QUARANTINE DIARIES, COMFORT FOOD & ALL THE SMALL THINGS THAT KEEP US GOING
Carolina from Culinary Backstreets is sharing her experience and a delicious vegeterian dish: baked okra with tomatoes and onions. Yum!
Head straight to the recipe.
A few words about you and where did the quarantine find you?
I am a chef and food writer and also the leader of Culinary Backstreets Athens, a company that covers the local food scene and offers small group culinary experiences in cities around the globe, including our beautiful Athens. I am also a single mother of a 7-year old boy, Apollo. Normally, I work a lot – even on weekends – always trying to balance between being a good mother and … a workaholic – I love my job too! I wasn’t really worried about COVID-19, not until almost suddenly on the 10th of March schools shut down, and immediately after, it was the restaurants, bars and cafes that followed. Within a week the whole city was shut down. Everything apart from super markets, pharmacies, and delivery services. Now even the elders are savvy about online shopping!
What did it change for you ?
Truth is Greece acted impressively fast to all this crisis and has been very uncommonly organized! If large numbers of people here were infected at the same time, the health system would collapse. The country’s population is the second oldest in Europe (after Italy) and it’s health system had not yet been recovered from the last economic crisis a few years ago – and to tell you the truth it has been suffering long before that.
How many loo-rolls can you count in your cupboards? How do you cope?
Although I was laughing at the desperate shoppers buying loo-rolls and pasta, I admit I finally did too and I bought about three dozens of fine quality, extra silky toilette paper (that number over-exceeded my self-dignity!). Apart from that, I didn’t exaggerate with the rest of my shopping. Anyway I am a chef, my pantry is organized well-enough to survive for at least a month! I suddenly found myself at home with a lot of free time. Free time that I actually realized I needed.
I spent quality time with my son – I have become a master on LEGO. I also caught up with all the movies and TV series I haven’t watched in the last four years or so – I usually have no time for TV! But above I ‘ve had the chance to cook creatively – with no rush – experimenting on new ingredients and working on my favorite “Cucina Povera” of Greece. Simple, traditional recipes with few basic and seasonal ingredients, and basically trying to use up what I have in my fridge!
Comfort food: baked okra with tomatoes and onions.
Comfort food is obviously first on my list (and always is!). I love the traditional Greek “lathera”; seasonal vegetable dishes cooked with olive oil.
Okra is one of the favourite dishes, if you can’t find fresh okra use frozen. Choose nice, ripe tomatoes. And be abundant with the olive oil!
Baked Okra with Tomatoes and Onions
- 1 kg okra fresh or frozen
- 80 ml white wine vinegar
- 800 gr fresh ripe tomatoes, diced (can be substituted with chopped canned)
- 2-3 chopped garlic cloves
- 2 medium sized red onions thinly sliced
- 1 sweet red pepper, diced
- 1 tsp wild oregano
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 70 ml extra virgin olive oil + 10 ml to add at the end
- 120 ml water
- salt – pepper
- Preheat the oven at 180°C.
- Put a large saucepan on medium high heat. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil and sauté the okra.
- Add the onions, salt and stir for a few minutes. Add the vinegar and stir. Take off the heat.
- Empty the okra into a baking tray. Mix in the garlic, red pepper, oregano, parsley, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the water, cover and bake for about 35-40 minutes.
- Uncover, adjust seasoning if necessary, pour in the remaining 10 ml of olive oil and return to the oven (uncovered) for another 10-15 minutes until nice and caramelized!
- Remove from the oven and let stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh bread and feta!
Share a wish, just so we can finish on a happy note
Despite the vague near future and the global uncertainty on how we’ll go back to normal, I overall feel peaceful and very grateful. This lockdown has helped me re-set my priorities and dedicate time to my son but also to myself. I am an eternal optimist and I know we’ll pull it off just fine. We are together in all this and this is an opportunity for humanity to take a moment and evaluate what’s really important here and how we can improve our lives and our planet. Cause money doesn’t make the world go round after all!
From Athens with love,
PS: If you wish to be part of my quarantine cuisine diaries and share your experience on Eat Yourself Greek (EYG), please drop me a line here. Thanks, Eugeniaby