All Things Spring In My Kitchen

This past month started with hot cross buns for Easter. As a moveable feast, this year Orthodox Easter was a week later than Western Easter, so I had a little bit of extra time because I only make them for this holiday. Otherwise, they really wouldn’t be special. This is my third (and final) batch of lemony sourdough HCB (Hot Cross Buns) ready to go into the oven…

And out of the oven…

But, Easter Day was reserved for tsoureki – a mastic flavoured bread. One of our favourite sweet shops supplied the bread with “Happy Easter” (in Greek) written on top. I was too busy making those HCBs to be bothered with making my own tsoureki. There is only so much one can do.

I am now gearing up for harvests from the garden. Artichokes have already been plentiful this year – and a few more to come. Surprisingly, there are a number of varieties – green, red, and one spiky wild one.

I have no idea how this happened since I bought the plants all at the same place in the Athinas market, all sold under the label of ankinara (αγκινάρα). Well… they strip down the same way. Most of them were preserved in herb infused oil – after boiling in a mixture of water and vinegar.

Some of these were used in a spring risotto. This seasonal recipe I make quite often – with chicken, fresh broad beans (podded and stripped of their outer shells), and basil. This time it had an addition of sliced preserved artichoke hearts.

I also had to use some of last year’s preserved basil oil instead of fresh leaves. New plants are in, but they are still at the baby stage. Bamboo souvlaki sticks guard the plants from pesky birds.

The last of the rather monster fennel has been harvested – too big and not so tender to be used as shavings in salad. Instead, we sliced and and sliced, then caramelised them in olive oil, sprinkled in a little lemon juice at the end to bring out their sweetness. The caramelised pieces will be used as toppings on crostini spread with a little contrasting sharp and creamy goat cheese. Below you see them in their raw, pre-transformed state.

The market is yielding new spring crops as well. Greek asparagus is called sparangi (σπαράγγι), a word close enough to the English to be understood by the linguistically challenged (I speak of myself here). Like everywhere else, the vegetable has a short season. Also, if you are lucky enough to be in the countryside at this time of year, you will see the tiny, thin wild versions cropping up everywhere – incredibly delicious raw, but it take a lot of concerted effort to pick enough for a meal. Mine comes from the market, grown in the farming region of Imathia, an area of vast agricultural plains in Central Macedonia, Northern Greece.

Some of that asparagus was combined with a few more market purchases to make up what I am calling my spring market garden pasta. It was served with as salad of sliced first-of-the-season tomatoes from Crete – also harvested from the market.

New fresh garlic, ‘traditional’ Cretan pasta (‘from the abundance of Crete to your table’ as the slogan translates) that look a lot like Ligurian trofie, a hard organic cheese from Kythera recently brought to us by friends (which tastes a lot like a good Parmesan), and baby courgettes with their blossoms still attached. The blossoms are finely shredded and added near the end to wilt. And, since I had a few more broad beans left, I added those as well.

I’ve also posted two recipes for plaice (Greek glossa) recently: Fish plaki (with a difference) and Baked plaice with avgolemono (egg & lemon sauce). We seem to be craving light and fresh fish dishes this time of year.

Lemons – integral to those fish recipes as well as my version of HCBs – have been harvested. Most of them were zested and juiced – the products frozen for use throughout the year. Although, with my experiments in lemon sorbet, the supply might be depleted at a faster rate. The other citrus are now in bloom, scenting the air with their perfume. The bergamot blossom is touched with a pink blush. We’ll soon be watching the baby citrus form.

Beautful blossoms to celebrate the 1st of May!

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 Sherry @ Sherry’s Pickings. Earlier IMK posts can be found on former IMK host blogs: Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things, Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) and the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who began the IMK phenomenon. 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.

20 comments

  1. Wonderful post. I envy your green thumb and culinary skills but delight in living vicariously through your posts. Tonight, it’s a simple fasolakia dinner for us. 🙂

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    • We’re entering hot times. It is lots of work watering the garden, so if I don’t pay attention, some of that green might start to shrivel and turn brown. The artichokes are now finished and are beginning to look like tall, spiky, dried stalks. It will be time soon to cut them down to the ground. A natural cycle for these veg.

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      • The hot summer months in Greece are challenging for both plants and people. It’s nice you have the space for a garden in Athens. There’s nothing better than fresh, homegrown veggies. 🙂

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  2. Spring is definitely kind to those who live near the Mediterranean. It’s not even 2 weeks since our last snowfall, so we won’t have those beautiful green veggies for weeks — and we never grow an artichoke!

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  3. How I miss that distinct swing of seasons, in fact my visit to Melbourne last month made me realize how much I miss deciduous European trees. I’d not be able to resist drawing your varied artichokes before I set to work dismembering them. Lovely post Debi

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    • Like Brisbane, seasonality is collapsed a bit here, defined mainly by the produce available in the market or garden. True, there is a cooler time and definitely a hot, hot time, but no drastic swings. Winter this past year was very mild – mostly sweater weather, although you always see people wearing puffy jackets up until Easter.

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  4. hi debi
    thanks for joining us in IMK. I love all your bounteous produce, and am envious that you have the green thumb. the risotto looks delicious, and i love the sound of your pickled artichokes. your buns look beauteous and charming and delightful. yum. cheers sherry

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  5. Lemon sourdough hot cross buns sound amazing! I look at all your spring produce with envy – especially the artichokes, we love artichokes!

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    • I was surprised how easy it was to make these preserved artichokes. All the spiky armour around the hearts make it seem difficult. Just arm yourself with a sharp knife, kitchen scissors and a good peeler.

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  6. I became quite hungry reading your post full of delicious delicacies. I love artichoke and those zuchinni blossoms are almost too pretty to eat. The lemony sourdough hot cross buns look absolutely delicious…perhaps I’ll have to try your recipe next time as I do have sour dough starter in the fridge and my hot cross buns have not been as much of a success as I would like 🙂

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    • This time of year the market is filled with little courgettes with their flowers. Mostly the flowers are stuffed and the mini courgettes boiled for “salad” – often paired with vlita greens. If you try the HCBs, be patient and let them rise well after shaping. I think this is the key.

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