In My Market Kitchen

Since moving here to Athens I have noticed how my kitchen tends to revolve around the seasonal produce in my weekly market – my local laiki (as open air markets are called here). Every week, I am on the lookout for greens in the laiki and lately I’ve noticed that spiny chicory (σταμναγκάθι), that bitter green from Crete I used in my winter tsigarista (greens sautée), has begun to make its appearance in a number of stalls.

stamnagathi_2016

And, sometimes I stumble across unusual greens. Earlier in October, my favourite salad and herb stall was selling fresh ‘new crop’ cardamom. I had never seen cardamom greens before. The seed pods and the spice ground from the seeds are commonly known, but not the greens. Fresh cardamom, according to many internet recipes, is often paired with steamed fish and Asian flavourings. However, I found the greens lose some of their pungency when cooked. My favourite way of using this green is fresh in salads, providing a nice peppery bite to other greens much like mustard leaf does.

fresh_cardamon

Autumn fruits – apples and pears – are now abundant. Pomegranates, persimmons and pumpkins have also make their appearance.

pomegranate_2016
persimmons_2016

Plum season was fleeting and damsons were the last available. Damson cheese was made and more purée frozen for future gelato making.

damson_cheese2016

Quince are back (hurrah!), but I still miss my productive quince tree back in the UK. Here in Athens we converted the quince to a ruby red delicacy using a recipe posted back in 2014 from the fabulous blog, Please Pass the Recipe. It has become a favourite.

ruby_quince_2016

We’ve also preserved yet more herbs from the kitchen garden after the massive production of basil oil and pesto. A wonderful herb basis for a marinade or salad dressing can be made ahead when the herbs are fresh in the garden, chopped and frozen in a little olive oil in ice cube trays.

* * *

herbs_in_icecube_tray

Four Herb Marinade
The quantities (units) here are done in volume proportion – that is, for 3 packed cups of basil you will need 1 cup oregano leaves, 1/2 cup mint leaves and 1/8 cup (= 2 Tablespoons) thyme leaves.

  • 3 units fresh basil leaves
  • 1 unit fresh oregano, stripped from stalk
  • 1/2 unit fresh mint leaves
  • 1/8 unit fresh thyme, stripped from stalk
  • Olive oil

Clean, dry and finely chop all the herbs together. Pack them into ice cube trays and cover with olive oil. When they are frozen, remove the herb cubes and store in a plastic bag or other container in the freezer until ready to use.

To make the marinade, take one or two cubes from the freezer and place them in a bowl to defrost. Once defrosted, cover with red wine vinegar. Add finely sliced spring onions (scallions) to the marinade. Cover and let it stand for at least an hour at room temperature. If using as a marinade for roast vegetables, mix  with vegetables once have been roasted. But, if using it as a salad dressing, add twice as much olive oil as the quantity of red wine vinegar used. Whisk it and apply as much as required for your salad.

* * *

Tomatoes and other summer vegetables continue to be available in the market, but I suspect this will tail off soon. Until that time we are enjoying tomato salads – delicious with a dressing using the newly made four herb mixture described above. Also, one of my favouite uses of late summer toms is a fantastic soup, Pappa al Pomodoro. This year I swirlled in some of my basil oil. Preserved herbs are already coming in handy.

pappa-al-pomodoro_2016

My local laiki is filled with people shopping for fruits and vegetables, fish, olives, cut flowers, dried beans, nuts and herbs. Laden with bags,  many of us wait in the queque for freshly grilled souvlaki – our little reward at the end of the shopping foray. I enjoy each week, checking out the stalls, noticing what’s no longer there, what’s just appeared, experiencing the gentle rhythm of the seasons in the market, in my garden and in my kitchen.

laiki_street_autumn

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, now hosted by Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things who has graciously taken up the challenge (and before her by Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) to list all of us IMK bloggers. 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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46 comments

  1. So many beautiful things in your kitchen. I love the seasonality of this post. Thank you kindly for participating, and for the lovely shout out. xx

