Greek cuisine basics
Do you like salads? I cannot leave without them during summer. How about winter time? I cook seasonal and my focus this time of the year slowly shifts from plump, juicy tomatoes and refreshing cucumbers to lettuce and cabbage. So, this post is a Greek kitchen basics: lettuce and dill salad.
Do you cook seasonally? I really hope you do, it’s the best way to take the most out of seasonal fruit and vegetables that grow in your part of the world. I don’t often talk about my eating habits, mostly because Mediterranean cuisine aficionados have already in mind that cooking seasonal is a principal you just live by and it makes sense in so many ways. Many Greeks still prefer cooking the seasons, it’s cheaper, tastier and your diet reflects the time of the year.
Food trends do not always follow suit. To the contrary, modern cooking is a fusion of worldwide cuisine. Damn me, if I say that I don’t like sushi or that I don’t enjoy a green Thai curry. I am a sucker for Chinese style pork belly and pulled pork in bao buns with plum sauce. I would be a huge liar if I said I never have indulged to a quick stir fry or noodle broths. But I see them like a treat, not a way of cooking. Why? Well, cost is a huge factor.
Depending on where you leave, you are going to have access to different kinds of food according to popularity as well as climate. A good example would be mushrooms, a relatively easy to grow food under controlled conditions. A staple in my mother’s kitchen was a mushroom-tomato pasta sauce that she could put together in a jiffy and feed all the hungry mouths around. Mushrooms were always canned, because late ‘80s and ‘90s fresh mushrooms in Athens were nowhere to be seen (I started seeing them fresh in fancy restaurant salads mid-90s). Nowadays of course, it is a completely different story, large super markets will provide the most popular mushroom types like portobello, oyster and white button mushrooms on a daily basis. If, though, I felt like enoki mushrooms or beech mushrooms I would have to go on a serious hunt with very dubious results, let alone the prohibitive price tag. (we don’t exactly boost for having china town district in Athens).
As far as mushrooms go, thank goodness there are many types of dried mushrooms available and as their season is approaching, I will be able to find more in the farmers market (think chanterelles, trumpets etc). Waiting for different vegetable crops is a treat that I thoroughly enjoy. I appreciate them even more when their time is right. It’s my way to honour what nature can offer in abundance, cherish it and nurture oneself. Also, picking seasonal vegetables and fruit is a great way to vary my dishes; for creatures of habit, we do tend to get bored quite easily. Aren’t you?
Let’s get back to the humble lettuce, though. Lettuce is a hardy annual which means that this leafy green can adjust and grow really well in colder temperatures and in general it can sustain whatever the weather throughs at it. In simple words, lettuce makes our number 1 vegetable for winter salads. Before, however, I developed my food awareness, grandpa was around to reinforce it through a session of abrupt shouting over kitchen pots: ‘Why did you buy tomatoes in January? They will taste like straw!’
I couldn’t tell if it was the pot or grandpa steaming. He had admittedly turned red with fury over a simple salad. Not knowing what to do with myself, I hastily picked a freshly fried potato for comfort and securely retreated under the table to watch grandma chasing him out of the kitchen. I really wish I could remember her counter-argument, alas memories of childhood are so loosely held. Lesson was learnt however, never cook something out of season. Not because someone shouts at you, but because when you are forcing crops, they are not going to give you their best.
So, here is the humble lettuce and dill salad that accompanies all Greek roasts. It’s a 3 ingredients salad with a simple oil-vinegar dressing that keeps us healthy throughout winter.
Winter lettuce and dill salad
- 1 Romaine lettuce
- 2 spring onions chopped
- 3-4 sprigs of dill chopped
- ½ tspn Salt
- Olive & vinegar dressing
- 2 parts Olive oil
- 1- part white wine vinegar
- Stack the lettuce leaves together and roll them up and cut into thin stripes.
- In a large bowl mix in the lettuce, spring onions and dill.
- Add the salt and lightly toss the lettuce leaves. You can keep it for around 3-4 hrs in the fridge if not serving immediately.
- In a small jar, mix the olive and vinegar and add on salad when serving.
I hope you enjoy many refreshing crunchy salads this winter, like this maroulosalata aka lettuce and dill salad. Here is the cabbage salad, another Greek staple for quick reference. Remember, eating the seasons can only be good for you!
From London with love,