & simple stew of tomatoes and beans. It was made perfect with a little crumbled feta and a homemade sourdough baguette to sop up the sauce.

fasolada2

Lastly, summer would not be the same without tomatoes. We have some in the garden, but the crop is not faring well – except for the cherry tomatoes, that is. From these little tomatoes I created my version of domatokeftedes, tomato fritters. Post on these coming up soon.

tomato_fritters

All too soon the laiki will be filled with autumn veggies – cabbages, pumpkins and all those wonderful wild greens. But, meanwhile, summer is not over yet. Watermelons – that barometer of hot summer months – are still piled high in the market.


A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out other IMK bloggers, each of us writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month, hosted by Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef (who has been out ill after surgery since the beginning of June, but I hope is now healing well). For earlier IMK posts, see the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who, began the IMK phenomenon and until 2016 listed all of us IMK bloggers. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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15 comments

  1. What a great post. First of all, the first too local photos took me straight to Greece- just lovely, then all those yummy greens. My Greek next door neighbour makes her horto pie just like the one pictured- layered with home made filo and greens. Can’t wait for more posts on these yummy dishes.

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    • Those photos are fab – the tavli players taken over my shoulder as we passed by. Which region is your Greek neighbour from? What greens does she use? Sorry – so many questions! I bet her hotopita is fantastic. Wish I were there to taste it.

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      • You must come to Melbourne one day Debi. Anna is in Greece at present- she is having a little 3 month holiday. She is 85 and as strong as an ox as she walks everywhere, has never driven, and has a strong Greek community based on the Orthodox church nearby. Her horopita is sensational and most of it ends up in our kitchen. ( this relationship with Anna takes place in our city house). I must ask her where she is from- and use a map. Anna doesn’t speak much English and I still find it hard to learn Greek, yet we do seem to have a very affectionate relationship, of 2o years now. I love Anna so much.

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      • It is amazing how one can communicate with even a little if the language. I have a difficult time learning languages – a factor of being hard of hearing, I think. I am much better when I can read it. If (when!) I get to Melbourne, I will have a fluent Greek speaking husband in tow.

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  2. What a great post, Debi! I really enjoyed reading about the many greens that are available to you and seeing how you prepare them all. I did run over to the Borlotti Bean recipe and pinned it. I, too, love them and have been buying a few pounds every time I head to the farmers market. They’re all frozen and I’m just waiting for the temps to dip a bit. 🙂

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    • Borlotti beans are the best! I adapted that bean recipe from one of Tessa Kiros’ in her first book, ‘Twelve’, which is all about her Tuscan mother-in-law’s recipes. I also blogged about the book. It is, in my opinion, her best cookbook followed by ‘Falling for Cloudberries’ which she bases on her joint Scandinavian-Cypriot family recipes. I think her other books are nice to look through, but difficult to cook from. The price of fame, perhaps. Am in Italy at the moment and enjoying the chicories and other ‘greens’ even though some are red! Will be back in Athens soon enough to see what new autumn greens appear in the market.

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  3. […] One of my favourites – taken with my iPhone over my shoulder as I passed by – is this fantastic image of two men playing tavli (backgammon) back in August 2016 when many of the vendors were away on holiday. It appeared in one of my earlier IMK posts. […]

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