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  2. Such a vast selection of greens you have year round. The colours of the pomegranate and persimmon are beautiful. I have fingers crossed as there first young quince are forming on a tree I planted 2 years ago. Love my quince jelly, quince cheese and as a dessert. Damson cheese, that sounds interesting, we don’t see damon here often though. Great idea with the herb blocks, thanks! 🙂

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    • I love greens. And, soon the young nettles will start growing in the garden. They make a fantastic addition to greens pies. I’m also planning on making nettle pasta (which we had in Italy this summer). My UK quince tree was a three-year old when I planted it and took another two years to really start producing. Now you can’t stop it. Damson cheese is made the same way as quince cheese – I have a post on it which should be listed in my recipe index. Can’t take credit for the herb blocks since I swiped the idea from the internet. Great idea!

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  3. Great post! When we were in Greece over the summer I also liked to see different fruit and veg appear in the fruit shops or markets, depending on the season. That’s how it should be – just use what is in season. Not like in the UK where you can buy any sort of fruit or veg every single day of the year, as they are all imported, very expensive and don’t taste as nice. I loved your idea of saving mixed herbs in the freezer, I will try this.

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  4. What fabulous market finds. The cardamom greens sound great, someday maybe I’ll find some. Gee, maybe I’ll have to go to Greece! I’ve been using up my basil before it frosts, making large batches of pesto and freezing it.

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    • Using up the basil can be a chore! As usual, I plant too much and now am suffering the consequence. However, all those little cubes of basil oil and pesto WILL come in handy in the colder months. There is nothing better than a fresh taste of basil swirled into your pasta, soup, stew to give it that final touch. I have still to find ways of using the cardamom greens beyond fresh in salads. I doubt it preserves as well as the basil. Great find, though.

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  5. Debi, how intriguing!! I’ve never seen fresh cardamom leaves before! And your herby icecubes are a genius idea – we’ve got oregano, thyme and rosemary in the garden all year round, but not basil and I’ve been really missing it lately. Those quinces look sublime.. 🙂 xx

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    • Francesca (in another comment) mentioned that she finds cardamom greens in Indian shops. It is good, nice and peppery, and I would like to find out more about how other cultures cook with it. My one experiment of using it in a steamed packet with fish seemed to leach out all the bite from the green. I, too, have many herbs that last through the mild winters, but (alas) basil is not one of them. Chives and mint have also been known to thrive here in winter along with the more woody things (oregano, thyme, sage and rosemary). Sandra’s quince recipe is the best!

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  6. That market looks inviting Debi. So many wonderful greens. I am dreaming of more stiff like that to make some wild green Greek pies. Cardamom greens usually only turn up in our Indian shops. Amazing that they are here in a Greek market too. Love the pic of the pomegranites.

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    • We are so lucky here that there are greens year round – albeit different ones in summer than in winter. Greens pies are a favourite of mine, but sometimes we just make the greens (without the phyllo) and serve it as a side dish. If you have any tips on how to use those cardamom greens, let me know. They may not be in the market much longer. I also loved the colours of the pomegranates – all those reds and yellows.

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    • It is a great way to shop and great to spot new things to try. In the spring it was loquats – which I’ve known about and have seen numerous trees around Greece, but I have never actually eaten one! Now I have and it was delicious. Cardamon greens now, but who knows what next?

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    • Thanks! I try to snap a few photos each week – partly to record what is there, but also to select a few for the blog. I am very lucky here with all the greens and, in addition, we grown many herbs in the garden. Fresh field tomatoes are about to disappear, but there will always be hot house ones available, though not as good. Thanks for dropping by.

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  7. I haven’t seen cardamom greens before, something to keep an eye out for. I feel the seasons much less keenly here in Brisbane. All we get is a couple of short cool months then the heat is back. So pleased that my method of oven poaching quinces has been so successful for you, I too haven’t found a better way. Thanks for the shout out.

