Week Three: Perfecting Greek Potatoes and a no nap Sunday

I have a friend whose signature dish is greek potatoes….essentially oven roasted potatoes seasoned with olive oil, salt, garlic and oregano with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice right at the end for that gastronomic magic that occurs by doing so. This week’s CSA gave us oregano and garlic scapes…I fantasized all week about indulging this carbohydrate nirvana on the weekend. Then my mother called, informed me that my grandmother would be in town, and implied that I should make dinner….I’d be sharing greek potatoes with everyone.



We received some chard as well, so I made some horta for us to munch on while I cooked. Horta, a favorite dish from my time in Crete, is essentially lightly boiled greens with salt and lemon juice. It’s probably supposed to be a digestif (to borrow from cocktail vernacular), but it feels to me a great way to prime and cleanse the body for eating…sort of kombucha-esque.



On to the potatoes…..I parboiled them first, for about ten minutes….



Then placed them in the oven with the chopped scapes, oregano, olive oil and salt at 450, until they were tender.



And when they emerge, crispy, carmelized little wonders, the lemon goes on.



The obligatory kebabs and labneh (I threw in horiatiki for good measure) accompanied the potatoes…the sort of food we eat with grandma. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of my grandfather this week, and realized I don’t have any memories of him that include food other than labneh, kibbe, grape leaves and kebabs. Funny, these things that you don’t realize until years later.




Sitting with my grandmother outside and talking before dinner was sobering. I haven’t seen her in a few years, and she is aging. Which I suppose is inevitable, but is an insidious thing, easily forgotten in the futility of every day life. She tires easily these days. At one point my mom yelled out from the house “Mom, do you want to take a little nap?” My grandmother leaned toward me, grabbed my arm and yelled to my mother “No! I won’t nap while my Manda is here!” It struck me, this kind of love. I realized that I have only understood this sort of longing with certain lovers….not wanting to sleep for fear of missing a moment with them. This is how my grandmother was talking about me. I was transported back to memories of my situ (this grandmother’s mother) calling us “lover” as children….something that was completely normal to me until I grew up, told a few people, and realized not every situ uses semi-erotic language in reference to her offspring. It as well prompted me to think of the stories of great mystics who describe intimacy with the divine as consummation.  And mostly, it made me realize that grandchildren may be to grandparents what lovers are to one another. And in that moment, where I might have been tempted to get up, check the potatoes, taste the labneh for spices for the hundreth time, I chose to remain seated, and tried to be as with her as I could possibly be. And then, in Arab woman fashion, we began making jokes about our noses and our breasts, and laughed wildly together.




Week Two: Bacony Braised Bok Choy

Bok Choy has been making regular appearances at our farmer’s truck. As such, we decided to find something fun (apart from stir-fry) to do with it.



Enter bacon. (Bacon = FUN)




I threw together a little braise concoction….(apparently bok choy is always ‘asian’ in my mind, because tamari, sesame, garlic and ginger were the backbone of this one. I’ll work on freeing bok choy from these ethnic stereotypes in the future.)




After creating said stereotyping sauce, one should  place the beautifully organic boy choy and carrots, cut side down on the bacon grease and let them sizzle in those saturated fats for a while.




Then flip them, and add braising liquid, which will bubble and thicken into something you want to pour on top of your veggies……



….along with bacon pieces and coarsely crushed almonds until the vegetables are unrecognizable and hiding under a blanket of highly caloric and only marginally healthful meat, and Omega3’s….




And then serve it alongside a beautiful, whole fish that your urban family member made in preparation for ITALY THIS SUMMER!!!! (We’re expecting many an opportunity to cook a whole fish, so are refining our skills now.)




And then, in a slight wine haze, think about that fish’s opaque eyeball maybe a little more than one should. Until next week, friends…


CSA Season 2014, Week One: Lots of Lettuces and Spanakopita Pizza

CSA season is upon us again! As with seasons before, this first week brought many greens. Our share consisted of something like: green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, kale, bok choy, spinach, mixed greens, green onions, oregano and dill. One of my favorite parts of CSA life is sitting down with your share and allowing menu ideas to form. This week I realized (Grand Rapid’s Festival of the Arts prompted my epiphany) that I haven’t had spanakopita since becoming gf. This is a travesty. So…I set out to make a gf version….which morphed into Spanakopita Pizza.

I realized that I had all of these ingredients hanging out in my fridge, just begging to be able to kalamatianos together.

I realized that I had all of these ingredients hanging out in my fridge, just begging to be able to kalamatianos together.

I began by sauteing onion in butter and tossing in the oregano. IMG_2675   Then I added the cream and allowed it to bubble and thicken. I wisked vigorously at this point, although the picture doesn’t relay that. One shouldn’t underestimate the import of a vigorous wisking. At the very end I cracked an egg into it for good measure. IMG_2676 I sauteed the spinach, kale, and mixed greens with olive oil, salt and garlic. IMG_2678   Then I added the two pan’s contents together, pulsed them in the blender, and added the fresh dill as well as about half a lemon’s worth of juice. IMG_2679   Finally, I spread the mix on a gf pizza crust, crumbled some feta on top and baked it. It’s been a while since I’ve had spanakopita, but the taste was a familiar one….and flooded me with memories of black beaches, mastic and monasteries with icons which had no beginning and no end.