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    • Francesca says she sees them in Indian shops, so you might find them there. I think they are also used in Asian cooking, so you might get lucky in Brisbane specialty shops. I know what you mean by the subtle shifts in seasons. It is still cardigan weather here (in November !!!) and definitely coat weather in the UK (where we were a week ago). Marking of the seasons seems to be more keenly seen in the kinds of foods available in the market. Yes, that method of cooking quince is fabulous – and easy!!! I now have stashes of quince and syrup in the freezer for future use.

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  8. Debi, the next time you go to your laiki I’ll be tagging along vicariously… such a lovely selection! I love cardamom, but never considered the possibility of “greens.” (Doubtful I’ll find them here, but I can dream.) Thanks for ALL of your tips on preserving the bounty and for sharing Sandra’s quince post, too. (I’ve only just discovered the wonder of that!) IMK is such a superb gathering of friends, food, and know-how, xo.

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    • Sandra’s quince recipe is now a standard in my kitchen. We make it in large batches and then freeze the cooked slices with some of the syrup in smaller containers. If you ever find yourself in Athens on a Friday morning, I would love the company to the laiki. I agree, blogging and IMK in particular has brought a lot of (virtual) friends together to share tips and experiences. A wonderful invention!

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      • Kim, sometimes my homemade quince cheese is soft and I just scoop it out and put a dollop of it on the cheese (& cracker). On occasion it becomes solidified enough to slice. You are right, traditionally it goes very well with Spanish Manchego. But, it can go very well with any other semi-hard sharp cheese. I even like it with Stilton, but I am partial to that cheese. Then again, there is no rule that says you can’t eat it right out of the jar with a spoon!

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      • Debi, I’m going to try it with a few other cheeses this weekend (including goat cheese 🙂 — wish I could join you in a a slab of Stilton. (Oooh — I meant “crumble” as it tends to do.) No matter how your homemade quince treat turns out, I’m sure it’s tasty by the spoonful or slice!

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    • Our local laiki is only a block away from our house. Very convenient! I now get most of our fresh produce from here and the supermarket shop is reserved for staple supplies. I think you are right, fresh cardamom leaves might go very well in curries. Must keep this in mind to try. The Pappa al Pomodoro is a seasonal favourite of mine. I only make it when the tomato crop is at its height. Very easy and incredibly delicious.

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    • The weekly market here in our neighbourhood in Athens is a great place to shop fir seasonal produce. It is relatively small, so the vendors get to know you over time. The simple tomato soup is something I look forward to at the end of tomato season – only fresh tomatoes will do and the weather needs to cooperate by turning cooler. It is delicious!

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    • Freezing herbs is something new for me, but it seems to work very well. I used to buy big bunches of herbs in the market and so many times much of it would have to be thrown onto the compost heap because I never got around to using it all. This would solve that problem. With a herb garden, you can preserve so many of those tender herbs that either die or go to ground over winter. And, yes, it is a great market. I’m glad I can share it with blog friends.

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  9. hi debi
    i love seeing all the fresh looking fruit and veg in your market photos. i was saying to my hubby that they wouldn’t sell those pomegranates here cos they don’t look “good enough”, more’s the pity. fantastic seeing all the herbs being frozen. i do that too! and the marinade sounds a treat.

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    • Imperfect fruit and veg can be just as tasty (sometimes more so) that the perfect ones they pick for supermarkets. Nature does not work that way. The markets here (and some supermarkets) don’t adhere to those perfect standards. On another note – those herbs have certainly come in handy, though all but the basil will probably survive in the garden through winter, so picking fresh is still an option. Basil is a different story – a herb we use a lot – so I am glad I have a stash of frozen basil oil and pesto.

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  10. Love markets around the world – I can happily get lost in them for hours. There is always so much to see, to smell, to taste, to photograph – thank you for taking me around your market. I love that herb marinade of yours – and looking at your photographs is a joy.

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